Irish Slang: It Makes Perfect Sense - Once You Get Used to It!

First time visitors to Ireland are often bewildered by Irish slang. Ireland's unique local phrases are yet another expression of the Irish witty sense of humor.

Learning a few of the most common catch phrases will help you fit in, and more fully express your Irish side, wherever you are in the world!

When you are ready to test your knowledge, have a look at our free, printable Irish Words Match Game!  But first - read on!

Irish Slang:  The Basics

For a start, if you are an English speaker, never fear. Most Irishmen and women, and their countrymen around the world, do 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 us, we've been there!

Irish slang.  Irish expression in action!

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

The best thing to do is smile and nod your head and you will probably get to experience the well-known Irish hospitality and sense of humor.

Still, if you want to impress your hosts and friends by learning some of the most common slang 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 here the term “Alright Boyo?” you should say that you are fine. 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!


As you probably know by now, this topic deserves a headline all its own!

The Irish slang for drinking is rich and interesting.  No Irish travel experience will be complete without visiting a local pub.

In order to be fully prepared, you will have to learn the following basic slang phrases connected to drinking. 

  • "As full as a Catholic school" means that somebody has gotten incredibly drunk.
  • "Black stuff" refers to the most common local temptation - the Guinness Beer.
  • "Downing the black," is the phrase used to indicate the consumption of said beer.
  • "Paralytic" is the state one finds itself in, after becoming as full as a Catholic school.
  • "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.

Some General Phrases

To complete our guide to Irish slang, 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.

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