Our top eleven Irish words and phrases that confuse Americans.
“Listen, I'm going to slap on me runners and leg it down to the chipper!” If you understand this sentence then you’re well on your way to understanding how the Irish use the English language and make a version of it that's entirely their own.
We were inspired by an article featured in TheJournal.ie to put together a list of words that are uniquely Irish. More to the point, words that the writer (a relatively new Irish immigrant in New York) uses regularly that never fail to stump Americans. Here’s my pick of the top eleven random Irish/English words:
This one seems like sound Irish logic to me. What do you do when you put on your sports shoes?...You run! Therefore your sneakers shall be known as runners.
Again, this seems totally logical to the Irish mind. The hotpress is the airing cupboard where you might store sheets and towels, located next to the boiler. So, therefore, it is a press (cupboard) that is hot.
3. Gum boil/Mouth ulcer
Now, here’s where the office staff starts to wince. The American name for this painful little spot on your tongue or gums is a canker sore. We’ve all decided that this sounds far worse than a gum boil, so we’re going to stick with the Irish terminology on this one.
You would use this in a sentence like: “Do you know the yoke you use to make coffee?" See, it’s simple. The Irish appear to be noun-deficient and have many words that can be used to replace nouns. For example “Where did I put that thingamabob?"
No, this is not someone who has jumps. It’s simply a sweater, not to be confused by a jumpsuit. Made famous by the Irish song “Where’s my Jumper?” by The Sultans of Ping FC.
Mostly frequented after a night of gargle (alcohol), a chipper is a takeaway place that sells chips (French fries), fish, battered sausages and other fried foods.
Americans call it a sidewalk, but in Ireland, it’s called a footpath. This is quite simply a path for your feet.
Not the variety of shoes that go on your feet. A boot is the trunk of a car. The place where your spare tire, groceries and other bulky items go. A common command as an Irish child was to “pop the boot."
In Ireland, a ride usually refers to an attractive person, male or female. It is not when your friend offers you a lift to the shop.
Perhaps referring to taxidermy, when an Irish person says they are ‘stuffed’ it means they have had their fill of food.
11. Your one
Using this phrase around an American normally draws out the question "your one of what?" Used by Irish people to refer to someone whose name you don't know or about someone whose name you don't care enough about to mention, we can understand how it can get confusing.
* Originally published in July 2015. Updated in 2021.