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Belfast and Northern Ireland

What's the Craic? NI Vocab Guide

Northern Ireland has some unique slang and vocab that I’ve learned over the past few months. I’ve put together a wee list of 10 words that I believe are essential to learn before flying over the pond for university.

Sijin sitting on a bench that says Whats the craic

1. Wee

Wee is, quite frankly, one of the most versatile words I’ve ever heard in my life. I’ve heard it as an adjective, noun, and preposition.

Typically, however, wee, goes before nouns. Historically meaning ‘little,’ wee has been used to describe kids, naps, bags, and more.

Within the first hour of living in Belfast, you will have heard wee being used. In fact, it is one of the first and most common phrases for foreigners to pick up. I now describe my walk between my accommodation to campus as a wee walk and I’ve started to describe my power naps as wee naps.

2. Craic

I grew up believing that crack is normally used to describe something that is broken. However, by changing the ‘ck’ to an ‘ic’ you get an entirely different meaning.

'Craic' is an Irish word and it means fun or a good time. For example, hiking trips are described as good craic, people who are fun to be around are good craic, enjoyable night's out are good craic.

So, when you hear someone describe a conference as great craic, just know that they are having a good time!

Yellow stress ball with a smiling face
Good craic puts a smile on your face

3. Queue

Everyone loves queues. Queue is equivalent to a line, although I am the first to admit that queue sounds more proper and is a lot more fun to say.

Within the first five minutes of arriving at the airport, I was in a queue through immigration. Within the first five minutes of leaving the airport, I was in a queue to wait for a taxi.

My advice is to stop thinking of lines and embrace the queues since, although standing in a queue is a little bit annoying, people truly respect the queues!

A big queue
Big queue hi

4. Rubbish/bin

Growing up, I watched “Britain’s Got Talent” on YouTube and I know that rubbish means trash. What I didn’t realize, however, was that the ‘trash bins’ are called rubbish bins, or bins for short.

Rubbish round a bin
A load of old rubbish round the bin

5. Dander

Whereas in America, dander is typically associated with dandruff, in Northern Ireland it means something completely different.

If you ever hear someone going on a wee dander, just know that they are going on a stroll or a walk.

"I’m just going on a dander through the park" means that someone is taking a stroll in the park.

Close up if the bottom of someone trainers as they walk
Going for a wee dander...

6. It’s Baltic

The Baltic States Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are a bit on the cooler side, ‘it’s Baltic’ means that it’s very cold.

It’s the equivalent of saying ‘it’s freezing’ in America.

It’s Baltic during January and February in Belfast so get ready to pack your jumpers since you are going to need many layers!

Man in ice water
That looks Baltic mate

7. Grand and Class

These two words really tripped me up since both are words spoken in America, however meaning vastly different things in Northern Ireland.

In America, grand means great, however in Northern Ireland it merely means fine/good, and it is often a response to how someone is feeling.  Instead of hearing ‘good answer’ you might hear ‘that’s grand.’

Class is not a group of students, rather class describes something that is awesome or super cool. Since being in Belfast, I’ve had people describe my east coast American accent as being class (which honestly is the best compliment that I’ve ever gotten)!

Thumbs up
That's grand

8. Flat

If someone describes their home as a flat, know that they are not talking about level floors.

Typically referred to as an apartment in America, a flat describes the same thing. At Queen's accommodation, they offer houses, studios, en suites (bathroom attached) and flats throughout Belfast so you have a wide variety of places where you can choose to live.

a quid
£1 = a quid

9. Quid

Although the official currency of the United Kingdom is Great British pounds (GPB), for short you may hear someone call them ‘pounds’ or ‘quid.’

Don’t worry, a five pounder is the same as 5 pounds or 5 quid.

Fancy a few biscuits with your cuppa?

10. Biscuit

Typically, in America you think of biscuits as being a type of bread, however in the UK (and a lot of the world) a biscuit is a kind of a cookie.

So, if someone offers you a biscuit, know that it is going to be hard and flat rather than rounded and fluffy!

Find out more

More blogs about Belfast and Northern Ireland

Sami Koitz

Conflict Transformation & Social Justice | Postgraduate Student | Maryland USA

I've always been interested in the Middle East, specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and non-profits that work towards building bridges between divided societies.

I am from Maryland, USA (about a nine-hour flight from Queen's) and graduated in 2022 from Susquehanna University with a double major in Communication Studies and International Studies.

Outside of academics, I am a member of the equestrian team, Jewish Society, and wakeboarding club. I love meeting new people and I look forward to chatting with you.

Sami Koitz