Try To Use a Few of These Irish Slang Terms on St. Patrick’s Day

Friday, March 102 min read

March means many things — the last winter chill, sprouting daffodils, and the time of Pisces and Aries signs, to name a few. It’s also the month of St. Patrick’s Day, the feast day of Ireland’s patron saint and an excuse for many Americans to drink green beer and dissect what percentage of Irish ancestry they have. To help commemorate the day, here’s a list of Irish slang words to sprinkle into your conversations this month.


In American English, a “sham” is something that is bogus or false. Not so in Ireland. This is a word meaning “friend,” and it’s used primarily in the Ballymoney, Coleraine, and Portrush areas. It may come from the Ulster-Scots dialect, spoken mostly in Northern Ireland.


If an Irish person calls you a “muppet,” they think you’re quite silly. This word can also be used in a more gentle way to describe “someone enthusiastic but inept; a person prone to mishaps through naivety.”


If something is “banjaxed” in Ireland, it’s broken or damaged. The origin of this word is unknown, but it is primarily used in Dublin and was first recorded in 1939 in Brian O’Nolan’s novel At Swim-Two-Birds (which he published under the name Flann O’Brien): “Here is his black heart sitting there as large as life in the middle of the pulp of his banjaxed corpse.”

Stall the Ball

This expression, meaning to “wait or hold on a moment,” is used primarily in Northern Ireland. You might hear the Derry girls use it on the popular Netflix comedy series about life in Northern Ireland in the 1990s.


A “yoke” can be any thing or person — anything whose name one does not recall, know, or wish to specify. Consider it the Irish equivalent of “thingamajig.” The Oxford English Dictionary first records it in P.W. Joyce’s English as We Speak It (1910): “Yoke; any article, contrivance, or apparatus, for use in some work. ‘That's a quare yoke Bill,’ says a countryman when he first saw a motor car.”


While this began as an American and Australian slang word, it has been adopted for use mainly by the Irish. It paradoxically means something is great or fantastic.


Gatch” is the Irish equivalent of “gait,” but it describes a distinctive way a person walks — specifically a flashy kind of swagger.

Featured image credit: AlexSava/ iStock

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