Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

English in Ireland: Irish Accents and Slang


Irish English is often called Hiberno-English. The English language in Ireland dates back to the 12th century, due to the Norman invasions. For a while, English was only spoken by a small minority of people, known as the Pale, who lived around Dublin. English became popular around the 16th and 17th Centuries, when the British began taking over the plantations of Ireland. Since then, it has grown to be the majority language in the Republic of Ireland.

Hiberno-English spoken in Ireland is definitely influenced by Gaelic and Irish culture, so it is not the same as British or American English. One interesting aspect about Hiberno-English is that Irish people do not often use words that translate directly as “yes” or “no.” When people ask each other questions, people will answer with the verb that was asked in the question, with a positive of negative answer.

If someone asks: “Are you coming to the pub,” the answer could be “I am,” or “I am not,” rather than “Yes,” or “No,” However, because of globalization, some of these unique aspects are disappearing, particularly among younger people.


The city of Dublin has many different accents, like big cities like London or New York, which relate to age, class and family. There is “local Dublin,” which is a working-class dialect; “inner Dublin” or “knucker accent,” spoken by the middle class and suburbanites; and “New Dublin,” which is common amongst younger people.

Here is a dictionary of some common Irish slang:

Babby: Child

Bad egg: Troublemaker

Banger: Old car

Be wide: Be careful

Bleedin’ deadly: Brilliant

Boozer: Pub

Cacks: Trousers

Capper: Handicapped person

Cat: Awful

Cha: Tea

Chucker-out: Doorman/Bouncer

Cow Juice: Milk

Dander: Leisurely stroll

Divil: Devil

Dosser: Slacker, useless

Drink Link: ATM

Dry up!: Shut up!

Elephants: Drunk

Fairy lights: Christmas lights

Fire away: Continue, go ahead

Flea rake: A comb

Gaff: House

Gas: Funny

Gift: Excellent

Gom: Idiot

Hames: A mess

Hole in the wall: ATM

Hooley: Party

Jacked: Tired

Jo Maxi: Taxi

Juicy: Cute

Laudy daw: Snob

Life of Reilly: Carefree, hedonistic

Lift: Elevator

Mentaller: Crazy guy

Narky: Cranky

Nuts: Mad

Oxters: Armpits

Plankin’ it: Very nervous

Poppies: Potatoes

Press: Cupboard

Rabbit on: To talk a lot

Ri-Ra: Fun

Rosie Lee: Tea

Rubber dollies: Running shoes

Scarlet: Blushing

Scran: Food

Shades: Police

Skin: Friend

Vitamin G: Pint of Guinness

Whist: Keep quiet

Here are some English words derived from the Irish language:

Baltimore: meaning “town of the big house”

Bog: a wetland

Colleen: A girl

Galore: A lot

Shamrock: A clover

Shanty: An old house

Slew: A great amount

Whiskey: Translates as “water of life”


One thought on “English in Ireland: Irish Accents and Slang

  1. “The Pale” refers to an area surrounded by a defensive wooden palisade (aka “pale”) in which colonisers lived, cf any wild west fort. So the term refers to a place not a people. The (main) Pale was basically the greater Dublin area but there was another further south, in County Wexford.
    The ethnic Irish resisted the imposition of English until the mid-19th century, when the Famine convinced them emigration was the only way to survive.
    The middle class would be “scarlet” to be told they speak with a “knacker” accent – “knacker”, a violently abusive term for Traveller, basically means “the lowest of the low”.
    “Inner city” , also known as “flat Dublin”, is a less judgemental term for working class dialect. Upper middleclass Dublinese is known as a “Dort accent” (from the Dart, local train that serves well-to-do suburbs).
    Bleedin’ deadly!

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