From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Craic (/kræk/ KRAK) or crack is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.[1][2][3] It is often used with the definite articlethe craic[1] – as in the expression "What's the craic?", meaning "How are you?" or "What's happening?". The Scots and English crack was borrowed into Irish as craic in the mid-20th century and the Irish spelling was then reborrowed into English.[1] Under both spellings, the term has become popular and significant in Ireland.


The word crack is derived from the Middle English crak, meaning "loud conversation, bragging talk".[4] A sense of crack found in Northern England and Scotland meaning "conversation" or "news"[5] produces expressions such as "What's the crack?",[6] meaning "how are you?" or "have you any news?", similar to "what's up?", "how's it going?", or "what's the word?" in other regions. The context involving "news" and "gossip" originated in Northern English[7] and Scots.[8] A book on the speech of Northern England published in 1825 equates crack with "chat, conversation, news".[9] The term is recorded in Scotland with this sense as far back as the 16th century, with both Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns employing it in the 1770s and 1780s.[10][11][12]

The Scottish song "The Wark o The Weavers", which dates back to the early part of the 19th century, published by David Shaw, who died in 1856, has the opening line "We're a' met thegither here tae sit an tae crack, Wi oor glesses in oor hands...."[13][14] A collection of folk songs from Cumberland published in 1865 refers to villagers "enjoying their crack".[15] "Crack" is prominent in Cumbrian dialect and everyday Cumbrian usage (including the name of an online local newspaper), with the meaning "gossip".[16][17] A glossary of Lancashire terms and phrases published in 1869 lists crack as meaning "chat",[18] as does a book on the local culture of Edinburgh published in the same year.[19] Glossaries of the dialects of Yorkshire (1878), Cheshire (1886), and Northumberland (1892) equate crack variously with "conversation", "gossip", and "talk".[20][21][22] These senses of the term entered Hiberno-English from Scots through Ulster at some point in the mid-20th century and were then borrowed into Irish.[1]

The Dictionary of the Scots Language records use of the term in Ulster in 1929.[11] Other early Irish citations from the Irish Independent relate to rural Ulster: from 1950, "There was much good 'crack'... in the edition of Country Magazine which covered Northern Ireland";[23] or from 1955, "The Duke had been sitting on top of Kelly's gate watching the crack."[24] At this time the word was, in Ireland, associated with Ulster dialects: in 1964 linguist John Braidwood said of the term, "perhaps one of the most seemingly native Ulster words is crack.... In fact the word is of English and Scots origin."[25] It can frequently be found in the work of 20th century Ulster writers such as Flann O'Brien (1966) "You say you'd like a joke or two for a bit of crack."[26] and Brian Friel (1980): "You never saw such crack in your life, boys".[27]

Crack was borrowed into the Irish language with the Gaelicized spelling craic.[1] It has been used in Irish since at least 1968,[28] and was popularised in the catchphrase Beidh ceol, caint agus craic againn ("We'll have music, chat and craic"), used by Seán Bán Breathnach for his Irish-language chatshow SBB ina Shuí, broadcast on RTÉ from 1976 to 1982.[1][29][30] The Irish spelling was soon reborrowed into English, and is attested in publications from the 1970s and 1980s.[1] Craic has also been used in Scottish Gaelic since at least the early 1990s, though it is unknown if it was borrowed directly from Irish or from English.[1]

At first the craic form was uncommon outside Irish, even in an Irish context. Barney Rush's 1960s song "The Crack Was Ninety in the Isle of Man" does not use the Irish-language spelling, neither is it used in Christy Moore's 1978 version.[31] However, The Dubliners' 2006 version adopts the Irish spelling.[32] The title of Four to the Bar's 1994 concert album, Craic on the Road, uses the Irish-language spelling as an English-language pun,[33] as does Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain's 2012 show Craic Dealer.[34]

Now, 'craic' is interpreted as a specifically and quintessentially Irish form of fun. The adoption of the Gaelic spelling has reinforced the sense that this is an independent word (homophone) rather than a separate sense of the original word (polysemy). Frank McNally of The Irish Times has said of the word, "[m]ost Irish people now have no idea it's foreign."[35]

Criticism of spelling[edit]

The craic spelling has attracted criticism when used in English. English-language specialist Diarmaid Ó Muirithe wrote in his Irish Times column "The Words We Use" that "the constant Gaelicisation of the good old English-Scottish dialect word crack as craic sets my teeth on edge".[36] Writing for the Irish Independent, Irish journalist Kevin Myers criticised the craic spelling as "pseudo-Gaelic" and a "bogus neologism".[37] Other linguists have referred to the craic form as "fake Irish".[38]


"The craic" has become a part of Irish culture. In a 2001 review of the modern Irish information economy, information sciences professor Eileen M. Trauth called "craic" an intrinsic part of the culture of sociability that distinguished the Irish workplace from those of other countries.[39] Trauth wrote that even as Ireland transitioned away from an economy and society dominated by agriculture, the traditional importance of atmosphere and the art of conversation – "craic" – remains, and that the social life is a fundamental part of workers' judgment of quality of life.[40]

Critics have accused the Irish tourism industry and the promoters of Irish theme pubs of marketing "commodified craic" as a kind of stereotypical Irishness.[41] In his Companion to Irish Traditional Music, Fintan Vallely suggests that use of craic in English is largely an exercise on the part of Irish pubs to make money through the commercialisation of traditional Irish music.[42] Likewise, Donald Clarke in The Irish Times associates the change of spelling to craic with the rebranding of the Irish pub as a tourist attraction during the 1990s.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Craic". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 31 May 2012. craic, n. Fun, amusement; entertaining company or conversation... Freq. with the.
  2. ^ "Crack, n. (I.5.c.)". Oxford English Dictionary. March 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  3. ^ Corrigan, Karen P. (2010). Irish English: Northern Ireland. Edinburgh University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0748634293
  4. ^ Dolan, T. P. (2006). A Dictionary of Hiberno-English. Gill & MacMillan. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-7171-4039-8
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary "crack (noun)" sense I.5.a
  6. ^ Else, David (2007). British Language and Culture. Lonely Planet. p. 191. ISBN 978-1-86450-286-2
  7. ^ "Crack, Craic" from Hiberno-English dictionary Archived 21 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ ""Crak" from the Dictionary of the Scots Language". Archived from the original on 13 October 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  9. ^ Brockett, John Trotter (1825). A Glossary of North Country Words, In Use. From An Original Manuscript, With Additions Archived 12 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine. E. Charnley. p. 47
  10. ^ "Dictionary of the Scots Language :: DOST :: Crak n." Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Dictionary of the Scots Language :: SND :: Crack n.1". Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Dictionary of the Scots Language :: SND :: Crack v." Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  13. ^ Buchan, Norman (1962). 101 Scottish Songs: The Wee Red Book. Collins.
  14. ^ "Work Weavers". Archived from the original on 17 November 2012.
  15. ^ Gilpin, Sidney (1865). The Songs and Ballads of Cumberland : To Which Are Added The Best Poems In the Dialect; With Biographical Sketches, Notes, & Glossary Archived 12 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine G. Coward. p. 185.
  16. ^ "The Cumbrian Dictionary". the Cumbrian Dictionary. Archived from the original on 5 January 2018. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  17. ^ "Cumbrian Crack". Cumbrian Crack. Archived from the original on 5 January 2018. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  18. ^ Morris, James P. (1869) A Glossary of the Words and Phrases of Furness (North Lancashire) Archived 7 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. J. Russell Smith. p. 22
  19. ^ Chambers, Robert (1869). Traditions of Edinburgh by Robert Chambers. W & R. Chambers. p. 171
  20. ^ Castillo, John (1878). Poems in the North Yorkshire Dialect Archived 7 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. p. 64
  21. ^ Holland, Robert (1886). A Glossary of Words Used In the County of Chester Archived 31 July 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Trübner. p. 84
  22. ^ Haldane, Harry (1892). Northumberland Words Archived 12 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine. K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. p. 192.
  23. ^ Sweeney, Maxwell (2 December 1950). "Radio review". Irish Independent. p. 5.
  24. ^ Francis (13 August 1955). "Over the Fields: Life, Day by Day on an Ulster Farm". Irish Independent. p. 7.
  25. ^ Braidwood, John, "Ulster and Elizabethan English" in Ulster Dialects: An Introductory Symposium (1964) Ulster Folk Museum, p. 99.
  26. ^ Myles na gCopaleen: Best of Myles
  27. ^ Brian Friel: Translations
  28. ^ See, for example, this newspaper advertisement: "TEACH FURBO: AG OSCAILT ANOCHT: CEOL AGUS CRAIC". Connacht Sentinel (in Irish). 30 July 1968. p. 5.
  29. ^ Boylan, Philip (23 October 1977). "The Week Ahead". Sunday Independent. p. 2. Friday, RTÉ, 5.30: 'SBB na Shui' [sic] is a new half-hour series with the star of Radio na Gaeltachta, Sean Ban Breathnach, in the chair presenting music, serious discussion and yarns, i.e., ceol, caint agus craic.
  30. ^ Moore, Richard (11 July 1981). "Television topics". Meath Chronicle. p. 20. "Ceoil, caint agus craic" is how Mr. Breathnach introduces the programme.
  31. ^ "lyrics: Crack Was Ninety In The Isle of Man". Christy Moore, official website. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  32. ^ Too Late to Stop Now: The Very Best of the Dubliners (Media notes). The Dubliners. DMG TV. 2006.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  33. ^ Four to the Bar: Craic on the Road
  34. ^ Richardson, Jay (18 October 2012). "Review - Dara O'Briain: Craic Dealer". British Comedy Guide. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  35. ^ McNally, Frank (2005). Xenophobe's Guide to the Irish. London: Oval. p. 19. ISBN 1-902825-33-0.
  36. ^ Ó Muirithe, Diarmaid (5 December 1992). "The Words We Use". The Irish Times. p. 27.; reprinted in Ó Muirithe, Diarmaid (October 2006). The Words We Use. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. pp. 154–5. ISBN 978-0-7171-4080-0.
  37. ^ "Kevin Myers: The day of indulgence is done – the time of duty has arrived". Irish Independent. 24 March 2010. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  38. ^ Momma, Haruko, Matto, Michael (2009). A Companion to the History of the English Language. John Wiley & Sons Inc. p. 371. ISBN 978-1444302868
  39. ^ Trauth, p. 147.
  40. ^ Trauth, pp. 149–150.
  41. ^ McGovern 2002, p. 91
  42. ^ Vallely, Fintan (1999). Companion to Irish Traditional Music. New York: New York University Press. p. 91. ISBN 0-8147-8802-5.
  43. ^ Clarke, Donald (22 June 2013). "Who will set us free of the bogus Irishness of craic?". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 23 June 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2013.