cover 9 Irish Phrases

Generally speaking, the Irish like to swear, be crass and take the piss (see below) out of each other. When visiting you're likely to hear many unknown phrases and colloquialisms, which vary widely from region to region. You pretty much need an extensive guide to understand them all, so to get you started we've gather a list of nine must-know terms. Word of warning: they're kinda alcohol-centric, but, well, we are talking about happenings in the home of Guinness.

What’s the craic?

Pronounced crack, 'craic' is the word the Irish use for fun for the most part. But when asked 'what’s the craic', you are being asked: 'what’s the story?', 'have you anything interesting going on?', or 'how are you?' more generally. Note: this phrase has nothing to do with drugs (crack has never been popular in Ireland, cocaine on the other hand…. you can often get from someone in the jacks).

The jacks

The Irish version of the toilet. The jacks are the place to be for catching up with the locals. The later in the night, the more likely you’ll be to strike up conversation with some randomers in the jacks while taking a slash (a.k.a. urinating). Bathroom attendants are common in clubs, who will spruce you up, give you condoms or mints and hand you the towel in return for a (technically optional) tip.  


A 200ml bottle of spirits is called a Naggin. Naggins are best used as a start to the night in 'pre-drinks' (which is meeting up before going out to have 3-6 drinks at off license [a.k.a. liquor store] prices). Also used for smuggling into clubs (again to avoid paying 6 times the price for your alcohol in a club). If you’ve a higher tolerance, get a Shoulder instead, which is 350ml, and a little more difficult to smuggle.

Oul pair

Basically, this means your parents: consisting of your oul wan (your mammy / mother) and your oul lad (father). The term can be used both as a term of endearment, and as part of an insult…. Your oul one cooked a nice meal last night vs. your oul one is a right c**t – which would probably start a fight.

Ask me arse

Generally means no, 'cause I do not agree with what you’re saying. Often said in response to an unreasonable proposition. Said among friends and acquaintances, it’s an informal way of refusing something.

The Guards

The Irish police. From the official name: Garda Síochána, the guards are the Irish (unarmed) police force. They are generally from out of town and are usually up for a bit of banter. Keep a watchful eye if you are breaking some by-law (drinking outdoors in many cities is not permitted) or if a bar has a lock-in (stays open later than the permitted closing time).


Sláinte (try saying it like 'slawn-tya') serves as the Irish way of saying 'cheers.' Literally meaning 'health' in Irish, it is used to toast. So get together with a group of friends, raise your glass, say sláinte and drink the night away.

I will yea

No. Contrary to what it appears, 'I will yea' simply means no. Alternative to 'ask me arse,' it means what you want that person to do is just not happening and you should feel silly for asking. There may not be any logic behind this phrase.

Taking the piss

Making fun of someone means taking the piss. Personal insults based on their attire, their habits, favorite teams etc. While these insults may sound harsh AF, it’s all done in jest. 'I was just taking the piss' is the response if confronted on something that may have gone over the line. Taking the piss is essentially an Irish pastime.