A Hiberno-English Archive:

This site is dedicated to the study and promotion of Hiberno-English: Hiberno (=Irish, and English), indicating that we are dealing with English that has been profoundly influenced by features of the Irish language.
This site will be of interest to students and scholars of Anglo-Irish literature, students and scholars of Hiberno-English and English dialects in general, Irish people and those of Irish ancestry who are interested in how and why Irish people speak the way they do, those with an interest in Irish folklore, and finally non-native speakers of English studying in Ireland who want to be familiar with the idioms of English as used in Ireland.
This site provides an introduction to the history and grammar of Hiberno-English. It also provides a small number of Hiberno-English related links, and relevant details of Hiberno-English related events, such as public lectures, radio broadcasts and so forth.
The main purpose of this site, however, is to build and maintain an archive of Hiberno-English words, phrases, sayings, and idioms, collected and collated by Professor Terence Patrick Dolan of University College Dublin – a world authority on Hiberno-English lexicography and author of A Dictionary of Hiberno-English: The Irish Use of English published by Gill and Macmillan, Dublin 1998.

As with any lexical archive, its richness and value are directly related to contributions to it. The creators of this site, John Loftus and Professor Dolan, encourage its visitors to make their own contributions in the knowledge that Professor Dolan assesses all relevant contributions. Please click here for more information.

The search page (with alphabetical index) is here. Another promising online language resource; the internet keeps delivering on its promise, despite the inevitable floods of junk. (Via wood s lot.)


  1. I’ll recommend Flann O’Brien’s “The Poor Mouth” here — translated from a Gaelic original into courtly, euphemistic, hyperbolic Hiberno-English. It reminds me of Lu Hsun, or Gogol — it’s a parody of nostalgic Irish folky literature, but it goes far beyond parody.

  2. Second the recommendation — a wonderful book. In fact, anything by Flann O’Brien (alias Brian O’Nolan, alias Myles na gCopaleen) is worth reading.

  3. Especially At-Swim-Two-Birds.

  4. Don’t forget The Third Policeman, a fascinating pancake and a conundrum of great incontinence, a phenomenon of the first rarity.

  5. Aha, a secret nest of O’Brien fans…

  6. Count me in.

  7. Have you fellows all forgotten his newspaper columns?

  8. And Flann O’Brien is your only man.

  9. This is completely unconnected to the article.
    I have some Danish friends and have noticed that sometimes when they speak Danish it sounds very similar to English. Two phrases ‘Have a good day’ and ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ sound almost identical. I’m not a linguist but would be very interested to know more about the similarities between the two languages.

  10. The dedication to “The Hard Life”:
    “I honourably present to Graham Greene, whose own forms of gloom I admire, this misterpiece.”
    The epigraph to “The Hard Life”:
    “Tout le trouble du monde vient de ce qu’on ne sait pas rester seul dans sa chambre — PASCAL”
    The start of “The Hard Life”:
    “It is not that I half knew my mother. I knew half of her: the lower half — her lap, legs, feet, her hands and wrists as she bent forward. Very dimly I seem to remember her voice.”

  11. Very sly, Bees.

  12. Between the ages of about 18 and 25, I asked my family to give me an O’Brien book in hardback for every Xmas and birthday. Not healthy, perhaps, but it makes a fine collection. “At Swim-Two-Birds” seems to be the one O’Brien’s remembered for, perhaps because it came with Joyce’s say-so, but I’ll be sticking with “The Third Policeman”, “The Poor Mouth” and his stories about “The Brother”.

  13. i don’t know any danish, but soren kierkegaard is my favorite philosopher and flann o’brien is my favorite novelist…_the third policeman_ is the funniest book ever written. (so there’s a link between the two for the person who’s looking for similarities between danish and english, via irish).

  14. There’s a sequel to ASTB, which someone gave me as a present but was lost in a flood (how Joycean), and I can’t remember the title — it’s by a different author altogether (an American, perhaps?) and takes the nestedness and Pirandello-ness of ASTB several levels beyond what anyone can stand. Anyone have a clue about it?
    It’s about time Hiberno-English had a dictionary.

  15. Hello nest of fellows. I´m hoping to stage a theatre version of The Third Policeman Dublin in November 2005 – does anyone know where I can get my hands on some info about the man himself and theatre? I know he wrote Faustus Kelly, Rhapsody in Stephen´s Greens, but I´m completely ignorant of them – any tips? Also am looking for more general ideas he may have had about European theatre? Specially since he wrote that the only thing he could see to be done with the 3P was to turn it into some kind of crazy play…nishiosm@tcd.ie

  16. Thank God! My GF hated The Third Policeman, but I loved it.
    And The Dalkey Archive is fantastic(al) as well, every Joyce fan should be compelled to read it.

  17. I noticed this on the 29th January 2005: the BBC North Ireland site now has sound clips of different Hiberno-Irish dialects, including a “secret” language called Gammen.
    To start you off, here’s the URL on the Omagh, County Tyrone dialect. It’s just a little tid-bit to whet your appetite, if you are willing.

  18. studying o briens at swim two birds at the moment, very difficult text, most of the students feel the same way and hate it!

  19. Might that “sequel to ASTB” be Gilbert Sorrentino’s “Mulligan Stew”? Not at all as fresh as O’Brien, but trying to take up his methods and take them further.
    Incidentally, has anybody remarked the resonances of O’Brien with Raymond Queneau, co-founder of OuLiPo and, among many other things, novelist and expert on French slang?

  20. It has been said that the Irish are the only people in history who adopted the language of a conqueror and then improved it. James O Neill (1849-1920), the father of Irish-American dramatist, Eugene O Neill (1888-1953) once said that Shakespeare must have been Irish… that he simply wrote too well to be an Englishman.

  21. I just finished reading At Swim-Two-Birds again, but I fear it may be for the last time. I simply didn’t enjoy it as I once did. Sad, and I don’t really know why. Not quite an attack by the Suck Fairy, because you know when the Fairy strikes why the book sucks. This is something more mysterious.

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