Your Guide to Irish slang: Irish slang terms to know

Irish slang is a language all to its own. From the North to the ROI Irish slang can go over your head in an instant and you stand there with no clue as to what is being talked about. Here, I have highlighted the most commonly heard Irish expressions and words, their meanings and provided examples of how they are used in everyday speech.

The Irish people have a way with words and Irish terms and funny Irish sayings have been handed down from generation to generation. Irish idioms like “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” or “hand us the wooden spoon” are terms most of us Irish have heard at some point in our lives. 

Northern Ireland has a vocabulary distinctly its own. From Belfast central to the outer edges regional accents and sayings do differ a lot. Irish slang and Irish expressions differ depending on where you are in the country be it the North or the South. The Irish pretty much shorten everything so here they say up North or they say down South to make their lives easier.

Aerial view of the Glenveagh National Park with castle Castle and Loch in the background - County Donegal, Ireland.

Common Irish Slang

Irish Slang does vary from North to South but there are lots of variants of the same words particularly swear words and words for getting drunk or being drunk. Craic is another not-so-much Irish slang word as a Gaelic word that is used both North and South for finding the good times.

Another favourite word in Ireland is grand. When someone in Ireland says grand it means everything was fine or great as in I’m grand today, or the pub was grand last night. This Irish phrase is used all over the island.

Your Guide to Irish slang: Irish slang terms to know

The Irish words or rather things (tings) the northern Irish say are to a large degree based on the plantation of Ulster, in other words, the Scots who moved to Northern Ireland. Along with some traditional English sayings, Northern Irish or Irish banter can be tricky to catch on to.

Belfast banter and the Belfast accent can be almost untranslatable. It reminds me of watching British TV shows in Canada with subtitles. You have to be pretty damn fast to catch some of it. Once you get the hang of these Irish expressions you are on your way.

44 Best things to do in Belfast

Irish slang words
the Irish sense of humour in St. Georges Market

The first thing to learn about Northern Ireland is that up here it’s called “Norn Ireland” or at least that it is what it sounds like. The second thing to know is everything up here is “wee”. From a sales receipt to a plastic bag everything is “here’s your wee..”

Wee from the Ulster-Scots a word used to describe anything and everything. Would you like a wee cup of tea, here’s your wee receipt, it’s a wee garden and so on. Probably the most common word that is used in Northern Ireland – rather like the Canadians are supposed to say eh!

101 Landmarks in Northern Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland - Aug 19, 2014: View of Bittles Bar in Belfast, North Ireland  on August 19, 2014

Northern Irish Slang: Common Irish Slang

Tae: Tea. as in put the kettle on and we’ll have a wee cup of tea.

Craic: popular throughout Ireland – where’s the craic, as in where’s the fun at and obviously minus craic means it was not fun

Banter: banter is the backbone of Ireland’s identity and it is all over Ireland, the banter, the craic, having a good chat and a laugh.

Grand: means good and is used up North and down South

Yer man – yer wanyer one: is a way of referring to someone without naming them or if you don’t know their name

Courtin: If you are courtin‘ someone, you are dating them.

Gurn: To gurn is to moan about someone.

Scundered: means you are embarrassed for yourself or for someone else

Ragin: really angry and spouting off about things that made you angry

Houl yer whisht: literally means shut up or be quiet.

Bout ye? How are you?

I’ll run ye over: Means to give the person being spoken to a ride somewhere.

Your Guide to Irish slang: Irish slang terms to know

Planning a dream trip to Ireland? Everything you need to know

Buck eejit: Used to describe someone who does really stupid things

Up to high doh: She’s up to high doh as in very excited – either high doh angry or high doh really happy about something.

Yoke:  An object. Often used when discussing motor vehicles.

Tongin: Basically a good tongue lashing

Dander: to go out for a dander is to go for a walk.

It’s baltic: it’s bloody cold or freezing

It’s roastin: the opposite of above bloody hot or ‘baking’

Awk sure ya know yerself: A confirmation of your knowledge and what you know is right

Banjaxed: (When something is broken)

Poke: (Ice-cream, usually a soft serve from an ice cream van.

Aye sure why nat?: A means of justifying/laughing off an inevitably bad decision – but you go ahead and do it anyway

Bake: is your face

Ach: A word that’s usually placed at the start of a sentence. “Ach go on.”, “Ach you know?”

Catch yourself on!: An expression used to express disbelief or imply that someone is not quite telling the whole truth

Does my head in: A way of expressing that a certain person, place or thing drives you crazy

Faffin: Messing around, acting an eejit.

Yarn: a good chat or talk

Ragin: Angry, fuming

Yer: You’re.  as in yer man or yer woman said in both the North and South

Scundered: Embarrassed.

Scunnered: done it, exhausted

Youse:  you lot said as in “youse lot come ere”

Kex: Underwear. “I have to go a buy new kex for my honeymoon”

Hoak: Rummage. “That wee man hoaks through the bins

Naff: Stupid, crap.

I’ll do you!: Expression, meaning you’re in big trouble, usually said by mammies or ma’s chasing their troublesome children with a wooden spoon.

Jammie: Lucky.

Lifted: Arrested

Wind your neck in:  as in calm down

Offie: Off Licence where you can buy beer and liquor

What about ye?: What’s up, How are you?

Catch yourself on!: Smarten up and don’t try to fool me

Wet the tea: Make some tea.

Away in the head or away with the fairies: Lost his senses. Stupid.

Essential guide to renting a car in Ireland

Your Guide to Irish slang: Irish slang terms to know

Away on!: used to express disbelief as in you’re kidding me?

Sound: a word used to compliment somebody as in she’s dead sound.

Wait till I tell ye: Said by someone who has some interesting gossip or a story to tell you

I tell a lie: It’s what you say when you’ve realised that you said something wrong!

Do you think I came up the Lagan in a bubble?: Do you think I was born yesterday? (The Lagan is the river that runs through Belfast. This phrase varies depending on which river you were brought up by.)

Your Guide to Irish slang: Irish slang terms to know

35 of the Coolest & Unique Places To Stay In Ireland

Dublin Irish slang

Irish slang phrases from the south are a little bit different but there are many that cross over regardless of where you come from. Here are some Dublin Irish slang sayings.

She’s Peeled — describes a broken object

Craic — a good time/fun

On the lash — to go out drinkingWho’s she when she’s at home? – usually used to bring someone back down to earth.

What a ride — super sexy

Stook — an idiot or fool

Snog — kiss

Jammers — packed full

Big front, slope back — feigning wealth when there’s nothing behind it or as the Scottish say “all fur coat and no knickers”

Poormouthing — when someone who has plenty of money pretends they don’t

The jacks — toilet/restroom

Chancer — dodgy character who will do anything to get what they want

Take the piss — to make fun of, tease, or take advantage of

Wanker — fool/idiot

Acting the maggot — being a jerk

Grand —  this just means Ok, or that’s fine, or no worries

Just the one — the lie that every Irishman and some woman tell when they plan to go down the pub and have just one

Rounds —  works in both the North and South and the UK the act of a group of people buying rounds of drinks. Can cause some serious drunkenness if your group is comprised of more than a few people who like a drink.

MARCH 17: Saint Patrick's Day parade in Dublin Ireland on March 17, 2014: People dress up Saint Patrick's at The Temple Bar

20 Famous Pubs in Dublin for a pint and some craic

Ah, sound —  an acknowledgement that the person you are having a conversation with has heard what you are saying.

Muppet — fool

Knackered — exhausted

I will yeah — really means the absolute opposite as in no I won’t

Batter ya — I’ll beat you up

mad as a box of frogs — crazy

Racked — tired

In tatters — destroyed

Scundered — embarrassed

Swearing and cursing in Ireland

One thing you will notice as a visitor to Ireland is that the Irish swear and they don’t hold back on their swearing. Irish swear words are remarkably inventive and I have been constantly surprised by the fact that it doesn’t matter how old you are or how young the Irish can swear like troopers. Here’s your guide to Irish slang phrases.

Your Guide to Irish slang: Irish slang terms to know

Irish slang swear words

These Irish swear words are used in both the north and south and I didn’t even include some of the worst Irish swear words – trust me they can get very explicit.

Frig(in’), Feck(in’), Flip(in’) All taken from the word fuck.
Bloody. Same as fuckin’, but not quite as harsh.
Bollocks or bollix. Same as bullshit.
Shite. Shit.
Arse. Ass.
Fuck up. Shut up.
Kick his fuck in. Kick the shit out of him.
Fucked off. Pissed off.
Seven shades of shite. Lots of shit.
Nob. Penis.
He/She doesn’t know his arse from his elbow. Doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Arse about tit. Wrong-way round.
Come on to fuck. Hurry up.

Aerial view of the awarded Narin Beach by Portnoo and Inishkeel Island in County Donegal, Ireland.

Irish Slang for drunk 

Pissed as a fart
Pure locked
Full Cut
Half Cut
Shit faced

Your Guide to Irish slang: Irish slang terms to know

Best Irish Movies Movies About Ireland To Watch Now

FAQs about Irish slang

Why do the Irish say Feck? Feck is a derivative of a more offensive word that I’m pretty sure you can guess. However, having said that if you are ever on a bus in Dublin you will hear the original word a lot and it may surprise you just how often the real F word is used.  

What do the Irish call a girl or woman? There are various words for females, women or girls in Ireland and they include: lass, colleen – bean pronounced ban is old Irish for a woman.

How do you insult an Irish person? A very difficult task as most Irish insult each other and you on a regular basis and if you can’t take an insult don’t go to Ireland as it is expected that you join in. These are the Irish derogatory terms that are often used and are considered an insult or a term of endearment – take your pick. Fecker, gobshite, eejit and tool.

What Irish words have become well known as English words? These are a few Irish terms that have become commonly used English terms: boycott, galore, slew, hooligan, brogues, gob, and clock.

How do you say good night in Irish? Oíche mhaith or phonetically /Ee-ha wah/.

How do you say good morning in Irish? First of all NEVER and I mean never use the words top of the morning to you – the Irish hate that it’s a stereotype and they consider it stupid and insulating. If you want to say good morning in Irish it is Maidin mhaith is pronounced as MA-jin wah or MA-jin why emphasis on the MA part.

You’ve probably heard a few that I haven’t listed – the Irish are pretty damn creative when it comes to banter so feel free to leave a comment with something you may have heard in passing. Here are a few Irish signs that you might come across when driving Ireland.

Here’s a few places where you might hear some Irish slang.

15 tips for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin

Irish culture and traditions

Ultimate Wild Atlantic Way Route

Ireland’s Ancient East – an epic road trip

What to do in Donegal Town – best things to see, eat and do

Best 2 Days in Galway the European Capital of Culture

If you know of any Irish slang phrases I may have missed let me know – I do like to keep up to date on these things….lol..

You might also like

Travelling in Ireland without a car

Magical Things to Do in Mayo

37 Fascinating things to do in Meath


  • Faith was born in Ireland raised in Canada and has lived in over 10 countries in Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Northern Ireland, Wales, along with Mexico, Antigua, the US and has slow travelled to over 40 countries around the world. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies Faith is a student of history, culture, community and food and has written about these topics for over 40 years.

    View all posts
Scroll to Top