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    Irish Language Guide

    Gaelic & Hiberno


    Author: Eimear Quinn
    More by Eimear

    History of the Irish Language

    Today, English is the most widely-spoken language in Ireland, but it wasn’t always so. Before English, the inhabitants here spoke the Irish language (also known as Irish Gaelic). An old language that was spoken in Ireland for centuries, Irish nearly died out once the British began to enforce the widespread use of English.

    Happily, the Irish language has seen a massive revival in Ireland in recent years. The Gaelic Revival started in the late 19th and early 20th century, bringing Irish language, culture and tradition back to the spotlight.

    This impressive feat was originally brought on by Douglas Hyde, a founding member of the 1876 Cumann Buan-Choimeádta na Gaeilge (Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language). The society’s goal? Develop interest and protect Irish tradition, sport, music, folklore, dance, and of course the Irish language. And it has succeeded with gusto. Irish music fills the pubs many a night, sports like GAA and hurling are immensely popular as is Irish dance, oral storytelling and traditional folklore tales are told and retold, and of course, the Irish language has seen a comeback. Want to learn more about Irish history? Read our History of Ireland for an overview of Ireland through the ages here.

    Quick Links

    Useful Words & Phrases in Irish Gaelic

    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

    Meaning: “Hello”  (literal translation of “god be with you”)


    Meaning: Welcome

    Céad Míle Fáilte

    Meaning: A hundred, thousand welcomes


    Meaning: “Goodbye” with (literal translation of “safe”)

    Oíche Mhaith

    Meaning: Good night

    Póg mo thóin!

    Meaning: Kiss my arse!

    Craic agus Ceol

    Meaning: Fun and music

    Gabh Mo Leithscéal

    Meaning: Excuse me


    Meaning: Refers to a primarily Irish-speaking region

    Go raibh maith agat

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

    Déan deifir!

    Meaning: Hurry up!

    Is fearr Gaeilge briste, na Bearla cliste

    Meaning: Broken Irish is better than clever English


    Meaning: Literally means “health” ; used as a drinking toast.

    Ádh mór ort

    Meaning: Good luck to you

    Le do thoil

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

    Meaning: Yes


    Meaning: No

    Maidin mhaith

    Meaning: Good morning

    Where to Visit Irish Gaeltacht?

    Dingle Peninsula

    This iconic peninsula in Kerry is a popular destination for outdoor lovers largely based on the presence of the Dingle Way. However, most visitors stay in and around Dingle town. On the northern side of the peninsula, communities are smaller and more scattered, supporting several community pockets of Irish speakers. Dingle and the nearby Blasket Islands have an important Irish language literary tradition. Just go to the pub and listen to the locals – it’s likely you’ll hear it spoken!

    West Cork

    The peninsulas are one of Ireland’s most wild and isolated regions, even today. They are simply far away from Dublin, Limerick and other larger cities, leaving West Cork’s small communities tight-knit and attached to tradition. There are several villages and townlands here where Irish is still the spoken language, and kept so by West Cork’s wild and far-flung landscapes.


    Connemara is perhaps the most famous of the Gaeltacht regions. Connemara itself is fabled for its beauty, and the rugged mountains, stunning coastlines and blanket bogs have drawn visitors for centuries. Located near Galway, there are a number of towns and villages that are part of the Gaeltacht. Due to the region’s iconic landscapes and national park, Connemara’s Gaeltacht is one of the easiest and most popular regions to discover.


    Nicknamed “the Forgotten County,” Donegal is cut off from the rest of Ireland politically and geographically. Historically speaking, Donegal was the last holdout against the British, maintaining a degree of independence until the Flight of the Earls in the 1600s. Due to this combination, Donegal has maintained a rebellious streak, including pride in Irish tradition. Though not as well-developed as other locations listed, some rural northern sections of Donegal are part of the Gaeltacht.

    Aran Islands

    Islands are often microcosms of culture. Self-contained, islands often retain tradition better than mainland communities. The Aran Islands are Ireland’s most famous Gaeltacht islands. Though not huge, the Aran Islands are still among Ireland’s largest communities, and Irish is spoken widely throughout the island. Irish playwright J.M. Synge famously spent time on the Aran Islands to learn Irish and get in touch with his Irish heritage.

    Cape Clear

    This island off of West Cork was likely the last view of Europe most emigrants ever saw of Ireland as they left in boats headed to new lives in the Americas, Australia and beyond. Though small – the population is not much over 100 – it is well-known as part of the Gaeltacht. Not only that, it is a beautiful place to visit, with great Atlantic views and a mild climate.

    Have we piqued your curiosity about the Irish language? If you want to learn a few Irish phrases to use on your next trip to Ireland or even try your hand at learning some Irish Gaelic, read on for our essential guide to the Irish language.

    Things You Will Hear in Hiberno-English

    Irish Sayings and phrases

    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” 

    Fair play to ye

    Meaning: Well done
    How it’s used: “Thanks for doing that, fair play to ye” 

    How’s the form?

    Meaning: How are you?


    Meaning: Ok/good
    How it’s used: “How are you?” “I’m grand thanks” |  “The weather is grand today”


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

    Not a loss on me

    Meaning: I’m well or I’m good
    How it’s used: “How are you?” “Ah, not a loss on me” 

    Giving Out

    Meaning: Chastise, scold, complain, moan, rant
    How it’s used:Don’t be giving out to me – it wasn’t my fault!” 

    Slag off

    Meaning: Jeer or make fun of someone
    How it’s used: “Don’t be slagging her off behind her back” 


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

    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”

    Cute Hoor

    Meaning: Someone who’s wiser than they appear
    How it’s used: “Don’t be fooled, he’s a real cute hoor”


    Meaning: funny, fun, humorous
    How it’s used: “That show last night was gas craic!” 

    Cop on / Catch yourself on / Wise up

    Meaning: Be wise, become aware of something, come back to your senses
    How it’s used: “Would you ever catch yourself on and wise up!


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


    Meaning: When occupants remain inside a pub after closing time.
    How it’s used: “There was a lock in the pub last night”

    Eejit or Gobshite

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

    Act the maggot

    Meaning: Naughty, messing around, being silly/stupid
    How it’s used: “Ah now, don’t be acting the maggot!”


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

    Get 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 profile More by Eimear


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