So long! Saying “Goodbye” in Irish (with Video!)

"Slán!" Photo taken in August, 2013, in Donegal's Blue Stack Mountains, by Audrey Nickel
“Slán!” August, 2013, by Audrey Nickel

We’ve talked a bit about saying “hello” in Irish. We’ve talked a bit about introducing yourself in Irish. So now let’s put the cap on that and learn how to say “goodbye” in Irish.

It’s all about safety!

The most basic way to say “goodbye” in Irish is

Slán

Couldn’t be simpler, could it? Slán simply means “safe,” and is a shortened form of a slightly longer phrase:

slán abhaile

Which means “safe home.”

In other words, when you say “goodbye” in Irish, you’re wishing someone safety!

A bit of trivia

Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Some sources think that the English phrase “so long” (as a way of saying “goodbye”) is a corruption of the Irish “slán”!

Variations on the theme

As you might expect, there are plenty of possible variations on this theme. For example, if you’re leaving a place and you want to say goodbye to someone who’s staying behind, you might say:

slán agat

Which means, basically, “have safety.”

If, on the other hand, you’re staying behind, and saying goodbye to someone who is leaving, you might say:

slán leat

Literally “safety with you.”

And, if you only expect to be separated for a short while, you might say:

slán go fóill

Literally “safety for a while”…which isn’t to say that you only wish safety on the person for a short time, but rather that you hope it will be a short time before you see him or her again!

Back to basics

Variations aside, if all you remember is “slán” you’ll be in good shape. It’s a goodbye that will be recognized anywhere in Ireland!

Slán go fóill!

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12 thoughts on “So long! Saying “Goodbye” in Irish (with Video!)”

  1. Always good info in these newsletters! How does one say “thank you” in Irish? I haven’t seen an article on that as yet (or maybe I missed it.

      1. Actually, Eileen, it’s “go raibh maith agat” (assuming you’re speaking to one person). I’ve linked to a post we did on “thank you” below.

    1. I would also claim this need ,and an grateful for the arrow buttons in this post. If at all possible can you do them as often as you can. I know you have said there is a pattern to Irish spelling that makes sense, and one day Oghma may bless me by relieving it ,but for now the effort you but into programing those recordings is my only hope.
      is mise mehull

  2. I used to saying slán go fóill to my friends now but with a few ones i add on mo chara which just kind of falls out of my mouth in ulster

  3. In Texas (and I would imagine other areas of the south) it’s common to say “be safe” after bye. I wonder if it comes from the Irish?

    A funny thing with this happened a while back when an American Idol contestant, who was rejected, wished the judges a “bye, be safe”. They thought he was threatening them! Never in all my years would I have thought that “be safe” could be taken in that way.

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