New to slang in Northern Ireland? Here are 20 Northern Irish phrases and what they mean in plain English.
Every region in the world has its own unique expressions and colloquialisms, and Ireland is no different. Northern Ireland has some loony idioms that anyone from outside the country would probably never understand by themselves, no matter how proficient you are at speaking English.
“Catch yourself on, it’s Baltic outside, so what do you need a poke for? You’re such a melter!”
Did that collection of phrases go completely over your head?
Not to worry; we’ve compiled a list of our favourite Northern Irish phrases (and what they mean in plain English) to make sure you can fully understand the locals — or even imitate them if you’re feeling brave.
Ireland Before You Die’s fun facts about Northern Irish phrases
- The vocabulary in Northern Ireland varies from region to region, with certain phrases being more prevalent in specific areas.
- Northern Irish slang is characterised by its playful and humorous nature, often incorporating wordplay, puns, and creative expressions.
- Many Northern Irish slang terms are derived from Irish Gaelic, reflecting the region’s cultural heritage and historical roots.
- Some words and phrases cross over into popular usage over the whole of Ireland, such as “what’s the craic” and “wee”.
20. It’s baltic — commonly heard in winter
When you hear this Northern Irish expression, you might think of the Baltic Sea, and you’d be along the right lines (sort of). This colloquial expression is referring to how cold something is.
Example: It’s absolutely baltic outside!
19. I’m steamin’ — you might hear this at the pub
This has nothing to do with steam coming out of your body, thankfully. You’d actually use this phrase to describe how drunk you are.
Example: I’ve just done three shots of whiskey — I’m completely steamin’!
18. Wind yer neck in — shut up
This is another way of telling someone to shut up. It’s a bit rude, although it’s often used very informally between friends.
Patrick: I don’t like him very much.
Niamh: Wind yer neck in!
17. Scundered/scunnered — different meanings depending on your location
This Northern Irish phrase has split meanings and gets pronounced a bit differently depending on where you’re from.
It can mean either embarrassed (scundered, in Belfast and elsewhere) or depressed (scunnered, in the Ballymena area).
Example 1: I fell getting on the bus; I was scundered.
Example 2: It’s been raining all day; I’m scunnered.
16. Boking/boke/boked — not the most pleasant thing
This verb means to be sick. You’ll hear young people using this word a lot — it’s an easy one to adopt into your everyday dictionary.
Example: I had a horrible curry last night; I boked everywhere!
15. Wee — our favourite word
Northern Irish people have a tendency to describe everything as “wee.”
It’s a prefix they can add in front of pretty much any word, and it’s one of their most versatile colloquialisms. It’s generally used as a form of endearment to make a serious conversation more informal.
Example 1: That will cost you £10.50. Would you like a wee receipt?
Example 2: If you’re feeling warm, you should take your wee coat off.
Read more: Irish slang top 80 most used expressions.
14. Go for a poke — not what you might think
This Northern Irish phrase is simple — it means to go for an ice cream. It’s more typical of the older generation in Ireland.
Example: The sun is shining; I might go for a poke.
13. Here’s me wha — to express shock
Bit of a weird one, but it’s used in conversation to exaggerate one’s disbelief at something.
Example: They told me my package wouldn’t be delivered for another two weeks — here’s me wha?
12. Dead on — all good
This essentially means, “fine, not a problem.”
You would typically say it in response to someone after they’ve asked a question or told you something.
Patrick: That will cost you £2.50.
Niamh: Dead on.
11. Bout ye — a common greeting
Hello, how are you? This is one of those Northern Irish phrases you’ll hear quite a lot if you go to Belfast, and you’d be confused as to what it means without this explanation.
John: Bout ye.
Mary: I’m good, thanks. You?
10. Buck eejit — we all know one
A silly person. Technically you could just call someone an eejit, but the “buck” in front adds more of an emphasis and conveys the person in question as even more of a fool.
Example: You’re a buck eejit!
Read also: 10 funniest Irish insults.
9. Boys a dear — dears a boy
You’d say this Northern Irish phrase if you had been jarred by something or if you received bad news.
Example: Boys a dear, the food in this restaurant is dreadful.
8. Boggin’ — disgustin’
Note that people in Northern Ireland don’t tend to pronounce the “-ing” at the end of words, so words like doing or working become doin’ and workin’. The same goes for bogging, which becomes boggin’, and it means disgusting.
Example: Those shoes are boggin’.
Synonyms: Mingin’, hoachin’, stinkin’
7. I’ll run ye over — don’t worry, you’re perfectly safe
Don’t be alarmed by number seven on our list of Northern Irish phrases. People who say this are not trying to kill you; they’re just offering to give you a lift in their car.
Jack: I’d love to go but I’ve no way home.
Andrew: I’ll run ye over
6. Parful — a good thing
In Northern Ireland, this slang word is a way of positively describing someone or something. If you’re described as parful, take it as a very high compliment.
Example 1: Those chocolates were parful!
Example 2: She’s parful looking
5. Thon — alternative to “the” or “those”
Thon replaces “the” or “those” in a sentence and can be used to describe pretty much anything.
Example: Thon girl has lovely hair.
4. Some yoke — pretty much anything
Example: Thanks mate, you’re some yoke.
A yoke is a person or a thing. To be described as some yoke means you’re an awesome person.
3. A milly — an insult
Also known as a chav in the UK, a milly is one of the Northern Irish phrases that is a derogative term for a female who stereotypically wears tracksuits, has a fake tan, and behaves aggressively.
Example: She’s a big milly, but she’s still my friend.
2. Catch yourself on — wise up
This is a more informal way of telling someone to pull themselves together or wise up if they’ve said something that seems ridiculous or foolish.
Jack: I don’t want to go to work today.
Mary: Catch yourself on.
1. You’re a melter — you’re annoying
This Northern Irish expression is another way of telling someone that they’re annoying. The idea is that they are “melting” one’s head by being so annoying, hence being a “melter.”
Example: Stop shouting, you’re such a melter.
So, there you have it — the top 20 Northern Irish phrases! Try to mix these expressions together and drop them into conversation with a few Irishmen—you’ll blend right in with the locals in no time.
Your questions answered about Northern Irish phrases
What is Northern Irish slang for “mate”?
Mucker, pal, buddy, and bro are all popular variations of mate in Northern Ireland.
What is the slang for cold in Northern Ireland?
Baltic. The term is often used in casual conversation to describe the feeling of cold or the outdoor temperature, as in phrases like “It’s Baltic outside!” or “I’m Baltic, I need a warm coat”.
What do they call kids in Northern Ireland?
Wains is used to refer to children, pronounced way-n’s.