Irish Slang Words and Phrases:
Express Your Irish Side!

First time visitors to Ireland are often bewildered by Irish slang words and phrases. Learning a few of the most common catch phrases will help you fit in, have a good time and more fully express your Irish side, wherever in the world you happen to be!

Irish lad and lass laughing in a pub with memorabilia lining the walls.

Here is a sneak preview of some of the words and phrases we will cover below.  

  1. "As full as a Catholic school" 
  2. "Black stuff" 
  3. "Downing the black" 
  4. "Paralytic" 
  5. "As sick as a small hospital" 

Want to learn about these and other Irish slang words and phrases?  You can jump directly to our list. As a bonus, you can download our fun / free words match game!  Simply scroll to the bottom of the page and get instant access.

But if you have a bit o' time, read on to improve your general knowledge of Irish slang words and phrases!

Getting Started with Irish Slang Words and Phrases

If your first language is the English language, never fear. The typical Irish person, and their countrymen around the world, does speak English.  It is safe to say, however, that many tourists can have an hour-long conversation with a local without truly understanding a single thing. Trust me, I've been there!  

Even if you go equipped with a dictionary and a book of Irish slang words and phrases you will find it difficult getting familiar with all of the local slang phrases in a short period of time.

Often the best thing to do is smile and nod your head.  You will probably get to experience the well-known hospitality and sense of humor that are so much a part of Irish culture. Still, if you want to impress your hosts and friends by learning some of the most common phrases. Here is a guide to help you get started.

Saying Hello and Getting Acquainted

In the beginning, you will have to say hello and get introduced to people. If you get called “sham” you should definitely feel happy because the word means friend.

‘Lo" will usually indicate hello and if you ever hear the term “Alright Boyo?” you should reply that you are "fine" or "doing well." The phrase means simply “how are you?”

The same applies to one of the most common phrases “ha boy, what’s the craic?”  The final word is pronounced as “crack” and if you have no prior Irish communication experience, you are very certain to end up in an embarrassing situation.  The most common answer is “the craic’s ninety” and the fact that you are answering like a local will certainly lead to some great new friendships.

Other variations of the phrase "how are you?" include “hows yer onions sir” and “hows the big size a ye?”

The Irish slang for goodbye is slán!

Drinking Slang

Irish Expressions:  Irish slang words and phrases.  Image of two young men celebrating in a bar.

As you probably know by now, this topic deserves a headline all its own!  In the Irish language, slang words for drinking are rich and interesting.  

No visit to the Emerald Isle will be complete without visiting a local Irish pub.  In order to be fully prepared, you will have to learn the following basic slang phrases connected to drinking. 

  1. "As full as a Catholic school" means that somebody has gotten incredibly drunk.
  2. "Black stuff" refers to the most common local temptation - Guinness Stout.
  3. "Downing the black," is the phrase used to indicate the consumption of said beer.
  4. "Paralytic" is the state one finds itself in, after becoming as full as a Catholic school.
  5. "As sick as a small hospital" is the result of too much downing of the black.

If somebody asks you whether you "fancy a few scoops," you should certainly give a positive answer.  You have been invited to have a drink and you should make the most of this opportunity to be good craic.

"The Juice" is a Belfast slang term that is used for all kinds of alcohol, so if you get offered some juice you should know what to expect.

A Few General Phrases

Learning the full range of Irish slang words and phrases can obviously take a long time, probably best measured in donkey's years!  But here are several common phrases you may hear during your stay.

  • If somebody tells you “away on that” you should figure out that the person is not believing your words. 
  • The same applies to “aye right,” though most foreigners would believe it is a positive phrase.
  • When you get told to “be wilde,” you should actually be careful.
  • A “dead on person” is actually a good or a cool person, unlike somebody who is "thick as a plank," meaning ... er ... less than intelligent.
  • And finally “dropping the link box” indicates going to bed.

Common Irish Slang Words and Their Meanings

Now, let's have some fun with this!  As we mentioned earlier, we have a free, downloadable Irish Slang Words Match Game that you can get instant access to below.  But we recommend you spend a little bit of time with us first, before you get in front of a new Irish friend or group of people and make a mess of your Irish terms :-).

Here is a primer of meaningful and funny Irish phrases to help you prepare for that important moment.  Disclaimer:  we cannot of course claim that each of these words and phrases is 'only' Irish.  But we have it on good authority that - if there were an Irish slang dictionary, most of these common Irish expressions, if not all would be in it!

  1. "Slainte" (SLAN chuh):  A toast meaning "to your health."
  2. "On the lash":  To go out drinking (especially quickly or heavily.)
  3. "Free gaff":  Parents out of town.  Gaff (house) is free for a party.
  4. "Oul fella":  Father, dad.  Affectionate, as in 'my old man.'
  5. "Feck" or "Feckin":  Expresses surprise or frustration.
  6. "High doh":  Extremely excited or anxious about something.
  7. "Bang On":  Perfect, right on, exactly correct.
  8. "Made a bags of it": Messed up - made a mess of something.
  9. "Foin thing": An attractive man or woman.  Used both in a positive or derogatory way.
  10. "Suckin Diesel":  Things are going extremely well.
  11. "Yoke":  A 'thing,' that you can't come up with the name of.  Like "thingimagigger."
  12. "Jackeen":  Obnoxious person, self-absorbed, esp from Dublin.
  13. "Jumper":  Sweater.
  14. "Banjaxed":  Broken or not working properly.
  15. "Ganky":  Gross, disgusting. That is a ganky outfit.
  16. "Deadly" or "Class":  Excellent, amazing.
  17. "Gobshite" or "Gob smacked":  Less than intelligent - stupid person.
  18. "Shiite":  Nonsense.
  19. "Grog": Metaphor for a vice, i.e. "all fer me grog."
  20. "Culchie":  From rural areas, unsophisticated, esp outside Dublin.
  21. "Sure look":  General acceptance 'it is what it is.' Can also express disinterest.
  22. "Bad dose":  Having a bad day or hard time.
  23. "Buck eejit":  A foolish person, idiot
  24. "Gas":  Funny.  "He's a gas." "That's a gas."
  25. "Fair Play": Well done.
  26. "Pissed":  Drunk
  27. "Minus craic": The worst. Not just not fun, but negative fun.
  28. "Mighty craic":  Good craic (fun), not necessarily the best ever.
  29. "Happy out": Having a good time.  Content.
  30. "Full Shilling":  Generally in the negative as in "not the full shilling, that one."
  31. "Holy Show":  Shameful display.  He made a holy show of himself.
  32. "Fluthered":  Very drunk
  33. "Mucker":  Buddy, companion.  Term of endearment esp among friends and family.
  34. "Knackered":  Tired, exhausted or broken.
  35. "Gob": Mouth.  As in "shut your gob!"
  36. "Slag" or "Slagging":  Intense form of teasing, but as a demonstration of affection.
  37. "Nipper":  A child.

Test Your Knowledge

Irish Expressions:  Irish Slang Words and Phrases.  Gamecard for Irish Slang Words Match Game.

Now you can put your knowledge of Irish slang words to the test, while entertaining family and friends on St Patricks Day, an Irish-Themed birthday or wedding, or any other day! 

Our fun, printable word-match game can add Irish flavor to any fun occasion!  By now you should be fully prepared to ace the test.  Simply match the Irish words on the left with their meanings on the right.

You can download the game, and the answer sheet, by sharing your email address with us below.  Create a simple contest with your party guests - the most correct matches wins an Irish prize!