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Irish Phrases and Sayings: Your Essential Pocket Phrasebook

7 min read

This short phrasebook will teach you a few Irish sayings and phrases that are potent mix of slang, swearwords and Gaelic.

In Ireland, we speak the language of English – but in our own, unique way!

See more below!


By Eimear Quinn, Adventure Co-ordinator
More by Eimear

Useful words & phrases in Irish


These Irish sayings and phrases will have you befriending the locals – or even simply helping you follow a basic conversation!

Here are some basic useful words and phrases in Irish. It’s important to note that how these are pronounced will differ throughout the country, so we have provided some links to help with pronunciation!

Dia duit

Translation: “Hello” and with a literal translation of “god be with you”



Translation: “Goodbye” with a literal translation of “safe”


Craic agus Ceol

Translation: Fun and music


Le do thoil

Translation: “Please” with a literal translation of “with your will”



Go raibh maith agat

Translation: “Thank you” with a literal translation of “may you have goodness”




Translation: Literally translated as “health”

How it’s used: An equivalent to “cheers!”, it is commonly as a drinking toast in both Ireland and Scotland



Translation: Yes




Translation: No


Maidin mhaith

Translation: Good morning



Translation: Welcome!



Oíche Mhaith

Translation: Good night



Gabh Mo Leithscéal

Translation: Excuse me



Déan deifir!

Translation: Hurry up




Meaning: Refers to a primarily Irish-speaking region


Ádh mór ort!

Translation: Good luck to you!


Céad Míle Fáilte

 Translation: A hundred, thousand welcomes



Póg mo thóin!

 Translation: Kiss my arse!



Is fearr Gaeilge briste, na Bearla cliste

Translation: Broken Irish is better than clever English


Irish Sayings and phrases

Things you will hear in Hiberno-English

In Ireland, our version of the English language – known as Hiberno English – is just that wee bit different! You’ll encounter a vast array of slang on your travels so here are you few that might come in handy.


Meaning: News, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation
How it’s used: “What’s the craic?” or “We had great craic last night” 


Meaning: Ok/good

How it’s used: “How are you?” “I’m grand thanks” | “I’m sure it will be grand” | “The weather is grand today”


Cute Hoor

Meaning: Someone who’s wiser than they appear or who quietly engineers things to their own advantage
How it’s used: “Don’t be fooled, he’s a real cute hoor” 


Giving Out

Meaning: Chastise, scold, complain, moan, rant

How it’s used: “Don’t be giving out to me – it wasn’t my fault!” | “I had your mother in the kitchen giving out about the weather!” 



Meaning: Naughty
How it’s used: “That child is so bold”


Gas / Geg

Meaning: funny, fun, humorous
How it’s used: “That show last night was gas craic!” | “That man at the pub was a geg!”



Meaning: When occupants remain inside a pub after closing time and continue drinking. It’s illegal and we obviously don’t encourage this.

Sample Sentence“There was a lock in the pub last night”


Meaning: Soft drinks
How it’s used: “Will you grab me a mineral at the shop?”



Meaning: Thin slices of bacon
How it’s used“I would murder a rasher sandwich right now”

Act the maggot

Meaning: Naughty, messing around, being silly/stupid

How it’s used: “That fella was acting the maggot on the street last night” | “Ah now, don’t be acting the maggot!”



Meaning: Bad, terrible, awful
How it’s used: “That soccer match was brutal”



Meaning: Amazing, brilliant, awesome

How it’s used: “The weather is savage today!” or simply, “That’s savage”


Slag off

Meaning: Jeer or make fun of someone

How it’s used: “Don’t be slagging her off behind her back” | “Ah sure, it’s only a big of slagging”

Lose your rag

 Meaning: Lose your temper, throw a tantrum

How it’s used: “If I hear that song once more, I’ll lose my rag”


Fair play to ye

Meaning: Well done

How it’s used: “Thanks for doing that, fair play to ye” | “I hear you came first in the race, fair play to ye”

Cop on / Catch yourself on / Wise up

Meaning: Be wise, become aware of something, come back to your senses

How it’s used: “You’d think he would have some cop on” | “Would you ever catch yourself on and wise up!


Eejit / Gobshite

Meaning: Idiot, fool

How it’s used: “He was a real eejit that fella” | “You’re acting like a gobshite!”


Are you well? / How’s the form?

Meaning: How are you?


Not a loss on me

Meaning: I’m well or I’m grand

How it’s used: “How are you?” “Ah, not a loss on me” 


Irish Sayings and phrases

No one in Ireland ever says...

  • Top of the morning to you
  • To be sure, to be sure
  • Anything about leprechauns or pots of gold…unless of course, it’s in the National Leprechaun Museum.

… so please don’t use these stereotypes!

Now that you know a few Irish sayings, you’re ready for your next trip to Ireland!

Meet the Author: Eimear Quinn

“Originally from Northern Ireland, Eimear is particularly interested in gardening from a Permaculture perspective, exploring the Irish landscape, understanding the rich and wonderful world of Irish mythology, legend and folklore, and preserving Irish language, tradition and music.”

View profileMore by Eimear

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