Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean

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While visiting Dublin, Ireland in 2017 I enjoyed the people I encountered. From the tour bus drivers to waiters in cafés to people we chatted with in pubs, all were friendly and playful. And what is it, to Americans, that so delights us? Those charming accents and words and phrases common to their language but unique to us.

My mother, sisters and niece accompanied me on this trip, a magnificent girls’ trip across the UK. We agreed that the Irish hold a special place in our hearts. My mother’s family comes from Ireland, so perhaps it’s a familial connection. Or perhaps it’s that they don’t know a stranger. We felt very welcomed and embraced in Dublin.

Check out these fun Irish phrases and what they mean and then try them out on your next trip to the Emerald Isle.

Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean title meme

Irish Words We’ve Adopted

Some Irish words are common to the English language. We’ve adopted them. Slew, meaning a large number, comes from the Irish word slaugh, which means a host. Trousers comes from the Irish trius. Galore is adapted from go leor, meaning plenty or enough.

The Irish gave us bog, which they pronounce bug. And we get whiskey from the Irish phrase uisce beatha, which means “water of life”.  Buddy came from the Irish bhodaigh, meaning pal. And slogan originated from a word used by Irish clans in the 1670s, sluagh-ghairm, which is a battle shout.

The fun word smithereens is a gift from the Irish, from their word smidrin with the “een” diminutive added. It means a small fragment.

And do you know how we got the word boycott? It comes from Ireland’s history.

In 1880, an uncaring County Mayo land agent named Captain Boycott refused requests to reduce rents after a bad harvest. His aggrieved tenants responded by refusing to bring in the harvests. From that time on, boycott refers to shunning people, organizations or countries that do not respect human rights.

Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean temple bar area
Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean – people enjoying the Temple Bar area

Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean

Pubs truly are the heart and soul of Ireland’s cities, towns and villages. Visit them and enjoy listening to lively stories and discussions. The Irish sprinkle their conversations with sayings that are common to them and play with the English language. Now you’ll know what they mean.

Acting the Maggot

This phrase means you are probably up to no good or getting into mischief.

Oul Fella or Oul Wan

If you hear someone talking about her oul fella or her oul wan, she is referring to her father or her mother, respectively. I think I might start calling my mom oul wan!

Fluthered

When someone is fluthered, he is very, very drunk!

Happy Out

When you are content in your current surroundings, you are happy out.

Fun Phrases and What They Mean shopping
Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean – Happy out shoppers in Dublin.

Donkey Years

When the phrase donkey years pops up, it refers to a lot of years.

Any Use?

This questions is the equivalent of asking, “Was it good?”

The Jacks

This phrase refers to the bathroom. “Where are the jacks?” “Aye, down the stairs.” In Irish pubs and restaurants, it seems all the jacks are up a flight of stairs or down one.

Arseways

One of my favorites, if something isn’t done the right way, it is arseways. In case you don’t know, arse means ass.

Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean
Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean – on our way to the jacks, while visiting a pub

Go Way Outta That

This fun phrase is an expression of disbelief. It can also be used as a refusal to a request.

Sure Look It

This phrase is very common and often attached to the end of a sentence.  It means carry on or let’s get on with it. A similar phrase, sure listen, means the same. It does NOT mean “listen to me”.

Ara

Used more in rural Ireland, ara comes before your name if someone doesn’t believe you or feels surprised or disappointed by you.

The Craic was 90

Heard frequently in pubs, this phrase means the atmosphere and fun were excellent.

Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean temple bar
Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean – the craic was 90 in all the pubs we visited!

I Will Yeah

This one makes me laugh. It’s said when a person has no intention of doing what she’s just been asked to do.

A Bag of Tayto

This is a bag of crisps…or what we call chips.

Will You Have a Mineral?

You might get asked this in a pub or café. It means, “Will you have a soft drink?” “And a bag of tayto?” Now you know how to answer!

Great Drying Out

When the weather clears up this phrase means it’s a great day to dry clothes on the line.

Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean River Liffey
Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean – all of our days in Dublin were great drying out days, weather wise.

Feck Off or What the Feck

You might easily guess the equivalent of these phrases. Replace the “e” with a “u” in  feck and you’ve got it. We heard feckin’ frequently too, placed before any word!

I’m Going on the Gargle

When you do this, you are headed out for drinks and might not be back…for days.

Dooter

A dooter is a short, or wee, walk.

Aye and Naw

Aye is yes and naw is no for the Irish. Confusingly, the word yes means hello!

Eejit

Used affectionately, an eejit describes someone who isn’t very bright.

Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean swans
Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean – we enjoyed a dooter through Stephens Green.

Which Phrase is Your Favorite?

Did you learn new phrases to try out? Which one is your favorite?

I hope, when travel restrictions ease, that you add Ireland to your “must visit list”. While there, listen and join in conversations and get to know the lovely and fun Irish people. Visit pubs and cafés and walk the streets and parks. Ride the hop on/hop off buses and delight in the guides, who speak with such love and passion for their cities.

And if you are going on the gargle, let me know!

Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean lunch
Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean – our first meal in Dublin.

Another Fun Post

If you enjoyed this post, check out Fun British Phrases and What They Mean.

 


 

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11 Replies to “Fun Irish Phrases and What They Mean”

  1. I love this!! These are fascinating. Fun to learn some of the etymology of our own English language, plus some of the Irish phrases I’ve never heard of. Thanks!

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