God forgive me, I’ve written a listicle. Below are ten words and usages in Irish English (or Hiberno-English*) that you mightn’t be familiar with unless you’re a Sentence first veteran, a dialect scholar, or of course Irish, or Irishish.
Some were borrowed from Irish and became part of Irish English. Others are English words with meanings peculiar (or mostly so) to Ireland. What follows is just a summary, but each word links to a post I’ve written with more detail, notes on pronunciation, examples from literature and real life, and so on.
1. Smacht is a noun loaned from Irish meaning control, discipline, or order. You might put smacht on something or someone, like an untidy room or an unruly team.
2. Moryah has various spellings all based on the Irish phrase mar dhea. It’s an ironic or sceptical interjection used to cast doubt or mild derision on an assertion.
3. Give out in Ireland commonly means to scold or complain: You can give out to someone, or just give out. It’s often intensified in different ways, e.g. He was giving out stink to them.
4. Asthore again comes from Irish: a stór is a term of endearment literally meaning treasure in the vocative case.
5. Hames means mess, and is usually used in the phrase make a hames of something. There’s an implication that the mess arose through carelessness or ineptitude.
6. Cat is used as an adjective in Ireland to mean awful or terrible. All sorts of things – from bad weather to the state of the country – might be described as cat. I realised only recently how weird this is.
7. Yoke is a very handy yoke altogether. It’s a placeholder word, used informally to refer to an unspecified object or indescribable person. It can also be a root in more elaborate placeholders such as yokeamabob.
8. Thick in Irish English can mean angry – either stubborn and sullen or belligerent and argumentative. It’s often intensified by fierce or pure (“very”): She got pure thick with me.
9. and 10. Acushla machree, another poetic term of endearment, is anglicised from the Irish a cuisle mo chroí “pulse [or beat] of my heart”. You see it more in old texts and songs than contemporary usage.
Obviously some of these are current in Irish, not just Irish English. And words should be usages. But a listicle header is no place for nuance.
Update: In a follow-up post, ‘12 words peculiar to Irish English‘, I look at plámás, sleeveen, amn’t, notions, fooster, bulling, oxter, fierce, till, feck, cnáimhseáil, and the after perfect.
* Some scholars distinguish between these terms. I’ll write about that another time.