Irish Gaelic Phrases and Expressions

There are lots of wonderful Irish Gaelic phrases and expressions, some of which have been translated to English but I have to say the often quoted ‘Top of the morning to you’ is not one of them. I know of no Irish person who uses it and it sounds as strange to Irish people as it does to most other people. In fact, I am not sure where that phrase originated though I have heard it rumored that it may be from New Zealand but I wouldn't bet on it.

 

Now that that’s off my chest, let’s start with some Irish Gaelic phrases and Gaelic expressions that most Irish people should know or have learned in school. I give a non-linguistic pronunciation guide to the expression, a fairly literal translation and an equivalent English expression.

It is important to know that some Gaelic expressions vary from one dialect to another. In Ireland there are three key dialects, in the North (Ulster), West (Connaught) and South (Munster). I will go into these differences in more detail elsewhere. Anyway most people in Ireland learn standard Gaelic in school, basically a mix of all three dialects.

 

In the pronunciation guide for all the Irish Gaelic phrases below I have left 'ch' as is. This is because 'ch' in Gaelic does not have a equivalent sound in English. That said, many people will be familiar with the throaty sound made in the Scottish and Irish word 'loch'. This is the correct sound. If you are not able to replicate this sound, pronounce 'ch' as a 'k'. It may not be correct but you will be understood. Just don't pronounce 'ch' as 'ch' in 'church' which no one will understand.

Irish Gaelic Phrases most Irish people know

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English


Dia duit
Dee-ah gwit 
God to you
Hello

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Dia is Muire dhuit
Dee-ah iss Mwir-eh gwit
God and Mary to you 

Hello, the response to 'Dia dhuit'
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Cad is ainm duit?
Cod iss anim gwit?
What is the name to you?
What is your name?
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Seán is ainm dom
Seán iss anim dum
Seán is the name to me
My name is Seán
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English

Níl a fhios agam
Neel ah iss a-gum
The knowledge is not at me
I don't know
 

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English

Dún an doras
Doon on dur-ass
Close the door
Close the door

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Slán leat
Slawn lat
Health/Safety with you
Goodbye
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Más é do thoil é
Maws aye duh hull aye 
If it is your will
Please
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English

Ní thuigim
Nee hig-im
Not I understand
I don't understand

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Sláinte
Slawn-che
Health
Cheers (toast)
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Gabh mo leithscéal
Gov muh leh-scale
Accept my excuse
Excuse me, Pardon me
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English

Conas atá tú?
Kun-ass a-taw to?
How are you?
How are you?

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Tá me go maith
Taw may guh maw
I am well
I am well
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Oíche mhaith
Ee-hah wah
Night good
Goodnight
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Go raibh maith agat
Guh rev mah ah-gut
That there may good at you
Thanks
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Tá fáilte romhat
Taw fall-che row-at
There is a welcome before you
You're welcome (response to thanks and a greeting)

Gaelic Expressions that are good to know

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English

Cad as dhuit?
Cod oss gwit? 
Where out of are you?
Where are you from?
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Is as na Stáit Aontaithe mé
Iss oss nah Stawt Ane-tih-hah may
It is out of the States United I am
I am from the United States
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Abair arís é
Ah-bur areesh aye
Say again it
Say it again
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Maith thú
Moh hoo
Good to you
Well done
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English

Slán go fóill
Slawn guh foal
Health/Safety till later
See you later
 

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English

Tá áthas/fearg/ocras/tart/brón/díoma orm
Taw aw-hass/far-ig/uk-rass/tort/brone/de-om-a orum
There is happiness/anger/hunger/thirst/sadness/disappointment on me
I am happy/angry/hungry/thirsty/sad/disappointed

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Tá sé fuar/te/gaofar/ag cur báistí/ag cur sneachta/
Taw shay foor/cheh/gway-for/egg kur baw-shtee/egg kur shnach-tah
It is cold/hot/windy/putting rain/putting snow
It is cold/hot/windy/raining/snowing
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Is/Ní maith liom é
Iss/Nee moh lum aye
It/Not agrees with me
I like it/I don't like it
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English

Ar mhaith leat tae/deoch?
Err wah lat tay/juhch?
Would a tea/drink agree with you?
Would you like some tea/drink

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Is cuma liom
Iss cum-ah lum

I don't mind/I don't care
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
An bhfuil Gaeilge agat?
On will Gail-geh ah-gut?
Is there Gaelic at you?
Do you speak Gaelic/Irish?
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English

Beagáinín
byug-awn-een
A small bit
A little

Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Tá cúpla focal agam
Taw koop-la fuck-al a-gum
There is a couple of words at me
I speak a little Irish (like 'beagáinín' a response to 'An bhfuil Gaeilge agat?'
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Is múinteoir/macléinn/dlídóir/Éireannach mé
Iss moon-tore/mack-lane/dlee-dore/Air-en-och may
Is a teacher/student/lawyer/Irish person I am
I am a teacher/student/lawyer/Irish person
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú?
Kane chwee (kwee) a will to?
What way are you?
How are you? Same as 'Conas atá tú?' above but used in Western Gaelic dialect
Expression
Pronounced
Literal Meaning
In English
Conas atá an craic?
Kun-ass a-taw on crack?
How's the craic/fun?
What's up?

Merry Christmas in Gaelic

Merry Christmas in Gaelic

The Irish Gaelic phrase for Merry Christmas is 'Nollaig shona dhuit' (pronounced Null-ig hun-ah gwit). You can also say 'Nollaig faoi shéan is faoi mhaise dhuit' (pronounced Null-ig fwee hyane iss fwee vosh-eh gwit) which means 'A prosperous and pleasant Christmas'.

To say Happy New Year, we use the gaelic expression 'Athbhliain fwee vosh-eh gwit' which can be more close translated as 'A prosperous New Year.'

 

Happy Birthday in Gaelic

Happy Birthday in Gaelic

The gaelic expression for 'Happy Birthday' is simply 'Lá Breithe Shona dhuit' (pronounced 'Law breh-ha hun-ah gwit). If you want to reveal your age you can say the following:

'Tá mé fiche seacht mbliana d'aois' (pronounced 'Taw may fih-heh shocht mleena deesh') which means 'I am 27 years of age'.

You can also wish somebody well on their birthday by using the humorous Irish Gaelic phrase 'Go maire tú an lá' (pronounced 'Guh mwir-eh to on law) meaning 'May you survive the day.'

Póg mo thóin

 

The Irish Gaelic phrase 'Póg mo thóin' (pronounced pogue mohone) is one of the first Irish Gaelic phrases that many visitors to Ireland learn, probably because people just seem to love learning curses as much as teaching them. It means literally 'Kiss my ass' but can be used as 'Get out of it' when you think somebody is trying to pull the wool over your eyes or when you get annoyed with them.

The London-Irish band 'The Pogues' were originally called 'Pogue Mahone', an anglicised version of the gaelic expression. Because of BBC censorship, they shortened the name to be less offensive. I have included a video of them singing their best known song 'The Fairytale of New York.'

I am open to correction or suggested improvements on anything above. I would also love to hear of other Irish gaelic phrases you think should have been included as basics. Get in touch with me through the contact GaelicMatters page.

 

Pages Related to Irish Gaelic Phrases

If you didn't find what you are looking for check out the Irish words page.

If you want some tips and suggestions on how to learn Irish Gaelic visit our Learn Irish Language page.

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