There are three languages spoken in Ireland: Irish (Gaeilge), Ullans (in Northern Ireland), and English. But don’t think for a second that, because the people of this lovely island speak English, it will be easy for you to befriend the locals. Irish slang words and phrases are ubiquitous, even in polite conversation, so you’ll need to master them to make heads or tails of what’s being said at the pub.
This guide to Irish slang words and phrases, insults, and expressions will assist you in deciphering some of what the locals are saying while in Ireland. It even includes a guide to reading between the lines of what the Irish are really saying when they address you — read it carefully!
- Irish slang words and phrases and how to use them
- Northern Irish slang words and phrases
- Irish insults you’ll never hear anywhere else
- Funny phrases and expressions you’ll need to understand the locals
- Things Irish people say and what they really mean
- Irish-up your vocabulary
Irish slang words and phrases and how to use them
The state of you!
Meaning: You’re a disgrace
Example of usage and translation: “Oh my god, she was an absolute state. Did you see her taking a piss in front of the Garda station?” = “Oh my god, she was a disgrace. Did you see her going to the toilet in front of the police station?”
Meaning: I’m alright
Explanation: Often the answer to “How are you?”
Explanation: This is a blanket term for any kind of social gathering that has the potential to get a little loose.
Example of usage and translation: “Fair auld session last night there lads, great to get the lock in” = “Great night of merriment and music last night boys, delighted to be able to stay after hours in the pub”
Meaning: He’s cool
Meaning: Kissing with the tongue
Examples of usage and translation: “Here, will ye shift me mate?” = “Hey, will you kiss my friend?” / “Yer man’s a great shift” = “That guy’s a really good kisser”
What’s the story? / What’s the craic?
Meaning: How are you? / What’s new?
Yer man / Yer one
Meaning: That guy / that girl
Example of usage and translation: “You know yer man, the ginger fella who’s friends with Cathal” = “You know, that ginger guy who’s friends with Cathal”
I’m gee-eyed / locked / off my head / legless
Meaning: I’m drunk
Note: “Gee” is also a slang term for vagina
Meaning: Good looking person / sex
Examples of usage and translation: “Did ye get the ride off yer one last?” = “Did you have sex with that girl last night?” / “OMG, Brian O’Driscoll is suuuuuuuuuuuuch a ride” = “Brian O’Driscoll is hot”
Christ almighty / Ah, Jaysus / Ah, the Lord / Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
Meaning: Oh my God!
Explanation: In Ireland, it’s okay to use the Lord’s name in vain to express your frustration.
I’m sickened / raging
Meaning: I’m mad / very annoyed
Good man yourself / Good woman yourself!
Meaning: Well done!
Example of usage and translation: “Jaysus, you did well there, good woman yourself!” = “Jesus man, well done, congratulations!”
Would you come on to fuck?
Meaning: Hurry up!
Example of usage and translation: “Where’s that yoke gone?” = “Where has that random thing gone that I was looking for?”
I gave out to him
Meaning: I told him off / I scolded him
Me mot / Me motzer
Meaning: My girlfriend
Note: You can also refer to a group of females as ‘mots.’
Example of usage and translation: “It’s fierce windy out” = “It’s very windy outside”
Meaning: Equivalent the F word
Example of usage and translation: “where’s me bleedin phone?” = “Where my F****** phone?”
Sickner for ya
Meaning: That sucks / How unfortunate for you
Meaning: A person from the country, or basically anyone that comes from anywhere other than Dublin.
Meaning: What culchies call people from Dublin.
A Gaff party
Meaning: A house party
Meaning: The bathroom
Meaning: An ATM during a night out
You’re the image of massive
Meaning: You look great
I’m going on the lash
Meaning: I’m going to get drunk
He’s giving it socks
Meaning: He’s really going for it
Example of usage and translation: “Yer man was giving it socks on the dance floor last night” = “That guy was dancing non-stop last night”
I will in me hole / hoop / arse
Meaning: I will not
Meaning: Bad or terrible
Example of usage and translation: “You’re a poxy bleedin liar” = “You’re a terrible F****** liar”
Scarlet for ya
Meaning: How embarrassing for you.
Note: The complete version of this slang phrase is “scarlet for your ma for having ya” which translates as “You did something extremely embarrassing and should be disowned.”
Northern Irish slang words and phrases
Quit yer gurning
Meaning: Stop moaning / complaining
Note: ‘To gurn’ is to complain about a person.
Houl yer whisht
Meaning: Be quiet
I’ll run ye over
Meaning: This is not a threat, but a person offering a lift to another person.
She’s up to high doh
Meaning: She’s overly excited
Example of usage and translation: “She’s seen Jamie Dornan walking around Belfast and now she up to high doh.”
Meaning: It’s damaged beyond repair
Meaning: I’m cold
Meaning: A scolding
Example of usage and translation: He spent the whole evening drinking at the pub. He’s going home to a tongin from the wife.
Irish insults you’ll never hear anywhere else
She’s a geebag
Meaning: She is very annoying
Explanation: An insult that translates literally as ‘a bag of vaginas.’
He’s a gobshite
Meaning: He is an idiot
He’s an eejit
Meaning: He is an idiot
Explanation: The proper way to pronounce ‘idiot’ in Ireland.
Note: In Nothern Ireland, you’ll hear the insult ‘Buck eejit’, which means just about the same thing.
Meaning: Little brats /little shits
Explanation: shitehawk can be used affectionately.
She’s a weapon / wagon
Meaning: She’s a mad b*tch
She’s pure haunty
Meaning: she’s an unfortunate looking girl wearing a lot of make-up to try and cover it up.
Funny phrases and expressions you’ll need to understand the locals
He can talk the hind legs off a donkey
Meaning: He is very chatty / He can talk at length
Example of usage and translation: “God yer one would talk the hind legs off a donkey” = “That girl would bore you to death with her incessant talk”
To score the face off someone
Meaning: To kiss someone passionately
Example of usage and translation: “My mouth is red raw, he was scoring the face off me for hours at Coppers” = “I have sandpapered my skin off my passionately kissing someone for hours in the local meat market”
Would you ever stop acting the maggot?
Meaning: Stop acting up
Note: Most often said by one’s mother, it basically means stop doing what you’re doing right now, or suffer the consequences.
All over the shop
Meaning: A mess
Example of usage and translation: “Me hair’s all over the shop” = “My hair is a mess”
He’s gone for his tea
Meaning: He’s dead
She’s away with the fairies
Meaning: She’s little bit mad
You could skin a cat out there
Meaning: It’s very cold outside
Ultimate Irish translator: Things Irish people say and what they really mean
If you’re ever in Ireland, give me a shout!
Note: A lie. We actually do not want a casual acquaintance arriving on our doorstep expecting to be put up and shown the town.
Sure we’ll just go for one pint
Translation: I’m not planning on getting absolutely hammered, but one might very well turn into 15.
Ah, it’s just up the road
Note: This could mean anything. From a few houses to several miles away.
Sure the rain will stop in five minutes
Note: A show of optimism that relies on nothing but hope. Nobody knows when the rain will stop in Ireland.
Ah shite, I never got round to it
Translation: I will never get around to it. Ever. I can’t be arsed.
I’ll do it now in a minute
Translation: I will never do it
I will yeah
Translation: I won’t
Irish-up your vocabulary
- Thanks a million = Thank you very much
- chipper = Local greasy food stand where you can get French fries
- Bacon = Rasher
- Sliced bread = Sliced pan
- The messages = Groceries
- The press = The cupboard
- Minerals = Soft / fizzy drinks
- Dilutable = Non-alcoholic concentrated syrup used to make beverages. It’s often called ‘squash’ or ‘cordial’ in other countries. Ribena is a blackcurrant dilutable very popular in Ireland.
- Courtin = Dating (term commonly used in Northern Ireland)
This article is the combined work of four writers: Sorcha O’Higgins, Tara Povey, Sarah Arnold, and Niall Colbert.