Irish Phrases That Don’t Translate
Not only do us Irish have our own language, Gaelic (though most of us that are actually from Ireland just call it Irish and can barely speak it), but our version of the English language is also like a whole different language itself. There are words & phrases which we use every day that any English speaker from any other country will never have heard of in their life. I realised this mainly while travelling BUT it was only after being home in Ireland for Christmas that I realised the full extent of the things we say that make little or no sense to the people outside of Ireland.
After days of consulting my friends, family and Cornish boyfriend, here’s the list I came up with. I couldn’t include everything, but I threw in the main players and hopefully quite a few you’ve never seen before. So here it is, the only guide you’ll need to understanding us charming Irish and our Irish phrases.
54 most important Irish expressions and how to use them
- Yer man — That man over there….. or pretty much any man that we are referring to for the purpose of a story. For example, “Yer man behind the counter said to me….”. We do not mean that the man BELONGS to you. He is not YOUR man. He’s simply yer man over there.
- Yer one — The female equivalent of yer man. (often pronounced yer wan)
- Yoke — Thingy. For example, “Where’s that yoke gone?” simply means “Where has that random thing gone that I was looking for?”. Yoke can also refer to a person that you are horrified by. eg. “some f*in yoke sat beside me on the bus”.
- Scarlet for ya — How embarrassing for you. The long version is “scarlet for your ma for having ya”. That basically means that you did something EXTREMELY embarrassing and should probably be disowned.
- Grand — This is our most used response to any question. Contrary to popular belief this does not mean “great” or anything nearly as enthusiastic. Grand generally means “OK” or “fine”. Example, “Tara, I’m going to the shop”, and I would reply “grand”.
- I gave out to him — This is not sexual! This simply means “I told him off”, or “I scolded him”. Many a time I have used this phrase only to be met with confused faces asking me what exactly I gave the person.
- Fierce — Mainly used by country folk. Basically means VERY. Example, “It’s fierce windy out.”
- Bleedin — Used descriptively but not literally. Can basically be shoved into a sentence anywhere. Example. “where’s me bleedin phone?” or “That film was bleedin deadly”. Kind of used in place of an expletive.
- All over the shop — A state or a mess. Used descriptively. For example, “Me hair is all over the shop.”.
- He’s gone for his tea — Often used when watching a film and a character dies. Someone will usually exclaim, “Well, he’s gone for his tea”.
- He scared the bejaysus/bejesus out of me — Bejaysus basically means shit/hell/f*ck here. He scared the shit out of me.
- Sickner for ya — This pretty much means, “That sucks” or “How unfortunate for you”. For example, a friend might say “I was smoking down the lanes and then me ma caught me” and one could respond “Awww sickner”.
- Culchie — A person from the country, or basically anyone that comes from anywhere other than Dublin.
- Jackeen — What culchies call people from Dublin
- Rasher — Bacon.
- Spicebag — A mystical bag of chips and crispy chicken/chicken balls with a mysterious blend of spices all wrapped up in a paper or foil bag. Very popular after a night out.
- Sliced pan — Loaf of bread that has been sliced.
- Chipper — The fish and chip shop, where they also sell spicebags.
- The messages — Groceries or food shopping. For example, “I’m going to Tesco for the messages.”
- The press — The cupboard, usually where you store the messages.
- Naggin — 200ml of some kind of spirit, often stashed in bras or bags on the way into nightclubs/festivals.
- Minerals — Soft/fizzy drinks. They don’t actually contain any minerals and are in no way healthy.
- Dilutable — What other countries call “squash”. Basically stuff like Ribena that you put into water to make it taste like something else.
- Geebag — Translated literally it means a bag of vaginas, but we usually mean is as an insult, though I can’t see why! For example, She’s an effin Geebag. Try it; it sounds hilarious.
- Gobshite — Gob means mouth…and well, you know what shite means. This is often used affectionately when referring to simple yet harmless friends and family. It can also be used in an unaffectionate way.
- Poxy — Something or someone that is bad or terrible. Used as an adjective….kind of. Example “You’re a poxy bleedin liar,” or “That poxy yoke over there.”
- The f*kin head on him — Look at him — he looks wrecked. Can also be said as “The bleedin state of him” or “The hack of him.”
- Eejit — Often used affectionately, much like gobshite. If you drop something your mother may say something along the lines of “You’re an awful eejit.”
- Shitehawk — One I heard in my childhood a lot. If my sister and I were acting up we were “little shitehawks”. I feel like a lot of insults can be used affectionately in Ireland.
- She’s a f*in weapon/wagon — She’s a mad bitch, pretty much.
- She’s pure haunty — This is a Limerick phrase meaning she’s an unfortunate looking girl wearing a lot of make-up to try and cover it up. Harsh, but effective.
- Did you get the shift? — Did you kiss anyone?
- Did you get the ride? — Did you have sexual intercourse with anyone?
- I was absolutely locked/hammered/smashed/legless/paralytic — I was extremely drunk.
- I’m going on the lash — I’m going out to get f*in hammered/locked etc.
- Gee-eyed — Literally, it means vagina-eyed, but, in fact, it means DRUNK. One might say “I was absolutely gee-eyed last night.”
- I’m knackered — I’m extremely tired.
- Are ya goin for a fag? — This isn’t quite as politically incorrect as it sounds. A fag is a cigarette. So this means, are you going outside for a smoke/cigarette?
- Me mot/motzer — My girlfriend. You can also refer to a group of females as “mots”. For example, “This places is full of mots”.
- F*kin TUNE! — Great song! Love this song! Usually exclaimed before legging it to the dance floor.
- You’re the image of massive — You look great! Can also be said as “You’re massive,” which, counter-intuitively enough, is actually a compliment.
- Gaff party — Gaff means HOUSE. So this means a house party.
- Giving it socks — Really going for it. Putting a lot of energy into something. For example, “Yer man was giving it socks on the dancefloor last night.”
- The Jacks — The toilet. For example, “I’m going to the Jacks.” Can also be referred to as “The bog.”
- The Drinklink — ATM or hole in the wall from which to withdraw cash that shall be used to purchase alcohol.
Questions and Responses
- Story horse/bud? — Basically: “How are you my friend?” A shortened version of “What’s the story?” Horse refers to a friend, not an actual horse.
- What’s the craic? — Same as above. How are you? Any news?
- Ah sure ya know yourself — This just means fine. Same old same old. Considered a valid answer to a question.
- I will in me hole/hoop/arse — I will not. If you are asked to do something you do not want to do, or which seems unreasonable, this is an appropriate response.
- I will yeah — This also means “no.” We like to keep people on their toes.
- I’ll do it now in a minute — Not quite now…not quite in a minute. It really means I’ll do it whenever I’m bothered.
- Me arse! — Similar to “as if” or “yeah right”. Often used as an exclamation when you believe something to be untrue. For example if Johno said he got the ride off 4 girls in one night his friends may exclaim “me arse you did!” or just simply “me arse”. Because Johno is a bleedin liar.
- Thanks a million — Basically just “Thanks” in a nicer way. People in England find this hilarious.
- Stall it to the chipper with me — Let’s go to the chip shop.
So there ya have it, all you need to know to survive in Ireland. Well….. maybe not quite, but surely an enlightening list for some of you. No doubt I’ve missed PLENTY of Irish phrases that no one else understands. Sooooo if you can think of any other uniquely Irish phrases or words do leave a comment and let me know. I’ll update the list with any decent suggestions.
If you’re not happy with anything in this article, well, you’re probably just a bleedin geebag anyways 😉 Not really though, thanks for reading, you’re only massive!