Can you come up with several Irish proverbs if we give you the words like misty spring, misty winter, pleasant winter, pleasant spring or quick death? In this blog post, you will learn some amazing proverbs including the words like a small boat, cold pint, pretty girl, heaven accept, long life, and a merry one, etc which are really weird words on their own to improve your Irish language learning.
A proverb is an insightful and wise saying or expression that dictates a perceived commonplace truth based on the experience of common sense of people. Proverbs are called seanfhocal in Gaelic language (language spoken in Ireland), which means “old word“.
Is The Irish Language Rich With Proverbs?
Gaeilge remained the native language of the people of Ireland for several centuries; thus, they have quite a rich history of proverbs. The British enforced English throughout Ireland when it was colonized. Most people adopted English as their primary source of communication and slowly it was incorporated into every sector of society, thus making it the first language of the Melanesian people.
The Gaelic Revival
Irish people started reviving their traditional language in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The focus was given to reviving the older traditions of their ancestors like folklore, sports, cultures, values, music, and of course the language.
The revival sparked a renewed interest in people in their indigenous language. The period is generally known as “The Gaelic Revival” (Athbheocha na Gaeilge). They focus on analyzing oral traditions and collecting Irish sayings, native expressions, and phrases.
Like the languages of the other countries, proverbs of the Irish language also contain elements of wisdom about norms, beliefs, culture, and lives of the people to an extent that these reflect the indigenous traditions as they are inspired and generated from the different aspects of society.
Classification Of Irish Proverbs
Irish proverbs are related to different aspects of society and life therefore these can be classified into different categories like Irish proverbs relating to blessings, curses, family, friendship, life, hardships, etc. Famous Irish proverbs have been described as under.
Proverbs about Irish blessings, e.g god bless, include the contents of blessings, well wishes, and prayers that people give to their loved ones. An Irish birth is considered the most sacred when followed by all your wishes.
These blessings are most pronounced on Saint Patrick’s day. Some of the examples of blessings are as follows
“B’fhéidir nach mbeidh an lá is brónach de do thodhchaí níos measa ná an lá is sona de do shaol.”
May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.
It is an Irish proverb that implies that the worst of your future is better than the best of the past. It is usually used to wish the married couple a happy life ahead.
“Go mbeadh meas ag comharsana ort, déan faillí ort, cosnaíonn na haingil tú, agus ar neamh glacadh leat.”
May neighbors respect you, trouble neglect you, The angels protect you, and heaven accepts you.
These expressions encompass every kind of blessing that a person wishes to have i.e, respect, troubleless life, protection, and acceptance of heaven.
“Go n-éirí an bóthar leat.”
May the road rise up to meet you.
In this Irish proverb, the road symbolizes the journey of one’s life and rising to meet refers to being safe from the possible troubles that one might face.
“Ná fásfaidh insí ár gcairdeas meirgeach riamh!”
May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty!
When hinges get rusty the joint is likely to be broken. So, here it is a form of prayer and wishes that a friendship may not end.
“Go mbeadh do theach ró-bheag i gcónaí chun do chairde go léir a shealbhú.”
May your home always be too small to hold all your friends
This Irish proverb is a wish for being blessed with a large number of friends. Having sincere and honest friends is considered a blessing.
Like a blessing, there are also instances of Irish sayings about curses. Some of the instances are as follows:
“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.
A person pronounces this Irish proverb when he wants the enemy to be dead (go to hell). It is a curse as he wants his enemy to be eaten by the cat and the devil to eat them both.
“Ná hith naimhde na hÉireann arán ná ní ólann siad fuisce, ach bí cráite le itching gan tairbhe scríobtha.”
May the enemies of Ireland never eat bread nor drink whisky, but be tormented with itching without the benefit of scratching.
Bread and whiskey are key elements of Irish food and they consider these ingredients as blessings. Wish for their enemies deprived of blessings has been imparted in this Irish proverb. It is a prayer for continuous torment without resolution.
“Go leanfaidh mí-ádh ort an chuid eile de do shaol, agus nach ngabhfaidh tú suas riamh.”
May misfortune follow you the rest of your life, and never catch up.
This Irish proverb is used when one does not want the enemy to enjoy the fortune and blessings of life.
Irish Sayings on Friendship
Irish proverbs on friendship are:
“An té a chailleann airgead, cailleann sé mórán; an té a chailleann cara, cailleann sé níos mó; an té a chailleann creideamh, cailleann sé gach rud.”
He who loses money loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; he who loses faith loses all.
Faith is the most important factor in one’s life if one loses faith he is left with nothing. Friendship is more important than money or wealth as losing money is not much.
“Is maith an scathan suil charad.”
A friend’s eye is a good mirror.
A mirror shows you what you are, similarly, a real friend is honest with you, shows you what you are, and gives an honest opinion.
“Tá cara maith cosúil le seamair ceithre duilleog.”
A good friend is like a four-leaf clover
A simile has been crafted between four-leaf clovers and friends i.e., good friends are very rare and the person who has a good friend is very lucky.
Irish Sayings On Basic Necessities
Irish proverbs on food, health, and money are as under:
“Is fearr airgead a chaitheamh mar níl amárach ná anocht a chaitheamh mar níl aon airgead ann!”
Tis better to spend money like there’s no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there’s no money!
It sparks upon the importance of time and money and depicts the uncertainty of the future. One should do the desirable things in the present rather than delay for the future as the future is uncertain.
“Is fearr cábán le neart bia ná caisleán ocrach.”
A cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle.
It means that a small house with blessings is better than a palace without the basics of life. A person with a beautiful soul is better than one with a good appearance, another connotation of this Irish proverb.
“Is fearr an búistéir a íoc ná an dochtúir”
It is better to pay the butcher than the doctor
Good food brings good health and bad food leads to bad health. Therefore, it is better to have good food and spend the money as poor health problems will consume more money.
“Is é gáire maith agus codladh fada an dá leigheas is fearr.”
A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.
This phrase describes sleep and laughter as two infallible tools to clear our minds. A good laugh and adequate sleep are the best cures for stress and good for emotional and physical health.
“Tá sé chomh furasta slaghdán a ghabháil i gcaisleán rí agus atá i bhfollán aoire.”
It’s as easy to catch a cold in a King’s castle as in a shepherd’s hut
This Irish proverb imparts that one has to face the crisis and trials no matter how wealthy he is. Wealth is no guarantee of an easy life.
“Is cuma cé mhéad seomra atá agat i do theach, níl tú in ann codladh ach i leaba amháin.”
This idiom talks about the basic necessities of one’s life. Anything more than the need of a person is useless.
Irish Proverbs On The Nature Of People
Proverbs on the nature of people include:
“Glacann fear críonna comhairle.”
Beware of the anger of a patient man.
This phrase is advice to be careful of the fury and anger of the person who is otherwise accommodating and calm.
“Is iad na muca ciúine a itheann an mhin.”
It’s the quiet pigs who eat the meal.
This phrase means that the people who don’t talk much, do more.
“Tá gach fear sóisialta go dtí go ndéanann bó ionradh ar a ghairdín”
Every man is sociable until a cow invades his garden.
This refers to the fact that everything goes on smoothly until there is a problem. It also infers that a person shows his darker side if something gets against their liking.
“Is chun a leasa féin é go nglanann an cat.”
It’s for her own good that the cat purrs.
Cats are known to purr when they are happy and feel elated. It is an expression of showing contentment. Metaphorically speaking it means that a person shows content and emotion for one’s own good.
“Ní sheasann mála folamh”
An empty sack does not stand
Empty sack refers to poor people, hungry, dishonesty, ignorance, and buffers. So the meaning that it conveys is that ignorance, buffers, and dishonesty have short lives and will be found out. Similarly, poor and hungry people cannot stand long and survive.
Other Irish Proverbs And Advice
Advice is given in many proverbs which are as follows.
“Is fearr tine beag a théamh ná tine mhór a dhóitear.”
A little fire that warms is better than a big fire that burns.
It gives advice that if a person can feel gratitude for a little number of blessings or desirable things he has, he should not have the greed for more.
“Is minic a bhris béal duine a shrón.”
It’s often a person’s mouth broke his nose.
It warns you to think before you speak as you might have to pay the price. Sometimes things are better left unsaid as if spoken wrong, it can lead to undesirable results.
“Ná olc ag dul in aois. Diúltaítear an phribhléid do go leor acu.”
Do not resent growing old. Many are denied the privilege.
This Irish proverb describes old age as a privilege and blessing than something to be resentful about. A person should be taking this as a gift and many people cannot live longer lives.
“Ní gá eagla a bheith ar an droch ghaoth má tá do chruach féar ceangailte.”
There’s no need to fear the ill wind if your haystacks are tied down.
If you are ready and made the preparation when there is no need to worry about the problems. Unpleasant events cannot do you any wrong if you are strong.
“Ná scald do liopaí riamh le leite fear eile.”
Never scald your lips with another man’s porridge.
The meaning of this expression withholds is to mind your own business. It also says that it is not likable to interfere in another person’s matters.
“Ná bolt do dhoras riamh le cairéad bruite”
Never bolt your door with a boiled carrot
It states that a person should be careful and be prepared beforehand so that he might avoid potential future problems. A metaphor has been used here to refer to avoiding unstable, unrealistic, and misplanned preparations.
“Glac bog an saol agus glacfaidh an saol bog tú.”
Take the world nice and easy, and the world will take you the same.
The simplest explanation can be to do good and get good or you will reap what you sow.
“Níl aon rud chomh dona nach bhféadfadh sé a bheith níos measa”
There is nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse
It refers to the fact that there is always room to get worse so one should not let his guard down and be careful. Similarly, anything gets better and one should strive for it.
“Is é Hindsight an léargas is fearr ar fadbhreathnú”
Hindsight is the best insight to foresight
It implies that the experience that you get from the past helps avoid potential future mistakes.
“Níor bhris focal maith fiacal riamh”
A good word never broke a tooth.
The expression means that kindness is always fruitful and one’s affection does no harm.
“Caithfidh tú do chuid féin a dhéanamh ag fás, is cuma cé chomh hard agus a bhí do sheanathair.”
You’ve got to do your own growing, not matter how tall your grandfather was.
One has to harvest for himself to grow as you will reap what you show. Therefore, success is never guaranteed and one should put effort into himself rather than relying on others.
“Giorraíonn beirt bóthar.”
Two people shorten the road
This Irish proverb is a metaphoric expression that means that the company makes the journey (physical journey or life) easier as time passes by quickly.
“Is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla clíste.”
Broken Irish is better than clever English
This proverb is a tool of encouragement for people to prefer speaking Irish over English. Even if your skills in Irish are weak, it is still better to speak your own language rather than a foreign language (English).
“Níochán uaigneach é nach bhfuil léine fear ann.”
It’s a lonely washing that has no man’s shirt in it.
A man’s shirt refers to the husband and life of a woman so clothes without a man’s shirt mean that the woman does not have a man at her house and she is lonely.
“Is furasta a bheith taitneamhach nuair a shreabhann an saol mar amhrán. Ach is fiú an fear an té a fhéadann aoibh gháire a dhéanamh nuair a théann gach rud marbh mícheart”
It’s easy to be pleasant when life flows by like a song. But the man worthwhile is the one who can smile when everything goes dead wrong.
The real man is the one who remains positive and keeps smiling in times of extreme crisis and problems rather than enjoying an easy life.
“Is é an taithí an cíor a thugann an saol d’fhear maol”
Experience is the comb that life gives a bald man
This Irish proverb implies that by the time a person gets knowledgeable about something, he has already lost the opportunity to use it for himself.
Proverbs are emblems of wise people, cultures, and lives of nations, arguments of wisdom, maxims of sacred truth, the allusion to poetry, and rules of instruction which are examples of virtue for the people to follow.
Ireland has very rich traditions of Irish proverbs as these encompass almost every sector of life like religion, food, health, poverty, wealth, etc. Irish culture primarily focuses on unity and solidarity thus proverbs on relationships like friendship and household relations and advice are quite large in number.
Proverbs relating to Saint Patrick’s day which include blessings are of prime importance as these are just well wishes for the loved one. The content of these proverbs implies that Irish people were well-read, and wise with positive attitudes and thoughts towards life, giving value to their culture, focusing on relationships rather than money, and humble enough to be happy with the basic necessities without having the greed for more.