Irish Vocabulary: American/Irish Dictionary

While Irish people and Americans both share a common language, there are many words, sayings, turns-of-phrase, and different usages of words that can and do cause confusion, sometimes even insult. We have compiled a list of what we think you might need to know before you touchdown in Dublin or Shannon.


The term “Gas” is rarely used in terms of fuel in Ireland. “Petrol”, “Diesel” and “Unleaded” are the standard words to look for when searching for a place to fill up your car. The word “gas” is, funnily enough, used to describe something that’s particularly funny or peculiar. The phrase “that’s gas” can be uttered dozens of times in a single, relatively short conversation.

You’re gas  |  You’re funny

Snacks offer another point of interest when discussing the different vocabulary we use in our respective countries. It’s something that has long been a source of minor embarrassment for American visitors to the Emerald Isle and has left Irishmen scratching their heads in gas stations in the US. If you walk into the convenience store in Ireland and ask the clerk for a “bag of chips”, they’ll likely send you across the street to the local “chipper” or fast food joint. French fries are referred to as “chips” in Ireland and potato chips are called “crisps” . If you’re looking for something to drink with your bag of chips then you might ask for a “fizzy drink” or a “mineral”, which are common Irish ways of referring to soda.

Bag of chips w/ a fizzy drink |  Serving of french fries w/ a soda


Those 3-4 weeks free from work each year are precious no matter what country you happen to live and work in, and the summer break from school keeps the minds of our youth at ease. In Ireland, you’re said to be counting down the weeks until you get your “holidays” or go on “holidays”. Americans usually refer to this time as a “vacation”. The words are basically interchangeable, both being used to describe the time period off work and school but also the action of taking time away from home and perhaps going to stay at a hotel.

We’re on holidays |  We’re on vacation

The concept of “bad words” is somewhat universal. Most cultures have words that are considered unsafe for use in formal conversations. The first “transatlantic difference” we encounter here is in the labeling of the act itself. Americans refer to this act as “swearing” and the words involved as “swear words”. Irish people know this to be “cursing”, and several curse words which would be considered offensive in America are actually used playfully on the other side of the pond. The F word is used widely and freely, often to strengthen an adjective, or if something goes ever-so-slightly wrong.  An “eejit” is someone who’s acting in a somewhat foolish manner, and is being generally irritating to others.

He was acting the eejit |  He was being annoying 

Ireland, like everywhere isn’t without it’s drug problems, but an American who’s not up to speed on Irish terminology may think it’s a more common problem than it is. If you hear a group of seemingly normal Irish people discussing how much they absolutely adore crack, they’re more than likely talking about “Craic”. Craic is a blanket term for all things fun in Ireland. “We were having the craic” is a common phrase you’ll hear. Likewise, “dope” is frequently used in Irish conversations, but they’re not talking narcotics. The word “dope” is a semi-derogatory word used to describe a person, loosely translating to idiot.

We had craic but he’s a dope |  We had fun but he’s an idiot


In Ireland people sometimes refer to expensive things as being “dear” – “That computer is too dear”

If you’re in Ireland and you need a ride somewhere, make sure you refer to it as a “lift”, as asking the wrong person for a ride could land you a broken nose. –“I need a lift to the football game”

Irish people like to refer to certain things by brand name instead of product name. Potato chips or “crisps” can sometimes be called “Tayto”, Ireland’s most popular brand of chips. A vacuum cleaner is almost always referred to as a “Hoover”. –“Hoover up all them Tayto on the floor”


The linguistic differences are abundant but the content of the discussions are much the same no matter what part of the world you are in. If you’re interested in delving further into the world of Irish colloquialisms why not go to the source and uncover it for yourself. Our travel experts can plan your ultimate vacation and assist you in discovering all that Ireland has to offer. Follow the link and request a quote today.


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