A User’s Guide to Northern Ireland Slang for St Patrick’s Day!

It’s a very odd St Patrick’s Day this year. As a household we have just made the decision to self-isolate for the next 14 days, due to two of us having high temperatures.

St Patrick’s Day celebrations have been cancelled across the globe, so in an attempt to cheer everyone up, I thought I would re-share one of my most popular posts from a few years ago, celebrating the wonderful and bizarre world of Northern Ireland slang!

Enjoy and please stay safe everyone xx

If I was to say to you ‘spy thon latchy cove down the far Duke’ * would you have any idea what I was talking about?

How about ‘scran the pure heap, sham’ or ‘I’m going for a scobe with my blade’?

Welcome to the world of Northern Ireland slang. Or to be really specific, Ballymena slang! In Northern Ireland we have some amazing words and phrases that are immediatly recognisable depending on where you live. Belfast slang is different from country slang and certain words are unintelligable if you go a few miles down the road.

I live in Ballymena, which is thirteen miles from where I work in Bellaghy but I have said things that have left my work colleagues looking at me blankly. Similarly, when I was told to ‘clod’ something over to someone in the office, I had no idea they wanted me to throw it!

This is a place where a dander is a walk, a boat is a kiss, gutties are running shoes, a poke is an icecream and where going out for a wee run means taking a drive in your car. Generally round the north coast. On a Sunday.

In Seamus Heaney HomePlace, we have an installation called the ‘Word Hoard’ a floating mobile of colloquial words like hoke and glar that appealed to Heaney’s love of language and how language is deeply rooted in a place.
So, for St Patrick’s Day, here is my word hoard – a collection of my favourite Northern Irish phrases and sayings….and of course, their translations!

Craic – fun or banter, ‘what’s the craic?’ ‘That was great craic altogether’ ‘ sure the craic’s ninety’

Sham – a person or friend, ‘Alright sham?’

See also: mucker, bailer, doner, cove or yer man. Everyone in Northern Ireland is yer man. And it is assumed that you know him

Plastered – drunk, ‘Yer man was so plastered last night, the head’ll be hanging off him this morning’

See also: hammered, paraletic, wrote off, pished, rat-arsed, banjaxed, steaming, half-cut, bloottered.

Catch yourself on – be sensible

See also: Wind yer neck in, wise the bap, your head’s cut, away an’ shite, yer head’s a marley, yer head’s full of wee sweetie mice.

Thran – intentionally stubborn, ‘He’s so thran he wouldn’t go even if he wanted to’

Keep her lit – to keep going ‘keep her lit now, that’s great, we’re suckin’ diesel now’

See also: keep her between the hedges

Scran the heap – eat everything, ‘I am pure starving. I could scran the heap’

There is a pizza restaurant in Ballymena which has a pizza with all the toppings on it. It’s 18″ and is called, you guessed it, The Scran the Heap!

Fernenst – alongside, ‘yer man’s field is fernenst the road’

Go for a scobe – taking a drive around the town to see who you can see ‘I’ve the lend of the car, let’s go for a scobe round the circuit’

Eejit – an idiot ‘yer man’s a wile eejit’

See also: melter, head the ball

Neither use nor ornament – useless, ‘I’m so hungover, I’m neither use nor ornament to anyone’

Feel wick – to be embarrassed ‘Did you see what she did? Feel wick for her’

See also: take a reddner, scundered

Dead on – alright or ok. Very often used sarcastically, ‘aye right mate, dead on’.

Cowp – to fall over ‘I cowped over that wall and hit my head a quare gunk’

Footer – to tinker with ‘Is yer Da still footerin’ with that engine?’

Gulder – to shout ‘My ma was ragin’ and was gulderin’ at me’

Clarried – covered in, ‘I cowped in the ditch and now I’m clarried in muck’

See also: clabbered

Hoke (or hoak) – to rummage or look for ‘have a hoke in your bag and see if you have a tissue’

One of the main things to remember in Northern Ireland is that everything, regardless of size, is ‘wee’, sarcasm is used a lot and it takes us a while to say goodbye on the phone.

Do any of these phrases take your fancy? What about your own word hoards? I’d love to hear the words or phrases particular to your area!

* ‘Spy thon latchy cove down the far duke’ translates to ‘Do you see that tall man at the end of the road?’. Yes, really.

The 746

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

38 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Some of these seem quite famliar from reading novels but I think we’ve imported a few over on the mainland! I hope you and your family feel better soon, Cathy, and that the next 14 days go as well as they can for you all.


  2. We use both “hammered” and “plastered” in the States, too! I have to say, though, “neither use nor ornament” is my favorite 🙂 It’s like you’re saying you’re of no use, but you’re not pretty, either. LOL!


  3. Wonderful post, love all these new words, when we were there in October, my son was picking up on all the different pronunciations and even struggled with some of the English, it was funny at times. In the chip shop he couldn’t understand ‘southern fried or battered’ when he ordered a chicken burger, (we don’t get those options in France), I wasn’t going to explain what battered meant, so I said just go for fried, and then when the man asked if he wanted sauce, my son says, yes, mustard please and they looked at him with an equally surprised look. I just love all the language and cultural clashes. 🙂

    All the best with self isolating, we are in total confinement here since midday today, requiring a printed attestation if we go out for any reason, quite novel times we are in, I think you are very sensible to take precautions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful post! And Cathy, all my good wishes for your family’s recovery. So glad you’re being careful.
    I’ve looked forward to this month’s posts for a while, and I’m enjoying them immensely. Thank you!


  5. Love this! I knew a few (mainly cos of three decades of reading Irish fiction) but also cos my OH is from Dublin and everyone he talks about is “yer man” 😂


  6. How wonderful! You’d think I’d be fluent by now with the amount of Irish media I consume but quite a few of these were new to me!

    I hope you all are staying safe and that your fevers have gone down xx


  7. Ha! Loads of these are common in Glaswegian too, showing how linked the two cultures are. Oddly enough, all the ones for being drunk are used here too – I wonder why that should be? 😉 But some are completely knew to me. I particularly like “scran the heap” and will do my best to make it Glaswegian too… 😀


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