Irish Slang and Phrases Americans Just Don’t Understand

Irish Slang and Phrases Americans Just Don’t Understand

When traveling abroad, many Americans prefer to head to countries where English is widely spoken. Not only does it make getting around easier; it also simplifies interacting with the locals. But just as Americans use idioms and figures of speech that foreigners may not understand, English-speakers in other countries might use slang phrases that will keep tourists on their toes. (For instance, check out the Canadian slang and phrases Americans just don’t understand.)

English is the primary language in Ireland, but that doesn’t mean that Americans will understand everything an Irish person says. To find Irish words and phrases Americans might not understand, 24/7 Tempo reviewed various sources for Irish slang or usages, including YouTube videos, blogs, and Irish online news sites. 

Some of these words and phrases are common throughout the U.K. and even as far as Australia and New Zealand, while many are particular to Ireland or Northern Ireland. A few are derived from Irish (also called Gaelic or Gaeilge), the island’s native language) while others are words we use in the U.S. but that have different meanings here. (These are the 35 most Irish cities in America.)

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A ride
> Meaning: An attractive person

When in Ireland, be careful asking for a ride in a taxi. A ride is a racy term for someone hot enough to tangle with; for example, “That waiter is a total ride.” It can also refer to doing the deed.

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> Meaning: A house

A gaff is another word for a house. Teenagers can often be heard saying they’ve got a “free gaff,” which means their parents aren’t home and they are having a party.

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> Meaning: A fish and chips shop

After a long night out, a group of friends might hit up the local chipper – a fast food shop that sells deep-fried foods like fish and chips.

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> Meaning: A unit of measurement

Widely used for measuring body weight, the stone, equaling 14 pounds, is a unit of measure that dates back hundreds of years and was once common around Northern Europe.. The actual weight varied, depending on the town, as the weight was originally associated with a literal stone and no two were identical.

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> Meaning: Naughty

While bold generally means courageous in the U.S., the term takes a more negative connotation in Ireland, where calling someone bold is an accusation of bad behavior.

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> Meaning: Adhesive bandage

If you get a cut in Ireland, someone may offer you a plaster to stick on your wound. It’ll look just like a Band-Aid.

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> Meaning: Cash register

A grocery store clerk will ring you up and place your money in the till.

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> Meaning: Expensive

If someone says that dinner was dear, they don’t mean that it was beloved; they mean that it was too costly.

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> Meaning: Dirty, disgusting

Meaning rotten, disgusting, or just plain horrible, manky can be used to describe anything from the weather to the month-old leftovers in the back of the fridge.

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> Meaning: Extremely drunk

Considering that a langer is a fool or an idiot, it’s not surprising that being langered is being incredibly intoxicated.

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> Meaning: Embarrassed

Referring to the color of one’s cheeks when they are humiliated, scarlet means embarrassed. You can also be scarlet for a friend if they did something embarrassing and you’re feeling for them.

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> Meaning: Excellent

A catch-all for anything great, savage means something is awesome, amazing, etc.

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> Meaning: Fun

Craic roughly translates to fun or good times, as in, “Are you up for a bit of craic tonight?” Minus craic, on the other hand, is a popular phrase meaning “no fun.”

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The messages
> Meaning: Shopping

Getting the messages means running errands or shopping for groceries, hardware, or other sundries.

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What’s the story?
> Meaning: How is it going?

While we may say “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?” in the U.S., the Irish equivalent is “What’s the story?”

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I’m after…
> Meaning: I have just…

If someone in Ireland says, “I’m after eating breakfast,” they mean that they have just eaten breakfast.

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I will in my hole
> Meaning: I will absolutely not

As the word hole is an expletive for anus in Ireland, the phrase “I will in my hole,” is a snarky way of saying that you refuse to do something.

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Donkey’s years
> Meaning: A long time

If someone says they haven’t seen their sister in donkey’s years, they mean they haven’t seen her ages.

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The black stuff
> Meaning: Guinness

Ask a bartender for a pint of the black stuff, and you’ll get a frothy mug of Guinness stout.

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> Meaning: Intense kiss

Getting a shift means making out or doing what some Americans might call French kissing.

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> Meaning: Lucky

Jammy means incredibly lucky, maybe undeservedly so. If you find an envelope of money on the sidewalk, people may call you a jammy sod.

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> Meaning: Potato chips

Ask for chips and you’ll get a serving of thick-cut fried potatoes that are not quite as crispy as American French fries. If what you actually want is potato chips, then ask for crisps.

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> Meaning: Rich

Minted means wealthy. For example, “Can’t your mum just pay for it? She’s minted!”

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A chancer
> Meaning: An opportunist

A chancer is a risk-taking person who may try to get away with something or fool others in order to get ahead.

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Bad dose
> Meaning: Severe illness

Having a bad dose generally means having a severe bout of the flu or a stomach bug.

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> Meaning: Sneakers

Sneakers are often called runners in Ireland, but they are also referred to as tackies in certain areas.

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> Meaning: Thank you

From riders departing from the bus to bar patrons receiving their pint from the bartender, you’ll often hear people saying “cheers” in the place of “thanks.”

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> Meaning: That thing

Like a thingamajig, a yoke is an item a person can’t remember the name of.

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That’s class
> Meaning: That’s cool

Class is a word used to compliment someone or something, or express a favorable opinion about it.

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> Meaning: Funny

“A gas” can refer to a person or a situation that is funny. It is also used to express amazement or disbelief, as in, “You got struck by lightning? That’s gas!”

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> Meaning: The police

The Irish police force is called “An Garda Síochána,” which means “Guardians of the Peace.” It is shortened to garda when people are referring to police officers.

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Half three
> Meaning: The time is 3:30

While we may say it’s half past three, Irish folks may just say it’s half three and mean the same thing.

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The boot
> Meaning: The trunk of a car

Irish parents may tell their children to go “pop the boot,” meaning to go open the trunk of the car.

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Now we’re sucking diesel
> Meaning: Things are going very well

Sucking diesel means things are going extraordinarily well, or are getting back on track after an obstacle.

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> Meaning: Tired

Usually after spending a long night out, if someone says they’re wrecked, they’re exhausted.

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To give out
> Meaning: To complain

While giving out means complaining or going off on a rant, giving out to someone means scolding them or telling them off.

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Leg it
> Meaning: Move quickly

Legging it means heading somewhere quickly, often on foot.

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On the lash
> Meaning: To go out drinking

While lash can refer to hard rain, going on the lash means heading out for a round of boozing.

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> Meaning: To make fun of

Slagging someone is a way of teasing or poking fun at them that is considered affectionate rather than malicious.

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> Meaning: Country person

Similar to the term hillbilly, a culchie can refer to a person who is from a rural area and is considered to be unsophisticated; in Dublin, it can mean anybody who isn’t from Dublin.

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> Meaning: Toilet

If you overhear someone say, “Where’s the jacks?” they are referring to the toilet.

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> Meaning: Broken

Banjaxed can be used to mean someone or something that is ruined, destroyed, tired, or drunk.

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> Meaning: Used to end a sentence

Just as Americans may overuse the word “like” as a filler in the middle of sentences or thoughts, the Irish will often end sentences with “like” as a way to accentuate the story.

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> Meaning: Very

Quare can mean a range of things, from very, as in, “The kids were quare noisy today,” to terrific, to odd.

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Up to 90
> Meaning: Very busy

Up to 90 can mean flat out busy, as well as incredibly agitated, or having reached your limit.

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> Meaning: Very cool, fantastic

Deadly can mean fantastic, brilliant, or just plain awesome, as in, “That cake was deadly!”

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Stall the ball!
> Meaning: Wait a second!

Someone might say, “Stall the ball,” when they mean, “Hold on a minute.”

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Fair play
> Meaning: Well done

Fair play is used as a congratulatory statement, as in, “I heard you passed the bar. Fair play!”

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