Hiberno-English also known
as Irish English is the dialect of English spoken in Ireland.
was first brought
to Ireland during the Norman
invasion of Ireland
in the late 12th
. However, because England was unable to control the
country, English was only spoken by a small minority of people
inhabiting an area known as the Pale around
Dublin. It was first introduced into Ireland on a wide
scale during the Plantations of
Ireland and the implementation of the subsequent Penal Laws.
Nevertheless, it is only since the
early-to-mid 19th century that English has become the majority language in
Ireland; indeed, the subsequent English spoken in Ireland has been
greatly influenced by the interaction between the English and Irish
Hiberno-English retains many phonemic differentiations
have merged in other English accents.
- With some local exceptions, occurs postvocally, making most
Hiberno-English dialects rhotic. The exceptions to this
are most notable in Drogheda and some
other eastern towns, whose accent is distinctly non-rhotic.
In Dublin English, a retroflex
is used (much as in American
English). This has no precedent in varieties of southern Irish
English and is a genuine innovation of the past two decades.
Mainstream varieties still use a non-retroflex (as in word-initial
position). A uvular is found in
north-east Leinster. /r/ is pronounced as a postalveolar tap in
conservative accents. Mícheál Ó
Muircheartaigh and Jackie
Healy-Rae are both good examples of this.
- is not usually pronounced as a plosive
where it does not occur word-initially; instead, it is pronounced
slit fricative .
- The distinction between w and
wh , as in wine vs.
whine, is preserved.
- There is some variation with the consonants that are dental
fricatives in other varieties ( and ); after a vowel, they may be
dental fricatives or dental stops ( and respectively) depending on
speaker, while word-initially they are always dental stops. making
thin and tin, and then and den,
near-homophones, where the pair
tin and den employs alveolar pronunciation (as in other
varieties of English). In a number of varieties, though, this
occurs only to while is left unchanged. Some dialects of Irish have
a "slender" (palatalised) d
as and this may transfer over to English pronunciation. In still
others, both dental fricatives are present since slender dental
stops are lenited to and .
- The distinction between and in horse and
hoarse is preserved, though not usually in Dublin or
- A distinction between in herd-bird-curd may be
- is never velarised, except in
(relatively recent) South Dublin English, often derisively termed
D4 English, after the area where the accent
- The vowels in words such as boat and cane are
usually monophthongs outside of Dublin:
, and .
- The in "night" may be pronounced in a wide variety of ways,
e.g. , , and , the latter two being the most common in middle class
speech, the former two, in popular speech.
- The in "boy" may be pronounced (i.e. the vowel of
thought plus a y) in conservative accents (Henry 1957 for
Co. Roscommon, Nally 1973 for Co. Westmeath).
- In some varieties, speakers make no distinction between the in
putt and the in put, pronouncing both as the
latter. Bertz (1975) found this merger in working-class Dublin
speech, and a fluctuation between merger and distinction in General
Dublin English (quoted in Wells 1982). Nevertheless, even for those
Irish people who, say, have a different vowel sound in put
and cut, pairs such as putt and put,
look and luck may be pronounced identically.
- In some highly conservative varieties, words spelled with
ea and pronounced with in RP are pronounced with , for
example meat, beat.
- In words like took where "oo" usually represents ,
speakers may use .
- Any and many are pronounced to rhyme with
nanny, Danny by very many speakers, i.e. with
- often becomes in words such as gave and came
(becoming "gev" and "kem")
- Consonant clusters ending in often change.
- becomes , e.g. dew/due, duke and duty sound
like "Jew", "jook" and "jooty".
- becomes , e.g. tube is "choob", tune is
- becomes , e.g. new becomes "noo"
- The following show neither dropping nor coalescence:
London and New
York, Dublin has a number
of dialects which differ significantly based on class and age
These are roughly divided into three categories:
'local Dublin,' or the broad-working class dialect (sometimes
referred to as the 'working-class,' 'inner-Dublin' or 'knacker'
accent); 'mainstream Dublin,' the typical accent spoken by
middle-class or suburban speakers; and 'new Dublin,' an accent
among younger people (born after 1970). Features include:
- as in 'lot' has a variety of realizations. In Local, this vowel
is often quite front and unrounded, ranging to . In Mainstream, the
sound varies between and . New Dublin speakers often realize this
phoneme even higher, as .
- as in 'thought:' In Local and Mainstream accents, this vowel is
usually a lengthened variant of the corresponding LOT set (i.e. in
Local and in Mainstream.) In New Dublin accents, this sound can be
as high as .
- as in 'strut:' in Local Dublin, this sound merges with the
sound in 'foot,' so that 'strut' is pronounced . In Mainstream, a
slight distinction is made between the two, with the vowel for
'strut' varying greatly from to . In New Dublin this vowel can
shift forward, toward .
- as in 'goat:' in Dublin English, unlike other
Hiberno-Englishes, this vowel is almost always dipthongized. Local
Dublin features a low inglide, rendering this sound as , where as
Mainstream features a tighter dipthong: . New Dublin has a slightly
fronter realization, ranging to .
- as in 'goose.' Local Dublin features a highly unique, palatized
realization of this vowel, , so that 'food' sounds quite similar to
'feud.' In Mainstream and New Dublin, this sound ranges to a more
central vowel, .
- as in 'price:' Traditionally this vowel ranges in pronunciation
from in Local Dublin speech to in Mainstream Dublin. However, among
speakers born after 1970, the pronunciation often occurs before
voiced consonants and word-finally.
- as in 'mouth' is usually fronted, to in Mainstream and New
Dublin and more typically in Local.
- as in 'choice:' This sound ranges greatly, from in Local Dublin
to a high-back realization in New Dublin. Mainstream Dublin more
typically tends toward .
Rhoticity and rhotic consonants vary greatly in Dublin English. In
Local Dublin, 'r' can often be pronounced with an alveolar tap ( ),
whereas Mainstream and New Dublin almost always feature the more
'standard' alveolar approximant, .
Post-vocalically, Dublin English maintains three different
standards. Local Dublin is often non-rhotic (giving lie to the
repeated claim that Hiberno-English is universally rhotic),
although some variants may be variably or very lightly rhotic. In
non-rhotic varieties, the in 'lettER' is either lowered to or in
some speakers may be backed and raised to . In Mainstream Dublin,
this sound is gently rhotic ( , while New Dublin features a
retroflex approximant . Other rhotic vowels are as follows:
Dublin Vowel Lengthening
- as in 'start:" This vowel has a uniquely high realization in
Local Dublin, ranging to . In Mainstream Dublin, this sound is more
typically , whereas New Dublin can feature a more back vowel,
- The 'horse-hoarse' distinction in other Irish dialects is
heavily preserved in Local Dublin, but only slightly maintained in
Mainstream and New varieties. In Local, 'force' words are
pronounced with a strong diphthong, , while 'north' words feature a
low monophthong, . Mainstream Dublin contrasts these two vowels
slightly, as and , while in New Dublin, these two phonemes are
merged to .
- as in 'nurse.' In local Dublin, this phoneme is split, either
pronounced as or . In this accent, words written as 'ur' are always
pronounced as , while words written as either 'er' or 'ir' are
pronounced as . However, when 'er' or 'ir' follows a labial
consonant (e.g. 'bird' or 'first'), this sound has the realization.
In Mainstream and New Dublin this distinction is seldom preserved,
with both phonemes typically merging to .
In Local Dublin, long monophthongs are often dipthongized, and
while some dipthongs are tripthongized. This process can be
summarized with these examples:
- Final 't' is heavily lenited in Local Dublin English so that
'sit' can be pronounced , or even .
- Intervocalically, 't' can become an alveolar approximate in
Local Dublin (e.g. 'not only' = , while in New and Mainstream
varieties it can become an alveolar tap , similar to American and
- 'θ' and 'ð,' as in 'think' and 'this,' usually become alveolar
stops and in Local Dublin English, while Mainstream and New Dublin
maintains the more standard dentalized stops common in other
varieties of Hiberno-English.
- In Local Dublin, stops are often elided after sonorants, so
that, for example 'sound' is pronounced .
- Local Dublin can feature the word 'ye' for the second-person
plural (although the more common Hiberno-English 'youse' is still
- As with other non-standard Englishes, Local Dublin can often
feature double negatives: "I ain't seen nothin' at all."
- Use of "after" to indicate the immediate past: "I'm just after
coming from the city centre."
- Use of past-participle for preterite tense: "We seen the film
the other day."
Grammar derived from Irish
The syntax of the Irish language
quite different from that of English. Various aspects of Irish
syntax have influenced Hiberno-English, though many of these
idiosyncrasies are disappearing in urban areas and among the
Irish lacks words that directly translate as "yes" or "no", and
instead repeats the verb in a question, possibly negated, to
answer. Hiberno-English uses "yes" and "no" less frequently than
other English dialects as speakers can repeat the verb, positively
or negatively, instead of (or in redundant addition to) using "yes"
- "Are you coming home soon?" "I am."
- "Is your mobile charged?" "No, it's not."
There is no indefinite article in Irish (fear
man", whereas an fear
means "the man"), and the use of the
definite article in Hiberno-English has some distinctive functions,
which mark it out from Standard English by following and sometimes
extending the usage of the definite article in Irish.
- "She had the flu so he brought her to the hospital." (This
construction is normal in American
English, but not in most other dialects).
- "She came home for the Christmas."
The Irish equivalent of the verb "to be" has two present tenses,
one (the present tense proper or "aimsir láithreach") for cases
which are generally true or are true at the time of speaking and
the other (the habitual present or "aimsir gnáth láithreach") for
repeated actions. Thus, 'you are [now, or generally]' is tá
, but 'you are [repeatedly]' is bíonn tú
forms are used with the verbal noun (equivalent to the English
) to create
speakers of English, especially in rural areas, especially Mayo/Sligo in the West
of Ireland, use the verb "to be" in English similarly to how they
would in Irish, using a "does be/do be" (or "bees", although less
frequently) construction to indicate this latter continuous
- "He does be working every day."
- "They do be talking on their mobiles a lot."
- "He does be doing a lot of work at school."
- "It's him I do be thinking of."
Irish has no pluperfect
"after" is added to the present continuous (a verb ending in
"-ing"), a construction known as the "hot news perfect" or "after
perfect". The idiom for "I had done X when I did Y" is "I was after
doing X when I did Y", modelled on the Irish usage of the compound
prepositions i ndiaidh
, and in éis
: bhí mé tar éis/i ndiaidh/in éis
X a dhéanamh, nuair a rinne mé Y
- "Why did you hit him?" "He was after showing me cheek."
A similar construction is seen where exclamation is used in
describing a recent event:
- "I'm after hitting him with the car!" Táim tar éis é a
bhualadh leis an gcarr!
- "She's after losing five stone in five weeks!"
When describing less astonishing or significant events, a structure
resembling the German
can be seen:
- "I have the car fixed." Tá an carr deisithe agam.
- "I have my breakfast eaten." Tá mo bhricfeasta ite
Irish has separate forms for the second person singular
) and the second person plural
).Mirroring Irish, and almost every other Indo European language
, the plural
'you' is also distinguished from the singular in Hiberno-English,
normally by use of the otherwise archaic English word 'ye' [ji];
the word 'yous' (sometimes written as 'youse') also occurs, but
primarily only in Dublin and across Ulster
In addition, in some areas in Leinster
and parts of Ulster, the
hybrid word 'ye-s', pronounced 'yis', may be used. The
pronunciation does differ however, with that of the northwestern
being and the Leinster pronunciation being .
- "Did ye all go to see it?"
- "None of youse have a clue!"
- "Are yis not finished yet?"
In relation to this, the second-person possessive adjective 'your',
largely in inner-city areas of Dublin, has an alternate form when
the subject is plural: 'yezzer'.
- "Would youse ever get yezzer shoes on?"
- "Take yezzer coats in case it rains."
However, the word "yezzer" can also be used simply as the
second-person singular pronoun, or as an alternative to 'ye' or
- "Are yezzer ready?"
- "I saw yezzer down the park last week."
In rural areas, the reflexive version of pronouns is often used for
emphasis or to refer indirectly to a particular person, etc.,
according to context . 'Herself', for example, might refer to the
speaker's boss or to the woman of the house. Use of 'herself' or
'himself' in this way often indicates that the speaker attributes
some degree of arrogance or selfishness to the person in question.
Note also the indirectness of this construction relative to, for
example, 'She's coming now'
- "'Tis herself that's coming now." Is í féin atá ag teacht
- "Was it all of ye or just yourself?"
It is also common to end sentences with 'no?' or 'yeah?'
- "He isn't coming today, no?" Níl sé ag teacht inniu, nach
- "The bank's closed now, yeah?" Tá an banc dúnta anois, an
Though because of the particularly insubstantive yes and no in
Irish, (thenach bhfuil?
and an bhfuil?
interrogative positive and negative of the verb 'to be') the above
may also find expression as
- "He isn't coming today, sure he isn't?" Níl sé ag teacht
inniú, nach bhfuil?
- "The bank's closed now, isn't it?" Tá an banc dúnta anois,
This is not limited only to the verb 'to be': it is also used with
'to have' when used as an auxiliary; and, with other verbs, the
verb 'to do' is used. This is most commonly used for
- This is strong stuff, so it is.
- We won the game, so we did.
- She is a right lash, so she is.
There are some language forms that stem from the fact that there is
no verb 'to have' in Irish. Instead, possession is indicated in
Irish by using the preposition 'at,' (in Irish, ag.
be more precise, Irish uses a prepositional pronoun that combines
"at" and mé
"me" to create agam
English, the verb "to have" is used, along with a "with me" or "on
me" that derives from ‘‘Tá....agam. This gives rise to the
- Do you have the book? I have it with me.
- Have you change for the bus on you?
- He will not shut up if he has drink taken.
Somebody who can speak a language 'has' a language, in which
Hiberno-English has borrowed the grammatical form used in Irish.
- She does not have Irish. Níl Gaeilge aici. literally
'There is no Irish at her'.
When describing something, rural Hiberno-English speakers may use
the term 'in it' where 'there' would usually be used. This is due
to the Irish word ann
(pronounced "oun") fulfilling both
idiom is this thing or that thing described as 'this man here' or
'that man there', which also features in Newfoundland English in Canada.
- Is it yourself that is in it? An tú féin atá ann?
- Is there any milk in it or will I get some in the shop? An
bhfuil bainne ann?
- This man here. An fear seo. (cf. the related
anseo = here)
- That man there. An fear sin. (cf. the related
ansin = there)
Conditionals have a greater presence in Hiberno-English due to the
tendency to replace the simple present tense with the conditional
(would) and the simple past tense with the conditional perfect
- John asked me would I buy a loaf of bread ('John asked me to
buy a loaf of bread')
- How do you know him? We would have been in school together.
('We went to school together')
: Irish use of
these words differs from that of English, because it follows the
Gaelic grammar for beir
. English usage is
determined by direction; person determines Irish usage. So, in
English, one takes
there", and brings
there". In Irish, a person takes
only when accepting a transfer of possession of the object from
someone else and a person brings
at all other
times, irrespective of direction (to or from).
- Don't forget to bring your umbrella with you when you
- (To a child) Hold my hand: I don't want someone to take
Preservation of older English and Norman French usage
In old-fashioned usage, "it is" can be freely abbreviated "'tis",
even as a standalone sentence. This also allows the double
contraction "'tisn't", for "it is not".
The word "ye", "yis" or "yous", otherwise archaic, is still used in
place of "you" for the second-person plural. "Ye'r" "Yisser" or
"Yousser" are the possessive forms, e.g. "Where are yous
The verb "mitch" is very common in Ireland, indicating being truant
from school. This word appears in Shakespeare, but is seldom heard these
days in British English, although
pockets of usage persist in some areas (notably South Wales, Devon, and
In parts of Connacht however the verb
"mitch" is often replaced by the verb "scheme".
Another usage familiar from Shakespeare is the inclusion of the
second person pronoun after the imperative form of a verb, as in
"Wife, go you to her ere you go to bed" (Romeo and Juliet
, Act III, Scene IV). This
is still common in Ulster
: "Get youse your
homework done or you're no goin' out!" In Munster
, you will still hear children being told,
"Up to bed, let ye"
In some parts of Ireland, in particular the eastern seaboard, when
someone is telling tall tales he is said to be "blowing" or
"bilowen" out of him/her, which is likely to be a preservation of
the Middle English
"bi-lyen", as seen in Piers Plowman
(by William Langland
): "2.22 - And
bilowen hire to lordes þat lawes han to kepe."
"Gassin", "gorsoon", "gossoon" or "gossoor" is a common descriptor
in rural areas for a child, and derives from the French "garçon"
(meaning "boy") as used by 12th century Norman
settlers (via "garsún" (Munster dialect) and
"gasúr" (Connacht and Ulster) in Irish
loaf of bread is still called in many parts of the country "sliced
pan" deriving from the French word for bread "pain" while in the
Peninsula, a long
shirt is called by older folk a "shemmy shirt" from the French
"Pismires", meaning "ants", is still used in
parts of County
Cavan and widely across County Mayo, County
Longford and County
Leitrim; see also in Shakespeare.
influence from Scotland see Ulster
Scots and Ulster
Turns of phrase
is used as an
abbreviation of "am not", by analogy with "isn't" and "aren't".
This can be used as a tag question ("I'm making a mistake, amn't
I?"), or as an alternative to "I'm not" ("I amn't joking"), and the
double negative is also used ("I'm not late, amn't I not?"). This
construction occurs also in Scottish
is used also. Arra literally means "alright",
("Arra, we'll go next week", "Arra, 'tis not the end of the
world"). The word yerra
is also used and means
Come here to me now
, Come here and I'll
tell ya something
or (in Limerick) Come here I
is used to mean "Listen to this" or "I have
something to tell you" and can be used as "Come here and tell me".
The phrase "Tell me this", short for "Tell me this and tell me no
more", is also common. These phrases tend to imply a secretiveness
or revelatory importance to the upcoming piece of
An old Irish greeting, the term "mo grá thú" is still actively used
in some areas, most often in the North Mayo/West Sligo area.
Usually shortened to "Wahoo", particularly in urban areas such as
, a typical greeting between young
men would be "Wahoo T!, how's tricks?", which roughly means "Hello
Thomas, (or other name beginning with T) how are you doing today?".
Older people and people in rural areas tend to use the more
traditional form of the greeting, pronouncing it fully in the Irish
have been transferred directly
from Irish and have a very mild meaning in English: e.g.
), all (loosely)
meaning "fool" or "messer" (messer
is also a Hiberno-Irish
turn of phrase). "Langer" is used in as a derogative in Cork, but
is believed to stem from the name of the "Langur" monkey
encountered by the Munster Fusiliers while in India in the 19th
century. However, it maybe related to the Munster Irish word
prevalent in Cork is a
profligation of colourful emphasis-words; in general any turn of
phrase associated with a superlative action is used to mean
very, and are often calculated to express these in a
negative light and therefore often unpleasant by implication -
"he's a howling/ thundering/ rampaging/ galloping/ screeching
langer, so he is."
The practice is widespread in the rest of
Hiberno-English but is such a feature of Corkonian speech that it
is now commonly lampooned when imitating the accent.
alleged trait of Hiberno-English strongly associated with stage-Irish
and Hollywood films (to be sure, to
be sure). It is virtually never used in reality.
- ar bith corresponds to English at all, so the
stronger ar chor ar bith gives rise to the form at
all at all
- I've no money at all at all.
- ar eagla go... (Lit. "On fear that") means in
case.... The variant ar eagla na heagla, (lit on
fear of fear) implies the circumstances are more unlikely. The
corresponding Hiberno-English phrases are to be sure and
to be sure to be sure. In this context, these are
not, as might be thought, disjuncts meaning 'certainly'; they could
better be translated in case and just in case.
Nowadays normally spoken with conscious levity.
- I brought some cash in case I saw a bargain, and my credit
card 'to be sure to be sure'.
is often used for emphasis ("I can speak Irish,
so I can"), or it may be tacked on to the end of a sentence to
indicate agreement, where "then" would often be used in Standard
English ("Bye so", "Let's go so", "That's fine so", "We'll do that
so"). The word is also used to contradict a negative statement
("You're not pushing hard enough" - "I am so!"). [This
contradiction of a negative is also seen in American English,
though not as often as "I am too", or "Yes, I am".] The practice of
indicating emphasis with so
and including reduplicating
the sentence's subject pronoun and auxiliary verb (is, are, have,
has, can, etc.) such as in the initial example, is particularly
prevalent in more northern dialects such as those of Sligo, Mayo,
Cavan, Monaghan and other neighbouring counties.
(pronounced "shur" or "sher") is often used
as a tag word, emphasising the obviousness of the statement. Can be
used as "to be sure", the famous Irish stereotype phrase. (But note
that the other stereotype of "Sure and..." is not actually used in
Ireland.) Or "Sure, I can just go on Wednesday", "I will not, to be
sure." "Sure Jeez" is often used as a very mild expletive to
express dismay. The word is also used at the end of sentences
(primarily in Munster
), for instance "I was
only here five minutes ago, sure!" and can express emphasis or
To give out
to somebody is to scold that person.
It is based on an almost identical expression in Irish. ("Me Ma
gave out to me for coming home late last night" - "Bhí mo
mháthair ag tabhairt amach domsa aréir, mar tháinig mé ar ais go
). A particularly strong scolding may result in the
addition of the word "stink" to the phrase. ("Me Ma gave out stink
to me for coming home late last night") The equivalent phrase in
English-English, 'to have a go at', is not used in Hiberno-English,
unless physical force is involved.
is often used where English English would use
"shall" ("Will I make us a cup of tea?"). The distinction between
"shall" (for first-person simple future, and second- and
third-person emphatic future) and "will" (second- and third-person
simple future, first-person emphatic future), maintained by many in
England, does not exist in Hiberno-English, with "will" generally
used in all cases.
Casual conversation in many parts of Ireland includes a variety of
colourful turns of phrase. Some examples:
- Yer man (your man) and Yer
wan/one (your one) are used in referring to an individual
other than the speaker and the person spoken to. They may be used
because the speaker does not know the name of the person referred
to, and either can be used when the sex of the person referred to
is not known. "I'll give yer one in the Health Board a
call" can be used even if the speaker does not know whether
the person who will answer the phone will be a man or a woman. The
phrases are an unusual sort of half-translation of a parallel
Irish-language phrase, "mo dhuine" (literally 'my person') and this
form exists in Kerry, for example "I was just talking with my man-o
here." Similarly, in Waterford city 'me man' is often used, for
example "I was just talking to me man". The nearest equivalents in
colloquial English usage would be "whatsisname" and "whatsername".
Note also "wan" (particularly common in Munster) for a female
person may be a direct usage of the Irish 'bean' (woman). In
Newfoundland, the same form exists as 'buddy,' who is a generic
nameless person. They use the word not always in the sense of 'my
friend' but more in the sense of 'what's his name'. 'I went inside
to ask for directions and buddy said to go left at the
- A soft day: referring to a rainy day with that
particular soft drizzle, and an overcast sky, but relatively
bright. This is a translation of the Irish "lá bog".
- Fecking is an all purpose expletive slightly
less offensive than the English word "fucking".
In old Dubliner slang, "to feck' is also slang for "to steal", as
in the phrase, "We went to the orchard and fecked some apples." It
can also mean, "to throw", especially if something is being thrown
where it should not, as in "We fecked his schoolbag into the
river." However, fuck is also used in this context and the two
should not be confused. "To Feck Off" is used as a substitute for
the verb "to go", either implying "go quickly" - "We fecked off
home before it got any worse" - or to go away after a
disappointment - "we fecked off to the pub after losing the match".
"Feck off" is also used in place of the English "fuck off", as an
order meaning "go away". It is generally used in an offensive
context as a milder form of "fuck off" (for example, "Will you just
feck off, I'm trying to read something", or "Feck off, you're not
- Yoke is typically used in place of the word
"thing", for instance, "gimme that yoke there." It is more commonly
used with tools or other objects needed to accomplish some sort of
manual task; a book or an apple, for example, are not very likely
to be referred to as a "yoke." Like "thing," it is more frequently
used to refer to objects for which the actual name is cumbersome to
say or more difficult to call to mind. It is also used as an
insult: "you're some yoke" and the longer forms "yokiebob" and
"yokiemibob" still survives. "Yoke" is also a slang term for an
ecstasy tablet. Yoke can also be used when
referring to an unattractive or annoying woman (e.g. "Jaysus but
she's an awful looking yoke altogether").
- Now is often used at the end of sentences or
phrases as a semantically empty word, completing an utterance
without contributing any apparent meaning. Examples include "Bye
now" (= "goodbye"), "There you go now" (= when giving someone
something), "Ah now!" (= expressing dismay), "Hold on now" (= "wait
a minute"), "Now then" as a mild attention-getter, etc. This usage
is universal among English dialects, but occurs more frequently in
- To is often omitted from sentences where it
would exist in British English. For example, "I'm not allowed go
out tonight", instead of "I'm not allowed to go out
- The devil is used in Irish as an expletive,
e.g. Cén áit sa diabhal a bhfuil sé? "Where the devil is
he?" (The Irish version is literally "What place in the devil is
he?"). This has been translated into Irish as a mild expletive,
used in the song "Whiskey in the
Jar" in the line "But the devil take the women, for they never
can be easy". Diabhal is also used for negation in Irish,
and this usage might be carried over to Hiberno-English:
diabhal fear "devil a man", for "not a soul". Substitute
"nary" for "divil" in this line from the song Harrigan:
- :Proud of all the Irish blood that's in me / Divil a man
can say a word again' me.
Irish English also always uses the alveolar or "light" L sound, as
opposed to other English dialects which use a velar or "dark" L
in word-final position. The
naming of the letter "H" as "haitch" is standard, while the letter
"R" is called "or", the letter "A" is often pronounced "ah", and
the letter "Z" is referred to as "e-zed".
Hiberno-English vocabulary is similar to British English
, though there are many
variances, especially with reference to certain goods, services and
institutions. Examples that would come into everyday conversation
- Acting the maggot, used to describe dawdling
along or playing-up, e.g. "Ah Billy Bob, stop acting the maggot,
and eat your dinner".
- Amadán - eejit/fool (derived from Irish)
- Something banjaxed is broken, ruined, or
rendered incapable of use. As in "My mobile's been banjaxed since I
dropped it in the toilet." Not generally used as an active
- Beoir Any female, regardless of
attractiveness. Derives from Shelta.
- Bogman - rural person. Usually derogarotry.
See also "Culchie" below.
- Bold describes someone (usually a child) who
is impudent, naughty or badly behaved.
- Boot used to describe an unattractive girl,
usually preceded by 'oul'.
- Bucklepper An overactive, overconfident
person; as used by Patrick Kavanagh
and Seamus Heaney
- Cat - bad, terrible. Common in Ulster.
Sometimes "catmalojin". Found particularly in Sligo and
Waterford, but sometimes used elsewhere (thought to derive from
"catastrophic"). "The weather is cat isn't
- Childer - Dublin dialect for
- Chiseler - Dublin dialect for
- Class is a very common slang term, used to
describe something which the speaker deems to be excellent.
"That movie was class." Possibly a derivation of Irish
cleas for a feat.
- Cod acting, or acting the cod. Playing at
being an eejit (q.v.). Used mainly by the over-30s.
- College is used in a
way similar to American English. In Ireland college can be used to
refer to any third-level institution, university or not. For
example a question on the 2006 Census of Ireland was "what time
do you usually leave home for work, school or college?"
- Craic or
crack is fun, a good time, good company, good
atmosphere and conversation. If you are enjoying yourself, it is
good craic. The word may also be used to refer to events, news, or
gossip, as in the phrases "What's the crack?", "How's
the craic?", "Any craic?" or "It was good
crack". It can also be used in a negative context: "That
was some bad crack there last night." A suggested connection
to the Irish craiceann, skin, does not seem to be
supported by any evidence. The word is a Scots word, as illustrated
by the Dictionary of The Scots Language, which came from the
Middle English crack
(Old English krak) and has
migrated from Scotland to Ireland through Ulster Scots. Craic is
the Gaelicised version of the word,
used from the 1970s, but the meaning is the same.
- Craytur - a term of endearment - probably a
variation of the English word "creature".
- Cub - means a young child
- Culchie - means from the countryside
(derogatory). In Dublin, it refers to people from any part of the
country (urban or rural) other than Dublin. It is thought to come
from the Irish word for woods "coillte", as far back as the time of
the Pale, Dublin people referred to the rest of Ireland as 'people
of the woods', hence Culchie comes from Coillte (the Irish for
wood/forest). It may derive from the Irish phrase "cúl an tí",
meaning "back of the house". For it was, and still is, common
practice for country people to go in the back door of the house
they were visiting, so they were dubbed Culchies.
also derive from the name of the village of Kiltimagh, Irish Coillte Mach, in Co. Mayo, or possibly just from a truncation of the word
"Agricultural". "Ya feckin' culchie!"
- Da Dublin and Ulster
slang for father, as in "Me da doesn't do too well at the
- Dead on - (adjective) cool, fashionable,
laid-back, relaxed, easy-going. It can also be used in agreeing
with someone, "I'll pick you up at Six. Yeah, That's
dead on. Commonly used in Ulster.
- Deadly - (Dublin) slang for
brilliant, for example, "That concert was deadly".
Used in Munster when referring to something difficult, hard or
complicated. "That exam question was deadly."
- Delph meaning Dishware, occasionally meaning artificial teeth. From the name of
the original source of supply, Delft in the
- Desperate - often taken to mean unsavoury or
(mildly) terrible - e.g. "It's an awful rainy day isn't
it?" "Desperate". The word fierce is
similar in meaning & usage.
- Dingen means 'very good', e.g. the film
(fillum) was dingen. From the Gaelic 'daingean' meaning solid,
- D'oul Collective / affectionate term,
literally "the old", as in "d'oul silage", "d'oul motor"
(pronounced as "th'oul" in some areas).
- Drout(h) - meaning drought/thirst for alcohol.
'There's an awful/fierce droot on me.' Common in Ulster. This is
similar and probably related to Scots "Drouthy".
- Fair, as well as its usual meaning of just,
can be used instead of very - 'They built that housing estate fair
fast.' This comes from the Irish word "fíor" (genuine), used to
emphasize something. "Táim fíor bhuíoch as" meaning "I'm very
- Fair play - used more so in Ireland than in
other English speaking parts of the world. "Fair play to
him" meaning "Well done to him", or "Good for
- Feck (or
feic, from the Irish "to see") is a slang term
that can mean, "throw", and “steal" or "go away" ("Feck off!").
Made famous overseas by Father Jack
Hackett in Father Ted. FCUK took legal action against the producers of a
'FCEK' t-shirt in 2004 .
- Feen - A man. Its meaning is somewhat akin of
the American Dude and the London Geezer.
Etymology: fīn (Shelta) Usage common in
- Footpath is used in Ireland where "pavement"
is in British English and "sidewalk" in American English. The
shortened version of this word which is used more commonly everyday
is 'path'. "I nearly tripped over that path."
- Gaff - usually said in Dublin, meaning a
house/home or place "Are yis comin' back to my gaff
tonight?" "He was bleedin' reckin' the gaff, he
- Gansey, from the Irish geansaí,
(English dialect for Guernsey jersey) refers to a jersey
or jumper (sweater in American English). This term is also used,
although rarely, in parts of northern England.
- Gargle - alcohol e.g. "You going to the
off-o (off license) to get some gargle for tonight?"
- Gas - adjective meaning 'hilarious'. e.g.
"He's a gas man, isn't he?" or "That's gas."
- Geebag - Disreputable person, akin to
bastard. "She's a total geebag." Less offensive
than using gee (hard G sound) as a standalone word where gee would
refer to female genitalia and would if spoken vociferously , mean
- Give out (to someone) - to tell someone off,
to scold a person, e.g. "She gave out to him for stealing the
money". Come from the Irish
tabhair amach (give out).
- Gobshite (offensive) refers to a fool, someone
who talks nonsense, or sometimes someone who is gullible.
"You're a right gobshite you know that."
- Go 'way as in 'go way out of that'. Can mean,
in context, a) 'you're saying something new' or b) 'you're talking
rubbish'. "And now she's keeping the baby but she hasn't told
him yet" "Go 'way"
- Gombeen originally referred to a usurer (from the Irish
gaimbín, diminutive of "lump"), but now refers to any underhand or
- Gomey As a noun, a worthless individual, a
fool e.g. "you're nothing but a gomey, like!". As an adjective,
something not good or of little value e.g. "your shoes are gomey,
ya gomey fool ya."
- Grand - adjective meaning 'doing well'. e.g.
"How's the wife?" " Ah she's grand the oul
- Grinds - private
tuition, usually for secondary school students. "I have to get
- Guards refers to the Garda Síochána, the Republic's
police force, the Irish equivalent Gardaí being
used more formally, usually in the media. The singular
Garda is widely used, the female equivalent,
Bangharda less so. The word "police" generally
refers to police in other countries (although "Gardaí" and "Police"
are sometimes used interchangeably within Dublin), while older
people rarely use the American “cops”.
- Gurrier means a young boy up to no good,
usually used by the working classes from the Dublin area (see
scanger). Derived from gur
cake, a cheap rebaked cake eaten by the poor in Dublin.
Someone on the run from the law was said to be 'out on gur', living
off gur cake. Used the same way as the word 'punk' is in American English e.g. 'that guy is a no
good, just some dumb punk kid'.
- Handy has more meanings in Hiberno-Irish than
just "useful": it usually also means "great", "terrific". It is
also used to describe a person's skill at a particular task; "Paul
is pretty handy with a golf club" meaning "Paul is a good golfer".
"Taking it handy" can mean "taking it easy", being careful or (when
driving) not speeding
- Head - used mainly in Dublin as a peremptory
form of address. "Hey, head, watch where you're going."
- Horse Used mainly in
Kildare- pronounced Hurse- a person. "How's a going
Horse?" "Take it easy there Horse!"
- Hot press Standard Hiberno-English term for an
- Jackeen - A derogatory countryman's (culchie)
name for a Dubliner. Cf. Irish Seáinín, "shoneen", an Anglicised
Irish person. "Ya feckin' jackeen!"
- Jacks - lavatory. Cf. American English "john".
"Here lads, I'm off to the jacks. Mind me drink will
- Janey Mac! is an
exclamation of amazement or frustration in Dublin. It
comes from an old children's rhyme: "Janey Mac, me shirt is black,
what'll I do for Sunday? /Go to bed, cover your head and don't get
up till Monday!"
- Jaykers (also jaypers) - A
euphemism for Jeez; used as expression of amazement.
- Jaysus - The same as Jesus just pronounced
differently, usually used in amazement. "Look at that
- Jeep, much like "Hiace", is used by many to
refer to any sort of off road vehicle, be it a small 4x4 like a
Suzuki Jimny or large SUV like a long
wheelbase Mitsubishi Pajero. This comes from US
military usage of the term, while, oddly enough, actual Chrysler Jeeps were never
officially sold in Ireland until the 1990s, and the word was just
as common before then.
- Jockey's bollocks, the. Fantasic, on top, as
in it's the JB. Similar to British-English 'the bee's
knees' or 'the dog's bollocks'.
- Kip - unpleasant place, dive, hovel. "I'm
getting out of this kip." Sometimes used in a neutral sense: "The
drunk driver was swerving all over the kip."
- Knacker - member of travelling community
(derogatory). In Dublin it can also mean scanger"
- Kittle - the English word kettle is
often pronounced more like the Irish citeal.
- Lack Waterford slang for girlfriend, similar
to the use of "Mot" in Dublin.
- Loodar/Ludar - a fool; comes
from a combination of the Gaelic Lúdramán and English
- Lug - An ear. This expression is also found in
the north of England and Scotland and is probably of Norse origin.
- Lúdramán - eejit (derived from Irish)
- Malarky - nonsense, usually used in a stern
tone of voice by those in the teaching profession. "That's
enough of that malarky."
- Meet - Meaning to kiss a person (often a
French kiss). Used mainly by young people - 'Will you meet my
friend?' Other variations include 'to score' someone and 'to shift'
- Messages means groceries or errands.
She's gone to the shop to get the messages. I had a
few messages to do in town. This usage is also heard in the
north of England and parts of Scotland.
- Minerals means soft
- Mouth-ed Telling a secret, giving information.
Glottal T, as in "he mou'hed on me to the Guards".
- Mot - In Dublin, 'my
girlfriend' would be 'me mot'. As the 't' is pronounced as a
glottal stop, this sounds as if it
might be related to the Irish maith for 'good' (maybe via cailín
maith, 'good girl') but is actually a preservation of an English
word (mainly for 'harlot') with possible French, Dutch, and Romany
origins. The English Gypsy word for 'woman' is 'mort'.
- Mulla - A term used by people from Dublin to
describe people from Wicklow. See also Culchie.
- (The) Mutt's Nuts - Slightly more polite and
more recent version of The Dog's Bollocks. Mainly Dublin .
- Oul' fella/lad/man and oul'
wan/lass(y) are used to describe one's father or mother
respectively. "I was helping the oul'lad last night."
- Onst pron. one-st, once. Rural. Also
in USA and spelled onct. As in: 'I was to Galway onst;
'tis great to see the world'.
- Pack is often used to refer to quite small
packets, as in a "pack of crisps".
- Press is invariably used instead of cupboard. The hot press is the
- Puss Lips or mouth.
- Quare (pronounced kwer) - (a) used in
place of 'very' and to add emphasis (b) used to describe something
queer / strange. "That's a quare looking yoke isn't it?",
"That is quare bad so it is".
- Ramp is used generally to refer to a hump or
bump. Example: Speed Ramps
- Runners or tackies, or in the
north gutties, refers to "trainers" (British
English) or "sneakers" (American English).
- Savage - great altogether. Commonly used to
describe food or women. "Yer one is savage!" "I'd a savage steak
- Scallion is usually
used instead of Spring Onion (British English) or Green Onion
(American English). However, since the proliferation of British
supermarkets such as Tesco Ireland,
some people have also started to use the term Spring Onion.
- Scobe, or Scobie , normally
used in Munster or Leinster, refers to people low down in the
social ladder, living in housing estates in the city, wearing
hoodies, and committing petty crimes. It is synonymous with the
words "scumbag" or "skanger".
- Scoop is used to describe an alcoholic
beverage e.g. "You going for a few scoops?". It is rarely,
if ever, used in the singular (for example "I left my scoop on the
table" is not a phrase that would ever be used). Also used is the
word Jars (giving rise to the expression to be
intoxicated jarred). Both terms usually describe
- Sca is a word used when asking someone if they
have any news. Would usually be used in the form "any sca?". Could
perhaps have its roots lying in the word scandal, or possibly
originating from the Irish "aon sceal," which has the same
- Scratcher - Bed. Used in Dublin. "I
couldn't get out of the scratcher this morning."
- Sham - a young man or boy. This word has come
to be used as an exclamation by the Irish skanger community, (although its used mainly by
'Culchies' in Ulster), for example "Aw Sham!" or "That is some
sham!". Used in some parts of Ulster to mean a friend or as a
greeting, particularly in North Antrim, also highly prevalent in West Cork,
for example 'All right sham, how's it goin?’ Etymology apparently
from Shelta šam.
- Shift - to kiss, generally with tongues. Used
mainly by youths. "Did ya shift her?"
- Shore - Street drainage in a gutter (a drain
- Skanger is a
derogatory term for a person with questionable fashion taste and/or
a habitual use of recreational drugs and/or a penchant for petty
crime. Most commonly used in and around Dublin. The word
scumbag is commonly used elsewhere. The British equivalent
is a chav.
- Keeping sketch describes keeping a lookout for
teachers, Gardaí (police), parents etc. "Sketch!" is shouted if
someone is coming. Usually used by teenagers. The term may derive
from the Irish sceith
meaning, "to inform on".
- Sláinte is an Irish word meaning "health". It
is the shorter version of the term sláinte mhaith
which means "good health". Either version is used as a toast,
similar to "cheers", when drinking.
- Sound is used as a way of saying thanks, or as
an alternative to "kind, nice". "Sound for the food!", "That was
really sound of him".
- Story - used as a casual form of greeting with
friends or family. Often used on its own or can be used in
conjunction with a word like bud (buddy) or man e.g. "Story
bud?" or "What's the story man?". Usually used in
passing or as a beginning to a conversation or 'story'.
- Strand - commonly used instead of
- Sweet cake often used among older, but not
very common among younger generations, a literal translation from
Irish of cáca milis meaning "cake" or "pastry".
- Tayto (an Irish brand of
potato crisps US "chips") has become synonymous with any sort of
crisps, regardless of brand, among rural areas. Although the term
itself is singular, - Tayto - the word is pluralised in use (as in
"Go to the shop and get me a bag of Taytos.")
- Tearin' away is usually used to respond
positively to an informal greeting. Usually it is preceded with an
- Tilly often used among older, but not very
common among younger generations, a small amount or remnant of
liquid (as in "There's only a tilly of milk left in the
bottle" or "Will I put a little tilly of milk in your
coffee"). See also Tint
- Timber Used in Waterford, usually during
hurling matches, provoking players to strike opposing players with
their hurleys. Often preceded by "Give 'em- "
- Tint often used among older, but not very
common among younger generations, a small amount or remnant of
liquid. (See also 'Tilly)
- Tome adjective once used
amongst Galway people
- Topper, pointer,
parer, paro are often used to
refer to a "pencil sharpener".
- Wan - A woman. This is a corruption of the
word one under influence of the Gaelic word bean,
meaning woman. "You wanna see yer wan." = You
want to see that woman.
- Ware - Crockery to be washed. (principally
used in Limerick and the MidWest)
- Well Used as a welcome in the South East and
Louth, mainly in Waterford and Dundalk, and in Ulster as a welcome
instead of hello. Used sporadically in Mayo. Welcoming a male is
usually done "Wellboy" and a female is "Wellgirl"
- What about ye! - (informal slang) common
greating in Belfast. Similar to How are you? and sometimes
answered with 'Aye, Dead-on meaning 'Yeah, Cool/Good/Very
Well'. Other common greetings What's the craic?
which does not usually require an answer, or How's she
cuttin'? which is more popular in rural areas (similar to the
colloquial American greeting How's it hangin'?)
- Whisht - Meaning 'be quiet'. 'Hauld (Hold)
your whisht' is a common phrase in rural Munster and Cavan, and is
slowly going out of use. It probably comes from the Irish word
huist (quiet!, ie. an instruction given to children), or
éist (listen), which when said repeatedly becomes
"Whisht". It might also be related to the similar (but now archaic)
English or Scots whist .  .
- Wet - Some speakers, particularly in Connacht,
use the word "wet" as an adjective to describe the state of tea
while brewing - 'The tea's wet.' The explanation presumably derives
from the days when tea leaves were common, hence the act of pouring
boiling water onto the leaves made them "wet", and the tea was
ready to drink.
- Wet thing - A crude turn of phrase describing
a sexually attractive girl or woman. More recently, the term is
simply put as wet. The term is more common in reference to females
but can apply to males in certain contexts. "Jaysus, yer one over
there's a wet thing!" "That bird I met at Wesley was wet!
- Wile or Wild - can be both a
replacement for very, That child is wile good. or
an expression meaning something is bad, terrible or awful.
"Isn't the weather wile", "God it's wild that he died
so young". Extensively used throughout Donegal.
- Wojus - awful.
- Yoke - an unnamed thing, a whatchamacallit. Used commonly.
(In parts of Ireland users of recreational drugs often refer to
ecstasy tablets as "yokes". ) "Yokabus" is
another version, usually referring to a mechanical or electrical
contraption. Similar meaning words are thingymabob, thingymajig,
and a yokymabob. "How do you get this yoke to work?"