The history of the phrase “The luck of the Irish” revealed

Are Irish people luckier than residents of other nations? That’s certainly the image that the country has managed to convey over the years, with numerous symbols of good fortune associated with the Emerald Isle.

The luck of the Irish is a popular and well-known phrase, and the light-hearted idiom helps garner interest in the country, its people, and the popular culture related to it.

The entertainment industry is one of the best places to find examples of Irish luck. It has certainly helped raise awareness about this phenomenon.

However, where did it all begin? Are Irish people statistically luckier than others, or did the phrase simply catch on and stick?

How the idiom became famous around the world – the gold and silver rush      

The luck of the Irish phrase meaning, revealed.
Credit: Flickr/ DonkeyHotey

The first thing that may surprise you about the phrase “The luck of the Irish” is that many historians agree that it didn’t originate in Ireland. Indeed, according to Professor Edward T. O’Donnell in his book, 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History, the phrase first came to the fore in the USA in the 19th century.

This was during the gold and silver rush years, which coincided with high numbers of Irish people emigrating to the States. Many of the miners involved with the acquisition of these precious metals were Irish or of Irish descent, including some of the most successful.

As these miners with Irish heritage were adept at striking metal, it led to the expression that these people were lucky, and the luck of the Irish was born.

At the time, the phrase was coined as a form of derision, but Irish people appropriated and wore it as a badge of honour. It soon spread through the USA and, later, became well-known around the world thanks to its usage in popular culture.

The Irish luck in entertainment – shamrocks and pots of gold

Irish luck is associated with pots of gold and shamrocks.

The concept of Irish people being associated with luck has been pushed in the mainstream entertainment industry. The country now has this reputation.

Ireland has a long history with green, and this has since become regarded as an auspicious colour in the West. Other symbols such as shamrocks are now widely believed to be harbingers of good fortune.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono could be the first musicians who popularised the saying in the song ‘The Luck of the Irish’ in 1972. Certain films have used the Irish luck theme, with Waking Ned in 1998 being a prime example.

There’s also the Leprechaun series of horror-comedy films that helped to spread Irish symbolism. These include the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The gaming industry is one of the best places to find Irish imagery and the notion of good fortune. The themes are particularly common in games where the developers want to evoke feelings of luck in players.

This is why there are so many online slots around the world that use Irish themes. They include titles like ‘Book of the Irish’ and ‘Irish Coins’, which are two of the top games listed at Playzee, one of the best new slot sites in the UK.

This light-hearted and positive phrase − continues to inspire culture

The luck of the Irish, a light-hearted phrase.
Credit: Flickr/ Marco Verch

While the original intention of the luck of the Irish saying may have been to disparage Irish miners, there is certainly no malice in the idiom today.

In fact, the light-hearted saying brings with it a lot of positive feelings and even helps to promote Irish tourism and culture.

The concept of luck itself is an interesting one. Some research suggests that people who believe themselves to be lucky will have better fortune than those who don’t.

This means that Irish people who believe in the saying can become self-fulfilling prophecies. They can use the idea that they are lucky to lead more positive lives and pounce on opportunities when they arise.

The idea that they are lucky is something that Irish people will not want to give up on, and it is a great way to promote the country worldwide. It has become so ingrained in the culture now that it seems the Emerald Isle will always have a magical, propitious vibe.