11 of my favourite Irish expressions

Demonstrated by Robert De Niro

If you’ve not visited Ireland yet, find a reason to. Be it the history, the views, the accents or the Guinness, you’re spoilt for choice in every department.

But before you don your green hats and fill out your Ancestry DNA kits to trace your Irish heritage (I’m looking at YOU my American friends), you’ll need to learn a little of the Irish language. And I’m not talking about as gaeilge.

You know who you are.

Sure may think you’ve gone native when you wish someone slainte before knocking back a pint.
And you may feel like you’ve joined the Republican resistance by (badly) exclaiming Tiocfaidh ár lá (it’s pronounced chocky-or-la by the way).

But that’s just the beginning.
Because the true Irish currency isn’t the euro, it’s “the craic” – and they’ve developed a whole other language for it like a secret handshake.

So below is a handy pocket guide for you all to get you started.

And I’ve enlisted the Robert Deniro to help explain, because he’s actually more Irish than Italian.

No. 1. The Craic.

It’s the first phrase every blow-in and plastic paddy learns when they land, perhaps because it’s the most versatile.


“We had some craic last night didn’t we?”
“the craic was mighty!”

It may be used to ask how someone is and probe them for gossip or stories to share: what’s the craic? Any craic?

Pro-tip: every drug-related joke about “craic” has already been made, so put it away. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.

No. 2. C’mere to me.

It’s another way of saying “by the way” or “tell me”.

You’re sat directly opposite your pal Rob, talking about how you were so drunk the night before that you got arrested and landed in a cell full of hookers and cannabis plants (more on that story here) when Rob stops you mid way to go “c’mere to me, do you know where I could score some yokes?”

No. 3. C’mere shtap, goaway with ya

Taken literally, this one’s admittedly a little confusing.
Contrary to what you might think, this isn’t an expression of indecisiveness but translates more like: No WAY! Tell me more!

“My neighbours kept me up till 3am partying so I shat through their letter box this morning”
“C’mere shtap, goaway with ya!” your friend beams with glee.

No. 4. Sound.

Absolutely nothing to do with audio or auditory function. It’s a measure of how likeable or decent a person is.

“Jimmy’s pure sound”.
“Really? I think he’s a prick”.

It’s also an expression of agreement.

“I’ll meet you at Neachtains for a pint?”

No. 5. Fair play.

Not a sporting reference in the slightest. More a sort of verbal pat on the back, a “well done”.  

“I’ve been on a week-long bender, I’ve crashed my car and I’ve been arrested twice –  but I haven’t missed a day of work!”
“Fair play to ye”.

No. 6. Ach, gowan.

Robert Deniro GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The best way to say “go on”. Usually used to pressure someone nicely into doing something they were initially reluctant to do. Made famous by Mrs Doyle in Father Ted who badgered people into drinking tea.

Is this hypnotic or repetitive?

Also used as a way of agreeing to something. Like when you’re steadying yourself against the bar after 45 pints at 4am, wondering whether the next drink will put you in bed or in hospital, and your friend insists on buying you a jagerbomb, to which you stupidly reply “ach, gowan so”.

No. 7. Ah, here now.

Another way of expressing disapproval or disgust at something someone said or did.
“Padraig likes to mix blackcurrant in his Guinness”
“Ah, here now”.

Immortalised in the popular card game Ah, Here Now

No. 8. The Sesh.

Short for “session”. When friends end up going on “the sesh” it means they’re on the lash – they’re hitting the beers, hard. The sesh continues until well beyond last bells, usually involving a lock-in before everyone heads back to a house party.

There is a man in Galway known as “The Sesh” because of his superhuman endurance and stamina in the drinking department – in drinking terms he is an Olympic athlete. He shall remain unnamed for health and safety reasons.

No. 9. “The Shift” and “The Ride”.

The shift is not a mechanical manoeuvre, and the ride doesn’t refer to travel of any kind – although bareback may come into it at some point.

The shift actually refers to the act of swapping saliva with someone.
“Did ye get the shift last night?”
“I did.”

If you’re lucky, the ride is the follow-up to the shift, when you end up rubbing genitals with someone.

“Not tonight, I’m still sore from the riding I got last weekend”.

No. 10. That’s gas.

Absolutely nothing to do with flatulence. Normally used to refer to something funny or amusing.

“Look, when I slip valium into the dog’s food she sits on the sofa like a zen buddha all day!”
“HAHAHA that’s gas”

No. 11. Grand.

Kind of like “ok”.

“So I’ve ordered a 14-piece Bargain bucket from KFC with 4 regular fries, a snack box of popcorn chicken, some slaw, and a litre of coca-cola. Did you want anything?”

“Nah, I’m grand thanks”.

Consider yourselves vaguely prepped.

Pepper your conversations with these liberally and where appropriate.

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