This list of famous Irish sayings and proverbs will help you know Ireland a little better. The old Irish sayings give us an understanding of the way people think and what they value. If overused they can sound clichéd but used at the right moment, they can hit the nail on the head.
There are literally thousands of great sayings in Gaelic, some of which are now used commonly in English by Irish people, and some that just can't be captured in the same way in English.
The list of Gaelic Irish sayings that I have included below are ones that I consider well-known. It's a list that can be added to or changed, so if you have a favourite or one you consider should be on the list, please contact me.
A word of warning, I include an approximate pronunciation of each Irish saying or proverb. Just remember that 'ch' in Gaelic is like the 'ch' in 'loch', not as in chalk. If you can't manage that, pronounce as a 'k' to be understood.
Is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla clíste.
Iss faar Gay-el-geh brish-teh naw Bay-er-lah clish-teh
Broken Irish is better than clever English.
In Obama's Ireland Visit this May 2011, he spoke Gaelic and used this Irish saying 'Broken Irish is better than clever English.' This saying's message is 'Use whatever Gaelic you have, doesn't matter how poor.' You can see Obama's speech on Youtube
An té a luíonn le madaí, eiroidh sé le dearnaid.
On tay a lee-on le maw-dee aye-rogue shay le dar-nid.
He who lies down with dogs, gets up with fleas.(If you mix with the wrong company, you'll pay for it.)
Is minic a bhris béal duine a shrón.
Iss min-ick a vrish bay-al din-eh a hrone.
Many a time a man's mouth broke his nose.
Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.
Err scawh a ch(k)ale-ah a wir-enn na dee-neh.
Under the shelter of each other, people survive.
Cuir síoda ar ghabhar ach is gabhar i gcónaí é.
Kwir shee-id-ah ar gow-er awch(k) is gow-er i go-nee aye
Dress a goat in silk and he still remains a goat = You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
Níl saoi gan locht.
Neel see gon luch(k)t
There's not a wise man without fault.(We have all got our weaknesses)
Is olc an ghaoth nach séideann do dhuine éigin.
Is ulk an gway noch(k) shay-dan do gwin-eh aye-gan.
It is a bad wind that does not blow (bring good) to somebody. (No matter how bad something that happens, someone will benefit.)
Filleann an feall ar an bhfeallaire.
Fill-en an fyal er on vee-yowl-er-eh
The bad deed returns on the bad-deed doer.
Is ait an mac an saol.
Iss att on moc an say-ol.
Life is strange.
An rud is annamh is iontach.
On rud iss an-niv is ee-on-tach(k)
The thing that's seldom is wonderful.
Ní neart go cur le chéile.
Nee nyart guh cur leh ch (k)ay-leh
There's strength in unity.
Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile.
Ah-hneen kee-rogue kee-rogue el-eh.
It takes one to know one.
An té a bhíónn siúlach, bíonn scéalach.
On tay a vee-on shoo-loch(k), bee-on skay-loch(k)
He who travels has stories to tell.
Dá fhada an lá tagann an tráthnóna.
Daw aw-dah on law tog-ann an traw-no-nah.
No matter how long the day, the evening comes. (No matter how bad things are, they will end)
Inis do Mháire i gcógar é, is inseoidh Máire do phóbal é.
In-ish duh War-eh ih gug-ar aye, iss in-show-ig
Tell something to Mary in confidence and she will tell the whole parish. (People can't keep secrets.)
Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.
Neel ane tin-tawn mor duh hin-tawn fayne.
There's no fireplace like your own fireplace. = There's no place like home.
Níl aon tóin tinn mar do thóin tinn féin.
Neel ane tone-tine mor duh hone-tine fayne.
There's no sore ass like your own sore ass.
(Really just a funny word play on the famous Irish saying immediately above)
Bíonn adharca fada ar na ba thar lear.
Bee-on ire-cah faw-dah ar na bah hawr lahr.
Far away cows have long horns.= Far away hills are greener.
Ní dhéanfadh an saol capall rása d'asal.
Nee yane-hog on say-ol kop-al raw-sah dih-aw-sal
Nobody can make a racehorse out of a donkey.=You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear
An té nach bhfuil láidir, ní foláir dó bheith glic.
On tay noch(k) will law-dir, nee foh-lawr doh veh glick.
He who is not strong must be clever.
Is treise an dúchas ná an oiliúint.
Iss tre-shah on doo-ch(k)ass naw an ill-oonch
Nature is stronger than nurture.
Ní huasal ná íseal, ach thuas seal is thíos seal.
Nee hoo-sal naw ee-shal, och(k) shal iss he-oss shal.
Neither noble nor lowly, but up for a while and down for a while (It doesn't matter who you are, you will have your ups and downs)
Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.
Mull on owe-geh og-uss chuck-hig she
Praise youthfulness and it will respond to you. (Encourage young people and they will get there.)
Ní thagann ciall roimh aois.
Nee hog-ann kee-al riv eesh
Sense does not come before age (or Sense comes with age)
Tús maith leath na hoibre.
Toose mawh lah na hib-reh
A good start is half the work.
Ní bhíonn an rath ach mar a mbíonn an smacht.
Nee vee-on on rah och(k) mor a mee-on on smockt.
Theres' no prosperity without discipline/control.
Is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte.
Iss fahr an tlawn-teh naw na tawn-teh.
Health is better than wealth.
Is fearr rith maith ná drochsheasamh.
Iss fahr rih mawh naw druch(k)-hyah-sav.
A good run is better than a bad stand.=He who runs away, lives to fight another day.
Nuair a bhíonn an fíon istigh, bíonn an ciall amuigh.
Nuh-ar a vee-on fee-on iss-chih, vee-on an keel am-wih.
When the wine is in, sense is out (There's no sense to someone who's drunk)
Ní lia duine ná barúil.
Nee lee-ah din-eh naw bah-rule
There are as many people as opinions. (There'll aways be disagreements)
Má tá tú ag lorg cara gan locht, béidh tú gan cara go deo.
Maw taw too egg lor-ig kaw-rah gan luch(k), beg too gon kaw-rah guh jo.
If you're looking for a friend without a fault, you will be without a friend for ever.
Ná lagadh Dia do lámh.
Naw la-gah Dee-ah duh lawve
May God never weaken your hand (when someone has done you a kindness or a favour)
Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras.
Iss maw on tan-lan on tuc-rass.
Hunger is a good sauce. (When you're hungry, you'll eat anything!)
Is binn béal ina thost.
Iss bin bayl in-ah hust.
It's a sweet mouth that is quiet.= Silence is golden.
Is giorra cabhair Dé ná an doras.
Iss gyur-rah cow-er Day naw an dur-ass.
God's help is nearer than the door. (you only have to ask for it)
Bíonn blas ar an mbeagán.
Bee-on bloss err on myah-gon
Though a small amount, it's tasty.
Níor bhris focal maith fiacal riamh.
Nee-er vrish fuck-al maw fee-kal reeve.
A good word never broke a tooth. (A kind/encouraging word never did any harm)
Is fada an bóthar nach mbíonn casadh ann.
Iss faw-dah on boh-har noch(k) me-on caw-sah ann.
It's a long road that has no turning. (Things never go completely smoothly or badly)
Dia idir sinn agus an t-olc.
Dee-ah id-ir shin og-uss on tulk.
God between us and all harm. (when you hear bad news)
Níl luibh ná leigheas in aghaidh an bháis.
Neel luv naw lie-iss in igue on vawsh
There is no remedy or cure against death
Ní heolas go haontíos.
Nee ho-lass guh hay-on-tee-os.
You must live with a person to know a person.
Is minic a rinne bromach gioblach capall
Iss min-ick ah rin-neh brum-ach(k) cah-pawl kum-oss-ach(k)
A raggy colt often made a powerful horse.
Tá onóir ag an aois agus uaisle ag an óige
Tah on-ower egg on eesh ogg-uss ush-le egg on owe-egg-eh
Age is honorable and youth is noble
Ní mhaireann rith maith ag an each i gcónaí
Nee wir-enn rih mah egg an ahch(k) ih go-nee
The steed does not keep his speed forever.
Síleann do chara agus do namhad nach bhfaighidh tú bás choíche.
Sheel-an duh ch(k)awr-ah ogg-uss duh now-ad nawch(k) vy-ig too bawss ch(k)wee-ch(k)eh
Both your friend and your enemy thing that you will never die.
Maireann an chraobh ar an bhfál ach ní mhaireann an lámh do chuir
Mir-enn on ch(k)ray-ov er on vol och(k) nee mwir-enn on lawve duh ch(k)wir.
The branch lives on the hedge but the hand that planted it be dead.
An old Irish saying reminding us of our mortality and that our work can live on despite it.
Súil le cúiteamh a mhilleas an cearrbhach.
Su-ell leh koo-it-av ah vill-ass on ky-ar-vaw-ch
Hoping to recoup is what ruins the cardplayer.
Another old Irish saying warning us of the danger and foolishness of gambling
A bad egg, a bad bird.
If the child is bad, blame the parent!
Ní thuigeann an sách an seang.
Nee hig-ann on sawch(k) on shang
The well-fed does not understand the lean.
A Irish proverb in Gaelic that I love for its succintness. Those who have, have no understanding of those who have not.
An té a thabharfas scéal chugat tabharfaidh sé dhá scéal uait.
On tay a hoo-rass skay-al ch(k)oo-at too-rig shay gaw skay-al oo-at
The person who comes with a story to you will bring two away from you.
One of many Gaelic sayings reminding us of the dangers of gossip.
If you want to learn More Gaelic Sayings and Proverbs, the just click on the link for lots of other great ones.
Try our Funny Irish Sayings page for some witty and quirky Gaelic Sayings.
If you feel like getting the Irish take on romance, make sure to visit our Irish Love Sayings page which includes Irish Wedding Sayings, Irish Valentine's Day expressions and some funny Irish sayings about marriage.
If you are looking for an Irish Birthday toast or Irish Birthday blessing clickright here on link.
And how about listening to some Famous Irish Songs.
The Irish way with words extends to curses. Check out the power and humour of Irish Curses, not always for the faint-hearted.Gaelic Matters >Irish Sayings