Understanding Common Expressions In The English Language–Chapter Seven–Common Expressions in Ireland and Scotland

When you arrive in Ireland, you may be forgiven for thinking the English spoken here is a completely different language!

While the English language prevailed across Ireland throughout the 19th century, the Irish developed plenty of slang phrases to make the language their own.

Indeed, since the dawn of time, the Irish have managed to invent our very own slang words and phrases to unleash on all unfamiliar with the lingo!

THERE ARE THREE LANGUAGES spoken in Ireland: Irish (Gaeilge), Ullans (in Northern Ireland), and English. But don’t think for a second that, because the people of this lovely island speak English, it will be easy for you to befriend the locals. Irish slang words and phrases are ubiquitous, even in polite conversation, so you’ll need to master them to make heads or tails of what’s being said at the pub.

This guide to Irish slang words and phrases, insults, and expressions will assist you in deciphering some of what the locals are saying while in Ireland. It even includes a guide to reading between the lines of what the Irish are really saying when they address you — read it carefully!

55 idioms and meanings to understand Irish people!

1. A hot potato

Speak of an issue (mostly current) which many people are talking about and which is usually disputed

2. A penny for your thoughts

A way of asking what someone is thinking

3. Actions speak louder than words

People’s intentions can be judged better by what they do than what they say.

4. An arm and a leg

Very expensive or costly. A large amount of money.

5. At the drop of a hat

Meaning: without any hesitation; instantly.

6. Back to the drawing board

When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over.

7. Ball is in your court

It is up to you to make the next decision or step

8. Barking up the wrong tree

Looking in the wrong place. Accusing the wrong person

9. Be glad to see the back of

Be happy when a person leaves.

10. Beat around the bush

Avoiding the main topic. Not speaking directly about the issue.

11. Best of both worlds

Meaning: All the advantages.

12. Best thing since sliced bread

A good invention or innovation. A good idea or plan.

13. Bite off more than you can chew

To take on a task that is way to big.

14. Blessing in disguise

Something good that isn’t recognized at first.

15. Can’t judge a book by its cover

Cannot judge something primarily on appearance.

16. Costs an arm and a leg

This idiom is used when something is very expensive.

17. Cross that bridge when you come to it

Deal with a problem if and when it becomes necessary, not before.

18. Cry over spilt milk

When you complain about a loss from the past.

19. Curiosity killed the cat

Being Inquisitive can lead you into an unpleasant situation.

20. Cut corners

When something is done badly to save money.

21. Don’t count your chickens before the eggs have hatched

This idiom is used to express “Don’t make plans for something that might not happen”.

22. Don’t give up the day job

You are not very good at something. You could definitely not do it professionally.

23. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Do not put all your resources in one possibility.

24. Drastic times call for drastic measures

When you are extremely desperate you need to take drastic actions.

25. Elvis has left the building

The show has come to an end. It’s all over.

26. Every cloud has a silver lining

Be optimistic, even difficult times will lead to better days.

27. Feel a bit under the weather

Meaning: Feeling slightly ill.

28. Give the benefit of the doubt

Believe someone’s statement, without proof.

29. Hit the nail on the head

Do or say something exactly right

30. Hit the sack / sheets 

To go to bed.

31. In the heat of the moment

Overwhelmed by what is happening in the moment.

32. It takes two to tango

Actions or communications need more than one person

33. Jump on the bandwagon

Join a popular trend or activity.

34. Keep something at bay

Keep something away.

35. Kill two birds with one stone

This idiom means, to accomplish two different things at the same time.

36. Last straw

The final problem in a series of problems.

37. Let the cat out of the bag

To share information that was previously concealed

38. Make a long story short

Come to the point – leave out details

39. Miss the boat

This idiom is used to say that someone missed his or her chance

40. Off one’s rocker

Crazy, demented, out of one’s mind, in a confused or befuddled state of mind, senile.

41. On the ball

When someone understands the situation well.

42. Once in a blue moon

Meaning: Happens very rarely.

43. Picture paints a thousand words

A visual presentation is far more descriptive than words.

44. Piece of cake

A job, task or other activity that is easy or simple.

45. Put wool over other people’s eyes

This means to deceive someone into thinking well of them.

46. See eye to eye

This idiom is used to say that two (or more people) agree on something.

47. Sit on the fence

This is used when someone does not want to choose or make a decision.

48. Speak of the devil!

This expression is used when the person you have just been talking about arrives.

49. Steal someone’s thunder

To take the credit for something someone else did.

50. Take with a grain of salt

This means not to take what someone says too seriously.

51. Taste of your own medicine

Means that something happens to you, or is done to you, that you have done to someone else

52. To hear something straight from the horse’s mouth

To hear something from the authoritative source.

53. Whole nine yards

Everything. All of it.

54. Wouldn’t be caught dead

Would never like to do something

55. Your guess is as good as mine

To have no idea, do not know the answer to a question

Top 80 Irish phrases & slang words used in daily life

Acting the maggot         

Meaning: An Irish term for fooling and messing around  

Example: Stop acting the maggot

Bad dose           

Meaning: Severe illness

Example: You got a bad dose of it, didn’t you?

Bags (to make a bags of something)       

Meaning: One of the common Irish phrases meaning to make a mess of doing something.   

Example: He made a right bags of that

Bang on             

Meaning: Right, accurate, correct           

Example: You are bang on


Meaning: Broken           

Example: The chair is banjaxed

Black stuff

Meaning: Guinness       

Example: A pint of the black stuff, please


Meaning: Male, juvenile             

Example: Come on, you boyo!


Meaning: Awful, dreadful          

Example: It was a brutal tackle

Bucketing down

Meaning: Raining hard 

Example: It is bucketing down

Bunk off             

Meaning: Skip (school, work)     

Example: Do you want to bunk off tomorrow?


Meaning: a lighthearted Irish insult for someone who takes a risk      

Example: He is a real chancer


Meaning: Young child (Dublin slang)      

Example: He was a chiseler at the time


Meaning: Left-handed  

Example: I am a Ciotóg and proud

Cod/codding ya

Meaning: To pull someone’s leg

Example: I am only codding ya!


Meaning: Fun, gossip, goings-on. One of the most well-known Irish phrases.

Example: What’s/where’s the craic?

Crack on            

Meaning: Continue on, get going            

Example: I must crack on, lots to do


Meaning: Irish person from rural / agricultural area. Country folk.   

Example: She is a culchie originally.

Cute hoor          

Meaning: Person who quietly engineers things to their own advantage  

Example: He is a real cute hoor

Delira and excira            

Meaning: Delighted and excited (Dublin slang)   

Example: Are you delira and excira about it?


Meaning: Brilliant, fantastic, great

Example: That was a deadly film

Donkey’s years 

Meaning: For a very, very long time        

Example: They have lived there donkey’s years


Meaning: Someone not working or is messing about, up to no good        

Example: They are a couple of dossers

Eat the head off          

Meaning: To give out to someone          

Example: Don’t eat the head off me


Meaning: Complete fool, doing something silly

Example: You are such an eejit


Meaning: Listening in on a private conversation

Example: You were earwigging again, yes?

Effin’ and blindin’          

Meaning: Swearing and cursing

Example: He was effin’ and blindin’ nonstop

Eff off  

Meaning: Polite swear word (for the F word). Also used as an exclamation of disbelief.    

Example: Ah, just eff off, will ya

Fair play!           

Meaning: An acceptable response for many things. Eg well done!    

Example: Fair play, mate!

Feck Off             

Meaning: Go away (polite version), used to show surprise or shock         

Example: Feck off . . . . don’t be bothering me


Meaning: Used for your guy, as in ‘me fella’; partner/husband/boyfriend

Example: Is your fella going to be there?


Meaning: Very good, great, excellent

Example: It was a fierce performance

Fine thing          

Meaning: Good-looking man or woman. Used to refer to an attractive person.

Example: That guy is a fine thing


Meaning: Woman of dubious moral attributes. A common term used by many an Irish mammy.

Example: The place is full of floozies


Meaning: Very drunk; too many alcoholic drinks.

Example: I was absolutely fluthered last night


Meaning: Home; to have a ‘free gaff’ means you are home alone

Example: I will pop over to your gaff later


Meaning: Crooked, or odd-looking         

Example: He had a gammy leg


Meaning: Quick glance 

Example: Take a quick gander in here first


Meaning: Funny or amusing. One of the most common phrases in the Irish language.    

Example: He is a gas man


Meaning: To stare rudely            

Example: Stop gawking

Get outta that garden! 

Meaning: Fun phrase used in a conversation to get a laugh, reaction       

Example: Wud ya get outta that garden!!!


Meaning: Many uses; most often used as a reply to ‘How are you?’,  ‘How are you feeling?’, or being told of a decision. One of the most commons Irish expressions.

Example: We will meet you there – “Grand”; Dinner will be in 10 minutes – “Grand”


Meaning: Complete mess           

Example: I made a complete haymes of that work

Holy Joe             

Meaning: Self-righteous or religious person. As Ireland is quite a religious country, this is one you may hear quite often.

Example: She is a bit of a holy joe actually

Holy show         

Meaning: Disgraceful scene       

Example: She made a holy show of herself

How’s she cuttin’?         

Meaning: Hi; How are you?; What’s news?         

Example: How’s she cuttin’?


Meaning: Hi, hello         

Example: Howya doin’?


Meaning: A rural person’s name for a Dubliner  

Example: You are a jackeen…my sympathies!


Meaning: Toilet

Example: I’m off to the jacks

Jo maxi

Meaning: Taxi, cab         

Example: We can get a jo maxi in later


Meaning: A dump of a place and also a sleep      

Example: I had a quick kip before dinner; it was a real kip of a hotel


Meaning: Exhausted, tired         

Example: I was completely knackered


Meaning: Drunk

Example: She was totaly langers last Friday


Meaning: 3 meanings: referring to bad weather, specifically to rain hard; to make an attempt at something; or to go out drinking

Example: It was lashing out of the heavens. Give it a lash. Let’s go on the lash Saturday.

Leg it    

Meaning: Run away quickly        

Example: Come on, we need to leg it now!


Meaning: Very drunk    

Example: He was totally locked at closing time


Meaning: Dirty, filthy, Disgusting

Example: My hair feels manky, it needs a wash


Meaning: Soft drinks

Example: Pick up some minerals at the shop.


Meaning: A derogatory term meaning fool 

Example: He looks a right moran


Meaning: Highly embarrassed. Commonly used in Northern Ireland.

Example: I was mortified when I realised my mistake


Meaning: Common Irish term for girlfriend (Dublin slang)          

Example: Where’s your mot tonight?


Meaning: Very difficult or to really want to do something            

Example: Finding a taxi was murder. I could murder a Guinness.


Meaning: Job done for cash to avoid tax

Example: He can do it as a nixer for you

Not the full shilling

Meaning: Not fully sane.

Example: I don’t think he is the full shilling

On the tear       

Meaning: Going drinking            

Example: We were on the tear last night


Meaning: Drunk. One of the most hilarious Irish phrases.         

Example: We got ossified

Oul fella             

Meaning: An affectionate term for your father, dad (Dublin slang)   

Example: My oul fella is out at the moment

Oul Dear / Oul Wan

Meaning: Your mother, mom    

Example: My oul dear is out shopping


Meaning: Movies, film      

Example: We went to the pictures a week ago

Puss (To have a puss on you)

Meaning: Sulky face      

Example: Take that puss off your face

Rugger Bugger

Meaning: Someone posh, loud and loves rugby

Example: He is a rugger bugger for sure


Meaning: A common term for great, brilliant            

Example: It was a savage contest till the end


Meaning: Very embarrassed

Example: I was scarlet


Meaning: Exhausted     

Example: After driving, I was shattered


Meaning: A verb used to make fun of someone in a nice way or else it has the same meaning as elsewhere, i.e., common prostitute  

Example: He was only slagging you, don’t worry


Meaning: Means sorry and also ‘excuse me’, ‘pardon me’            

Example: Sorry, can I get in there please

Story? (What’s the)   

Meaning: Hi, what’s happening?             

Example: What’s the story, Rory?

Suckin’ diesel (Now you’re)        

Meaning: Now you’re talking, now you’re doing well. A more well-known Irish slang phrase.

Example: Now you are suckin’ diesel, my friend!

The Pale             

Meaning: Anywhere in the region of Dublin        

Example: I am living just outside The Pale


Meaning: Extremely stupid

Example: He is as thick as a plank

Throw shapes   

Meaning: Show off, sometimes aggressively       

Example: They were all throwing shapes in the pub


Meaning: Trinity College Dublin

Example: Did you go to Trinners to do your degree?

There you have them: the top 80 Irish slang words you’ll probably hear when visiting Ireland!

FAQs about Irish slang

Why do the Irish say Feck?

Feck is a less offensive alternative to a well-known expletive. 

What do the Irish call a girl? 

There are various Irish slang phrases for girl, including lass, bure, or colleen.

How do you insult in Irish?

Some insults from Irish slang are fecker, eejit, gowl, tool, gobshite, among many others.

Irish slang words and phrases and how to use them

The state of you!

Meaning: You’re a disgrace
Example of usage and translation: “Oh my god, she was an absolute state. Did you see her taking a piss in front of the Garda station?” = “Oh my god, she was a disgrace. Did you see her going to the toilet in front of the police station?”

I’m grand

Meaning: I’m alright
Explanation: Often the answer to “How are you?”


Meaning: Party
Explanation: This is a blanket term for any kind of social gathering that has the potential to get a little loose.
Example of usage and translation: “Fair auld session last night there lads, great to get the lock in” = “Great night of merriment and music last night boys, delighted to be able to stay after hours in the pub”

He’s sound

Meaning: He’s cool


Meaning: Kissing with the tongue
Examples of usage and translation: “Here, will ye shift me mate?” = “Hey, will you kiss my friend?” / “Yer man’s a great shift” = “That guy’s a really good kisser”

What’s the story? / What’s the craic?

Meaning: How are you? / What’s new?

Yer man / Yer one

Meaning: That guy / that girl
Example of usage and translation: “You know yer man, the ginger fella who’s friends with Cathal” = “You know, that ginger guy who’s friends with Cathal”

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I’m gee-eyed / locked / off my head / legless

Meaning: I’m drunk
Note: “Gee” is also a slang term for vagina


Meaning: Good looking person / sex
Examples of usage and translation: “Did ye get the ride off yer one last?” = “Did you have sex with that girl last night?” / “OMG, Brian O’Driscoll is suuuuuuuuuuuuch a ride” = “Brian O’Driscoll is hot”

Christ almighty / Ah, Jaysus / Ah, the Lord / Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Meaning: Oh my God!
Explanation: In Ireland, it’s okay to use the Lord’s name in vain to express your frustration.

I’m sickened / raging

Meaning: I’m mad / very annoyed

Good man yourself / Good woman yourself!

Meaning: Well done!
Example of usage and translation: “Jaysus, you did well there, good woman yourself!” = “Jesus man, well done, congratulations!”

Would you come on to fuck?

Meaning: Hurry up!


Meaning: Thingy
Example of usage and translation: “Where’s that yoke gone?” = “Where has that random thing gone that I was looking for?”

I gave out to him

Meaning: I told him off / I scolded him

Me mot / Me motzer

Meaning: My girlfriend
Note: You can also refer to a group of females as ‘mots.’


Meaning: Very
Example of usage and translation: “It’s fierce windy out” = “It’s very windy outside”


Meaning: Equivalent the F word
Example of usage and translation: “where’s me bleedin phone?” = “Where my F****** phone?”

Sickner for ya

Meaning: That sucks / How unfortunate for you


Meaning: A person from the country, or basically anyone that comes from anywhere other than Dublin.


Meaning: What culchies call people from Dublin.

A Gaff party

Meaning: A house party

The Jacks

Meaning: The bathroom

The Drinklink

Meaning: An ATM during a night out

You’re the image of massive

Meaning: You look great

I’m going on the lash

Meaning: I’m going to get drunk

He’s giving it socks

Meaning: He’s really going for it
Example of usage and translation: “Yer man was giving it socks on the dance floor last night” = “That guy was dancing non-stop last night”

I will in me hole / hoop / arse

Meaning: I will not


Meaning: Bad or terrible
Example of usage and translation: “You’re a poxy bleedin liar” = “You’re a terrible F****** liar”

Scarlet for ya

Meaning: How embarrassing for you.
Note: The complete version of this slang phrase is “scarlet for your ma for having ya” which translates as “You did something extremely embarrassing and should be disowned.”

Northern Irish slang words and phrases

Quit yer gurning

Meaning: Stop moaning / complaining
Note: ‘To gurn’ is to complain about a person.

Houl yer whisht

Meaning: Be quiet

I’ll run ye over

Meaning: This is not a threat, but a person offering a lift to another person.

She’s up to high doh

Meaning: She’s overly excited
Example of usage and translation: “She’s seen Jamie Dornan walking around Belfast and now she up to high doh.”

It’s banjaxed

Meaning: It’s damaged beyond repair

I’m foundered

Meaning: I’m cold

A tongin

Meaning: A scolding
Example of usage and translation: He spent the whole evening drinking at the pub. He’s going home to a tongin from the wife.

Irish insults you’ll never hear anywhere else

She’s a geebag

Meaning: She is very annoying
Explanation: An insult that translates literally as ‘a bag of vaginas.’

He’s a gobshite

Meaning: He is an idiot

He’s an eejit

Meaning: He is an idiot
Explanation: The proper way to pronounce ‘idiot’ in Ireland.
Note: In Nothern Ireland, you’ll hear the insult ‘Buck eejit’, which means just about the same thing.

Little shitehawk!

Meaning: Little brats /little shits
Explanation: shitehawk can be used affectionately.

She’s a weapon / wagon

Meaning: She’s a mad b*tch

She’s pure haunty

Meaning: she’s an unfortunate looking girl wearing a lot of make-up to try and cover it up.

Funny phrases and expressions you’ll need to understand the locals

He can talk the hind legs off a donkey

Meaning: He is very chatty / He can talk at length
Example of usage and translation: “God yer one would talk the hind legs off a donkey” = “That girl would bore you to death with her incessant talk”

To score the face off someone

Meaning: To kiss someone passionately
Example of usage and translation: “My mouth is red raw, he was scoring the face off me for hours at Coppers” = “I have sandpapered my skin off my passionately kissing someone for hours in the local meat market”

Would you ever stop acting the maggot?

Meaning: Stop acting up
Note: Most often said by one’s mother, it basically means stop doing what you’re doing right now, or suffer the consequences.

All over the shop

Meaning: A mess
Example of usage and translation: “Me hair’s all over the shop” = “My hair is a mess”

He’s gone for his tea

Meaning: He’s dead

She’s away with the fairies

Meaning: She’s little bit mad

You could skin a cat out there

Meaning: It’s very cold outside

Ultimate Irish translator: Things Irish people say and what they really mean

If you’re ever in Ireland, give me a shout!

Note: A lie. We actually do not want a casual acquaintance arriving on our doorstep expecting to be put up and shown the town.

Sure we’ll just go for one pint

Translation: I’m not planning on getting absolutely hammered, but one might very well turn into 15.

Ah, it’s just up the road

Note: This could mean anything. From a few houses to several miles away.

Sure the rain will stop in five minutes

Note: A show of optimism that relies on nothing but hope. Nobody knows when the rain will stop in Ireland.

Ah shite, I never got round to it

Translation: I will never get around to it. Ever. I can’t be arsed.

I’ll do it now in a minute

Translation: I will never do it

I will yeah

Translation: I won’t

Irish-up your vocabulary

  • Thanks a million = Thank you very much
  • chipper = Local greasy food stand where you can get French fries
  • Bacon = Rasher
  • Sliced bread = Sliced pan
  • The messages = Groceries
  • The press = The cupboard
  • Minerals = Soft / fizzy drinks
  • Dilutable = Non-alcoholic concentrated syrup used to make beverages. It’s often called ‘squash’ or ‘cordial’ in other countries. Ribena is a blackcurrant dilutable very popular in Ireland.
  • Courtin = Dating (term commonly used in Northern Ireland) 

101 Irish Slang Words That’ll Have You Chatting Like A Local

1- 11: My Favourite Irish slang words and phrases

I use slang ever day. And it tends to cause a bit of confusion, at times. Mainly when I’m speaking to a non-Irish person and I forget that the words I’m using actually are slang.

In Ireland, many of us use slang words so often that we forget they’re actually slang, for example, ‘Thanks a million’ makes absolutely zero sense to non-Irish people (or so my non-Irish friends tell me!)

Here are some Irish phrases that I find my self using CONSTANTLY.

1. Sure look

If you’re chatting to someone and they reply with ‘Sure look’ it tends to mean ‘it is what it is’. However, it can also be an indication that the person you’re speaking to is either 1, uninterested in what you’re saying, or 2, has no idea how to respond to what you’ve just said.

For example, ‘Sure look, what can ye do?!’

2. Grand (an iconic bit of Irish slang)

Grand means OK. You’ll hear it most commonly used as a response to, ‘How’s it going’/’How are you feeling?’/’How are you today?’. It’s worth noting that when someone says that they’re ‘grand’, they may not necessarily be so.

This Irish expression gets more than it’s fair share of use and isn’t specific to any particular county. For example, ‘Don’t be worrying about it, it’s grand’.

3. Up to 90

‘Up to 90’ means flat out busy doing something. You’ll often hear this one used in response to questions like ‘How was work today’ – ‘Ah, shtap – sure I’ve been up to 90 since half 7’.

Now, there’s another potential use for this Irish phrase, and that’s when describing someone that’s bull-thick (aka angry).

For example, ‘She’s been up to 90 since she came home and saw what the dog did to the couch in the living room’.

4. Give it a lash (one of my favourite Irish phrases)

You can use ‘give it a lash’ in a heap of different ways. In a nutshell, ‘give it a lash’ means to give something a go.

For example, ‘The car won’t start. Can you give it a lash with your jump cables?’ or ‘I’ve never tried that before, but sure I’ll give it a lash’.

5. Slagging

Slagging means to make fun of. If you’ve read our detailed guide to Irish insults, you’ll have an idea of the types of slags that Irish people throw at each other.

For example, ‘He was slagging me, so I gave him a kick in the bollox’.

6. Banjaxed

Banjaxed is another lovely Irish expression. It’s used to describe something (or someone) that’s not working/broken.

For example, ‘Did you get it printed?’ ‘No, the thing’s banjaxed sure’ or ‘The f*cking car won’t start again – the engine’s banjaxed’.

7. The Jacks aka the toilet

If you hear someone saying that they’re ‘Going to the jacks’ or maybe someday someone will ask you ‘Where are the jacks’ in an Irish bar somewhere in the world, they’re referring to the toilet. For example, ‘Sorry pal – can you tell me where the jacks is?!’

8. Leg it

‘Leg it’ refers to moving fast. You can leg it to the shops, or you can leg it around the corner to meet one of the lads.

For example, ‘Shite man I’m running late. Hang on there for a second and I’ll leg it over to you now!’

9. Giving out (I didn’t realise this was an Irish expression until recently)

So, I thought ‘giving out’ was something used globally… genuinely. It wasn’t until a friend from the UK said he didn’t know what I was on about the first time we met and I used it in a sentence.

‘Giving out’ literally means to complain. For example, ‘She’s up there giving out to Tony about something’.

10. Minus craic

This is hands-down one of my most-used Irish sayings. It describes a situation or a person that’s no fun.

For example, ‘I called over yesterday and he was going on about his new tractor for an hour. It was minus craic’.

11. Feck

I don’t use the word ‘feck’ personally, but it’s a word that I associate with the magnificent Father Ted series, which is why it’s part of my favourites.

Feck is a polite way of saying ‘f*ck’. For example, ‘Feck this, I’m not listening to him shiting on for any longer’, or ‘That fecker was in here mooching about the place again this morning.’

Photo by Gardiner Mitchell via Tourism Ireland

12 – 22: Funny Irish phrases and slang that confused my non-Irish friends when we first met

In my last job, I worked in a building with around 250 people from 34 different countries.

Over the course of my time there, I received my fair share of strange looks when I said certain things.

This next section dives into Irish phrases and Irish slang words that I’ve said in the past and that have gone completely over peoples heads.

12. Act the maggot

If a person is ‘Acting the maggot’ they’re messing around / dossing… i.e. they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

‘That young lad was in here last night acting the maggot’.

13. Thanks a million

I thought this Irish saying made perfect sense, but apparently not. ‘Thanks a million’ means ‘Thank you very much’.

For example, ‘There’s your change’. ‘Cheers, thanks a million’.

14. Give me a shot

To have a shot of something means to try it out. You can also say ‘Give me a go’. You could actually use ‘lash’ here as well, for example, ‘Give me a lash of that’.

When it comes to ‘A shot’, you could say, ‘Gimme a shot of that kettle there’.

15. Donkey’s Years

‘Donkey’s years’ is used to describe a long passing of time. You’ll generally hear people use this when describing how long it’s been since they’ve seen someone, or how long it’s been since they’ve done something.

For example, ‘I haven’t seen Tony in donkey’s years.’

16. Fair play

‘Fair play’ is an Irish expression used to congratulate someone. For example, ‘She passed her exams in the end. It only took her 4 years’. ‘Ah, deadly. Fair play to her’.

17. A bad dose

Now, you tend to hear this used in a vulgar manner quite a bit, but it’s also used in everyday conversation, also.

It’s used to describe a bad case of something, for example, ‘I’ve been lashing in the tablets all week. This has been a bad aul dose’. The vulgar use of this Irish saying is often heard when someone has an iffy tummy, for example, ‘I’ve had a bad dose of the shits all day’.

18. Stall the ball

This is an Irish phrase that’s used to ask someone to wait for you or to stop what you’re saying.

For example, ‘Stall the ball chief, I’ll be there in 20’ or ‘Stall the ball a minute – what did he say?’

19. Manky

The word manky is used to describe something that’s dirty. For example, ‘Their kitchen is manky. You’d be safer eating in the jacks’.

20. Go and bollox

Now, if you’re not familiar with the word ‘Bollox’ or ‘Bollocks’, it’s slang that refers to a man’s testicles.

However, you’ll more commonly hear it used in a few different ways:

  • ‘Ah here – you can go and bollox if you think I’m doing that’ = there’s absolutely no way that I’m doing that
  • ‘I’ve a pain in me bollox with you / listening to you’ = i’m annoyed with the situation or the person

21. Kip 

This is another way of describing something that’s dirty or that’s in a bad way. For example, ‘The hostel we’re staying in as a kip and a half!’

22. Yoke

The word ‘Yoke’ is used to describe something. Actually, it’s used to describe anything. You could refer to someone that’s annoying you as ‘That yoke over there’ or you could also say ‘Here, pass me that yoke there on the counter’.

23. Gas

You’ll often hear Irish people refer to a person or a situation as ‘Gas’. The word ‘gas’ is Irish slang for funny. For example, ‘Ah stop, that’s gas!’ or ‘Emma’s dog is gas. He does be flying around the garden like he’s possessed.’

Photo by Tony Pleavin

23 – 36: Common Irish sayings that you hear most days

This next section covers the more common, everyday Irish sayings and phrases that tend to pop up in conversation frequently.

From ‘the messages‘ to ‘jammy‘, here are some more popular ways of saying things using Irish slang words.

23. The messages

In Ireland, for some bizarre reason, we describe ‘the shopping’ or ‘the groceries’ as ‘the messages’. Why? I’ve no idea, but it’s a bit of Irish slang that I’ve heard all my life.

For example, ‘I’ll see you in 20. Need to collect the messages first.’

24. Yer man

‘Yer man’ is used to describe… a man… You’ll often hear this used when someone’s describing someone that they don’t like, however it can also be used when you don’t know someone’s name.

For example, ‘Yer man was caught last week stealing from the till in Superquinn’.

25. Will I, yea?!

‘Will I, yea?!’ translates into ‘I definitely won’t be doing that’. Confusing or what?! For example, ‘You’ll be getting off your hole and emptying the bins in 5 minutes’. ‘Will I, yea?!’

26. Culchie

The word ‘Culchie’ is used to describe someone living in a remote part of Ireland. If you’re from Dublin, you tend to refer to anyone that lives outside of Dublin as ‘A culchie’.

For example, ‘The pub last night was wedged with culchies.’

27. Nice one

‘Nice one’ is an Irish saying that’s used to show approval of someone’s behaviour. For example, ‘Ah, nice one!’ said Karen, as she took the bag of chips from Kate.

28. Jammy

‘Jammy’ basically means lucky. For example, ‘She won money down the bingo again this week. The jammy hoor!’

29. A cute hoor

‘A cute hoor’ is used to describe someone that’s relatively crafty and that’s able to mould a situation to benefit themself. For example, ‘He’s a cute hoor that fella, always manages to get a free ticket to the concerts in the Phoenix Park’.

30. Faffing

Faffing means to do something… without actually doing anything. I have a friend called Mayo Declan that’s a master at this.

For example, ‘Declan’s been in there for the past hour faffin about the place.’.

31. Eat the head off

To ‘Eat the head off’ of someone means to get very angry at them. For example, ‘I’m going to go in there now and eat the head off of him!’

32. C’mere to me

‘C’mere to me’ can mean two things: the first is to literally come here, for example, ‘C’mere to me and tell me what happened?’

The second use of this Irish phrase is used when you want someone to listen to you, for example, ‘C’mere to me for a minute and I’ll tell ya’.

33. Lob the gob

To ‘Lob the gob’ means to kiss someone. For example, ‘I saw you chatting to him for about 4 hours. Did you lob the gob?’

34. In bits

‘In bits’ is used when you’re describing something or someone that’s in a bad way. For example, ‘Got food from that Indian place. My stomach is in bits. And so is the jacks’.

35. Shifting 

This is another Irish expression for describing kissing. For example, ‘Sure, yer one was caught shifting yer man last week!’

36. Did I f*ck

Translation: I did not. For example, ‘Did you do that thing for yer man?’ ‘Did I fu*k’.

37. Fine

You’ll hear the word ‘fine’ used in a variety of different ways: If you hear someone say ‘It’s fine’, it means ‘It’s OK’. If you hear someone refer to a person as a ‘Fine thing’, it generally means they find that person attractive.

37 – 40: Craic – the most misunderstood Irish Colloquialism)

I’m giving the word craic its own section, as there are heaps of different ways that it can be used.

Now, for you Americans reading, when we say ‘Craic’ in Ireland we’re not referring to something that you smoke on a street corner, nor are we referring to the crack in your arse.

Craic generally means fun but, as is the case with many bits of Irish slang, there’s multiple ways of using it.

37. What’s the craic?

‘What’s the craic’ can either be used as a greeting, for example, ‘Ah, Tony. What’s the craic?’ or when enquiring about a situation, for example, ‘What’s the craic with that lad. I haven’t seen him in ages’.

38. Having the craic

‘Having the craic’ means the person was out having fun, for example, ‘Ah, man, I’m dying. We got back from the pub at half 2 but we were up until 7 having the craic’.

39. The craic was 90

You’ll hear ‘the craic was 90’ used when someone is describing a situation where a serious bit of fun was had. For example, ‘I still can’t believe we won that match. We all went back to Sharon’s after. The craic was 90’.

40. Minus craic

‘Minus craic’ is the polar opposite to ‘Having the craic’ and is used to describe a situation when there was absolutely zero fun being had. For example, ‘We went to the new club last night. It was minus craic altogether’.

Via Failte Ireland

41 – 56: Common Irish expressions to use when referring to someone that you dislike

We’ve an almost endless number of ways to describe a person that we don’t like in Ireland. These Irish slang words can range from tame to offensive, so use with caution.

41. Clown

Tame. Usually used casually with friends. For example, ‘I clipped the wing mirror off the pillar yesterday’. ‘You’re some clown’.

42. Goon

Another one that’s fairly tame. For example, ‘He’s only a goon that lad’.

43. Geebag

So, this is a pretty insulting bit of slang that’s female-specific. For example, ‘Mrs. O’Tool gave us about 7 weeks worth of maths homework. What an absolute geebag’.

44. Gobshite

Another tame one. And actually this is one that was made famous by the fantastic Father Ted series. For example, ‘She’s an awful gobshite’.

45. Eejit

This is yet another tame one that’s used to describe someone dense. For example, ‘He used cooking oil on the lettuce thinking it was salad dressing… what an eejit’.

46. Pox

Someone that’s a nuisance. For example, ‘He got a taxi home with us and hopped out without giving us any money towards it. He’s a miserable little pox’.

47. Melter

Used to describe someone that’s annoying. For example, ‘That lad keeps on texting me. He’s a bleedin’ melter.’

48. Bollox

This one can be offensive, depending on the context. Offensive: ‘You’re only a bollox’. Not as offensive: ‘Go and ask my bollox’.

49. Gombeen

An old Irish slang word used to describe someone that’s a chancer. Or a bit dodgy. ‘Your man that I bought the car off is a serious Gombeen. The thing has gone to shit and I only have it a week’.

50. Gobdaw

This is another one for describing someone that’s stupid. For example, ‘Did you hear Martin and Bernie’s youngfella was caught cheating in the Garda exam. If ever there was a Gobdaw it’s that lad’.

51. Dope (an Irish slang word my aul lad uses constantly!)

Now, for our American readers – when we say ‘dope’ in Ireland, we’re not talking about anything dodgy. In Ireland, ‘dope’ is another way of describing someone stupid.

For example, ‘Her new fella was here last night. Talk about a dope’.

52. Wagon

This is another female-specific word that’s reasonably offensive. For example, ‘His sister told his Mam about what happened. She’s an awful wagon’.

53. Gowl

Another word for eejit. For example, ‘He’s a gowl and a half that boy’.

54. Dryshite

Someone that’s boring. For example, ‘All them lads do is sit in and play the Xbox. They’re a pair of dryshites’.

55. Scut

Someone that’s a waster. For example, ‘He spends his day going between the bookies and the pub. A useless scut if I’ve ever seen one’.

56. Shitehawk

No idea how to describe this one. For example, ‘Shamey Brannagin was caught stealing from Kerrigan’s again. That man is a shnakey little shitehawk’.

57. Tool

This is another tame bit of Irish slang used to describe a man or woman that you’re less than fond of. For example, ‘Did you see what she posted on Facebook?! What a tool!’

Photo via Tourism Ireland

58 – 63: Irish sayings for describing the weather

We talk about the weather a lot in Ireland.

It’s a handy conversation starter and it’s generally the topic of debate in shops and pubs alike.

Here are some Irish slang words for describing both good and bad weather.

58. A grand aul day

Weather type: Fine. For example, ‘It’s a grand aul day today Mary’.

59. A good day for drying

Weather type: Sunny. For example, ‘It’s finely stopped pissing down.’ ‘Stop, I know. It’s a good day for drying’.

60. It’s pure shit

Weather type: Rainy. For example, ‘I’m going to call in sick. There’s no way I’m waiting for a bus in that. It’s pure shit out’.

61. It’s pissing down

Weather type: Rainey. For example, ‘Ah for fu*k sake. It’s pissing down out there.’

62. It’s Lashing

Weather type: Rainey. For example, ‘Here. Call a taxi. It’s lashing down.’

63. It’s Spitting

Weather type: Light rain. For example, ‘G’way out of that with your umbrella. Sure it’s only spitting’.

64. It’s rotten

Weather type: Rainey. For example, ‘Please tell me he’s called off training. It’s rotten out’. Good God it’s just dawned on me how many Irish sayings there are for describing manky weather!

The Gleniff Horseshoe Drive in Sligo

65 – 70: Irish Expressions and slang for greeting someone

You tend to hear a lot of mad Irish slang words when people greet each other. Greetings tend to vary quite a bit, depending on the county.

65. Story horse?!

For example, ‘Story horse?! I heard off Noley that you were in getting the haemorrhoids sorted?!

66. How ya doing, hey?!

For example, ‘How ya doing hey?! You coming out for a few pints later?!’

67. How ya getting on?!

For example, ‘Ah well! How ya getting on? Haven’t seen you in about ten years’.

68. How’s the form?!

For example, ‘Shane, how’s the form?! You’re looking well!’

69. Howsagoin?!

For example, ‘Ah, Kayla. Howsagoin?! Sorry, can’t stop. I’ll chat to ye later, yea?!’

70. How’s she cutting?!

For example, ‘Ross, ya pox! How’s she cutting?!

Photo by Simon Crowe

71 – 79: Irish slang for good

We have a million different ways of describing something as good or great in Ireland. ‘Deadly’ doesn’t mean dangerous and ‘Class’ isn’t always used to describe a lesson.

Here are some of my favourites.

71. Deadly

We use the word ‘deadly’ in Ireland to describe something that’s good or great, for example, ‘That new pub on the corner is deaaaaadly!’ or ‘Did you hear I got the job in the chipper?’ ‘Ah no. That’s deadly. Free burgers’.

Not to be confused with the actual meaning for deadly, i.e. dangerous…

72. Savage

Ah, another Irish phrase that uses a word that’s actually meant to describe something hazardous to describe something brilliant.

Yes, savage is also Irish slang for good. For example, ‘I got tickets to the Aslan gig’. ‘Savage, man, I thought they were sold out’.

73. Bang on

Bang on is generally used as a response and is another bit of Irish slang for good. You can describe a person or a situation as ‘bang on’.

For example, ‘She was down here last Sunday. Brought dessert and everything. She’s bang on’ or ‘I had the bike fixed down in Riordain’s yard last week. It was bang on – only cost a tenner’.

74. Class

I use this one a lot. For example, ‘That chicken fillet roll was class’. You’ll often hear the word ‘Class’ paired with ‘Pure’, for example, ‘That new full-back they’ve brought on is pure class.’

75. Unreal

In many countries, the word ‘Unreal’ means imaginary or illusory, but not in Ireland. We use ‘Unreal’ to describe something that so good it’s actually hard to believe. For example, ‘D’ye see me new runners. They’re unreal’.

76. Cracking

I heard ‘Cracking’ used constantly on a trip to Northern Ireland where we frequented far too many pubs. It, again, is Irish slang for good. For example, ‘That new car Jerry picked up is cracking. Pity the colour is shite’.

77. Dead on

I haven’t heard this one used much lately. But maybe that’s because I’m getting old and getting out less… ‘Sarah’s new fella was out last night’. ‘I know. He’s from Malahide, but he’s dead on’.

78. Sound

I use this about 20 times a day. Sound is probably more frequently used as an affirmative response to something, for example, ‘Ah, sound. Cheers for that.’

However, you’ll also hear people describing someone as ‘Sound’ when they’re giving that person their approval, for example, ‘That chap from around the corner fixed the engine. He’s a sound lad’.

79. Quality

I used to use, and here this one used, back during my days in school. For example, ‘Mam cooked some dinner for you. I’ll drop it over later’. ‘Ah, QUALITY. I’m starving!’

80 – 87: Irish slang for drunk

There’s a lot of different Irish slang for drunk or to describe someone that’s had far too much to drink. Here are some of my favourites.

80. Flutered

Pronounced ‘Flue-tered’, this one describes a person that’s on the wrong side of 9 pints. For example, ‘Eh, is that Karen up on that table?’ ‘She’s on her 17th vodka. She’s flutered’.

81. Banjaxed

Pronounced ‘Ban-jacks-d’, this is another one for a person that’s heavily overindulged. For example, ‘Sure he’s been on the pints all day, he’s banjxxed’.

82. Locked

This one is usually used the morning after a heavy session when you’re explaining why your heads is thumping. For example, ‘WHY did I have the second bottle of wine. I was locked and in bed by half ten.’

83. In a heap/in a hoop

This is another for describing someone that’s heavily intoxicated. For example, ‘Ah man, my heads in bits. I was in a hoop after Foley’s last night’.

84. In rag order/in ribbons

I’ve heard this one a lot less in recent years. It’s another one for very drunk people. For example, ‘She’s after being f****d out of the nightclub. She’s in rag order.’

85. Mouldy/mullered

The only people that I know who use these words to describe drunkenness are friends from Drogheda. For example, ‘I need a barrel of soudafed. I was mouldy drunk last night’.

86. Out of your tree/off your head

Banjaxed drunk. Likely to be severely hungover the following morning. For example, ‘It was a serious night last night, but I was off my head and ordered 7 bags of chips on the way home’.

87. Hammered

A personal favourite. For example, ‘Ah, man, the heads bouncing off of me. I was hammered last night’.

Photo by Suzanne Clarke

88 – 89: Irish slang for girl / woman

So, weirdly enough, since we first published this guide in early 2019, the most common email we’ve had off the back of it is from people looks for words and Irish slang for girl.

Here’s a handful of slang words that are used to describe a girl/woman.

88. Yer wan

‘Yer wan’ or ‘Your one’ is used to refer to someone who’s name you do not know or a person that you do not like. For example, ‘D’ye see yer wan over there with the red hat?!’

89. Youngwan

You’ll often hear people refer to a young lad as a ‘youngfella’ and a woman as a ‘youngwan’. For example, ‘Martina’s youngwan was in working with us for a few days last week.’

Photo by Brian Morrison

90 – 93: Irish lingo that I’ve never heard of

The post on Instagram unearthed a good chunk of Irish slang words that I’d never heard of.

Here’s a handful (I’ll update this again at a later date as more comments come in).

90. Hallion

Translation: A messer. For example, ‘Your Michael is a little hallion. If he was mine I’d give him a good kick up the hole!’

91. Midden

Translation: The name given to dung heaps/dirty people. For example, ‘That car needs a good clean. It’s like a midden in there’.

92. Latchio

Translation: Someone that’s lazy. For example, ‘He’s an awful latchio’.

93. Bout ye

Translation: How are you?. For example, ‘Bout ye, chief! Fancy a pint?’

Photo by Chris Hill

94 – 101: Belfast Slang

Loads of the below words were new to me as well, but I’ve lashed them into a section dedicated to Belfast slang.

Know more? Let me know in the comments section below!

94. Bake

Translation: Face. For example, ‘Shut your bake, you clown’.

95. Beamer

Translation: Embarrassed. For example, ‘It was definitely Colin. Look at him pulling a beamer’.

96. Bogging

Translation: Dirty. For example, ‘The smell off those runners. Your feet must be bogging’.

97. Dander

Translation: A walk. For example, ‘C’mon. Let’s get out for a dander and get some fresh air’.

98. Peeler

Translation: A member of the police. For example, ‘Shite, put the cans away. There are two peelers coming up the road there’.

99. Houl yer whisht

Translation: Keep quiet. ‘HEY. Houl yer whisht in there. I can’t hear the radio!’

100. Ogeous handling

Translation: A tricky situation. For example, ‘Do you remember the time Micky got caught moving the cow in the back of his Ford Focus?’ ‘Oh, I do. It was some Ogeous handling’.

101. Up to high doh

Translation: Excited. For example, ‘He had a bag of skittles and three bottles of Coke an hour ago – he’s been up to high doh ever since’.

Scottish Sayings, Phrases & Words

Scottish sayings and words, combined with that unmistakable accent, can often make English sound like an entirely different language when you’re ‘north of the border’. There is no single language that has ever historically been spoken by all Scots.

In the southern areas, Lowland Scots traditionally was the norm. Gaelic was spoken in central and northern areas. The off-shore islands to the far north (Orkney Isles and Shetland Isles) spoke ‘Norn’ (a form of Old Norse). Rogue words from this extinct language still pepper the speech of the people who live on the islands. 

Although the traditional Gaelic is still spoken in some areas, and today Scotland is moving towards becoming a fully dual-language country (English and Scots Gaelic), ‘Scottish English’ is what is spoken by the majority of Scots.

To add to the intrigue, even in this there are many different dialects and variations of words depending on what city, or area, the speaker is from. It’s all part of the mystery and charm of Scotland!

I grew up hearing many of these Scottish phrases and sayings at home. However, as my family had moved south (into England) when I was only a toddler, I didn’t hear them at school, or anywhere else. I felt as though they were part of a ‘secret language’, one that only my  family understood. Even today, hearing a certain phrase or word brings memories flooding back!

The Scottish dialect is so much varied from The Highlands to South Ayrshire, and from the East Coast to the West Coast. You see, people in different parts of Scotland can use different words that can mean the same thing.

Some saying are a bit confusing, even to people who stay in Scotland. For example:

“a nod’s as guid as a wink tae a blind horse”

meaning, explain yourself properly, and make your meaning clear.

If you understand the above, you’re more or less there! Scots use slang words like they would standard English without any thought. It’s only when taking a step back as a Scot you realise how bizarre some of these words and sayings are.

My Nana’s Scottish Sayings Take Me Back!

Scots are a practical, no-nonsense people with a down-to-earth attitude to life. They’re not given to flights of fancy, or to a lot of emotional angst…

… but they definitely have a deep spirituality, a lot of superstitions and a dry (sometimes wicked) sense of humor! Many of the phrases on this page give you a peek at those. My Nana (my moms’ mom) used these Scottish sayings all the time. Although she left this world and has been watching over us from Heaven for decades, as I type this I can hear her voice in my head.

Here are a few of the Scottish sayings that I grew up hearing on a daily basis:

“Whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye.”

This one basically means ‘whatever is meant to happen to you, will happen to you”! It’s the Scottish phrase I heard whenever I’d moan or complain about not getting something (or someone!).

“You’re a wee scunner!”

This was usually said with a touch of impatience, as a fair translation would be “You’re a little whiner/nuisance”. If I complained about being bored, or was being whiny and difficult, this was the response I’d get.

“She’s up to high doh”

This means “She’s all worked up” or “She’s got herself all riled up”.

“A pritty face suits the dish-cloot”

If I was fussing over what to wear, this Scottish saying was Nanas’ stock answer. Basically it means “A pretty face suits the dish-cloth”.

I think this probably still needs some more translation…. the general idea is ‘if you’ve got a pretty face, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing’. Of course, it usually didn’t help with my immediate problem

“Awa’ an bile yer heid”

This Scottish phrase is another one that needs a double-dose of translating! Simply putting it into English results in “Away and boil your head!” – which probably won’t help you much.

What it means is something along the lines of ‘Get lost!’ or ‘Forget it!’ – and it’s usually said to someone who is deemed to be talking rubbish, or wasting your time.

“Don’t be a wee clipe!”

I’d hear this if I was telling tales on my sister (or anyone else!). It means “Don’t be a little tell-tale!”.

“Yer bum’s oot the windae!”

Another colorful Scottish saying, that definitely needs some explaining. Direct English translation would be “Your bum is out the window”, but that’s probably not going to make you any the wiser.

So, the actual meaning of this phrase is something along the lines of ‘You’re talking rubbish (trash)’, or ‘You’re not making any sense’. Believe me, I heard this one a few times!

“Yer arse and parsley!”

My nana would say this with a roll of her eyes whenever she doubted whatever it was I was trying to convince her of! It’s another way to say “you’re talking nonsense.”

“I’m going to the pictures”

The ‘Pictures’ is the movie theater, and my Nana loved going to see a movie.

“I’m getting the messages”

This is one of the Scottish sayings that you might think doesn’t need translating – but you’d be wrong! In this case, the ‘messages’ are not what you’re probably thinking.

‘Messages’ are ‘groceries’ or other things that you’d get from the store. So, literally speaking this Scottish phrase means “I’m doing the (grocery) shopping”.

“It’s time to get your jags”

This isn’t a phrase that any kid wants to hear! ‘Jags’ are vaccinations, so it means “It’s time for your shots”. Not fun, and guaranteed to send me running in the opposite direction!

“I’m going ta skelp yer wee behind!”

The English version of this Scottish phrase would be “I’m going to smack your little bottom” (bottom is ‘butt’ or ‘rear’ for those in the US). Didn’t hear this one too much either, but can’t say I NEVER heard it!

“They’re flitting”

This translates to “They’re moving house”. ‘Flit’ is to ‘move’… that one was easy, for once.

Here are a couple more Scottish sayings that are pretty common, and although they weren’t used as often as the ones above, they deserve to be included….

“You’re a long time deid”

English translation of this one is ‘You’re a long time dead’, and if you’re thinking that’s a pretty obvious statement but are still not sure what it means, try this…

‘Enjoy life, because once you’re dead you’re going to be that way for a long time!’ Not very uplifting, but true all the same.

“A nod’s as guid as a wink tae a blind horse”

This one was a challenge in terms of its’ meaning! The English translation is ‘A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse’, but that’s still a bit obscure.

The best I can come up with in terms of what it means is this… ‘If the horse is blind it doesn’t matter whether you nod your head or wink your eye, he still won’t see it’. Further translated it seems to mean ‘try really hard to make your meaning clear!’.

I did have a visitor to the site email to tell me that the true meaning of this saying is ‘no argument is going to change the mind of a stubborn person whose mind is made up’.

I haven’t seen that translation given anywhere else, but maybe it’s a viable alternative. This one is a challenge for sure 🙂

“Yer aff yer heid!”

If you’re starting to get a ‘feel’ for Scottish-English now, then this Scottish saying is pretty easy to understand. Translated it says “You’re off your head!”, meaning ‘you’re crazy’.

“Haud yer wheesht!”

Okay, you may need a little help with this one though. English translation is “Hold your tongue” or “Be quiet!”. Strangely enough I didn’t hear this one too much. Of course, the fact that Nanas’ hearing wasn’t good may have been a factor there.

“Lang may yer lum reek”

Translated this Scottish saying becomes “Long may your chimney smoke” Loosely translated that means something like ‘May you live long and keep well’, or ‘May you have good fortune in the future’. Perhaps Mr Spock of Star Trek fame said it even better “Live long and prosper”.

“Ah dinnae ken”

This one is short and simple, translates to “I don’t know”

“Guid gear comes in sma’ bulk”

Another short one, basically it means “Good things come in small packages”. Another variation of this is ‘Guid gear goes in mickle bundles’

“Hell mend ye!”

Rough translation is “you’ll get what you deserve!” I heard this a fair bit as a teen.

Scottish Words Can Be Just As Odd!

Scottish words and slang can be colorful, but it’s also confusing, amusing or even sometimes downright ‘strange’.

Many of these words are common, others aren’t used too often, but they’re all great examples of Scottish-English at it’s best…….

  • Auld – Old
  • Aye – Yes
  • Bahookie – Bottom/backside/butt
  • Backgreen – garden or back yard
  • Bairn – Baby or young child
  • Blether – Chatter-box
  • Boak – Gag or dry heave
  • Bonnie – Beautiful
  • Braw – Good or nice
  • Burn – Stream or creek
  • Canny – Careful, or sometimes clever
  • Chancer – Con-man, trickster
  • Clarty – Dirty or unkempt
  • Clatty – another word for dirty
  • Clipe – This means to ‘tell on’ someone, or ‘snitch’
  • Chitter – Shiver
  • Coorie (in) – Snuggle (in)
  • Crabbit – Bad-tempered or grumpy
  • Dae – (pronounced ‘day’) Do
  • Dauner – (pronounced ‘donna’) Stroll or saunter
  • Dinnae – Don’t
  • Drookit – Soaking wet
  • Eejit – Idiot
  • Flit or flitting – a move, or moving, as in moving house
  • Footer – Fidget (can be a verb or a noun)
  • Gi’es – give me
  • Gie’ing – giving
  • Girn – Complain or whine
  • Glaekit – Stupid
  • Glen – Valley
  • Greet – Cry
  • Guy – Very
  • Haud – Hold
  • Haver – Talk nonsense
  • Keek – Peek
  • Ken – Know
  • Laldie – a good time
  • Loch – Lake
  • Lum – Chimney
  • Noo – Now
  • Wee Nyaff – Little nuisance (as in a person)
  • Och! – Oh!
  • Oxters – Armpits
  • Palings – Fencing.. as in specifically the type with vertical slats/rods
  • Patter – slick talk
  • Peely-wally – Pale or wan
  • Pettet-lip – pouty lip
  • Piece – Snack or sandwich
  • Pinkie – Little finger
  • A Poke – a paper bag for food
  • Scunner – Nuisance
  • Scunnered – Bored or fed-Up
  • Shooglie – shaky
  • Siangabbit – with an underbite
  • Skelp – Slap
  • Skyte – To slip or slide across a hard surface, or a glancing blow
  • A Skelping – A thrashing/beating
  • Sleekit – Sneaky
  • Slitter – Messy eater
  • Tattie – Potato
  • Tumshie (aka ‘Neeps’) – Turnip (or rutabaga in the US)
  • Wean – (pronounced Wayne) Child
  • Yersel – yourself
  • Yin – One
  • Yon – That

Old Scottish Sayings

  • Haste Ye Back! – Return back with speed – said as a farewell.
  • Lang may yer lum reek! – Literally meaning long may your chimney smoke, this is typically a toast to one’s health, wishing one lives long and healthy.
  • Keep the heid! – Keep your head or stay calm.
  • Hell slap it intae ye! – It is your own fault.
  • Failing means yer playin! – Trying and failing, but at least you are trying.
  • I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug! – I’ll hit you on the ear.
  • Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye! – What is for you will not go by you, meaning, what will be, will be.
  • Skinny Malinky Longlegs! -A tall and skinny person.
  • Speak o’ the Devil! – When someone you are speaking about shows up.
  • Black as the Earl of Hell’s Waistcoat! – the colour Black.
  • Ah dinnae ken. – I don’t know.
  • We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns! – Everyone is God’s children, nobody is better, everyone is equal.
  • Dinnae teach yer Granny tae suck eggs! – Stop teaching someone something they already know.
  • Dinnae marry fur money! – It’s cheaper in the long run to borrow money than marry for it.
  • Noo jist haud on! – Now just hold it, take your time, you’re speaking too fast.
  • Is the cat deid? – Has the cat died? This means your trousers are too short, similar to “is your budgie/parrot dead?”
  • Haud yer wheesht! – Shut up.
  • Gie it laldy. – Doing something with energy or inappropriateness.
  • It’s a dreich day! – A miserable, cold, wet day in reference to the weather.
  • Mony a mickle maks a muckle! – Small amounts of savings soon build up to large amounts.
  • I’m fair puckled! – I’m out of breath.
  • Do yer dinger. – Showing disapproval.

Scottish Sayings

  • Gonnae no’ dae that! – Don’t do that.
  • Pure dead brilliant – Amazing.
  • Yer bum’s oot the windae – You are lying or exaggerating.
  • Am pure done in – I am pretty tired.
  • Am a pure nick – I am not looking my best.
  • Ah umnae – I am not.
  • Ma heid’s mince – My head is mince, meaning I’m a bit confused.
  • Yer oot yer face! – You’re extremely intoxicated from the effects of alcohol.
  • Yer aff yer heid – You’re off your head – crazy.
  • T’ Auld Yin – The old one.
  • Scran – food.
Aye–Meaning: Yes. Example: Aye mate, nae bother. Translation: Yes friend, no problem.
Bairn–Meaning: Child. Example: Yer just a wee bairn. Translation: you are just a small child.
Bampot–Meaning: Either and idiot or a character of a shady disposition. Example 1: Check out that mad bampot. Translation: Look at that shady character. Example 2: Your a pure bampot. Translation: You are an idiot.
Belter–Meaning: Extremely good. Can also mean eccentric. Example 1: That weekend wiz an absolute belter. Translation: I really enjoyed my weekend. Example 2: You’re a belter. Translation: You are quite eccentric.
Blootered–Meaning: Drunk. Example: I’m getting pure blootered eh night. Translation: I am going to be rather drunk this evening.
Boggin–Meaning: Disgusting. Example: That’s pure bogging. Translation: That is really quite disgusting.
Boke–Meaning: Sick. Example: Stop that! It’s gonnae make me boke! Translation. Cease your actions, I am going to be sick.
Bonnie/Bonny–Meaning: Beautiful. Example: She was a bonny lass. Translation: She was a beautiful woman.
Canny–Meaning: Cannot. Example: I canny get mad wae it the night. Translation: I cannot partake in any activities involving alcoholic beverages this evening.
Clatty–Meaning: Disgusting. Example: That’s pure clatty. Translation: That is rather disgusting.
Clipe–Meaning: Tell tale. Example: Dinny be a wee clipe. Translation: Do not be a little tell tale.
Crabbit–Meaning: Grumpy or agitated. Example: She’s pure grabbiit the day. Translation: She is grumpy today.
Craic–Meaning: Usually said “good craic” meaning good fun or “what’s the craic” meaning what is happening. Example 1: That was good craic last night, eh? Translation: The was good fun last night, would you not agree? Example 2: What’s the craic wae the night, we going on eh randan? Translation: What the plan for tonight, are we going out for a lively evening?
Dae–Meaning: Do. Example: Dae ye ken wit time it is? Translation: Do you know what time it is?
Dafty–Meaning: Someone who is stupid or an idiot. Exmple: You’re ur a pure dafty. Translation: You are not very smart.
Dinnae–Meaning: Don’t Exmaple: A dinnae ken if Ken kens that I Ken that Ken kens eh craic. Translation: I don’t know if Ken knows that I know that Kens knows what’s happening.
Eejit–Meaning: Idiot (see ‘Dafty’).Example: What an edjit. Translation: What an idiot.
Eh–Meaning: What or an invitation for someone to respond or agree. Example: Good night last night eh? Translation: Good night last night, would you not agree?
Greet/Greetin–Meaning: Cry or crying. Example: It wiznae funny, ah wiz pure greeting. Translation: It was not funny, I was crying.
Hackit–Meaning: Ugly. Example: Check that ejit out, his fringe iz pure hackit. Translation: Look at that idiot, his haircut is very ugly.
Haud–Meaning: Hold. Example: Haud eh door big yin. Translation: Hold the door big fellow.
Haver–Meaning: Lie Example: Dinnae be telling yir gren havers. Translation: Don’t tell your grandmother lies.
Hoachin–Meaning: Busy Example: It wiz pure hoachin up eh toon eh day. Translation: It was really busy in the town center today.
Hunners–Meaning: Literally hundreds but usually to describe a large quantity. Example: There wiz hunners ae wee bampots up central last night. Translation: There wiz hunners ae wee bampots up central last night. Meaning: There was a substantial amount of shady characters up Glasgow Central Station last night.
Jake/Jakey–Meaning: Someone poor. Used as an adjective, jakey means scummy. Example 1: Look at that pure jake. Translation: Look at that really poor person. Example 2: Stop picking up snout ends, that’s pure jakey. Translation: Stop picking up cigarette ends, that is really scummy.
Ken–Meaning: Know or do you know. Example 1: ah ken. Translation: I know. Example 2 :Ye ken? Translation: You know?
Lassy–Meaning: Girl. Example 1: A bonnie wee lassy. Translation: A beautiful little girl (very creepy, don’t use this when talking to strangers about their children!).
Mad Wae It–Meaning: Drunk. Example: Brian wiz so mad wae it last night that he winched some boggin bird. Translation: Brian was so drunk last night that he kissed an unattractive woman.
Minging–Meaning: Disgusting. Example: Kevin mate, your breath is pure minging, away and scran some toothpaste ya jake. Translation: Kevin my friend, your breath smells rather unsavory, I would advise you to go and brush your teeth, you scummy person. Note: Minging and the noun Minger are widely used across the UK nowadays, however, both words both derive from ‘ming‘ an old Scottish word for a bad smell. Credit: Duncan Barr – thanks for the suggestion Duncan!
Mockit–Meaning: Dirty. Example: I git pure mockit climbing Ben Lomand eh day. Translation: I got rather dirty climbing Ben Lomond today.
Munter–Meaning: Ugly. Example: Charlotte winched a pure munter at eh dancing last night. Translation: Charlotte kissed someone rather unattractive in a nightclub last night.
Och–Meaning: used in parts of a sentence as, usually to interrupt with confirmation, affirmation or disapproval. Example 1: Och aye. Translation: I agree. Example 2: Och, yer talking oot yer arse. Translation: Stop, I do not believe you. Example 2: Och, hawd yer wheest. Translation: Stop, be quiet.
Patch–Meaning: Abandon plans, stop. Example 1: Patch aht. Translation: “Stop that” if you are doing something annoying. “Let’s not do that” if used in the context of plans. Example 1: Question – “ You coming eh night?” Reply – “Naw mate, am patchin”.Translation: Question “Are you coming tonight?” Reply – “No I am going to not come”.
Peely-wally–Meaning: Not 100%. A bit out of sorts. Example: You’re lookin a bit peely-wally. Translation: You are not looking 100%.RandanMeaning: Causing carnage under the influence. Example: Am going oot on the randan eh night troops, yasssss! Translation: I am going out for a few alcoholic beverages to misbehave tonight, *excited noise*.
Scran–Meaning: Food. Example: That scran Graham made us last night wiz a pure belter. Translation: The food Graham made is last night was rather enjoyable.
Scunnered–Meaning: Disappointed. Example: Went in for a nip and got patched, wiz pure scunnered. Translation: I went in for a kiss and got rejected. I was rather disappointed.
Skelped/Scudded–Meaning: Hit. Example: We were aw jist sitting ere chillin and Steve pure skelped him wae an avocado. Translation: We were all just sitting there relaxing when Steven hit him with an avocado.
Steamin–Meaning: Drunk. Example: We wur aww pure steamin last night. Translation: We were all quite drunk last night.
Stoter–Meaning: Idiot. Example: Look at that pure stoter tryin eh butter his toast wae a fork. Translation: Look at that idiot trying to butter his toast with a fork.
Tap–Meaning: Top. Example: Tap aff weather. Translation: Tops off weather. Usually 12 Degrees Celsius or higher.
Tattie–Meaning: Potato. Example: Awwww nawwww, we’re huvin mince and tatties eh night. Translation: Oh no, we are having minced beef and potatoes (a common meal in Scotland) tonight.
Weapon–Meaning: Dangerous or out of control. Example 1: Gonnae stop driving like an absolute weapon. Translation: Can you stop driving dangerously please. Example 2: Mate, you wur bouncing aboot eh toon last night with a cone on yer heed ya weapon. Translation: Friend, you were running about the town center last night with a cone on your head you wild rascal.
Wee–Meaning: Wee. Example: Look at that wee ginger dug. Translation: Look at that small red haired dog.
Whitey–Meaning: Sick. Example: I hit a pure whitey last night. Translation: I was sick last night.
Winch/Winchin–Meaning: Kiss. Example: I didnae get a winch last night, scunnered. Translation: I did not get a kiss last night, I am disappointed.
Wopper–Meaning: Someone embarrassing. Example: You’re a wopper pure mate, I cannae hang oot wae ye anymore. Translation: You are an embarrassment, I don’t want to be friends anymore.
Yaldy–Meaning: Excitement. Example: Got paid eh day, F**king yaldy. Translation: I received my wages today, I am rather excited about this.
Yon–Meaning: That or those. Example: Look at yon woppers ere there. Translation Look at those embarrassing people over there.
Young Team–Meaning: Gang of teenagers usually focused around council estates/government housing areas. Example: Wit young team ye fae. Translation: What territorial gang do you belong to.


travelinglanguages.com, “55 idioms and meanings to understand Irish people!”; irelandbeforeyoudie.com, “Top 80 Irish phrases & slang words used in daily life.”; matadornetwork./com, “This Guide To Irish Slang and Insults Will Have You Downing Guinness With the Locals in a Flash.”; theirishroadtrip.com, “101 Irish Slang Words That’ll Have You Chatting Like A Local.” By: AuthorKeith O’Hara; scottish-at-heart.com, “Scottish Sayings, Phrases & Words.”; myvoyagescotland.com, “Travelling in Scotland: Scottish Sayings.” By Graham Grieve;