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Irish-English terms

On the beer

Extant Irish

Cursing in Ireland

It's always a bit of a comfort and a relief to rediscover* that the Irish are a foul-mouthed lot. You don't have to worry about a natural phrase if the atmosphere is informal, and it usually is.

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In common with European English, the Irish use "shite" and "bollocks." "Shite" means "shit," and is used mostly the same. "Bollocks" means "testicles," but is used idiomatically in various forms.

European (Brisith)-English




Acting the bollocks

Being an ass

Give (somebody) a bollocking

Tear (somebody) a new one, scold, "yell at"

A bollocks

An asshole

"_, the bollocks..."

"_, that asshole..."

Don't give a bollocks

Don't give a shit

Made a bollocks of it

Screwed that one up

The dog's bollocks

Good stuff, the shit

On top of these, the Irish have added a few of their own:



Ask me bollocks (or "ask me left one.")

Not a chance.

Me bollocks

My ass

I will in me bollocks.

I will not. ("You will in your fuck" is the second-person version.)

In America, "bollocks" is a vaguely British term of no particular vulgar meaning. In Europe it is distinctly vulgar, though not obscene. In Ireland, it's just the way people talk.

As for "shite:" The Irish have one great variation, and they go all out. "Gobshite" means "shithead" or "dumbass." Gobshite, as "fuck," has a diminutive term that is acceptable for children. For "gobsheen," in turn, there is a derivative version, "gobaloonock," which is milder.

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A note on blasphemy

While it is normal to hear casual use of the name and title of Jesus Christ, you won't generally hear the Irish abusing the word "God" — for example, "God damn," "God dammit," etc.


Getting "pissed" in Ireland is getting drunk, the same as it is in European English — but very unlike the American pissed, which is short for "pissed off."

An important use of the word "piss" in Euro-English is "taking the piss." "Are you taking the piss?" means "are you being sarcastic? (ironic, etc.)" To take the piss out of someone is to lampoon them, or satirize them, to mock in a way that is presumed funny. But in that case "taking the piss" is short for "taking the piss out of." On the other hand, "taking the piss" describes taking advantage of a situation in a devious way, taking liberties. The phrase(s) is/are used broadly in idiomatic European English, and not really at all in American. In Ireland, again, it's just the way people talk.


"Cunt," in Irish-English, is the same as it is in Euro-English. Its primary use is vulgar, but not obscene. It is not primarily a rude term for "vagina" nor "bad woman," and its subject is usually not feminine at all. "Cunt" is just an irreverent way of refering to a fellow.

The word may also be used in adjectival form — "Cuntin'."


"Arse" is used in Ireland as in wider Europe:





Can't be arsed

Can't be bothered


Very drunk


"Hole" is a common vulgarity in Ireland.



In me hole

Not a chance; you must be joking

Also used in the form "x, me hole," where "x" = the statement contradicted.

Did you get your hole?

Did you get laid?

"Nat King Cole," in rhyming slang — or, for short, "Nat." "Did you get your Nat?" Irish English is not sexy.

Pain in the hole

Pain in the ass

[Couldn't] bother [one's] hole

Couldn't be bothered

Scratchin' me hole

Standing around with nothing to do


Of course, the principal swearword in the English language is "fuck," and the Irish have unique ways of using it.



A fucker for _

Pretty devoted to _

"... a fucker for the drink..."

Fuck-off [adj.]


"... a big old fuck-off hat..."

Fuck's sake

The same as in U.S., but more common

Fuck it [out, over, etc.]

Chuck it [out, etc.]

Out with the garbage, over the fence, etc.

[Hurry up,] the fuck

[Hurry] the fuck [up]

Thanks be to fuck


Can't be fucked [with it]

Can't be bothered [with it]

Also, "can't be arsed."

You will in your fuck

You will not.

"I will in me bollocks" is the first-person version.

Effin' and blindin'

Really cursing — in anger, and with conviction

Normally considered ignorant.

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Also, in common with European English, "fuck-all" in Irish English means "dick, squat, jack," as in "I got paid yesterday; today I have fuck-all."

The word "fuck," in Ireland, even has a diminutive form. "Feck" is mild. Kids can use it [with limitations] and you can say it on public broadcast. And, of course, sometimes it's just more appropriate — in a polite situation, for example.

In other countries, you'd consider not cursing in a polite situation. In Ireland, there might be a word for it.

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* I wrote this page soon after I'd returned in 2005 to Ireland from Holland, where I'd gone for about a year and a half.

The Dutch are generally opposed to coarse language.

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