A Basic Guide to Irish Idioms

Last week I was reminded in a rather humorous way of the differences between the Irish and American dialects of English. I was in Lahinch in Co. Clare and needed a way of getting back to Galway, so I posted on the “Surf around Galway” Facebook page. “Anybody heading back to Galway from Lahinch?” Then, realizing I should explicitly state my intentions, I added: “I’m looking for a ride.”

I discovered my mistake upon checking my phone a few hours later and burst out laughing at the cheeky comments from the Irish lads on the page. I quickly clarified that I meant to ask for a lift, but it was too late.

To help any American readers avoid similar embarrassment, I’ve compiled the following list of my favorite Irish idioms and their American equivalent.

Fair play to ya = 1) “well done” or 2) a somewhat skeptical way of saying “good luck with that”
That’s gas = that’s hilarious
Your man / your woman = used instead of the pronouns he or she, especially when telling a story.
The boot = the trunk of a car
I will yea = not a chance
What’s the story? = what’s new?
What’s the craic / any craic? = What’s going on? Anything happening?
Gave out to him = scolded someone
Knackered = very tired
The bog = the restroom
Thanks a million = everyday way of saying thanks.
Brilliant = great
Deadly = excellent or cool
Now / Now then. = What someone says when they hand you something, such as a receipt. Similar to how Italians use the word “prego.”
Lay off of me = give me a break!
Fiver / tenner = five or ten euro bill
Quid / bones = euros
Are you in college? = are you on campus now?
We’re sucking diesel now = now we’re making progress / getting things done
Good man = expression of appreciation
Youze = plural you
Sound = cool
Stop acting the maggot = stop messing around
The black stuff / pint of gat = Guinness
Sorry, … = excuse me. Used to start sentences, e.g.: “Sorry, could you close the window?”

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