21 sayings you’ll only understand if you’re Irish

21 sayings you’ll only understand if you’re Irish

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The Irish have a number of unique sayings and words.

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  • The Irish are known in the US for their quick speaking and heavy accents.
  • They’ve also got a few unique phrases and words, like “craic” and “eejits.”
  • Sadly, if you aren’t from Ireland or of Irish descent, you probably haven’t heard half of them.
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Not only does Ireland have amazing scenery, incredible sights, and notoriously fun citizens, but the people also have a certain way with words

The Irish are known in the US for their quick speaking and heavy accents, but they’ve also got a few out-of-the-box phrases that are worth noting. Sadly, if you aren’t from Ireland or of Irish descent, you probably haven’t heard half of them.

Irish slang isn’t just for fun either — utilizing words like “craic,” which means fun, or “grand,” which means good, can be effective in marketing your business to Irish people abroad and in the US.  

We rounded up 21 Irish sayings — and what they really mean. 

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“What’s the craic?” might sound confusing but, in Ireland, it’s another way to ask how someone is.

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People drinking beer wearing St. Patrick’s Day costumes.

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Greetings like “Any craic?” and “How’s the craic?” most likely confuse tourists because craic is pronounced like “crack.”

The most straightforward definition of “craic” is fun or enjoyment, but the phrase “What’s the craic?” can be a substitute for “How are you?” A typical response is “divil a bit,” which means “not much.”

The Irish saying “away with the fairies” is used when someone isn’t facing reality or is living in la-la land.

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An Irish sports fan wearing face paint.

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This phrase got its origin thanks to the folk tales about fairies picking people up and taking them away, according to The Phrase Finder.

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In the Emerald Isle, if your friends are getting rowdy or making a fool of themselves, you’d say they are “acting the maggot.”

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A woman at a St. Patrick’s Day parade.

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This phrase could also be used to talk about anything that isn’t acting properly, like if your phone is on the fritz or the trains are running way behind schedule.

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“On me tod” translates to “on my own.”

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An Irish landscape.

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People will say this when they’re going out alone or just alone in a general sense.

According to Medium, the phrase is said to come from Tod Sloane, an American jockey whose parents were out of the picture, leaving him a lone wolf during his childhood.

He was a successful horse racer in the West, but when he moved across the pond he was made fun of for his riding style, and therefore “alone” once more. 

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“Look at the state o’ you!” implies that a person’s attire, personal hygiene, intoxication level, or general demeanor is worrisome.

A drunk man passed out behind his beer at a bar.

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A drunk man passed out behind his beer at a bar.

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It’s a popular exclamation used in inner Dublin. One might also describe his drinking companion as being in a “bleedin’ state” if he gets “wrecked” at the pub.

People will often say they or their friends are “as happy as Larry” when they have no worries or cares in the world.

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A person dressed up for St. Patrick’s Day.

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While this saying may have originated in New Zealand, according to LBC, it has grown popular halfway across the globe in Ireland and the UK.

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“What’s the story, horse?” — abbreviated as “story horse?” — is how you ask a buddy what’s up.

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A person kissing the Blarney Stone.


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It’s a less breezy greeting than its American counterpart and invites the other person to really dive into what’s been going on in life.

“What eejits” is basically another way of saying “what fools” or “what idiots.”

People packed into Dublin's popular Temple Bar area to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

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People packed into Dublin’s popular Temple Bar area to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

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This is a playful phrase used when calling out your friends for being silly, drunk, or foolish, according to the Cambridge Dictionary.

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“Sure you know yourself” essentially means “you understand” or “it’s up to you.”

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The countryside of Killarney, Ireland.

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This slang saying is quite popular and often used as a reply to questions like, “What were you thinking?” or “How are you?”

It can be used when you want to avoid decision-making or a lengthy explanation.

“Take your point and the goals will come” is usually used when referring to sports.

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Irish sports fans.

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Ireland is a big country for football. When talking about the sport, this idiom means that players should take any shot they might get, preferably the easiest one. 

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A mischievous child or person might be described as “suffering from a double dose of original sin.”

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A person picking an apple off a tree.

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The Bible proposes that when Adam ate the forbidden fruit, he cast a state of sin on all mankind. Today, if a child is particularly mischievous, he’s said to have been twice cursed by Adam’s slip-up.

The phrase became popular in the 1880s when proponents of British rule over Ireland attributed what they saw as Irishmen’s depravity of character (and the famine, some argued) to their second helping of original sin, according to The Speeches and Public Addresses of the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone.

An attractive person might be referred to as a “fine thing.”

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A woman toasting wine at dinner.

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In an Irish accent, it might sound more like “fine ting.”

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Eventually, you might also make a “fine thing” your “mot.”

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People holding hands.

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“Mot” derives from “maith,” the Irish word for “good,” “well,” or “like” and is used to refer to someone’s girlfriend.

“‘Tis only a stepmother would blame you” basically means “don’t worry about it.”

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Irish sports fans.

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This one is a tad unfair to stepmothers everywhere. It basically means there’s no need to be embarrassed or feel bad about committing a small offense, especially if the deed is so insignificant that only a jealous, belittling stepmother could find fault with you.

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“Sucking diesel” means reaping the rewards of hard work.

A person counts money in their wallet.

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A person counting money in their wallet.

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When you’ve fallen into good fortune thanks to your own hard work — not the good ol’ luck of the Irish — you’d say that you are “sucking diesel now,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary.

This phrase is a way to pat yourself on the back about things going well in your life.

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A loved one may say “may the road rise up to meet you” on your wedding day.

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An Irish couple getting married.

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You may recognize this popular blessing (in Irish Gaelic: Go n-éirí an bóthar leat) from Catholic weddings or on cross-stitched pillows in your nan’s house.

One of the main characteristics of Celtic Christianity is the use of images of nature to show how God interacts with people. “May the road rise up to meet you/ May the wind be always at your back/ May the sun shine warm upon your face …” uses everyday images to mean may God remove obstacles in your journey through life.

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“Your son is your son today, but your daughter is your daughter forever” is one of the more misogynistic sayings.

Dublin, Ireland.

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Dublin, Ireland.

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This phrase is pretty misogynistic. Basically, it means a man is only a son until he takes a wife, but as a daughter gets older, she will stay near the family, draining it of money and time for years to come. 

You order a pint of “black stuff” at the bar.

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Guiness beer on table.

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This refers to a pint of Guinness, which in reality is a deep ruby red color and not black.

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A “chancer” is a slightly insulting way to describe someone who’s unafraid to take risks.

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A person walking on a tightrope.


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This could be a major risk, or simply something you call your friend who’s chatting up someone who’s out of his league.

“Delira and excira” means “delighted and excited.”

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Ireland fans at the Rugby World Cup on September 27, 2015.

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The phrase was popularized by Irish radio host Gay Byrne on his morning radio show, according to Brewer’s Dictionary of Irish Phrase & Fable.

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Whatever you do, don’t let an Irish person catch you calling St. Patrick’s Day “St. Patty’s Day.”

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A person wearing shamrock sunglasses.


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Any true Irish person will tell you that it’s St. Paddy’s, not St. Patty’s.

Many are pretty passionate about putting an end to misspellings and mispronunciations, so on St. Patrick’s Day, don’t be surprised if you hear people at the local pub having a heated discussion about it. 

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This post was originally published on Insider

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