25 Irish Slang Terms You Should Know

Lukas Bischoff/ iStock via Getty Images Plus
Lukas Bischoff/ iStock via Getty Images Plus

People in Ireland speak English, but not exactly the "Queen’s English." With a little help from the Gaelic language—called Irish—the populace of the Emerald Isle have devised their very own collection of weird and wonderful words and phrases. Here are a few Irish colloquialisms to help you understand the next person you meet from Derry, Dublin, or Donegal.

1. Craic

Craic is pronounced “crack,” and it means general banter or fun. Originally it was spelled crack when it was used by Ulster Scots. The Gaelic spelling of the word was not widely used in Ireland until it was popularized as the catchphrase in the Irish-language TV show SBB ina Shuí starting in the 1970s.

2. Wee

This term is used to describe something or someone who is very small.

3. Wean

Pronounced "wayne," this word means child.

4. Lethal or Leefs

These terms are mainly used northwestern Ireland, and both mean “great.” And leefs is also short for lethal.

5. Quare

Pronounced "kware,” this odd-looking word can be used in a variety of ways to mean great, very, and terrific.

6. Feck off

Quite possibly Ireland’s greatest linguistic achievement, this phrase is the perfect way to curse without technically cursing. Replace the e with a u, and you have what this slang term means.

7. Dooter

A short, or wee (see above), walk.

8. Saunter

This term refers to a slightly brisker walk that’s almost a strut, but with less self-confidence.

9. Aye and Naw

You can say aye for yes and naw for no.

10. Yes

While it might be confusing, yes means hello.

11. Lashing

This term means it’s raining heavily. For example, if it’s lashing rain, you may want to just stay inside.

12. Slag

This word is used as a verb and it means to make a joke at someone else’s expense

13. Wired to the moon

You know that feeling you get when you’ve enjoyed a fairly big Tuesday night in a club, and then stumble into work the next morning after downing six espresso shots at the nearest Starbucks? That’s what some might call being wired to the moon.

14. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

When it comes to blasphemy, there are no half measures in Ireland. As a historically religious country, blasphemy is relatively frowned upon, so when an Irish person deems it absolutely necessary to take the Lord’s name in vain, they use the entire holy family.

15. Cat

You can use this word to say something is bad or awful. According to Ireland Calling it’s most likely short for the phrase “cat on a melodeon.” A melodeon is a small organ, so we can imagine a feline walking across one would not sound that great.

16. Brock

You can also use this word to describe something that’s bad.

17. Eejit

According to Claddagh Design, you can use this term to describe someone as an idiot, but in an affectionate sort of way.

18.While man/woman

Again, another term to describe a person who isn’t so bright.

19. Melter

Yet another way to describe a person who is a bit of an idiot, or at least very annoying.

20. Haven’t a baldy notion

If you’re looking for a new way to say “I have no idea,” try this phrase on for size.

21. Wind your neck in

The perfect way to take someone who is overly arrogant down a peg or two? Tell them to wind their neck in. It basically means “be quiet!”

22. Yonks

This means a long time.

23. Bake

This is a word for face.

24. Juke

A quick, or wee, look.

25. All lured

Another way to say you’re feeling delighted.

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Wa Wa Wee Wa: The Origin of Borat's Favorite Catchphrase

Wa wa wee wa! Sacha Baron Cohen is back in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020).
Wa wa wee wa! Sacha Baron Cohen is back in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020).
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

When Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was released in 2006, a new audience was exposed to Borat Sagdiyev, a “journalist” portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen who had made frequent appearances on the comedian’s Da Ali G Show.

Soon, in our country there was problem: People mimicked Borat’s catchphrases, "very nice" and “wa wa wee wa,” incessantly. The latter phrase was used to denote surprise or happiness on Borat’s part. While some may have assumed it was made up, it turns out that it actually means something.

Wa wa wee wa is Hebrew, which Cohen speaks throughout the film and which helped make Borat a hit in Israel. (Cohen is himself Jewish.) It was taken from an Israeli comedy show and is the equivalent of the word wow. Reportedly, the expression was popular among Israelis, and they appreciated Cohen’s use of it.

The original Borat also sees Cohen singing a popular Hebrew folk song, “Koom Bachur Atzel,” or “get up lazy boy,” among other Hebrew mentions. It remains to be seen how much of it he’ll be speaking in the sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It premieres on Amazon Prime Friday, October 23.

[h/t The Los Angeles Times]