So, you want to learn how to curse like a leprechaun, do you? Well you’re in luck, ya jammy bastard. Because one of the first things you’ll notice in Ireland is that everyone swears. All the time. From little babies ask for their “fooking bottles” to old women shouting “I will in me hole!” when asked if they’ll give up their seat on a bus. And because of this preponderance of slang and swear words, Irish English often sounds indecipherable to Americans and Aussies. We’re all speaking English, just not the same language, it seems. So here’s a brief guide to help you (kind of) understand all of the Irish slang and curse words people are using.
SIDE NOTE: Despite being a tiny island, Ireland has a broad range of very distinct accents. In most accents, though, “your” is pronounced “yer”, “my” is “me”, and “arrah” often appears at the beginning of a sentence. “Arrah” is an interjection that’s roughly equivalent of “Listen to what I’m about to say…” “or “In all seriousness….” It’s used as a lead-in to an idea or statement in Irish slang. For example,
“Arrah, he was a right eejit, sure he was”
“You have to leave now? Arrah, sit down there and have a cuppa.”
Neutral words and phrases
A complete and total mess.
“He made a banjax of that presentation.”
Great, cool, really good
“Do you like me new car? Class!”
C’mere til I tell you
Get closer and I’ll tell you some gossip.
“Where’s John, you ask? C’mere til I tell you. He’s under arrest.”
(Pronounced “crack”) – fun, entertainment.
“How’s the craic in Dublin on weekends?”
A cup of tea. (This is THE most common question you’ll hear when visiting Irish people in their homes.)
“Would you like a cuppa?”
Understand? Get it?
“It was a great day, but not the same without you there. D’yaknowwhatImeanlike?”
“He told us a gas story about growing up in Dublin’s suburbs.”
“How was your holiday?” “Grand. Grand. It was grand.”
G’way outta that
No way! or Go away and stop annoying me!
“He won a million euro in the Lottery.” “G’way outta that. He couldn’t have been that lucky.”
“Can I borrow 10 euros?” “G’way outta that or I’ll kick you in the arse.”
Exhausted, tired out
“Sean was so knackered after the gym, he didn’t make it to the pub.”
“I’m on me way out to get the messages.”
Total or complete.
“You’re a right eejit, sure you are.” (You’re a total idiot, I swear to God.)
This is used very frequently by just about everyone. Most of the time it means “truly.” Sometimes it means, “Hang on a second….”
“Arrah, Paddy’s a great man, sure he is.”
“Sure what’re you saying? Paddy’s a right eejit.”
The guy I’m talking about in my story or the guy I’m not mentioning by name in my story.
“She broke up with Paddy and the next thing you know, yer man steals her car.”
“I like everyone here except yer man over there by the bar.”
A thingamabob, a doohickey.
“Pass me one of dem yokes there on the counter.”
Less polite words and phrases
Act the maggot
To behave badly or in a totally unacceptable manner, usually in public.
“Me son got suspended for acting the maggot at school.”
Badly, in the wrong way.
“His plan went arseways when the copper showed up early.”
Ask me arse
In your dreams, forget about it.
“You want me to loan you 100 euro? Ask me arse.”
Someone who’s so nervous, they’re crapping their pants.
Someone from way out in the country or the boglands. This is an insulting term, similar to calling someone a “hillbilly” in the US.
Idiot. This is one of the most common minor insults used in Ireland. You’ll hear it all the time, everywhere.
Effin’ and blindin’
Swearing and cursing
A series of slow songs played one after another at a dance
A woman’s private parts. Which is why the Irish and English are always appalled when Americans talk about taking things out of their fanny packs.
A weaker version of “the F-word.” Like the word “eegit,” “feck” is used by everyone all the time.
“Where’re my fecking car keys?”
The Irish pronunciation of the F-word. Stronger than “feck” and used almost exactly like it is in American English.
Fool, idiot, stupid person
“That haircut makes him look like a right gobshite.”
The Irish pronunciation of “whore.” It’s a common insult, but is normally said in jest as a way to tease someone or get a rise out of them.
“Get up and get me breakfast, ya lazy hoor.”
Note that cute hoor means something entirely different and not at all sexual. It refers to a young man who’s either a loveable rogue or a scheming con man, depending on context.
I will in me hole
Fat chance, no “F-ing” way.
“You want me to drive you to the aeroport at 5 a.m.? I will in me hole.”
A Dubliner. This is said as an insult, slightly stronger than the term “city-slicker” in American English. Opposite of a culchie.
The Irish pronunciation of “Jesus.” It’s used to indicate total exasperation with a person or situation.
“Jaysus, Mary, will you c’mon. The bus is leaving in five minutes.”
Idiot (slightly harsher than gobshite).
“You’re a right bloody muppet, sure you are.”
Póg mo thóin (pronounced “pogue ma hone”)
Kiss my ass. The Irish band The Pogues gets their name from this phrase.
Sex. If you’re a woman needing to get across town, never ask an Irishman for a ride. Ask for a lift instead.
Often pronounced “scuthered”. It means drunk.
Kissing with tongue (french kissing)
A childish taunt directed at anyone who wears glasses.
Take the piss
To tease someone, usually good-naturedly.
“We were taking the piss outta John, so he got mad and went home.”
“Yer man McCarthy is as thick as brick. A true gobshite, so he is.”
On the verge of literally crapping in one’s pants.
The “c-word” (rhymes with hunt) is used in Irish slang fairly frequently, though almost exclusively by men. That’s because it doesn’t have the strongly vulgar connotation that it does in many other forms of English. In fact, it’s part of a series of common, usually joking insults friends hurl at each other. “Ya schewpid c*** ya” (“You stupid c-word, you”) and and “ya daft c*** ya” (“You idiotic c-word, you”). This might seem shocking, but in fairness, it’s just another word to them.
If you liked this discussion of Irish slang, check out our other A Tourist Guide to Ireland posts: