It’s all about safety!
The most basic way to say “goodbye” in Irish is
Couldn’t be simpler, could it? Slán simply means “safe,” and is a shortened form of a slightly longer phrase:
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:
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:
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!