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Irish English

Irish-English terms

Comparative culture

Cursing in Hiberno-English

Irish conversation

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

In common with European English, the Irish use "shite" and "bollocks." "Shite" means "shit" both literally and figuratively. "Bollocks" literally means "testicles," but is almost always used idiomatically:

European (British)-English American



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:

Irish-English American

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.)

From the Euro-English term "shite" comes the Irish-English "gobshite," which basically means "shithead."

In America, "bollocks" is a vaguely British term of no particular vulgar meaning. If you'd use it at all, it would likely be more of a comic-book-like verb, maybe spelled "bollix." In European English, "bollocks" is distinctly vulgar, though not obscene. In Ireland, it's just the way people talk.


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 as in broader Europe, is "getting drunk." This is an important distinction, as the phrase has different meaning in American. If you want to talk about anger, "pissed off" translates broadly.

An important use of the word "piss," in European-English, is "taking the piss." To take the piss out of somebody is to satirize them in a coy manner — to "bust their balls," in jest. "Are you taking the piss" means "are you being sarcastic? (ironic, etc,)" whereas "you're taking the piss" means "you're just fucking with me." "Taking the piss" It is also a way to describe taking advantage of a situation or acting deviously. You took the piss getting paid for hours that didn't work. The phrase is used broadly and variously in European English, but generally unheard in American.


"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 referring to a fellow.

The word may also be used in adjectival form — "Cuntin'," meaning "not good."


"Arse," the Euro-English word for "Ass," has its own usages in Irish English:

Irish-English American



[also used in English slang]

Can't be arsed

Can't be bothered

[also used in English slang]


Very drunk

[also used in English slang]


"Hole" is a common vulgarity in Ireland.

Irish-English American

Did you get your hole?

Did you get laid?

"Nat King Cole," in rhyming slang, "Nat" for short. "Did you get your Nat?"

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

Soap for me hole

Hope for my soul

The Irish mind will unpack implicit humo(u)r, first scanning for the funny interpretation of any oddity. "Soap for me hole" translates itself in Ireland.


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

Irish-English American

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 in U.S., but less common

Fuck it [out*]

Chuck it [out]

*Out, 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."

__   ___   __

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 TV and on the radio. And, of course, sometimes it's just more appropriate — in polite company.

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