Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Irish adj.

[the stereotypical Irishman or woman is stupid, short-tempered, violent (whether on the street or in the home), addicted to potatoes, keen on brawling and usu. employed in a menial, labouring task, often rural; all these traits are reflected in the combs. that follow, and all combs. with Irish should be assumed to be derog. (if seen as joc. by the coiner/speaker) unless otherwise stated]

1. [18C+] a general negative racial epithet; usu. in combs. below.

2. see Irish stew adj.

I. Pertaining to worka. The wheelbarrow

In compounds

Irish ambulance (n.)

[1910s–30s] (US) a wheelbarrow.

Irish baby buggy (n.)

[1910s+] (US) a wheelbarrow.

Irish buggy (n.) (also Irish buggie)

[late 19C+] (US) a wheelbarrow.

Irish chariot (n.)

[1940s] (US) a wheelbarrow.

Irish local (n.)

[1930s+] (US) a wheelbarrow [SAmE local, a local train line].

b. Tools for physical labour

Irish banjo (n.) (also Irish spoon)

[mid-19C+] a spade, a shovel.

Irish fan (n.)

[1920s+] (US) a spade, a shovel.

Irish local (n.)

[1900s] a hand-car, propelled by pushing a handle backwards and forwards.

Irish screwdriver (n.)

[20C+] a hammer.

Irish toothpick (n.)

[1920s] (US) a pickaxe.

Irish tumble-dryer (n.)

[1980s] a cement mixer.

II. Pertaining to fooda. The potato

Irish apple (n.)

[late 18C+] a potato.

Irish apricot (n.)

[late 18C+] a potato.

Irish football (n.)

[1970s] (US) a potato.

Irish fruit (n.) (also Irishman’s fruit, Irish wall fruit)

[late 18C–1910s] a potato.

Irish grape (n.)

[1940s–70s] (US) a potato.

Irish lemon (n.) (US)

1. [late 19C+] a potato.

2. [1910s] an onion.

Irish root (n.)

[mid-19C] a potato.

b. Other foodstuffs

Irish cherry (n.)

[1930s+] (US) a carrot.

Irish cocktail (n.) [play on mickey finn n.]

[1980s] (US) a drink containing a substance that causes unconsciousness.

Irish goose (n.)

[mid-19C] (US) cooked codfish.

Irish horse (n.)

[mid-18C+] tough, undercooked salt beef.

Irish nachos (n.)

[1990s+] (US) fried potato wedges and (refried) beans.

Irish turkey (n.) [popularized by its use in the comic strip ‘Jiggs and Maggie’, properly Bringing Up Father (1913-2000) by George McManus]

[mid-19C+] (US) corned (UK: salt) beef and cabbage.

mixed Irish (n.)

[late 19C] (US short order) beef stew.

III. Pertaining to sex

In compounds

Irish clubhouse (n.)

1. [1960s+] (US gay) a sophisticated, expensive brothel.

2. see also general compounds below.

Irish confetti (n.)

1. [1980s+] semen spilled outside the vagina (through coitus interruptus practised by pious Catholics).

2. see also violence compounds below.

3. see also general compounds below.

Irish dip (n.)

[1960s+] (gay) sexual intercourse.

Irish disease (n.)

[1990s+] the state of having a small penis.

Irish fortune (n.)

[19C] the vagina.

Irish horse (n.)

[1950s+] (gay) an impotent penis.

Irish inch (n.) [a slur on Irish penis size]

[1970s–80s] (US) the erect penis.

Irish marathon (n.)

[20C+] a lengthy session of sexual intercourse.

Irish potato (n.) [? play on spud n.3 /stud n.]

[1990s+] (W.I.) a young man who is ‘kept’ by an older woman.

Irish promotion (n.)

[20C+] (gay) masturbation.

Irish rise (n.)

[late 19C+] sexual detumescence.

Irish root (n.)

[19C+] the penis.

Irish toothache (n.) (also i.t.a., Dutch salute)

1. [19C+] an erection.

2. [20C+] pregnancy.

Irish toothpick (n.)

[1980s+] (US gay) the erect penis.

Irish virgin (n.) [? pious Irish virgins who become nuns]

[20C+] (US) one who is a virgin and is likely to remain one.

Irish way (n.) [the belief that pious Catholics used anal intercourse as their sole means of contraception]

[1970s+] heterosexual anal intercourse.

Irish wedding (n.)

[20C+] (gay) masturbation.

Irish whist (n.)

[19C] sexual intercourse.

In phrases

dance the Irish jig (v.)

see under dance v.

give a hot poultice for the Irish toothache (v.)

[late 19C] of a woman, to have sexual intercourse.

play (at) Irish whist (where the jack takes the ace) (v.)

[late 19C] to have sexual intercourse.

IV. Pertaining to lack of sophistication

Irish compliment (n.)

1. a blow.

2. [mid-19C+] a back-handed compliment.

Irish funnies (n.) (also Irish funny papers, ...sports pages) [because of supposed Irish illiteracy]

[1970s+] the obituary columns in a newspaper.

Irish hint (n.)

[mid-18C+] (US) a very broad hint.

Irish promotion (n.)

[mid-19C+] a demotion, a cut in one’s pay.

Irish rise (n.) (also Irish raise, Irishman’s rise)

[mid-19C+] a cut in one’s pay.

Irish shave (n.)

[1920s+] the act of defecation.

Irish wash (n.)

[1960s+] (US) the turning or reversing of a garment or other object to hide rather than actually remove the dirt.

V. Pertaining to physique

In compounds

Irish arms (n.) (also Irish)

[mid-18C–mid-19C] thick legs.

Irish channel (n.) [down which alcohol flows]

[1900s] the throat.

Irish draperies (n.)

[1980s+] drooping female breasts.

Irish legs (n.)

[late 18C+] heavy female legs.

Irish stamps (n.)

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) thick, clumsy legs.

VI. Pertaining to violence

Irish beauty (n.)

[late 18C+] a woman with a pair of black eyes.

Irish bouquet (n.)

[1960s–70s] (US) any form of projectile, usu. a stone or brick.

Irish confetti (n.) [from c.1832 until the adoption of asphalt, NY streets were paved with bricks]

1. [20C+] (also confetti) bricks, esp. as thrown during riots; cite 1932 refers to a piece of iron.

2. see also sex compounds above.

3. see also general compounds below.

Irish hoist (n.) [the stereotypically boorish, brawling Irishman]

[mid-19C+] a kick in the behind.

Irish invitation (n.)

[late 18C] a challenge to a duel.

Irish karate (n.)

[1990s+] (Aus.) the use of a shotgun.

Irish parliament (n.)

[1940s] a heated argument.

Irish rose (n.)

[1930s] (US) a stone, for throwing.

Irish wake (n.)

[mid-19C+] any boisterous occasion and not necessarily a wake.

Irish wedding (n.)

[late 18C–19C] a brawl, ‘where black eyes are given instead of favours’ (Grose 1796).

VII. General uses

In compounds

Irish alzheimer’s (n.) (also Irish amnesia)

[2000s+] (US) a supposed disease in which the sufferer forgets everything but their grudges.

Irish assurance (n.) [like the Greek myth, which proclaims that being dipped in the River Styx gives a child invulnerability, ‘so it is said, that a dipping in the River Shannon totally annihilates bashfulness’ (Grose 1785)]

[late 18C–19C] boldness, shamelessness.

Irish bargain (n.)

any form of exchange where one side gains disproportionately more than the other; thus no bargain .

Irish clubhouse (n.)

1. [late 19C+] (US) a police station [plays on SE club, association/club to hit, i.e. police violence].

2. see also sex compounds above.

Irish confetti (n.)

1. [1980s+] (N.Z.) gravel, stones.

2. see also sex compounds above.

3. see also violence compounds above.

Irish curtains (n.)

[1910s+] (Aus./US) cobwebs.

Irish draperies (n.)

[late 19C+] cobwebs.

Irish evidence (n.)

[18C–19C] a perjuring witness; perjury.

Irish flag (n.)

[1960s] (US) a diaper, a nappy.

Irish lace (n.)

[1950s+] a spider’s web.

Irish merino (n.)

[2000s] (N.Z.) a wild pig.

Irish monte (n.)

[1900s] (US und.) a crooked gambling game that guarantees that the dealer wins; ? a version of three-card monte n. (1)

Irish nightingale (n.)

[mid-19C–1940s] (US) a bullfrog.

Irish pasture (n.)

[20C+] (US) a fainting fit, esp. a pretended one.

Irish rifle (n.)

[19C] a small toothcomb.

Irish shift (n.) (also Irish switch) [the supposed propensity of Irish politicians to blow with the prevailing wind; given the year of first use – 1960 – the Irish in question may have been the Kennedys, whose scion John was elected president that year]

[1960s+] (US) political hypocrisy.

Irish short cut (n.)

[2010s] a route that appears longer but is supposedly really quicker.

Irish tatters (n.)

[1910s] (US) the tattered edge of a garment or piece of fabric.

Irish twins (n.) [the stereotypical fecundity – and lack of contraceptive practice – of trad. Irish families]

[mid-19C+] (US) two siblings born within a 12-month period.

Irish wedding (n.)

[19C] the emptying of a cesspool.

SE in general slang uses

In phrases

as Irish as Paddy Murphy’s pig (also as Irish as paddy’s pig)

[late 19C+] quintessentially Irish.