Irish-American Dictionary

Since first visiting Ireland over 5 years ago I’ve had to learn a lot of the different lingo they have here. Yes, everyone speaks English and not that many people speak Irish fluently, but sometimes it is like their English is a different language.

So when I first moved here I generally laughed along pretending like I knew what they were saying for lack of wanting to ask or seem stupid, however I quickly learned that I had no clue what people were talking about so I absolutely had to ask (when I moved here I just had a flip phone – now I could just secretly google something, but still a little embarrassing).

But now it’s gotten to the point where I sometimes forget what’s “Irish” and what’s “American” and I must confess that I’ve started to use a few phrases here and there – then when I’m back home everyone looks at me like I have four heads. ANYWAY I had a thought that maybe someone new might find a list helpful / some of them are so entertaining I laugh out loud anytime I think of them. Also for when I move I think this is going to be hilarious to look back on.

Some of them are a mixture of Irish phrases, Irish language pieces, some stem from British words and are used there too, and others are even regional within Ireland itself. Apparently villages even have their own slang. Some practical and some comical. The two common themes: there’s about 1,000 different ways to insult someone (with very specific types of the term idiot) and about 10,000 ways to say drinking, drunk, want a drink, etc. This is nowhere near comprehensive and is a work in progress as I learn ’em and hear the latest weirdest one.

  • Acting the bollix/maggot – behaving unacceptably or causing problems for someone
  • Amadán – a stupid man
  • Banjaxed – means completley exhausted for example, I’m not going out I’m completely banjaxed
  • Bird – a girl, like Sheila in Australia, my bird means my girlfriend, a dirtbird is not a nice thing to say to someone
  • The boot – trunk of a car
  • Boots – soccer cleats
  • Buns – cupcakes also known as fairy cakes
  • A “buzzard” – a person that goes out a lot, typically a fun person
  • Buzzing – going out drinking
  • Cans – always, always, always means beer cans for example, let’s go grab a few cans after work
  • Culchie – someone from the “country” aka not from Dublin, not really a nice term overall
  • The cure – a drink in the morning, hair of the dog
  • The craic – means the fun, often a question as a term of greeting, how’s the craic? what’s the craic? where’s the craic? or a person can be the craic, meaning they’re a lot of fun and fun to be around or a place can be the craic, meaning it’s a fun place to go
  • Deadly – really great, I would say basically means awesome but Irish people do not use the word awesome, ever. Generally applies to something like an adjective for example, that’s deadly
  • Did you get your hole – someone is asking you, did you have sex
  • A “do” – a party, get-together… commonly for a bigger occasion for example, a hen do a stag do or are you having a do?
  • Doing the messages – running errands or running into town to pick up a few things for example, I’m going out to do the messages! yes, this one still is incredibly confusing
  • Eejit/eegit – an idiot
  • A fry – means breakfast, often refrencing the full Irish breakfast for example, did you get a fry this morning?
  • Feast of pints – lots of beer and drinks
  • Gobshite – an idiot
  • Going for one – the feeble attempt at having one drink at the pub, generally a joke the next day for example, you said you were going for one but you got home at 2 in the morning
  • Got a lip on – means that you want to go for a drink
  • Guards – the police
  • G’wan – generally means “come on!” a term of encouragement for example, g’wan ya good thing!
  • G’way – get out of here, like “no way!” that’s unbelievable… kind of like get out of town!
  • Jabs – boobs
  • The Jacks – toilet, generally something a guy would say
  • Jackines – someone from Dublin
  • Jumper – generally a sweater, can sometimes be a sweatshirt too
  • Kitchen roll – paper towels
  • Knackered – means that you’re very tired for example, I’m so knackered after that run
  • Lashing – generally means that it’s raining so much, like a stupid amount and you shouldn’t leave your house for example, it is absolutely lashing out
  • Late bar – a pub/bar that stays open later than 12:30, but it is different to a club
  • Legend – someone who’s earned your respect, can literally be because of anything, big or small. Generally means they are cool and are a legend, for example, you’re a legend Dave
  • Manky – gross
  • Naggin – a small bottle of spirits (vodka, whiskey, etc.) that generally covers a night of predrinking before heading into “town” especially while in college
  • Pants – underpants
  • Press – means the cupboard, can be confusing while you’re in the kitchen and someone asks you to get something from the press
  • Rake – a lot of something for example, a rake of pints
  • Raging – generally means that you’re disappointed for example, it’s raining so we can’t go hiking – agh I’m raging
  • Ride – so the ride = sex and a ride = a good looking person
  • Savage – really great, I would say basically means awesome but Irish people do not use the word awesome, ever. Generally applies to something for example, that’s savage
  • Session – going out drinking, the session or going out for a session
  • Shift – so shifting = making out but this can also be used many ways, question often asked after a night out is did you get the shift? Generally something said in the west of Ireland
  • The spuds – generally used as would you put on the spuds, meaning can you start making dinner please
  • Tapped – often a way to describe someone who is a little bit mental or not all there for example, he’s a bit tapped
  • On the tear / on the lash – if you’re going out doing a lot of drinking, often a question at the beginning of the night to understand if they’re “going for one” or out for a long time for example, are you out on the tear tonight? 
  • Town – heading to town generally means going to the closest city or village, can be at any time of day, but if it’s in the evening generally means going to the pub
  • Up to my tits – really busy, generally at work or overwhelmed in general for example, I can’t go to lunch now I’m up to my tits
  • A “wagon” – means an unkind, cranky person, typically a woman for example, her boss is an awful wagon
  • Wet the tea – literally just means make the tea, but I still find this weird to hear
  • What’s the story – asking someone what’s going on, what’s happening, often a greeting
  • Yoke – literally a name for anything you don’t know the actual name for or also ecstasy pills but that would generally be plural as in yokes