20 Irish slang phrases you need to know before visiting Ireland

These top 20 slang phrases are uniform across the country and well-worth knowing if you’re planning a trip to Ireland.

The Emerald Isle is known for many things, be it its rich heritage, tumultuous history, traditional music scene, pub culture, or the one and only, Guinness. One additional aspect of Irish culture celebrated worldwide is its people.

Ireland is a humble Island located in Europe. It is small in size but has a big personality. Some 6.6 million people live on the island of Ireland and whether you’re in Dublin or Galway, Cork or Belfast, it seems that people from every part of Ireland have their own charm and slang. 

Here are the 20 Irish slang phrases you need to know before you visit Ireland.

20. Wreck the gaff

A favourite among the young ones, this Irish slang word means to destroy a place (literally), or go mad (figuratively). “Jaysus, Saturday night was mental, we absolutely wrecked the gaff! You should have seen the state of it the next morning!”

19. Bang on

Flirtatious and obnoxious, "bang on" is a common Irish slang phrase you need to know before visiting.

If something is “bang on” it means that that something, or someone, is perfect, beautiful, accurate, or exact. Examples of this phrase range from “ah mate, that girl last night was bang on” to “that chicken fillet roll was bang on.”

18. Black stuff

One of the most common Irish slang phrases you'll hear when visiting Ireland is referring to Guinness as the "black stuff".

This one probably doesn’t need explaining but leave it to us Irish to have a slang phrase for Guinness. Phrases like, “Throw us on a pint of the black stuff, will ye?” can be heard yelled across your local pub’s bar.

17. Bleedin’ ride

Not the most…ahem…romantic slang phrase used among the Irish populous, “bleedin’ ride” is used to describe a person who is good looking. Hearing “See your man over there? He’s a bleedin’ ride, isn’t he?” across the road is sure to leave you red-eared and blushing.

16. Bucketing down

A favourite of Irish mammies, "bucketing down" is a frequently used Irish slang phrase meaning heavy rain.

The term “bucketing down” means it’s raining heavily. This phrase is frequently heard being yelled by your ma running out the back door, “Jaysus, get the clothes off the line quick– it is bleedin’ bucketing down!”

15. C’mere til I tell ya

This practically means nothing. It simply precedes a statement and is used to signify that there is more information to follow. Examples include, “C’mere til I tell ya, did you hear your one Suzanne is getting fired?”

14. Culchie

A “culchie” is somebody who is from, or lives outside of, the city, and frequently spotted wearing check shirts and farmer’s caps. An example of “culchie” in everyday use would be “the 8th of December is when all the culchie’s come to Dublin to do their Christmas shopping, isn’t it?”

13. Donkey’s years

"Donkey's years" are not a scientific  measurement of time but they are a commonly used Irish slang phrase meaning a very long amount of time.

“Donkey’s years” is used simply to indicate a very long time. “Ah here, I’ve been waiting in this queue for donkey’s years” This is one of our favourite top 20 Irish slang phrases.

12. Eat your/my/her/his head off

We’ve all been there, having been bold and having somebody “eat your head off”. The phrase means giving out to someone or getting angry at them. Our mums were fond of this one, “If you come in late tonight, I’m tellin’ ya: I’ll eat the head off you!”

11. Effin’ and blindin’

A straightforward slang phrase which means to curse or use swear words a lot.  “Anytime my da stubs his toe, he’s effin’ and blindin’ for donkey’s years”. There ya go, two for the price of one! You’re becoming a real pro now.

10. Fair play

"Fair play" is another common Irish slang phrase you'll hear from anybody living on these isles.

“Fair play” is slang for well done or good for you. It’s a pleasant phrase often said with smiles. “Fair play to ya getting that promotion, Jack!”

9. Ger-rup-ow-ra-da

This statement is versatile and has many meanings; “stop being stupid”, “f**k off”, or “you’re an idiot”. It can also be an exclamation of surprise or disbelief. E.g. “Not a chance I’m working late tonight lad, ger-rup-ow-ra-da!”

8. Giz’ a shot of that

This everyday Irish slang means can I have/use whatever you are holding/using? “C’mere, giz’ a shot of your burger there, will ye?” The answer to that specific example would be ger-rup-ow-ra-da!

7. Jo maxi

Everywhere has their own way of saying taxi, us Irish have a slang phrase, "jo maxi", as our way of naming them.

There’s nothing much to it, slang for taxi. “That jo maxi last night was a complete rip-off.”

6. Leg it

To run away from something or run very fast. An example, “I had to leg it to make the last bus home, otherwise I’d have to get a jo maxi!” and nobody wants to pay those late night prices.

5. On the tear

Translation: a big night out, most likely one which includes excessive amounts of alcohol and a few days regret. “Friday night I went on the tear and man I’m still paying for it!” It only gets worse the older you get.

4. The/Da jacks

A simple slang phrase, "da jacks" are is used to refer to toilets.

Toilets. Simply put, “Wherez da jacks?”

3. Throw shapes

To “throw shapes” is for one to be showing off. It can be meant to move aggressively or to be moving about in a showy fashion. “Did you see your man throwing shapes on the dance floor?”

2. What’s the story?

Another easy one, it means what’s up. “What’s the story, Rory?”

1. Acting the maggot

If you're "acting the maggot", you're messing about or misbehaving, a favourite slang phrase of Irish mammies.

If you’re “acting the maggot” you’re messing about, playing around, or being silly. Commonly this phrase is heard from Irish mammies in sentences like, “Will you stop acting the maggot and concentrate on your homework for Christ sake!”

And there you have it, our crash-course in 20 Irish slang phrases you need to know before visiting our country. No matter what, you can’t deny our language is colourful, but good luck even translating these phrases when you combine it with our accents!

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