Here are 36 best Irish sayings and what they really mean

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irish sayings

Do you think Irish people are speaking in tongues?

Of course, not!

But for tourists, it’s often a troubling time to visit Ireland mainly for one reason. A non-Irish will find it hard to understand the words.

Oftentimes, non-Irish are baffled and confused with the language.

Let’s just say that people of Emerald Isle have a way of saying things that make little to no grammatical sense. But hey, it’s adorable!

So we have scoured the internet to help you decode the words of Éirinn.

Here are top Irish sayings that you will love:

1. May the road rise up to meet you.

This is a popular blessing oftentimes used in Catholic weddings or cross-stitched pillows. It means “May God remove obstacles in your journey through life”.

2. Sláinte!

This word is pronounced as “slaan-sha”. You can hear this often in an Irish pub when patrons toast each other as they clink glasses of beer.

It is derived from the Old Irish adjective slán which means “safe”. When you say “Sláinte!”, it means “I drink to your health!”

3. What’s the craic?

It can also be said like “Any craic?” or “How’s the craic?”. However, it will leave tourists confused especially because it is pronounced like “crack.”

It doesn’t mean they are asking you for crack, though. It’s just a substitute for “How are you?”.

4. May the cat eat you, and may the devil eat the cat.

I hope no Irish will say this to you. This is considered a double insulting blow. When these words are spoken “Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat,” the speaker wishes that a cat gobble up his enemy and that the Devil eat them both.

There’s no escape from hell with this one, dude.

5. May you be afflicted with itching without the benefit of scratching.

This one is another curse. If you don’t know it yet, curses are far more detailed and nuanced in Irish culture.

These curses are far more specific than the F-bombs dropped in the US.

5. Two people shorten the road.

This refers to how company makes the journey seem shorter.

Based on Celtic folklore, the story goes like this. A father asks his son to “shorten their journey” to see the king.

The son asks his wife what to do. The wise woman said, “Everyone knows that storytelling is the way to shorten a road.”

The next morning, they set out to journey and the son weaves a tale the whole way to the king.

6. Story horse?

This is an abbreviation of “What’s the story, horse?”

This saying is how you ask a buddy “what’s up?” in Ireland. It’s also inviting the other person to really dive into what’s been going on in life.

7. Acting the maggot.

If your friend is messing around and being obnoxious, you can say your friend is acting the maggot.

It’s like comparing someone or something to a wriggly little white worm. It means they’re behaving like a fool.

8. You son is your son today, but your daughter is your daughter forever.

It means a son is only a son until he takes a wife. But if you have a daughter, she will stay near the family, draining it of money and time for years to come.

It’s not really encouraging for daughters, isn’t it?

9. ‘Tis only a stepmother would blame you.

This is often said when you commit a small offense.

It means there’s no need to be embarrassed because the deed is so insignificant that only a jealous stepmother could find fault with you.

10. We’re sucking diesel now.

When things are going great through your own merit, you can say this to yourself “I’m sucking diesel.”

“Sucking diesel” means you can already afford now what you couldn’t afford before. In short, you’re already successful in your endeavors.

11. That one suffers from a double-dose of original sin.

The Bible said that when Adam ate the forbidden fruit, all humanity sinned.

When one says “That one suffers from a double-dose of original sin.” to someone, it means the receiver is particularly mischievous and has been twice-cursed by Adam’s slip-up.

12. Christ on a bike!

This one is considered blasphemous by some Christians. It simply means an unbelievable event has happened or “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”

13. Your “oul fella” and your “oul wan”

These words refer to your father and mother and is used commonly all over Ireland.

14. Away with the fairies.

Long ago, people believed that fairies pick people up and take them away.

Thanks to that belief, this Irish saying is used today when someone is not facing reality or is living in la la land.

15. What eejits.

A playful phrase from Northern Ireland, it is used when they call out their friends for being silly, drunk, or foolish. It basically means “what fools” or “what idiots.”

16. It’s St. Paddy’s, not St. Patty’s.

St. Patrick’s day is abbreviated as St. Paddy’s, not St. Patty’s. Any true Irish person will tell you that.

Not only that, they are pretty passionate about putting an end to the misspelling. So on St. Patrick’s Day, don’t be surprised if you hear Irish people having a heated discussion about it.

17. Sleeven

This word means you’re being called sly!

18. Fluthered

When they say “You’re fluthered”, it means you’re very drunk and way past the stage of a few sociable drinks.

19. Happy out

This phrase means that you’re content in your current surroundings.

20. Awful good

Awful can also mean very. For example, you can say “The weather was awful good.” which means the weather was very good.

21. Quare

This word originated from the word “queer” but is also another replacement for “very”.

22. Donkey years

When a speaker says “donkey years”, the speaker is referring to a lot of years but the person most likely doesn’t know the exact amount of years.

23. The jacks

No, you’re not going to a restaurant.

Irish people say this when they’re going to the bathroom.

24. Arseways

If something is done the wrong way, it’s done arseways.

25. Go way outta that

If you hear this phrase, it means the speaker doesn’t believe what was said or is refusing an offer.

26. A whale of a time

This phrase means you had a really good time.

27. Ara

This is an expression that fits before your name. It means they don’t believe you, are disappointed, surprised, and just about any other feeling.

28. Will you have a mineral?

When you hear this, they’re not offering you gold, silver, or anything. They’re just asking if you will you have a drink, usually a soft drink.

29. I’m going on the gargle/piss/batter

This phrase means the speaker is going out for a drink.

30. She has some neck

The “neck” used in this phrase doesn’t refer to the connecting appendage between the shoulders and head. It means “She is a brazen and cheeky little wagon.”

31. That’s grand

“Grand” doesn’t mean impressive and luxurious. When you hear this, the speaker means “It’ll do.”

32. The tea is wet

You might think that this is a sarcastic and humorous remark about the texture of a beverage.

On the contrary, it just means that the tea has been made and is now ready for consumption.

33. I’m off to get a few messages

This one’s not made for the postman. It also doesn’t mean that the speaker is going to receive a means of communication from another person.

It basically means the speaker will go shopping.

34. She was throwing shapes

Don’t be scared, she is not propelling various objects at unsuspecting victims.

This phrase means “She was dancing in a very committed manner.”

35. That’s gas

The speaker is not referring to any substance, it is just another term for being hilarious.

36. I ate the head of her

Nobody is killing anyone and no, you’re not talking to a cannibal who has ingested a human cranium.

It just means that the speaker has exchanged some very heated words with that lady.

In Conclusion:

There you have 36 Irish sayings that will instantly make you sound smarter than ever!

You can use these phrases during St. Patrick’s day, which is just around the corner. Or you can use it any time you want.

Let us know how it goes! Adh mor ort (Good luck to you!)

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