Handy words and phrases to know in Ireland

Posted by Neil Hand on the 17th of July 2015 at 14:44:48

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Accents and words are powerful things. Some are so strong, so local in their tone, their uniqueness, to seem like different languages altogether than others, though they may all be the same at root. People fall in love with Ireland for many different reasons: The stunning beauty of her nature, her wildlife, the culture; in plays, poems, songs and dance. The great sporting traditions. The colourful history. This piece will look at some of the words and phrases used uniquely in Ireland, and are worth jotting down if you plan to visit the Emerald Isle. Many of them contain the wit and spirit of the Irish people. Hope they bring a smile to your face.

Was it any use?

This phrase would make more sense if it was ‘Was it of any use?’, as in ‘Did you find … useful?’ However, Ireland being Ireland, it doesn’t literally mean ‘Was it useful?’, rather ‘Was it any good?’ Widely used throughout the Island.

Donkey’s years

In Ireland, if you haven’t done something or seen someone etc. in ‘Donkey’s years’, this means you haven’t done or seen the thing or person in a long time. There is no definitive explanation of where this expression originated, but we suppose it is safe to assume there is a relation between donkey years and doggie years. And maybe a donkey year is longer than a doggie one. Don’t ask us about Cat years.


Jaysus, as you can probably guess from how it sounds, is simply how ‘Jesus’ is often pronounced in Ireland. It’s used to express surprise, shock, delight, and roughly 300 other feelings. Examples might be: ‘Jaysus I love you’ (to a loved one), ‘Jaysus I’m wrecked’ (when you’re tired), or ‘Jaysus, I think I just won the lotto!’, generally used when one thinks they’ve got all the correct numbers in the national or European lottery.

The Press

We don’t have cupboards in Ireland. We have presses instead. They’re the exact same thing. Except we decided at some point to call cupboards presses. Nobody knows when that point was. But most people agree it was one of the greatest days in Irish history.

The Guards

This is the name we have for the police force in the Republic of Ireland. They’re collectively known as the Gardai, singularly known as the Garda, but the Irish being the Irish, we’ve decided that it’s better to have another, third word, the Guards. As in ‘If that football hits my window one more time, I’ll call the Guards on ye!’

Why not come to Ireland and try out some of these words and phrases for yourself? We would be more than happy to point you in the direction of hundreds of wonderful places where you will get the opportunity to converse with the locals. Contact us today and get the conversation started!

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