It was only when I was on Erasmus that I became aware of just how much slang my friends and I actually use when talking to one another. Too often were our Russian, Polish, German, Australian, and even British friends left staring blankly at us as we continued to babble on. So, here’s a selection – I could go so far as to call it a translation – of common Irish slang words and phrases. Should you ever find yourself on our beautiful green isle, they’ll definitely come in handy.
So, let’s ease you into it gently. Some basics:
Eoghan (“O-in”), Eanna (“Ay-na”), Fionn, Saoirse (“Sir-sha”) Muireann (“Mur-in”), Maebh (“May-veh”) Paraic (“Paw-rick”), Fiachra (“Fii-a-cra”), Caoimhe (“Quh-ee-veh”), Aoife (“Ee-fa”), Aine (“On-ya”), Daithe (“Da-he”) and Darragh (“Darr-ah”). While these aren’t slang words, they’re something you’ll definitely encounter should you ever visit this fine green isle. They’re all Irish names. They sound a lot simpler than they look, you can trust me on that one.
“Howiya?” (How-i-ya) or “Alright?” – How are you?
“What’s the story?” or simply “story?” – How’s it going?
“It’s/I’m grand” or just “grand” – That’s/I’m fine.
“Like” is a word I’m sure you already know, however you may be confused as to why it’s every third word in a sentence. It just is. Particularly if you find yourself in South Dublin (especially the D4 area).
A “gaff” – a house
“What’s the craic?” (pronounced “crack” which has led to countless misunderstandings in airports) – What fun, a.k.a. “banter” is going on?
“Savage” – Something that’s really cool.
“I’m knackered/completely bolloxed” – I’m really, really tired.
Here would be a good place to point out that in informal situations, for the most part, cursing isn’t considered particularly rude. Don’t be surprised/offended if you’re telling somebody something very funny/shocking, they tell you to “Fuck off!” – That’s merely an expression of disbelief on their part and they’re most likely enjoying your company and are expecting you to give them more juicy details. If it is indeed a hostile remark, you should be able to tell by the tone. Softer curse words such as “feck” and “shite” are used fairly often in causal conversation as well – it’s not a big deal at all.
Should you find yourself listening in on some gossip, words like “meet“, “shift” and “score” all mean “kiss“. So if you’re told that “Maire scored/shifted/met Seamus last night at the club” you’ll know what happened. I must admit I find those ones to be quite bizarre. Don’t be afraid to say that you “met” someone (as in “was introduced to” someone), it’s very unlikely you’ll be misunderstood.
A word that usually follows the above is “Scarlet” – which means “major embarrassment“.
And both of those can usually be traced back to “going for a few scoops“, “going on the lash“/ “getting trollied/ langered / shit-faced / wasted / hammered / horrendified / pissed“… In Ireland, if you ever want to express that you horribly drunk, take a word of choice and add an “ed” onto it – you’ll most likely be understood unless you go for something really obscure like “defenestrate-ed” (unless it’s based on actual events, in which case you’ll most likely be applauded and then called a “gobshite” (twat) ).
The next phrase is something that will only be comprehended after a fair bit of trail and error.
“Your man”. This one in particular causes a fair bit of confusion for people but it’s one we Irish tend to use and understand instinctively. “Your man” refers to a particular person who you’re both familiar with to some degree, be it through word-of-mouth, observation from afar or actual acquaintance. “Your man” is heavily dependent on context and is used in many scenarios. For example, if you can’t remember someone’s name, you’d give an obscure prompt like “your man in the blue shirt”, “your man from last week“, or even just “your man…”. Most of the time, we’ll know who they’re talking about. I’m not sure how it works.
“Your one” (pronounced “your wann“) is the female equivalent of “your man“. Neither of these phrases refer to a person’s girlfriend or boyfriend. Your “mott” or your “fella” cover those respectively.
There’s plenty more I know I haven’t thought of but there’s enough to get started with. I hope this crash course on Irish slang has been helpful, or at the very least given you a bit of a laugh. If you’re feeling confident with all that, feel free to take it to the next level. On a side note, despite what Irish t-shirts may lead you to believe, it is not common practice to say “top of the morning to ya!” Sorry if I’ve caused any disillusionment.