The Irish have been called names for centuries, and worldwide so much so that it is hard to remember where all the insults came from. We’ve put together our top ten.


This is used by Irish-born in America to describe the first generation of American-born who never worked as hard as their immigrant parents.


A term used by Irish-Americans to describe Irish fresh off the boat and their hard-working ways.


People who are considered to be from rural, uneducated backgrounds.

Shanty Irish

As against lace curtain Irish, notably used in the 2013 Boston mayoral race where winner Marty Walsh, of modest background, was often referred to as “shanty” and opponent John Connolly, from a wealthier one, was seen as “lace curtain” or “two toilet.”


Used mainly in America and often embraced by the Irish as a badge of honor e.g. “The Mick Clique” —a few years back to describe leading Irish American journalists who dominated the tabloids such as Jimmy Breslin, Peter Hamill, and Jim Dwyer.


Another form of a derogatory term, usually used by WASPS in the old days, not so much now. John Gregory Dunne entitled his 1989 memoir “Harp.”


More common in Britain, where “Paddy” was used as a derogatory catch-all name to describe anyone male and Irish.


See paddies, just used for women only. Immortalized in Dominic Behan’s “McAlpine’s Fusiliers.”

“The craic was good in Cricklewood
And they wouldn't leave the Crown (Local Pub)
With glasses flying and Biddies crying
'Cause Paddy was going to town”

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A derogatory term used in Northern Ireland to describe Catholics. From the Gaelic name Tadgh for Tim.


The first settlers in the South were Scots Irish and supporters of King William at the Battle of the Boyne. They lived in hilly and remote areas, hence the term “Hillbillies.”

* Originally published in 2013. Updated in Jan 2024.