Cultural Resources

Irish Proverbs

Priest and English tourists

An Irish priest escorts some English tourists; detail from a vintage postcard.

Truth, Lies, and the Law of the Land

  • Truth is bitter, but never shamed.
  • A good word never broke a tooth.
  • None can know the truth except God.
  • Instinct is stronger than morality.
  • A lie looks the better of having a witness.
  • The peacemaker does not go free.
  • It’s a hard-fought battle from which no man returns to tell the tale.
  • There’s no better judge than the battlefield.
  • Bravery is not lasting.
  • An Irishman is never at peace except when he’s fighting.
  • A scholar’s ink lasts longer than a martyr’s blood.
  • New kings make new laws.
  • A lawmaker is a law-breaker.
  • Neither break a law nor make one.
  • There’s no crime in the blow that has not been struck.
  • Don’t go to law with the devil in the court of hell.
  • If you go to court, leave your soul at home.
  • A law is costly; better to shake hands and be friends.
  • A lawyer’s house is made of fools’ heads.
  • Love all men save an attorney.
  • A good friend in court is better than money in the purse.
  • A good denial—the best point in law.
  • Before answering a question, an Irishman always asks one.
  • Hope protects the oppressed.
  • A sign of an old law is an old song.


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, 2007-2012. 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:

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