Cultural Resources


A vintage St. Patrick’s Day postcard.

A vintage St. Patrick’s Day postcard.

Irish Proverbs

In Gaelic with English Translation

Many Irish proverbs originated in the Gaelic language, but have come into common usage among the Irish and their descendants in their translated form. In Irish, proverbs are called seanfhocail, which literally means “old words.”

This collection is a work in progress. If you have a Gaelic proverb and its translation that you’d like to add to our list—or to suggest a correction we should make—please contact us.

A

Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile.
Translation: One beetle recognises another.
Meaning: It takes one to know one; like sees like.

An rud is annamh is íontach.
Translation: What is seldom is wonderful.

B

Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach.
Translation: The power fellow will have another day.
Meaning: We will live to fight another day.

Bíonn gach tosú lag.
Translation: Every beginning is weak.

Bíonn grásta Dé idir an diallait agus an talamh.
Translation: The grace of God is found between the saddle and the ground.

Bíonn adharca fada ar na ba thar lear.
Translation: Cattle in faraway lands have long horns.
Meaning: The grass is always greener on the other side.

Bíonn ciúin ciontach.
Translation: The quiet are guilty.

Briseann an dúchais tri shúile an chat.
Translation: Breeding will break out in the eyes of a cat.
Meaning: The true nature of someone's character is revealed through their eyes.

C

Cailín ag Mór agus Mór ag iarraidh déirce.
Translation: Mór has a maid and yet Mór has to beg.
Meaning: Anything to keep up appearances.

Ceileann searc ainimh ’s locht.
Translation: Love is blind.

Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde.
Translation: Beware of the anger of a patient man.

D

Dá pósfá cáilín Truach, pósfá Truagh ar fad.
Translation: Marry a woman from Truagh and you marry all Truagh.
Meaning: You cannot be in a relationship without accepting a person's friends, family, and past affiliations.

Dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi.
Translation: A woman told me that a woman told her ...
Meaning: Don’t believe everything you are told. It may be just gossip.

I

Is binn béal ina thost.
Translation: A silent mouth is sweet.
Meaning: Silence is golden.

I scath a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.
Translation: People live in each other’s shadows.

Is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte.
Translation: Health is better than wealth.

Is í ding di féin a scoileann an dair.
Translation: It is a wedge of itself that splits the oak.
Meaning: Beware of the enemy within.

Is iad na muca ciúine a itheann an mhín.
Translation: It’s the quiet pigs that eat the grain.
Meaning: It’s those who are quiet that you don't suspect.

Is iomaí slí muc a mharú seachas a thachtadh le h-im.
Translation: There are many ways of killing a pig other than by choking it with butter.
Meaning: There’s more than one way to do something.

Is leor don dreoilín a nead.
Translation: The nest is enough for a wren.
Meaning: Home is where the heart is.
  
Is leor nod don eolach.
Translation: A hint is sufficient for the wise.

Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir.
Translation: Time is a good story teller.
Meaning: Stories become embellished with time.

Is minic a bhris béal duine a shrón.
Translation: It’s often a person’s mouth broke their nose.
Meaning: Watch what you say—it can hurt you!

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
Meaning: There are situations, where even a little knowledge will provides great advantage

It’s hard to make a choice between two blind dogs.
Meaning: Both options are unsatisfactory.

M

Maireann croí éadrom i bhfad.
Translation: A light heart lives longest.

Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh siad.
Translation: Praise the youth and they will come.
Meaning: Young people learn more from compliments than criticism

Molann an obair an fear.
Translation: The work praises the man.

Is maith an rud é go téann na mbothair i gCíarraí as Cíarraí.
Translation: It’s a good thing that the roads in Kerry, go out of Kerry.
Meaning: If you live in Kerry, you’ll be glad there’s a way out.

Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras.
Translation: Hunger is a great sauce.
Meaning: If you’re hungry, everything tastes good.

Marbh le tae agus marbh gan é.
Translation: Murdered with tea, murdered without it.

N

Na bac le mac an bhacaigh, agus ní bhacaigh mac an bhacaigh leat.
Translation: Don’t bother the beggar’s son and the beggar’s son won’t bother you.
Meaning: Mind your own business and let others mind theirs.

Ní bhíonn airgead amadáin i bhfad ina phóca.
Translation: A fool’s money is not long in his pocket.
Meaning: A fool and his money are soon parted.

Ní bhíonn saoi gan locht.
Translation: There’s no wise man without fault.

Ní dhíolann dearmad fiacha.
Translation: A debt is still unpaid, even if forgotten.

Ní hé lá na báistí lá na bpáistí.
Translation: A rainy day is not a day for children.
(A pun: báistí and bpáistí sound alike).

Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scoilb.
Translation: A windy day is not a day for thatching.
Meaning: Don’t close the barn door after the horse gets out.

Ní mar a shíltear a bhítear.
Translation: Things aren’t as they seem.

Ní thagann ciall roimh aois.
Meaning: Sense does not come before age.

Ní thuigeann an seach an seang.
Translation: The well fed person doesn’t understand the hungry one.
Meaning: You can’t understand what you haven’t experienced.

Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.
Translation: There’s no hearth like your own hearth.
Meaning: There’s no place like home.

Níl aon tóin tinn mar do thóin tinn féin.
Translation: There’s no sore ass like your own sore ass.
This is a pun reversing the syllables from the phrase before. 

Níor bhris focal maith fiacail riamh.
Translation: A good word never broke a tooth.
Meaning: It doesn’t hurt to pay a compliment.

Nuair a bhíonn an t-ól istigh, bíonn an chiall amuigh.
Translation: When the drink is in, the sense is out.

T

Tada gan iarracht.
Translation: Nothing without effort

Trí na chéile a thógtar na cáisléain.
Translation: In our togetherness (as a team), castles are built.
Meaning: Teamwork and co-operation are required to complete great projects.

Tús maith, leath na hoibre.
Meaning: A good start is half the work.
Irish Proverbs

Many fine collections of Irish proverbs have been published over the years. An assortment of some of our favorites are available as new or used copies. Your purchase will help support the non-profit activitites of Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads.

You are free to use these Gaelic and English proverbs on your own site. We would appreciate a credit and a link to our Web site: http://www.compassrose.org.


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