What is an ‘Irish Goodbye’? And where does the term come from?

man in busy club

The term ‘Irish goodbye’ has gradually become increasingly prevalent in contemporary culture.

It was the title of an episode of American Dad, as well as songs and numerous comedy YouTube videos.

But what does it mean? It isn’t exactly a common phrase in Ireland so where did the term come from?

man in busy club

It would seem that the term is most used in the USA and refers to when a person leaves a party or social gathering as quickly and quietly as possible so as to avoid saying goodbye to people.

The users of question and answer site Quora have provided their insights into why people might use an ‘Irish goodbye’.

Eamon O’Kelly, who comes from Ireland but lives in the US said: “It’s an American thing rather than Irish. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term used in Ireland: I’ve encountered it only in the United States.

“For those unfamiliar with the term, it means leaving a party or other social gathering without saying goodbye. There’s a similar concept in the UK, albeit with broader application than the merely social, known as ‘taking French leave’.”

Aoibheann Nic Gabhann said: “I´m Irish and this is an expression I´ve only heard in the last year.

“I deduced that it must be something to do with the propensity of some Irish people to leave the pub without saying goodbye to anyone for fear of being talked into another round of drinks or when things have got a wee bit messy which, if I´m honest, have done a number of times over the years.”

Gearoid Fogarty added: “Ireland has recently had it’s first real immigration that wasn’t a British invasion force since the expansion of the European Union in the early 2000s. People from Eastern Europe, Africa and Brazil have been socialising with Irish people and noticed this strange custom.

“They’ve taken to calling it an ‘Irish goodbye’ – using a term that has existed in Irish communities outside of Ireland for years.”

Aamir Khan said there is a similar term in India: “In India we call it ‘Kalti’. Irish obviously have a large drinking capacity but I only found in during a Christmas party I attended in Dublin last weekend.

“It was late and I knew I had reach my limits but my Irish colleagues would simply not let me sit there without a drink in my hand, so I did what I had been doing all my life ‘Kalti’.

“Two days later one of my colleagues told me how everyone had been looking for me concerned I was new to town, before they realized I pulled an Irish goodbye.”

Gerry Dempsey summed it up: “You have another engagement (could be another party or maybe you just want to get home to couch?) to get to and don’t have the time/energy to inform/explain yourself to 5 or 6 people who will inevitably try to convince you to stay or have the classic ‘one more’.”

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcallingJoin our community