What do Irish People Look Like? (10 Features & Stereotypes)

Irish people physical characteristics include pale skin (due to their Celtic roots), red hair, and often angular faces. There are also many Irish people with green eyes.

Like many other groups, the Irish carry a mix of ethnicities due to the invasions from various races and ethnicities in the early days. This includes the Anglo-Normans, a mixture of French, Viking, and English heritage.

However, a larger part of their language, culture, and even genetics can be traced back to the Gaels, who are believed to be the first settlers in Ireland more than 9,000 years ago. They were a branch of a bigger ethnolinguistic group that occupied Northwestern Europe, known as the Celts.

The Gaelic people lived in Ireland for more than a thousand years and are credited for developing metal technology as well as sailing and farming techniques in the area. At present, about 40% of the Irish people still speak the Gaelic language, and many Irish practices, beliefs, and traditions are still rooted in the Gaelic culture. Here are the most common characteristics and stereotypes that define the Irish people:

Physical Characteristics of Irish People

Note: These are averages, trends, and at times unfounded stereotypes, and may not reflect or be representative of any individual person.

1. Pale Skin

Due to their Gaelic and Celtic roots, many Irish people have fair, pale skin and often sensitive skin types.

The most common skin type, especially in women, is categorized in the Fitzpatrick scale as type 1-2, which means that it can get burned easily under the sun, is prone to freckles, and is light in color.

Due to the lack of protective melanin, this skin type has a higher risk for skin cancer. And true enough, it is one of the most common forms of cancer in Ireland, as they get more than 10,000 cases of this disease every year.

They are also prone to other skin conditions like rosacea, a skin discoloration that often affects the cheeks, forehead, chin and nose, and keratosis pilaris, a condition where keratin build-up blocks the opening of hair follicles, resulting in rough and bumpy skin.

2. Farmer’s Tan

Most Irish people don’t tan easily and instead get sunburnt after staying too long under the sun.

However, there is a common phenomenon in Ireland called “farmer’s tan”. This refers to the darkening of only their arms and neck because they are exposed to the sun most often.

At the same time, the rest of the body stays pale and fair under their clothes, like farmers who have darker limbs due to their daily labor under the sun.

3. Green Eyes

One physical trademark of Irish people is their olive or green-colored eyes, which are rare in other parts of the world but are pretty common in Ireland.

Ireland is also one of the countries with the most green-eyed people, as more than 75% of green-eyed people have heritage in just two countries: Ireland and Scotland.

Other than green, the different eye colors found in Irish people are brown, blue, and grey. It is also not uncommon to see people with hazel eyes, particularly those with a green iris surrounded by a brown or amber ring near the pupils.

4. Red Hair

Aside from green eyes, another physical trait popularly associated with Irish people is red hair. And this is not without basis since Ireland has the highest population of redheads in the world based on per capita percentage.

Red hair is caused by a rare and recessive gene called MC1R, which happens in only about 2% of the world’s population but occurs in about 30% of people in Ireland.

The Irish also typically have coarse hair due to a higher concentration of hair follicles in the scalp, making it less likely to become damaged or frizzy.

5. Angular Face

Irish people are known for pointy and angular features, characterized by strong-looking jaws and chins, deep-set eyes, and pronounced cheekbones.

They also tend to have slick oval heads as well as long and tall pointed noses. However, some Irish people show more prominent Celtic features, such as having round chins, high cheekbones, and upturned noses.

Stereotypical Character Traits of Irish People

Note: These are averages, trends, and at times unfounded stereotypes, and may not reflect or be representative of any individual person.

6. Can’t Take a Compliment

When complimenting an Irish, be prepared for a rebuttal or to have it reciprocated. Irish people are not used to receiving compliments and do not know how to react when they hear one.

They would often feel uncomfortable and wonder if you have ulterior motives or need something from them, hence the compliment.

Since they do not know what to say, they would usually try to downplay it by criticizing themselves, or they would think of something nice to say about you in return.

7. Loves Potatoes

Potatoes have been a staple food for the Irish for centuries. They eat a lot of potatoes in various forms, from roasted to mashed, and love to experiment with other dishes using potatoes as one of the ingredients.

Aside from their nutritional value, potatoes are favored by the Irish because of their versatility, plus the country’s long and colorful history with this vegetable.

For one, the vegetable also provided sustenance for Irish peasants during the English invasion in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Unfortunately, a plant disease that affected potatoes in the mid-1800s led to famine, which is now called the “Great Hunger“. However, the spike in the Irish population from the 18th to the 19th centuries was also credited to this vegetable.

8. Often Uses the word “Wee”

Many cultures have their own linguistic expressions, and the Irish are no exception. While talking to Irish people, you may notice that they often use the word “wee” in conversations.

The Irish believe that the word makes sentences sound more adorable and less harsh. As such, it is sometimes intentionally inserted in a phrase or message to sugarcoat other terms that might be considered unpleasant or offensive.

9. Less Touchy

While they have a warm and friendly disposition, the Irish prefer to maintain a safe distance from others to respect their personal space. They are not usually touchy, particularly the men, but friendly gestures like a slap on the back are quite common.

During conversations, Irish people are not prone to making excessive hand gestures and try their best to maintain an arm’s length distance from each other while speaking.

Aside from this, they would typically refrain from showing physical affection and avoid crowding or bumping with others in public places.

10. Heavy drinkers

The Irish are famous for being heavy drinkers, and while this does not apply to everybody, a good majority of the population drinks a lot.

In fact, the whole country’s alcohol consumption continues to rise, which is in stark contrast to the declining trend for the rest of Europe.

According to studies, Ireland has the highest per capita consumption rates in the region. More than 80% of their adults admit to drinking regularly, with 40% categorized as heavy episodic drinkers.

The average drinking intake in Ireland is around 13.2 liters, double the global average of 5.6 liters.

Conclusion

A considerable portion of Irish genes and some of their current habits were inherited from the Gaels, a branch of the Celtic ethnolinguistic group. This is mostly where they got their trademark fair skin as well as their green eyes and red hair which are pretty rare globally but are a common sight in Ireland.

Potatoes are mainstays in the Irish diet not only because of their nutrients and caloric content but also due to the country’s long history with this vegetable.

The Irish are not touchy since they like to respect people’s personal space, and they also have a habit of inserting the word “wee” in their conversations to soften harsh sentences.

Lastly, while not everybody drinks, most Irish people love their alcohol which is why the country has the highest per capita alcohol consumption rate in Europe.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

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