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Common Irish Slang

Updated on July 16, 2013
An Irish welcome mat
An Irish welcome mat | Source

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…

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!...


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    • profile image

      darren kent 

      4 years ago

      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...

    • profile image

      ned the horse 

      5 years ago

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

    • c-m-hall profile image


      6 years ago from York, Maine

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

    • profile image

      Mike. G 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image


      6 years ago

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

    • Zfuentes4 profile image

      Z. Fuentes 

      7 years ago from Florida

      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 profile image


      7 years ago from Brentwood, Essex, UK

      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 profile image

      Carrie Lee Night 

      7 years ago from Northeast United States

      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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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 profile image

      Maggie McMills 

      7 years ago


    • Beltane73 profile image

      Holly Kline 

      7 years ago from South Jersey

      Love this! Thanks so much. Will upvote!

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      7 years ago from Midwest

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

    • busillis22 profile image

      Kyson Parks 

      7 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Very informative!

    • SINewsome profile image

      Sophie Newsome 

      7 years ago from New York

      Haha nice hub!

    • jennysbus profile image


      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      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 Stratford profile image


      7 years ago from Windsor, Connecticut

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

    • profile image

      Katie P. 

      7 years ago

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

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      7 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      7 years ago from Galway, Ireland

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

    • DoloresHerriot profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

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

    • shawncailene profile image

      Shawn Powers-Mace 

      7 years ago from Virginia

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

    • Vicky022389 profile image

      Victoria P 

      7 years ago from Orlando, Florida

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

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      7 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      Thank you very much velzipmur, delighted you enjoyed it!

    • velzipmur profile image

      Shelly Wyatt 

      7 years ago from Maryland

      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 profile image

      Parks McCants 

      7 years ago from Eugene Oregon U.S.A.

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      7 years ago from Galway, Ireland


    • Parks McCants profile image

      Parks McCants 

      7 years ago from Eugene Oregon U.S.A.

      Well done!

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      7 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      7 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      Thanks JasminRace!!!

    • JasminRace profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Love it!! Great hub

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      7 years ago from Galway, Ireland

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

    • QudsiaP1 profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 

      7 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      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"!

    • profile image


      7 years ago


    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      7 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      Thank you very much!

    • idigwebsites profile image


      7 years ago from United States

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

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      7 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      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 profile image


      7 years ago from California

      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

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      7 years ago from Upstate, New York

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      7 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      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 =)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i'll beat ya goodlookin ya shitehawk

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      8 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      You're welcome! thanks for reading =)

    • andsoforth profile image


      8 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      I particularly like "savage". Thank you.

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      8 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      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 profile image


      8 years ago from Hawaii

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

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      8 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      Ah thank you, thanks for reading =)

    • htodd profile image


      8 years ago from United States

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

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      8 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      8 years ago from Galway, Ireland

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

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      8 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      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.

    • toys-everywhere profile image

      Rachael C. 

      8 years ago from That little rambunctious spot in the back of your mind :)

      Awesome hub! :)

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Kitty Fields 

      8 years ago from Summerland

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

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      8 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

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

    • Adrian Lavelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrian Lavelle 

      8 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      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 profile image

      Sonia Perozzi 

      8 years ago from California

      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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