Top 25 Irish phrases and slang words used in daily life

When visiting Ireland, it comes in handy to get familiar with the local lingo – here are the top 25 Irish phrases and slang words you need to know. 

Many visitors to Ireland are surprised by the locals’ take on the English language. And we do admit; first-timers might sometimes get slightly confused when listening to the Irish talk in their very unique lingo over a round of pints. 

The good news is, Irish phrases and slang words are fun to learn, and once you have figured them out, you will sound like a pro. Check out our 25 Irish phrases and slang words below so you can practice them the next time you are at the pub.

25. Acting the maggot – messing around

Someone acting the maggot is messing around, playing around, or being silly. It can often be heard from irritated parents telling off their offspring. 

Example: “Stop acting the maggot.” 

24. Bang on – accurate

Bang on means that something (or someone) is perfect, accurate, or spot on. 

Example: “This film review is bang on.”

23. Black stuff – Ireland’s favourite drink

Irish phrases and slang words often refer to alcohol.

Guinness is the national drink in Ireland, so it’s probably not a massive surprise that we have our own nickname for it. When at the pub, you can either order a Guinness or a pint of the black stuff. 

Example: “Can I have a pint of the black stuff?”

22. Bleedin’ ride – used to refer to someone you fancy

You could just call them handsome or pretty, but the Irish tend to refer to people they find attractive as a “bleedin’ ride”. Don’t be surprised to see someone blushing when using this phrase.

Example: “Her new boyfriend is a bleedin’ ride.” 

21. Bucketing down – raining

Bucketing down is used to refer to heavy rain.

One of the most useful Irish phrases given the island’s reputation weather-wise, this means pouring or raining heavily.

Example: “Why would you want to go out in that? It’s bucketing down.” 

20. Crack on – leave or get on with something

Times flies at the pub, but sometimes we just have to get going because there’s a whole lot of other stuff we need to do as well. In that case, we “crack on”. 

Example: “I’d rather stay for another round, but I have to crack on.” 

19. Craic – a good time

One of the most common Irish words, craic refers to both fun and news. You can have “good craic” at the pub as well as hear the “latest craic”. 

Example: “My mate’s birthday party was good craic.”

18. Culchie – country folk

Irish phrases and slang words for country folk includes "culchies".

This term can frequently be heard when Dubliners (or other city folk) joke or talk about people from rural areas in Ireland. 

Example: “My boyfriend is a culchie originally.”

17. Deadly – great

While it might seem slightly odd to use a term meaning “able to cause death” in a positive way, “deadly” is one of the most popular common Irish slang words.

It’s the Irish equivalent to fantastic, awesome, great, or excellent. Everything can be deadly; from a film you have watched to a pub or even a person.

Example: “This song is deadly.”  

16. Donkey’s years – a long time

While we are not entirely sure about a donkey’s perception of time, in Irish slang “donkey’s years” simply refers to a very, very, long time. 

Example: “My neighbours have lived here donkey’s years.” 

15. Eat your/my/his/her head off – the worst threat

Many Irish will forever remember this phrase from their Mums. Eating someone’s head off is used when being angry about someone doing something you disapprove of. 

Example: “If you mess up another test, I will eat your head off.” 

14. Effin’ and blindin’ – swearing

As you might notice quickly in Ireland, the locals tend to curse and swear a lot – and with “effin’ and blindin’” they even have their own term for it. 

Example: “This lad is effin’ and blindin’ all the time.” 

13. Feck/Feck off/Fecker – the Irish version of… you can probably work it out for yourself

The Irish love to tell people to feck off.
Credit: Flickr / William Murphy

One of the most commonly used Irish expressions, this is the polite version of f*** and can be used as a synonym in pretty much any situation.

Example: “Feck off, I am not listening to you any longer.” 

12. Fella – boy or man

Fella means boy and can be used when talking about strangers as well as your husband, boyfriend, or partner. In the latter context, the common term is “me fella” while “Oul fella” usually means “my Dad”. 

Example: “I hit the pub with me fella last night.” 

11. Gas – funny

When in Ireland, you will frequently hear the word gas in every possible context. Gas has nothing to do with gasoline, over here it just means “very funny”. Everything can be gas, from a comical situation to your best mate.

Example: “He is a gas fella.” 

10. Give it a lash – give it a go

Give it a lash can be used in tons of different contexts and is, therefore, one of the most useful Irish phrases to remember. It basically means to give something a go.

Example: “I have never sailed, but I will give it a lash.”

9. Grand – fine

Unlike in the U. K., where grand means something like great; in the Irish lingo, it’s actually the opposite. When we say grand, it means mediocre, ok, or even pretty rubbish. 

Example: “That’s grand.” 

8. Jacks – restroom

Don’t ever ask for restrooms or bathrooms. In Ireland, we call them “the jacks” (or simply “the toilet”). In pubs and restaurants, sexes are often written in Irish: Fir jacks is the men’s toilet, ladies head to the ban jacks. 

Example: “I am off to the jacks.”

7. Leg it – get out of there as quick as you can

Legging it can be translated as running very fast – or running away from something or someone.

Example: “Last night, I had to leg it to make the last bus back home.”

6. On the tear – a blowout or big night out

There are plenty of Irish phrases and slang words for a night out.

There are many Irish phrases for having a big night out, but this is one of the most popular. Going on the tear usually involves lots of alcohol and a terrible hangover the next day. 

Example: “Yesterday I went on the tear, and I’m still paying for it.” 

5. Ossified – drunk

Related to the former, a common Irish slang word for getting wasted is ossified. It means very drunk – and we mean very, very drunk. 

Example: “You were completely ossified last night, weren’t you?”

4. Sound – decent

Sound is one of the most useful Irish idioms when talking about someone you like or something you enjoy – it can be translated as decent, or nice.

Example: “He is a sound lad.”  

3. Throw shapes – showing off

This is the Irish term for showing off, sometimes aggressively, and is also used when someone disapproves of a person putting himself into the centre of attention.

Example: “So-and-so was throwing shapes at the club the other night.” 

2. What’s the story? – what’s up?

An easy one to remember, this is the Irish version of the American what’s up. 

Example: “What’s the story, Larry?”

1. Wreck the gaff – destroying a place

One of the most popular Irish phrases used by the college crowd, this either means destroying a place or going nuts. 

Example: “The party was mad; we absolutely wrecked the gaff!”

Do you recognise any of these Irish phrases and slang words? And are there any more you think should have been on this list?