What is the origin of the term 'Luck of the Irish'?

  • It is an ironic phrase. The Irish have been, and are a spectacularly unlucky race. The "luck of the Irish" is BAD luck, as any reading of Irish history will document. When I did my Master's thesis on Irish references in the American language, I found the original and proper use of this irony goes clear back to the Old Country and migrated to America early on. Nowadays many speakers and writers -- even the supposedly erudite ones -- misuse the phrase to imply GOOD luck. Let these misinformed (and misinforming) folks eat only potatoes for a few decades -- if any potatoes can grow in their fields.
  • Some trace the origin of the phrase to the US where, during the exploration for gold in the West, there were a high number of Irish people who got lucky, and found their "pot o' gold" in the gold fields of California, or were equally prosperous in silver mining. Luck of the Irish does owe its origin to the U.S.A.. When they arrived, they were very disliked, treated badly, despised and hated. When the Irish had any kind of success most Americans at the time didn't think the Irish were capable such successes, so they called it luck. Hence the term "Luck of the Irish".
  • As far as I know, the term comes from the legend of the 'Little People' of the land, or the leprechauns. Finding or catching a leprechaun (who would then give you gold) was a lucky event that could only take place in Ireland.