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Hiberno-English

[hahy-bur-noh-ing-glish or, often, -lish]
Hiberno-English also known as Anglo-Irish and Irish English is English as spoken in Ireland, partly the result of the interaction of the English and Irish languages. English was mainly brought to Ireland during the Plantations of Ireland in the sixteenth century and established itself in Dublin and in the area of Leinster known as the Pale. It was later introduced into Ulster during the Plantation of Ulster through Belfast and the Lagan Valley in the seventeenth century. The linguistic influence of the Irish language is most evident in Gaeltachtaí, areas where Irish is still widely spoken, as well as in areas where, before the complete adoption of English, Irish continued to be spoken for longer than in other areas.

The standard spelling and grammar of Irish-English are largely the same as common British English. However, some unique characteristics exist, especially in the spoken language, owing to the influence of the Irish language on the pronunciation of English.

Pronunciation

Hiberno-English retains many phonemic differentiations, which have merged in other English accents. Phonetic transcriptions are given using the IPA.

  • With some local exceptions, 'r' is pronounced wherever it occurs in the word, making Irish English a generally rhotic dialect. The exceptions to this are most notable in Drogheda and some other eastern towns, whose accent is distinctly non-rhotic. R is pronounced as a postalveolar tap/fricative [ɾ] in conservative accents. Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh and Jackie Healy-Rae are both good examples of this.
  • /t/ is not usually pronounced as a plosive where it does not occur word-initially; instead, it is pronounced as a slit fricative /t̞/, between [s] and [ʃ].
  • The distinction between w /w/ and wh /ʍ/, as in wine vs. whine is preserved.
  • In some varieties, the dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ become dental stops [t̪ʰ] and [d̪] respectively, 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 other varieties, this occurs only to /θ/ while /ð/ is left unchanged. Some dialects of Irish have a "slender" (palatalized) d as /ðʲ/ and this may transfer over to English pronunciation. In still others, both dental fricatives are present since slender dental stops are lenited to [θʲ] and [ðʲ].
  • The distinction between /ɑɹ/ and /oːɹ/ in horse and hoarse is preserved, though not usually in Dublin.
  • The distinction between [ɛɹ]-[ʌɹ]-[ʌɹ] in herd-bird-curd is made. This feature is in decline amongst young speakers.
  • /l/ is never velarized.
  • The vowels in words as boat and cane are monophthongs: [boːt], and [keːn] respectively.
  • The /aɪ/ in "night" may be pronounced [ɔɪ] or [əɪ]
  • In some varieties, speakers make no distinction between the [ʌ] in putt and the [ʊ] in put, pronouncing both as the latter.
  • In some old-fashioned varieties, words spelled with ea and pronounced with [iː] in RP are pronounced with [eː], for example meat, beat.
  • In words like took where "oo" usually represents /ʊ/, speakers may use /uː/.
  • The /ʌ/ of words such as cut tends to be rounded to [ɔ] in most varieties (cf. Irish phonology).
  • The a in any and many is sometimes pronounced as a "short a".
  • /eɪ/ often becomes /ɛ/ in words such as gave and came (becoming "gev" and "kem")

Dublin English

As with London and New York, Dublin has several dialects that differ significantly based on class and age group. Some features include:

  • Traditionally the /ai/ vowel in words like "price" and "ride" ranges in pronunciation from [əi] in working-class speech to [ai] in middle-class dialects. However, among speakers born after 1970, the pronunciation [ɑɪ] (more typical of other Hiberno-English dialects) has become more frequent.
  • The /au/ diphthong in 'around' and 'south' is fronted to [æu] or [ɛu]. Upper middle-class speech tends to preserve this as [au] (note that the tense off-glide slightly distinguishes this diphthong from American or English pronunciations).
  • Low-back vowels are typically lengthened, hence 'dog' becomes [dɑːɡ], 'lost' becomes [lɑːst], etc.
  • The 'horse-hoarse' distinction in other Irish dialects is sometimes lacking modern dialects. Both are usually pronounced with the same low-back vowel (i.e. [hɑɹs] or [hɔɚs] in upper-middle-class dialects.
  • Working-class dialects are weakly rhotic, with some historically non-rhotic pronunciations (e.g. [pʌʊtɐ] for 'porter'). Rhotic speakers pronounce written /r/ in all positions, while non-rhotic speakers pronounce /r/ only if it is followed by a vowel sound (see "linking and intrusive R"), and not always even then.
  • In upper-middle class speech, however, final 'r' is often retroflex, a feature which creates a strongly rhotic auditory effect, and as such a clear means of disassociation from the city's weakly-rhotic vernacular.
  • Final 't' is heavily lenited in working-class Dublin English so that 'sit' can be pronounced [sɪh], [sɪʔ] or even [sɪ].
  • In younger speakers, intervocalic 't' may be tapped as in North American and Australian English (i.e. 'patted' realized as [paɾəd]).

Grammar derived from Irish

The syntax of the Irish language is quite different from that of English. Various aspects of Irish syntax have influenced Hiberno-English, though it should be noted that many of these idiosyncrasies are disappearing in urban areas and among the younger population.

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" or "no".

  • "Are you coming home soon?" "I am."
  • "Is your mobile charged?" "It's not."

There is no indefinite article in Irish (fear means "a 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 British 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 tú, but 'you are [repeatedly]' is bíonn tú. Both forms are used with the verbal noun (equivalent to the English present participle) to create compound tenses.

Some Irish speakers of English, especially in rural areas, especially Mayo/Sligo, 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 present:

  • "He does be working every day."
  • "They do be talking on their mobiles a lot."
  • "He bees doing a lot of work at school." (Rare)
  • "It's him I do be thinking of."

Irish has no pluperfect tense: instead, "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, tar éis, 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 spoken perfect can be seen:

  • "I have the car fixed." Tá an carr deisithe agam.
  • "I have my breakfast eaten." Tá mo bhricfeasta ite agam.

Irish has separate forms for the second person singular () and the second person plural (sibh). Mirroring Irish, and almost every other 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, north Connacht 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 [jiːz] and the Leinster pronunciation being [jɪz].

  • "Did ye all go to see it?"
  • "None of youse have a clue!"
  • "Are yis not finished yet?"

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 anois.
  • "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 bhfuil?
  • "The bank's closed now, yeah?" Tá an banc dúnta anois, an bhfuil?

Though because of the particularly insubstantive yes and no in Irish, (the nach bhfuil? and an bhfuil? being the 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, nach bhfuil?

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 intensification.

  • 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.). To be more precise, Irish uses a prepositional pronoun that combines ag "at" and me "me" to create agam. In 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 frequent

  • 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 meanings.

  • Is it yourself that is in it? An tú féin atá ann?

Another idiom is this thing or that thing described as 'this man here' or 'that man there', which also features in Newfoundland English in Canada.

  • 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 (would have).

  • 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')

Bring and take: Irish use of these words differs from that of English, because it follows the Gaelic grammar for beir and tóg. English usage is determined by direction; person determines Irish usage. So, in English, one takes "from here to there", and brings it "to here from there". Nevertheless, 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).

  • Do not forget to bring your umbrella with you when you go
  • (To a child) Hold my hand: I do not want someone to take you.

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. "What's ye'r weather like over in France this time o' the year?"

The verb "mitch" is 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 Cornwall).

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" [lɛˈtʃi]

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 "bilowen" or "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).

A sliced 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 Beara Peninsula, a long shirt is called by older folk a "shemmy shirt" from the French "chemise".

'Pismires', meaning 'ants', is still used in parts of Cavan and widely across Mayo, Sligo, Roscommon, Longford and Leitrim; see also in Shakespeare.

For influence from Scotland see Ulster Scots.

Turns of phrase

Amn't 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 English

Arra is used also. Arra tends to be used after something bad has happened, when someone is looking on the bright side ("Arra, we'll go next week", "Arra, 'tis not the end of the world"). Arra comes from the Irish word "dhera" (pronounced "yerra"). As a result, the words yerra and erra are also used in different parts of the country.

Come here to me now, Come here and I'll tell ya something or (in Limerick) Come here I wan' cha 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 bit of information.

Various insults have been transferred directly from Irish and have a very mild meaning in English: e.g. Lúdramán, Amadán, pleidhce, rogue, eejit (idiot), 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. As its provenance is not Irish, some do not consider it to be Hiberno-English.

Also more 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 such a feature of Corkonian speech that it is now commonly lampooned when imitating the accent.

Reduplication is an 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'.

So 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!"). 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.

Sure (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 indignation.

To give out to somebody is to scold that person. ("Me Ma gave out to me for coming home late last night"). 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.

Will 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 lights'. The expression is used in this old song, partly just to make a rhyme:

And yer man / Mick McCann / From the banks of the Bann / Was the skipper of the Irish Rover.

  • 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 a mild abusive equivalent in force to "bleeding" or "darned". It is not a parallel of the English word "fucking", despite their similarity, and is generally less offensive. It appears often in the memoir Angela's Ashes. "Feck" is the corresponding expletive. The noun "fecker" is slightly stronger but not vulgar. These terms were lately introduced to Britain by Father Ted. (Mrs. Doyle refers to "feck" as "the f-word" and "fuck" as "the bad f-word" in one episode.) 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 wanted here").
  • 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 Hiberno-English.
  • 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 tonight".
  • 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.

There are many terms for having consumed a drop too much drink, many are used elsewhere, but the Irish tendency is to attempt to find the most descriptive adjective yet on each occasion. Some examples: "loaded", "blocked", "twisted", "full" (common in Ulster), "as full as a Gypsy's tit", "spannered","Spangled", "scuttered", "menashed", "stocious/stotious", "bananas", "baloobas" (common in Cavan), "locked", "langered", "mouldy" (pron. mowldy as in "fowl"; used in Galway esp.), "polluted", "flootered", "plastered", "bolloxed", "banjaxed", "well out of it", "wankered", "fucked", "fuckered","paraplegic" (common in Kilkenny), "ossified", "binned", "rat-arsed”, "gee-eyed", "demented" "flahed drunk" "langers altogether" "in shit drunk" (common in Cork), "buckled", "steaming"(common in Donegal), "messy", "rotten", "out of me tree" (common in Limerick) "off me head altogether", "off my face", "sloppy", "cabbaged", "wasted", "paralytic/palatic", "full as a boot", "full up", "full as the bingo bus" (common in Louth), "legless", "hammered", "circling over Shannon", "blootered", "squooshed", "banjoed", "mullered", "bingoed", "mangled", "ruined", "landed", "cant even see my hand in front of my face" "half-tore", "oiled", "jarred" (not too drunk, "I'm not drunk, I'm just a bit jarred!"), "scorched", "in the horrors"(common in Waterford), "stoned" (Louth/South Monaghan only), "I'm off my tits", "pissed", "cut and half cut", "flamin'" (common in Kerry), "sozzled", "blottoed", "trolleyed", "sloshed", "wrecked", "rancid", "goosed", "off my game", "off my trolley", "gimped", "destroyed", "rote", "rote off", "guitaroed" '"I wasn't banjoed I was guitaroed"', "steamed" (common in Mayo) (Phrases in italics are more "colourful")

In naming Irish counties, the word "county" precedes the name of specific counties (as in "County Antrim", "County Cork" etc.) rather than follow it as in the names of counties in some other English-speaking lands. Similarly lakes and rivers have the name after the description e.g. Lough Neagh or River Liffey. This comes from the same word order used in Gaelic.

Irish English also always uses the "light L" sound. The naming of the letter "H" as "haitch" is standard, while the letter "R" is called "oar", the letter "A" is often pronounced "ah", and the letter "Z" is referred to as "e-zed".

Some turns of phrase are more localised and their meaning may not be widespread throughout the country, while others are more transient and fall out of use after a number of years.

Lexicon

Hiberno-English vocabulary is largely the same as British English, though there are variances, especially with reference to certain goods, services and institutions. Examples that would come into everyday conversation include:

  • A boy (pronounced bi/bye/by)da kid - Very popular among working class youths. Meaning, "fair play to you", "good one", etc.
  • Acting the maggot, used mainly by Dubliners to describe dawdling along or playing-up, e.g "Ah Sean, stop acting the maggot, and eat your dinner".
  • Amadn - 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 verb.
  • Beor - A good-looking woman, also used when talking about some one's girlfriend e.g. my beor. See feen. Alternate spellings: bjeor,Bjëor" beour, byoor, byore,beure''. Etymology: b'ōr' (Shelta); and from Anglo-Saxon. Most common in parts of the West and South of Ireland.
  • Bold describes someone (usually a child) who is impudent, naughty or badly behaved. The British English meaning, "brave", is rendered 'bauld' or bould, as in 'the bould Thady Quill'.
  • 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").
  • Chiseler - Dublin dialect for a child.
  • Cod acting, or acting the cod. Playing at being an eejit (q.v.). Used mainly by the over-30s.
  • Coolaboola (also coolyaboolya) is an Irish word that is getting a slight revival amongst younger people in Ireland. Its general usage is as an affirmation similar to OK or just 'cool'. It gains usage in the Gaeltacht colleges popular among Irish students in the summer, where speaking English is forbidden.
  • 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.
  • 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 practise for country people to go in the back door of the house they were visiting, so they were dubbed Culchies. It may 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".
  • Da Dublin and Ulster slang for father, as in "Me da doesn't do too well at the horses!"
  • Dead on - (adjective) cool, fashionable, laid-back, relaxed, easy-going (compare sound). Commonly used in Ulster.
  • Deadly -(Dublin) Slang for brilliant, for example, ' The 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 Netherlands. See Delftware.
  • Desperate - often taken to mean unsavoury or (mildly), terrible - e.g. "It's a desperate rainy day", or as an intensifier of "very", as with Fierce.
  • Dingen means 'very good', e.g. the film (fillum) was dingen. From the Gaelic 'daingean' meaning solid, secure etc.
  • 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 on Ulster. This is similar and probably related to Scots "Drouthy".
  • Eejit (ee-jit), an idiot, but generally not as strong and not as offensive as using the term 'idiot'.
  • Evening starts rather earlier in the day in Ireland than it does in British English. Any time after midday is likely to be described as the "evening", whereas in Britain the evening does not start until about 5:00 p.m.
  • 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 him.
  • Feck 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 Cork.
  • Footpath is used in Ireland where "pavement" is in British English and "sidewalk" in American English.
  • 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.
  • Gas - adjective meaning 'hilarious'. For example, "He's a gas man, isn't he?"
  • 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.
  • 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'. Often misunderstood by Americans as dismissive 'go away (from me)'.
  • Gombeen originally referred to a usurer (from the Irish gaimbín, diminutive of "lump"), but now refers to any underhand or corrupt activity.
  • 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, commonly found in everyday colloquial language. To describe something as grand is to describe it as being acceptable, average, or in a general state of well-being. Examples; 'How are you? I'm grand.' 'Are you sure that's okay? It's grand.'"
  • Grindsprivate tuition (usually for secondary school students)
  • 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 used interchangeably in Dublin), while older people rarely use the American “cops”. Mainly the travelling community uses “Shades”.
  • 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
  • Howsa goin Used as a greeting in parts of Connacht.
  • Jackeen - A derogatory countryman's name for a Dubliner. Cf. Irish Seáinín, "shoneen", an Anglicized Irish person.
  • Jacks : lavatory. Cf. American English "john".
  • 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 - A euphemism for Jeez; used as expression of amazement.
  • Jaysus - The same as Jesus just pronounced differently
  • 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'.
  • Jouk - Used instead of 'go', for instance to 'jouk' down the road'. Common in Ulster and north Louth. Tends to mean to go cautiously, sneakily or stealthily, for example, 'I managed to jouk away from work early'.
  • 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.
  • Lethal- Dublin slang for excellent, for example, ' The craic was lethal'.
  • Legend - Someone who is of high status, or is very cool. "That kid over there is such a legend". Often shortened to "ledge", pronounced "lej". "He's a ledge, he is".
  • Loodar/Ludar - a fool; comes from an abbreviation and Anglicisation of the Gaelic Lúdramán.
  • Lug - An Ear. This expression is also found in the North of England and is probably of Norse origin.
  • Mar dhea (Irish "as it were"; sometimes spelled maryeah, maryah) - used at the end of a sentence to cast doubt on the claim just uttered For example, 'Mary didn't go to work because she has the flu, mar dhea' suggests that the speaker believes that Mary is lying about being ill.
  • May Fayner - A selfish person, from the Irish Mé Féin (meaning 'Me Myself') and adapted from Sinn Féiner, colloquially a supporter of Sinn Féin.
  • 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' someone.
  • 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.
  • Mind - Meaning to, "to look after", or in other cases, "remember" - e.g. "mind that time we went on holiday?"
  • Minerals means soft drinks.
  • Mouth like a Malahide cod - Dublin slang for someone who talks a lot.
  • 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 see Culchie.
  • Musha meaning "indeed", "well", "sure" with a somewhat resigned sentiment. Either from the Irish "mhuise" meaning "indeed" or "más ea" meaning "if it is so". Joyce used it in "Dubliners" and "Finnegans Wake" - Musha, God be with them times, from the former.
  • Nohjis - Twisted version of odious. Often used with the word 'fierce. 'The craic last night was nohjis fierce'. Common in Cavan.
  • Oul' fella/man and oul' wan/lass(y) are used to describe one's father or mother respectively.
  • 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".
  • Plain as in a 'pint of plain', a standard pint of stout beer.
  • Poluka - 'idiot'. "Ye big Poluka ye"
  • Press is almost invariably used instead of cupboard. The hot press is the airing cupboard.
  • Quare used liberally in place of 'very', "That was quare good". Very common in the south east especially County Wexford
  • Queer used to describe something strange or unordinary, "that was a queer article in the paper"
  • Ramp is used generally to refer to a hump or bump. Example: Speed Ramps
  • Ratchet is a Cork and Kerry equivalent of "yoke".
  • Rop is a term, usually applied to younger females, generally used as a far milder form of 'bitch'. "She's after getting muck all over my new carpet, the little rop!"
  • 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 there yesterday!"
  • Sliced Pan - sliced bread.
  • 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.
  • Scoop is used to describe an alcoholic beverage i.e. "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 pints.
  • 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 meaning.
  • Scratcher - Bed. Used in Dublin lexicon.
  • Sham - a young man or boy. This word has come to be used as an exclamation by the Irish scanger community, 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, for example 'All right sham, how's it goin?’ Etymology apparently from Shelta šam.
  • scanger is a derogatory term for a person with questionable taste. 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, parents etc. "Sketch!" is shouted if someone is coming. 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.
  • Story used as a form of greeting. Often used on its own or can be used in conjunction with a word like feen i.e. "Story feen"
  • Sport - fun as in "We had good sport". This is old English and crops up in Shakespeare where in King Lear Gloucester boasts of a liaison, which begot him, a bastard son, "Yet was his mother fair and there was good sport at his making."
  • 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. Although the term itself is singular, - Tayto - the word is pluralized in use (as in "Go to the shop and get me a bag of Taytos.") In Dublin, especially in working class areas, the alternative crips is commonly used (as in "Get us a packet o' crips will ye?" or even "a package o' crips")
  • Tearin' away is usually used to respond positively to an informal greeting. Usually it is preceded with an ah'
  • Tear off To leave in an abrupt fashion: "he tore off"
  • Tear the arse out of it To go to an extreme, make something ridiculous: "he tore the arse out of it when he bought the machine gun "
  • 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
  • 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 meaning 'great'.
  • Topper, pointer, parer, paro are often used to refer to a "pencil sharpener".
  • Tree - pronunciation of three in many areas.
  • Unreal Used when something is in the extreme, e.g. "It was unreal bad", "That was an unreal curry chip".
  • Wan - an individual, particularly a female individual. This is a corruption of the word one under influence of the Gaelic word bean, meaning woman.
  • 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 Dead-on meaning 'Very Well'. Other common greetings What's the craic? which does not usually require an answer, or How's she Cuttin'? (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 .
  • Whopper - Very Good: 'That dinner was whopper.' Can also be used with 'Pure' to mean exceptionally well: 'That dinner was pure whopper'
  • 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.
  • Yin - Central and Ulster Scots for one. Used commonly in English in Northern and Eastern Ulster, especially in rural areas.

Notes

See also

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