In Ireland, we have a fairly random, and often completely impenetrable, number of Irish slang words and expressions.
I was chatting to a friend from London recently over pints about the Irish phrases and slang words that he couldn’t get his head around when he first moved to Ireland.
I could understand words like ‘Banjaxxed‘ and ‘Poxy‘ causing hassle, but I couldn’t get over that ‘Giving out‘ didn’t make sense.
In an attempt to discover more Irish expressions, lingo, and slang that may be causing people trouble, I asked the 250,000+ Irish Road Trip community what their favourite bit of Irish slang was.
400+ people commented and the guide below was born. Think of it as an Irish slang translator, of sorts. Dive on in below!
1- 11: My Favourite Irish slang words and phrases
I use slang ever day. And it tends to cause a bit of confusion, at times. Mainly when I’m speaking to a non-Irish person and I forget that the words I’m using actually are slang.
In Ireland, many of us use slang words so often that we forget they’re actually slang, for example, ‘Thanks a million’ makes absolutely zero sense to non-Irish people (or so my non-Irish friends tell me!)
Here are some Irish phrases that I find my self using CONSTANTLY.
1. Sure look
If you’re chatting to someone and they reply with ‘Sure look’ it tends to mean ‘it is what it is’. However, it can also be an indication that the person you’re speaking to is either 1, uninterested in what you’re saying, or 2, has no idea how to respond to what you’ve just said.
For example, ‘Sure look, what can ye do?!’
2. Grand (an iconic bit of Irish slang)
Grand means OK. You’ll hear it most commonly used as a response to, ‘How’s it going’/’How are you feeling?’/’How are you today?’. It’s worth noting that when someone says that they’re ‘grand’, they may not necessarily be so.
This Irish expression gets more than it’s fair share of use and isn’t specific to any particular county. For example, ‘Don’t be worrying about it, it’s grand’.
3. Up to 90
‘Up to 90’ means flat out busy doing something. You’ll often hear this one used in response to questions like ‘How was work today’ – ‘Ah, shtap – sure I’ve been up to 90 since half 7’.
Now, there’s another potential use for this Irish phrase, and that’s when describing someone that’s bull-thick (aka angry).
For example, ‘She’s been up to 90 since she came home and saw what the dog did to the couch in the living room’.
4. Give it a lash (one of my favourite Irish phrases)
You can use ‘give it a lash’ in a heap of different ways. In a nutshell, ‘give it a lash’ means to give something a go.
For example, ‘The car won’t start. Can you give it a lash with your jump cables?’ or ‘I’ve never tried that before, but sure I’ll give it a lash’.
Slagging means to make fun of. If you’ve read our detailed guide to Irish insults, you’ll have an idea of the types of slags that Irish people throw at each other.
For example, ‘He was slagging me, so I gave him a kick in the bollox’.
Banjaxed is another lovely Irish expression. It’s used to describe something (or someone) that’s not working/broken.
For example, ‘Did you get it printed?’ ‘No, the thing’s banjaxed sure’ or ‘The f*cking car won’t start again – the engine’s banjaxed’.
7. The Jacks aka the toilet
If you hear someone saying that they’re ‘Going to the jacks’ or maybe someday someone will ask you ‘Where are the jacks’ in an Irish bar somewhere in the world, they’re referring to the toilet. For example, ‘Sorry pal – can you tell me where the jacks is?!’
8. Leg it
‘Leg it’ refers to moving fast. You can leg it to the shops, or you can leg it around the corner to meet one of the lads.
For example, ‘Shite man I’m running late. Hang on there for a second and I’ll leg it over to you now!’
9. Giving out (I didn’t realise this was an Irish expression until recently)
So, I thought ‘giving out’ was something used globally… genuinely. It wasn’t until a friend from the UK said he didn’t know what I was on about the first time we met and I used it in a sentence.
‘Giving out’ literally means to complain. For example, ‘She’s up there giving out to Tony about something’.
10. Minus craic
This is hands-down one of my most-used Irish sayings. It describes a situation or a person that’s no fun.
For example, ‘I called over yesterday and he was going on about his new tractor for an hour. It was minus craic’.
I don’t use the word ‘feck’ personally, but it’s a word that I associate with the magnificent Father Ted series, which is why it’s part of my favourites.
Feck is a polite way of saying ‘f*ck’. For example, ‘Feck this, I’m not listening to him shiting on for any longer’, or ‘That fecker was in here mooching about the place again this morning.’
12 – 22: Funny Irish phrases and slang that confused my non-Irish friends when we first met
In my last job, I worked in a building with around 250 people from 34 different countries.
Over the course of my time there, I received my fair share of strange looks when I said certain things.
This next section dives into Irish phrases and Irish slang words that I’ve said in the past and that have gone completely over peoples heads.
12. Act the maggot
If a person is ‘Acting the maggot’ they’re messing around / dossing… i.e. they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
‘That young lad was in here last night acting the maggot’.
13. Thanks a million
I thought this Irish saying made perfect sense, but apparently not. ‘Thanks a million’ means ‘Thank you very much’.
For example, ‘There’s your change’. ‘Cheers, thanks a million’.
14. Give me a shot
To have a shot of something means to try it out. You can also say ‘Give me a go’. You could actually use ‘lash’ here as well, for example, ‘Give me a lash of that’.
When it comes to ‘A shot’, you could say, ‘Gimme a shot of that kettle there’.
15. Donkey’s Years
‘Donkey’s years’ is used to describe a long passing of time. You’ll generally hear people use this when describing how long it’s been since they’ve seen someone, or how long it’s been since they’ve done something.
For example, ‘I haven’t seen Tony in donkey’s years.’
16. Fair play
‘Fair play’ is an Irish expression used to congratulate someone. For example, ‘She passed her exams in the end. It only took her 4 years’. ‘Ah, deadly. Fair play to her’.
17. A bad dose
Now, you tend to hear this used in a vulgar manner quite a bit, but it’s also used in everyday conversation, also.
It’s used to describe a bad case of something, for example, ‘I’ve been lashing in the tablets all week. This has been a bad aul dose’. The vulgar use of this Irish saying is often heard when someone has an iffy tummy, for example, ‘I’ve had a bad dose of the shits all day’.
18. Stall the ball
This is an Irish phrase that’s used to ask someone to wait for you or to stop what you’re saying.
For example, ‘Stall the ball chief, I’ll be there in 20’ or ‘Stall the ball a minute – what did he say?’
The word manky is used to describe something that’s dirty. For example, ‘Their kitchen is manky. You’d be safer eating in the jacks’.
20. Go and bollox
Now, if you’re not familiar with the word ‘Bollox’ or ‘Bollocks’, it’s slang that refers to a man’s testicles.
However, you’ll more commonly hear it used in a few different ways:
- ‘Ah here – you can go and bollox if you think I’m doing that’ = there’s absolutely no way that I’m doing that
- ‘I’ve a pain in me bollox with you / listening to you’ = i’m annoyed with the situation or the person
This is another way of describing something that’s dirty or that’s in a bad way. For example, ‘The hostel we’re staying in as a kip and a half!’
The word ‘Yoke’ is used to describe something. Actually, it’s used to describe anything. You could refer to someone that’s annoying you as ‘That yoke over there’ or you could also say ‘Here, pass me that yoke there on the counter’.
You’ll often hear Irish people refer to a person or a situation as ‘Gas’. The word ‘gas’ is Irish slang for funny. For example, ‘Ah stop, that’s gas!’ or ‘Emma’s dog is gas. He does be flying around the garden like he’s possessed.’
23 – 36: Common Irish sayings that you hear most days
This next section covers the more common, everyday Irish sayings and phrases that tend to pop up in conversation frequently.
From ‘the messages‘ to ‘jammy‘, here are some more popular ways of saying things using Irish slang words.
23. The messages
In Ireland, for some bizarre reason, we describe ‘the shopping’ or ‘the groceries’ as ‘the messages’. Why? I’ve no idea, but it’s a bit of Irish slang that I’ve heard all my life.
For example, ‘I’ll see you in 20. Need to collect the messages first.’
24. Yer man
‘Yer man’ is used to describe… a man… You’ll often hear this used when someone’s describing someone that they don’t like, however it can also be used when you don’t know someone’s name.
For example, ‘Yer man was caught last week stealing from the till in Superquinn’.
25. Will I, yea?!
‘Will I, yea?!’ translates into ‘I definitely won’t be doing that’. Confusing or what?! For example, ‘You’ll be getting off your hole and emptying the bins in 5 minutes’. ‘Will I, yea?!’
The word ‘Culchie’ is used to describe someone living in a remote part of Ireland. If you’re from Dublin, you tend to refer to anyone that lives outside of Dublin as ‘A culchie’.
For example, ‘The pub last night was wedged with culchies.’
27. Nice one
‘Nice one’ is an Irish saying that’s used to show approval of someone’s behaviour. For example, ‘Ah, nice one!’ said Karen, as she took the bag of chips from Kate.
‘Jammy’ basically means lucky. For example, ‘She won money down the bingo again this week. The jammy hoor!’
29. A cute hoor
‘A cute hoor’ is used to describe someone that’s relatively crafty and that’s able to mould a situation to benefit themself. For example, ‘He’s a cute hoor that fella, always manages to get a free ticket to the concerts in the Phoenix Park’.
Faffing means to do something… without actually doing anything. I have a friend called Mayo Declan that’s a master at this.
For example, ‘Declan’s been in there for the past hour faffin about the place.’.
31. Eat the head off
To ‘Eat the head off’ of someone means to get very angry at them. For example, ‘I’m going to go in there now and eat the head off of him!’
32. C’mere to me
‘C’mere to me’ can mean two things: the first is to literally come here, for example, ‘C’mere to me and tell me what happened?’
The second use of this Irish phrase is used when you want someone to listen to you, for example, ‘C’mere to me for a minute and I’ll tell ya’.
33. Lob the gob
To ‘Lob the gob’ means to kiss someone. For example, ‘I saw you chatting to him for about 4 hours. Did you lob the gob?’
34. In bits
‘In bits’ is used when you’re describing something or someone that’s in a bad way. For example, ‘Got food from that Indian place. My stomach is in bits. And so is the jacks’.
This is another Irish expression for describing kissing. For example, ‘Sure, yer one was caught shifting yer man last week!’
36. Did I f*ck
Translation: I did not. For example, ‘Did you do that thing for yer man?’ ‘Did I fu*k’.
You’ll hear the word ‘fine’ used in a variety of different ways: If you hear someone say ‘It’s fine’, it means ‘It’s OK’. If you hear someone refer to a person as a ‘Fine thing’, it generally means they find that person attractive.
37 – 40: Craic – the most misunderstood Irish Colloquialism)
I’m giving the word craic its own section, as there are heaps of different ways that it can be used.
Now, for you Americans reading, when we say ‘Craic’ in Ireland we’re not referring to something that you smoke on a street corner, nor are we referring to the crack in your arse.
Craic generally means fun but, as is the case with many bits of Irish slang, there’s multiple ways of using it.
37. What’s the craic?
‘What’s the craic’ can either be used as a greeting, for example, ‘Ah, Tony. What’s the craic?’ or when enquiring about a situation, for example, ‘What’s the craic with that lad. I haven’t seen him in ages’.
38. Having the craic
‘Having the craic’ means the person was out having fun, for example, ‘Ah, man, I’m dying. We got back from the pub at half 2 but we were up until 7 having the craic’.
39. The craic was 90
You’ll hear ‘the craic was 90’ used when someone is describing a situation where a serious bit of fun was had. For example, ‘I still can’t believe we won that match. We all went back to Sharon’s after. The craic was 90’.
40. Minus craic
‘Minus craic’ is the polar opposite to ‘Having the craic’ and is used to describe a situation when there was absolutely zero fun being had. For example, ‘We went to the new club last night. It was minus craic altogether’.
41 – 56: Common Irish expressions to use when referring to someone that you dislike
We’ve an almost endless number of ways to describe a person that we don’t like in Ireland. These Irish slang words can range from tame to offensive, so use with caution.
Tame. Usually used casually with friends. For example, ‘I clipped the wing mirror off the pillar yesterday’. ‘You’re some clown’.
Another one that’s fairly tame. For example, ‘He’s only a goon that lad’.
So, this is a pretty insulting bit of slang that’s female-specific. For example, ‘Mrs. O’Tool gave us about 7 weeks worth of maths homework. What an absolute geebag’.
Another tame one. And actually this is one that was made famous by the fantastic Father Ted series. For example, ‘She’s an awful gobshite’.
This is yet another tame one that’s used to describe someone dense. For example, ‘He used cooking oil on the lettuce thinking it was salad dressing… what an eejit’.
Someone that’s a nuisance. For example, ‘He got a taxi home with us and hopped out without giving us any money towards it. He’s a miserable little pox’.
Used to describe someone that’s annoying. For example, ‘That lad keeps on texting me. He’s a bleedin’ melter.’
This one can be offensive, depending on the context. Offensive: ‘You’re only a bollox’. Not as offensive: ‘Go and ask my bollox’.
An old Irish slang word used to describe someone that’s a chancer. Or a bit dodgy. ‘Your man that I bought the car off is a serious Gombeen. The thing has gone to shit and I only have it a week’.
This is another one for describing someone that’s stupid. For example, ‘Did you hear Martin and Bernie’s youngfella was caught cheating in the Garda exam. If ever there was a Gobdaw it’s that lad’.
51. Dope (an Irish slang word my aul lad uses constantly!)
Now, for our American readers – when we say ‘dope’ in Ireland, we’re not talking about anything dodgy. In Ireland, ‘dope’ is another way of describing someone stupid.
For example, ‘Her new fella was here last night. Talk about a dope’.
This is another female-specific word that’s reasonably offensive. For example, ‘His sister told his Mam about what happened. She’s an awful wagon’.
Another word for eejit. For example, ‘He’s a gowl and a half that boy’.
Someone that’s boring. For example, ‘All them lads do is sit in and play the Xbox. They’re a pair of dryshites’.
Someone that’s a waster. For example, ‘He spends his day going between the bookies and the pub. A useless scut if I’ve ever seen one’.
No idea how to describe this one. For example, ‘Shamey Brannagin was caught stealing from Kerrigan’s again. That man is a shnakey little shitehawk’.
This is another tame bit of Irish slang used to describe a man or woman that you’re less than fond of. For example, ‘Did you see what she posted on Facebook?! What a tool!’
58 – 63: Irish sayings for describing the weather
We talk about the weather a lot in Ireland.
It’s a handy conversation starter and it’s generally the topic of debate in shops and pubs alike.
Here are some Irish slang words for describing both good and bad weather.
58. A grand aul day
Weather type: Fine. For example, ‘It’s a grand aul day today Mary’.
59. A good day for drying
Weather type: Sunny. For example, ‘It’s finely stopped pissing down.’ ‘Stop, I know. It’s a good day for drying’.
60. It’s pure shit
Weather type: Rainy. For example, ‘I’m going to call in sick. There’s no way I’m waiting for a bus in that. It’s pure shit out’.
61. It’s pissing down
Weather type: Rainey. For example, ‘Ah for fu*k sake. It’s pissing down out there.’
62. It’s Lashing
Weather type: Rainey. For example, ‘Here. Call a taxi. It’s lashing down.’
63. It’s Spitting
Weather type: Light rain. For example, ‘G’way out of that with your umbrella. Sure it’s only spitting’.
64. It’s rotten
Weather type: Rainey. For example, ‘Please tell me he’s called off training. It’s rotten out’. Good God it’s just dawned on me how many Irish sayings there are for describing manky weather!
65 – 70: Irish Expressions and slang for greeting someone
You tend to hear a lot of mad Irish slang words when people greet each other. Greetings tend to vary quite a bit, depending on the county.
65. Story horse?!
For example, ‘Story horse?! I heard off Noley that you were in getting the haemorrhoids sorted?!
66. How ya doing, hey?!
For example, ‘How ya doing hey?! You coming out for a few pints later?!’
67. How ya getting on?!
For example, ‘Ah well! How ya getting on? Haven’t seen you in about ten years’.
68. How’s the form?!
For example, ‘Shane, how’s the form?! You’re looking well!’
For example, ‘Ah, Kayla. Howsagoin?! Sorry, can’t stop. I’ll chat to ye later, yea?!’
70. How’s she cutting?!
For example, ‘Ross, ya pox! How’s she cutting?!
71 – 79: Irish slang for good
We have a million different ways of describing something as good or great in Ireland. ‘Deadly’ doesn’t mean dangerous and ‘Class’ isn’t always used to describe a lesson.
Here are some of my favourites.
We use the word ‘deadly’ in Ireland to describe something that’s good or great, for example, ‘That new pub on the corner is deaaaaadly!’ or ‘Did you hear I got the job in the chipper?’ ‘Ah no. That’s deadly. Free burgers’.
Not to be confused with the actual meaning for deadly, i.e. dangerous…
Ah, another Irish phrase that uses a word that’s actually meant to describe something hazardous to describe something brilliant.
Yes, savage is also Irish slang for good. For example, ‘I got tickets to the Aslan gig’. ‘Savage, man, I thought they were sold out’.
73. Bang on
Bang on is generally used as a response and is another bit of Irish slang for good. You can describe a person or a situation as ‘bang on’.
For example, ‘She was down here last Sunday. Brought dessert and everything. She’s bang on’ or ‘I had the bike fixed down in Riordain’s yard last week. It was bang on – only cost a tenner’.
I use this one a lot. For example, ‘That chicken fillet roll was class’. You’ll often hear the word ‘Class’ paired with ‘Pure’, for example, ‘That new full-back they’ve brought on is pure class.’
In many countries, the word ‘Unreal’ means imaginary or illusory, but not in Ireland. We use ‘Unreal’ to describe something that so good it’s actually hard to believe. For example, ‘D’ye see me new runners. They’re unreal’.
I heard ‘Cracking’ used constantly on a trip to Northern Ireland where we frequented far too many pubs. It, again, is Irish slang for good. For example, ‘That new car Jerry picked up is cracking. Pity the colour is shite’.
77. Dead on
I haven’t heard this one used much lately. But maybe that’s because I’m getting old and getting out less… ‘Sarah’s new fella was out last night’. ‘I know. He’s from Malahide, but he’s dead on’.
I use this about 20 times a day. Sound is probably more frequently used as an affirmative response to something, for example, ‘Ah, sound. Cheers for that.’
However, you’ll also hear people describing someone as ‘Sound’ when they’re giving that person their approval, for example, ‘That chap from around the corner fixed the engine. He’s a sound lad’.
I used to use, and here this one used, back during my days in school. For example, ‘Mam cooked some dinner for you. I’ll drop it over later’. ‘Ah, QUALITY. I’m starving!’
80 – 87: Irish slang for drunk
There’s a lot of different Irish slang for drunk or to describe someone that’s had far too much to drink. Here are some of my favourites.
Pronounced ‘Flue-tered’, this one describes a person that’s on the wrong side of 9 pints. For example, ‘Eh, is that Karen up on that table?’ ‘She’s on her 17th vodka. She’s flutered’.
Pronounced ‘Ban-jacks-d’, this is another one for a person that’s heavily overindulged. For example, ‘Sure he’s been on the pints all day, he’s banjxxed’.
This one is usually used the morning after a heavy session when you’re explaining why your heads is thumping. For example, ‘WHY did I have the second bottle of wine. I was locked and in bed by half ten.’
83. In a heap/in a hoop
This is another for describing someone that’s heavily intoxicated. For example, ‘Ah man, my heads in bits. I was in a hoop after Foley’s last night’.
84. In rag order/in ribbons
I’ve heard this one a lot less in recent years. It’s another one for very drunk people. For example, ‘She’s after being f****d out of the nightclub. She’s in rag order.’
The only people that I know who use these words to describe drunkenness are friends from Drogheda. For example, ‘I need a barrel of soudafed. I was mouldy drunk last night’.
86. Out of your tree/off your head
Banjaxed drunk. Likely to be severely hungover the following morning. For example, ‘It was a serious night last night, but I was off my head and ordered 7 bags of chips on the way home’.
A personal favourite. For example, ‘Ah, man, the heads bouncing off of me. I was hammered last night’.
88 – 89: Irish slang for girl / woman
So, weirdly enough, since we first published this guide in early 2019, the most common email we’ve had off the back of it is from people looks for words and Irish slang for girl.
Here’s a handful of slang words that are used to describe a girl/woman.
88. Yer wan
‘Yer wan’ or ‘Your one’ is used to refer to someone who’s name you do not know or a person that you do not like. For example, ‘D’ye see yer wan over there with the red hat?!’
You’ll often hear people refer to a young lad as a ‘youngfella’ and a woman as a ‘youngwan’. For example, ‘Martina’s youngwan was in working with us for a few days last week.’
90 – 93: Irish lingo that I’ve never heard of
The post on Instagram unearthed a good chunk of Irish slang words that I’d never heard of.
Here’s a handful (I’ll update this again at a later date as more comments come in).
Translation: A messer. For example, ‘Your Michael is a little hallion. If he was mine I’d give him a good kick up the hole!’
Translation: The name given to dung heaps/dirty people. For example, ‘That car needs a good clean. It’s like a midden in there’.
Translation: Someone that’s lazy. For example, ‘He’s an awful latchio’.
93. Bout ye
Translation: How are you?. For example, ‘Bout ye, chief! Fancy a pint?’
94 – 101: Belfast Slang
Loads of the below words were new to me as well, but I’ve lashed them into a section dedicated to Belfast slang.
Know more? Let me know in the comments section below!
Translation: Face. For example, ‘Shut your bake, you clown’.
Translation: Embarrassed. For example, ‘It was definitely Colin. Look at him pulling a beamer’.
Translation: Dirty. For example, ‘The smell off those runners. Your feet must be bogging’.
Translation: A walk. For example, ‘C’mon. Let’s get out for a dander and get some fresh air’.
Translation: A member of the police. For example, ‘Shite, put the cans away. There are two peelers coming up the road there’.
99. Houl yer whisht
Translation: Keep quiet. ‘HEY. Houl yer whisht in there. I can’t hear the radio!’
100. Ogeous handling
Translation: A tricky situation. For example, ‘Do you remember the time Micky got caught moving the cow in the back of his Ford Focus?’ ‘Oh, I do. It was some Ogeous handling’.
101. Up to high doh
Translation: Excited. For example, ‘He had a bag of skittles and three bottles of Coke an hour ago – he’s been up to high doh ever since’.
Your very own Irish slang translator
This was one of the most enjoyable posts that I’ve written in a while. To keep it going, and to make this guide as helpful as possible, I’m going to offer myself as an Irish slang translator.
If you have an Irish expression that you need to be explained, pop it in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you.
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