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Irish Slang and Lingo

Irish slang and lingo is definitely something you want to be hip to when you visit Ireland.  Otherwise, you could spend much of your time scratching your head when you hear certain phrases or words.  What does it all mean?  Let this serve as a brief tutorial on the languages of Ireland and what you can expect, regarding Irish slang while you’re abroad.

Irish Language History

There are two official languages in Ireland. Irish is the national language, and English, although spoken by the majority of people, is considered to be Ireland’s second language. Irish is a Celtic language, closely related to Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton. It was the language spoken by most people until the early 19th century. The shift to English happened quickly, and by 1891 it was spoken by 85% of the population. The early 20th century saw a national cultural revival and the establishment of an independent Irish State.  Ireland now makes it a priority to preserve the Irish language and encourages citizens to be bilingual.

The Importance of the Irish Language

Today, 32% of adults in Ireland claim knowledge of the language. Irish is mainly used in areas known as Gaeltachts, situated along the western seaboard.  (A State authority, Udaras na Gaeltachta, promotes industrial development in these areas.) Bord na Gaeilge (the Irish Language Board) promotes the use of Irish throughout the country and as a core school subject. A growing number of schools, known as Gaelscoil (all-Irish Schools), offer tuition exclusively through the Irish language. Radio na Gaeltachta broadcasts nationally in Irish, and a new Irish language television service, Telifís na Gaeilge was launched in November 1996.  When you’re in Ireland, tune in!

Understanding the Accent

One of the most common problems that visitors have is understanding the locals and their Irish slang. Although English is the spoken language, it is often accompanied by a very thick accent, especially in rural areas. Listening well to country folks as they speak is the best way to get a handle on what they’re talking about, but we believe we may be of some help!  

Many regions of Ireland have their own lingo particular to that area, but the following is a list of Irish slang that you’re likely to hear, and otherwise be baffled by, anywhere in Ireland. In some cases you may think we’re joking, but upon arrival in Ireland you will swiftly discover that we most definitely are not.

Common Irish Slang

Bags; to make a bags of something = make a mess of something


To be banjaxed = to be broken or tired


Bird(s) = Girl(s)


Biscuit = Cookie – not to be attempted with gravy!!


Bold; to be bold = to be naughty


Bonnet = Hood (of a car)


Boot = Trunk (of a car)


Chips = French fries


Codger; you ‘ould codger = Joker – usually associated with an elderly male


To come down in the last shower = To be naïve/ wet behind the ears


Craic = Fun


How’s the craic? = How are you doing?


Crisps = Chips


Culchies = Semi-insulting term for rural people used by city-dwellers


To eat the head off = To verbally abuse


Eejit = Idiot/ fool


Fair play to you = Well done, approval of one’s actions or opinions


Feck = A slightly more polite version of the other infamous F-word


Fluthered, blocked, langers, sloshed, stocious = all kindly expressions for being drunk!


Foostering; fostering about = Making quite a fuss without really accomplishing anything


Full shilling; He’s not the full shilling = He’s not mentally competent


Gas; We had great gas/ He’s a gas man = We had great fun/ He’s a funny guy


Giving-out (about someone) = Scolding; speaking negatively (about someone)


Go away out of that = You must be joking


Gob = Mouth


Gobdaw/ Gobshite = Idiot/ fool


Guff; Don’t give me any of your guff = Don’t give me your excuses/ disrespect


Having someone on = Joking with someone


Hames; You made a hames of it = You made a poor job of it


Header; That fella’s a header = Mentally unstable person


Jackeens = semi-insulting term for Dublin people used by culchies!!


Jacks/ Bathroom/ Toilet = Restroom


Lad(s); One of the lads = One of the gang, male or female


Jaded = Tired/ Exhausted


Letting-on; I was just letting-on = I was just pretending


Lively; Get out that door fairly lively = Quickly; Leave the room with speed!


Messages = Groceries


Mot = Girlfriend


Petrol Station = Gas Station


Pictures; Want to go to the pictures? = Movies; Want to go to the Movie Theater


Puck; He got a puck in the gob = Punch; He received a sharp blow to the mouth!


Pull Your Socks Up = Get Busy


Puss; She had a right puss on her = She had a sulky/ petulant expression


Shook; He was very shook looking = He looked disturbed/ shaken-up


Slagging; I’m only slagging you/ Taking the piss = Good-naturedly making fun of someone


Scratcher; He’s just out of the scratcher = He’s just out of bed


Sleeveen = Sly, calculating person


Topper; He’s a topper = A term of praise usually reserved for the young; He’s a great lad


There you have it.  You are now a graduate of the Authentic Vacations school of Irish slang.  You’re ready to book the Ireland trip of your dreams, and talk like a local. (Especially after enjoying an evening in a local pub!)