Like the people who spoke them, Irish sayings or proverbs have made their way all over the world. Some quotes offer wisdom with straightforward meanings. Others, you have to work a little harder to find a deeper, less confusing meaning in.
To save you that work, we’ve created a list of some of the most famous Irish sayings (or “seanfhocal,” as they’re called in Irish) and broken them down by their translations and meanings. Don’t you feel wiser already?
- Beware of the anger of a patient man.
Irish: Glacann fear críonna comhairle. This saying warns of pushing even the most patient and accommodating of people too far.
- There’s no fireside like your own fireside.
Irish: Nil aon tintean mar do thintean fein. You guessed it: this phrase means that there’s no place like home. The saying ‘home is where the heart it’ originally referred to the hearth of the fireplace.
- May the road rise up to meet you.
Irish: Go n-éirí an bóthar leat. A favorite amongst well-wishers, this phrase means that the road should rise to meet your needs. In other words, may there be no obstacles in your way, whatever path life takes you down.
- Two people shorten the road.
Irish: Giorraíonn beirt bóthar. This phrase is saying that company makes time fly by. So long as you have someone else to chat with and listen to, you won’t notice time passing.
- Take the world nice and easy, and the world will take you the same.
Irish: Glac bog an saol agus glacfaidh an saol bog tú. This saying is basically the same as ‘smile and the world smiles with you,’ meaning you’ll get out of something what you put into it.
- A wise man accepts advice.
Irish: Glacann fear críonna comhairle. This phrase is saying that it is foolish to think you’re above the advice of others.
- As good as the drink is, it ends in thirst.
Irish: Dá fheabhas é an t-ól is é an tart a dheireadh. Similar to ‘the grass is always greener on the other side,’ this phrase implies that some people are never satisfied no matter how good they have it.
- The windy day is not the day for thatching.
Irish: Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb. While it literally means you can’t fix your roof on a windy day, this phrase is really saying you can’t leave things until the last minute and expect them to go as planned.
- He who is out, his share goes cold.
Irish: An té a bhíonn amuigh, fuarann a chuid. This saying means that if you neglect something, nothing will come of it.
- Put the trout in the net before you put it in the pot.
Irish: Cuir an breac san eangach sula gcuire tú sa phota é. This phrase warns to take everything one step at a time.
- Tiredness goes away and the benefit remains.
Irish: Imíonn an tuirse is fanann an tairbhe. This is saying that even if the work is gruelingly hard, you’ll reap the benefits in the end.
- You can’t whistle and eat meal at the same time.
Irish: Ní féidir bheith ag feadaíl is ag ithe mine. Similar to ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too,’ this phrase means you can’t have it both ways.
- Every dog is bold in his own doorway.
Irish: Is dána gach madra i ndoras a thí féin. This means that it’s easy to be bold when you’re in your comfort zone.
- It’s the quiet pigs who eat the meal.
Irish: Is iad na muca ciúine a itheann an mhin. This means that those who are quiet are usually doing the most, while those who boast are doing little.
- Better one look before you than two behind.
Irish: Is fearr súil romhat ná dhá shúil i do dhiaidh. This saying means that it’s better to look to the future than to dwell on the past.
- There is no wise man without a fault nor any fool without a good trait.
Irish: Níl saoi gan locht ná daoi gan tréith. Similar to ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone,’ this phrase serves as a reminder not to judge others as everyone has done good and bad.
- It’s often a person’s mouth broke his nose.
Irish: Is minic a bhris béal duine a shrón. This phrase warns of how the things a person says can get them into trouble.
- Sense bought dearly is the best kind.
Irish: Is í an chiall cheannaigh an chiall is fearr. This saying is a reminder to value the lessons you’ve learned from your mistakes, as you wouldn’t have learned them any other way.
- If you don’t sow in Spring you won’t reap in Autumn.
Irish: Mura gcuirfidh tú san Earrach ní bhainfidh tú sa bhFómhar. This is saying that every success comes with planning, and that you can’t expect things to fall into place with no effort.
- Even if you have only a puck goat to sell, be in the middle of the fair with it.
Irish: Mura mbeadh agat ach pocán gabhair bí i lár an aonaigh leis. Referring to the fairs in Ireland where horses and cattle are sold, this phrase says to be proud and sell yourself regardless of what you have and how you compare to others.
- Thinking will not do the ploughing for you.
Irish: Ní dhéanfaidh smaoineamh an treabhadh duit. While there have been a few reminders of the importance of planning on this list, this phrase reminds that all plan and no action doesn’t breed success.
- There is no flood, however great, that does not ebb away.
Irish: Níl tuile dá mhéad nach dtránn. This saying means all bad things pass eventually.
- Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
Irish: An lao ite i mbolg na bó. This phrase means don’t be overly confident before your plans have come to fruition.
- May the cat eat you, and may the devil eat the cat.
Irish: Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat. This saying is a one-way ticket straight to hell! The one who says it is wishing for his enemy to be eaten by a cat, and just to make sure they ain’t coming back, for the the devil to then eat the cat.
- Put silk on a goat, it’s still a goat.
Irish: Cuir síoda ar ghabhar – is gabhar fós é. This saying means that as hard as you try to disguise or dress up a lie, it’s still a lie.
Read more quotes here.
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