Embracing Luck: The Meaning of Kiss Me I’m Irish

History Hub
15 August 2023
by Ancestry® Team

You’ve probably heard the phrase “kiss me, I’m Irish” every year in the lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day, but wondered about the meaning. The widely used phrase refers to the luck of the Irish and the gift of gab visitors to the Emerald Isle receive when they kiss the Blarney Stone. The myth is that kissing an Irish person is the next best thing to booking a flight to Blarney Castle in Ireland.

Is It Lucky to Kiss an Irish Person?

While we can’t say definitively that kissing someone with Irish ethnicity brings good fortune, legends say kissing an Irish lad or lass packs almost as much of a punch as kissing the Blarney Stone. 

One form of the legend arises from a story told about the former lord from the 15th century, one Cormack Laidir MacCarthy, who sought guidance from the goddess Clíodhna, Queen of the Banshees, for advice on overcoming  legal troubles. The story goes that she told him that kissing the first stone he saw on his way to the courthouse the next morning would provide the eloquence necessary for his case to prevail. And when it did, he incorporated it into the parapet of Blarney Castle.

Blarney Castle,_Ireland. 2003, Wikimedia Commons
Blarney Castle,_Ireland. 2003, Wikimedia Commons

Are There Other Origin Stories for Kissing the Blarney Stone?

Another legend of the Blarney Stone states that it was once part of the Stone of Scone. According to the legend, it was brought to Blarney Castle from Scotland. However, tests determined that the Blarney Stone is local to Irealand, which discredits the tale. Another holds that Robert the Bruce himself gave the stone to MacCarthy. One of the most fantastical origin stories suggests that the Blarney Stone was actually used by Jacob as a pillow as he fled from his brother Esau in the book of Genesis. 

No matter whether the tales are true or not, the Blarney Stone draws myriad tourists from around the world every year. Its mix of enchanting legend and the act of physically kissing it plays into the attraction. The stone’s resting place, Blarney Castle, is itself a historical structure dating back to the 15th century, making it an attraction for fans of history and architecture. 

Why Do You Kiss the Blarney Stone Upside Down?

There’s no real reason beyond tradition for kissing the Blarney Stone upside down. When you visit Blarney Castle in Ireland, you first climb up a spiral staircase with 127 steps and then walk about 50 paces to the stone itself. Once there, an attendant helps you lie back on the ground, grasp the iron railing, and lean backward to kiss the Blarney Stone—all the while trying not to notice you’re roughly 100 feet up in the air while doing so! 

Bear in mind that you’re already luckier than visitors from a century ago, who had to endure being held upside down by their ankles to get their Irish kiss.

Why Is “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” Controversial?

The phrase is controversial around some Irish people because they feel it commercializes their culture. While St. Patrick’s Day is known as the friendliest day of the year, some feel like the holiday leans too far into stereotypes about the Irish and drinking. Traditionally,  the holiday was, and still is for some, a religious feast meant to break the abstinence of Lent. 

Most Irish people take the festive nature of St. Patrick’s Day in stride though, and typically greet you happily when they see you’re wearing green and celebrating their culture along with them. 

Whether you’re Irish all the time or just on St. Patrick’s Day, you can learn more about your Irish heritage and explore your own family tree with a free trial of Ancestry®.