The term luck of the Irish is a peculiar phrase that likely has multiple meanings. We are not sure the true origins of idiom or how it came to be so popular in the U.S.
- Some believe the phrase means that those who are Irish are inherently lucky and that the Irish tend to be able to land on their feet when unfortunate circumstances take place. The Irish in general are very strong willed and resilient due to their country’s struggles and tragic history.
- At its roots, the luck of the Irish has an ironic twist in that it may not mean luck at all; rather, it refers to their bad luck.The Irish people are actually very unlucky as they had to leave their homeland in order to survive. That is, until they began to migrate into North America to redeem their good faith and good fortune. Unfortunately, the journey was not easy. Many fell ill, families were separated, and their presence was unwanted. This may have led many Irish settlers to drink. “Cheers to the luck of the Irish…”
- Ireland has endured a tragic history. They were forced to emigrate to America in pursuit of a better life due to war, starvation, stripped land and famine. They were treated poorly and struggled to survive. The natives of the U.S. in particular despised the Irish settlers who were successful and felt their fortune was down to ‘luck’ and not due to their hard work. At the time, a rich Irish immigrant was considered as rare as a four-leaf clover and reason for ridicule.
- You can trace the origins back to the gold and silver mines in the 19th century U.S. where a number of Irish minors found their “pot o’ gold.” This includes Edward T. O’Donnell, an Associate Professor of History at Holy Cross College and author of 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History. According to O’Donnell, the connotation does not have Irish origin at all. It was a term given to them by angry Americans who believed their good fortune was due to luck and not hard work, intelligence or talent.