The incredibly charming story of Dublin's Chinese street names

If you've ever even seen a picture of a town in Ireland, you probably know that the street signs throughout the Republic are typically written in both Irish, and English. But Ireland has long been a more linguistic diverse place than that; for example, during the Easter Rising, the third most common tongue on the island after Irish and English was Yiddish.

In more recent decades, Ireland has seen a large influx of immigrants and refugees, including a relatively sizable Chinese population in and around Dublin — to the point that the Síneach community has their own informal naming convention for streets throughout the city. From The Dublin Inquirer:

Streets around Dublin have been monikered by some immigrants, mostly from northern China, [Yan Yu] says.

Like Grafton Street, he says, cracking up over its Mandarin name. "We call it Guǎfu Street." That means Widow Street in Mandarin.

It sounds like Grafton, Yu says, and it's funny, so it's easier to remember. Some of these alternative street names are descriptive, others just homophones.


"When we came to Ireland, we used to buy a lot of meat from them," he says. Beside him, his kid played with a box full of White Rabbit candy that a family friend had brought from China.

Dawson Street is called Dāi wá sūn, which Yu says means "something stupid". That doesn't mean there's anything stupid there, he says. The words just sound like Dawson.

While it's certainly a long way from adding Mandarin to all those Irish street signs, it's still a nice story about how modern immigrant communities find familiarity through language. And it's a heartwarming reversal from the brutal way the English names were thrust upon so many places there.

For Some Chinese Immigrants, Mandarin Nicknames for Dublin Streets Still Bring Comfort and Familiarity [Shamim Malekmian / Dublin InQuirer]