Romance with a Touch of Irish Dialect

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Lyn Horner to my blog. Lyn is author of the wonderful Texas Devlin’s books,  a paranormal historical series about three Irish-American siblings who each possess a unique psychic power. I’ve read all her books and besides being a great writer, she’s very “gifted”when comes to the Irish dialect. After writing my blog Dialect Tips To Use Not Abuse, I gave her holler and invited her to explain how she does Irish dialect so well.

By Lyn Horner

© Igooana | - Beautiful Little Girl On Saint Patrick\'s Day Photo

© Igooana | – Beautiful Little Girl On Saint Patrick\’s Day Photo


Have you ever felt an affinity for a country other than your own? I have. For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by Ireland, its people, history and beautiful land. Thus, when I ventured into writing western historical romance, choosing an Irish-American heroine was a no-brainer.

However, when it came to writing the Irish dialect, I had a lot to learn. There’s a huge difference between “hearing” an accent in one’s head and translating it into written words. Like many beginners, my tendency was to phonetically spell words the way I thought they should sound. Well, yeah, but not every other word!


Writing workshops and constructive criticism from experienced authors taught me it’s much better to choose only a few key words to spell phonetically. Combined with the unique Irish style of sentence structure, these key words convey the Irish lilt without pulling readers out of the story.

Here are a few examples of an overdone Irish accent and ways to tone it down while still getting the effect you want with sentence structure. Notice key words ye and ’tis.

OVERDONE: Where are ye goin’ this foin day?
BETTER: Where might ye be going this fine day?

OVERDONE: Ye’ll ne’er find yer pot o’ gold, ye wicked auld de’il.
BETTER: You’ll never be finding your pot of gold, ye wicked old devil.

OVERDONE: Sure’n I’m tryin’ ta find me way ta the village pub.
BETTER: Sure now, I’m trying to find my way to the village pub.

OVERDONE: ’Tis a grand mornin’ for strollin’ inta town.
BETTER: ’Tis a grand morning to be strolling into town.

Notice I eliminated the dropped g in “ing” words. Dropping that consonant is a common way to show a soft Irish accent (also true for a southern drawl) but it’s very tiresome for both writer and reader. The same applies for ye’ll, ye’re, ye’ve and ye’d. Take my word it’s a pain to repeat those phonetic misspellings time after time in a manuscript.

More importantly, accent overkill will pull readers out of your story and likely drive them away. That said, there are exceptions to every rule.

Secondary characters who appear for only a short time in a book offer a 

Author obtained from Dreamstime

Author obtained from Dreamstime

chance to exaggerate an accent. Here’s an example from my current project, Rescuing Lara. The first portion of the story is set in County Kerry, Ireland. In this scene, the heroine and her hero are visiting his Irish kin, one of whom is his great aunt several times removed. She has a pronounced Irish accent, although, even with her I toned it down to some degree.

“How old are you, Granny Kate?” he dared to ask as bowls and platters of steaming meats, vegetables, breads and assorted condiments were passed around.

She cocked a snow-white eyebrow at him and, blue eyes twinkling, turned his brazen question back on him. “How old d’ye think I am, nephew?”

Refusing to be embarrassed, he looked her over in a way that might have made her blush, were she a few decades younger. “I’d guess you’re in your mid eighties.”

She cackled with glee. “Yer guess is off by a good bit, young man. I shall be ninety-five come November.”

“Well, you don’t look a day over eighty-five.”

“Ooh, ye’re full o’ the blarney, ye devil!” She poked him in the ribs with her bony elbow. “But I’m no complainin’, mind ye.”

Conn grinned at her. “You’re a charmer, Katie O’Shea.”

“Me name’s not O’Shea. ’Tis Mrs. Katherine Lenahan, if ye please. Me dear Michael saw to that when I was the tender age o’ seventeen.” The old lady’s voice softened and her eyes grew watery. “He’s been gone nigh on thirty years now, God rest his soul. But soon I’ll be wid him again.”

Conn slipped his arm around her frail shoulders. “He’ll be happy to have you with him, but not too soon, darlin’,” he murmured, smiling down at her.

“Och, ye’ve got me leakin’ like a waterin’ pot.” She sniffed and dabbed at her eyes with an old fashioned embroidered handkerchief. “Now eat yer supper before it gets cold.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, exchanging a glance with Lara over Granny Kate’s head.

Three ShamrocksSources

Movies and books are great sources for observing accents. One of my favorite movie sources is The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, with wonderful Irish co-stars including the delightful Barry Fitzgerald. That movie is a treasure trove for any author wishing to hear Irish accents.

I have a slew of books about Irish history, poetry, legend and lore, several with examples of Irish dialect. Some of my favorites are:

Ireland, A Celebration In Verse, Edited by Roy Benjamin

The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse, Edited with translations by Thomas Kinsella

Hibernian Nights by Seamus MacManus

The following excerpts are from short tales in Hibernian Nights. Notice the lyrical way MacManus arranges his sentences.

“It’s many a happy day I’ve passed in that little cabin, more than a hundred years ago when I was only a poor tinker; and when I’m in the Next World, it’s often and often I’ll think of my happy days here.” ~ from The Tinker of Tamlacht

The Little Red Man drew up at the forge-door with a “God save ye, Donal O’Donnell.”

“Save yourself,” says Donal. “Is it anything I can do for you?”

“Would you kindly lend me,” says the Little Red Man, ”the loan of your forge-fire for a few minutes till I shoe my horse?”

“With a heart and a half,” says Donal O’Donell, who was always the heart and soul of a good fellow. ~ from The Wee Red Man

Very well and good, then; Jack and the ass and the dog and the cat and the cock fared forth, and they traveled all that day until the night was coming down. Then they cast an eye around them, and fixed on a little house under a hill, which Jack said looked likely for a lodging. And when they came near, they saw the man of the house, himself, sitting out by a ditch, and he looking gloomier and more dire than the night that was over him. ~ from The Bold Heroes of Hungry Hill

Irish Gaelic words

Another way to show an accent is to insert a Gaelic word in dialogue. Not often, of course, just now and then to add a touch of color. Good moments for this are when a character is startled, upset or during internal thought. My Irish lads and colleens have been known to cuss in Irish a few times.

When needing to translate a word into Irish Gaelic, I go to the internet, where several Irish/English dictionaries are available. These are a couple of my favorites. Both include phrases.

English-Irish Dictionary (de Bhaldraithe, 1959)
Foras na Gaeilge’s New English-Irish Dictionary

Lyn in cat shirt cropped.2Lyn Horner resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” – with her husband and several very spoiled cats. Trained in the visual arts, Lyn worked as a fashion illustrator and art instructor before she took up writing. This hobby grew into a love of research and the crafting of passionate love stories based on that research.

Lyn’s Texas Devlins series blends authentic Old West settings, steamy romance and a glimmer of the mysterious. This series has earned Lyn several awards, including two Reviewers Choice Awards from the Paranormal Romance Guild. Her most recent release, Dearest Irish, was nominated for a Reader’s Choice Award on BigAl’s Books and Pals and a Rone Award from InD’Tale Magazine.

Leaping into modern times, Lyn is now at work on a romantic suspense series with her trademark touch of psychic phenomena. Rescuing Lara, Romancing the Gaurdians, Book One, will be autumn in autumn 2014.

If you’d like to see how Lyn’s Irish folks venture into the wild west, you can  Texas Devlins 4 Book Bundle 2find her Texas Devlins novels on these sites:

Lyn’s Amazon kindle Page
Barnes & Noble Page for Nook

Also Lyn her at:

Lyn’s Website
Face Book


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19 Responses to Romance with a Touch of Irish Dialect

  1. ruby says:

    Wonderful post. I love Scotland, but they don’t have the lyrical tone in their voices that the Irish possess. Instead they tend to sound more serious in my opinion.

  2. Caroline Clemmons says:

    Excellent post, Lyn, and perfect examples. My husband and I have seen our copy of “The Quiet Man” so often we can quote the dialogue along with the movie.

    • Lyn Horner says:

      Many thanks, Caroline. LOL, I can’t quote the Quiet Man dialogue from memory, but I can speak along with the actors when watching it. That movie and Red River are my two favorite John Wayne movies.

      Thanks for visiting me here on Sharla’s site.

  3. Caitlin Donnelly says:

    Great blog post!
    The other good reason to avoid phonetically spelling out dialect words is that Ireland , small as it is, has distinct local dialects–not just in Gaelic, but in English, as well. Someone from Kerry sounds very different from a person from Dublin, and they both sound different from a native of Donegal.

    Better to manage language issues through word usage and placement, I think.

    • sharla says:

      Funny how that works with the dialects “within” dialects. It’s the same in German with the High, Low and Middle but then I imagine they look at our Southern, Eastern and Western accents as much the same.

    • Lyn Horner says:

      That’s a good point, Caitlin. Ireland is not unlike the United States. We have different accents in different parts of the country, as do a lot of countries, I suspect. Thanks for sharing your valuable knowledge!

  4. Ashley York says:

    Thanks so much, Lynn. Excellent information and sources. Glad I found this.

  5. Sarah McNeal says:

    Ohmagosh, Lyn, I think writing in accents is REALLY difficult. I wrote a character with a Scottish accent in my first published story, Blind Intuition, and swore I’d never attempt it again…and then I did. I have a Gypsy named Pennytook in all my Legends of Winatuke books who speaks Romany. Lordy, yes, that means writing in an accent. I try to keep it at a minimum because readers just get tired wading through all that. I do put in a few Romany words here and there, but that’s it. You gave some great advice on employing accents in our stories.
    Is that a picture of you in an Irish costume? Cute!
    All the best to you, Lyn. Sorry I’m a touch late.

    • Lyn Horner says:

      Morning, Sarah. Writing in any accent is tricky. A Romany accent must be really difficult. I applaud you for tackling that.

      No, that’s not me in the costume. I wish! Isn’t she a cute little thing! I found her on This is the first image with a required copyright notice I’ve encountered there.

      Thanks for taking time to stop by. It’s always a pleasure “seeing” you.

  6. Lyndi Lamont says:

    Great blog post. I haven’t done a lot of writing in accents, so this is useful information. I love Irish accents and Irish music and grew up listening to The Clancy and Tommy Makem and The Irish Rovers. Such a lovely musical accent.

    • Lyn Horner says:

      Hi Lyndi. I love your name! My mom and my aunts used to call me that when I was growing up. 🙂

      I also love Irish music, as well as Scottish. Some is so lively while other tunes are hauntingly beautiful. Makes me imagine fairies flitting through the forest and “wee folk” enticing humans to come join them. Romance with a capital “R”!

  7. Darleen Speers says:

    I really enjoyed your points and agree about being pulled out of the story if the dialect is too much. Great blog and helpful books to get.

  8. sharla says:

    Hey, Darleen. Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂

  9. This is a very helpful post. I like the idea of using word placement to lend more of a feel for the accent. Thanks for sharing!

  10. sharla says:

    Alina thanks for stopping by and we’re glad you enjoyed the post.

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