5 typical Irish expressions or words you will need to understand if you relocate to Ireland

Evening view of Dublin

5 typical Irish expressions or words you will need to understand if you relocate to Ireland

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago about what it was like to acclimatise to the culture in Ireland. I mentioned a few simple cultural observations that I had made and it was great that they seemed to resonate with people. Irish expressions were one of the observations and I’ve included some of them here. Hopefully, they can help if you are looking to relocate to Dublin, Cork or any other of the unique cities, towns and villages on this fascinating island. 

Now I’d like to talk a little bit about the language. It’s a huge topic, of course, but I would just like to give five examples of ‘Irishisms’, and even the Irish language, that you are bound to come across in everyday life here.

Before I do, just a couple of little things to note. 

Firstly, you absolutely do not need to speak Irish to live in Ireland. In fact, not all Irish people speak Irish fluently, and only a very small percentage speak Irish as a native tongue. English is the language that most people use on a daily basis.

But…that’s not to say there aren’t things that Irish people say that might confuse you at first. Not only does Ireland have a wonderfully diverse range of accents, but there is often a smattering of Irish words thrown into the mix to make things a little more unique, as well as charming.

And then there is the fact that Irish people also speak a variation of English called Hiberno-English (or Irish-English). This means a very distinct variety of the language that is special to Ireland. Add to that some distinctly local colloquial expressions and slang terms that are unique to every county and even town and you’ve got quite the colourful combination!

So, without further ado, here are five terms/Irish words/Irish expressions that you will surely soon stumble upon here in Ireland. 


1) What’s the craic? / How’s the form / Well? / How are ya?

These ubiquitous greetings in Ireland are just that: greetings. You are not really expected to answer the questions, but simply to return a greeting. It’s just saying ‘hello’ in much the same way that many English speakers would ask ‘how are you?’ without necessarily (in fact, almost never) asking for a detailed answer. So here are these expressions in action:

A: “What’s the craic?”

B: “Hi. How are you?” 

And that could well be it – neither person answers the questions! You move on and continue about your day! No more information required! But then again, don’t forget the Irish love to chat, so this could just be the start of an hour-long conversation! You never really know, and that’s the beauty of it.

typical Irish expressions or words

2) ‘Yer one’ and ‘yer man’

These Irish expressions can be a little tricky.

When the Irish are referring to someone whose name may have escaped them, someone they just don’t know, or a stranger who is in view of where you are speaking, they often use the terms ‘yer one/wun’ and ‘yer man’, to replace ‘that woman’ and ‘that man’. Here’s an example:

“Look over there. What’s yer man doing?”

Now, there are a couple of things to say about this. Firstly, ‘yer’ (slang pronunciation of ‘your’) would suggest that this person is somehow connected to you. They are not. 

The second thing to say is that ‘yer man’ is obviously always a man, but ‘yer one/wun’ is always a woman. I didn’t realise this, so when I tried (badly) to mimic this expression, I was calling ‘yer man’ ‘yer one’ and spreading confusion all over the place. So, now you can learn from my mistake and use these expressions correctly!

Pointing at 'yer man' or 'yer one'
A little girl pointing at ‘yer man’ or ‘yer one’


3) Fir and mná

It’s important to know that the Irish language still plays a prominent role in the country and culture. So, a little basic knowledge of this language really helps when you are settling in here after relocating. Plus, it’s always nice to make an effort.

One such case where you really might need to know something is when you want to use a public toilet; say, in a pub or restaurant! (You can call the toilet ‘the jacks’ to really sound like a local… “I’m just off to the jacks!”)

When you get to the toilets, the signs on the doors help you most of the time. But every now and again, the only signs will be the Irish words for ‘men’ and ‘women’, which are as follows:

fir’ is men

mná’ is women

But of course, you may, like me, take one look at the spelling and think ‘mná’ must be male/man (‘m’ for man!) and ‘fir’ must be female, right?

Wrong! And I’m not the only one who has ended up in the incorrect toilet due to this!

Why did no one tell me?!

Let’s move on quickly, shall we?


4) Sláinte

I could (happily) write 100,000 words on the Irish pub. It’s a special place full of craic (fun), and you don’t need to be a drinker to enjoy it. It often surprises people when I say I know plenty of people here in Ireland who don’t drink (my father-in-law for one) yet still enjoy the social occasion that is going to the pub for a chat, to watch a match or to listen to some incredible live music.

And whether it’s a pint of the black stuff (i.e. Guinness) in your hand, or a cup of coffee, you can toast the moment with a quick ‘sláinte’.

And as for the pronunciation of ‘sláinte’, any local will be delighted to help you out if you ask!


5) ‘Grand’

Well, I couldn’t sign off without referring to this old favourite, could I? ‘Grand’ is so undeniably Irish, and just so ubiquitous, that it just has to be here. And trust me, I give you less than a week before you start using this expression yourself!

People joke about ‘grand’ as it can mean just about anything. So, you can use it to acknowledge agreement and acceptance or simply to let people know that you are okay. But at the same time, ‘grand’ could also mean that you are not okay, which kind of gets to the heart of the Irish culture of not making a fuss. Here’s an example:

Pat has just won the lottery.

“How are you Pat?”


John has just lost his job, and his faithful old dog has just run away.

“How are you John?”


Now, of course that’s a deliberate exaggeration, but it really isn’t a million miles from the truth. ‘Grand’ really is the perfect catch-all, as well as the perfect way to respond when someone asks how you are, or how everything is going at work, or just how things are in general.


So, what did you make of this article?

“Sure, it’s grand!”

And I’d be happy with that! 

So, there we go; five expressions that you will definitely see or hear in your first few weeks in Ireland. Of course, these expressions are just the tip of the iceberg – there are so many examples that I could have given that it was hard to narrow it down to just five!


It is nice to have some help when settling into a new country, which is exactly why we have developed our Cultural Orientation for Living and Working in Ireland course. It’s also nice to have a few Irish expressions that you can use straight away! If you or your employees are relocating to Ireland, or are already here and would like to feel more comfortable and familiar with your new language and cultural surroundings, then AllTalk Training can help. Learn about our other culturally related courses here.

Request a Callback
error: Content is protected !!