Cultural Resources

Irish Proverbs

The Irish Triad

The triad originated as a simple memory device. Before the Irish learned to read and write, laws, history, and lessons were often taught and memorized in this form.

  • Three candles that illuminate every darkness: truth, nature, knowledge.
  • The three most nourishing foods: beef marrow, the meat of a chicken, and Guinness Stout.
  • Three keys that unlock the secrets of the soul: heavy drinking, violent temper, and innocent trust.
  • The three kinds of people who will get to heaven quickest after death: a young child after baptism, a young priest after ordination, and a tiller of the soil.
  • Three dead ones that are paid for with living things: an apple-tree,a hazel bush,a sacred grove.
  • Three things every chieftain needs: justice, peace, and an army.
  • Three pairs that never agree: two married women in the same house, two cats with one mouse, and two bachelors courting the same woman.
  • Three worst smiles: the smile of a wave, the smile of a loose woman, the grin of a dog ready to leap.
  • Three things that stay longest in a family: fighting, drinking, and red hair.
  • Three things that a man should never be without: a cat, a chimney, and a woman of the house.
  • Three men who are difficult to talk to: a king about his booty, a Viking in his hauberk, a boor who’s under patronage.
  • The three sweetest sounds: the sound of the quern, the lowing of the cow, the cry of a child.
  • Three clouds that obscure the sight of wisdom: forgetfulness, ignorance, and a little knowledge.
  • Three sources of new life: a woman’s stomach, a hen’s egg, and a wrong forgiven.
  • Three things that run swiftest: a stream of fire, a stream of water, and a stream of falsehood.
  • Three chains by which evil propensity is bound: a covenant, a monastic rule, law.
  • Three things you cannot comprehend: the mind of a woman, the working of bees, and the ebb and flow of the tide.
  • Three types of men who fail to understand women: young men, old men, and middle-aged men.
  • The three best friends and the three worst enemies: fire, wind, and water.
  • Three things that are always cold: a dog’s nose, a man’s elbow, and a maid’s knee.
  • Three feasts due to everyone: the feast of baptism, the feast of marriage, and the feast of death.
  • The three faults of drinking are: a sorrowful morning, a dirty coat, and an empty pocket.


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.

Online collection copyright © 1995, 2007-2008. Compiled by Joanne Asala, author of Celtic Folklore Cooking. You are free to use these proverbs on your own site as long as you credit Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads as the source and provide a link to our Web site:

Cultural Crossroads
About Us
Now Available
Upcoming Releases
Contact Us
Cultural Resources
Folklore, Fairy Tales, & Myths
Uptown Chicago Resources
Table of Contents
About This Collection
Submit Your Photos and Stories
Uptown Theatre
Uptown Community Portrait 2005
Read Petition
Sign Petition
Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads