Words and Phrases that Have a Different Meaning in Ireland


My time in Ireland was brief, so I promised my cousin I’d call her on the phone rather than pay her a visit on the evening before my departure.

Imagine my horror when I made the phone call as planned, and she immediately asked when I’d be arriving for dinner. Some how, the clear message that I’d “call” was not received… or was it?

That was the evening I learned that although we both spoke English, not everything we said had the same meaning.

Here’s a list of a words and phrases commonly used in the United States (and a few other places) that might not make sense to your Irish counterparts and vice versa… the US word appears first, followed by the Irish equivalent:

Automobiles & Driving

  • blinker/turn signal = indicator
  • hood (of a car) = bonnet
  • trunk (of a car) = boot
  • windshield = wind screen
  • get a ride = get a lift (“ride” can have a sexual connotation in Irish slang)
  • parking lot = car park
  • gasoline/gas = petrol
  • stick shift = manual/manual transmission
  • downtown = city centre/town centre
  • truck = lorry
  • sidewalk = footpath


  • French fries = chips
  • Irish breakfast = a fry
  • potato chips = crisps
  • pitcher = jug
  • napkin = serviette
  • cookie = biscuit
  • appetizer = starter
  • dessert = afters (afters can also mean the party after the meal is served at a wedding)
  • green pepper = capsicum
  • Jell-O = jelly
  • mashed potatoes =  mash
  • vegetables = veg (usually mashed peas, carrots, or turnip)
  • raisins = sultanas
  • roll/bun =  bap
  • fish and chips restaurant = chipper
  • plain water = still water
  • seltzer or carbonated water = sparkling water
  • scone with raisins = fruit scone
  • liquor store = off-license
  • sausage/blood sausage = pudding/black pudding/white pudding

Things in Life

  • to visit = to call/to call in
  • to call (on the phone) = to ring
  • get in line = queue (both noun and verb forms)
  • to scold or complain = to give out
  • a parade = a march
  • vacation = holiday
  • manure/animal waste = slurry
  • tired, exhausted = knackered
  • elevator = lift
  • escalator = moving staircase
  • expensive = dear
  • beach = strand
  • welfare = dole


  • faucet = tap
  • hutch/cabinet/wardrobe = press/hotpress
  • yard = garden
  • silverware = cutlery
  • thing/object/gadget = yoke
  • diapers = nappies
  • dishes/plates = Delft
  • bathroom/rest room = toilet
  • baby stroller = pram/buggy
  • housing development = housing estate
  • day care = creche
  • rubber boots = wellies/Wellingtons
  • groceries = messages


  • light jacket or sweater = jumper
  • sneakers = runners

In Conversation

  • good times/camaraderie = craic (pronounced “crack”)
  • it’s great/very good = grand/’tis grand
  • that man/a man = your man
  • touché/good point = fair play
  • thank you = (sometimes) cheers or ta or t’anks
  • carrying on/making a scene = raving
  • half-one/half-two/half-three = one-thirty/two-thirty/three-thirty (referring to time of day)
  • how long are you in Ireland? = how long you home for?
  • top o’ the mornin’ = sorry, you’ll be hard pressed to find an Irish person saying that
  • light rain/misty = soft day

There is a whole collection of phrases associated with drinking and partying, but you’ll have to find those out on your own 😉

Is there a word or phrase you think should be on the list? Mention it in the comments below…


Author: Liam

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  1. You already included a few of the kids things, but here are a few more…
    Stroller = buggy
    Pacifier = dummy
    crib = cot

    Post a Reply
    • We don’t call an escalator a “moving staircase”

      We don’t call Jelly Jello and we say sweets for Candy.

      Plates is Delph not Delpf

      Hot press is equivalent to what you call a boiler room. A hutch is just a hutch.

      Capsicum is the scientific name for a green pepper. We say green pepper too in everyday conversation.

      Jumper is just a sweater it’s not a jacket

      As for Soft day??? Noone under 80 says that and certainly noone from a city

      Post a Reply
    • There is, “how did you find us?” For “are you enjoying Ireland?” It took me forever to understand that. I thought they wanted to know how we got to whatever place we were in – either the city/ village or the pub.

      Post a Reply
  2. Very good. I would add, eggplant = aubergine, zucchini = courgette, silverware = cutlery….also, the term scullery which is part of the kitchen

    Post a Reply
    • Maybe also cilantro/coriander and arugula/rocket?

      Post a Reply
    • And caster sugar = superfine, plain or cream flour = all purpose. There must be so many more ingredients!

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  3. My friend actually bought us each a book like this!

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  4. Once had a cousin’s fiancee ask “When are you coming home again?” Only in Ireland.

    Post a Reply
  5. And I’ve 2 more for you….

    very dear = very expensive
    messages = grocery shopping

    we like to keep you confused 🙂

    Post a Reply
  6. napkin = serviette. A napkin in Ireland is a woman’s toiletry item.

    Homely doesn’t mean ugly in Ireland…it means homelike/warm/inviting

    Bandaid = plaster

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  7. A “she’s a gas woman” or “gas man” meaning she or he is funny.

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  8. We do not say moving staircase, never heard that in my life. We say escalator.

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  9. Just came across this when I was trying to figure out what seltzer water is in an American recipe! I would add that ‘soda/pop’ is called a fizzy drink or a mineral in Ireland.

    Post a Reply
  10. Baby Gem = small romaine lettuce
    Bangers = sausages
    Rashers = bacon
    Rocket= Arugula salad

    Post a Reply
  11. Knock me up, anytime. Come visit/knock on my door anytime.

    Post a Reply
  12. Hi im english and Ive just read a book set in Ireland written by an American. In it she discribes people driving lorries just to pop to the shops. Does she mean what English call a pick up truck and if so do they really get called lorries in Ireland

    Post a Reply
    • Lorries in Ireland are generally delivery trucks or larger… not necessarily American-style pickup trucks.

      Post a Reply

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