5 Irish Words We Use in English

This past weekend was St. Patrick’s Day, which is the one day of the year where everybody gets to be Irish.


Although St. Patrick’s Day is a sacred and religious holiday for those who actually hail from the homeland of Ireland, many other people like to take part in the holiday by dressing up in green and drinking their favorite Irish beers with friends and family. It is a great reason to take the day to relax, drink, and be merry. It’s hard to argue with that!


St. Paddy’s Day has come and gone, but many of us still participate in “being” Irish nearly every day by using words that come from the classic Gaelic language. Here are some of our favorites.


Hooligan

Although the origin for this word isn’t definite, the Oxford English Dictionary guesses that the word “hooligan” came from the surname of a rowdy Irish family from a music hall song in the 1890s.

Another theory comes from writer Clarence Rook when he wrote a book called “Hooligan Nights” in 1899, which followed the story of an Irish bouncer and thief who lived in London.

Others seem similarities with the Gaelic surname Ó hUallacháin, which in English is O’Houlihan, but there doesn’t seem to be any relevance with that and the current English definition.


Trousers

“Trousers” originally came from the British word “trowse,” which many believe was borrowed from the Irish and Scottish Gaelic word “triubhas.

Oxford English Dictionary confirms an example from 1630 with records that say: “A jellous wife was like an Irish trouze, alwayes close to a mans tayle.”

It looks like today’s definition for “trousers” isn’t too far off from the original slang.


Bunworth Banshee" , "Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland", by Thomas Crofton Croker, 1825

Banshee

When you hear the word banshee, you might be thinking of a high-pitched scream--you know the saying, something like: “You’re howling like a banshee!”

“Banshee” comes from Gaelic folklore deriving from the words ben síde or baintsíde which means “woman of the fairy mound” or “fairy woman.”

In Irish legends, a banshee is a female spirit who appears in one's house and wails loudly to warn somebody that they are going to die very soon.

So, to describe one’s scream as “banshee” isn’t far off, but it really should only be used if one is predicting someone’s impending doom.


Whiskey/Whisky

It’s no wonder that Irish whiskey is so delicious.

The word is an Anglication of the Classical Gaelic word uisce, shortened from uisce beatha, which literally translates to “the water of life.”

Whiskey was originally used as a medicine, both internal anesthetic and an external antibiotic. It also goes back to the Medieval Latin phrase “aqua vitae,” which translates to “water of life,” when alchemists were searching for immortality, wealth, and longevity.


Galore

“Galore” derives from the Classical Gaelic word ge leor, which means “til plenty,” “a lot,” or “to sufficiency.” This definition is pretty straightforward, but it comes as a surprise nonetheless. In modern Irish, the saying ceart go leor is commonly used, which translates to “aright” or “good enough.”

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