Any American who spends much time in Ireland is going to start hearing an awful lot of a word that may be a bit mysterious.

“It was good craic.”

“Where’s the craic?”

“The craic was ninety!”

What are all these Irish people craicing up over? Well, for starters, the word is pronounced “crack,” not “crayc” as the spelling might suggest.

Imported From Scotland
It’s a word that symbolizes camaraderie and a good time, things that are in pretty strong supply in Ireland. The word itself has an curious history. “Crack” seems to have been used in England and Scotland in the early 19th century to mean “news.” Asking a person “what’s the crack” would simply mean you’d be asking them what their news is or, more simply, how they are. In some books, crack seems to be used to describe simple “chat” or gossip.”

In the 1950’s, “craic” seems to have sprung up in Ireland with a different spelling and a different meaning. Various books, songs and other media started using it to describe partying. An Irish language TV show on RTE in the 1970’s seems to have done a great deal to promote the word by using the introductions “Beidh ceol, caint agus craic againn” (We’ll have music, chat and craic).

For whatever reason, craic has become a very big idea to the Irish. If you talk to any of them about a party, a concert or the atmosphere in a good bar you’re gonna hear it used again and again. If they’re talking about lively conversation, good times and excellent company, they’ll call it craic.

Have A Pint
You’ll never experience craic alone. It only happens with groups of people. And in Ireland, that usually means groups of people drinking together. Music is generally believed to enhance craic a good deal.

So you had better get comfortable talking about craic, and knowing full well that you’re not talking about crack or some other illegal drug when you say it. Once you feel it, you’ll know that it’s a warm welcoming sensation you want more of. A few of the definitions to be aware of:

”The word ‘crack’ or “craic” is rapidly approaching the status of ‘begorrah.’…the term most commonly refers in Ireland to an atmosphere of comfortable and pervasive conviviality…”
– Terry Eagleton

“The craic was mighty” or “The craic was ninety”
– Means the fun was absolutely brilliant ( we’ll dean with the constant Irish use of the word “brilliant” in another article)

“What’s the craic?”
– In the same way that “ciao” has several means in Italian, “craic” has sevearl to the Irish. Asking this can simply mean “what are you up to” or what’s going on.”

“It’s just ‘fun.’ My Irish-born parents used it all the time I was growing up in New York.” Eileen Houlihan, teacher or Irish language.

“The constant Gaelicisation of the good old English/Scottish dialect word crack as craic sets my teeth on edge…We find advertisements proclaiming ‘music, songs, dancing and craic’; the implication is that craic = boozing and high jinks, great fun as it used to be.”
– Diarmaid Ó Muirithe, The Irish Times

See a hilarious article in the Irish Times by one Irish writer who can’t stand the over-use of the word craic here.

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