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Common Irish Slang

An Irish welcome mat

An Irish welcome mat

The following hub is an account of vernacular phrases and words that can be heard said by the Irish in today’s modern society, not just by twenty something males such as myself, but by men and women from all backgrounds and ages. It is quite detailed in it’s usage and so commonly spoken it has become engraved in our everyday speech. This is a comprehensive guide for anybody visiting, studying or planning to work in Ireland, with an example of the word or phrase and an explanation to what they actually mean. So the next time you hear anything like ‘knacker’ ‘gobshite’ ‘sham’ etc. as you walk down the street, feel safe in the knowledge you know exactly what they are talking about.

CRAIC – This is the most commonly used word in Irish slang, and has a variety of different meanings such as ‘news’ or ‘fun’. A few common examples of the word ‘craic’ can be used in the following sentences such as, ‘that was some craic last night’, meaning ‘that was a great night’. It can be also used in a greeting such as… ‘Well! What’s the craic?’ Meaning ‘Hello, any news?’

GOBSHITE – Somebody who’s very stupid.

Gobshite derives from the word ‘gob’, meaning mouth and ‘shite’ meaning… well just take the e out of the word you’ll see for yourself. It’s more commonly used by the older generations when they smack a kid across the head who’s said something stupid or acted in a stupid way. You’ll normally hear it used in the following sentence… ‘He’s a pure and utter gobshite.’

SHAM – Another word with different meanings, in most parts of the country it means friend, but you wouldn’t say ‘he’s my sham’ because funnily enough that sounds camp, it’s more of a way of expressing yourself to a friend of yours by calling him sham when you meet him and It’s more a phrase for men. Women don’t call each other sham. In some parts of the country it’s insulting, i.e. ‘He’s a sham’, meaning he’s not a nice person. It can be confusing even for the Irish at times.

GOWL – Somebody who’s unbelievably stupid.

EEJIT – A fool, a common use for it is calling someone you think is a fool ,‘a big blithering eejit.’

SHNIZZLE – A strange phrase, it has only recently taken off thanks to Snoop Dog’s own version of invented slang a few years back, putting ‘izzle’ at the end of every word. Shnizzle is used in the form of a greeting…’What’s the shnizzle?’ Another use for it is when you feel confident around women or have become a womaniser, you turn around and say to your friends ‘I think I got my shnizzle on.’

CUALABUALA (Coola – Boola) - This means ‘fantastic’, ‘great’, ‘awesome’ it’s also used when you understand completely when a friends says where they’ll be, or what they’re doing at a certain time, it’s most commonly used to confirm a time and place when meeting someone.

KNACKER – An insult, similar to ‘scumbag’.

HEADER –Somebody who’s crazy, people from Dublin often use it with the slang word ‘bleedin’ before it, without the g at the end of the word. So somebody who is crazy is often described as in the following sentence…’He’s a bleedin header he is!’

SHIFT – This means to French kiss someone in a nightclub i.e. ‘I got the shift last night’.

JACKS – Another way of saying toilet…’I got to nip off to the jacks.’

BANJAXED – Meaning when something is broken that can’t be fixed. Again people from Dublin use the word bleedin in front of it i.e. ‘Me car is bleedin banjaxed!’

YOKE – When you can’t think of the word for the object you are looking for, you say ‘Where’s me yoke?’ another saying is ‘yokeamebob’ i.e. ‘Pass me the eh…(clicks fingers)…the eh…you know…the yokeamebob’. Yokeamebob is similar to a ‘thingimejiggar’ or a ‘whatchyamacallit’

CULCHIE – Somebody from the countryside or in the eyes of Dublin people…anybody who’s not from Dublin.

SLAG – To kid or to joke with someone…’Sure I’m only slagging ya!’

RUBBERED – Another way of saying you were drunk…’Ah sham, I was rubbered last night.’

FECK – In Ireland, feck is an allowable swear word and widespread throughout the country. If you want to swear but you don’t want to get your mouth taped over, change the u to the e, you get feck…

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GAMMY – This means useless or disgusting…’He has a gammy leg’ or ‘My god that looks gammy, get it out of my face!’

SICK – Another way of saying that something is unbelievable, ‘savage’ is another word that means the same thing. Basically words that mean something shockingly bad in other countries means they are shockingly good in Ireland.

BOCKY – This means to have a limp, ‘That man has a bocky leg.’


Common Irish Phrases

I will in me hole – ‘I will definitely not do that’

I will in me bollix – ‘I will most definitely not do that’

Stop acting the maggot- ‘Stop messing around’

Come here till I tell ya – ‘I really need to tell you something’

Ya did in your arse – ‘You’re lying to me’

She’s a cute whore that one – ‘There’s something shifty about her’

She has a right puss on her – ‘She needs to smile more’

He’s proper shook so he is – ‘He is extremely sick’

She gave me a right bollicking – ‘She screamed abuse at me’

You look desperate – ‘You don’t look well’

He’s about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike – ‘He has no outstanding talents’

Spotty Dog – ‘Brilliant’

Try this; it’s the cat’s pyjamas – ‘Try this you’ll love it’

Sexy Cabbage – ‘I approve’

Mouldy Cabbage – ‘I’m extremely hung-over’

She’d lie down in a bed of nettles that one – ‘She has no shame’

She has a face on her like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle – ‘She definitely needs to smile more’

How’s your hole? – ‘How are you doing’

To any fellow Irish hubbers out there who has any phrases of their own please comment and I can add them to the list, to all the rest of the hubbers around the world I hope that this guide is useful…Sláinte!...


darren kent on July 25, 2015:

what is the slang word for 'an insult'? im a writer and dont want to use insult in the sentence below

this is used as an insult amongst Irish Travelers...

ned the horse on March 08, 2015:

We have a dictionary of over 5000 irish sayings and proverbs.

CMarie from York, Maine on June 07, 2014:

what a bunch of blouhd'e shyte ... lol!!

Mike. G on January 19, 2014:

If an Irishman Calls an Englishman a Wanker, what do u call an Irishman that means the same thing. ( or Worse ).

SLickman on August 24, 2013:

I didn't even know that some words and phrases i'm using every single day were Irish haha :D

Z. Fuentes from Florida on March 12, 2013:

I'm so glad I stumbled upon this hub. Being a quarter Irish, I can really appreciate the slang and phrases. I haven't had the opportunity to visit Ireland yet, but it is at the top of the list of countries I want to visit. Thanks for posting!

RolyRetro from Brentwood, Essex, UK on February 15, 2013:

I'm an Englishman who lived in Dublin for 18 months, and would often get confused by the slang. I could never get used to the word Feck, it seemed to be socially acceptble, used on the radio, in customer meetings, everywhere!

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on February 14, 2013:

Adrian Lavelle: What a brilliant hub!!! I always wanted to visit is a little part of me! I love the slang and phrases...some made me giggle :) Thank you for sharing your culture with me...loved it! :) Happy Valentine's Day

RememberThatTime on February 14, 2013:

Love this. I plan on using this guide to talk to my Irish friend. She will totally laugh at me, but its all in goo fun. Also I've used "Fecking" for years now, not knowing it was an Irish thing.

Maggie McMills on February 13, 2013:


Holly Kline from South Jersey on February 12, 2013:

Love this! Thanks so much. Will upvote!

Kimberly Vaughn from Midwest on February 02, 2013:

Great hub! I would love to visit Ireland so this is definitely good info to know. Voted up!

Kyson Parks from San Diego, CA on February 02, 2013:

Very informative!

Sophie Newsome from New York on January 27, 2013:

Haha nice hub!

Jenny from Sydney, Australia on January 27, 2013:

A few weeks ago I met a guy in sydney at a very popular irish pub and yesterday he said to me "what's the craic". I replied back with "what's that" lol coz I had no idea what he was talking about. I'm still in stitches laughing. Now I have a heads up. Thanks. Great Hub

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on January 26, 2013:

That is an interesting Hub! Some of those translations I would have never guessed!

Katie P. on January 24, 2013:

This was awesome. This helped a lot for a character that I am writing.

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on January 04, 2013:

Haha, it's a good one 'Sexy Cabbage', it derives from Donegal, at least that's where I heard it, 'Sexy Cabbage' for when it's a good night out and 'Mouldy Cabbage' for the hangover the next morning, thanks for reading!!

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on January 04, 2013:

Thanks very much for reading Shawncailene, glad you enjoyed it!

DoloresHerriot from United Kingdom on January 02, 2013:

Great hub. I'm from Ireland but live in UK. I'd never heard of sexy cabbage but love it!!

Shawn Powers-Mace from Virginia on January 01, 2013:

Good to know would love to visit Ireland one day - Love your hub - too funny some of these slang words.

Victoria P from Orlando, Florida on December 30, 2012:

hahah love this hub! Reminded me of the tv series father ted, one of my favorite comedy shows!

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on December 18, 2012:

Thank you very much velzipmur, delighted you enjoyed it!

Shelly Wyatt from Maryland on December 18, 2012:

I loved this hub! You made me laugh out loud. This was very informative and interesting the best part of any language is the slang. Love it!

Parks McCants from Eugene Oregon U.S.A. on November 25, 2012:

My dearly departed mother-in -law was a Lavelle from Cork. I live with a fiery Irish Pirate of the Duggan clan. I'll find this bit of slang to be useful. All the best to you then...

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on November 25, 2012:


Parks McCants from Eugene Oregon U.S.A. on November 25, 2012:

Well done!

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on November 24, 2012:

Thanks speechoftheday!! Ah yeah, the 'Father Ted' lingo is pretty much the same lingo that is spoken around where I live, a lot of 'Oh right so!' and 'Ah here would ya go on out of that!' =) thanks for reading!!!

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on November 24, 2012:

Thanks JasminRace!!!

Jasmin from United Kingdom on November 24, 2012:

Love it!! Great hub

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on November 23, 2012:

Hahaha, thank you for reading QudsiaP1 and thank you so much for sharing, I'm so glad you you enjoyed it!

QudsiaP1 on November 23, 2012:

Oh my Lord!!! Adrian I absolutely loved this! Even shared it. God it had me gasping for air.

Debbie Pinkston from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas on October 04, 2012:

I love it! I visited Ireland in 2009 and loved it, but as you said, there are some phrases that the Irish use that I didn't understand.

So glad you shared what "How's your hole?" means...I might have taken it for something entirely different and might have slapped someone!

Thanks for writing this wonderful Hub- "Spotty dog"!

sujith on August 21, 2012:


Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on August 18, 2012:

Thank you very much!

idigwebsites from United States on August 18, 2012:

Fun and informative hub... a good handbook on learning some more Irish. Thanks for posting! :D

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on August 13, 2012:

Thank you Haley for your comment, I recommend using 'Sexy Cabbage' as often as you can, not only is it fun to say, but it can be fun putting it into all kinds of random sentences. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!

HaleyMCruz from California on August 13, 2012:

I should start saying "Sexy Cabbage" more often...I might just say that starting today! I'm glad I stumbled upon this hub, it was a fun read! I feel more Irish than ever before, thanks a lot for the hub! Voted up

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on June 18, 2012:

This is great!!

Irish diplomacy - The ability to tell a man to go to hell and he looks forward to the trip.

I'm so glad I came acrossed your page!

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on June 09, 2012:

Hey thank you for the comment, I never knew about the German word for 'Knacker', quite interesting how words have different meanings in different countries, you learn something knew every day =)

Antonia on June 09, 2012:

Hey Adrian,

thank you for the nice collection.

Couldn't come the endin "nizzel" from the geraman and austrian peace of fried meat "Schnitzel"?

Here in Germany a "Knacker" is an slyghly old not good looking guy - comes from the word "knacken", which means to crack. You 'd say "alter Knacker" to describe a nusty male person.

john on February 02, 2012:

i'll beat ya goodlookin ya shitehawk

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on January 30, 2012:

You're welcome! thanks for reading =)

andsoforth from Eugene, Oregon on January 30, 2012:

I particularly like "savage". Thank you.

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on January 29, 2012:

Hahaha, there are quite a few 'hole' references, I just realised that, the Irish for some strange reason love using the term in any way they can, it must be how we say it =) thanks for reading!

hush4444 from Hawaii on January 29, 2012:

Too funny! There are quite a few "hole" references, aren't there? I really enjoyed reading your clever hub!

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on January 29, 2012:

Ah thank you, thanks for reading =)

htodd from United States on January 28, 2012:

This is really great Irish slang..Thanks for the nice post Adrian

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on January 28, 2012:

Thanks Rachael I'm really glad you liked it, a great guide for you if you happen to meet any Irish people, you can shock them with some slang, see their jaw hit the floor =D

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on January 28, 2012:

Nice to meet you Kitty, thanks for reading and commenting, that's sick we use the same phrase =D

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on January 28, 2012:

Thanks for reading B.Leekley, you should make it over sometime. Plenty to see and do, with an unbelievable amount of history to the place, the Guinness Factory and the G.P.O in Dublin are great places to visit.

Rachael C. from That little rambunctious spot in the back of your mind :) on January 28, 2012:

Awesome hub! :)

Kitty Fields from Summerland on January 28, 2012:

We use the term "sick" to describe something awesome in the US, too! Voted up, funny and awesome!

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on January 28, 2012:

Good to know. Hope I can visit Ireland some day.

Adrian Lavelle (author) from Galway, Ireland on January 28, 2012:

Nice to meet you Sonia, your significant other will have no problem reading this hub, he won't even need the translations! Thank you very much for reading and thanks for the follow =)

Sonia Perozzi from California on January 28, 2012:

What a fun hub! My significant other is from Ireland, no doubt he will get a kick out of this upon reading it. I have been to Ireland once with him and I have to admit at times it was hard for me to understand what was being said, luckily I had a great tour guide. Thank you for the tips and the laughs! Slang, to me, is an interesting part of any culture.

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