Norn Iron Speek or Northern Irish Dictionary
I have been in Canada for over three years now, (longer now!), and I am aware that I am losing not only my accent (not many regrets there), but also all those little sayings and words that make Norn Iron what it is (lots of regrets for this one).
So, in order to help me remember all those sayings and words I used to take for granted I wanted to start a dictionary. However, I am aware that most of them have already disappeared into my sieve of a memory, and I need help.
I asked my Northern Irish friends and family to add to it, and to continue to, to help me retain those little gems and to educate my North American friends in the beauty and complexity of speaking Norn Iron. Also, please feel free to correct me if I haven’t defined something correctly.
It should be noted that Northern Ireland is probably the only place in the world where when you turn up late and use, “I got stuck behind a tractor!” as your excuse no one will doubt you.
Please bear in mind that a lot of the sayings are slightly vulgar… stop reading here if you might be offended… please!
a pace – at peace – quietly – still
a face only a mother could love – ugly
a face like a baten bear – ugly
a wee cup a tae in yer han – a cup of tea
a wee drap a tae in yer han – a cup of tea – the cup is not optional in reality but it is in speaking
afeard – scared
ah – me
ah could see ye far enough – you are driving me crazy
ah coulda ate the arse af a baby through the cot bars – i was really hungry
ah way – a wee – a little bit
ah wouldn’t give him the skin a ma skitter! – I wouldn’t give him anything – look up skitter to see just how rude this one is…
ah’ll gee ya a slap in the kite – i shall slap your face
ah’ll knack yer ballax in – i will beat you senseless
alright? – hello
all the best! – good bye!
amptnah? – aren’t i?
an owl looking out of an ivy bush – you could do with either brushing or cutting your hair
any more of this and there’ll be less of it! – stop it or else!
are ye away? – are you leaving?
are ye deef? – are you finding it hard to hear me?
are ye gettin’? – are you being served?
are ye havin’ a laugh? – are you kidding?
arse – bottom
as dark as toby’s hole – as dark as the pit of hell
as rough as a badger’s backside – less than sophistocated
as tight as a duck’s backside – mean with money
away in the head – stupid
away on! – you’re kidding!
away ta fuck – oh come on now, you don’t mean that! or go away please
awful – very “thon boy’s awful nice!”
a wee want – as in “thon doll has a wee want” – meaning that the girl in question is a sandwich short of a picnic or her mental capacity is dubious
aye – yes
bake – face or mouth
ballex – that’s rubbish! (bollocks as in balls as in testicles)
balloon – eejit
baltic – really cold -” it’s baltic out there!”
banjaxed – broken
bap – bread roll
barred – a death sentence as it means you are not allowed in the bar
bate – beat – “bate thon egg for ma will ya?”
beezer! – great!
beg – bag
big lad – man
big mawn – man
big girl’s blouse – he needs to harden up – as in “thon boy’s a big girl’s blouse!”
bladdered – drunk
bleeding – polite way of saying bloody – as in “that was bleeding fucked” – yep, you would be polite and not say bloody and then go on to say fuck or a variation of it
blitzed – drunk
blocked – drunk
blootered – drunk
blurt – rude young man – “thon wee lad is a dirty blurt!”
boggin – dirty/messy/horrible – “thon doll has a real boggin house!”
boney – bonfire
’bout ye! – how are you?
boys a dear – oh my word!
boys a dear, my guts are bad! – oh dear i have stomach ache!
brave – quite large/good – “thon was brave good”
brass monkeys – as in “it’s like brass monkeys out there” – it’s cold out there
breeks – trousers – as in “Auntie Ali!!! My breeks are falling down” – a direct quote from my niece at the country club summer fair while bouncing on the bouncey castle causing my sister, her mom, to blush and walk away leaving me to laugh at the looks
brew – unemployment benefit – can refer to the building where you claim it too
buggered – broken
calm yer knickers – calm down
catch yerself on! – wise up!
catch yer head on! – wise up!
catch on! – wise up!
champ – mashed potatoes with scallion in a volcano formation with half a pound of butter melting in the hole
chancer – someone trying to con
chase yerself! – go away!
cheeky wee get – cheeky chap
cheesie beano – chips (french fries) covered in baked beans and grated cheese
chicken – scared
chile – child
chip buttie – chips (french fries) in a buttered bap
chippie – fish and chip shop
chipper – fish and chip shop
clabber – sticky mud or being covered in something – “he was clabbered”
clampit – idiot
clart – dirty “look at tha clart on yer hands!” or bit of a one “she is one dirty clart!”
class – great/good
clean your clock – smack in the face
contrary – argumentative
cool yer jets – calm down
costume – really old fashioned for outfit – “thon doll looks like a dogs dinner in thon costume!”
coulda ate the decorations aff a hearse – very hungry
coulda ate the poultice aff the head of a scaby chile – very hungry
could eat an apple through a tennis racquet – has prominent front teeth
could ye face? – do you want?
craic – (prononuced crack) – fun “the craic was ninety!”
cracker – good
cream crackered – tired out
crittur – creature/person
cudden – couldn’t
culchie – someone who doesn’t live in the city
cut – drunk
dacent spud – good lad
dander – walk
dead on – nice – “he’s dead on!” or can be sarcastic – as in of course “aye, dead on”
dee-f – deaf “are yousens dee-f or what?”
desperate – very “thon was desperate bad!”
dine – down
do – beat or kill
do ye think i came up the Lagain in a bubble? – do you think i was born yesterday?
does yer head in – drives you crazy/up the wall
doesn’t know his arse from his elbow – he doesn’t know what he is talking about/doing
dog’s ballix – as in “thon boy thinks he’s the dog’s ballix” – he thinks he is better than he is
dog’s dinner – a mess
doll – woman
dour – door
drizzle – light rain
druth – always thirsty
druthers – choice “if ah had ma druthers…”
duncher – flat cap
eejit – affectionate term for an idiot
eye, eye, jump in! (said while holding down the bottom eyelid) – I don’t believe you!
face like a lugan spade – long face
face like a well chewed pastie – ugly
face like a well chewed chop – not attractive
face like a well skelped arse – slapped face
faffin’ around – messing around
fally – follow – “fally thon doll, she knows where it is”
feg – cigarette
fell down the ugly tree and didn’t miss a branch – not as pretty as you might hope
ferfeckssake! – oh for goodness sake!
fillum – movie
floozie – “thon doll is such a floozie!!” – she is keen on the boys
flit – move – as in “they did a midnight flit!” – they moved overnight so no one would notice (as if!!)
flur – floor
footery – a bit difficult as in a bit complicated
footering – fiddling around – “quit yer footering and just do yer homework wee lad!”
fred! there’s no bread! – line from an ad for the Spar convenience stores in the 80’s now coined as a way of saying we need to buy some bread
frigger – rude word for a person you may not care a lot for
fur coat, no knickers – all show – as in “thon doll’s all fur coat and no knickers” – everything is for show with no substance
ganch – idiot “stop acting like a quare ganch!”
geg – joke or funny
get – a not so nice person “thon wee lad is a quare wee get”
getawaytafuk! – no way!
get wired in – please start to eat
gis – give
gissa – give me
gissa feg – please may i have a cigarette
give her the tittie – put your foot down
give ma head peace – give me some peace please – leave me alone
give out – complain or scold
give out – “tha engine gave out” – died
glipe – silly “yon we’an is such a glipe!”
goes – says “i go… and she turns around and goes….”
go play with the traffic – go away
go take a running jump – go away
grand – great “that’s grand!”
grasp the nettle – do what you have to do no matter what
gub – mouth “shut yer gub or ah’ll shut it fer ye!”
gulder – shout
gunk – as in ‘she got a quare gunk!’ meaning ‘she was startled or surprised’ or ‘it was quarely gunked’ meaning ‘it is totally fucked’
gunks – now this is where you need to pay attention… read the above line – gunk as in singular – but this is gunks as in plural meaning mens’ underwear – so be careful that you don’t insult a woman by suggesting that she is in men’s underwear when you just mean to tell her that it was a surprise to see her. ‘Ah got a quare gunk seeing you in thon!!’
gurn – cry or complain “she never stops gurning!”
gutted – disappointed
gutties – trainers/running shoes
half cut – half drunk
hallion – wild person – can be affectionate “he’s a wee hallion”
hammered – drunk
Happy Days! – that’s good!
hardly – not true
headbin – idiot
header – eejit
head staggers – being an eejit “he took the head staggers”
head the ball – eejit “thon boy is a quare head the ball”
heart of corn – kind hearted
hectic – mad/crazy
heel – the thick end of the load – fought over by children when toasted
hop up well – dress warmly
houl on – wait/hold on
houl yer horses – wait/hold on
houl yer whist – keep quiet
how’s it cuttin’? – how are you?
how’s yer belly af fer wrinkles? – how are you?
how much is that altogether? – how much do I owe you?
hump – sulking – ‘she has a quare hump on her the day!’
i tell a lie! – i just realised that i am wrong in what i said
if your mother was still alive that would kill her! – that wasn’t a nice thing to do!
if God spares me – if i am still alive or if God permits
if God spares me i would like to be buried here – (it makes sense honestly!) – if God permits i want to be buried here
i’ll do you! – i’ll kill you!
is that you? – are you finished?
jawbox – kitchen sink
jump in! (while pulling down your bottom eyelid) – do you think i am an idiot?
keep her lit – faster! faster!
keks – trousers or underwear depending on your mood
kite – face
knock it inta ya! – eat up! or drink up!
knock that down ye – eat up! or drink up!
lamped – hit/punched
lashing down – raining heavily
lifted – arrested
like a wee bag of weasels – cross/bad tempered – “he’s like a wee bag of weasels the day”
loaf – head
look at the bake on her! – look at her face!
looper – idiot
lug – ear
lug ole – ear hole
lush – brilliant
mad – hectic
magic – good/great
make a show of – show up/embarrass
man dear! – good grief
man dear, yon’s magic! – wow! that’s great!
mankin’ – dirty/messy/horrible
me back teeth are floatin’! – i need to use the bathroom!
melt – can mean head/shit/whatever is appropriate – “I’ll knock yer melt in!”
messages – shopping
millie – a female spide or steek
mingin’ – dirty/messy/horrible
mitch – to skip school without permission
mizzle or mizzling – light rain
more power to yer elbow – good luck to you
more power to yer wee wheel – good luck to you
mucker – friend
nek it! – down it in one
never af the batter – never stops – “she’s never af the batter, thon doll!” – she never sits down
nice one! – well done!
nigh – now
no bother – no problem
norman no mates – unpopular person
now yer suckin deisel! – well done you! – doing well
odds – coins
offie – off license
oi! – hello, please give me your attention!
on the pig’s back – doing well “thon wee lad’s on the pig’s back”
oxsters – armpits
pan loaf – regular bread as opposed to “plain loaf” which is slightly coarser and much better
parful – powerful – strong “thon was a parful drop a tea!”
pastie – minced pork with mashed potato shaped into a patty and battered then deep fried
pat – saucepan
peelers – police officers
piece – packed lunch – usually a sandwich
pishin’ down – raining heavily
pissin’ down – raining heavily
pished – drunk
pissed – drunk
plonker – eejit
poke – ice cream cone “dyawanna wee poke?”
pole axed – drunk
pouring – raining heavily
pull – to “get lucky” as in “get your coat you’ve pulled”
purdie oaten – potato oaten bread
Q.T. – not the cutsey north american/text speak for “cutie” but Q.T. – as in “lemme tell ya on the Q.T.” – on the down low – secret
quare – a lot
ragin’ – angry
rake – to speed – “he was raking down them country lanes”
rates – rats if you are posh and live on the Malone Road in Belfast
ride – “thon boys a quer ride” – that man is very sexy
ride – sex
rippin’ – angry
rubber ducked – drunk
run ye over – take you there “dyawan ma to run ye over home?”
rough as perdie oaten – lumpy “he has a face like perdie oaten”
round – slice of bread
rounds of the kitchen – as in “she’s gonna gie ye the rounds of the kitchen!” – tell you off – coming from chasing someone around the kitchen with a frying pan
safe home – goodbye/have a safe trip home
says i – i said
says i to her – i said to her
scaldy – really short hair cut
scald – burn
schuck – ditch at side of road – usually full of clabber
scooped – arrested
scrab – scratch – or vulgar for good lover as in “he’s a big scrab” referring to scratch marks on his back…
scrapnel – coins
scullery – working kitchen
scunder’d – embarrassed – “Ah was fair scunder’d when they saw the state a the working kitchen!”
scunner’d – another version of scunder’d
see her i married? shis niver aff ma back – my wife is wanting me to do something
see you, wee lad! – watch out!
shar – shower
sheet of bread – slice of bread
shithawk – not a nice person at all
shut yer bake! – shut up!
shut yer teeth! – shut up!
sicken ye – that would annoy you
signed – sound
sits down to pee – needs to man up “thon boy sits down to pee”
skelpt – slapped
skin af his skitter – mean – “he wouldn’t give you the skin off his skitter”
skinned ye! – i beat you in that game!
skitter – poop
skint – broke/has no money
skive – to procrastinate – or to pretend to be doing what you should when you aren’t – to avoid doing something… ack! this is hard to explain – but if you should be doing something and aren’t you are skiving
skivvy – slave
skivvies – men’s underwear – usually used ones…
slabber – someone talking rubbish or behing your back “did you hear the slabber from thon man?”
slap it up ye! – serves you right!
sleekit – sneaky
some pup – clever
sound – nice “he’s sound”
spide – someone into rave music
spoofin’ – lying
spoon – silly billy
spuds – potatoes
square up – pay debt
steady on! – behave or watch it
steaming – drunk
steek – lad in a shell suit with stupid hair who thinks he is great
stickin’ out – great “thon car is stickin’ out!”
stocious – drunk
stop that gurning or ah’ll give ya something to gurn about – stop crying or i will have to give you a slap
stroked – robbed or ripped off
swally – “will ye have a wee swally?” – will you join me in a wee drink?
take a long walk off a short pier – go away
take the bull by the horns – do what you have to do
tarbil – terrible as in very
that’s a cracker – that is funny/brilliant
the bee’s knees – the best thing
the day – today
the dead lice is drappin’ aff her – she is a bit dirty
them’s the kind a people who keep a shovel of shit on the table to keep the flies aff the butter – (how can i translate this???) they are the sort of people who use unusual methods to achive practical results
the sharp side of yer tongue – “she gave me the sharp side of her tongue” – she gave out to me – told me off
the sweat was running down the schuck a me arse – i was a bit hot
there’s no flies on her! – she is clever (too quick for flies to catch up)
they look like their da spat them out! – they are very similar in looks to their father
thick as champ – stupid
thick as pig shite – stupid
thick as two short planks – stupid
thon – that
thon’d scare rats from a stone ditch – a less than attractive person
trail ye Newry style! – as in “shut the fuck up or I’ll trail ye Newry style” – shut up or I shall severely beat you!!
thran – stubborn
themuns – those people
throughother – a mess – “when she came outta school the day she was throughother!”
ticket – as in “thon wee doll has a quer ticket on herself!” – she thinks she is special
till – to “ahm goin’ till tha shap”
titter of wit – some sense “thon wee doll doesn’t have a titter of wit”
touching cloth – i really don’t want to define this one… ummm okay… you need to poop so much that it is almost too late…
tout – someone who reports things to the police or other authorities – you don’t want to be a tout really
trail – as in “ah cud trail ye we one han tied behind ma back!” – I could beat you in a fight with only one hand
tube – idiot “don’t be such a tube!”
two sheets to the wind – drunk
waddaya at the day? – what are you doing today?
wait til ah tell ya – the way to start relating a story/conversation
waste of space – a person not worth bothering with
waste of good air – a person not worth bothering with
we’an – wee one – child
wandering around like a fart in a trance – wandering aimlessly
wee – little – goes in front of everything and anything – has nothing to do with size – so a huge house could still be wee
wee buns – easy – “that exam was wee buns”
wee doll – girl
weeker! – brilliant!
weemin – women
wee drap in yer han – cup of tea “dyawanna wee drap in yer hand?”
wee want – something missing intellectually – “he has a wee want”
weren’t behind the door – you were not too backward in pushing yourself forward
wet the tea – make the tea
wet the babies head – go out to celebrate the birth of a baby
what’s the crack? – what’s happening?
wick – not great – “thon fillum was wick”
will ye have another? – a stupid question 🙂
wind yer neck in – wise up or calm down
windie – window
windielicker – a horrible way to say someone is a bit slow (i can explain this more in a pm if needed)
wired to the moon with a faulty plug – crazy!!!!
wise up! – get some sense!
wouldn’t let them near a scaby dog – don’t trust them
wrecked – drunk
wud ya sit a pace? – please sit quietly
ya buck eejit, ya – you silly boy!
ye cudden warm til ton boy! – you couldn’t like than man/person
yer – your
yer a buck eejit – you are crazy (good thing)
yer a head the ball – you are an eejit (sometimes good)
yer a rocket – you are crazy
yer head’s a marley! – your head is a marble – as in you have no brains my dear friend
yer head’s full of wee sweetie mice – you are daft
yer da! – an insult when you run out of ideas – your father!
yer ma! – an insult when you run out of ideas – your mother!
yer ma’s yer da! – very insulting
yon – that
you know what i mean like? – do you understand me?
youse – you
youse gettin’? – are you getting served?
yousens – you all
Yes, we have an amazing number of words that mean drunk, we are very imaginative. However, please note that according to all mothers of Norn Iron sons, not one has ever been drunk, if he appears that way it was due either to a “bad” pint or to the greasy chips they ate on the way home. No mother will admit to her son being inebriated due to drinking too much. 🙂
We also have more words for rain than anywhere else in the world. And they all mean different things.
Also it should be noted that “fuck” can mean anything – as in “Shut the fuck up”, “Would youse all fuck up?”, “Come on to fuck” (come here), “Out to fuck” (go away), “as cold as fuck”, “as hot as fuck” – it can mean whatever you want – however i should also point out that my mother would skelp my backside if i ever used it – so i didn’t 🙂 – good girl!
And if someone says, “Ah fuck it! It’s grand!”, it means that they can’t be bothered to finish something properly.
Thanks to Emm, Janis, Anne, Leanne, Karen, Donna, Julie, Adrienne, Kathryn, Johnnie and Claire! x