Proverbs in Gaeilge

Proverbs in Gaeilge

Proverbs in Gaeilge

Proverbs in Gaeilge

Seanfhocal Archive

Relationships / Dealing with others

The folk wisdom contained in these proverbs distills the virtues of family, friendship, and courtship into timely gems. They reflect the values of the Gael for whom the Irish word clann has no exact English equivalent. Sometimes this wisdom is conveyed through a bit of Celtic wit. 

Advice

Is minic a bhris beál duine a shrón.
It is often that a person's mouth broke his nose.

Is minic a ghearr teanga duine a scornach.
It is often that a person's tongue cut his throat.

Déan an fál nó iocfaidh tú foghail.
Make the fence or you will pay the plundering.

An rud nach mbaineann duit ná bain dó.
Don't interfere with (any) thing that doesn't concern you.

Ni théann cuileog san mbéal a bhíos dúnta.
A fly will not go into a mouth that is closed.

Más maith leat siocháin, cairdeas, agus moladh, éist, feic, agus fan balbh.
If you wish for peace, friendship, and praise, listen, look, and stay mute.

An té nach bhfuil láidir ní folair dó a bheith glic.
Whoever is not strong must be clever.

Fóireann spallaí do bhallaí cómh maith le clocha móra.
Walls require spalls as well as large stones.

Bhí clog sa chill is níor bhinn clog é. Ach tháinig clog eile 'on cill is rinne clog binn den chlog san.
There was a bell in the church and it wasn't very sweet sounding. But another bell came to the church and made a sweet bell of the first one.
 

Ná nocht d'fhiacla go bhféadair an greim do bhreith.
Don't bare your teeth until you can bite.

Ná bris do loigrín ar stól nach bhfuil i do shlí.
Do not break your shin on a stool that is not in your way.

Blessings / Curses

Sláinte chuig na fir agus go maire na mná go deo!
Health to the men and may the women live forever!

Dia linn is deoch is ní ráibh mé riamh bocht.
God with us and a drink, and may I never be poor.

Go ndeine an diabhal dréimire de cnámh do dhroma ag piocadh úll i ngairdín Ifrinn.
May the devil make a ladder of your backbone (and) pluck apples in the garden of hell.

Go bhfága Dia do shláinte agat.
May God spare you your health.

Cooperation

Ní bhíonn an rath, ach mara mbíonn an smacht.
There is no prosperity unless there is discipline.

Ní neart go cur le chéile.
There is no strength without unity.

Chíonn beirt rud nach bhfeiceann duine amháin.
Two people see a thing that an individual does not see.

Family

Is é do mhac do mhac inniú, ach is í d'iníon d'iníon go deo.
Your son is your son today, but your daughter is your daughter forever.

Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.
There's no hearth like your own hearth.

Níl aon tóin tinn mar do thóin tinn féin.
There's no sore ass like your own sore ass.

Bíonn caora dhubh ar an tréad is gile.
There tends to be a black sheep (even) in the whitest flock.

An mháthair leis an mac agus an iníon leis an athair.
The mother (sides) with the son, and the daughter with the father.

Mol an páiste agus molann tú an mháthair.
Praise the child and you praise the mother.

Is fearr beagán den ghaol ná mórán den charthanas.
A little kinship is better than a lot of charity.

Is folamh fuar é teach gan bean.
A house without a woman is empty (and) cold.

Is minic ubh bhán ag cearc dhubh.
A black hen often has a white egg.

A chomhairle féin do mhac árann's ní bhfuair sé ariamh níos measa.
It does not get worse than a dear son that pleases himself.

Friendship / Community

Maireann na daoine ar scáil a chéile.
The people live in one another's shadows.

Castar na daoine ar a chéile, ach ní chastar na cnoic (ná na sléibhte).
The people encounter one another, but the hills never meet (nor the mountains).

Giorraíonn beirt bóthar.
Two people shorten a road.

Aithnítear cara i gcruatán.
A friend is known in hardship.

Is maith an scáthán súil charad.
A friend's eye is a good mirror.

Sileann do chara agus do namhaid nach bhfaighidh tú bás choíce.
(Both) your friend and your enemy think you will never die.

Is í an eorna nua tú a fheiciáil.
Seeing you is like seeing the new (season's) barley.

Lá Nollaig go péacach is Lá Féile na Stiofáin ag iarraidh déirce.
A showy Christmas Day and begging on the Feast of St. Stephen.

Love

Níl aon leigheas ar an ngrá ach pósadh.
There is no cure for love but marriage. (The only cure for love is marriage.).

Is geal leis an bhfiach dubh a ghearrcach féin.
The raven thinks its own nestling fair.

Folíonn grá gráin.
Love veils ugliness.

Marriage

Ní féasta go rósta, 'is ní céasta go pósta.
There is no feast like a roast, and no torment like a marriage.

Ná gabh bean gan locht.
Do not take a wife without fault.

Is maith an bhean í ach níor bhain sí a broga di go foill.
She is a good wife, but she has not taken off her shoes yet.

Living and dying

Life is celebrated in Irish proverbs. Death has its place, to be sure, but health is so important in Irish culture that it is customary when taking one's leave, or when taking a drink, to wish others good health.

Death

Nuair a thiocas an bás ní imeoidh sé folamh.
When death will come, he won't go away empty.

Bíonn an bás ar aghaidh an tseanduine agus ar chúl duine óig.
Death is facing the old (person) and behind the young (person).

Is iomaí lá sa chill orainn.
We are in the Churchyard (grave) many a day.

Bíonn súil le muir ach ní bhíonn súil le tír.
There is hope from the sea, but there is no hope from the land (grave).

Nollag ghlas, reilig mhéith.
A green Christmas, a fat graveyard.

Health

Ní bhíonn tréan buan.
Strength is not enduring.

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

An té a bhíonn breoite, ní bhíonn feoil air.
The person who is ailing, there does not tend to be meat on him.

Neantóg a dhóigh mé, copóg a leigheas mé.
A nettle burns (stings) me. Dock will cure me.

'Sé leigheas na póite ól arís.
It is the cure of a hangover (to) drink again.

Sláinte chuig na fir agus go maire na mná go deo!
Health to the men and may the women live forever!

Is mairg a bhíonns go holc agus a bhíonns go bocht ina dhiadh.
Woe to the one who is always very ill and poor because of it.

Maireann croí éadrom a bhfad.
A light heart lives a long time.

Life

Is iomaí cor sa tsaol.
There is many a twist in life.

Castar na daoine ar a chéile, ach ní chastar na cnoic (ná na sléibhte).
The people encounter one another, but the hills never meet (nor the mountains).

Ní fhanann trá le fear mall.
An ebb(tide) does not wait for a slow man.

Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir.
Time is a good storyteller.

Is ait an mac an saol.
Life is strange. (Such is life).

Is búaine clú ná saol.
Fame is more enduring than life.

Níl sa saol ach gaoth agus toit.
In life there is only wind and smoke.

Material Things

It seems the majority of proverbs surveyed deal with people, but material things matter to the Celt. Remember the epic Táin Bó Cuailnge begins with the Queen of Connact, Meadhbh, arguing with her husband, Ailill mac Máta, about who brought more material things into the marriage.

Animals

Luigh leis an uan, agus éirigh leis an éan.
Lie with the lamb, and rise with the bird.

Fearthain don lao agus grian don tsearrach; uisce don gé agus déirc don bhacach.
Rain to the calf and sun to the foal; water to the goose and alms to the beggar(man).

Is maith sú bó, beo nó marbh.
The juice of the cow is good, alive or dead.

Is iad ná muca ciúine a itheas an mhin.
It is the quiet pigs that eat the meal.

Má bhuaileann tú mo mhadra buailfidh tú mé féin.
If you hit my dog, (then) you hit me.

Bíonn adharca fada ar na ba i gcéin.
Long horns are [always] on the cows abroad.

Is maith an capall a tharraingíos a charr féin.
It is a good horse that pulls its own cart.

Má labhríonn an chuach ar chrann gan duiliúr díol do bhó agus ceannaigh arbhar.
If the cuckoo calls from a tree without leaves, sell your cow and buy corn.

Chomh glic le sionnach.
As clever as a fox.

Food and Drink

Ní fearr bia ná ciall.
Food is not better than sense.

Nuair a bhíonn an fíon istigh, bíonn an ciall amuigh.
When the wine is in(side), the sense is out(side).

'Sé leigheas na póite ól arís.
It is the cure of a hangover (to) drink again.

Déanann tart tart.
Thirst makes (for) thirst.

Is maith sú bó, beo nó marbh.
The juice of the cow is good, alive or dead.

Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras.
Hunger is a good sauce.

Ní cheileann meisce rún.
Drunkenness hides no secret(s).

Cibé cé olfhas 's é Domhnall a íocfhas.
Whoever will drink, 'tis Domhnall will pay.

Is túisce deoch ná scéal.
A drink comes before a story.

Is fearr leath builín ná bheith gan arán.
Half a loaf is better than to be without bread.

Is minic a lean maidin bhrónach oíche shúgach.
'Tis many a sad morning followed a merry night.

Marbh le tae agus marbh gan é.
Dead with tea and dead without it.

Luck

Is iomaí cor sa tsaol.
There is many a twist in life.

Ní huasal ná íseal ach thuas seal agus thíos seal.
It is not upper class or lower class, but up a while and down awhile.

Súil le cúiteamh a mhilleas an cearrbhac.
Hoping to recoup ruins the gambler.

Tuar maith don athbhlianin na píobairí teallaigh a chloisteáil Lá Nollaig.
It is a good omen for the coming year to hear crickets on Christmas Day.

Is maith an athbhliain a dtig Nollaig i dTús gealaí.
The year is good when Christmas comes during the first phase of the moon.

An té atá thuas óltar deoch air. An té atá thíos buailtear cos air.
The one who succeeds is toasted. The one who fails is kicked.

Plants

Neantóg a dhóigh mé, copóg a leigheas mé.
A nettle burns (stings) me. Dock will cure me.

Fearthain don lao agus grian don tsearrach; uisce don gé agus déirc don bhacach.
Rain to the calf and sun to the foal; water to the goose and alms to the beggar(man).

Wealth / Poverty

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

Ní baol don bhacach an gadaí.
The thief is no threat to the beggar(man).

Gheibheann pingin pingin eile.
A penny gets another penny.

Déanann sparán trom croí éadrom.
A heavy purse makes (for) a light heart.

Déanann seilbh sásamh.
Possession makes (for) satisfaction.

Is buaine focal ná toice an tsaoil.
A word is more enduring than worldy wealth.

Ná comhair do chuid sicíní sula dtagann siad amach.
Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.

Niorbh a fhiú a dhath ariamh a bhfuarthas in aisgidh.
Nothing free is ever appreciated.

Personal Qualities / Types of People

Below are Irish proverbs dealing with people of various types; their basic qualities, strengths, and weaknesses. These wise sayings, developed in an oral tradition over hundreds of years, point out the good and bad attributes of the common person. They are a cultural expression of Celtic esthetics, ethics, and morals.

Appearances / Image

Is é an duine an t-éadach.
The man (person) is the clothes.

Is minic cuma aingeal ar an Diabhal féin.
There is often the look of an angel on the Devil himself.

Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile.
A beetle recognizes another beetle.

Is glas iad na cnoc i bhfad uainn.
Distant hills look green.

Cuir síoda ar ghabhar agus is gabhar i gcónaí é.
Put silk on a goat and it is still a goat.

Bíonn gach duine go lách go dtéann bó ina gharraí.
Everybody is good natured until a cow goes into his garden.

Common Sense

Ní fearr bia ná ciall.
Food is not better than sense.

Nuair a bhíonn an fíon istigh, bíonn an ciall amuigh.
When the wine is in(side), the sense is out(side).

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

Is déirce dá chuid féin don amadán.
His own share is charity to the fool.

Is deacair a bheith ag feadaíl agus ag ithe mine.
It is hard to whistle and eat at the same time.

Más cam nó díreach an ród, 's é an bothar mór an t-aicearra.
Whether the road is crooked or straight, the short cut is the best way.

Is trom an rud cearc i bhfad.
A hen (carried) far is a heavy thing.

Ní hiad na fir mhóra a bhaineas an fomhar i gcónaí.
It is not the great men that always reap the harvest.

Mol an lá um thránóna.
Praise the day in the evening.

Seachnaíonn súil ní nach bhfeiceann.
An eye evades a thing it does not see.

Is doimhin é poll an amhrais.
Deep is the hole of doubt.

Courage

Is fearr rith maith ná droch-sheasamh.
A good run(ning) is better than a bad stand(ing).

Is teann gach madra gearr i ndoras a thí féin.
Every terrier is bold in the door of its house.

Glaonn gach coileach go dána ar a atrainn fhéin.
Every cock crows boldly in his own farmyard.

Is fearr filleadh as lár an áthe ná bá sa tuile.
It is better to back out of the middle of the ford than to be drowned in the flood.

Faults

Bíonn caora dhubh ar an tréad is gile.
There tends to be a black sheep (even) in the whitest flock.

Ní bhíonn saoi gan locht.
There is no wise man without fault.

Generosity / Stinginess

Aithnítear cara i gcruatán.
A friend is known in hardship.

Ní thuigeann an sách an seang.
The well-fed (person) does not understand the slender (person).

Níor chuaigh fial riamh go hIfreann.
No generous person ever went to hell.

Inherent Qualities

Ní bhíonn beag bog.
Little (things) tend not to be soft.

Bíonn blás ar an mbeagán.
Little things tend to be tasty.

Ní dhéanfadh an domhan capall rása d'asal.
The world would not make a race horse out of an ass (donkey).

Trí ní is deacair a thuiscint; intleacht na mban, obair na mbeach, teacht agus imeacht na taoide.
Three things hardest to understand; the intellect of women, the work of the bees, the coming and going of the tide.

Na ceithre rud is measa amú; ceann tinn, béal seirbh, intinn bhuartha, agus poca folamh.
The four least useful things; a headache, a bitter mouth, a worried mind, and an empty pocket.

Dá fhada an lá tagann an tráthnóna.
However long the day, the evening will come.

Is iomaí fear fada a bhíonns lag ina lár.
Many a tall man has a weak middle.

Trí saghas incheann:
inchinn reatha,
inchinn cloiche,
inchinn chéarach.

Three kinds of brains:
a running brain,
a rock brain,
a wax brain.

Is fearr greim de choinín ná dhá ghreim de chat.
On bite of a rabbit is better than two bites of a cat.

Nobility / Treachery

Filleann an feall ar an bhfeallaire.
The treachery returns to the betrayer.

Is í an dias is troime is ísle a chromas a cheann.
The heaviest ear of grain bends its head the lowest.

Is minic a chealg briathra míne cailín críonna.
Many a prudent girl was led astray with honeyed words.

Is minic a bhíonn ciúin ciontach.
The quiet one is often guilty.

Quiet / Talkative

Is minic a bhris beál duine a shrón.
It is often that a person's mouth broke his nose.

Is minic a ghearr teanga duine a scornach.
It is often that a person's tongue cut his throat.

Ní chaitheann an chaint an t-éadach.
(The) talk doesn't wear the clothes.

Ní scéal rúin é ó tá a fhios ag triúr é.
It is not a secret after three people know it.

Inis do Mháire i gcógar é, is inseoidh Máire dó phóbal é.
Tell it to Mary in a whisper, and Mary will tell it to the parish.

An áit a mbíonn mná bíonn caint agus an áit a mbíonn géanna bíonn callán.
Where there are women there is talk, and where there are geese there is cackling.

Ná bíodh do theanga faoi do chrios.
Don't keep your tongue under your belt.

Beagán a rá agus é a rá go maith.
Say little but say it well.

An té is mó a osclaíonn a bhéal is é is lú a osclaíonn a sparán.
The one who opens his mouth the most, 'tis he who opens his purse the least.

Is minic a bhíonn ciúin ciontach.
The quiet one is often guilty.

Mórán cainte ar bheagán cúise.
Much talk with little reason.

Is binn béal ina thost.
A silent mouth is sweet.

Truth / Falsehood

Bíonn an fhírinne searbh.
The truth is bitter.

Ní fiú scéal gan údar.
There's no worth to a story without an author.

Ní féidir an seanfhocal a shárú.
A proverb can not be refuted.

Young / Old

Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.
Praise a youth and she will come.

Is cum leis an óige cá leagann sí a cos.
Youth does not care where it sets its foot.

Is minic a rinne bromach gioblach capall cumasach.
A ragged colt often made a powerful horse.

Téann an saol thart mar bheadh eiteoga air agus cuireann gach aon Nollaig bliain eile ar do ghualainn.
Life goes by as if it had wings, and every Christmas puts another year on your shoulder.

Fiche bliain ag teacht,
Fiche bliain go maith,
Fiche bliain ag meath, is
Fiche bliain gan rath.

Twenty years coming,
Twenty years good,
Twenty years declining, and
Twenty years useless.

Industriousness / Laziness

Luigh leis an uan, agus éirigh leis an éan.
Lie with the lamb, and rise with the bird.

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

Ní chaitheann an chaint an t-éadach.
(The) talk doesn't wear the clothes.

Imíonn an tuirse ach fanann an tairbhe.
The tiredness leaves but the profit remains.

Ní sheasaíonn sac folamh.
An empty sack does not stand.

Gheibheann pingin pingin eile.
A penny gets another penny.

Gheibheann cos ar siúl rud éigin.
A moving leg gets something.

An té nach gcuireann san earrach ní bhaineann sé san fhómhar.
Whoever does not plant in the spring does not reap in the fall.

Éist le fuaim na habhann agus gheobhfaidh tú breac.
Listen to the sound of the river and you will get a trout.

An rud a théann i bhfad, téann sé i bhfuaire.
What drags on grows cold.

The Bigger World

The ancient greeks coined the word "philosopher" for one who loves the truth about the bigger world. Truth has a similar hold on Irish culture. For example, one way to say that a person has died in Irish is to say, "Tá sé in áit na fírinne anois." Literally this means, "He is in the place of truth now."

The Church

Bia is deoch i gcomhair na Nollaig; éadach nua i gcomhair na Cásca.
Food and drink for Christmas; new clothes for Easter.

D'áiteodh sé muc ar shagart (is banbh ar chléireach).
He could sell a priest a pig (and the parish clerk a piglet).

Ráithe ó Fhéile Mhichíl go Nollaig.
'Tis three months from the Feast of St. Michael to Christmas.

Deireadh gach soiscéal an t-airgead.
(At the) end of every gospel (is) a collection.

Ná bí róbheag is ná bí rómhór leis an gcléir.
Don't be too small and don't be too big with the clergy.

Craic / Good Times

Nuair a bhíonn an cat amuigh, bíonn an luch ag rince.
When the cat is outside, the mouse does be dancing.

Bíonn siúlach scéalach.
Travellers have tales to tell.

An té a thabharfas scéal chugat tabharfaidh sé dhá scéal uait.
Whoever will bring a story to you will take two stories from you.

Seacht seachtaine ramhra ó Shamhain go Nollaig.
Seven fat weeks from Samhain to Christmas.

Bíonn dhá insint ar scéal agus dhá leagan déag ar amhrán.
There are two versions to a story and twelve arrangements to a song.

God

Is giorra cabhair Dé ná an doras.
The help of God is closer than the door.

Níor dhún Dia doras riamh nár oscail Sé ceann eile.
God never closed one door without opening another.

Tá Dia láidir is máthair mhaith aige.
God is strong and He has a good mother.

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

Dia linn is deoch is ní ráibh mé riamh bocht.
God with us and a drink, and may I never be poor.

Freedom

Nuair a bhíonn an cat amuigh, bíonn an luch ag rince.
When the cat is outside, the mouse does be dancing.

Ag dul chun dlí leis an ndiabhal is an chúirt i n-ifreann.
Going to the law with the devil and the court is in hell.

The Irish Language

Is fearr Gaeilge bhriste, ná Béarla cliste.
Broken Irish is better than clever English.

Ní tír gan teanga.
There is no nation without a language.

Learning

Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir.
Time is a good storyteller.

Ní heolas go haontíos.
You must live with a person to know a person.

Is trom an t-ualach an t-aineaolas.
Ignorance is a heavy burden.

Opportunity

Ní fhanann trá le fear mall.
An ebb(tide) does not wait for a slow man.

Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb.
A windy day is not a day for thatching.

The Nation

Ní tír gan teanga.
There is no nation without a language.

Nature

Neantóg a dhóigh mé, copóg a leigheas mé.
A nettle burns (stings) me. Dock will cure me.

Fearthain don lao agus grian don tsearrach; uisce don gé agus déirc don bhacach.
Rain to the calf and sun to the foal; water to the goose and alms to the beggar(man).

Briseann an dúchas trí shúile an chait.
Heredity breaks out in the eyes of the cat.

Putóga dubha na bliana ó Nollaig go Lá Fhéile Bríde.
The darkest part of the year, from Christmas until the Feast of St. Bridgit.

Is treise dúchas ná oiliúint.
Instinct is stronger than upbringing.

An rud a ghoilleas ar an gcroí caithfidh an t-súil é a shileas.
What pains the heart must be washed away with tears.

Na trí cairde is fearr
agus na trí naimhde is measa:
tine, gaoth, is uisce.

The three best friends
and the three worst enemies:
fire, wind, and water.

Peace

Níor bhris focal maith fiacail riamh.
A good word never broke a tooth.

Right and Wrong

Filleann an feall ar an bhfeallaire.
The treachery returns to the betrayer.

Is fearr clú ná conach.
A good name is better than riches.

The Weather

Olc síon an sioc, is fearr sioc ná sneachta agus is fearr sneachta ná síorbháisteach.
Frost is bad weather,(but) frost is better than snow, and snow is better than eternal rain.

Is iomaí athrú a chuireann lá Márta dhe.
There is a lot of weather in a March day.

Ní hé lá na báistí lá na bpáistí.
The day of rain is not the day of children.

Is annamh earrach gan fuacht.
Seldom is Spring without cold.

Work

Bíonn gach tosach lag.
Every beginning is weak.

Is fearr obair ná caint.
Work is better than talk.

Buail an iarann te.
Strike the hot iron.

Ní bhíonn an rath, ach mara mbíonn an smacht.
There is no prosperity unless there is discipline.

Luigh leis an uan, agus éirigh leis an éan.
Lie with the lamb, and rise with the bird.

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

Ní neart go cur le chéile.
There is no strength without unity.

Imíonn an tuirse ach fanann an tairbhe.
The tiredness leaves but the profit remains.

Gheibheann pingin pingin eile.
A penny gets another penny.

Gheibheann cos ar siúl rud éigin.
A moving leg gets something.

Ní féidir leis an ngobadán an dá thrá a fhreastal.
The sandpiper can not attend to the two beaches (ebb-tides).

Cuid Pháidín don mheacain an t-eireaballín caol.
The slender little end is the smallest part of anything.

Ní dhéanfaidh smaoineamh an treabhadh duit.
You'll never plough a field turning it over in your mind.

An t-ualach is mó ar an gcapall is míne.
The heaviest load (is) on the gentlest horse.

Ní chruinníonn cloch reatha caonach.
A rolling stone gathers no moss.

Cleachtadh a dhéanann maistreacht.
Practice makes mastery.