17 Irish Sayings You Should Know

From ‘craic’ and ‘sláinte’ to ‘céad míle fáilte’ and ‘may the road rise up to meet you,’ you’ll want to use these Irish words and phrases on St. Paddy’s Day—and beyond.

These sayings are great craic.
These sayings are great craic. / Richard Drury/DigitalVision/Getty Images

According to Tourism Ireland’s most recent insights, Ireland plays host to over 11 million visitors every year. Aside from the country’s vibrant pub scene, a key draw for many is the thriving Irish culture, of which language is a huge part.

The origins of the Irish language can be traced back more than 2000 years, and it’s still one of the official languages of the country, although its fluent speakers are dwindling. However, Irish lads and lasses still have a playful and very specific type of slang, and it’s also not uncommon for people to drop Irish words and sayings into English sentences at random, which can make following conversations pretty confusing (especially after a few drinks!). Whether you’re spending St. Paddy’s Day in Temple Bar or just down your local boozer, here are a few words and phrases to stop you looking like an eejit in front of your mates.

You’re Grand

You’re grand is a versatile response to pretty much any comment that encapsulates the laid-back, go-with-the-flow nature of Irish socializing. Loosely translating to “it’s fine” or “don’t worry about it,” it’s a perfect phrase to use when your friend apologizes for forgetting to call, or being late to an event.

That’s Gas

In Ireland, gas is a slang term meaning “hilarious, funny, unbelievable, uncanny.” That’s gas is great for situations where someone tells a story that’s particularly surprising, amusing, or shocking: “Turns out it was the old woman next door who burgled the place and pinned it on the teenager.” “That’s gas!”

Cop On

If somebody isn’t demonstrating good logic or common sense in a situation, they might be told they need to “cop on,” a.k.a. pull themselves together and stop messing around or being stupid. But if someone shows initiative or good common sense, you can congratulate them for their good cop on.

Sláinte and  Sláinte Mhaith

close up of hands holding glasses of whiskey, cheersing
Sláinte! / krisanapong detraphiphat/Moment/Getty Images

Sláinte (pronounced “SLAHN-cha”] is typically used when raising a glass in toast as an alternative to cheers. It translates to “health,” so you’re essentially raising your glass to your companions’ well-being. Sláinte Mhaith, which means “good health,” is another toast you can use.


Confusingly, this is actually a positive: To describe something as ”deadly” in Ireland means it’s cool, fantastic, wicked, or exciting in some way. So if your friend tells you about their great new job offer, a brilliant band they saw, or a fantastic holiday, be sure to tell them it’s deadly when they’re done.


Craic (pronounced “crack”) is a word often associated with Irish culture; it can refer to news and gossip (as in what’s the craic), having a laugh and a good time with friends (having the craic), or to describe a fun experience or place (great craic). You may also hear the phrase minus craic, which is used to describe a disappointing or negative experience.

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You

Irish culture is famous for its numerous blessings, but may the road rise up to meet you (go n-éirí an bóthar leat in Irish, which literally translates to “may you succeed on the road”) is probably the best-known. The full verse reads:

“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

It’s typically used to wish someone well on their journey—be that a period of travel or a broader journey through life—and is a popular reading at christenings, weddings, and other big life transitions. You’re sure to find a version of this in most of the tourist gift shops.

Fáilte and Céad Míle Fáilte

Irish welcome written on a lucky shamrock plaque on a red door, Connemara, Galway
‘Céad Míle Fáilte’ means “a hundred thousand welcomes.” /

In Irish, fáilte means “welcome.” Many Irish households and pubs have a plaque with the greeting Céad Míle Fáilte (pronounced “caid ME-luh fall-cha”), a phrase dating back to the early 1800s that means “a hundred thousand welcomes.” It’s a nod to the importance of hospitality in Irish culture and led to one of Ireland’s nicknames, “The Land of a Hundred Thousand Welcomes.”

Giving Out

This phrase isn’t as risqué as it might sound: In Ireland, the phrase giving out typically refers to complaining, having a go at a person, or nagging them in some way. If you’re getting a lecture from your friend on poor life choices or they’re complaining about their general character, you might want to retort, “quit giving out to me!An alternative would be “quit slagging me.

Slán and Slán Abhaile

Not to be confused with sláinte, slán (pronounced “slawn”) is Irish for safe, and is a common way of saying goodbye, so save this one for the end of the celebrations. If going further afield or traveling home, use the phrase slán abhaile, which translates to “safe home.”

Jars and Session

Glass Guinness with a ladies hand with red nails and a green sweater holding glass at a wooden table surrounded by nuts
Are you up for a few jars? / Image Professionals GmbH/FoodCollection/Getty Images

In Ireland, when someone says they’re going to “have a few jars,” it means they’re going to have a few drinks, typically (but not always) in a pub. If you’re planning more than a few or a particularly wild night, you may want to invite your friends to have a session instead.


Bold is a slang term meaning “naughty,” “cheeky,” or “inappropriate.” Don’t be bold is a common scold among parents, but someone can be also described as bold if they’ve done something out of turn or stepped over a mark. Similarly in social circles, so if someone’s getting a bit too friendly, you can give them a gentle pushback by telling them they’re “being very bold.”

Fair Play

A common way to praise someone for tackling something skillful, difficult, or generally favorable is to use the phrase fair play. If you’re feeling particularly generous, you might even say it twice: “I put meself forward in the end and got that promotion.” “Ah, fair play to ya, fair play!”

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