Irish Slang Brush-up: Leenane Edition

If you don’t know your gasur from skitter, fear not! Here is a useful guide to some of the slang and references found in The Beauty Queen of Leenane


Connemara: a region in County Galway, Ireland, with a population of only around 30,000. The title of A Skull in Connemara is actually taken from a monologue in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

Leenane: A small rural village in the Connemara region with a population of around 200, where this show takes place. Also seen as Lenaun.

Carraroe: a village in County Galway, Ireland, about 45 minutes from Leenane famous for its traditional fishing boats the Galway Hookers. 

Westport: scenic town roughly 47 miles from Galway, less rural.

Oughterard: a small town on the banks of the Owenriff River close to the western shore of Lough Corrib in County Galway, also about 45 minutes from Leenane. 

Wexford: a small town in southeast Ireland, south of Dublin.


Arse: To be silly, act stupid, or mess around. Also refers to the body part you think it does.

Babby: Pronounced BAH-bee, a baby. Often used as an insult.

Biteen: Irish for “bit.” In general adding -een to the end of any word is used as a diminutive or affectionate, eg ladeen (a small boy), girleen (a small girl), whileen (a little while), etc.

Ceilidh: (pronounced KAY-lee) think like an Irish music jam session at a gathering.

Doolally: Crazy, mental, or at least wildly eccentric. 

Eejit, Eej: Irish slang for idiot.

Feck: A version of the English expletive “f*ck,” although the term is less offensive and does not have the same sexual connotations.

Gaelic: Irish Gaelic is the traditional language of Ireland, more prominently spoken in the west. Historically the language was under threat as the British colonizers attempted to suppress and eradicate it. Today, embracing what is often now simply called Irish is a political act and a celebration of national identity.

Gangerman: the foreman over a gang of unskilled workers.

Gasur: Irish for boy.

Paddy: derogatory terms for the Irish.

Poof: Derogatory slang for a gay man.

Praities: potatoes.

Rake: A great number of something. 

Scould: (sounds like ‘scowled’) scald, burn.

Skitter: Slang for excrement, usually the very loose kind.

Skivvy: not your underwear, but a female domestic servant.

Smuttering: a profane statement uttered under one’s breath

Stile: a series of rungs by means a person may pass over a wall or fence that remains a barrier to sheep or cattle.

Tinker: Traveler or gypsy.  In the context of the play, it is probably being used in a derogatory sense, and is considered by some to be offensive.

Turf: organic fuel for a fire, made of partial decomposition of vegetation in areas where is is wet and mild with poor drainage. Peatland or bogland covers over 15% of Ireland.

Yank: American.


Complan: an instant drink for people who are lacking essential nutrients from their daily diets. This is generally used by the elderly but also marketed towards children. Complan is hugely popular today in India.

Kimberleys, Mikados, Jaffa Cakes, Wagon Wheels: brand names of biscuits, or what we’d call cookies. Many of these referenced have a mallow filling and a fruit flavor of some sort (Kimberleys are allegedly ginger flavored). We’re not exactly a fan of any of these, nor are the characters in Leenane apart from Ray Dooley. 

Taytos: a beloved brand of Irish potato chips (we recommend the cheese and onion flavor). However, in The Lonesome West, Coleman Connor insists that “Taytos are dried feckin’ filth and everyone knows.”

Wine gums: firm, chewy, pastille-like sweets, like a gumdrop but without the sugar coating.


The Sullivans: an Australian drama about the effects of WWII on a family that also became popular in the UK and Ireland.

A Country Practice: another Australian drama, a medical-themed soap opera, one of the longest-running of its kind.

Sons and Daughters: yet another Australian soap opera (but more in the prime-time Dallas vein), known for its regular use of dramatic cliffhangers, that also became popular in Europe.

Bosco: an Irish children’s puppet show that ran in original airings and then re-runs for almost 30 years. 

The Pogues, “The Body of an American”: a 1986 song by the quintessential Irish rock band (and one of McDonagh’s personal favorites), this song has widely been regarded as one of the band’s best. It may also be a touch of foreshadowing as the song is about the harsh lived experience of an Irish immigrant in the US.

Delia Murphy, “The Spinning Wheel”: a 1939 ballad by the “Queen of Connemara.” Originally written by John Waller in 1884 but popularized by Murphy, it also may hint at where the play is going as it is about a young woman who takes care of her grandmother when her lover comes to call.


Spike Milligan: an Irish comedian, writer, poet, playwright, and actor. Suffering from bipolar disorder, he is said to have had at least ten major mental breakdowns.

The Birmingham 6: six men sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1974 bombings of two British pubs. After 16 years, their convictions were overturned.



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