Ireland is the only European nation that has the highest percentage of citizens who speak English as their mother tongue or native language at 97.51%. One can say that the English language is deeply ingrained in the blood of Irish people. With the United Kingdom (UK) falling behind second, and a percentage of 94.45% native English language speakers. This said the Irish locals have created thousands of English slang that dates back from the medieval period up until modern times.
These Irish slang words are commonly used in everyday Irish conversations—some might sound offensive, some might sound like it was pulled out of a literary textbook. But most of them are creations of literary geniuses and everyday Irishmen who strive to make the English language as dynamic, engaging, heartfelt, communicative, and fun as possible. Some of these words are familiar to native English speakers from the USA and UK but used in a different Irish context. But no need to get too intellectual! This guide will help you understand how these words were formed, and how they’re used in your first or next visit to Ireland. When to use these words will be up to your discretion—and that makes learning and using Irish slang words more fun and exciting!
Things you'll find in this article
- 30 Irish Slang Words Every Visitor Should Learn Before Visiting Ireland
- 2.Black Stuff
- 14.Mar dhea (Irish)
- 17.On tenterhooks
- 22.Deadly or Savage
- 23.Jo Maxi
- 27. Make a hames
- 30.Cup of scald, or Cha
30 Irish Slang Words Every Visitor Should Learn Before Visiting Ireland
Pronounced as slawn-sha, if you and your friends have a couple of more rounds, the best Irish chant for cheers is Sláinte! What a fine way to raise your mugs!
Sláinte! For good fortunes and well wishes for Johnny!
It’s not literally black, but you guessed it right—a strong pint of this famous Irish dry stout might knock-out the light-hearted. In faint-lighted pubs and bars, a pint of Guinness might appear black or dark-colored. No matter the color, just mention this to your local Irish bartender, and he’ll know what to serve.
Hand me over some of that black stuff.
Addressing your darling or Irish sweetheart from Ireland will never be as soft and endearing as the Irish term acushla. It stems from the Irish Gaelic word cuisle, which means ‘darling’, or more literally ‘vein’ or ‘pulse’. Cuisle was sometimes paired with ma, giving us macushla, or ‘my darling’ a term of endearment you’ll never forget. During your trip, if an Irish local or your best friend calls you their acushla, don’t be too flattered!
Where’s our next destination, acushla?
Stems from the more common English term ‘crack’. This term is used for news, gossip, and fun conversations engaged by the locals. The word ‘crack’ came from the Middle English term crak, meaning loud, bragging conversation. The people from Northern England and Scotland borrowed the word that denoted a meaning for ‘conversation’ or ‘news.’ The term ‘what’s the crack’ essentially means, ‘how are you’, or ‘have you any news?’ Interestingly, ‘crack’ was borrowed from the Irish term ‘craic’, and was re-borrowed! And now, it is an official slang in the modern Irish scenes.
Fergus, my lad! What’s the craic? How’ve ye been? I missed ye.
The etymology of this fun Irish word remains unknown until today, but when you say something is banjaxed, it means they have been shattered or were broken. Synonymously and practically, it refers to a person who is over-fatigued from a long, tiring day. You certainly wouldn’t want to hear this from your Irish tour guide at the start of his or her tour!
Can we stop by a nearby cave, laddie? Your gaffer’s banjaxed, and I feel like I can’t conquer Mount Carrauntoohil any longer.
Dad, we’ve only climbed less than a hundred feet. Let’s get moving!
In terms of direction, this term is not a bit offensive and is actually quite useful. When you hear an Irish local saying that you are going in arseways, it means you are going in the wrong direction (A person’s arse can be found behind). Or, it could also mean that something is not working properly, like a tourist van or a cellular device.
Tough luck, fella. We’re stuck here. Our GPS’s gone arseways.
The term roots from Irish word síbín, meaning illegal whiskey. Way back, uncut liquor and alcoholic beverages were sold in Ireland in unlicensed bars and clubs in Ireland. Today, the term is commonly used for hidden bars that provide good music and a variety of drinks. A good destination for your Irish escapade.
I heard the shebeens in Dublin at night are great places to enjoy good jazz and fresh drinks. Would you like to come with me?
Irishmen and women, with shamrock and four-clover leaves, are fans of good luck. But a chancer is a person who pushes their luck a wee too much. They are commonly risk-takers or, sometimes, daredevils. You might befriend an Irish local or a tourist who is a chancer, and he or she will take you to the wildest places you could imagine.
I heard the waves are great at Inchydoney Beach, honey. Chancers like you and your friends won’t have a hard time in finding the perfect wave.
Depending on how you use it, boyo (plural: boyos) can refer to a boy or a lad, who is usually younger than the speaker. It might sound as derogatory to some, or might be a term of endearment for others. It all depends on the mood or context of your sentence or idea. For travelers, if your good friends call you boyo, it might be a term of endearment. But be wary if a stranger addresses you with this term at the middle of the night.
Go fetch me a mug, boyo. (Derogatory). It’s been ages since I last seen ye, boyo. You’re lookin’ fine, lad! (Term of endearment)
A state of discontentment, envy, or sometimes, wishing of ill will for those who achieve success on a friend or a person of higher power or authority. It is a term most commonly used by angry Irishmen for the current state of their lives, caused by another Irishman’s fortune. It stems from the English noun grudge—and as you can hear from Irish conversations, the persons who use this term usually hold a grudge towards the persons they are referring to, or, they just simply are complaining about their rough situation in life.
On your next Irish trip, you might hear quite a few locals complaining about their state of begrudgery. With this knowledge at hand, you’ll find a good way to empathize with their current situation.
I met a local once at a pub during our extended trop in County Donegal, and he kept complaining about his life’s begrudgery, and how he never has luck wherever he goes.
This word is as pretty as it sounds. It refers to a young Irish girl, or a lass, in Scottish tongues. The word colleen is derived from the old Irish Gaelic term cailin which means ‘girl’ or ‘maiden’.
The next time you visit the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin, you might befriend a couple of colleens studying horticulture. They’ll tell you the secrets in creating the best garden in the world.
Derived from the Irish word gaeilge, meaning beak, gob often refers to as mouth in English. Often used in a derogatory context.
Crank your gob, mate!
The black stuff’s spilling from your gob, laddie.
A short or a clipped version of the word ‘traditional’, trad often refers to traditional Irish folk music. A couple of trad music sessions are commonly found in local pubs and public areas around Ireland.
This genre has endured and stands against the hip and modern music genres introduced in Ireland.
Some instruments commonly used for trad music are the fiddle, the flute and the whistle, Uilleann pipes, harp, the accordion, the banjo, mandolin, and harmonica. Perfect combinations for an Irish jig!
Have you heard of the new band from across the block? I heard they’re performing good trade at the old marketplace. Let’s watch?
14.Mar dhea (Irish)
Or ‘mor ya’ or ‘mauryah’ in Irish English, it is a derisive interjection that can be properly translated as ‘Yeah, right’ in the US English language slang or ‘bullocks’ in the UK. But much stronger. So, the next time your Irish friend cancels your much-needed Irish vacation plans because of a ‘stomach-ache’, you can say mor ya.
Meredith, I really need to go to my brother’s wedding.
Mor ya, you don’t have a brother, Eddie! We have to go to Clonakilty. Now.
Pronounced as ki-togue, it is an Irish slang that usually refers to a left-handed person. But don’t be too proud when someone calls you by this term. The slang is much similar to the Irish word ciotach, meaning clumsy. And it has further connotations: a ciotach is regarded as a strange person, a strange one, or perhaps, touched by the Devil himself. These meaning portray left-hand people as weird outcasts of or Irish society.
You see that poor painter, begging for scraps? A nasty ciotog he was, and a great painter, but filled with greed and self-loathing.
Derived from the Irish Gaelic word brog, a shoe, or from Old Norse, broc, meaning leg covering. It usually refers to two things—the first is a heavy accent of a certain dialect or a shoe made of untanned leather.
My father has a brogue Yorkshire accent that he couldn’t seem to get rid of; despite his three-decade stay in London, he sounds like a native York.
Father, buy me one of those brogue shoes!
Tenterhooks are hooks used to fasten cloth, either on a wall or a frame, for drying. But in Ireland, when you say someone is on tenterhooks, it means they are at the edge of something agitating. Someone who is driven by anxiousness, waiting for something to occur. Like a pulled piece of cloth from a tenterhook, one can imagine the stretched agitation of a person on tenterhooks. So, the next time your trip advisor mentions that your trip to a certain destination is on tenterhooks, be wary.
Listen, mates, we got ourselves on tenterhooks for a while. I can’t reach my coworkers, and the other tourist guides trailing behind us won’t be able to hear us outside the Cave of Maghera. We’ll wait until dusk. If no help comes to us, we’ll move on.
In Irish and UK slang, a dosser is someone who prefers to relax all day, a lazy person, in simpler terms. No one is entirely sure of its origins, but its most probable origination is from the slang ‘to doze-off’, meaning to sleep for a short time, or take a nap. Be sure not to let anyone tell you that you’re a dosser on your trip.
Stop being a dosser, man! Let’s enjoy the view!
A more endearing term for the word ‘idiot’ or ‘fool’ is the Irish slang eejit. Yet, still, it is used in a mocking manner—with a hint of affection. If you ever get lost in a familiar neighborhood in Ireland, don’t be too offended when your Irish friend calls you an eejit.
You eejit! The pub’s right in front of our gaff!
Commonly used in the UK and Ireland, a gaffer is colloquially termed as one’s boss, your ‘old man’, or a foreman. On your trip to a nearby pub in Ireland, you might hear most young Irishmen refer to their fathers as their gaffer.
My gaffer and mum’s currently staying at Dromoland Castle Hotel in County Clare. I’ll be in their lodging place in two hours.
In Irish slang, gander means to quickly look at someone, or take a glance at. Its alternate meaning is of a foolish person or a simpleton. To take a gander at the beautiful golden beaches of Ireland is a fun and relaxing idea.
Annie and Agatha took a gander at the glassed jar that contained the ring of the late Pope John Paul II.
22.Deadly or Savage
A more extreme way of saying awesome in Irish slang is deadly or savage. Gamers actually use this term quite a lot, with the same meaning and context. On your next hiking or rock-climbing adventure with your buddies, you can use this term however you want.
Whoo! That was a tough climb.
Savage, mate. I’d never thought we’d make it to the top!
The term is derived from a teenage Irish entertainment show that commonly reported teenage issues. Jo Maxi simply means taxi.
Can you call me a Jo Maxi?
In Ireland, if you have to use the toilet, you might need to go to the jacks.
Caleb, help me find the jacks in this bar, quickly.
Whenever somebody feels embarrassed or flustered, some people’s cheeks turn red or scarlet. When you feel scarlet in Ireland, you feel embarrassed or mortified over something. It shows on your cheeks. It’s okay to feel scarlet if you ever accidentally pour an ale over a handsome, young lad in a pub.
I turned scarlet when he saw me picking my nose, ugh!
In Irish slang word, if your parents are away for the night, or for a day or two, you go to someone’s gaff to have a party or a sleep-over. It generally means house, and more often used by Irish, Scottish, and English teenagers and young adults. It could also denote a place where cheap entertainment can be availed.
All of my teammates are going to Rodney’s free gaff!
27. Make a hames
Making a hames in Irish slang is equivalent to making a mess in US English slang. On your next trip to Ireland, you might want to avoid it.
You made a hames in and out of our hotel room!
If Americans have fries, and English people from the UK have chips, in Ireland, you might want to order a tayto as a side dish. It commonly refers to chips or other potato-based finger foods. Scrumptious!
Lina, please order a chicken salad with some Tayto for me. Thanks.
A lesser-known, archaic, but still used term of endearment in some literary references—it literally means ‘little treasure.’ The suffix ‘–een’ denotes something diminutive or little in size. If you value children for the stroreen that they are, or any animal or anything small that you value highly, then storeen might be an appropriate word to use. A two-day short trip around the best tourist spots Ireland is quite a storeen.
I’ll never forget my stay in Ireland. It is my storeen.
30.Cup of scald, or Cha
A shorter and a fancier way of asking for an Irish local to have a cup of tea with you at your local tea shop is by asking them, Care for a cup of cha?
Care for a cup of cha? It’s just right across the block, and they serve delightful pastries, too.