Top 10 Irish sayings you need to know

And how to use them as you improve your English

The English language is wonderfully diverse and is as known for its complex grammar rules as it is for the vast array of dialects of its native speakers. Yet for the learner of this language there are words, phrases and sayings that may be used only within the smallest of regions – and this may be no better demonstrated by the often bizarre and almost impossible to pronounce collection of sayings that hail from Ireland.

As we have one of our two bases in Dublin we thought that we’d lend a helping hand in getting to grips with these Irish sayings – so that our students may speak like true locals before they’ve even arrived.

  1. “Sure look it”

If you study or work in Ireland for any amount of time it won’t be long before you come across this phrase. Now you may well ask what this means, and the most accurate answer we can provide is almost anything! It can be a suitable response to a question, a self-serving statement or a comment in a conversation.

'Sure look it' Irish sayings

“What a sunny day it turned out to be”.

“Aw, sure look it”.

  1. “The Jacks”

When in Ireland you should avoid using the Americanised term of the ‘Rest Room’. Try asking for the toilet instead or, if you want to go all out with your Irish dialect, trying using the term “the Jacks”.

toilet 'the-jacks' irish sayings
‘The jacks’

“Can you point me in the direction of the Jacks please?”

  1. “Was it any use?”

This simple expression is a common alternative to asking whether something was any good.

Restaurant Irish Sayings
‘Was it any use?’

“We visited that restaurant you recommended last night”.

“Was it any use?”

  1. “Donkey’s Years”
donkey's years Irish sayings
Donkey’s years

This expression turns up often throughout the UK, and simply translates to mean a very long time indeed.

“I’ve not been there in donkey’s years”.

  1. “The press”
cupboard the press irish sayings
The press

This one’s straightforward: ‘The Press’ is how many Irish people refer to their cupboard.

“Can you grab a cup from the press please?”

  1. “The guards”
irish police the guards (Irish sayings)
The Guards

The police in Ireland are officially called the Gardaí, although they’re known in slang as simply ‘the guards’. Hopefully this will be one term that you definitely won’t have to use whilst visiting Ireland!

“The guards informed us that Airbnb provide accommodation for the night – not a venue for an all-night rave”.

  1. “Wet the tea”
wet the tea (Irish sayings)
‘Wet the tea’

Tea is a pretty big thing throughout the UK, and if you’re asked to wet the tea then you should simply chuck a few teabags into the teapot and add boiling water.

“Go ahead and wet the tea please”.

  1. “Minerals”

Soft drinks, soda and fizzy pop – Minerals is an alternative word for each of these in Ireland. One case note on this however – many of the older generation associate ‘Minerals’ with a drink called 7UP, so you may want to be specific if you’re ever in just such a situation.

soda fizzy drinks minerals (Irish-sayings)
Minerals

“I had a rather heavy night last night – I’ll be on the minerals from now on!”

  1. “Like hen’s teeth”

This turn of phrase simply means that something is rare (and after all hen’s teeth must be pretty rare, given that a google image search turns up fruitless).

like hen's teeth (Irish sayings)
‘Like hen’s teeth’

“Language schools that are as amazing as the English Studio are rare as Hen’s teeth”.

  1. Ossified

Ossified is a rather useful term for drunk (also on a side note – the native drink of Ireland is Guinness, which is known locally as Gat).

drunk ossified (Irish sayings)
He’s ossified.

“I had one too many pints of Gat last night and ended up completely Ossified and face down in a gutter”.

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