Essential Irish Phrases for First-Time Travelers

By Sarah A. Lybrand

English is the most commonly spoken language in Ireland—but that doesn’t mean you’ll always understand it.

The vast majority of people in Ireland speak English; not only is it an official language, it's also the most commonly-spoken. The other official language is Irish, which is to say Gaelic, but only about 30% of the population speak it.

However, even if the words spoken are English — how the people in Ireland use them are completely unique!

So to sound like you've come straight from kissing the Blarney Stone (a limestone block in the Blarney castle said to give one "the gift of gab"), here are a few key translations and phrases that'll have you chatting like a local in no time:

Greeting your neighbors

Sure look it!

“Sure/you don’t say/ok!”

This go-to Irish phrase can mean, quite literally, almost anything. It can mean "yup" or "we'll carry on" or "sure does" or as a response to almost any question or comment. If you only learn one Irish phrase, this one’s useful!

Dia dhuit! *(“gia-ghlewitch”) *

“Hello! (Translation: God to you!)”

Craic (“Krak”)

“Great / a fun time / news & gossip"
In use: "How are you, how's the craic?"

‘Craic’ is a commonly-heard Irish phrase that's a bit hard to pin down. It can mean 'great', or 'a fun, good time'. "Bad craic” can mean 'bad form' or bad behavior.

Fair play

“Well done!”
Note: Can be used sarcastically or not


More common in the south of Ireland, means “very,” but pronounced like “queer.”
In use: "It's quare warm today, isn't it?"

I will, yeah / I will in me eye

“I likely won't” / “Um no way”
In use: *"Do you want to go sky-diving with me today?" “Ha! I will yeah. What time will you be back? *

Gettin’ Around

Messages / Doing the messages

“Groceries” / “Grocery shopping”
In use: "Heading out to do the messages, need anything?"


In use: "Gonna head to the jacks."


“Anywhere that isn't here”
In use: "Where Jack go?" "Oh, he's beyont."


“Field Ditch”
In use: “Careful not to fall into that shuck”

Eating & Drinking

Pint of Gat

"Pint of Guinness"

Sláinte (“slawn-che”)

“Cheers!” / “To health”!




"Sandwich" (made with "sliced pan", or sandwich bread)


“Soft drink”

Bag o' Taytos

“Package of chips”

Naggin / shoulder

“Fifth” of / “Handle” of (liquor)


In use: “Go grab the minerals from the press, would you?”

Up to no good

Ossified / Fluthered

“Very drunk” / “Very, very drunk”

Acting the maggot

“Acting the fool / misbehaving”


“It’s all gone wrong”


“Trunk of the car”




“Underhanded person”



All told, the Irish are proud of their unique slang, language, and culture — and certainly appreciate it when visitors make an effort to fit in. So when you travel, keep a little Irish in your heart — and a few of these key phrases in your back pocket!



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