Feck: the history, meanings, and origins of ‘feck’

‘Feck’ is as common a word in Ireland as ‘grand’. So, of course, we want to give you the inside scoop into where it originated.

For any Irish person reading this, there’s no reason needed as to why the history, meanings, and origins of ‘feck’ need to be dissected.

For everyone else, however, you should know that ‘feck’ is a word that is used by almost everyone in Ireland in all contexts of speech.

‘Feck’ can be used in a positive light, a negative light, in sarcasm, in jest, and in all other possible ways to get your point across.

Of course, ‘feck’ isn’t the only ‘bad’ word we use in Ireland, but we’ll let you discover the rest for yourselves. Let’s just say we hope you don’t take offence too easily because whatever the Irish say, it’s always with a tone of humour.

So with it being a word used so frequently, you’d think we would know where it came from, who first said it and so on, but many Irish don’t have the faintest idea, so we are here to break it down for you and give you the history, meanings, and origins of ‘feck’.

The history of ‘feck’ – an ancient word

'Feck' is an ancient word.
Credit: Flickr / Jeff Djevdet

‘Feck’, ‘feic’, or ‘fek’ is a form of ‘effeck’, which was a Scots version of what we know today as ‘effect’. However, the word had more significance than you might think.

The word was used to value quantity and the greater or larger part. This makes sense when you think of the word ‘feckless’ that is used to say someone or something is ineffective.

There is evidence of all three versions being used in short stories and poems dating back to the 17th-century.

The meaning of ‘feck’ – now you know

The history, meanings, and origins of 'feck'.
Credit: Flickr / William Murphy

‘Feck’ has been used through the generations in Ireland. It is a family-friendly word but can add a significant emphasis to whatever the subject matter is. Add the word ‘feck’ or ‘feckin’ to anything, and you will most certainly get your point across.

Examples could be, “Ah, for feck sake” or “I’m feckin’ starving”. An even more family-friendly version would be “flip”. And we’ll let you guess at what a less family-friendly version would be. However, for us, ‘feck’ will do just nicely.

Although ‘feck’ might be a less offensive or harsh way of using a certain expletive, it’s actually quite different.

‘Feck’ actually means to throw. For example, “She fecked the apple out the window” and has no such meanings as its more offensive counterpart. I guess that’s why we love saying it so feckin’ much.

The origin of ‘feck’ – where it comes from

Feck is well-known from Father Ted.
Credit: imdb.com

Of course, fans of Father Ted will be oh so familiar with Father Jack’s love for the phrase, “Feck off”. But is this where it all began? Probably not, but it did make it so feckin’ popular!

‘Feck’ is used as a noun that dates back to the 15th-century and comes from a Scottish variant of the word ‘effect’. Feck as a verb also meant to keep a watch out.

Despite these meanings, the word ‘feck’ took on the role of a mild curse word eventually. At this point, it lost its other meanings, which is where we get the ‘feck’ that we have now.

When we think of ‘feck’, we can’t help but think of other words and phrases that have derived from it. Words such as ‘feckers’, ‘feckless’, ‘feckin’, ‘feck off’, ‘fair fecks’ (meaning good on ya), ‘fecked’ (meaning exhausted), ‘feck all’ (meaning nothing), and, of course, ‘for feck sake’.

The history, meanings, and origins of 'feck'.
Credit: Instagram / @purplefairypeach

It’s become a huge part of our daily vocab, and it’s really and truly how we express ourselves. It’s just as common as our use of ‘Jesus’ and ‘grand’.

The word is so accepted and normal now that no one bats an eyelid if you say it. It’s so common that big companies are using it in their slogans with cafes, bars, and restaurants even using it on their billboards.

Would you believe that the word ‘feck’ has also been used on many occasions in our national newspapers? If that isn’t a perfect example of the normalisation of mad Irish phrases, then we don’t know what is.

So there you have it, the history, meanings, and origins of ‘feck’; we’ll never stop feckin’ saying it, that’s for sure!

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