We Irish are known for our way with words. Aside from the ancient tradition of storytelling, Ireland boasts giants of literature such as Beckett, Yeats and Heaney.
We do speak English in Ireland. But it's a unique version. You'll notice plentiful poetic license being taken with Irish phrases and grammar.
That's because our version of English (Hiberno-English) carries strong influence from our native language of Irish (you might know it as Gaelic). Learning just a little bit of Irish really helps you understand some of the ways that Irish people communicate.
Read on to find out several ways to say hello to Irish people as well as some other interesting sayings and funny phrases.
One of the more well-known Irish words or phrases is craic (pronounced crack).
Craic is a central pillar of Irish culture. Before we go any further, it's important to understand the concept of craic.
Put simply, craic means fun. But there's a little more to it than that.
Craic is fun and flowing conversation. It can mean good times, good company and conversation.
It can include storytelling and jesting, banter or slagging (for more about slagging, see below).
Sometimes craic means breaking rules, mischievous or getting up to no good. A local might call this 'divilment'.
One thing is for sure; 'having the craic' always involves laughter.
You might hear a conversation go something like this...
"How was the gig last night?"
"It was absolutely solid craic"
Another common phrase you may encounter is 'Craic agus Ceoil' . This means 'live music and good fun' in Irish. You'll typically see it advertised on pubs and music venues.
3 Ways To Say Hello To Irish People
In everyday conversation, most Irish-speakers use some variation of 'how are you' as a greeting.
Not so much a conversation-opener as a quick greeting.
In normal circumstances, when an Irish person says 'Howaya', they don't actually want to know your inner thoughts and emotions. It's basically a quick way to say hello without the need for a longer chat.
A very normal sight would be Irish people passing each other on the street, swapping 'Howaya's' and carrying on their way, without missing a step. There's no need for an answer!
2. What's The Craic?
When you ask someone 'What's The Craic?', you're essentially saying hello, not asking them if they're enjoying themselves (i.e. how they are).
As with 'Howaya', the asker doesn't always want to know the details.
3. How's She Cuttin'?
At its heart, Ireland is still an agricultural country, despite its modern cities and sophisticated tour operators (ahem!).
As a result, lots of Irish slang derives from farming life. Taken literally, 'How's She Cuttin'?' refers either to the state of your plough or grass-cutting equipment.
It's a bit of a comic phrase, to be frank; the Irish equivalent of 'Top Of The Morning' (which, by the way, Irish people NEVER, ever (ever) use).
Of course, the standard response to 'How's She Cuttin' is: "She's suckin' diesel".
Our VagaTrons do suck quite a lot of diesel. But if an Irish persons says this to you, don't take them literally!
Telling someone that you're 'suckin' diesel' means that things are going exceptionally well.
You've wrapped your head around the concept of 'craic'. Now comes an even tougher one...
Grand, grand, grand.
You'll hear this one a lot in Ireland.
It's spelt the same way as the 'grand' you know; the 'grand' used outside Ireland.
But the meaning and use are both slightly different.
Grand basically means OK, par or average.
When an Irish person is asked how they are, a very common response is 'grand':
It means 'not bad' or OK.
Everyone has moments when words escape us.
In a situation where you might say, 'it's on the tip of my tongue', we Irish say 'that yoke'. 'Yoke' is the perfect noun substitute.
"Can you get that yoke for me?" or "Where did I leave that yoke?".
Yoke can literally mean anything.
IMPORTANT: Not egg yolk.
The Surprisingly Logical Meaning Behind Some Irish Words
Irish phrases may differ from American ones. But our words have quite logical meanings:
Footpath - a.k.a. a sidewalk; it's a path your feet go on.
Runners - What you might call sneakers or trainers; so-called as, literally, you go running in your runners.
At first, it may seem like we are constantly insulting one another. In fact, slagging is a mark of how close a friendship you have with someone.
If someone starts joking about your accent or, perhaps, about your home country, don't take it as an insult. It's a sign they like you! Feel free to join in and return the slagging. It's all in good spirit!
Try these handy Irish slagging phrases to fit right in:
"Stop acting the maggot" - Acting in a foolish manner.
"Ye half eedjit ye" - Not quite a full eedjit, but still quite foolish.
"You're an awful snake (pronounced shnaake) " - Translation: you're a sneaky person, but I like you.
Anyone who shows overly zealous self-regard, boastfullness or pride is said to have 'notions'. In extreme cases, you may even be accused of exhibiting 'serious notions'.
"Would you listen to her, she's got serious notions".
VERY IMPORTANT - Anyone who displays 'notions' is opening themselves up to the possibility of being 'slagged'.
You may know it as the restrooms or toilets. In Ireland they are called "the jacks". If you arrive in a pub you might ask the barman "Where's your jacks?" & they'll point you in the right direction."
Stall the Ball
'Stall the ball' or 'stall it' is a playful way of asking someone to slow down; either literally, or just in conversation.
If you're on tour, it's acceptable to shout out to your guide,
"Can you stall the ball for a minute please - I want to get a few photos here"
33 and a third
You may notice Irish people pronouncing 'three' as 'tree'. Or '33 and a third' as 'turty tree and a turd'.
We get a lot of 'slagging' for dropping our 'h' in various words. This pronunciation may have originated from the Irish/ Gaelic word for the number three being "trí".
Well, that's our excuse and we're sticking to it!
C'mere Till I Tell Ye
If someone in Ireland is excitedly about to tell you some hot gossip, or an anecdote, they may open in this playful manner:
"C'mere till I tell ya..."
Sound As A Pound
Direct meaning = it's all good.
If your VagaGuide asks how you're doing, and you're feeling good, a good response would be:
"Sound as a pound, thanks for asking"
I'm Absolutely Stuffed
We're not talking about any form of taxidermy here.
If you're 'absolutely stuffed' then you've had a large amount of lovely Irish food and are feeling satisfied.
This is a phrase we guarantee you'll use more than once on your trip to Ireland.
Want to study Irish slang in-depth?
Check out our small group tours of Ireland
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