Irish Slang, It’s Almost Like Another Language!

Elizabeth Hurd is a student at Saginaw Valley State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Elizabeth is currently studying abroad with ISA in Galway, Ireland.

Having a bit of craic with my fellow ISAers.

When I first applied to study in Ireland, the one thing that went through my mind was, “At least I’ll be able to understand them! They speak English!” While it is true that it is easier to communicate with people because they do speak English, it’s also hard, because the slang is different here. It’s almost like another language! I have heard expressions here that I did not know existed, and I’ve learned that some common American words are not as appropriate in Ireland as they are in America. So, I thought that I would share some of the slang terms that I have learned, and am starting to use, over here.

1) Craic: (Pronounced “crack”) Now, don’t get freaked out by this term when you first hear it. When I first heard it, my mind went to a more taboo place than this word means. It is a really common term that is used in various expressions in Ireland. I heard about this word before I came to Ireland, and when I looked it up I saw that it was a term meaning “fun.” However, when I got over here, I found that it is used more generally than that. For example, if someone says “Oh, they were just having the craic” that means that whatever stupid behavior just took place, it’s okay, because they were just having fun. It’s like saying “YOLO” in America. Another phrase is “That was great craic!” which means it was fun, exciting, awesome, etc etc. The last one, and the expression that confused me the most, was “What’s the Craic?” This just means “What’s up? What’s happening? Any news?”

2) Lift: This is what you say when you want to ask/ thanks someone for a ride. “Ride” in Ireland has some not so appropriate connotations behind it, so therefore you never, and I mean NEVER, want to ask/ thank someone for a “ride.” When you ask someone for a ride, they either act very awkward or are very interested, and if you thank someone for a ride after getting out of their car, they look confused. I can personally vouch for both those reactions. Always, always ask/ thank them for a “lift.” Always.

3) Chips: Chips are French Fries, not Potato Chips. They will know what you are asking for if you ask for “fries” but if someone gives you fries and says “chips” don’t look surprised.

4) Taytos: This is what they call Potato Chips. Coming over here, I thought it was like in England when Chips were fries and Crisps were chips, but that’s not true. Over here all Potato Chips are referred to as “taytos.”

5) Class/ Nice: This means good. “Class” refers more to actions/ objects. Ex: “That jumper [sweater] is class.”  “Nice” generally refers to food: “The mint Ice Cream is really nice.”

6) Dear: If something is “dear” it means it was expensive. When I first heard this I thought of “dear” like it’s special. When one of my roommates said her shirt was “dear” I thought it was odd, until she started talking about money, then I got the picture.

7) Eejit: If someone is an “eejit” that means they’re acting stupid/ like an idiot. Girls typically refer to guys as a “bunch of eejits,” or at least the girls I live with do. It’s also common to hear someone say “I am such an eejit” when they do something wrong.

8) Shift: This means to kiss someone. If someone asks “Did you get the shift?” that means “Did you kiss them?” It’s an odd term, I will say, and when I first heard it, I was confused, until my roommates explained it to me.

The differences in slang is confusing at some points, but what I found is that it’s fun to hear the words, have them explained to you, and then explain the American equivalent. It leads to some interesting, and funny, discussions. Wherever you go when you’re abroad, it’s important to listen for common slang terms and then try to work them into your vocabulary. Not only will you be able to communicate better, but you’ll have some awesome phrases to take home!

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6 thoughts

  1. Just one thing they’re all right except the tayto one, some people might refer to all crisps (potato chips) as tayto but mostly when someone asks for a pack of Tayto they are referring to the brand Tayto. Most people in Dublin just say crisps and only say Tayto if they want a pack of Tayto crisps. :) I’m Irish by the way and your article is useful, I’ll use these examples for my students.

  2. Tayto is a crisp brand that’s popular here, we say crisps as well. Just lettin ye yanks know!

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