If you’ve been following Bespeaking for any length (long) of time, you know that we love our loan words! Loan words are always fascinating (really interesting) because they help to show how languages work together and borrow (take) from each other… especially English.

Some of you may not know that Irish is its own language, not just an accent spoken by the Irish people! We get some very interesting and useful words from the Irish language. So, if you’ve been looking to expand your English (and Irish) knowledge, this may just be the blog for you. Check out these other loan words blogs: Spanish, Latin, French, Yiddish, German, and Portuguese.


Brogue is one loan word from Irish that we have in English, although it has a very different meaning from the original. In Irish, the word bróg is a shoe, while in English a brogue is a very thick regional accent (usually Irish or Scottish).

One interesting tidbit (small fact) is that the plural in English, brogues, does means a pair of shoes. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Do you wear brogues?


The word clock made a very roundabout (indirect) way into the English language. Originally from the Old Irish clocc, it then made its way into Old High German, Flemish, and then English. The original Old Irish word was for hand bells used by early Irish missionaries.

In German, Glocke, which comes from clocc, also means bell, so in this case, the German word is closer to the loan word from Irish than the English word.


This is one English female name that we get from Irish. It comes from the word cailín, which means girl.

Do you know anyone named Colleen?


This might be one of my favorite loan words from Irish. Galore, which in English means a lot or many, comes from the Irish go leor, which also means plenty or a lot. Even the spellings are very close, which is always super helpful when it comes to loan words!


Have you ever seen anyone keening? Keening is when someone is lamenting (very sad) or wailing (screaming crying) mournfully over someone, and comes from the Irish word caoinim, meaning “I wail.”

Keening is a traditional form of mourning with a vocal lament performed by one or more women.


The origins of the word kibosh are obscure (not clear), with some sources saying that it has Yiddish origins, and others saying it has Irish origins. The word kibosh in English means to put an end to something and is usually used in the phrase “they put the kibosh on it.”

Those that believe it has an Irish root say it comes from the Irish an chaip bháis, meaning the cap of death. This is perhaps in reference to black hats worn by judges when sentencing someone to death, or to a gruesome form of torture called pitch capping.

No matter the origins, kibosh is a great word to add to your English vocabulary.


Do you have a slew of things to do? Or do your children have a slew of toys? Slew is another great loan word from Irish. It originally comes from the words sluagh, which means “a great number.”

Slew in English also means a large or great number of things, so I certainly hope you don’t have a slew of things to do this week!


If you’re a fan of whiskey, you’ll be happy to know that the name for it also comes from the Irish, uisce beatha, which means water of life.

I don’t know if whiskey is really life-giving, but it sure is nice to drink on a cold evening or if you are trying to nurse a cold!

Do you know of any other loan words from Irish? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Dating Vocabulary in English10 Business English Idioms You Should KnowDouble Negatives in English, or these 7 Spanish Words Used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and as you know…is also learning Irish! It’s a very beautiful, colorful, melodic language and she is excited to make it her third!  

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