The potato, for better or worse, has played a major role in Irish life and as such, despite being a vegetable, it’s had quite an influence on Irish culture and even on the Irish language.
Such was the relationship between the people of Ireland and the lowly spud that a simple search of the Irish terminology database téarma.ie will uncover no fewer than 90 different terms involving the word potato (though, granted, not all are completely linked to the edible kind).
The need for greater speed was obviously important when discussing potatoes as several concepts relating to the food that would require a phrase or string of words to describe in English are mashed down to one-word terms in Irish.
The main Irish word for potato is “práta” (prawh-tah) and it’s this word that is used most of the time. There are loads of other options, however, if you wish to be more precise.
We take a look at some of the most spud-tacular words.
1. Paidrín (pad-reen)
Meaning: very tiny potato
Sadly, the word paidrín is also the Irish term for the rosary. Could this be a reflection on your need for a prayer if your potato crop turned out to be small?
2. Sliomach (shli-muck)
Meaning: very wet potato
Even the sound of this word makes us think of something mushy.
3. Creachán (cray-cawn) / Sceidín (shced-een) / Póirín (pour-een)
Meaning: very small potato
The term “creach” by itself means a loss or a pity, perhaps another nod to the need for large potatoes. “Póirín” can also mean “small round stone.”
4. Caldar (kal-dar) / Peil (pell)/ Cnap (k-nop)
Meaning: very big potato.
“Peil” is also the Irish for football and if you add “caldar” before the words “fir” or “mná,” you can describe a big, robust man or woman.
5. Ionam (Un-um)
Meaning: Sweet potato
The sweet potato can also be called by its more literal term “práta milis” (milis meaning sweet) or práta Spáinneach (meaning Spanish potato).
6. Dradairnín (Drad-arh-neen / Screamhachóir (shcrave-a-core)
Meaning: small useless potato
The Irish were obviously very concerned with the potato crop turning out small and unusable.
7. Práta Breac (prawh-tah brak)
Meaning: semi-rotten potato
8. Sceallóga (shkal-og-gah)
Meaning: French fries (or chips in Ireland)
9. Sceallán (shkal-awhn) / Scoilteán (skull-tawn)
Meaning: potato set
A potato set is a potato or a part of a potato used as a seed.
10. Brioscáin (bris-kawn) / Criospaí (chris-pee)
Meaning: potato chips (crisps in Ireland)
11. Smoladh (smul-ah) / Dúchan (doo-can)
Meaning: potato blight / disease.
Smoladh is the term used to describe a potato disease now, but dúchan is a more historical term used to describe the blight that hit potato crops in Ireland in the 1840s and was blamed for the Great Hunger.
12. Langán (lan-gawn) / Scealbhóir (shcel-vore) / Logán (log-awn)
Meaning: portion of potato left after removing sets.
These three terms refer solely to the part of the potato that is left once a part has been taken away to be used as a seed.
13. Falcaire (fal-k-ra)
Meaning: old seed-potato.
A seed potato is a potato that has been planted and used for the production of seeds (like a potato set). Falcaire specifically refers to the potato once it has been used for this purpose.
14. Brúitín (brew-teen)
Meaning: mashed potato.
“Brú” means to force or to put pressure on.
15. Sámhaí (saw-vee)
Meaning: couch potato.
Ok, so this is not an exact description of a potato but we still thought it was a cool word. Use it on any lazybones who can’t get up from the couch and see their looks of confusion.
* Originally published in 2015. Updated in September 2023.