What Does Erin Go Bragh Mean?

We're diving into what exactly Erin go bragh means and where the common St. Patrick's Day saying came from. Hint: Its roots lie in rebellion.

Erin go bragh is a phrase you likely hear as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, and other times of the year if you’re of Irish descent. People shout it with pride while partaking in celebratory St. Patrick’s Day traditions, but what does it really mean? Similar to the symbolism of the four-leaf clover, the phrase has Gaelic origins, but it’s also aligned with historical and political instances.

What does Erin go bragh mean?

Erin go bragh is sometimes also spelled Erin go braugh. Both are an anglicization of Éire go brách, which literally means “Ireland to the end of time.” The word “Erin” is of Gaelic origins and is an Irish word for “Ireland.” The second part of the phrase is “go bragh” or “go brách,” meaning “til the end of time,” which has also been expressed as “til doomsday.” Another question we dug into: why do we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day?

The origins of Erin go bragh

By most accounts, the roots of the phrase trace back to the Irish Rebellion of 1798. This was when a group of Irish rebels staged an uprising to protest against British rule. Unfortunately, their attempt to garner national support and organize a unified widespread protest was unsuccessful, and they were defeated in a bloody battle involving many casualties. During their fight, the rebels used this anglicized version, “Erin goes Brah” on their banners and flags as a way of expressing allegiance to Ireland; it also served as a rallying cry.

One of the earliest appearances of the phrase in the United States was in the 1840s. It was used on an old green-and-gold Irish flag design flown by Saint Patrick’s Battalion, a unit of Irish-American mercenaries and U.S. deserters who fought alongside Mexicans and Europeans against the United States in the Mexican-American War.

How do you pronounce bragh?

The English pronunciation of “Erin go” is exactly the way it is spelled, then the “agh” in “Bragh” makes an “ah” sound. Put together, it’s pronounced “Erin-go-brah.”

Today’s use of Erin go bragh

In modern usage, the phrase is translated as “Ireland forever.” Most people who use the phrase today likely don’t know the historical and political origins of the slogan. It has now become a sort of slang, often used as part of the St. Patrick’s Day pop culture lexicon, shouted at parades or in place of “cheers,” as a toast with a mug of green beer. Still, it is sometimes used by those of Irish descent to express their love for their mother country.

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Bobbi Dempsey
Bobbi Dempsey is a freelance writer, editor and content specialist whose credits include NY Times, Forbes, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping and many others. She has written both consumer-facing and B2B content for numerous companies in the technology, healthcare, education, and personal finance industries.