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Ireland is a country with a unique language that existed even before English was spoken, making the Irish a proud keeper of traditions and culture. Their love for storytelling and their language is evident in the natural way they have with words. It is no wonder that quite a few of the world’s most famous authors and poets were Irish.
Proverbs are snippets of wisdom that every culture, community and language have. These Irish proverbs are as old as time and as wise as it gets. Being short and sweet, the Irish proverbs are popular expressions that continue to motivate, inspire, and teach.
Here are some old Irish Proverbs with their meanings for you to ponder upon.
Proverbs in Irish
1. Giorraíonn beirt bóthar. – Two people shorten the road.
Companions make any journey worth taking, whether it’s your family, your friends or even a kind stranger you meet on the way. They not only enrich our travel experience but also make it far more enjoyable and make you lose track of time.
2. Cuir an breac san eangach sula gcuire tú sa phota é. – Put the trout in the net before you put it in the pot.
This proverb is a warning to always do things one step at a time. Sometimes when you focus on everything at once, you may feel like you’ll never finish the task at hand. We need to do things conscientiously and take one step at a time, otherwise it may not work.
3. An lao ite i mbolg na bó – Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched
This is an important lesson in life to not be overconfident in the things you are doing before they are completed, and all your plans have come to fruitation. Our overconfidence may blind us from being careful.
4. Glacann fear críonna comhairle. – A wise man accepts advice.
Only a fool thinks they are above the advice of others who are far more experienced than them. Although you need to make your decisions yourself, it is always good to heed the advice of those who have gone through the same so you can avoid the mistakes they made.
5. Is í an chiall cheannaigh an chiall is fear – Sense bought dearly is the best kind.
Lessons learnt by making mistakes are the best ones in life and you must always cherish them. These lessons are learnt the hardest way, but you will never learn a lesson better in any other way. So, remember to value them throughout your life.
6. Is minic a bhris béal duine a shorn – It is often that a person’s mouth breaks his nose.
This is a wise Irish saying which means that you need to always be careful of what you say and think before you speak. Words are powerful tools that can incite people and they unthoughtful and insensitive words spoken can easily get a person in trouble.
7. Cuir síoda ar ghabhar – is gabhar fós é – Put silk on a goat, it’s still a goat.
This Irish saying means that there is no point in trying to dress up or disguise something worthless, like a lie, since no matter what you do, underneath it all, it is still worthless. This is similar to the English saying, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
8. Dá fheabhas é an t-ól is é an tart a dheireadh – As good as the drink is, it ends in thirst.
This proverb is similar in meaning to the saying ‘the grass is greener on the other side’. Some people are never satisfied with what they have and are always worried about what they don’t have. We must learn to appreciate and always be grateful for what we have rather than focus on what we don’t.
9. Imíonn an tuirse is fanann an tairbhe. – Tiredness goes away and the benefit remains.
When the work you are doing is extremely gruesome and hard, the rewards for finishing it is going to be just as good. So, the Irish want you to keep in mind that you can rest when the work is done as all the benefits are waiting to be reaped and enjoyed.
10. Mura gcuirfidh tú san earrach ní bhainfidh tú san fhómhar. – If you do not sow in the spring, you will not reap in the autumn.
Through this proverb, the Irish emphasize on the importance of planning towards your success. To reap what you sow, you need to first put in the effort to sow. This needs to be done with proper planning.
11. Glac bog an saol agus glacfaidh an saol bog tú. – Take the world nice and easy, and the world will take you the same.
You always get what you put in. The world responds to your mindset and your behavior. So always be mindful of your thoughts and actions as they will be reflected in how people around you and the world as a whole will treat you.
12. Is iad na muca ciúine a itheann an mhin. – It’s the quiet pigs who eat the meal.
Those do the most are always the quiet ones, as they do not feel compelled to boast about their accomplishments. While, on the other hand, those who only boast do so due to their inferiority complex and are likely to have accomplished very little. So, choose wisely who you want to be.
13. Glacann fear críonna comhairle. – Beware the anger of a patient man.
This is a warning to not push even the most patient or accommodating person so far that even they cannot contain their anger.
14. Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb. – The windy day is not the day for thatching.
While the literal meaning is a practical and realistic view, since fixing your roof on a windy day is almost impractical, this proverb also gives the lesson that never leave things or procrastinate until the last minute, as things don’t go as planned.
15. Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat – May the cat eat you, and may the devil eat the cat.
This is an Irish curse reserved for the worst of the worst enemies hoping they go to hell. It is a wish that your enemy gets eaten by a cat and to ensure they never return, the devil in turn eats the cat and your enemy never escapes hell.
Irish Proverbs in English
1. The best things in life are the people we love, the places we have been and the memories we have made along the way.
Our treasures in life are never the things we buy or the wealth we acquire. But in fact, it is the people we surround ourselves with who love us, the places and cultures we explore while traveling and all the memories we make with our loved ones and in all our journeys. The Irish knew that the secret to happiness lies not in being materialistic but in cherishing our experiences and memories.
2. A good friend is like a four-leaf clover, hard to find and lucky to have.
Just like the lucky four-leaved clover of the legend, which are extremely hard to find but bring you luck once found, a good friend is similar. So, make sure that even if you lose a four-leaf clover, never lose that good friend who stayed with you through all think and thin.
3. Don’t become broke by trying to look rich.
The Irish knew the significance of living within your means and being happy with what you have. Although we may not admit it, we all like to prove to others of all the good things we have. But in the process of trying to look rich, you may end up losing everything. Never spend what you don’t have.
4. Many a ship is lost within sight of the harbor.
This proverb is a fair warning to never let your guard down even when safety seems to be just within reach.
5. You’ve got to do your own growing no matter how tall your father was.
We may take pride in the position that our parents have attained in life. But we need to keep in mind that they did so by working hard. While we can be proud of their success, never take it to be your own success.
6. A family of Irish birth will argue and fight, but let a shout come from without, and see them all unite.
This sweet proverb shows the pride and unity of an Irish family. All may not be peaceful within the family with arguments and fights between the members, but when the time comes, they will always have each other’s backs and unite to fight back with any outsider.
7. It is better to be a coward for a minute than dead the rest of your life.
While bravery is a trait that is highly esteemed, there are certain moments when it is cowardice that saves your life. Not being brave and taking that step may very well be your saving grace. You only get to live once, so being careful doesn’t mean you are afraid.
8. What butter and whiskey won’t cure, there is no cure for.
This proverb not only show how passionate the Irish are about their Whiskey but is in fact reflective of the Gaelic philosophy of healing. During times when modern medicines were not yet developed, the only way to cure diseases were by homemade recipes that were made with things easily available.
9. Life is like a cup of tea, it’s all in how you make it!
This is the Irish way of saying that your life and your fate are in your hands, they will depend on how you make the most of it. It is up to you to make it as sweet and flavorful as you can with your experiences and your mindset.
10. If you’re enough lucky to be Irish… You’re lucky enough!
Well, this needs no explanation, this proverb of the Irish is enough to show the world what a jovial bunch of people the Irish are. Lucky indeed are those who are Irish.
11. A face without freckles is like a sky without stars.
Do you have some freckles on your face and don’t like them? Here is the Irish proverb showing you how beautiful and necessary they are.
12. You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
The Irish through this proverb emphasize on the importance of taking action. Just thinking of ideas and not implementing them will get you nowhere. The first step to making dreams come true is to act on the thoughts and ideas you have.
13. However long the day, the evening will come.
This is an Irish reminder to those going through hard times that the end will always come. No matter what hardship you go through, there will always be light across the tunnel and eventually everything will take its due course. What is important is to be patient and go through every obstacle with the end in sight. It’s also a reminder that life is short, and that the end will come. So, it’s important to live it to the fullest.
14. May today be better than yesterday, but, not as good as tomorrow.
An Irish blessing which signifies optimism. Through the optimistic mindset, everyday will be better than the last but with the hope that the next day will be the best yet to come.
15. What a sober man has in his heart, the drunk has on his lips.
The Irish are known to be great drinkers and this proverb is associated with one of the features of it. What the proverb means is that when a person drinks all their inhibitions are lost and anything kept bottled up in their hearts all come spilling out.
Whenever you are unmotivated or feeling down, these Irish proverbs from centuries ago are sure to lift your spirits and leave you feeling optimistic for the future. So, make sure to use these titbits of Irish wisdom in your daily life to lead your best life yet!