Top Phrases To Impress The Irish

Have you ever wondered what the Irish people are saying? I know some of us just nod along and pretend we understand everything when we are listening to a foreign language. The Irish, however, take things to a whole new level and even native English speakers often can’t understand some of the phrases they use.

Here are explanations of some of those phrases you’ve heard and just politely nodded along to.

  • What’s the craic? What’s the story?

No this doesn’t mean what you’re thinking… “Craic” is actually an Irish word literally meaning fun, however in this context it is a general greeting meaning “What’s happening? How’s it going?”

  • Who’s your wan/man?

So this phrase is quite confusing to non Irish people. This actually means “Who is that woman/man?” Not specifically “yours”, the wan/man doesn’t actually belong to you but is just a random woman/man.

  • Half six

In relation to time, half six actually means half past six. It doesn’t mean half past five as some other nationalities may think.

  • Now you’re sucking diesel

This is more commonly used by Irish people from farming backgrounds but refers to the fact that “now you’re making progress”.

  • Jaysus, Jeez, Janey Mac

These are just other ways of swearing or saying Jesus’ name. They mean Jesus, oh my god etc

  • You will yeah

This is sarcasm and means you wouldn’t do such a thing in your dreams. If I said “I plan on running a marathon tomorrow” and my friend doesn’t particularly have any belief in me, my friend could say “You will yeah”.

  • Go away out of that

This phrase doesn’t literally mean go away or move anywhere. It’s an exclamation of disbelief meaning “no way” or “don’t be ridiculous”.

  • Happy out

This is a phrase used to say that you’re content. If I was sitting on the beach with a glass of wine in hand, reading a book I would say that “I’m happy out”.

  • I’m only messing

This means I’m just kidding or I’m not being serious.

  • The jacks

This simply means “the bathroom”. It’s thought that the phrase derives from the 16th century when Sir John Harrington invented the flushing toilet. He named it the ajax and since then it has been called the Jakes, Jax or Jacks.

  • That’s gas

It doesn’t actually refer to the gas we use to cook or any other type of gas that may be on your mind. It actually means that’s funny or hilarious. You can use it to refer to a person as “gas craic” or a story as “gas”.

  • Give me that yoke / thingymabob / yokiemabob / thingymajig

These words which seem to make no sense whatsoever are often said when a word you want to say just won’t come to mind. So if I wanted my brother to hand me the mug but I can’t think of the word mug, I would say hand me that thingymabob.

  • Grand stretch in the evenings

This is generally said in Spring or at the beginning of the Summer months when there is more daylight. It means that it’s getting brighter in the evenings.

  • Ah cop on

This is a term used to tell someone to get real, to stop messing about or stop being silly.

  • Work away

This means go ahead. If someone asks me if they can borrow my pen, I will respond with “yeah, work away!”

  • Where would you be going?

This is a statement meaning you wouldn’t dare do such a thing, or that would be a ridiculous thing to do.

  • Come here to me

No this does not mean literally come to me. It sometimes means I’m going to tell you something.

  • Sound

This can mean grand, okay, alright etc. However, it can also be used to say someone is a really great person – “ You’re so sound!”

  • The Guards

The police in Irish are called the Gardai. The full term is “An Garda Síochána” which means the guardians of the peace. The general public tend to call the police “The Guards”.

  • Dog’s Dinner

This phrase means “a mess”. If I messed up a painting I was doing, I would say “I made a dog’s dinner of it”.

  • I can’t complain

This phrase is used in response to someone asking “how are you”. It means that everything is fine and you have no complaints.

  • I’ll have a cuppa

If you know any Irish person, you’ll surely have heard this phrase before. This phrase means I’ll have a cup of tea. It can also be used for coffee but it is more often used in relation to tea.

  • I’m wrecked

Irish people say this when they are very tired. After a long hard day I would say “I’m wrecked”.

  • Ah would ya stop

This means don’t be ridiculous and is usually in response to someone’s ridiculous statement.

  • Class

This means something is really great. If I saw a new band and I thought that they were really great, I’d say “They’re class!”

And now you’re fluent in Irish English! Go try some of them out and you’ll sound like a local in no time!

About the author

Sabina Šrámková

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