20 MAD Northern Irish phrases that only make sense to locals

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.

Northern Irish people have unique slang
Credit: Tourism NI

20. It’s Baltic

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’

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

This is another way of telling someone to shut up. It’s a bit rude, although it’s often used very informally between friends.

Example:

Patrick: I don’t like him very much.

Niamh: Wind yer neck in!

17. Scundered / scunnered

This one 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

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!

Colloquialisms in Northern Ireland include the verb "boke"
Credit: Tourism NI

15. Wee

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 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.

14. Go for a poke

This one 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

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 2 weeks—here’s me wha?

12. Dead on

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.

Example:

Patrick: That will cost you £2.50.

Niamh: Dead on.

11. Bout ye

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.

Example:

John: Bout ye.

Mary: I’m good, thanks. You?

Northern Irish expressions include "bout ye"
Credit: Tourism NI

10. Buck eejit

A silly person. Technically you could just call someone an eejt, 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!

9. Boys a dear

You’d say this 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’

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 be alarmed, people who say this are not trying to kill you; they’re just offering to give you a lift in their car.

Example:

Jack: I’d love to go but I’ve no way home.

Andrew: I’ll run ye over

6. Parful

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

Northern Irish phrases include "parful"
Credit: Tourism NI

5. Thon

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

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

Also known as a chav in the UK, a milly 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

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.

Example:

Jack: I don’t want to go to work today.

Mary: Catch yourself on.

1. You’re a melter

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.