In Ireland, the phrase “give out” means to scold someone or to complain about something.
For example, if an Irish person tells you to “stop giving out”, then it means that they want you to stop complaining.
Take the following real world example.
The Tweet above basically translates into the following:
I heard Regina scolding him on the radio earlier.
Typically, when you “give out” to someone, it means that you are scolding them or chastising them.
However, the phrase can also be used in response to someone who is complaining in general.
In this case, Beth is telling someone to shut up and stop complaining.
One final example.
Here, Conor is saying that his father will sometimes make the same mistakes. When he and his family scold him for this, his father replies with “at least I’m consistent.”
Irish people will often use the phrase “giving out” in a playful manner.
A lot of Irish people will use this phrase in a joking manner. Therefore, you might want to judge the context and the tone of the conversation before taking offence.
In other words, make sure that they’re not being playful before you fly off the handle.
For instance, if you complain about the weather and an Irish person replies, “Will you ever stop giving out?”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are being vitriolic or disrespectful.
As I said, you will need to judge this by the tone and context of the conversation.
Think of it like this:
In many English-speaking countries, people will sometimes playfully tell each other to “shut up”. However, we can tell by the tone of their voice that they are not trying to be disrespectful. As a result, we can tell that it’s just banter.
Most people in Ireland are not aware that this phrase is an Irishism.
A lot of people in Ireland will grow up using this phrase without realising that it is an Irishism. As a result, they will often use it while speaking to non-Irish people.
They are not doing this intentionally to confuse you. More often than not, they are blissfully unaware that the phrase they have been using their entire lives does not make sense to people outside of Ireland.
In regular English, the phrase “give out” means to distribute something. It has nothing to do with complaining or scolding someone.
It is only when a non-Irish person asks them to explain what it means that the penny finally drops.
In many cases, a sense of confusion will set in. They may also look at you as if you are the one who doesn’t understand plain English.
It is only when they start searching for it on the Internet that the realisation hits home.
Go easy on them. This is like the Irish version of waking up from The Matrix.
Where did the Irish phrase “give out” originate from?
“Give out” comes from the literal translation of the Irish phrase ag tabhairt amach.
Basically, “ag tabhairt amach” in Gaeilge means to complain. In Irish, the word tabhairt means “to give”, whereas the word amach means “out”.
Therefore, when we literally translate these two words into English, it becomes “give out”.
As you can see, translating one language into another can be difficult. In a lot of cases, phrases from one language do not “fit” well into another language.
For example, in English, the words “real” and “estate” have their own meanings. However, when you put the two of them together, you create the phrase “real estate”.
This is what we call a compound word. A word or phrase that is made up of other words.
Another example is “bookworm”.
Unfortunately, compound words can be difficult to translate into another language. As a result, we end up with weird phrases such as “giving out”.