Don’t Get Gobsmacked: A Guide to Irish Slang

Irish pub

Technically, Ireland is an English-speaking country. So why is it that so many visitors feel like they are speaking a foreign language when trying to communicate with the locals?

Much like in the U.S., there are different regional accents throughout Ireland, some of which are incomprehensible to American ears.

But beyond the different ways of speaking, the abundance of Irish slang can make you feel like you have no idea what’s going on.

Before you run out and take a foreign language course to successfully check into hotels (see a large selection of them at Venere) or order a meal at a restaurant, check out this guide to Irish slang.

That way, when you hear someone talking about their “heavin’ gaff” (packed house), you won’t be tempted to take them to a doctor.

Headed to the Pub

Let’s start with the first place you’re likely to head: the local pub. Since this is the place where you’ll encounter plenty of locals and hear a whole lot of slang, it’s best you go in knowing what everyone’s talking about.

First, you may hear about the “craic,” pronounced “crack.” This is a good thing. The craic is a local term meaning a good time — everyone getting together and joking, laughing and gossiping.

You might hear something like, “The craic was 90!” That just means that it was an exceptionally good time; no one really knows why it’s described as 90.

If the barkeep asks you if you would like a few scoops, he’s not referring to ice cream. “Fancy a few scoops” is a slang term for “Would you care for a drink?” If you’re in a pub, the answer is most likely yes — but be careful.

You don’t want to hear anyone say “Merciful hour, look at the state of him!” which is a good indication that you’re going to have a headache tomorrow.

In fact, the Irish have more than 100 words to describe someone who has perhaps indulged too much.

Among the more common terms are bollixed, langered, locked and, inexplicably, elephants.

If you have imbibed too much or simply need to use the restroom, ask for the Jax or the toilet.

In Ireland, a bathroom is a room where one would bathe, so unless you’re looking to soap up, it’s polite to ask for exactly what you need.

Beautiful Day, Aye?

Assuming you want to spend at least some of your trip to Ireland outside of pubs, you may want to brush up on some other common terms. Expect to hear the word “grand” used a lot in Ireland, as in “Everything is just grand.”

That pretty much means everything is fine. So does “We are sucking diesel now,” which loosely translates to “Things are going well.”  Furthering the trip into opposite land, when someone says “It’s a grand soft day,” don’t expect sunshine and rainbows — that means that the weather is rather awful outside.

Beyond pleasantries, you might hear someone refer to others as “punters.” This means average-paying customers.

However, you don’t want to be a “lady muck” (stuck-up) or “gurrier” (hooligan). You might also hear someone called “my old segocia” — that’s slang for my old friend.

A Word About “Bad” Words

One of the most common words you’ll hear anywhere in Ireland sounds awful like one that might get your mouth washed out with soap back in the States, but have no fear — Ireland is not a nation of potty mouths.

“Feck” may sound like profanity, but the interjection is generally used as another way of saying “very” or “extremely.”

You’ll hear the word spoken on television and radio and might even catch a nun or a priest using it in polite company.

On the flip side, American visitors have been known to unknowingly utter a very impolite and vulgar word to the embarrassment of all involved.

If you carry your belongings in a bag around your waist, do not refer to it as a fanny pack, as the Irish consider the word “fanny” to be crude.

Call your bag a waist pack instead or use the Irish term “bum bag,” to avoid inadvertently offending someone.

Of course, if you’re ever perplexed by something someone says, you can always play the innocent tourist card and ask for an explanation — a plan that’s, as the Irish might say, “Sound as a pound!”

About the Author: Louise Vinciguerra is a fantastic joke teller, has a million and one hobbies, and enjoys matching her fonts with her moods. This Brooklyn native dirties her hands in the content on weekdays and as a devout nature lover, dirties them in soil on the weekends. When she’s not on Facebook, WordPress or Twitter, she’s travelling in search of fun food, dabbling in urban farming or planning nature trips from her resident city of Rome. When she’s not doing any of the above, she sleeps.


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