Irish Pronunciation Guide

By Sarah Dilworth

Did you know that English is just ONE of the official languages of Ireland? Ireland’s first language is, you guessed it… Irish! The historical reasons behind the country having two official languages are significant. Without getting too political, the Irish language was suppressed and actually deemed illegal to speak for centuries. The Irish people fought back in a big way. They created associations to preserve the language, legally required Irish to be on all public forms, signs, and documentation, teach it to every student from primary to secondary school, and preserved entire regions in the country, called The Gaeltacht, that are known as Irish speaking.

The names of Irish people – who many consider to be the friendliest people in the world – are not always so friendly for the non-Irish to say. Many names are traditional and can look downright unpronounceable to a visitor. You will also notice that all street signs, official government and business correspondence, and place names are in Irish first and then English. Heck, sometimes they don’t even bother with the English version. So here is a quick guide to pronouncing the (seemingly odd to an outsider) some of the more common names and places you may encounter when in Ireland.

The Irish speak English. But beware, not all English is the same. So many words and phrases exist in one form and not the other; or if they do exist, can mean something completely different. British, Australian, American, Irish, and Canadian Englishes all have their nuances, specific phrasing, and unique words. Below is a list of some commonly used Irish English words and their meaning in American English:

In addition to the above Irish language rules and ways in which Irish English differs from American English, there is a whole host of Irish slang terms and phrases that will make any English speaker think they are listening to a different language.

Armed with this linguistic knowledge, when you land in Ireland for your internship or semester abroad, you should “be grand”.

Have you come across any other Irish names, places or slang terms that left you confused? Comment below with what they were!

Sarah Dilworth

Marketing Coordinator
Sarah’s passion for cultural and educational travel was sparked by her first experience of studying abroad in Limerick, Ireland ten years ago. After graduating with a BA in Political Science from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she returned to Ireland to study Intercultural Studies at Dublin City University. With experience working in primary and secondary education, cultural exchange, and marketing for an international education organization, Sarah founded a freelance business aimed at supporting small businesses and nonprofits to use social media and digital marketing to their fullest potential. Recently relocated to Buenos Aires, after a few years in Dublin, Sarah is looking forward to getting to know the many barrios, discovering new foodie spots, and exploring the cultural arts scene in Argentina.

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