Think you don’t speak Irish? Think again ….

Ardnamona 2

At Ardnamona Woods, Donegal Town.
©Siobhán McNamara, March 2014

How much Irish do you use in a day? Probably much more than you realise. Many words that have slipped into common usage in English are believed to originate in the Irish language.

Some of the more familiar words are ‘galore’ which comes from the Irish ‘go leor’ meaning plenty. ‘Knack’ is thought to come from ‘gnách’ meaning custom, habit or practice. ‘Spree’ is derived from ‘spreach,’ the spoils of a raid in ancient times.

These are largely examples of the street language of early Irish-Americans who contributed much to the development of vernacular American-English. While many of these words are listed in dictionaries as being of unknown origin, those who study language say the similarity to Irish and the consistency of when they came into the language are too strong to be ignored.

Here are some of the many, many more examples:

Snazzy: Snas, Irish for polish. It entered the language through prison slang.

Quirky: Corraiceach (pronounced cor-a-cah), Irish for odd, unsteady or shifty.

Scam:  Is cam é, meaning it’s a trick.

Smithereens: Smidiriní (pronounced smid-er-een-ee), Irish for fragments.

Shanty: Sean tí (pronounced shan tee), meaning an old or run-down house.

Slogan: Sluaghairim (pronounced slu-a-garm), old Irish word for a battle cry.

Spunk: Spanc, meaning spirited.

Dude: Dúd (pronounced dood), a term used by the Irish in New York to describe a typical wealthy young man on a night out at the theatre. Its passage into common language was noted in the Brooklyn Eagle in February 1883:
“A new word has been coined. It is d-u-d-e or d-o-o-d. The spelling does not seem to be distinctly settled yet. Just where the word came from nobody knows but it has sprung into popularity in the last two weeks, so that now everybody is using it. The dude is from 19 to 28 years of age, wears trousers of extreme tightness, is hollow chested, effeminate in his ways, apes the English and distinguishes himself among his fellowmen as a lover of actresses.”

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10 Responses to Think you don’t speak Irish? Think again ….

  1. litadoolan says:

    Interesting point. Did not know this.


  2. Jan Brown says:

    Reblogged this on mezzojan and commented:
    From the brilliant pen of Siobhan McNamara!


  3. I had no idea! Thank you for this!


  4. Gina says:

    Wonderful post, Siobhan! I’ve studied some Irish and you’ve added more to it.

    Sharing to Facebook.


  5. Pingback: Word of the Day Wednesday: Bothántaíocht | EF High School Exchange Year in the Mid-Atlantic

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