The Irish Jig: Probably the Most Distinctive and Recognizable Dance Style Around!

We Irish love to dance, and the Irish jig is one of our favorite styles.

A lively folk dance enjoyed by both country and city people, the jig invokes a sense of camaraderie among the dancers, vigorous yet fun physical activity, and an unmistakable sense of Irish pride.

Meaning and History of the Irish Jig

The etymology of “jig” comes from either the French word for jump (giguer) or its Italian counterpart (giga).

It is an appropriate name for this particular Irish dance as most of the steps involve lively jumping coupled with complex footwork while the upper body remains relatively steady.

During the 16th century in England, the jig was danced in 12/8 time although it was later revised to 6/8 time. The dance was introduced in Ireland and Scotland during the 17th century where it soon became closely associated with these nations.

In Irish culture, the jig is second only in popularity to the reel during traditional dance events, whether these are in formal competitions or in informal situations.

Irish Jig - Dancing Feet
Irish Jig - Three Women Dancing

Proper "Jiggy" Attire

In informal situations, dancers of the jig can dress any way they like. Jeans and shirts coupled with soft shoes will do when in a pub with a good-sized dance floor.

The dress code for jig dancers is different during competitions and country fairs, however, so be prepared to purchase – or borrow, if you want – the proper attire.


Tail coat in red or green

Waist coat, which should be the opposite color of the tail coat

Trousers known as knee britches

Green stockings

Muffler in either red or paisley design

Paddy style hat

Jig shoes in either red, green or black


Dress in white, red or green (i.e., green skirt with white blouse coupled with a small cape)

White apron

Full cotton underskirts coupled with white pants

Tights in red, green or natural color

Jig shoes either in red, green or black (without taps)

The vibrant colors of jig attire reflect the Irish love for life itself.  When dancing the jig, be joyful - even if you don't know the steps!

Keep in mind that several jigs can be strung together to form a single set, which means that the flow of music and dance can be uninterrupted for quite some time. Be prepared because the dance requires stamina and endurance.

Want to Know More?  Let's Keep Going!

Have a look at our other articles on Irish Dance. Or choose a completely new topic to continue your journey of discovery with Irish!

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