The 29 most important Irish words and expressions you must know before visiting Ireland

By Liz Gutierrez / August 10, 2021
Irish words and expressions

English has its variants depending on the country you are in. Therefore, when you go to a certain country, you will have to learn certain words or expressions that are used there. American English is not the same as British English, and English vocabulary in Ireland has its own particularities too. So, if you come to Ireland, you will hear a few words that are only used in this country and you may not understand if you’re not a native or living there. But, don’t worry, because here’s a list of 29 Irish words to know when you decide to live in or visit Ireland. 

 

1. A whale of a time

If someone says they are having a whale of a time, they mean they’re enjoying themselves very much. 

I danced, caught up with all my friends…I definitely had a whale of a time at my birthday party. 

 

2. Banjaxed

The meaning of this adjective is “broken”. But it can also be used to talk about someone who drank too much. 

My bike was totally banjaxed after a car hit me. 

 

 

3. Craic 

According to the Cambridge dictionary, craic /kræk/ or crack is an Irish word to talk about fun, enjoyment, and entertainment. In addition, in Lexico, Oxford Dictionary, it says that this word comes from the English “crack”. There are different ways to use it. For example:

What’s the craic? It is the same as saying How are you? or What’s happening? 

The craic is ninety. This expression is expressed to refer to a fantastic and brilliant time.

Having the craic. It refers to having a very fun or enjoyable experience. 

We had the craic yesterday at the party. 

Minus craic is the opposite of having the craic. Basically, it means  something or someone that is not fun. 

 

4. Grand

This word means “ok”. If someone asked you how you’re doing, you could use this word. Hey! How are you doing? — I’m grand

 

5. Fair play

Do you want an Irish way to congratulate someone? This expression means “well done”!  

Your marks are so good. Fair play! 

 

6. Fella

This means “boy” or “man”.

The fella over there is watching you

 

7. Fine thing

This is a way to say that someone is good-looking.  

That woman is a fine thing. Look at her. She’s gorgeous. 

 

8. Gaff or free gaff

This is a cool way to say “house”. The term “free gaff” usually refers to a party taking place at a house (usually used by teenagers when their parents have left them alone at home).

Guys, I have free gaff for a party this weekend. 

 

9. Gas

This word means “funny” or “amusing”. It can also mean to be shocked.

The story about him being drunk is gas. 

 

10. Gawk 

This verb is used to describe staring rudely. 

That girl has been gawking at you since you arrived. Do you have any problem with her? 

 

11. Giving out

This is used to complain about something, or scold someone for misbehaving. 

I heard your brother giving out about your parents. 

Will you ever stop giving out about the weather in Ireland?

 

12. Make hames/haymes of

This phrase is used to talk about making a mess of something.  

You made a haymes of this situation. You have to sortit out. 

 

13. In rag order

Adjective meaning something is in complete disarray or in very bad condition

She was in rag order after partying the whole night

 

14. It’s pure shit

The meaning of this expression is “rainy”. 

I won’t go out this evening. It’s going to be pure shit. 

 

15. I will, yeah

This expression means “I won’t do it”. It is said when someone asks you to do something and you definitely won’t do that thing. If you don’t know this expression and you’re in Ireland, maybe you will believe they will do what you asked for. So, you now know not to be surprised if they don’t do it. 

Will you buy the ingredients for the recipe?  — I will, yeah. 

 

16. Jacks

When you hear this word, the person using it is talking about the bathroom. 

Could you wait for me? I need to use the jacks. 

 

17. Kip 

Do you want to describe a dump of a place? This is the perfect Irish word for that. In addition, you can say it if you are talking about sleeping or a nap. 

The room in that hotel was kip. 

I want to take a quick kip after having lunch. 

 

18. Lash

There are three ways to use lash. The first one is as a verb referring to hard rain. Then, it can be used to mean you’re going out drinking or it can be used as “give it a lash”, which means to give something a go orto make an attempt at something. 

It’s lashing the whole day. 

We lashed last night until 2 am. Now I have hungover 

I’ve never tried this but I’m going to give it a lash 

 

19. Leppin

It is the Irish word to say you’re hungry. 

I am leppin. I want to have a snack now.  

 

20. Manky

It is an adjective to describe something dirty, filthy, or disgusting. 

Have you used the jacks of the club? No, I haven’t. They were manky. 

 

21. Minerals

This is a word synonymous with soft drinks. 

Would you like a mineral? Yes, I would. I’m thirsty. 

 

22. Mot

This noun is used as a way to refer to a girlfriend, wife, or any other kind of romantic female partner. 

Anna is Yoshua’s mot. 

 

23. On the tear

This means going drinking and, if you’re in Ireland, you’re going to hear that when someone asks you to go out. 

Would you like to go on the tear? Yes, I would. 

We were on the tear yesterday. 

 

24. Scarlet

This adjective means “very embarrassed”. 

He was scarlet after asking Georgina for a date. 

 

25. Scoops

This refers to any alcoholic drink. 

Do you want to go for scoops to the pub? No, I don’t. I can’t today. 

 

26. Slag

A verb used to make fun of someone in a nice way.   

Do not slag me or I will go home. 

 

27. That’s a fret 

It represents scepticism. However, it’s usually said calmly. When something is unexpected but not out of the realms of possibility, use this expression.

8 things you can’t live without. That’s fret. 

 

28. The guards

In Ireland, the police are called the Gardai and a policeman is known as a Garda. However, in normal conversations, there’s a different way to refer to them and that word is guards. 

I saw the guards in the park. 

 

29. Yoke

 It is literally any object for which there is no known name or for which someone cannot remember the name. 

Can you pass me that yoke, the one near the door? 

 

Irish words to say drunk: Ossified, fluttered, and locked 

The country where Guinness was born has different ways synonymous with being drunk. Ossified means “drunk” –  I’m ossified with only two beers. Fluttered and locked are used to say “very drunk”. 

This is a list of the words and expressions that you may discover in your time in Ireland. Have you heard of them? If this has been helpful, or if you have other phrases I might have missed, please share that in the comments below.

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Liz Gutierrez

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