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56 Wonderful Irish Words, Sayings and Phrases

56 Wonderful Irish Words, Sayings and Phrases

There are some lovely Irish words out there and they range from mad to mighty.

Some, like ‘Lúdramán’ and ‘Draíocht’ are Irish language words while others, like ‘Craic’ and ‘Yoke’ fall into the Irish slang category.

Below, you’ll find a collection of fun and famous Irish words along with what they mean and how they are used. Enjoy!

Wonderful Irish words and meanings

Wonderful Irish words and meanings

1. Bualadh bos

The brilliant ‘Bualadh bos’ is one of many Irish words that those of us who grew up in Ireland would have heard on a daily basis in the classroom.

‘Bualadh bos’ is an Irish phrase that means ‘Clap hands’ or ‘Applause’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Boo-lah-bus’

2. Cara

Often used as an Irish girls name, the word ‘Cara’ means ‘Friend’ in Irish. It’s easily pronounced ‘Car-ah’.

Random fact: If you saw the popular Irish film ‘Man About Dog’, you’ll remember the character called ‘Mo Chara’ (played by Allen Leech) which means ‘My friend’ in Irish

3. Draíocht

This is one of the more beautiful Irish words and its literal translation is ‘druidic art/druidism’ or ‘witchcraft/magic’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Dree-ucht’ 

4. Culchie

Culchie is an Irish slang word that’s generally used by people from Dublin/people from large towns and cities in Ireland to describe people that live in rural areas.

It’s pronounced ‘Cull-she’ and it’s thought that it may originate from the Irish ‘Cúl an tí’ meaning ‘Back of the house’.

It’s origin: In rural areas, it was common to enter a house via the back door, to avoid dragging dirt in through the house. It’s thought that the term ‘Culchie’ may have originated as a way of describing people that were used to this custom.

5. Bóithrín

Another of the more beautiful Irish words, ‘Bóithrín’ (or ‘Boreen’ in English’) is a word used to describe a rural road or lane that’s usually unpaved and that often has grass growing up the centre of it.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Boh-reen’

6. Focal

You’ll often hear someone say ‘Ah, I’ve only a cúpla focal’ when asked if they speak any Irish words. ‘Cúpla focal’ means a ‘Couple of words’.

The word ‘Focal’ is the Irish word for… ‘Word’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Fuh-kall’

7. Scéal

One of the more popular Irish sayings is to ask someone ‘What’s the story?’ or, if you’re using the Irish version ‘Aon scéal?’. ‘Scéal’ means ‘Story’ in Irish.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Shk-ale’

8. Uisce beatha

Uisce beatha

Another of the more famous Irish words is the wonderful ‘Uisce beatha’ which means ‘The water of life’ in Irish.

This is the Irish word used for Irish whiskey – a type of distilled drink that’s been around for almost 1,000 years.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Ish-kah bah-ah’

9. Craic

Although it’s regarded as one of the most famous Irish words, the word ‘Craic’ actually comes from the Middle English word ‘Crak’, which means ‘Loud Conversation’.

In everyday life, you’ll hear people say ‘What’s the craic?, which can be used as a greeting or to enquire what’s going on with something/someone or to describe a fun situation as ‘Great craic’.

An interesting fact: The word ‘Craic’ was made popular from 1976 to 1982 by Seán Bán Breathnach on his Irish-language chat show SBB ina Shuí. The catchphrase was We’ll have music, chat and craic’

10. Teaghlach

One of many Irish words you don’t hear too often is ‘Teaghlach’. This is used to describe ‘A family/household’ 

How it’s pronounced: ‘Chai-lach’

11. Banjaxed

If you describe something as ‘Banjaxed’, you’re describing it as ‘Broken’ or in a less than desirable state. For example, ‘I was banjaxed drunk last night’ or ‘That shovel is banjaxed’.

One of the earliest records of the word being used in Ireland is in ‘Juno and the Paycock’ by Irish dramatist Sean O’Casey. A character describes the writing of a will being done incorrectly, stating the person – ‘made a banjax o’ th’ Will’.

An interesting fact: There are many theories about where this word originated. Some say it comes from the Indian term ‘Bahnn gahecked’ which is a clay pot that cracks under heat.

12. Deadly

We use the word ‘Deadly’ to describe things that are good/great rather than dangerous. For example, ‘The new radio I bought is deadly!’.

An interesting fact: The modern definition of ‘Deadly’ is thought to date to 1900s. It found its way into Aboriginal English during the 1970s

13. Leannán

One of the more popular Irish words amongst courting couples, ‘Leannán’ means ‘Sweetheart/lover’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Lan-awn’

14. Yer one/man

Some of the more confusing Irish slang, ‘Yer man/yer one’ are used to describe a man or a woman that you either aren’t overly familiar with or whom you dislike.

An example of it being used: ‘Yer man and yer one were here last night causing all sorts of trouble!’

15. Púca

famous irish words and phrases

The Púca is a mischievous shape-shifting figure from Irish folklore that’s said to cause harmless trouble while playing tricks on people.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Poo-kah’

16. Ceol

‘Ceol’ is the Irish word for music. You’ll often hear people say ‘Craic agus ceol’, which refers to ‘Fun and music’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Ke-yole’

17. Póirín

One of my favourite short Irish words, ‘Póirín’ means ‘Small potato’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Pour-een’

18. Up to 90

‘Up to 90’ is slang that’s used to describe being busy, fidgety or highly strung.

An example of it being used: ‘I’ve had 5 coffees in the last hour – my heart is up to 90!’

19. Messages

‘The Messages’ is a bit of slang that tends to confuse many – in a nutshell, this is how many Irish people refer to the ‘groceries’.

An interesting fact: Back in the day, the Post Office played a key part in life in rural Ireland. Here, you could get your letters, telegrams and groceries. People may have said they were ‘Going for the messages’ to describe heading to the Post Office to check for new correspondence, while also picking up some groceries while they were there

20. Bodhrán

Few Irish instruments are as famous as the mighty Bodhrán – a a frame handheld drum.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Bau-rawn’

21. Sound

‘Sound’ means ‘Good’ and it can be used in several different ways. It can be used as a reply to someone asking how you are.

It can be used to describe a person favourably and it can be used as a reply to a question, for example, ‘What was the new guy like?’ ‘He was sound’.

An example of it being used: ‘Ah, great – you got the kettle fixed. Sound!’

22. Oíche

‘Oíche’ is the Irish word for ‘Night’. If you wanted to say ‘Good night’ to someone in Irish, you’d say ‘Oíche mhaith’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Ee-hah’

23. Lúdramán

famous irish words

‘Lúdramán’ is an Irish word that rolls off the tongue wonderfully. It’s another of the Irish insults and it’s used to describe someone that’s perceived to be useless.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Loo-drum-awn’

24. Yoke

The use of the word ‘Yoke’ can cause confusion amongst visitors to Ireland. We use it the same as you would the word ‘Thing’.

For example, ‘That yoke isn’t working’ or ‘Do you see that yoke over there – he’s annoying me all day!’.

An interesting fact: Using the word ‘Yoke’ to describe something can be dated back as far as 1894. In her book ‘Kerrigan’s Quality’ Dubliner Jane Barlow refers to something as ‘unnatural little yokes’

25. Shebeen

One of my favourite Irish words, ‘Shebeen’ comes from the Irish word ‘Síbín’ which means ‘Home made whiskey’.

What was a ‘Sheebeen’? A ‘Shebeen’ was an unlicensed premises that sold home made alcohol illegally.

26. Sap

‘Sap’ in Ireland is generally used to describe someone that you don’t like, however, its actual meaning is ‘Simpleton’.

The word dates back to 1815 and it is believed to have been derived from older terms like ‘Saphead’.

An example of it being used: ‘I heard you crashed the tractor into the gate, you absolute sap!’

27. Kip

The slang term ‘Kip’ is used to describe a place that isn’t in good condition, like a house or a car or a hotel.

It’s believed that it comes from the Danish word ‘Kippe’, which means ‘Hovel/cheap inn/dive’.

An example of it being used: ‘We stayed in the hostel you recommended – it was an absolute kip!’

28. Gas

One of the more common Irish words used in everyday slang, ‘Gas’ is used to describe something as ‘Funny/fun’.

For example ‘Those Irish jokes were gas, weren’t they?’.

An interesting fact: It would appear that using the word ‘Gas’ as a way of describing something fun dates back to at least 1914, with James Joyce using it in his book ‘Dubliners’

29. Cipín

‘Cipín’ is another gorgeous Irish word and it simply means ‘Little stick’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Ki-peen’

30. Lock-in

‘Lock-in’ is what happens when a pub, which is supposed to close at a certain time, appears to close (e.g. shutters down, door locked etc.) but allows people to remain inside drinking.

An interesting fact: The terms is believed to have originated during WWI when licensing laws were introduced to limit pub opening hours.

31. Grá

Grá is one of the irish words for love

Another of the more famous Irish words is ‘Grá’ which means ‘Love’ in English.

If you wanted to tell someone ‘I love you’ in Irish, you’d say ‘Mo ghrá thú’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Gr-awh’

32. Lob the gob

One of the more colourful bits of Irish slang, the phrase ‘Lob the gob’ means to kiss someone.

An example of it being used: ‘I heard you lobbed the gob on Millie’s brother last night, you brat’

33. Minerals

In the world of geology, a mineral is a naturally occurring inorganic substance with specific chemical composition and structure.

In Ireland, a mineral is a bottled soft drink, like 7up, Coca Cola or any kind of soft drink.

An example of it being used: ‘Dinner will be ready in a second, grab yourselves a mineral from the shelf if you like!’

34. Croí

Croí is another of the more beautiful Irish words. You’ll see it feature in many old Irish proverbs and it means ‘Heart’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Cr-ee’

35. Stall the ball

A popular Irish slang term, if you ask someone to ‘Stall the ball’ you’re asking them to ‘Hang on’/’Wait’.

An example of it being used: ‘Stall the ball – I’m not ready to go yet!’

36. Gob

If you hear someone refer to their ‘Gob’, they’re talking about their mouth. For example, ‘I’ve a sore gob on me after the dentist’.

An interesting fact: One of the theories about the origin of the word ‘Gob’ is that it comes from the Middle French word ‘Goube’ which means ‘Mouthfull’

37. Amadán

‘Amadán’ is the Irish word for ‘Fool’ or ‘Simpleton’. In old Irish folklore, there was the Amadán Dubh/Dark Fairy who was known to be a trickster.

How it’s pronounced: Am-ah-dawn

38. Scoop

‘Scoop’ is Irish slang for a drink. In my own experience, I’ve only ever heard it used by people from South County Dublin.

An example of it being used: ‘We went for a few scoops last night – I’m feeling shook this morning!’

39. Saoirse


Although many will know ‘Saoirse’ as one of the trickier-to-pronounce Irish girls names, it’s actually the Irish word for ‘Freedom’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Sur-sha’

40. Eejit

‘Eejit’ is one of the more funny Irish sayings that’s used to describe someone stupid. For example, ‘He’s an awful Eejit that one’.

An interesting fact: ‘Eejit’ is a term that originated from the Irish and Scottish English pronunciation of ‘Idiot’

41. Leprechaun

The word ‘Leprechaun’ can be traced back to the old Irish words ‘Luchorpán’ or ‘Lupracán’ which mean ‘A very small body’.

Arguably the most famous of the Celtic mythological creatures, a Leprechaun is often depicted as a small man with red hair, a red beard and a pot of gold.

An interesting fact: The leprechaun makes its debut in Irish folklore in the tale ‘Echtra Fergus mac Léti’. In this story, King Fergus mac Léti of Ulster takes a nap on the shore and awakens to discover three lúchorpáin attempting to pull him into the sea.

42. Gowl

It’s thought that the slang term ‘Gowl’ stems from the Irish word ‘Gall’ which means ‘Foreigner’ and which would have likely been used to describe the English in a less than favourable way.

‘Gowl’ is used as a way of describing an idiot or someone that you don’t like.

An example of it being used: ‘I met Sarah’s new fella Mick last night. A pure and utter gowl of a man’

43. Langer

‘Langer’ is a bit of Cork slang that’s generally used to describe someone that’s stupid. You’ll also hear it used to reference a man’s…

For example: ‘He’s an awful langer that fella!’

44. Jacks

The word ‘Jacks’ is slang for the toilet. One theory on where this term originated is that it stems from Irish businessman Jack Power who invented the first multi-toilet cubicles!

An example of how it’s used: ‘I’ll be back in a minute – I have to use the jacks!’

45. Whopper

‘Whopper’ is Dublin slang for ‘Good/great’. You don’t hear it too often, but it tends to be, in my experience, a North Dublin word.

An example of how it’s used: ‘That new show on RTE is whopper!’

46. Lash

‘Lash’ is one of many Irish words with several meanings. ‘On the lash’ means ‘On the drink’‘Lashing rain’ means ‘Heavy rain’ while ‘Give it a lash’ means ‘Give it a go’.

An example of how it’s used: ‘I was on the lash last night and I got absolutely lashed out of it by the rain on the way home’

47. Clagarnach


‘Clagarnach’ is the Irish word for ‘Clatter’. I’ve also heard people say that it’s used in a Gaelic saying that describes the sound that raindrops make when they patter against a roof or window, but I can’t find any real source for this.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Clag-ur-nuck’

48. Dóchas

Another of the more beautiful Irish words, ‘Dóchas’ means ‘Hope’ in Irish.

How it’s pronounced: ‘Doh-hiss’

49. Banshee

The Banshee is a figure from Irish folklore that’s haunted many-a-nightmare. It’s said that her scream is followed by the passing of a loved one.

An interesting fact: The story of the Banshee is said to stem from the ‘ Keening women’ (read more here)

50. Feck

Arguably one of the most famous Irish words, ‘Feck’ has various meanings in Irish English, Middle English and Scots.

In Irish slang, it’s used to describe throwing something or often as a substitute for f**k. 

An example of how it’s used: “Ah feck, I fecked that lotto ticket out by accident”

51. Fine

We use the word ‘Fine’ in several ways in Ireland. You’ll hear people describe someone as a ‘Fine thing’ to express that they’re attracted to someone. 

You’ll also most commonly hear it used as a way of saying ‘OK’, usually when things are not OK…

An example of how it’s used: ‘I’m sorry, but I’m going to miss your sisters wedding. Is that OK?’ ‘Yea, fine’ (it definitely isn’t fine)

52. Gobshite

Few Irish words have achieved fame like ‘Gobshite’. You use this to describe a foolish personal.

For example, ‘That gobshite is after filling up my petrol car with diesel’.

An interesting fact: According to Countdown’s word expert Susie Dent, the word ‘Gobshite’ actually originated in the US

53. Pox

The word ‘Pox’ is used to descibe something or someone that you don’t like.

For example, ‘That movie was poxy. And to make it worse Colin Farrel and that pox from Carlow were starring in it’

An interesting fact: You’ll see ‘Bono is a pox’ spray painted in many places in Dublin

54. Gombeen

‘Gombeen’ is one of the more unusual Irish words and it’s used to describe someone that’s a bit of a chancer or a bit dodgy. 

A ‘Gombeen’ is generally used to describe someone that’s looking to make money off you – think of a Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses type!

An interesting fact: ‘Gombeen’ comes from the Irish word ‘Gaimbín’ which means ‘Monatary interest’

55. Giving out

The phrase ‘Giving out’ is, by all account, only used in Ireland.

It means to complain or to scold someone. It’s thought that it comes from the the Irish words ‘Tabhairt amach‘.

An example of how it’s used: “You’re in trouble – Padraig from next door was giving out to mam about you”

56. Cnoc

And the last of our wonderful Irish words is ‘Cnoc’, the Irish word for ‘Hill’.

How it’s pronounced: ‘K-nuck’

What lovely Irish words and phrases have we missed?

irish sayings in gaelic

I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some beautiful Irish words and meanings from the guide above.

If you have any that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!

FAQs about Irish words in English

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are some weird Irish words and meanings?’ to ‘What are some odd Irish terms?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are some cool Irish words?

‘Póirín’, ‘Cipín’, ‘Amadán’, ‘Croí’ and ‘Up to 90’ are some cool Irish words and phrases that are used in Ireland.

How do you say basic words in Irish?

Some of the more basic Irish words are ‘Dia dhuit’ meaning ‘hello’, ‘Slán’ meaning ‘goodbye’ and ‘Fáilte’ meaning ‘Welcome’.

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