Everyday English Words You Didn’t Realize Came From the Irish Language

From hooligan to smithereens, there are many common words in the English language that you probably didn’t know came from Irish.

The Irish language, sometimes called Gaeilge, was the first language of the people until the 18th century when there was a switch to English.

However, the Irish language is still very popular in the country. According to the last census, 39.8% of respondents in the Republic and 10.65% of respondents in the North said they could speak the language.

It has also spread around the world thanks to the vast Irish diaspora.

The language’s influence on modern English is evident and is responsible for many of the words we use every day.

Here Are 12 Everyday English Words You Didn’t Know Came From The Irish Language


Hooligan – i.e. someone who takes part in rowdy behavior – is said to come from the Irish surname O hUallachain, which has been anglicized to O’Houlihan.

A popular British music hall song from the 1890s referred to the fictional Irish fighting family of O hUallachain, notorious for their poor social behavior.


The word Tory, commonly used to refer to a member of the British Conservative Party, comes from the Irish Gaelic word “toraidhe” which means outlaw or thief. The expression, which was intended as an insult, was popular in the 17th century.


Whiskey is the English interpretation of an old Irish name for the drink – uisce beatha which means water of life. The uisce part was anglicized to become whisky, and in some parts of Ireland it is still pronounced whish-key.


The word clock dates back to the Old Irish words clagan and clocca, both meaning “bell”, which refers to the hand bells used by early Irish missionaries.

In abundance

Galore comes from go leor which is the Irish expression for “there was a lot of something”. The only difference between the pair is the spelling, as they both have similar pronunciations.


The slogan comes from the phrase sluagh-ghairm, which dates back to the 1670s when it was apparently used as a battle cry by Irish clans. It is derived from the Irish sluagh-ghairm, meaning army cry


There are two possible Irish words that have influenced the English word disturb. It could come from bodhar which means deaf/disturbed/confused or bodhraigh which means to deafen/bore.


Lough, which is used to refer to a lake, comes from the Irish loch.


Smithereens is made up of the word ‘smithers’, with the Irish diminutive ‘eens’.

It was probably developed from the Irish word smidirini, which means small pieces.

To cross

The ultimate source of this word is the Latin crux, but some sources say the English word comes from Old Irish cros.


The English word slob, which means “a messy, sloppy or lazy person”, derives from the Irish Gaelic word slab, which means mud.


The word trousers derives from the Gaelic words triubhas or trius. It was picked up in English in the 16th century and became trouse before becoming the word we use now.