What's the adjective for the country of Ireland (Eire in Irish) that specifically excludes Northern Ireland? For example when referring to the accent of people from the the Republic of Ireland but not to Ulster.

Ireland is geographically the whole island and politically consists of two countries:

  • in the north is Northern Ireland, or Ulster
  • in the south is Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland, and Eire in Irish

Language Log lists only "Irish" as the adjective to refer to the Republic of Ireland. For Ulster, "Northern Irish" is sometimes used as the adjective but "Northern Ireland" is 10 times more common (plus "British" is sometimes used).

You could write "Southern Irish" but I think this is wrong because it suggests the name of the Republic is "Southern Ireland", which it is not.

I think "southern Irish" is better as it doesn't make this suggestion, although it leaves some ambiguity: it could instead refer to the south of the geographical island of Ireland (just the southern parts of the Republic of Ireland).

Is capitalised "Southern Irish" in any way offensive to Irish people? Is "southern Irish" any better? Or is this just a matter of style?

Of course, there may be no simple, unabiguously clear adjective; the whole subject of the overlapping political and geographical names of Ireland and Britain is complicated as is clear from Language Log and Wikipedia, as are distinctions between British and Irish/Scottish/Welsh/English.

  • 3
    Heh, I thought about asking this too :D Jun 18, 2012 at 15:42
  • 1
    Non-Ulsterian perhaps?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jun 18, 2012 at 15:52
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    You appear to be under the misapprehension that Ulster is the same as Northern Ireland. In fact, three counties of Ulster are in the Republic.
    – TRiG
    Jan 6, 2013 at 3:00
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    Good point! Northern Ireland is wholly within Ulster, but not the other way round. That makes it even more complicated!
    – Hugo
    Jan 6, 2013 at 8:04
  • "the Republic of Ireland, or Ireland for short" is slightly wrong too. Ireland is not short for Republic of Ireland. Ireland is the full name of the country and RoI is used sometimes to avoid confusion. It's fine but not official. Also RoI isn't Southern Ireland. It's southern, western, eastern, central and north western. In fact the most northerly place on the island is in the republic.
    – user50210
    Aug 13, 2018 at 10:51

5 Answers 5


The name of the island and its parts is subject to complex cultural and political questions, as you've surmised. Even the British Media cannot agree on what names to use.

If you're looking to identify distinct regional accents on the island of Ireland you might be better off referring to the counties, or at least to the historical provinces: Leinster, Ulster, Munster, Connacht. Those correspond to the broad areas of regional English accents.

If you do need an adjective to refer to the Republic of Ireland, avoid Southern Ireland (capitalized) since that was briefly the name of a UK political constituent and could be confusing. You should similarly avoid using the Gaelic name Eire in English. One possibility is to refer to the Republic of Ireland in contrast to Northern Ireland, as I have done here. Some people still won't like even that, I suppose.

If you insist on having an adjective instead of using "of"-consructions, your choices are limited even further. Consider referring to the counties/provinces if you can, it's more exact and much less subject to dispute.

  • 3
    Yup, figured somebody wouldn't like it. Jun 18, 2012 at 22:38
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    I think this is the best choice. Using accents for the example is problematic as they ignore political borders in Ireland, e.g. Donegal & Derry accents are fairly close. " ... the Republic of Ireland team played the Northern Ireland team in Windsor Park" seems uncontroversial to me. If they were playing Spain most people would trim the sentence " ... the Ireland team played the Spanish team in ... "
    – k1eran
    May 22, 2023 at 16:49

The adjectival form of Ireland is Irish. For this and other geographical names, see this document, published by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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    But he's explicitly not asking for the geographical name.. Jun 18, 2012 at 11:11
  • 4
    That's the term. If I have an Irish passport I have an Irish passport. The word he's looking for doesn't exist.
    – user50210
    Aug 13, 2018 at 10:55
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    Agreed. I would never say "Belfast is an irish city", because it's not, it's "northern irish". Whenever "irish" is used without "northern" in front of it, it refers to Ireland the country (also known as Eire or the Republic of Ireland).
    – AndyT
    Aug 13, 2018 at 15:47

The most common dialect of English spoken in the Republic of Ireland is called Hiberno English, while the most common dialect in Northern Ireland is called Ulster English (also spoken in the free counties of Monaghan, Donegal, Cavan and northern Louth). If you wanted to refer to a specific accent you'd have to refer to the name of the area (i.e. Dublin accent, Cork accent, Midlands accent, etc.), since there is way too much variation in accents in Ireland to be able to generalise any further than that.

In the Republic of Ireland, I have never heard anybody use any adjective other than "Irish" to refer to themselves. As in the case of my dialect comment above, people would say they are from a specific town or city, but not that they are "southern Irish" or anything like that to distinguish themselves from the "Northern Irish". It's obviously a highly political issue in the North (though not as much so in the Republic), and people there generally refer to themselves as "Irish"—thus making no distinction between North and South—, "Northern Irish" or—to a lesser extent and incorrectly—"British". Incidentally, it isn't entirely uncommon to hear older people speak of "the Free State" and refer to the inhabitants as "Freestaters", but that dates back to the pre-Republic times and thus is not correct anymore, except in a historical context.


Although the OED states differently (compare this link), when in Ireland I have often heard people refer to their homeland as "Eire".

Furthermore, if you want to travel through the Republic of Ireland by public transport, you are likely to use one of the coaches run by Bus Éireann (as in this link).

For this reason I suggest the adjective Éireann to refer to things pertaining to the Republic of Ireland. I haven't found it anywhere in dictionaries of English, but in my opinion it is not too hard to guess its meaning.

  • 3
    Éireann and Eire are not English words. Further -- in Gaelic, it just means "Ireland" and does not distinguish between Ulster and the south. Jun 18, 2012 at 15:41
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    @MarkBeadles. I know, and I stated that Eirann is not to be found in dictionaries of English (although Eire is). However, I feel that it is the closest term you can find to indicate something which only relates to the Republic of Ireland. I suppose it might still touch a soft spot for some people, which I perhaps do not fully appreciate not being British, but I think it shouldn't be so different from the usage of a German terminology (Süd Tyrol) to indicate an Italian region, and nobody gets particularly upset about it.
    – Paola
    Jun 18, 2012 at 15:52
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    I think the main issue is that in Irish, "Éireann" does not refer unambiguously to the country, but also to the entire island. Jul 20, 2012 at 20:34

Perhaps going more specific is the solution? It was for the older meaning of "Indian", which is now "Native American", and also points to residence/origin rather than what a person is like.

I think the region has to get a name of its own before you can think of an adjective. Wikipedia uses *S*outhern Ireland for a region that isn't autonomous anymore. This makes it hard, but likely the reader will get that you mean the part of Ireland outside Northern Ireland.

I think non-Ulsterian was a decent suggestion by KitFox. If I would suggest something else, it would be "the x accent of Ireland", where x is a different adjective such as original, native, old, or something along those lines.

The alternative is "accent outside Ulster", "main Irish accent", or perhaps "accent of main Eire".

But I think you should risk sounding like a historian and go for "accent of Southern Ireland", or "Southern Irish accent". The risk that someone misunderstands it is quite small, since Northern Ireland is something people get instantly; it's already a well-defined concept in everyone's heads. They won't think you're on about some native tongue on the southmost tip of Ireland, and they won't think you're referring to the region that existed for two years.

  • 3
    I do not think Southern Ireland is useful, especially as the Republic comprises far more than any geographic conception of Southern Ireland. I've only seen "Southern Cyprus", as opposed to the Republic of Cyprus, used sarcastically on a Turkish-Cypriot map to make a political point. Nor, of course, is there an East Virginia. Nov 29, 2012 at 19:13

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