The Influence of Irish on English Vocabulary: A Starter’s Irish English Online Dictionary

The Irish language has been spoken on the island of Ireland for centuries, and it is one of the oldest living languages in Europe. The language was first introduced to Ireland by Celtic settlers who arrived from Britain around 500 BC. Over time, the language has changed and evolved, but its roots remain firmly grounded in Celtic culture. Today, we are happy to present you with our own starter Irish English online dictionary.

Many people underestimate the influence of the Irish language on everyday English conversations. However, the mere attempt to come up with an Irish English online dictionary has made something very clear. Celtic culture has had a considerable influence on the English language. This, of course, is especially evident in the spoken variety of English you can hear throughout the country. But its influence is much bigger than that. 

Many words and phrases from Irish have become part of everyday speech all across the UK. Especially, those relating to rural life such as terms for animals and plants, local geographical features, as well as folkloric customs and beliefs.

So, if you thought all your vocabulary came only from Old English, Anglo-Saxon, and other Germanic languages, you're up for a surprise! Here is a starter's Irish English online dictionary with some of the most interesting English words derived from Irish.

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Origin: The word "banshee" comes from Irish bainsídhe, which means "woman of fairy" or "woman of a fairy mound".

According to traditional Irish mythology, the banshee is a female spirit that appears as a harbinger of death, wailing outside a home when someone inside is about to die. Throughout time, people have described banshees in a variety of ways; some as beautiful women, others as hags or old crones. But they all have one thing in common. They all wear hoods and long clothes and their wailing can be heard for miles.

Banshees are referenced in the Harry Potter books, and can also be seen in the recently Oscar-nominated British film The Banshees of Inisherin, starring Colin Farrell.


Origin: It is believed that the word "bogeyman" comes from Irish bogaigh, which is pronounced approximately as "boggy" and means swamp, bog, or moor + the English word "man".

The bogeyman legend originated from the discovery of ancient human "bog-bodies". Bog-bodies were human bodies that had been naturally mummified in a peat bog. These discoveries gave origin to unsettling stories about a mysterious, humanoid man. An awful creature who lurks in dark places and tries to snatch unsuspecting children.

Today, the bogeyman is used mostly as a threat to get children to behave, although he sometimes appears in popular culture, such as in the book and TV series Goosebumps or the 2005 horror film Boogeyman.


Origin: Possibly from the Irish word bodhraigh, which means "to deafen or annoy".  Or maybe, from bodhar, which means "deaf, bothered or confused". The earliest use of the word 'bother' as we know it first appeared in the works of Irish writers Sheridan, Steerne and Swift.

In English, we use this word to express annoyance or irritation. The phrase often emphasizes a feeling of displeasure with a particular person or situation.


Origin: The first recorded use of the word 'boycott' in English was in an article by an Irish journalist about Charles Cunningham Boycott. Boycott was a land agent for an absentee landlord in Ireland. When the tenants of Boycott refused to pay him rent due to their grievances with the landlord, they ultimately "boycotted" the land agent.

Today, the term 'boycott' describes a form of protest where people refuse to buy, use or associate with a product, service or person. It is a central term in civil rights movements and political campaigns. It is a peaceful way to demonstrate opposition and create change. For example, the boycott of South African goods in the 1980s was an important part of the anti-apartheid movement. Without a doubt, one of the most interesting terms in our Irish English online dictionary.


Origin: In Old Irish and Scots Gaelic, a coire was a cauldron or a an object with a hollow shape.

The English word corrie refers to a cirque or mountain lake, usually found in a mountainous landscape. The term describes a rounded basin formed by the erosion of glaciers. You can often find these basins with glacial lakes at the centre. Corries are known as cwm in Welsh and cuillrigh in Irish.

Drum, drumlin

Origin: From drom or druim, meaning 'ridge'.

A drum is a ridge that separates two adjacent valleys and is formed from glacial deposits. Drumlins are common throughout the British Isles, and you can find them in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, especially in highland regions. Undoubtedly, one of the most sonorous words in our little Irish English online dictionary.

When shot from the sky, they provide a dramatic and unique landscape that can be seen in films such as The Lord of the Rings and Braveheart.


Origin: This word is a synthesis of go and leor, meaning "til there's plenty".

Galore is an Irish-English adjective that usually appears with the verb "have", denoting a large quantity or abundance. It can be heard in "Part of your world", the main theme from the Disney movie The Little Mermaid, where Ariel sings "I've got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty /

I've got whozits and whatzits galore". This, as you can imagine, makes this word one of the most memorable terms in our little Irish English online dictionary. 


Origin: This word comes from the Irish surname Ó hUallacháin, traditionally anglicised as O'Houlihan). These were a rowdy rebel clan from County Tipperary that lived almost 1500 years ago.

The English word hooligan originally meant a member of this Irish family. In the 19th century, however, its meaning has broadened to refer to rowdy, unruly, and disruptive people. Sometime during the second half of the 20th century, the term has become a synonym for gang violence, especially in football stadiums.


Origin: The English word slogan comes from sluagh-ghairm, which was "a battle-cry used by Gaelic clans". Its meaning associated with a word or phrase used by a specific group is metaphorical and first found in a few letters and press writings in the early 1700s.

Today, the word ‘slogan’ appears in a commercial context to describe a phrase used to advertise a product or service. It has also been used to describe political and cultural movements, such as the "Black Lives Matter" slogan.


Origin: The English term for whiskey, uisce beatha (pronounced [ɪshka ˈbʲaha]), literally means "water of life". It comes from the Old Irish words uisce ("water") and bethu ("life").

Last but not least, whiskey is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermentation of grain, such as barley, rye, wheat, and corn. It is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in Ireland and Great Britain, and can also be used for cooking and medical purposes. And, as you may know, you can enjoy it neat or on the rocks! 

So, there you have it, a brief overview of some Irish words that English speakers still use today. If you hear closely, the words in this post tell tales of a shared history between Ireland and Britain - one that has shaped the language we use today. One that needed an Irish English online dictionary.

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Did you enjoy our Irish English online dictionary? We hope that, after reading this blog, you've gained a better understanding and appreciation for the language, culture, history, and beauty of Ireland, and we invite you to celebrate the Irish legacy by taking an Irish or Irish English course with one of our native teachers.

At Listen & Learn, we strive to bring the Irish and English languages closer together by providing our students with personalized courses tailored to their needs. Our experienced and certified teachers will create a friendly and supportive environment for you to learn in, so why not join us today and start your journey into the fascinating world of Irish words.