There are many words and phrases still used in this district which could be considered peculiar to the visitor and might not be easily located in the standard English dictionary. The “Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland – Parishes of County Antrim VII 1832 – 1838” (thanks to The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen’s University of Belfast for permission to use this extract) South Antrim/Parish of Glenavy states “The people in this district are free from either the Scottish accent or the Irish brogue, and speak with a pure and agreeable accent.” There is no doubt that words and phrases from this era are still in use today. I have collected the following whilst travelling through the area and collecting stories and tales of yesteryear. In order to assist the reader I have cross-referenced similar words, phrases and their meaning from other sources.
Backend : The close of a season or of the year, autumn, winter 2
Bletherin : loud, foolish talking; stammering 2
Blether : to speak indistinctly; to stammer, to talk nonsense; to prattle, chatter, nonsense, foolish talk; a “wind-bag”
Bletherer : a foolish talker
“That’s a brave day”
Brave : often used as an intensive. Fine or admirable as in “brave soul”. 1
Handsome; goodly, fine; used also ironically. 2
“I walked up the bunker.”
Bunker, Bunkart : an earthern seat in the fields, a roadside bank; a large heap of stones, &c.; the desk of a school master or precentor; an inequality in the surface of ice; a small sand-pit 2
Bunker : a country dance
To chew : “Chawing the rag“- continually grumbling, jawing, and giving abuse. 1
To chew : To fret or cut by attrition; to vex, provoke; to be sulky, feel annoyed. A mouthful; a quid of tobacco; a bitter and envious disappointment which shows itself in face and eyes; with words, to speak indistinctly; with upon, to brood upon, to think over. 2
“If you don’t stop behaving yourself I’ll give you a clout round the ear.”
Clout : to beat, strike with the hands. A blow, slap, box on the ear. 2
“He was just codding about and acting the fool“.
“I’m not codding you.”
Codding : to sham, hoax, humbug 2
Ailing, sickly; irritable 2
“He hadn’t much on him, the poor crateur.”
Crateur : creature. (Applied to humans) . 2
“You’ll not be crowing when you get home.”
Crow : to boast 2
A word that is used when describing a person or animal who is weak in stature.
Crowl : a dwarf, a very small person. 2
Crowl : a dwarf; a stunted, deformed person or child. 2
“It was a nice day so I went out for a dander.”
Dander : to walk about leisurely: a leisurely walk. 1
Dander : to stroll, saunter; to trifle. 2
“There was a real dust up going on between them in the street.”
Dust : a disturbance, uproar. 2
Forebye – besides 1
Forby, Forbye, Forbyse : besides in addition to; with the exception of – besides, in addition, over and above; on one side, out of the way; near by, uncommon, superior, an addition, appendix. 2
Forenenst / Forenent
“They used to live forenenst us before they moved.”
Forenent : opposite, facing, over, against. 2
A common expression used when someone “feels the cold”
“I was almost foundered out there.”
Foundered : to perish or benumbed with cold. 2
“I think they are some friends our ours through my grandfather.”
Friend : a relation by blood or marriage 2
“I dropped something on my fut earlier.”
Also used when measuring in Imperial measurements (feet and inches). “It’s three fut long.”
Fut : a foot 2
“I never liked him. He was only a wee get.”
A derogatory term.
Get : a bastard child 1
Get : A contemptuous name for a child; a bastard 2
“He was a gullion of a fella.”
Gullion : a sink-pool (Ulster) 1
Gullion : a mean wretch — a quagmire, mud 2
“I was just out having a good hoak about.”
Hoak : dig, excavate 2
“I hooked it off home when the police arrived.”
Hooked : to run off 2
The “loanin” is normally the laneway to the farmstead. Sometimes referred to as a “loney”. In this district “loanins” can be quite long as many of the rural farms are situated back from the main roads. The word “loney” when used with the word “red” can mean the throat. When someone has eaten something – the food has “gone down the wee red loney”. There is a road in the district known today as “Loanends Road”. It is situated between the north-east of Nutts Corner and south-west of Templepatrick.
Loanen : a lane, a bohereen 1
Loan : a lane; a narrow street; the space between the middle of a street and the houses on either side; an opening between fields of corn for driving cattle home; a small piece of ground near a farm or village where cows are milked, a milking-park; a paddock; a small common. 2
Loan-end : the end of a “loan” 2
Loaning : a lane, a bypath; a milking-park; a paddock 2
“There were a lock of them gathered at the end of the loanin.”
Lock : a small quantity of anything 1
Lock : One of the multures of a mill
Lock : a quantity or batch of anything – generally small: a lock of straw, a lock of sheep. 2
“It would have cut the lugs off you.”
Lug, Lugg : the ear; the handle of a jar, cup, jug, &c. ; the projection on a bucket, &c., to which the handle is attached; a tuft or tassle at the side of a bonnet or cap; a knot; one of the two tufts at the top of a full sack by which it is lifted and carried on the back; a corner, recess; the side of a chimney; a corner of a herring-net, the loop on the end of a fishing-line; the “tongue” of a boot or shoe; to cut off the ears. 2
“John’s field marched mine”
March-dyke : a boundary wall or fence. 2
March ditch : Boundary ditch. 2
An expression used to describe a “messy situation”.
“I didn’t want to get involved. It was turning into a bit of a quagmire.”
Mire : a bog, swamp 2
a quagmire : the soft part of a bog 2
“That was a bit of a rigmarole I had to go through.”
Rigmarole : long winded and incoherent. 2
Can be used as a derogatory term when directed at someone .
“You little scab.”
Normally refers to a crust over a wound.
Scab : the itch, as it appears in the human body. 2
A grassy sod cut from a grassy or boggy surface and often dried for firing 1
Scraw : A thin strip of turf; a sod for thatching a roof. 2
“There was an old woman who were called a Shawlie as she always wore a shawl“.
Shawlie : a small shawl for the shoulders or head. 2
I have also heard this pronounced as “shib-in” locally.
Sheebeen or Shebeen : an unlicensed public-house or alehouse where spirits are sold on the sly (used all over Ireland) Irish: sibin, same sound and meaning. 1
“I was out there cleaning out the sheugh.”
Sheugh : a ditch, drain 2
Used mainly as a derogatory term when directed at someone.
“You wee skitter you.”
Skitter : a thief 2
Skitter : to have diarrhoea, anything impure or incongruous, which, when mixed with what is valuable, renders the whole useless. 2
Skitterfu’ : afflicted with diarrhoea
“Pour us out just a wee smell of milk.”
Smeller : a small quantity of drink. 2
“I got a spanking new pair of boots.”
Spanking : smart; active; showy, sprightly 2
A word used for a potato.
“Put a spud in the pot for dinner.”
Can also be used when describing someone favourably. “He’s not a bad ole spud.”
Spuds : potatoes 1
Spud : a potato, a potato – set, a fondling name for a small boy. 2
A word used for extravagance.
“He was looking very swanky in his new suit.”
Swanky : smart, active, strapping young fellow or girl; anything large of its kind. 2
“I have never seen anything like thon.”
Thon : yon, younder 1
“Just put a wee totty bit of milk in my tea.”
Totty : small, wee 2
“There were only two’three left in the shop.”
Teethe : two or three 2
Intimate, closely intimated:
“Tom Long and Jack Fogarty are very great” (All over Ireland) 1
Very Great : familiar, friendly 2
“She was always whinging about something or other.”
In this sentence the individual has been complaining.
Whinging : to whine, to cry fretfully and peevishly 2
Winkers : glasses (2) an eye; an eyelash; an eyelid 2
A common expression used by older people when talking about work.
“I/he wrought in the field all his days.”
“I wrought hard all my life.”
Wrocht : worked, laboured, struggled 2
Wrought : a manufactory, works 2
Any article, contrivance, or apparatus for use in some work. “That’s a quare yoke Bill,” says a countryman when he firs saw a motor car. 1
Yoke : a harness; a wooden frame or pole borne on the shoulders for carrying pails &c.; the quantity of water carried by means of a «yoke» on the shoulders at a time; the load carried by a cart at a «yoking»; the time during which ploughmen and carters with their teams work at a stretch; a bout, game; a trial of strength or skill; a grasp; a quarrel. To attach a horse to a plough «cart» gig, &c.; to plough the ridges of a field in pairs; to join, match, marry; to burden; to fasten; to bind down; to oppress; to deal or meddle with; to set to with vigour; to begin; to attack, grip, fight, to tackle with. 2
What’s in a word?
by “The Digger”
You only have to tune into an interview on television or radio to find what I would consider to be one of the most over-used words at the present time – “ABSOLUTELY!”
A popular word with politicians, reporters and the general public now used in response to an agreeable statement of fact made by the interviewer. It is possible to pick up on the word in excess of a dozen times during an hour long radio speech programme.
The use of words and phraseology in our day to day communication has always fascinated me. I have a note book containing a plethora of material I have picked up over the years when speaking with our older folks in the Lisburn district.
In fact if you “sit down and take the weight off your feet” I’ll share a few with you. It might be “all well and good” just to turn over the page at this point and move on but sure “the night’s are away with it” and “it’ll not do you a button of harm.”
Read more of “The Digger’s” What’s in a word?