Although the national and official language of Ireland is Irish, basically everyone speaks English. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll always be able to understand what they’re saying! Every English-speaking country has its own slang and Ireland is no different.
You might not be able to understand every word and phrase that makes up Irish slang, but it’s a good idea to become familiar with a few basics that you might hear during your travels. This will make it easier to fit in and not be the confused tourist who doesn’t know what’s going on.
Check out these 10 Irish slang phrases you’ll definitely hear while you’re there.
When you first hear the word “yonks” used in Ireland, you might be a little confused. This isn’t a word that even exists in many cultures and dialects. But it’s meaning is pretty simple. It basically means a long time. An example would be, “Hey, I haven’t seen you for yonks! How’s the family?”
This is fairly common so you will probably hear it at least once in Ireland. It is also used in some other countries around the world so it might not be too unfamiliar after all.
9 Aul Wan
Some slang words are self-explanatory. Others will make no sense at all until someone explains them to you, or until you’ve heard them used over and over again in context. “Aul wan” falls into the latter category, where you’ll probably be really confused until someone explains that this means mother. Sometimes in Ireland, people also use the word “ma” to refer to their mother.
Now that you know this, the slang for father should be easy to remember. While sometimes called “fella,” Irish fathers are usually referred to as the “aul man.”
8 Not The Full Shilling
If someone says that you’re “not the full shilling” it might be better to stay in the dark about it. It’s not exactly the nicest thing to say about someone else! While it is sometimes used to imply that someone is not fully sane, it can also mean that they’re just very unintelligent or slow.
This phrase is commonly used in Ireland and Northern Ireland, but you may also hear it in England, Scotland, and Wales. To those who aren’t familiar with British English, though, it’s probably completely new!
7 Black Stuff
If you know a little bit about Irish culture, it shouldn’t be too difficult to work out what the “black stuff” is. Think something that is as Irish as it gets. An Irish contribution to the world. Something that definitely makes an appearance every St. Paddy’s Day! Of course, we’re talking about Guinness.
When you’re at a pub in Ireland and you hear someone say that they’d like some of the black stuff, they mean they want a pint of Guinness. It’s one of the most successful beer brands around the world and originated in Dublin in the 18th century.
6 Jesus, Mary, Joseph
If you’re going to travel to Ireland, you should be aware that Ireland has strong religious traditions. The country had a formidable association with the Catholic faith, and even though the younger generations might not take religion so seriously, Catholic values and ideas are still ingrained in the culture.
When you hear people say “Jesus, Mary, Joseph,” you’ll know that something’s seriously ticked them off. As Mental Floss points out, most Irish people only take the Lord’s name in vain when absolutely necessary. If they’re mentioning the names of the whole family, it’s well and truly hit the fan.
Irish people tend to throw the word “craic” into the conversation whether they’re in Ireland or not. This word has a pretty simple definition, but it escapes most people who don’t come from an Irish background. It basically means fun or general banter.
The most important thing to remember about the word craic is that it’s not pronounced like it’s spelled. You pronounce it exactly like the word crack rather than pronouncing it phonetically. According to Irish Central, it can also be used to describe news, gossip, or entertainment.
This slang word will probably only come up if you’re traveling to Dublin. When you hear someone say the word “Trinners” they’re not referring to a person. They’re referring to a place—one that happens to be one of the prettiest in the city. That’s Trinity College.
Trinity College is not only part of the University of Dublin. It is a historic building that people come from all over the world to see or study at. The library inside Trinners is even said to have inspired Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.
3 As Useless As A Chocolate Teapot
This is a phrase that can really have you scratching your head the first time to visit Ireland. It’s something else that you don’t want to hear when people are talking about you! Saying you’re “as useless as a chocolate teapot” basically means that you’re useless. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Who has use for a chocolate teapot?
A similar phrase you might hear is that you’re “as useful as a cigarette lighter on a motorbike.” Again, this means you’re not very useful. It’s better not to be either one of these things!
2 Wind Your Neck In
Irish people are known for their friendliness and the way they welcome foreigners. They don’t respond well, however, to arrogance. If you visit Ireland and toot your own horn a little too much, you could end up annoying the locals you talk to. That’s when you’ll be told to “wind your neck in.”
This phrase basically means pipe down or shut up. It can be used to put someone who’s boasting too much back in their place, or could be used to silence someone who’s asking too many questions.
1 Sell Ya The Eye Out Of Your Head
Beware of anyone who’s described as being able to “sell ya the eye out of your head.” When Irish people use this phrase, they are basically saying that someone will be able to sell you anything. More than likely, they’re conning you.
The phrase is reasonably easy to work out. If someone can get you to pay for your own eye out of your own head, they certainly have the gift of the gab. They’re proficient at selling you things you don’t need, so it’s better to keep away from them!