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Hiberno-English – also known as Irish English – is the dialect of English spoken in Ireland. The English language was first brought to Ireland during the Norman invasion of Ireland [1] in the late 12th century. However, because England was unable to control the country, English was only spoken by a small minority of people inhabiting an area known as the Pale around Dublin. It was first introduced into Ireland on a wide scale during the Plantations of Ireland and the implementation of the subsequent Penal Laws.[2]

Nevertheless, it is only since the early-to-mid 19th century that English has been the majority language in Ireland[3]; indeed, the subsequent English spoken in Ireland has been greatly influenced by the interaction between the English and Irish languages.



Hiberno-English retains many phonemic differentiations, which have merged in other English accents.

  • With some local exceptions, /r/ occurs postvocally, making most Hiberno-English dialects rhotic.[4] The exceptions to this are most notable in Drogheda and some other eastern towns, whose accent is distinctly non-rhotic. In Dublin English, a retroflex [ɻ] is used (much as in American English). This has no precedent in varieties of southern Irish English and is a genuine innovation of the past two decades. Mainstream varieties still use a non-retroflex [ɹ] (as in word-initial position). A uvular [ʁ] is found in north-east Leinster.[5] /r/ is pronounced as a postalveolar tap [ɾ] in conservative accents. Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh and Jackie Healy-Rae are both good examples of this.
  • /t/ is not usually pronounced as a plosive where it does not occur word-initially; instead, it is pronounced as a slit fricative [θ̠].[4]
  • The distinction between w /w/ and wh /hw/, as in wine vs. whine, is preserved.
  • There is some variation with the consonants that are dental fricatives in other varieties (/θ/ and /ð/); after a vowel, they may be dental fricatives or dental stops ([t̪ʰ] and [d̪] respectively) depending on speaker, while word-initially they are always dental stops,[6] making thin and tin, and then and den, near-homophones, where the pair tin and den employs alveolar pronunciation (as in other varieties of English). In a number of varieties, though, this occurs only to /θ/ while /ð/ is left unchanged.[6] Some dialects of Irish have a "slender" (palatalised) d as /ðʲ/ and this may transfer over to English pronunciation. In still others, both dental fricatives are present since slender dental stops are lenited to [θʲ] and [ðʲ].
  • The distinction between /ɒː/ and /oː/ in horse and hoarse is preserved, though not usually in Dublin or Belfast.
  • A distinction between [ɛɹ]-[ʌɹ]-[ʌɹ] in herd-bird-curd may be found.
  • /l/ is never velarised, except in (relatively recent) South Dublin English, often derisively termed D4 English, after the area where the accent predominates.
  • The vowels in words such as boat and cane are usually monophthongs outside of Dublin: [boːt], and [keːn].
  • The /aɪ/ in "night" may be pronounced in a wide variety of ways, e.g. [əɪ], [ɔɪ], [ʌɪ] and [ɑɪ], the latter two being the most common in middle class speech, the former two, in popular speech.
  • The /ɔɪ/ in "boy" may be pronounced [ɑːɪ] (i.e. the vowel of thought plus a y) in conservative accents (Henry 1957 for Co. Roscommon, Nally 1973 for Co. Westmeath).
  • In some varieties, speakers make no distinction between the [ʌ] in putt and the [ʊ] in put, pronouncing both as the latter. Bertz (1975) found this merger in working-class Dublin speech, and a fluctuation between merger and distinction in General Dublin English (quoted in Wells 1982). Nevertheless, even for those Irish people who, say, have a different vowel sound in put and cut, pairs such as putt and put, look and luck may be pronounced identically.
  • In some highly conservative varieties, words spelled with ea and pronounced with [iː] in RP are pronounced with [eː], for example meat, beat.
  • In words like took where "oo" usually represents /ʊ/, speakers may use /uː/.
  • Any and many are pronounced to rhyme with nanny, Danny by very many speakers, i.e. with /a/.
  • /eɪ/ often becomes /ɛ/ in words such as gave and came (becoming "gev" and "kem")
  • Consonant clusters ending in /j/ often change.[citation needed]
    • /dj/ becomes /dʒ/, e.g. dew/due, duke and duty sound like "Jew", "jook" and "jooty".
    • /tj/ becomes /tʃ/, e.g. tube is "choob", tune is "choon"
    • /nj/ becomes /n/, e.g. new becomes "noo"
    • The following show neither dropping nor coalescence:
      • /kj/
      • /hj/
      • /mj/

Dublin English

As with London and New York, Dublin has a number of dialects which differ significantly based on class and age group. These are roughly divided into three categories: "local Dublin", or the broad-working class dialect (sometimes referred to as the "working-class", "inner-Dublin", "knacker", or jackeen accent); "mainstream Dublin", the typical accent spoken by middle-class or suburban speakers; and "new Dublin", an accent among younger people (born after 1970). Features include:[7]

  • /ɒ/ as in lot has a variety of realizations. In Local, this vowel is often quite front and unrounded, ranging to [a]. In Mainstream, the sound varies between [ɑ] and [ɒ]. New Dublin speakers often realize this phoneme even higher, as [ɔ].
  • /ɔ/ as in thought: In Local and Mainstream accents, this vowel is usually a lengthened variant of the corresponding LOT set (i.e. [aː] in Local and [ɒː] in Mainstream.) In New Dublin accents, this sound can be as high as [oː].
  • /ʌ/ as in strut: in Local Dublin, this sound merges with the sound in foot, so that strut is pronounced [strʊt]. In Mainstream, a slight distinction is made between the two, with the vowel for strut varying greatly from [ʌ] to [ɤ]. In New Dublin this vowel can shift forward, toward [ɪ].
  • /oʊ/ as in goat: in Dublin English, unlike other Hiberno-Englishes, this vowel is almost always dipthongized. Local Dublin features a low inglide, rendering this sound as [ʌo], where as Mainstream features a tighter diphthong: [oʊ]. New Dublin has a slightly fronter realization, ranging to [əʊ].
  • /uː/ as in goose. Local Dublin features a highly unique, palatized realization of this vowel, [uʲ], so that food sounds quite similar to feud. In Mainstream and New Dublin, this sound ranges to a more central vowel, [ʉ].
  • /aɪ/ as in price: Traditionally this vowel ranges in pronunciation from [əi] in Local Dublin speech to [ai] in Mainstream Dublin. However, among speakers born after 1970, the pronunciation [ɑɪ] often occurs before voiced consonants and word-finally.
  • /aʊ/ as in mouth is usually fronted, to [æu] in Mainstream and New Dublin and more typically [ɛu] in Local.
  • /ɔɪ/ as in choice: This sound ranges greatly, from [aɪ] in Local Dublin to a high-back realization [oɪ] in New Dublin. Mainstream Dublin more typically tends toward [ɒɪ].


Rhoticity and rhotic consonants vary greatly in Dublin English. In Local Dublin, "r" can often be pronounced with an alveolar tap ([ɾ]), whereas Mainstream and New Dublin almost always feature the more "standard" alveolar approximant, [ɹ].

Post-vocalically, Dublin English maintains three different standards. Local Dublin is often non-rhotic (giving lie to the repeated claim that Hiberno-English is universally rhotic), although some variants may be variably or very lightly rhotic. In non-rhotic varieties, the /ər/ in "lettER" is either lowered to [ɐ(ɹ)] or in some speakers may be backed and raised to [ɤ(ɹ)]. In Mainstream Dublin, this sound is gently rhotic ([əɹ], while New Dublin features a retroflex approximant [əɻ]. Other rhotic vowels are as follows:

  • /ɑɹ/ as in start: This vowel has a uniquely high realization in Local Dublin, ranging to [ɛː]. In Mainstream Dublin, this sound is more typically [aːɹ], whereas New Dublin can feature a more back vowel, [ɑːɻ]
  • The "horse-hoarse" distinction in other Irish dialects is heavily preserved in Local Dublin, but only slightly maintained in Mainstream and New varieties. In Local, "force" words are pronounced with a strong diphthong, [ʌo], while "north" words feature a low monophthong, [aː]. Mainstream Dublin contrasts these two vowels slightly, as [ɒːɹ] and [oːɹ], while in New Dublin, these two phonemes are merged to [oːɻ].
  • /ɜɹ/ as in nurse. In local Dublin, this phoneme is split, either pronounced as [ɛː] or [ʊː]. In this accent, words written as "-ur" are always pronounced as [ʊː], while words written as either "-er" or "-ir" are pronounced as [ɛː]. However, when "-er" or "-ir" follows a labial consonant (e.g. bird or first), this sound has the [ʊː] realization. In Mainstream and New Dublin this distinction is seldom preserved, with both phonemes typically merging to [ɚ].

Dublin Vowel Lengthening

In Local Dublin, long monophthongs are often dipthongized, and while some diphthongs are tripthongized. This process can be summarized with these examples:

  • School [skuːl] = [skuʲwəl]
  • Mean [miːn] = [mɪjən]
  • Five [faɪv] = [fəjəv]


  • Final "t" is heavily lenited in Local Dublin English so that "sit" can be pronounced [sɪh], [sɪʔ] or even [sɪ].
  • Intervocalically, "t" can become an alveolar approximate in Local Dublin (e.g. "not only" = [na ɹ ʌonli], while in New and Mainstream varieties it can become an alveolar tap [ɾ], similar to American and Australian English.
  • θ and ð, as in "think" and "this", usually become alveolar stops [t] and [d] in Local Dublin English, while Mainstream and New Dublin maintains the more standard dentalized stops common in other varieties of Hiberno-English.
  • In Local Dublin, stops are often elided after sonorants, so that, for example sound is pronounced [sɛʊn].

Grammatic features

  • Local Dublin can feature the word ye for the second-person plural (although the more common Hiberno-English youse is still common).
  • As with other non-standard Englishes, Local Dublin can often feature double negatives: "I ain't seen nothin' at all."
  • Use of after to indicate the immediate past: "I'm just after coming from the city centre."
  • Use of past-participle for preterite tense: "We seen the film the other day."

Grammar derived from Irish

The syntax of the Irish language is quite different from that of English. Various aspects of Irish syntax have influenced Hiberno-English, though many of these idiosyncrasies are disappearing in urban areas and among the younger population.

Irish lacks words that directly translate as "yes" or "no", and instead repeats the verb in a question, possibly negated, to answer. Hiberno-English uses "yes" and "no" less frequently than other English dialects as speakers can repeat the verb, positively or negatively, instead of (or in redundant addition to) using "yes" or "no".[8]

  • "Are you coming home soon?" – "I am."
  • "Is your mobile charged?" – "It's not."

There is no indefinite article in Irish (fear means "a man", whereas an fear means "the man"), and the use of the definite article in Hiberno-English has some distinctive functions, which mark it out from Standard English by following and sometimes extending the usage of the definite article in Irish.[9]

  • "She had the flu so he brought her to the hospital." (This construction is normal in American English, but not in most other dialects).
  • "She came home for the Christmas."

The Irish equivalent of the verb "to be"[10] has two present tenses, one (the present tense proper or "aimsir láithreach") for cases which are generally true or are true at the time of speaking and the other (the habitual present or "aimsir gnáth láithreach") for repeated actions. Thus, "you are [now, or generally]" is tá tú, but "you are [repeatedly]" is bíonn tú. Both forms are used with the verbal noun (equivalent to the English present participle) to create compound tenses.

Some Irish speakers of English, especially in rural areas, especially Mayo/Sligo in the West of Ireland, use the verb "to be" in English similarly to how they would in Irish, using a "does be/do be" (or "bees", although less frequently) construction to indicate this latter continuous present:[11]

  • "He does be working every day."
  • "They do be talking on their mobiles a lot."
  • "He does be doing a lot of work at school."
  • "It's him I do be thinking of."

Irish has no pluperfect tense: instead, "after" is added to the present continuous (a verb ending in "-ing"), a construction known as the "hot news perfect" or "after perfect".[12] The idiom for "I had done X when I did Y" is "I was after doing X when I did Y", modelled on the Irish usage of the compound prepositions i ndiaidh, tar éis, and in éis: bhí mé tar éis/i ndiaidh/in éis X a dhéanamh, nuair a rinne mé Y.[13]

  • "Why did you hit him?" – "He was after showing me cheek."

A similar construction is seen where exclamation is used in describing a recent event:

  • "I'm after hitting him with the car!" Táim tar éis é a bhualadh leis an gcarr!
  • "She's after losing five stone in five weeks!"

When describing less astonishing or significant events, a structure resembling the German spoken perfect can be seen:

  • "I have the car fixed." Tá an carr deisithe agam.
  • "I have my breakfast eaten." Tá mo bhricfeasta ite agam.

Irish has separate forms for the second person singular () and the second person plural (sibh). Mirroring Irish, and almost every other Indo European language, the plural you is also distinguished from the singular in Hiberno-English, normally by use of the otherwise archaic English word ye [ji]; the word yous (sometimes written as youse) also occurs, but primarily only in Dublin and across Ulster. In addition, in some areas in Leinster, north Connacht and parts of Ulster, the hybrid word ye-s, pronounced "yis", may be used. The pronunciation does differ however, with that of the northwestern being [jiːz] and the Leinster pronunciation being [jɪz].[14]

  • "Did ye all go to see it?"
  • "None of youse have a clue!"
  • "Are yis not finished yet?"

In relation to this, the second-person possessive adjective your, largely in inner-city areas of Dublin, has an alternate form when the subject is plural: yezzer.

  • "Would youse ever get yezzer shoes on?"
  • "Take yezzer coats in case it rains."

However, the word yezzer can also be used simply as the second-person singular pronoun, or as an alternative to ye or yis:

  • "Are yezzer ready?"
  • "I saw yezzer down the park last week."

In rural areas, the reflexive version of pronouns is often used for emphasis or to refer indirectly to a particular person, etc., according to context [15]. Herself, for example, might refer to the speaker's boss or to the woman of the house. Use of herself or himself in this way often indicates that the speaker attributes some degree of arrogance or selfishness to the person in question. Note also the indirectness of this construction relative to, for example, She's coming now

  • "'Tis herself that's coming now." Is í féin atá ag teacht anois.
  • "Was it all of ye or just yourself?"

It is also common to end sentences with "no?" or "yeah?"

  • "He isn't coming today, no?" Níl sé ag teacht inniu, nach bhfuil?
  • "The bank's closed now, yeah?" Tá an banc dúnta anois, an bhfuil?

Though because of the particularly insubstantive yes and no in Irish, (the nach bhfuil? and an bhfuil? being the interrogative positive and negative of the verb to be) the above may also find expression as

  • "He isn't coming today, sure he isn't?" Níl sé ag teacht inniú, nach bhfuil?
  • "The bank's closed now, isn't it?" Tá an banc dúnta anois, nach bhfuil?

This is not limited only to the verb to be: it is also used with to have when used as an auxiliary; and, with other verbs, the verb to do is used. This is most commonly used for intensification.[16]

  • "This is strong stuff, so it is."
  • "We won the game, so we did."
  • "She is a right lash, so she is."

There are some language forms that stem from the fact that there is no verb to have in Irish. Instead, possession is indicated in Irish by using the preposition at, (in Irish, ag.). To be more precise, Irish uses a prepositional pronoun that combines ag "at" and "me" to create agam. In English, the verb "to have" is used, along with a "with me" or "on me" that derives from Tá … agam. [17] This gives rise to the frequent

  • "Do you have the book?" – "I have it with me."
  • "Have you change for the bus on you?"
  • "He will not shut up if he has drink taken."

Somebody who can speak a language "has" a language, in which Hiberno-English has borrowed the grammatical form used in Irish.

  • She does not have Irish. Níl Gaeilge aici. literally "There is no Irish with her".

When describing something, rural Hiberno-English speakers may use the term "in it" where "there" would usually be used. This is due to the Irish word ann (pronounced "oun") fulfilling both meanings.[18]

  • "Is it yourself that is in it?" An tú féin atá ann?
  • "Is there any milk in it or will I get some in the shop?" An bhfuil bainne ann?

Another idiom is this thing or that thing described as "this man here" or "that man there", which also features in Newfoundland English in Canada.

  • "This man here." An fear seo. (cf. the related anseo = here)
  • "That man there." An fear sin. (cf. the related ansin = there)

Conditionals have a greater presence in Hiberno-English due to the tendency to replace the simple present tense with the conditional (would) and the simple past tense with the conditional perfect (would have).[19]

  • "John asked me would I buy a loaf of bread." (John asked me to buy a loaf of bread.)
  • "How do you know him? We would have been in school together." (We went to school together.)

Bring and take: Irish use of these words differs from that of British English because it follows the Gaelic grammar for beir and tóg. English usage is determined by direction; person determines Irish usage. So, in English, one takes "from here to there", and brings it "to here from there". In Irish, a person takes only when accepting a transfer of possession of the object from someone else – and a person brings at all other times, irrespective of direction (to or from).[20]

  • Don't forget to bring your umbrella with you when you leave.
  • (To a child) Hold my hand: I don't want someone to take you.

Preservation of older English and Norman French usage

In old-fashioned usage, "it is" can be freely abbreviated ’tis, even as a standalone sentence. This also allows the double contraction ’tisn’t, for "it is not".

The word ye, yis or yous, otherwise archaic, is still used in place of "you" for the second-person plural. Ye'r, Yisser or Yousser are the possessive forms, e.g. "Where are yous going?"

The verb mitch is very common in Ireland, indicating being truant from school. This word appears in Shakespeare, but is seldom heard these days in British English, although pockets of usage persist in some areas (notably South Wales, Devon, and Cornwall). In parts of Connacht however the verb mitch is often replaced by the verb scheme.

Another usage familiar from Shakespeare is the inclusion of the second person pronoun after the imperative form of a verb, as in "Wife, go you to her ere you go to bed" (Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene IV). This is still common in Ulster: "Get youse your homework done or you're no goin' out!" In Munster, you will still hear children being told, "Up to bed, let ye" [lɛˈtʃi]

In some parts of Ireland, in particular the eastern seaboard, when someone is telling tall tales he is said to be "blowing" or "bilowen" out of him/her, which is likely to be a preservation of the Middle English "bilowen" or "bi-lyen", as seen in Piers Plowman (by William Langland): "2.22 – And bilowen hire to lordes þat lawes han to kepe."

Gassin, gorsoon, gossoon or gossoor is a common descriptor in rural areas for a child, and derives from the French garçon (meaning "boy") as used by 12th century Norman settlers (via garsún (Munster dialect) and gasúr (Connacht and Ulster) in Irish).

A sliced loaf of bread is still called in many parts of the country "sliced pan" deriving from the French word for bread pain while in the Beara Peninsula, a long shirt is called by older folk a "shemmy shirt" from the French chemise.

Pismires, meaning "ants", is still used in parts of County Cavan and widely across County Mayo, County Sligo, County Roscommon, County Longford and County Leitrim; see also in Shakespeare.

For influence from Scotland see Ulster Scots and Ulster English.

Turns of phrase

Amn't is used as an abbreviation of "am not", by analogy with isn't and aren't. This can be used as a tag question ("I'm making a mistake, amn't I?"), or as an alternative to I'm not ("I amn't joking"), and the double negative is also used ("I'm not late, amn't I not?"). This construction occurs also in Scottish English

Arra is used also. Arra literally means "all right", ("Arra, we'll go next week", "Arra, 'tis not the end of the world"). The word yerra is also used and means "yes, alright".

Come here to me now and Come here and I'll tell ya something is used to mean "Listen to this" or "I have something to tell you" and can be used as "Come here and tell me". The phrase "Tell me this", short for "Tell me this and tell me no more", is also common. These phrases tend to imply a secretiveness or revelatory importance to the upcoming piece of information.

An old Irish greeting, the term mo grá thú is still actively used in some areas, most often in the North Mayo/West Sligo area. Usually shortened to Wahoo, particularly in urban areas such as Ballina, a typical greeting between young men would be, "Wahoo T! How's tricks?" which roughly means, "Hello Thomas (or other name beginning with T)! How are you doing today?" Older people and people in rural areas tend to use the more traditional form of the greeting, pronouncing it fully in the Irish language.

Various insults have been transferred directly from Irish and have a very mild meaning in English: e.g. Lúdramán, Amadán, pleidhce, rogue, eejit (idiot), all (loosely) meaning "fool" or "messer" (messer is also a Hiberno-Irish turn of phrase). Langer is used in as a derogative in Cork, but is believed to stem from the name of the "Langur" monkey encountered by the Munster Fusiliers while in India in the 19th century.[21] However, it maybe related to the Munster Irish word leangaire. Words such as "fry" are used in large towns such as sligo. eg. "your such a fry" (pronounced "yer sOOch a fry!" can mean an affectionate way of saying "your such an idiot"

Also more prevalent in Cork is a profligation of colourful emphasis-words; in general any turn of phrase associated with a superlative action is used to mean very, and are often calculated to express these in a negative light and therefore often unpleasant by implication – "he's a howling / thundering / rampaging / galloping / screeching langer, so he is." The practice is widespread in the rest of Hiberno-English but is such a feature of Corkonian speech that it is now commonly lampooned when imitating the accent.

In many areas of Connacht it is common to add the word Hey onto the end of sentences for emphasis-for example a person could say "Are you going into town hey?"

Reduplication is an alleged trait of Hiberno-English strongly associated with stage-Irish and Hollywood films (to be sure, to be sure). It is virtually never used in reality.

  • ar bith corresponds to English "at all", so the stronger ar chor ar bith gives rise to the form "at all at all"
    • "I've no money at all at all."
  • ar eagla go … (lit. "on fear that …") means "in case …". The variant ar eagla na heagla, (lit. "on fear of fear") implies the circumstances are more unlikely. The corresponding Hiberno-English phrases are "to be sure" and "to be sure to be sure". In this context, these are not, as might be thought, disjuncts meaning "certainly"; they could better be translated "in case" and "just in case". Nowadays normally spoken with conscious levity.
    • "I brought some cash in case I saw a bargain, and my credit card to be sure to be sure."

So is often used for emphasis ("I can speak Irish, so I can"), or it may be tacked on to the end of a sentence to indicate agreement, where "then" would often be used in Standard English ("Bye so", "Let's go so", "That's fine so", "We'll do that so"). The word is also used to contradict a negative statement ("You're not pushing hard enough" – "I am so!"). (This contradiction of a negative is also seen in American English, though not as often as "I am too", or "Yes, I am".) The practice of indicating emphasis with so and including reduplicating the sentence's subject pronoun and auxiliary verb (is, are, have, has, can, etc.) such as in the initial example, is particularly prevalent in more northern dialects such as those of Sligo, Mayo, Cavan, Monaghan and other neighbouring counties.

Sure (pronounced "shur" or "sher") is often used as a tag word, emphasising the obviousness of the statement. Can be used as "to be sure", the famous Irish stereotype phrase. (But note that the other stereotype of "Sure and …" is not actually used in Ireland.) Or "Sure, I can just go on Wednesday", "I will not, to be sure." "Sure Jeez" is often used as a very mild expletive to express dismay. The word is also used at the end of sentences (primarily in Munster), for instance "I was only here five minutes ago, sure!" and can express emphasis or indignation.

To give out to somebody is to scold that person. It is based on an almost identical expression in Irish. ("Me Ma gave out to me for coming home late last night" – Bhí mo mháthair ag tabhairt amach domsa aréir, mar tháinig mé ar ais go déanach.) A particularly strong scolding may result in the addition of the word "stink" to the phrase. ("Me Ma gave out stink to me for coming home late last night.") The equivalent phrase in English-English, "to have a go at", is not used in Hiberno-English, unless physical force is involved.

Will is often used where English English would use "shall" ("Will I make us a cup of tea?"). The distinction between "shall" (for first-person simple future, and second- and third-person emphatic future) and "will" (second- and third-person simple future, first-person emphatic future), maintained by many in England, does not exist in Hiberno-English, with "will" generally used in all cases.

Casual conversation in many parts of Ireland includes a variety of colourful turns of phrase. Some examples:

  • Yer man (your man) and Yer wan/one (your one) are used in referring to an individual other than the speaker and the person spoken to. They may be used because the speaker does not know the name of the person referred to, and either can be used when the sex of the person referred to is not known. "I'll give yer one in the Health Board a call" can be used even if the speaker does not know whether the person who will answer the phone will be a man or a woman. The phrases are an unusual sort of half-translation of a parallel Irish-language phrase, "mo dhuine" (literally "my person") and this form exists in Kerry, for example "I was just talking with my man-o here." Similarly, in Waterford city "me man" is often used, for example "I was just talking to me man". The nearest equivalents in colloquial English usage would be "whatsisname" and "whatsername". Note also "wan" (particularly common in Munster) for a female person may be a direct usage of the Irish bean (woman). In Newfoundland, the same form exists as "buddy", who is a generic nameless person. They use the word not always in the sense of "my friend" but more in the sense of "what's his name". "I went inside to ask for directions and buddy said to go left at the lights."
  • A soft day: referring to a rainy day with that particular soft drizzle, and an overcast sky, but relatively bright. This is a translation of the Irish "lá bog".
  • Fecking is an all purpose expletive slightly less offensive than the English word fucking. In old Dubliner slang, to feck is also slang for "to steal", as in the phrase, "We went to the orchard and fecked some apples." It can also mean, "to throw", especially if something is being thrown where it should not, as in "We fecked his schoolbag into the river." However, fuck is also used in this context and the two should not be confused. "To feck off" is used as a substitute for the verb "to go", either implying "go quickly" ("We fecked off home before it got any worse") or to go away after a disappointment ("we fecked off to the pub after losing the match"). "Feck off" is also used in place of the English "fuck off", as an order meaning "go away". It is generally used in an offensive context as a milder form of "fuck off" (for example, "Will you just feck off, I'm trying to read something", or "Feck off, you're not wanted here").
  • Yoke is typically used in place of the word "thing", for instance, "Gimme that yoke there." It is more commonly used with tools or other objects needed to accomplish some sort of manual task; a book or an apple, for example, are not very likely to be referred to as a "yoke." Like thing, it is more frequently used to refer to objects for which the actual name is cumbersome to say or more difficult to call to mind. It is also used as an insult: "You're some yoke" and the longer forms "yokiebob" and "yokiemibob" still survive. Yoke is also a slang term for an ecstasy tablet. Yoke can also be used when referring to an unattractive or annoying woman (e.g. "Jaysus but she's an awful looking yoke altogether").
  • Now is often used at the end of sentences or phrases as a semantically empty word, completing an utterance without contributing any apparent meaning. Examples include "Bye now" (= "Goodbye"), "There you go now" (when giving someone something), "Ah now!" (expressing dismay), "Hold on now" (= "wait a minute"), "Now then" as a mild attention-getter, etc. This usage is universal among English dialects, but occurs more frequently in Hiberno-English.
  • To is often omitted from sentences where it would exist in British English. For example, "I'm not allowed go out tonight", instead of "I'm not allowed to go out tonight".
  • The devil is used in Irish as an expletive, e.g. Cén áit sa diabhal a bhfuil sé? "Where the devil is he?" (The Irish version is literally "What place in the devil is he?"). This has been translated into Irish as a mild expletive, used in the song "Whiskey in the Jar" in the line "But the devil take the women, for they never can be easy". Diabhal is also used for negation in Irish, and this usage might be carried over to Hiberno-English: diabhal fear "devil a man", for "not a soul". Substitute "nary" for "divil" in this line from the song Harrigan:
    "Proud of all the Irish blood that's in me / Divil a man can say a word again' me."

Irish English also always uses the alveolar or "light" L sound, as opposed to other English dialects which use a velar or "dark" L in word-final position. The naming of the letter H as "haitch" is standard, while the letter R is called "or", the letter A is often pronounced "ah", and the letter Z is referred to as "e-zed".


Hiberno-English vocabulary is similar to British English, though there are many variances, especially with reference to certain goods, services and institutions. Examples that would come into everyday conversation include:

  • Acting the maggot, used to describe dawdling along or playing-up, e.g. "Ah Billy Bob, stop acting the maggot, and eat your dinner".
  • Amadán – eejit/fool (derived from Irish)
  • Something banjaxed is broken, ruined, or rendered incapable of use. As in "My mobile's been banjaxed since I dropped it in the toilet." Infrequently used as an active verb, e.g. "I banjaxed my knee coming off the ladder."
  • Beoir Any female, regardless of attractiveness. Derives from Shelta.[22][23][24]
  • Bogman/Bogger – rural person. Usually derogarotry. See also "Culchie" below.
  • Bold describes someone (usually a child) who is impudent, naughty or badly behaved.
  • Boot used to describe an unattractive girl, usually preceded by "oul".
  • Bucklepper An overactive, overconfident person; as used by Patrick Kavanagh and Seamus Heaney[25]
  • Cat – bad, terrible. Common in Ulster. Sometimes "catmalojin". Found particularly in Sligo and Waterford, but sometimes used elsewhere (thought to derive from catastrophic). "The weather is cat isn't it?"
  • ChilderDublin (and Munster) dialect for a child. It survives from Middle English, the root of the word children in the same way that brethren is the plural of brether (brother).
  • ChiselerDublin dialect for a child.
  • Class is a very common slang term, used to describe something which the speaker deems to be excellent. "That movie was class." Possibly a derivation of Irish cleas for a feat.[26]
  • Cod acting, or acting the cod. Playing at being an eejit (q.v.). Used mainly by the over-30s.
  • College is used in a way similar to American English. In Ireland college can be used to refer to any third-level institution, university or not. For example a question on the 2006 Census of Ireland was "What time do you usually leave home for work, school or college?" [27]
  • Craic or crack is fun, a good time, good company, good atmosphere and conversation. If you are enjoying yourself, it is good craic.[28][29] The word may also be used to refer to events, news, or gossip, as in the phrases "What's the crack?", "How's the craic?", "Any craic?" or "It was good crack". It can also be used in a negative context: "That was some bad crack there last night." A suggested connection to the Irish craiceann, skin, does not seem to be supported by any evidence. The word is a Scots word, as illustrated by the Dictionary of The Scots Language, which came from the Middle English crack (Old English krak) and has migrated from Scotland to Ireland through Ulster Scots. Craic is the Gaelicised version of the word, used from the 1970s, but the meaning is the same.
  • Craytur – a term of endearment – probably a variation of the English word creature.
  • Cub – means a young child
  • Culchie – means from the countryside (derogatory). In Dublin, it refers to people from any part of the country (urban or rural) other than Dublin. It is thought to come from the Irish word for woods coillte, as far back as the time of the Pale, Dublin people referred to the rest of Ireland as "people of the woods", hence Culchie comes from Coillte (the Irish for wood/forest). It may derive from the Irish phrase cúl an tí, meaning "back of the house". For it was, and still is, common practice for country people to go in the back door of the house they were visiting, so they were dubbed Culchies. It may also derive from the name of the village of Kiltimagh, Irish Coillte Mach, in Co. Mayo, or possibly just from a truncation of the word agricultural. "Ya feckin' culchie!"
  • Da Dublin and Ulster slang for father, as in "Me da doesn't do too well at the horses!"
  • Dead on – (adjective) cool, fashionable, laid-back, relaxed, easy-going. It can also be used in agreeing with someone, "I'll pick you up at Six. Yeah, That's dead on". Commonly used in Ulster.
  • Deadly – (Dublin) slang for brilliant, for example, "That concert was deadly". Used in Munster when referring to something difficult, hard or complicated. "That exam question was deadly."
  • Delph meaning Dishware, occasionally meaning artificial teeth. From the name of the original source of supply, Delft in the Netherlands. See Delftware.[30]
  • Desperate – often taken to mean unsavoury or (mildly) terrible – e.g. "It's an awful rainy day isn't it?" – "Desperate". The word fierce is similar in meaning & usage.
  • Dingen means "very good", e.g. the film (fillum) was dingen. From the Gaelic daingean meaning solid, secure etc.
  • D'oul Collective / affectionate term, literally "the old", as in "d'oul silage", "d'oul motor" (pronounced as "th'oul" in some areas).
  • Drout(h) – meaning drought/thirst for alcohol. "There's an awful/fierce droot on me." Common in Ulster. This is similar and probably related to Scots "Drouthy".
  • Fair, as well as its usual meaning of just, can be used instead of very – "They built that housing estate fair fast." This comes from the Irish word fíor (genuine), used to emphasize something. Táim fíor bhuíoch as meaning "I'm very grateful."
  • Fair play – used more so in Ireland than in other English speaking parts of the world. "Fair play to him" meaning "Well done to him", or "Good for him."
  • Feck (or feic, from the Irish "to see") is a slang term that can mean, "throw", and "steal" or "go away" ("Feck off!"). Made famous overseas by Father Jack Hackett in Father Ted. FCUK took legal action against the producers of a "FCEK" t-shirt in 2004 [17].
  • Feen – A man. Its meaning is somewhat akin of the American dude and the London geezer. Etymology: fīn[18] (Shelta) Usage common in Cork.
  • Footpath is used in Ireland where pavement is in British English and sidewalk in American English. The shortened version of this word which is used more commonly everyday is path. "I nearly tripped over that path."
  • Gaff – usually said in Dublin, meaning a house/home or place "Are yis comin' back to my gaff tonight?" "He was bleedin' reckin' the gaff, he was".
  • Gansey, from the Irish geansaí, (English dialect for "Guernsey jersey") refers to a jersey or jumper (sweater in American English). This term is also used, although rarely, in parts of northern England.
  • Gargle – alcohol, e.g. "You going to the off-o (off license) to get some gargle for tonight?"
  • Gas – adjective meaning "hilarious", e.g. "He's a gas man, isn't he?" or "That's gas."
  • Geebag – Disreputable person, akin to bastard. "She's a total geebag." Less offensive than using gee (hard G sound) as a standalone word where gee would refer to female genitalia and would, if spoken vociferously, mean cunt.
  • Give out (to someone) – to tell someone off, to scold a person, e.g. "She gave out to him for stealing the money". Come from the Irish tabhair amach (give out).
  • Gobshite (offensive) refers to a fool, someone who talks nonsense, or sometimes someone who is gullible. "You're a right gobshite you know that."
  • Go 'way as in "Go way out of that." Can mean, in context, a) You're saying something new, or b) You're talking rubbish. "And now she's keeping the baby but she hasn't told him yet." – "Go 'way."
  • Gombeen originally referred to a usurer (from the Irish gaimbín, diminutive of "lump"), but now refers to any underhand or corrupt activity.
  • Gomey – As a noun, a worthless individual, a fool e.g. "You're nothing but a gomey, like!". As an adjective, something not good or of little value e.g. "Your shoes are gomey, ya gomey fool ya."
  • Grand – adjective meaning "doing well" e.g. "How's the wife?" – "Ah she's grand the oul boot."
  • Grinds – private tuition, usually for secondary school students. "I have to get maths grinds."
  • Guards refers to the Garda Síochána, the Republic's police force, the Irish equivalent Gardaí being used more formally, usually in the media. The singular Garda is widely used, the female equivalent, Bangharda less so. The word "police" generally refers to police in other countries (although "Gardaí" and "Police" are sometimes used interchangeably within Dublin), while older people rarely use the American "cops".
  • Gurrier means a young boy up to no good, usually used by the working classes from the Dublin area (see scanger). Derived from gur cake, a cheap rebaked cake eaten by the poor in Dublin. Someone on the run from the law was said to be "out on gur", living off gur cake. Used the same way as the word punk is in American English e.g. "That guy is a no good, just some dumb punk kid".
  • Handy has more meanings in Hiberno-Irish than just "useful": it usually also means "great", "terrific". It is also used to describe a person's skill at a particular task; "Paul is pretty handy with a golf club" meaning "Paul is a good golfer". "Taking it handy" can mean "taking it easy", being careful or (when driving) not speeding.
  • Head – Used mainly in Dublin as a peremptory form of address. "Hey, head, watch where you're going."
  • Horse – Used mainly in County Kildare (pronounced "Hurse") a person. "How's a going Horse?" "Take it easy there Horse!"
  • Hot press Standard Hiberno-English term for an airing cupboard.
  • Jackeen – A derogatory countryman's (culchie) name for a Dubliner. Cf. Irish Seáinín, "shoneen", an Anglicised Irish person. "Ya feckin' jackeen!"
  • Jacks – lavatory. Cf. American English "john". "Here lads, I'm off to the jacks. Mind me drink will ya."
  • Janey Mac! is an exclamation of amazement or frustration in Dublin. It comes from an old children's rhyme: "Janey Mac, me shirt is black, what'll I do for Sunday? /Go to bed, cover your head and don't get up till Monday!"
  • Jaykers (also jaypers) – A euphemism for "Jeez"; used as expression of amazement.
  • Jaysus – The same as Jesus just pronounced differently, usually used in amazement. "Look at that bird!" "Jay---sus!"
  • Jeep, much like "Hiace", is used by many to refer to any sort of off road vehicle, be it a small 4x4 like a Suzuki Jimny or large SUV like a long wheelbase Mitsubishi Pajero. This comes from US military usage of the term, while, oddly enough, actual Chrysler Jeeps were never officially sold in Ireland until the 1990s, and the word was just as common before then.
  • Jockey's bollocks, the. Fantasic, on top, as in "It's the JB". Similar to British-English "the bee's knees" or "the dog's bollocks".
  • Kip – unpleasant place, dive, hovel. "I'm getting out of this kip." Sometimes used in a neutral sense: "The drunk driver was swerving all over the kip."
  • Knacker – member of travelling community (derogatory). In Dublin it can also mean scanger
  • Kittle – the English word kettle is often pronounced more like the Irish citeal.
  • Lack – Waterford slang for girlfriend, similar to the use of "Mot" in Dublin.
  • Lash – Dublin slang for an attractive girl – "She was some lash last night!"
  • Loodar/Ludar – a fool; comes from a combination of the Gaelic Lúdramán and English loser.
  • Lug – An ear. This expression is also found in the north of England and Scotland and is probably of Norse origin.
  • Lúdramán – eejit (derived from Irish)
  • Malarky – nonsense, usually used in a stern tone of voice by those in the teaching profession. "That's enough of that malarky."
  • Meet – Meaning to kiss a person (often a French kiss). Used mainly by young people – "Will you meet my friend?" Other variations include "to score" someone and "to shift" someone.
  • Messages means groceries or errands. "She's gone to the shop to get the messages." "I had a few messages to do in town." This usage is also heard in the north of England and parts of Scotland.
  • Minerals means soft drinks.
  • Mouth-ed Telling a secret, giving information. Glottal T, as in "he mou'hed on me to the Guards".
  • Mot – In Dublin, "my girlfriend" would be "me mot". As the "t" is pronounced as a glottal stop, this sounds as if it might be related to the Irish maith for "good" (maybe via cailín maith, "good girl") but is actually a preservation of an English word (mainly for "harlot") with possible French, Dutch, and Romany origins. The English Gypsy word for "woman" is "mort".
  • Mulla – A term used by people from Dublin to describe people from Wicklow. See also Culchie.
  • (The) Mutt's Nuts – Slightly more polite and more recent version of The Dog's Bollocks. Mainly Dublin .
  • Oul' fella/lad/man and oul' wan/lass(y) are used to describe one's father or mother respectively. "I was helping the oul'lad last night."
  • Onst (pronounced "wunst") once. Rural. Also in USA and spelled "onct". As in: "I was to Galway onst; 'tis great to see the world."
  • Pack is often used to refer to quite small packets, as in a "pack of crisps".
  • Press is invariably used instead of cupboard. The hot press is the airing cupboard.
  • Puss – Lips or mouth[31].
  • Quare (pronounced "kwer") – (a) used in place of very and to add emphasis (b) used to describe something queer / strange. "That's a quare looking yoke isn't it?" – "That is quare bad so it is". It is especially common in Wexford.
  • Ramp is used generally to refer to a hump or bump. Example: Speed Ramps
  • Runners or tackies, or in the north gutties, refers to "trainers" (British English) or "sneakers" (American English).
  • Savage – great altogether. Commonly used to describe food or women. "Yer one is savage!" "I'd a savage steak there yesterday!"
  • Scallion is usually used instead of Spring Onion (British English) or Green Onion (American English). However, since the proliferation of British supermarkets such as Tesco Ireland, some people have also started to use the term Spring Onion.
  • Scobe, or Scobie, normally used in Munster or Leinster, refers to people low down in the social ladder, living in housing estates in the city, wearing hoodies, and committing petty crimes. It is synonymous with the words scumbag or skanger.
  • Scoop is used to describe an alcoholic beverage e.g. "You going for a few scoops?". It is rarely, if ever, used in the singular (for example "I left my scoop on the table" is not a phrase that would ever be used). Also used is the word Jars (giving rise to the expression to be intoxicated jarred). Both terms usually describe pints.
  • Sca is a word used when asking someone if they have any news. Would usually be used in the form "Any sca?". Could perhaps have its roots lying in the word scandal, or possibly originating from the Irish aon sceal, which has the same meaning.
  • Scratcher – Bed. Used in Dublin. "I couldn't get out of the scratcher this morning."
  • Sham – a young man or boy. This word has come to be used as an exclamation by the Irish skanger community (although its used mainly by "Culchies" in Ulster), for example "Aw Sham!" or "That is some sham!". Used in some parts of Ulster to mean a friend or as a greeting, particularly in North Antrim, also highly prevalent in West Cork, for example "All right sham, how's it goin?" Etymology apparently from Shelta šam.[19]
  • Shift – to kiss, generally with tongues. Used mainly by youths. "Did ya shift her?"
  • Shore – Street drainage in a gutter (a drain or stormdrain)
  • Skanger is a derogatory term for a person with questionable fashion taste and/or a habitual use of recreational drugs and/or a penchant for petty crime. Most commonly used in and around Dublin. The word scumbag is commonly used elsewhere. The British equivalent is a chav.
  • Keeping sketch describes keeping a lookout for teachers, Gardaí (police), parents etc. "Sketch!" is shouted if someone is coming. Usually used by teenagers. The term may derive from the Irish sceith meaning "to inform on".
  • Sláinte is an Irish word meaning "health". It is the shorter version of the term sláinte mhaith which means "good health". Either version is used as a toast, similar to "cheers", when drinking.
  • Sound is used as a way of saying thanks, or as an alternative to "kind, nice". "Sound for the food!", "That was really sound of him."
  • Story – used as a casual form of greeting with friends or family. Often used on its own or can be used in conjunction with a word like bud (buddy) or man e.g. "Story bud?" or "What's the story man?". Usually used in passing or as a beginning to a conversation or "story".
  • Strand – commonly used instead of "beach".
  • Sweet cake often used among older, but not very common among younger generations, a literal translation from Irish of cáca milis meaning "cake" or "pastry".
  • Tayto (an Irish brand of potato crisps – US chips) has become synonymous with any sort of crisps, regardless of brand, among rural areas. Although the term itself is singular, Tayto, the word is pluralised in use (as in "Go to the shop and get me a bag of Taytos.")
  • Tearin' away is usually used to respond positively to an informal greeting. Usually it is preceded with an "ah"
  • Tilly – often used among older, but not very common among younger generations, a small amount or remnant of liquid (as in "There's only a tilly of milk left in the bottle" or "Will I put a little tilly of milk in your coffee"). See also Tint.
  • Timber – Used in Waterford, usually during hurling matches, provoking players to strike opposing players with their hurleys. Often preceded by "Give 'em"
  • Tint – often used among older, but not very common among younger generations, a small amount or remnant of liquid. (See also Tilly.)
  • Tome – adjective once used amongst Galway people meaning "great".
  • Topper, pointer, parer, paro are often used to refer to a "pencil sharpener".
  • Wan – A woman. This is a corruption of the word one under influence of the Gaelic word bean, meaning woman. "You wanna see yer wan." = "You want to see that woman."
  • Ware – Crockery to be washed. (principally used in Limerick and the MidWest)
  • Well – Used as a welcome in the South East and Louth, mainly in Waterford and Dundalk, and in Ulster as a welcome instead of hello. Used sporadically in Mayo. Welcoming a male is usually done "Wellboy" and a female is "Wellgirl"
  • What about ye! (informal slang) – common greating in Belfast. Similar to "How are you?" and sometimes answered with "Aye, dead-on." meaning "Yeah, cool/good/very well." Other common greetings "What's the craic?" which does not usually require an answer, or "How's she cuttin'?" which is more popular in rural areas (similar to the colloquial American greeting "How's it hangin'?")
  • Whisht – Meaning "be quiet". "Hauld (Hold) your whisht" is a common phrase in rural Munster and Cavan, and is slowly going out of use. It probably comes from the Irish word huist (quiet!, ie. an instruction given to children), or éist (listen), which when said repeatedly becomes "Whisht". It might also be related to the similar (but now archaic) English or Scots whist . [20] [21].
  • Wet – Some speakers, particularly in Connacht, use the word wet as an adjective to describe the state of tea while brewing – "The tea's wet." The explanation presumably derives from the days when tea leaves were common, hence the act of pouring boiling water onto the leaves made them "wet", and the tea was ready to drink.
  • Wet thing – A crude turn of phrase describing a sexually attractive girl or woman. More recently, the term is simply put as wet. The term is more common in reference to females but can apply to males in certain contexts. "Jaysus, yer one over there's a wet thing!" "That bird I met at Wesley was wet!
  • Wile or Wild – can be both a replacement for very ("That child is wile good") or an expression meaning something is bad, terrible or awful. "Isn't the weather wile", "God it's wild that he died so young". Extensively used throughout Donegal.
  • Wojus – awful.
  • Yoke – an unnamed thing, a whatchamacallit. Used commonly. (In parts of Ireland users of recreational drugs often refer to ecstasy tablets as "yokes".[32] Similar meaning words are thingymabob, thingymajig, and a yokymabob. "How do you get this yoke to work?"[33]

See also


  1. ^ English has been used in Ireland since the twelfth century. The Anglo-Normans began arriving in Ireland from about 1167 onwards, bringing with them the Norman-French and English languages. This meant that there were three languages current in Ireland at that time – Irish, Norman-French, and English. In addition Latin was used by senior clerics. Norman-French was spoken by commanders of the invading forces, who had been sent to Ireland by Henry II to conduct (allegedly) a moral mission to reform the Irish. The King had been authorized to do so by the only English Pope, Nicholas Breakspear, who had taken the name Hadrian IV.[1]
  2. ^ Use of the English language became further established from the late seventeenth century in Ireland. The Penal Laws from (1695) ensured that Irish people were denied formal education, and the informal education provided by the Hedge Schools played its part in the formation of modern Hiberno-English. English continued to flourish here throughout the eighteenth century. The great Seminary at Maynooth was established in 1795. Priests graduating from this college addressed their congregations in English whenever they could. From the 1780s the Penal Laws had been eased, thus helping to eradicate the polarization, on political and religious lines, of those who spoke English and those who spoke Irish.[2]
  3. ^ According to the 1841 census Ireland had 8,175,124 inhabitants, of whom four million spoke Gaelic. (John O'Beirne Ranelagh, "A Short History of Ireland", Cambridge 1994, p. 118)
  4. ^ a b Hickey (1984:234)
  5. ^ Hickey (2007:?)
  6. ^ a b Hickey (1984:241)
  7. ^ All of the below information is from Dublin English: Evolution and Change; Raymond Hickey. John Benjamins 2005
  8. ^ [3] [4]
  9. ^ [5]
  10. ^ The English verb "to be" can be represented in Irish, depending on grammatical circumstances, either by the verb or by the copula is, a defective verb; it is the former which is at issue here. The distinction between the verb and the copula is explained in full on the Irish syntax article.
  11. ^ [6]
  12. ^ [7], [8]
  13. ^ [9]
  14. ^ [10]
  15. ^ [11]
  16. ^ [12]
  17. ^ [13]
  18. ^ [14]
  19. ^ [15]
  20. ^ [16]
  21. ^ The Gentrification of "Langer"
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ S. Heaney
  26. ^
  27. ^ – page 113
  28. ^
  29. ^ HED :: Comments
  30. ^ Retrieved 9 July 2008.
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Ecstasy". Reachout Ireland. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  33. ^ Trudgill, Peter (1984). Language in the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. pp. 143. 


  • Hickey, Raymond (1984), "Coronal Segments in Irish English", Journal of Linguistics 20 (2): 233–250 
  • Hickey, Raymond (2007). Irish English: History and Present-day Forms. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521852994. 

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


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Proper noun




  1. Alternative spelling of Hiberno English.

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