List of English words of Irish origin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of English-language words from the Irish language with links provided to pronunciation in all three primarily Irish dialects, spoken by native Irish speakers, provided by Foras na Gaeilge.[1]


banshee (from Irish bainsídhe/beansídhe, meaning "woman of fairy" or "of a fairy mound")[2]
Bean (ban) is the Modern Irish word for woman. Síd(h) (modern spelling ) is Irish for 'mound' (see Sidhe). In traditional Irish mythology, a spirit usually taking the form of a woman who sings a caoineadh (lament) warning of impending death in an old Irish family.
bog (from "boc", meaning "soft" or "marshy"[3] and -aigh to form bogach meaning "soft soil composed primarily of peat"[4])
Used as the Anglicized "bog" as slang for a mire, but also to become stuck or impeded; "bog" has also been borrowed into English with essentially the same meaning as "bogach".[5]
bogeyman (possibly from bogaigh + English man)
The word bogaigh is pronounced approximately as "boggy", and the bogeyman legend originates from humanoid-appearing logs and human "bog-bodies" found well-preserved in peat. These occasional discoveries gave rise to unsettling stories some suggest may have been used to encourage good behavior from otherwise misbehaving children.
boreen (from bóithrín, meaning "country lane")
A narrow, rural Irish road.
bother (possibly from bodhar, "deaf; bothered; confused"; or from bodhraigh, "to deafen; to annoy")
The earliest use appears in the writings of Irish authors Sheridan, Swift and Sterne.[6]
brock (from old Irish brocc[7])
A badger.
brat (from Old Irish bratt meaning "cloak, mantle"[8])
A cloak covering or cloth.[9] Also as swadding-clothes[10] and bird's plumage.[11]
brogan (from bróg, meaning "shoe"[12] or "boot".[13])
A boot or shoe of untanned leather, often with holes in the sides or over the toes intended for drying while worn in wet conditions.[13]
brogue (from barróg, meaning "to wrestle or grasp"[13] with teanga (tongue) to mean an impediment of speech.[13])
Though found in wide use in English to indicate a heavy accent, the Irish do not use this term for the negative connotations.[14]


clabber, clauber
(from clábar) wet clay or mud; curdled milk.
O.Ir. clocc meaning "bell"; into Old High German as glocka, klocka[15] (whence Modern German Glocke) and back into English via Flemish;[16] cf also Welsh cloch but the giving language is Old Irish via the hand-bells used by early Irish missionaries.[15][17]
(from cailín meaning "young woman") a girl (usually referring to an Irish girl) (OED).
a cirque or mountain lake, of glacial origin. (OED) Irish or Scots Gaelic coire 'Cauldron, hollow'
fun, used in Ireland for fun/enjoyment. The word is actually English in origin; it entered into Irish from the English "crack" via Ulster Scots. The Gaelicised spelling craic was then reborrowed into English. The craic spelling, although preferred by many Irish people, has garnered some criticism as a faux-Irish word.[18]
The ultimate source of this word is Latin crux, the Roman gibbet which became a symbol of Christianity. Some sources say the English wordform comes from Old Irish cros.[19][20] Other sources say the English comes from Old French crois[21] and others say it comes from Old Norse kross.[22]


drum (ridge), drumlin
(from drom/druim meaning "ridge") a ridge often separating two long narrow valleys; a long narrow ridge of drift or diluvial formation. Drumlin is a linguistic diminutive of drum, and it means a small rounded hill of glacial formation, often seen in series (OED). A landscape of many drumlins occurs in some parts of Ireland, including counties Cavan and Armagh. Drumlin is an established technical word in geology, but drum is almost never used.
(from drisín or drúishin).
[20] (from Old Irish duilesc).


(from eiscir meaning a particular kind of ridge) an elongated mound of post-glacial gravel, usually along a river valley (OED). In English usually used as a strictly-defined term in geology.


(from Fianna meaning "semi-independent warrior band") a member of a 19th-century Irish nationalist group (OED).
a small four-wheeled carriage for hire, a hackney-coach. Saint Fiacre was a seventh-century Irish-born saint who lived in France for most of his life. The English word fiacre comes from French. (OED)


(from gallóglach) a Scottish Gaelic mercenary soldier in Ireland between mid 13th and late 16th centuries.
(from go leor meaning "til plenty") a lot (OED).
(literally beak) mouth, though used in colloquial Irish more often to refer to a 'beaky' nose, i.e. a sticky-beak. Perhaps from Irish. (OED)
(from griscín) a lean cut of meat from the loin of a pig.


(from the Irish family name Ó hUallacháin, anglicised as O'Houlihan) one who takes part in rowdy behaviour and vandalism.


(from caoinim Irish pronunciation: [ˈkiːnʲəmʲ] meaning "I wail") to lament, to wail mournfully (OED). No relation to "keen" = eager.
kibosh, kybosh
to finish, to put an end to: "That's put the kibosh on it". The OED says the origin is obscure and possibly Yiddish. Other sources[23] suggest that it may be from the Irish an chaip bháis meaning "the cap of death" (a reference to the "black cap" worn by a judge passing sentence of capital punishment, or perhaps to the gruesome method of execution called pitchcapping);[24] or else somehow connected with "bosh", from Turkish "boş" (empty). (Caip bháis – pronounced as kibosh – is also a word in Irish for a candle-snuffer.)


(from leipreachán, based on Old Irish luchorpán, from lu 'small' + corp 'body') (OED).
(from Luimneach)
(from loch) a lake, or arm of the sea. According to the OED, the spelling "lough" was originally a separate word with a similar meaning but different pronunciation, perhaps from Old Northumbrian: this word became obsolete, effectively from the 16th century, but in Anglo-Irish its spelling was retained for the word newly borrowed from Irish.


(probably from the English fawney meaning "gilt brass ring used by swindlers", which is from Irish fáinne meaning "ring") fake.[25]
(from póitín) hooch, bootleg alcoholic drink (OED)


(from seamróg) a clover, used as a symbol for Ireland (OED).
Shan Van Vocht
(from sean-bhean bhocht meaning "poor old woman") a literary name for Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries.
(from síbín meaning "a mugful") unlicensed house selling alcohol (OED).
(from sail éille meaning "a club with a strap") a wooden club or cudgel made from a stout knotty stick with a large knob on the end.
(Irish pronunciation: [ʃiː]) the fairy folk of Ireland, from (aos) sídhe (OED). See banshee.
sleveen, sleiveen
(from slíghbhín/slíbhín) an untrustworthy or cunning person. Used in Ireland and Newfoundland (OED).
(from sluagh meaning "a large number") a great amount (OED). Note: as in a slew of new products; the noun "slew" is unrelated to the verb slay.
(from slab) mud (OED). Note: the English words slobber and slobbery do not come from this; they come from Old English.[21]
(from sluagh-ghairm meaning "a battle-cry used by Gaelic clans") Meaning of a word or phrase used by a specific group is metaphorical and first attested from 1704.[26]
small fragments, atoms. In phrases such as 'to explode into smithereens'. This is the word smithers (of obscure origin) with the Irish diminutive ending. Whether it derives from the modern Irish smidrín or is the source of this word is unclear (OED).
(from tuilleadh meaning "a supplement") used to refer to an additional article or amount unpaid for by the purchaser, as a gift from the vendor (OED). Perhaps more prevalent in Newfoundland than Ireland. James Joyce, in his Pomes Penyeach included a thirteenth poem as a bonus (as the book sold for a shilling, twelve poems would have come to a penny each), which he named "Tilly", for the extra sup of milk given to customers by milkmen in Dublin.[27]


originally an Irish outlaw, probably from the Irish verb tóir meaning "pursue" (OED).
a seasonal lake in limestone area (OED) Irish tur loch 'dry lake'


(from uisce beatha meaning "water of life") (OED).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media; Údarás na Gaeltachta; The North South Ministerial Council; Department for Communities. "Foras na Gaeilge". Foras na Gaeilge (in Irish and English). Foras na Gaeilge. Foras na Gaeilge can be contacted by emailing with queries about{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Atkinson, Robert, ed. (1880). The Book of Leinster (Lebar na Núachongbála) (in Irish and English) (1954–1983 ed.). Trinity College, Dublin: Royal Irish Academy.
  3. ^ Ruaidhrí Ó Cianáin; Doighre Ó hUiginn (1947). McKenna, Lambert (ed.). The Book of Magauran (Leabhar Méig Shamhradháin) (in Old Irish). National Library of Ireland, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. p. xxvi, 470. Original date: 14th century
  4. ^ Ó Dónaill, Niall, ed. (1977). Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (in Irish and English). An Gúm. p. 1309. ISBN 1857910370.
  5. ^ "Definition of BOG".
  6. ^ "Why Bother?". Oxford University Press. 15 March 2017. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  7. ^ Meyer, Kuno, ed. (1901). King and hermit: a colloquy between King Guaire of Aidne and his brother Marban, being an Irish poem of the tenth century. David Nutt.
  8. ^ Thurneysen, Rudolf (1909). Binchy, Daniel Anthony (ed.). A Grammar of Old Irish by Rudolf Thurneysen. Revised and enlarged edition. Translated from the German by D.A. Binchy and Osborn Bergin. With supplement. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. p. xxi, 717. Original edition published in German
  9. ^ Bergin, Osborn, ed. (1907–1913). Anecdota from Irish manuscripts (in Irish and English). M. Niemeyer. p. v 25.4.
  10. ^ Stokes, Whitley, ed. (1898). The Gaelic abridgement of the Book of Ser Marco Polo. p. II. 245–73, 362–438, 603.
  11. ^ Strachan, John, ed. (1901–1903). Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus: a collection of Old-Irish glosses, scholia, prose, and verse (in Irish, English, and Latin). University of Toronto: Cambridge University Press. p. iv, 82. Note: v. 1. Biblical glosses and scholia; v. 2. Non-Biblical glosses and scholia: Old-Irish prose: Names of persons and places: Inscriptions: Verse: Indexes.
  12. ^ O'Connell, Peter, ed. (1819). Peter O'Connell's Irish-English dictionary (transcript in RIA). Trinity College, Dublin: Royal Irish Academy.
  13. ^ a b c d Ó Dónaill, Niall, ed. (1992). Focloir Gaeilge-Bearla. Oifig an tSolathair. p. 1309. ISBN 1857910370.
  14. ^ Hickey, Raymond (2007). Irish English: History and Present-Day Forms (in Irish and English). Cambridge University Press. p. 526. ISBN 978-0521174152.
  15. ^ a b Kluge, F. Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (1989) de Gruyter ISBN 3-11-006800-1
  16. ^ Hoad, TF (ed) The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (1993) Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-283098-8
  17. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary by Douglas Harper
  18. ^ Ó Muirithe, Diarmaid (1992-12-05). "The Words We Use". The Irish Times. p. 27.; reprinted in Ó Muirithe, Diarmaid (October 2006). The Words We Use. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. pp. 154–5. ISBN 978-0-7171-4080-0.
  19. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary by Douglas Harper
  20. ^ a b Collins English Dictionary 21st Century Edition Harper Collins (2001) ISBN 0-00-472529-8
  21. ^ a b An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language by Walter W. Skeat (1888) (900 pages). Downloadable at
  22. ^ An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English by Ernest Weekley (1921) (850 pages). Downloadable at
  23. ^ "kibosh". Etymology online. Retrieved 2010-02-20.
  24. ^ Share, Bernard. Slanguage, A Dictionary of Irish Slang.
  25. ^ Cohen, Paul S (2011). "The genuine etymological story of phone(e)y". Transactions of the Philological Society. 109 (1): 1–11. doi:10.1111/j.1467-968X.2011.01247.x. S2CID 170556817.
  26. ^ "slogan – Search Online Etymology Dictionary".
  27. ^ Fargnoli, A. Nicholas; Gillespie, Michael Patrick (1995). Critical Companion to James Joyce: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. p. 130. ISBN 0-8160-6232-3. Retrieved July 2, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Concise English-Irish Dictionary (Foras na Gaeilge, 2020, ISBN 978-1-85791-024-1)