The Derry Girls Dictionary: 10 mad Derry Girls phrases explained

The hit TV series Derry Girls may confuse viewers unfamiliar with Northern Irish slang and the Derry dialect. Here we explain 10 mad Derry Girls phrases.

Derry Girls is the brain-child of Northern Irish screenwriter Lisa McGee, who said she based the show on her on experience growing up in Derry during the 1990s. The hit series has proved a huge success since the first season aired on Channel 4 in 2018, with a third season commissioned for 2020. Unsurprisingly, Derry Girls phrases are becoming as famous as the show.

The show is rich in Northern Irish-isms as it plays on the uniqueness of the area through both its history and its language. Therefore, it may prove confusing to those who have not grown up in or near the walled city of Derry. So we have listed 10 Derry Girls phrases along with an explanation of what they really mean.

10. Catch yourself on

10 mad Derry Girls phrases include 'catch yourself on'

‘Catch yourself on’ is normally used to tell someone to stop being ridiculous.

Derry Girls example:

When Erin asks her mum to dip into her trust fund to pay for the school trip, Ma Mary replies, ‘Catch yourself on!’

9. Raging

10 mad Derry Girls phrases include 'raging'

When someone says they’re ‘raging’, it means they are annoyed or upset about something.

Derry Girls example:

On the night before their history exam, the girls and James are all over at Erin’s house revising. Michelle opens the curtains to reveal it’s the morning, to which Claire panics and exclaims, ‘We’re still on William of Orange, we haven’t so much as looked at the famine.’ Michelle replies, ‘We’ve got the gist. They ran out of spuds. Everyone was raging’.

8. Ride (n.) / Ride (v.)

10 mad Derry Girls phrases include 'ride'

The word ‘ride’ is most often used by Michelle throughout the series and can be used as a noun or a verb. The noun ‘ride’ is used to refer to someone you think is good-looking, while the verb is used to talk about having sex.

Derry Girls examples:

Noun: When Michelle makes a provocative remark about the soldier who is doing a check on their school bus, Erin retorts, ‘He’s a soldier’, to which Michelle replies, ‘Awk, some of them are rides. I’m willing to admit it even if no one else will’.

Verb: Michelle introduces James, and when Erin asks why he’s there, Michelle says, ‘Me Aunty Cathy’s just got divorced so she’s moved back. The husband caught her doing the dirt on him. She’s a bit of a goer, our Cathy. Riding rings round him so she was’.

7. Sauntering

10 mad Derry Girls phrases include 'sauntering'

‘Sauntering’ is normally used to mean walking about without really going anywhere.

Derry Girls example:

When a polar bear escapes from the zoo, Erin and Orla are trying to convince their parents to let them go to a Take That concert. Gerry says, ‘Sure the concert’s nowhere near the zoo.’ And Joe replies, ‘But he’s not in the zoo anymore, is he, simple Simon? He’s sauntering about Belfast’.

6. You must think I came up the Foyle in a bubble

This slang phrase means 'You must think I know nothing'

This is a popular phrase in Northern Ireland used when someone is saying, ‘You must think I know nothing’.

Derry Girls example:

When the girls set Fionnuala’s house on fire, Erin tells her mum that Michelle tripped while carrying a scented candle, to which Ma Mary replies, ‘If you expect me to believe Michelle tripped while carrying a scented candle, you must think I came up the Foyle in a bubble.’

5. So it is/So I am

'So it is/so I am' is used for emphasis

‘So I am’ or ‘So it is’ are Derry Girls phrases used at the end of a sentence to emphasize what someone has said.

Derry Girls example:

Ma Mary gets confused when Erin mentions McCauley Culkin and thinks she met him at a cross-community summer scheme. She says, ‘I am all for integration, so I am’.

4. Wains

10 mad Derry Girls phrases include 'wains'

‘Wains’ is used to refer to children.

Derry Girls example:

When Erin tells Ma Mary that McCauley Culkin is divorcing his parents, Ma Mary turns to Gerry and says, ‘This is only gonna give our wains ideas’.

3. Cack attack

A 'cack attack' is Derry slang for feeling nervous

‘Cack attack’ is used to say you are feeling extremely nervous.

Derry Girls example:

Claire tells Erin she is nervous to come out, to which Erin replies, ‘Everything makes you nervous, Claire. You’re a walking cack attack’.

2. Cracker

'Cracker' in Derry means 'really good'

No, we aren’t talking about the biscuit you have with cheese. In Northern Ireland, when you say something is ‘cracker’, you mean it is really good.

Derry Girls example:

Ma Mary is complaining about how loud the Orange Order bands are playing outside their house, and Orla says, ‘Well, practice makes perfect, Aunt Mary. You know that’s why they are so cracker. Erin replies, ‘I’m sorry. Did you just call the Orange Order cracker?’

1. Give my head peace

'Give my head peace' is one of the Derry Girls phrases you might not understand

Topping our list of Derry Girls phrases is the saying ‘give my head peace’, a common saying in Northern Ireland, meaning ‘leave me alone’.

Derry Girls example:

Erin catches her mum on the phone in the hall, and Ma Mary says, ‘It was nobody.’ Erin replies, ‘You could at least wait till I’d asked’, and Ma Mary says, ‘Give my head peace Erin, get back inside.’

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