Learning the lingo of Northern Ireland: A dictionary to Northern Irish slang

By Dara Thornton / September 25, 2020
Northern Ireland

20 words and phrases to know when heading north

Northern Ireland is known for many things; Giant’s Causeway, Titanic, Seamus Heaney and of course political and religious tension. However, there is one thing that goes unnoticed and ignites a lot of confusion when people first cross the border, which is Northern Ireland or ‘Norn Iron’, lingo. The roller-coaster of pitch and harsh annunciations create a humour and bizarreness around the topic, which the 98fm Toll Trolls captured perfectly.

Fortunately for tourists across the world or day trippers from the republic alike, the lingo is not that hard to understand once you get the basics. Join me as I explore 20 phrases and slang from the gem itself, Northern Ireland.

1.  Whata boutcha?  Or Bout ye

Pronounced: What-a-bout-che or Bout che

Meaning: How are you? ‘Whata boutcha’ or ‘Bout ye’, are common greetings heavily used in the northern province, similar to the more known, ‘what’s the craic?’, which is used throughout the island.

Example: Bout ye, John!

2.  Dead on

Pronounced: Dead on

Meaning: That’s no problem or that’s right.

Example: John: Kev, whata boutcha? I’m in a rush, but I’ll give you a buzz later. 

Kev: Dead on.

3.  Banjaxed

Pronounced: Ban-jax’d

Meaning: Broken beyond repair.

Example: Sinead: I loaned Aisling my brand-new pair of AirPods and she gave them back to me completely banjaxed.

4.  Slabberin

Pronounced: Sla-ber-in

Meaning: Discussing someone or something negatively behind one’s back.

Example: Aisling: Were you slabberin about me?

5.  Aye

Pronounced: Eye

Meaning: Yes, or okay.

Example: Aisling: Were you slabberin about me?

Sinead: Aye 

6.  Scundered

Pronounced: Scun-derd

Meaning: Very embarrassed.

Example: Sinead: I was so scundered when Aisling was saying I was slabberin about her.

7.  Poke

Pronounced: Poke

Meaning: Although many outsiders would assume this term has a seedy connotation, it is as innocent as they come. A poke is an ice-cream and a poke man or poke mon is an ice-cream man.

Example: Aisling: I’m sorry about your Airpods, can I get you a poke to make up for it?

8.  Awk

Pronounced: Aw-kuh

Meaning: Oh. Awk is used more as a filler word in Northern Ireland, and can be used in any given situation both positively and negatively depending on context.

Example: Sinead: Awk, okay. But you’re paying for the poke!

Northern Ireland

 

9.  Catch yerself on!

Pronounced: Catch yur-self on

Meaning: Don’t be so ridiculous. This phrase is used to tell or encourage someone to pull themselves together or calm down. A comparable term is ‘wise up’.

Example: Aisling: Oh my God, we missed the poke mon. My life is over.

Sinead: Catch yerself on!

10.  Chippy

Pronounced: Chip-ee

Meaning: A chip shop. Often a takeaway restaurant that serves chips and other deep-fried foods.

Example: Aisling: Can we go to the chippy instead? I’ll pay!

11.  Yousens

Pronounced: use-ns

Meaning: You all.

Example: See yousens, you’re doing my head in.

12.  Big Lad

Pronounced: Big lad

Meaning: A term referred, more often but not limited to, males. This term can be used positively and negatively depending on context.

Example: Bout ye, big lad?

13.  Bap

Pronounced: Bap

Meaning: Bread roll.

Example: Kev: The bakery down the road has the best baps.

14.  Ratten

Pronounced: Rah-in

Meaning: Disgusting and repulsive. If something is ratten, you will want to avoid it.

Example: John: I went to that new chippy down the road last night, it was absolutely ratten. 

15.  Taig

Pronounced: Tayg

Meaning: A derogatory term for a Roman Catholic. A ‘taig’ is a sectarian term not only used in Northern Ireland, but also in Scotland,  as an insult to someone of Roman Catholic religion or someone who views themselves as Irish over British.

Example: Billy: Is that the wee taig lad?

16.  Hun

Pronounced: Hun

Meaning: A derogatory term for Protestants.  Like taig, hun is not only used in Northern Ireland, but also in Scotland. Most people would solely know this word as a term of endearment; however the Northerners say otherwise. A ‘Hun’ is a sectarian term to someone of Protestant religion or who views themselves as British than Irish.

Bobby: That lad’s a hun

17.  Boke

Pronounced: Boke

Meaning: Throw up. This is straightforward, no beating around the bush with boke.

Example: Bobby: I think I’m going to boke.

18.  Windee

Pronounced: Wind-ee

Meaning: Window.

Example: Billy: Do not boke on the carpet, Bobby, go out the windee!

19.  Lifted

Pronounced: Lifted

Meaning: Arrested.

Example: Sinead: Did you hear our John was lifted last night at the bonfire?

20.  Yeo

Pronounced: Ye-o

Meaning: An expression and acknowledgement that one is presently or is going to be having a great time.

Example: Bobby: I didn’t get lifted last night!

Billy: Yeeeeeeooooooo! Let’s get locked!

Northern Ireland

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Dara Thornton

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