Irish Proverbs and Sayings

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

A boys best friend is his mother and there’s no spancel stronger than her apron string.

A buckle is a great addition to an old shoe.

A closed mouth – a wise head.

A dishonest woman can’t be kept in and an honest woman won’t.

A drink precedes a story.

A fool and his money are easily parted.

A foolish woman knows a foolish man’s faults.

A friend’s eye is a good mirror.

A golden ring can tie a man as tight as any chain.

A good beginning is half the work.

A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.

A greyhound finds food in its feet.

A guest should be blind in another man’s house.

A handstaff of holly, a buailtin of hazel,a single sheaf and a clean floor.

A heavy purse makes a light heart.

A hen is heavy when carried far.

A hound’s food is in its legs.

A hut is a palace to a poor man.

A Kerry shower is of twenty-four hours.

A king’s son is not nobler than his food.

A life making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing at all.

A list full of gain and a village full of shame.

A little dog can start a hare, but it takes a big one to catch it.

A little of anything isn’t worth a pin; but a wee bit of sense is worth a lot.

A little pleases a poor man.

A live dog is better than a dead lion.

A lock is better than suspicion.

A loud voice can make even the truth sound foolish.

A man is no more encumbered by his soul than the steed by his bridle or the lake by the swan.

A man is shy in another man’s corner.

A man may be his own ruin.

A man may live after losing his life but not after losing his honour.

A man of one cow – a man of no cow.

A man who holds good cards would never say if they were dealt wrong.

A man with a loud laugh makes truth itself seem folly, Truth is great and will win out.

A meeting in sunlight is lucky, and a burying in the rain.

A misty winter brings a pleasant spring, a pleasant winter a misty spring.

A narrow neck keeps the bottle from being emptied in one swig.

A nod is as good as a wink to a blind donkey.

A poem ought to be well made at first, for there is many a one to spoil it afterwards.

A postponement till morning A postponement for ever.

A promise is a debt.

A ring on a good woman’s finger is no good without a blouse on her back.

A scholars ink lasts longer than a martyrs blood.

A secret is a weapon and a friend.

A shamefaced man seldom acquires wealth.

A short visit is best and that not too often.

A shrew gets her wish but suffers in the getting.

A silent mouth is musical.

A silent mouth is sweet to hear.

A silent mouth never did any harm.

A sly rogue is often in good dress.

A smokey cabin, a handful of spuds and a flea-filled bed.

A soft dropping April brings milk to cows and sheep.

A spender gets the property of the hoarder.

A story without an author is not worth listening to.

A trade not properly learned is an enemy.

A trout in the pot is better than a salmon in the sea.

A turkey never voted for an early Christmas.

A watched kettle never boils.

A wedge from itself splits the oak tree.

A welcome is a debtor’s face.

A whistling woman and a crowing hen will bring no luck to the house they are in.

A wild goose never reared a tame gosling.

A windy day is the wrong one for thatching.

A wise head keeps a shut mouth.

A woman can beat the devil.

A woman like a goat, a woman of rushing visits.

A woman like a goose, a sharp pecking woman.

A woman like a lamb, a quiet friendly woman.

A woman like a pig, a sleepy-headed woman.

A woman like a sheep, an affable friendly woman.

A woman like a sickle, a strong stubborn woman.

A woman without is she who has neither pipe nor child.

A wren in the hand is better than a crane to be caught.

About evening a man is known.

After the gathering comes the scattering.

Age is honorable and youth is noble.

All happy endings are beginnings as well.

All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.

An excuse is nearer to a woman than her apron.

An eye is blind in another man’s corner.

An old broom knows the dirty corners best.

Any man can lose his hat in a fairy- wind.

Any man who owns a cow can always find a woman to milk her.

As honest as a cat when the meat is out of reach.

As the big hound is, so will the pup be.

As the old cock crows the young cock learns.

Autumn days come quickly like the running of a hound on the moor.

Be kind to those that meet you as you rise, you may pass them again as you fall.

Be neither intimate nor distant with the clergy.

Be there with the day and be gone with the day.

Beef to the heels like a Mullingar heifer.

Better an idle house than a bad tenant.

Better April showers than the breadth of the ocean in gold.

Better be sparing at first than at last.

Better for a man to have even a dog welcome him than a dog bark at him

Better good manners than good looks.

Better is the trouble that follows death than the trouble that follows shame.

Better own a trifle than want a great deal.

Better sit beside him than in his place.

Better the certainty of the straddle than the mere loan of a saddle.

Better the trouble that follows death than the trouble that follows shame.

Big bellies were never generous.

Big men are not the only kind that can reap a harvest.

Both your friend and your enemy think you will never die.

By degrees the castles are built.

Castles were built a stone at a time.

Constant company wears out its welcome.

Discord is less painful than loneliness.

Do it as if there was fire in your skin.

Do not be talkative in an alehouse.

Do not keep your tongue under your belt.

Do not mistake a goats beard for a fine stallions tail.

Don’t be ever in court or a castle without a woman to make your excuse.

Don’t bid the devil good day till you meet him.

Don’t bless the fish till it gets to the land.

Don’t build the sty until the litter comes.

Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.

Don’t go early or late to the well.

Don’t let your tongue cut your throat.

Don’t mention him and a decent man in the one day.

Don’t rest your eyes beyond what is your own.

Don’t say everything you want to say lest you hear something you would not like to hear.

Don’t tell secrets to the children of your relatives.

Don’t tell your complaint to one who has no pity.

Don’t tell your secret even to a fence.

Don’t throw out the dirty water until you have the clean water in.

Drink is the curse of the land. It makes you fight with your neighbour. It makes you shoot at your landlord and it makes you miss him.

Drunkenness and anger, ’tis said tell the truth.

E ight lives for the men and nine for the women.

Even a small thorn causes festering.

Even a tin knocker shines on a dirty door.

Even black hens lay white eggs.

Even the truth may be bitter.

Every bird as it is reared and the lark for the bog.

Every patient is a doctor after his cure.

Everyone is wise till he speaks.

Everyone lays a burden on the willing horse.

Everyone praises his native land.

Everything dear is a woman’s fancy.

Everything troubles you and the cat breaks your heart.

F air words never fed a friar.

Fat is not to be had without labour.

Fences (ditches) have ears.

Firelight will not let you read fine stories but its warm and you wont see the dust on the floor.

Food is no more important than wisdom, The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God.

For what cannot be cured, patience is best.

Forgetting a debt doesn’t mean it’s paid.

G od is good, but never dance in a small boat.

Going in is not the same as going out.

Good as drink is, it ends in thirst.

Great mansions have slippery doors.

Great talk and little action.

Half a loaf is better than no bread.

Handfuls make a load.

Have it yourself, or else do without it.

He couldn’t drag a herring off the coals.

He dotes on his midden and thinks it the moon.

He got it from nature as the pig got the rooting in the ground.

He knows how many grains to a bushel of wheat.

He knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

He may die of wind but he’ll never die of wisdom.

He thinks that he himself is the very stone that was hurled at the castle.

He was never good since the time a yard (of cloth) made a coat for him.

He who comes with a story to you brings two away from you.

He who gets a name for early rising can stay in bed until midday.

He who is best for me is he who shall get the best share.

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

He who spies is the one who kills.

He’d offer you an egg if you promised not to break the shell.

Here’s to a long life and a merry one. A quick death and an easy one. A pretty girl and an honest one. A cold pint and another one!

Here’s to me, and here’s to you. And here’s to love and laughter. I’ll be true as long as you. And not one moment after.

Here’s to women’s kisses, and to whiskey, amber clear. Not as sweet as a woman’s kiss, but a darn sight more sincere!

He’s more to be pitied than laughed at.

His own wound is what everyone feels soonest.

Honey is sweet, but don’t lick it off a briar.

Humor to a man is like a feather pillow. It is filled with what is easy to get but gives great comfort.

Idleness is a fool’s desire.

If a cat had a dowry, she would often be kissed.

If a rogue deceives me once, shame on him. If he deceives me twice, shame on me.

If it’s a secret, it’s binding.

If it’s drowning you’re after, don’t torment yourself with shallow water.

If it’s got badly, it’ll go badly.

If the knitter is weary, the baby will have no new bonnet.

If you buy what you don’t need you might have to sell what you do.

If you come up in this world be sure not to go down in the next.

If you do not sow in the spring you will not reap in the autumn.

If you don’t know the way, walk slowly.

If you don’t want flour on your shoes, don’t go into the mill.

If you have a roving eye, it’s no use having the other one fixed on Heaven.

If you have one pair of good soles its better than two pairs of good uppers.

If you lend your coat, don’t cut off the buttons.

If you lie down with dogs you’ll rise with fleas.

If you meet a red-haired woman, you’ll meet a crowd.

If you put a silk dress on a goat he is a goat still.

If you want praise, die. If you want blame, marry.

If you want to be criticized, marry.

If you’re enough lucky to be Irish… You’re lucky enough!

I’ll go there tonight for evening is speedier than morning.

In winter the milk goes to the cow’s horns.

Instinct is stronger than upbringing.

Irishwomen have a dispensation from the pope to wear the thick ends of their legs downwards.

It destroys the craft not to learn it.

It is a bad hen that does not scratch herself.

It is a hard task to comfort the proud.

It is a lonely washing that has no man’s shirt in it.

It is a long road that has no turning.

It is better to be born lucky than rich.

It is better to exist unknown to the law.

It is better to spend money like there’s no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there’s no money!

It is difficult to soothe the proud.

It is more difficult to maintain honour than to become prosperous.

It is no secret that is known to three.

It is no shame to tell the truth.

It is no time to go for the doctor when the patient is dead.

It is not a secret if it is known by three people.

It is not the most beautiful woman who has the most sense.

It is often that a person’s mouth broke his nose.

It is sweet to drink but bitter to pay for.

It is the deaf people that create the lies.

It is the good horse that draws its own cart.

It is the quiet pigs that eat the meal.

It takes time to build castles. Rome wan not built in a day.

It’s a bad hen that won’t scratch herself.

It’s a bad hound that’s not worth the whistling

It’s a small thing that outlives a man.

It’s as hard to see a woman crying as it is to see a barefooted duck.

It’s bad manners to talk about ropes in the house of a man whose father was hanged.

It’s better than it’s want.

It’s better than the loan you couldn’t get.

It’s better to be sorry and stay, than to be sorry and go away.

It’s better to return from the centre of the ford than drown in the flood.

It’s difficult to choose between two blind goats.

It’s difficult to trust a woman.

It’s easy to halve the potato where there’s love.

It’s easy to knead when meal is at hand.

It’s for her own good that the cat purrs.

It’s hard to take britches off bare hips.

It’s just a wisp in place of a brush.

It’s no delay to stop to edge the tool.

It’s no use boiling your cabbage twice.

It’s no use carrying an umbrella if your shoes are leaking.

It’s not a matter of upper and lower class but of being up a while and down a while.

It’s not worth a cuckoo-spit.

It’s often a man’s mouth broke his nose.

Keep your tongue in your jaw and your tow in your pump.

Lack of resource has hanged many a person.

Least said soonest mended.

Leave the bad tale where you found it.

Let your bargain suit your purpose.

Lie down with dogs and you’ll rise with fleas.

Like an Irish wolf she barks at her own shadow.

Limerick was, Dublin is, and Cork shall be the finest city of the three.

Listen to the sound of the river and you will get a trout.

Little talk is easy to cure.

Long churning makes bad butter.

Long loneliness is better than bad company.

Lose an hour in the morning and you’ll be looking for it all day.

Make hay while the sun shines.

Making the beginning is one third of the work.

Man to the hills, woman to the shore.

Many a defect is seen in the poor man.

Many a happy colt makes a fine horse.

Many a sudden change takes place on a spring day.

Many an Irish property was increased by the lace of a daughter’s petticoat.

Many hands make light work.

Marriages are all happy; its having breakfast together that causes all the trouble.

May misfortune follow you the rest of your life, and never catch up.

May neighbours respect you, trouble neglect you, the angels protect you, and Heaven accept you.

May the luck of the Irish be with you!

May the roof above you never fall in, and those gathered beneath it never fall out.

May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint!

May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.

May you die in bed at 95, shot by a jealous spouse.

May you get all your wishes but one, so that you will always have something to strive for!

May you have a bright future – as the chimney sweep said to his son.

May you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head. May you be forty years in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.

May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.

May you live to be 100 years, with one extra year to repent.

May your heart be light and happy, may your smile be big and wide, and may your pockets always have a coin or two inside!

May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours that stay with you all the year long.

Men are like bagpipes-no sound comes from them until they’re full.

Mere words do not feed the friars.

More hair than tit, like a mountain heifer.

N ature will come through the claws, and the hound will follow the hare.

Nature breaks through the eyes of the cat.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Necessity knows no law.

Need teaches a plan.

Neighbours bring comfort in adversity but only envy in success.

Never ask a fox to mind the hens.

Never buy bread from a butcher.

Never call a Kerry man a fool until you’re sure he’s not a rogue.

Never give cherries to pigs or advice to fools.

Never praise your son-in-law until the year is out.

Never put off tomorrow what you can do today.

Never rub your eye with anything but your elbow.

Never sleep with a stranger or borrow from a neighbour.

Never speak to the feet while the head is alive.

Never trust a spiteful man.

No dealing with a revengeful man.

No forcing the sea.

No matter how often a pitcher goes to the water it is broken in the end

No matter how tall your grandfather was, you have to do your own growing.

No matter who succeeds or fails, the peacemaker will always suffer.

No rearing, no manners.

No stopping the force of a going wheel by hand.

No tree but has rotten wood enough to burn it

Nobody ever bought peace but the man who hadn’t got it.

No-one is ever poor who has the sight of his eyes and the use of his feet. A poor man never yet lost his property.

O ften a cow does not take after its breed.

One beetle recognizes another.

One eye in the corner is sharper than two about the house.

One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

One pair of good soles is worth two pairs of upper leathers.

One who is without cows must be his own dog. A blind man can see his mouth.

Only a fool would prefer food to a woman.

Only the rich can afford compassion.

Only those who were born to hang are not afraid of the water.

Patience and forbearance make a bishop of his reverence

Patience can conquer destiny.

Patience cures many an old complaint.

Patience is a plaster for all sores.

Patience is a virtue that causes no shame.

Patience is poultice for all wounds.

Peace is worth buying.

People live in each other’s shelter.

Pity him who makes his opinions a certainty.

Pity the man who does wrong and is poor as well.

Pity the man who has a stranger’s spancel on him.

Poor is the church without music.

Poor men take to the sea; the rich to the mountains.

Possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Possession satisfies.

Poverty creates sadness.

Poverty is no shame.

Poverty parts good company.

Praise the ford when you have crossed it.

Praise the ripe field not the green corn.

Praise the young and they will make progress.

Pride comes before a fall.

Pride feels no pain.

Proverbs cannot be contradicted.

Put a beggar on horseback and he’ll ride to hell.

Put it on your shoulder and say it is not a burden.

Put silk on a goat, and it’s still a goat.

Quiet people are well able to look after themselves.

Red sky at night is a shepherds delight, red sky in the morning is a shepherds warning.

Remember even if you loose all, keep your good name for if you loose that you are worthless.

Reputations last longer than lives.

Scattering is easier than gathering.

See not what you see and hear not what you hear.

Seeing is believing, but feeling is the God’s own truth.

Sending the goose on a message to the fox’s den.

Sense doesn’t come before age.

Shame is ever a part of poverty.

She wipes the plate with the cat’s tail.

She would drink the cream and say the cat she had was an old rogue.

Show the fatted calf but not the thing that fattened him.

Snuff at a wake is fine if there’s nobody sneezing over the snuff box.

Soft words butter no parsnips but they won’t harden the heart of the cabbage either.

Soft words butter no turnips.

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

Sow early and mow early.

Speed and accuracy do not agree.

Spread your cloth only as you can draw it.

Strength is not enduring.

Sweet is the voice of the man who has wealth.

Take gifts with a sigh most men give to be paid.

Tell the truth and shame the devil.

That’s a spoon ye’ll sup sorrow with yet.

The apple falls on the head that’s under it.

The best looking-glass is the eyes of a friend.

The best way to keep loyalty in a man’s heart is to keep money in his purse.

The bird that can sing and won’t sing should be made to sing.

The blacksmith’s horse and the cobbler’s wife are always the last to have shoes.

The cat is always dignified, until the dog comes by.

The day will come when the cow will have use for her tail.

The dog that’s always on the go, is better than the one that’s always curled up.

The doorstep of a great house is slippery.

The early bird catches the worm.

The early riser gets through his business but not through early rising.

The end of a feast is better than the beginning of a fight.

The English always credit the rest of us with the qualities they don’t need themselves.

The eye should be blind in the home of another.

The fox never found a better messenger than himself.

The full man does not understand the wants of the hungry.

The full stomach does not understand the empty one.

The hand goes only where the leg goes.

The heavier the purse, the lighter the heart.

The hole is more honorable than the patch.

The horse with the most scars is the one that highest kicks his rear.

The Irish forgive their great men when they are safely buried.

The light heart lives long.

The longest road out is the shortest road home.

The man who was dividing Ireland didn’t leave himself last.

The man with the boots does not mind where he places his foot.

The mason who strikes often is better than the one who strikes too hard.

The mills of God grind slowly but they grind finely.

The money-maker (profiteer) is never tired.

The old pipe gives the sweetest smoke.

The older the fiddle the sweeter the tune.

The one who waits the fine day, will get the fine day.

The person of the greatest talk is the person of the least work.

The person who brings a story to you will take away two from you.

The pride of women and the pride of priests.

The proverb cannot be bettered.

The quiet pigs eat all the draff.

The rabbit gets fat on what the hare misses.

The raggy colt often made a powerful horse.

The road to Heaven is well signposted, but it is badly lit at night.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The secret of an old woman scolding.

The seeking for one thing will find another.

The silent are often guilty.

The slow horse reaches the mill.

The slow hound often has good qualities.

The smaller the cabin the wider the door.

The smallest thing outlives the human being.

The stars make no noise.

The sty before the litter.

The sweat of one’s brow is what burns everyone.

The thief is no danger to the beggar.

The tongue ties knots that the teeth cannot loosen.

The waiting man thinks the time long.

The wearer best knows where the shoe pinches.

The well fed does not understand the lean.

The well-filled belly has little understanding of the empty.

The windy day is not the day for thatching.

The wood will renew the foliage it sheds.

The work praises the man.

The world would not make a racehorse of a donkey.

The world’s quiet and the pig is in the sty.

The young shed many skins.

The youngest thorns are the sharpest.

There are as many good fish in the sea as ever came out of it.

There are finer fish in the sea than have ever been caught.

There are three creatures beyond ruling – a mule, a pig and a woman.

There are two tellings to every story.

There is a crock of gold in the tomb of every chieftain, but they are all guarded by cats and fairies.

There is hope from the sea, but none from the grave.

There is misfortune only where there is wealth.

There is no fireside like your own fireside.

There is no luck except where there is discipline.

There is no need like the lack of a friend.

There is no pain greater than the pain of rejection.

There is no smoke without fire.

There is no strength without unity.

There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.

There is no thing wickeder than a woman of evil temper.

There is no virtue in the herb that is not got in time.

There is not a tree in Heaven that is higher than the tree of patience.

There is nothing in the world so poor as going to hell.

There is nothing sharper than a woman’s tongue.

There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

There never was an old slipper but there was an old stocking to match it.

There was never a scabby sheep in a flock that didn’t like to have a comrade.

There’ll be white blackbirds before an unwilling woman ties the knot.

There’s a fool born every minute- and every one of them lives!

There’s as many good horses in carts as in coaches.

There’s little to choose between two blind goats.

There’s little value in the single cow.

There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

There’s many a ship lost within sight of harbour.

There’s neither success nor efficiency without authority and laws.

There’s no need to fear the wind if your haystacks are tied down.

There’s no wise man without a fault.

There’s trouble in every house and some in he street.

Thirst is the end of drinking and sorrow is the end of drunkenness.

Those who get the name of rising early may lie all day.

Though the proverb is abandoned, it is not falsified.

Though wisdom is good in the beginning it is better at the end.

Three diseases without shame: Love, itch and thirst.

Time and Patience would bring the snail to Jerusalem.

Time is a great story teller.

‘Tis afterwards that everything is understood.

‘Tis as hard to see a woman cry, as a goose go barefoot.

To be red-haired is better than to be without a head.

To every cow its calf; to every book its copy.

To put off repentance is dangerous.

To the fighting man peace is sure.

To the raven her own chick is white.

Treachery returns.

Trouble hates nothing as much as a smile.

Truth speaks even though the tongue were dead.

Truth stands when everything else falls

Two shorten the road.

Two things that go for loss-turf on a mountain and the wisdom of a poor man.

Two thirds of the work is the semblance.

W atching is a part of good play.

Walk straight, my son – as the old crab said to the young crab.

We have a fine day more often than a kiln-cast.

What butter and whiskey will not cure there’s no cure for.

What I’m afraid to hear I’d better say first myself.

What is in the marrow is hard to take out of the bone.

What is nearest the heart is nearest the mouth.

What will come from the briar but the berry.

What would a young cat do but eat mice?

What would shame him would turn back a funeral.

What’s all the world to a man when his wife is a widow.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

When a heifer is far from home she grows longer horns.

When a man gets his feet in lime he cannot easily get rid of it.

When a twig grows hard it is difficult to twist it. Every beginning is weak.

When all fruits fail welcome haws.

When fire is applied to a stone it cracks.

When the apple is ripe, it will fall.

When the drop (drink) is inside, the sense is outside.

When the fruit is scarcest, its taste is sweetest.

When the liquor was gone the fun was gone.

When the old woman is hard pressed, she has to run.

When the sky falls we’ll catch larks.

When wrathful words arise a closed mouth is soothing

Where comes a cow the wiseman lay down(St.Colmcille), there follows a woman, and where comes a woman follows trouble.

Where the tongue slips, it speaks the truth.

Wherever there are women there’s talking, and wherever there’s geese there’s cackling.

Who keeps his tongue keeps his friends.

Whoever the cap fits, takes it.

Willful waste makes woeful want.

Wind from the east is good for neither man nor beast.

Wine divulges truth.

Wisdom is what makes a poor man a king, a weak person powerful, a good generation of a bad one, a foolish man reasonable.

Without pressing too little or too hard, hold tight the reins for he’s a fool who would not get value from a borrowed horse.

Woe to the man that entrusts his secrets to a ditch.

Women are shy and shame prevents them from refusing a man.

Women are stronger than men, they do not die of wisdom.

You can keep away from the rogue, but you cannot keep yourself safe from the liar.

You can kill a dog more way than by choking it with butter.

You can take a man out of the bog, but you can’t take the bog out of the man.

You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

You can’t build a barrel round a bung hole.

You can’t put a wide head on young shoulders.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

You couldn’t make half a football team out of all the Leinster men in Heaven.

You didn’t turn up when sense was being distributed.

You kissed the blarney stone.

You must crack the nuts before you can eat the kernel.

You must empty a box before you fill it again.

You must live with a person to know a person. If you want to know me come and live with me.

You must take the little potato with the big potato.

You never miss the water till the well has run dry.

You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.

Youth does not mind where it sets its foot.

Youth likes to wander.

Youth sheds many a skin. The steed horse does not retain its speed forever.

You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your father was.