- Tristan Fewings/Getty
Each year on March 17, the Irish and Irish-at-heart come out in droves to pubs and parade routes to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland.
In the US, St. Patrick’s Day serves as a valid excuse to wear green and drink. But there’s enough rich Irish culture to last the whole year round.
We scoured Celtic folklore, online forums, the Bible, and even our favorite Irish pub in New York City to find some beautiful and just plain weird sayings used on the Emerald Isle.
Some of the sayings are historic, out-of-use proverbs with original Irish Gaelic translations (today, as little as 30% of the population in the Republic of Ireland speak Irish). Others are examples of modern slang said in English, the shared official language.
1. “What’s the craic?”
- bnoragitt / iStock
Greetings like “Any craic?” and “How’s the craic?” most likely confuse tourists because craic is pronounced like “crack.”
The most straightforward definition is fun or enjoyment, and it can substitute for “How are you?” A typical response is “divil a bit,” which means “not much.”
2. “Away with the fairies.”
This phrase got its origin thanks to the folk tales about fairies picking people up and taking them away.
Today, this Irish saying is used when someone isn’t facing reality or is living in la la land.
3. “Quit acting the maggot.”
In the Emerald Isle, if your friends are getting rowdy or making a fool of themselves, you’d say they are “acting the maggot.”
This phrase could also be used to talk about anything that isn’t acting properly, like if your phone is on the fritz or the trains are running way behind schedule.
4. “On me tod.”
People will say this when they’re going out alone or just alone in a general sense.
It is said to come from Tod Sloane, an American jockey whose parents were out of the picture, leaving him a lone wolf during his childhood. He was a successful horse racer in the West, but when he moved across the pond he was harshly made fun of for his riding style, and therefore “alone” once more.
5. “Look at the state o’you!”
A popular exclamation used in inner Dublin, “Look at the state o’you!” implies that a person’s attire, personal hygiene, intoxication level, or general demeanor is worrisome.
One might describe his drinking companion as being in a “bleedin’ state” if he “gets pissed” or “wrecked” on lager at the pub.
6. “As happy as Larry.”
While this saying may have originated in New Zealand, it has grown popular halfway across the globe in Ireland. People will often say they or their friends are “as happy as Larry” when they have no worries or cares in the world.
7. “Story horse?”
- Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock
“What’s the story, horse?” – abbreviated as “story horse?” – is how you ask a buddy what’s up. It’s a less breezy greeting than its American counterpart, and invites the other person to really dive into what’s been going on in life.
8. “What eejits.”
This is a playful phrase that Northern Irelanders often use when calling out their friends for being silly, drunk, or foolish. It’s basically another way of saying “what fools” or “what idiots.”
9. “Sure you know yourself.”
This slang saying is quite popular and often used as a reply to questions like, “What were you thinking?” or “How are you?”
It essentially means “you understand” or “it’s up to you,” and can be used when you want to avoid decision making or a lengthy explanation. Check out some other deflecting examples here.
10. “Take your point and the goals will come.”
- Charles Platiau/Reuters
Ireland is a big country for football. They have a lot of spirit and this is where that phrase tends to comes in. When talking about the sport, this idiom means that players should take any shot they might get, preferably the easiest one.
11. “That one suffers from a double-dose of original sin.”
- flickr / Brian Rosner
The Bible proposes that when Adam ate the forbidden fruit, he cast a state of sin on all of mankind. Today, if a child is particularly mischievous, he’s said to have been twice-cursed by Adam’s slip-up.
The phrase became popular in the 1880s, when proponents of British rule over Ireland attributed the Irishmen’s depravity of character (and the famine, some argued) to their second helping of original sin.
12. “‘Tis only a stepmother would blame you.”
- Tristan Fewings/Getty
This one is a tad unfair to stepmothers everywhere. It basically means there’s no need to be embarrassed or feel badly about committing a small offense, especially if the deed is so insignificant that only a jealous, belittling stepmother could find fault with you.
13. “We’re sucking diesel now.”
- Wikimedia Commons
When you’ve fallen into good fortune thanks to your own hard work – not the good ol’ Irish luck – you’d say that you are “sucking diesel now.”
This phrase is a way to pat yourself on the back about things going well in your life.
14. “May the road rise up to meet you.”
You may recognize this popular blessing (in Irish Gaelic: Go n-éirí an bóthar leat) from Catholic weddings or cross-stitched pillows in Nan’s house.
One of the main characteristics of Celtic Christianity is the use of images of nature to show how God interacts with people. “May the road rise up to meet you/ May the wind be always at your back/ May the sun shine warm upon you face …” uses everyday images to mean, may God remove obstacles in your journey through life.
15. “Your son is your son today, but your daughter is your daughter forever.”
- Sergio Diaz/Shutterstock
This phrase is pretty misogynistic. Basically, it means a man is only a son until he takes a wife, but as a daughter gets older, she will stay near the family, draining it of money and time for years to come.
16. “It’s St. Paddy’s, not St. Patty’s.”
- Spencer Platt/Getty
Any true Irish person will tell you that it’s St. Paddy’s – not St. Patty’s. Many are pretty passionate about putting an end to the misspelling, so on St. Patrick’s Day, so don’t be surprised if you hear people at the local pub having a heated discussion about it.