10 Irish words to get the gift of the gab on St Patrick’s Day
The Irish Gaelic language is packed with such a plethora of powerful and pleasing words.
This St Patrick’s Day weekend, why not grab a Guinness, raid your wardrobe for green garments, and reel off some of the following Irish words and phrases? Go on, just for the craic!
Of course, we’ve all heard this one before. Craic (pronounced ‘crack’) loosely means ‘fun’, but there isn’t a direct English translation for the Gaelic word – and fun doesn’t quite cut it. Craic is a term applied to news, gossip, entertainment, enjoyable conversation, and having a laugh. If someone says, ‘What's the craic?’ they could be asking how you are, where you are or what’s happening. You decide!
2. Céad míle fáilte
A traditional Irish blessing, pronounced something like ‘kay-od mee-leh fahl-cha’, céad míle fáilte literally translates as ‘one hundred thousand welcomes’. Now, you can’t get much friendlier than that.
Plámás (pronounced ‘plaw-mawse’) loosely means flattery, but there is no English word quite like it. It’s a specific type of wheedling flattery: empty or disingenuous praise used to butter or soften someone up, manipulate them, or bend them to one’s will. To plámás is to sweet-talk someone – telling them what they want to hear in order to get what you need. It can just as easily be applied to politics as to flirting. Why not try plámásing someone into buying you a beverage this St Patrick’s Day?
It’s hard to imagine that a word pronounced ‘spare-van’ can have a romantic meaning, but that is in fact the case. The word spéirbhean is a combination of two words – spéir, meaning sky, and bean, meaning woman – and together they mean a beautiful lady, or literally a woman as fair as the sky. Now that’s going to beat ‘looker’ any day.
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Aduantas (pronounced ‘ah-dwon-tes’) doesn’t really have an English equivalent – the closest comparison being ‘out of one’s comfort zone’ or having the ‘heebie-jeebies’. Derived from aduain – which means alien, strange or unfamiliar – aduantas describes a feeling of unease, anxiety or fear brought on by unfamiliar surroundings. It’s a feeling you get when you’re somewhere new, with people you don’t know.
A liúdramán (loo-dra-mawn) is a lanky, lazy, loafer. A good insult for that friend who spends the whole weekend on the sofa watching the rugby.
Most of us are fond of popping round to a pal’s house for a natter and a gossip, but the Irish are so good at the above, they’ve got their own word for it. From bothán, meaning hut or cabin, bothántaíocht (‘boch-an-ti-ucht’) is the practice of calling in on your neighbours of an evening to catch up on the gossip or share a story. Of course, you need to choose your target wisely. Try this with the locals in England and you might get, ‘I’m afraid I’m catching up on Bake Off. I wish you’d called ahead.’
This is another word that simply doesn’t have an equivalent in the English language. (‘Splutter’ just doesn’t cut it.) Pronounced ‘ploh-ber-acht’, the word describes crying – or bawling your eyes out – and trying, but failing, to speak at the same time. In concise terms, it’s blabbering while blubbering.
Crocadóir (pronounced cruck-a-door) might sound a bit like crocodile, but the word’s meaning is closer to snake. A crocadóir is someone who would hang you out to dry or stab you in the back if given half the chance.
Uachtarán (pronounced oo-uk-tar-awn) is the Irish word for president – the Uachtarán na hÉireann is the President of Ireland. The fun thing about this word is that uachtar means the ‘top’ or ‘upper part’, and is also the Irish word for cream – as cream always rises to the top of the milk. ‘Uachtarán’ therefore implies the cream of the crop who has risen to the top!