How to speak Northern Irish

northern irish sayings fermanagh rodney edwards

Photo by Natural Farm Health

One of the first things visitors notice about Northern Ireland (apart from the AMAZING scenery) is our accent. After only a few sentences of dialogue with a visitor,  they begin to ask “What does that mean?” or “Could you repeat that?”. This may be because my accent can be thick (I spent years toning it down), but it is mostly due to the many words unique to the greatest country in the world. My favourites include:


Buck eejit/clampit/clart

These are terms of endearment for people who are silly or a bit of an idiot.

Houl yer whisht

Literally translated as “Please be quiet”.


If you are courtin’ someone, you are dating them. Teenagers are often asked, “Are ye courtin’ yet?” by elderly relatives before explaining the large amounts of courtin’ they were doing at that age.

Boys a dear

An exclamation of sadness, shock or happiness. It covers all bases. Used in the same ways “oh goodness” would be.


An object. Often used when discussing motor vehicles. “She’s some yoke” is said by a car enthusiast to approve of a friend’s new car.

I’ll run ye over

No, this is not a threat. This is a person offering a lift to another person. “Ach, I’m heading to Jimmy’s too. I’ll run ye over sure.”

Ogeous handlin’

If something is an ogeous handlin’, it is a tricky situation with some complications.

Wile dear/ The price of thon is a terra

Something that is rather pricy.


Very dirty – “Jimmy, would you take yer wellies off before you come into the house? They’re boggin.”


Raining heavily.


To be completely broken beyond repair.

Big light

Not to be confused with  the ‘wee light’. The big light is the one in the centre of the room. Children are often told by their mothers to “turn on the big light” as it starts to get dark in the evening.

Coddin’/Acting the cod

To mess around. Also known as ‘to faff about’.


To gurn is to moan about someone. A popular saying to silence someone is, “Quit yer gurning.”


To feel cold.


Ah, something that always terrified me. A tongin’ is something you would go home to when you had been up to no good. It is a good scolding.

Ninety to the dozen

If someone is talking ‘ninety to the dozen’, they are speaking quickly.

Have a titter of wit

One is telling the person to speak /act sensibly.

Up to high doh

To be over excited.

northern irish sayings rodney edwards

Some of these sayings and many, many more appear in ‘Sure, why would ye not?’, a recently released book written by Rodney Edwards. Sure, Why Would Ye Not? is a collection of hilarious conversations between two oul fellas, Bob and Charlie. They will make you laugh and they will educate you on Northern Irish ‘spake’ (speak). Sure, Why Would Ye Not? is available to purchase in Easons, Waterstones and online at Amazon.

What is your favourite Northern Irish term?



  1. Dad
    29/10/2015 / 00:00

    Wee buns. Means it’s easy
    Slabbering. Talking rubbish
    Prime. It’s good
    Go through ye for a short cut

  2. Andrea Arnold
    29/10/2015 / 00:24

    Chucking it down / bucketing it down……..raining heavily.

  3. carol stephens
    30/10/2015 / 09:06

    Up to my oxters

  4. 04/11/2015 / 16:25

    This is too interesting! I’m glad my country isn’t the only one with odd local phrases!

    • 05/11/2015 / 21:06

      We are very special folk in Northern Ireland!

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