The Eternal Wisdom of Irish Proverbs

Kelly R. Smith, údar

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A rainy day in Dublin, Ireland
A rainy day in Dublin, Ireland

The Irish have been at times denigrated in the past, by the Romans, the British, in other European countries, and even in America when they came as immigrants. But you have to acknowledge, not only did the Irish save civilization from the fall of Rome until the rise of the Medieval period by secreting away books in their monasteries, they’re also full of wit and wisdom. Enjoy the following Irish proverbs and wear your Irish Lives Matter t-shirt with pride!

Can You Relate to These Wise Irish Sayings?

  • The older the fiddle the sweeter the tune. Meaning that people and things improve with time.
  • It’s often that a man’s mouth broke his nose. Meaning that not watching what you say could land you in big trouble.
  • The longest road out is the shortest road home. Meaning that if you invest enough time and effort into something important, it will yield dividends in the end.
  • You’ll arrive back with one arm as long as the other. Meaning that when you head out on a thankless quest you’ll find that you arrive back with nothing to show for it.
  • For every mile of road there are two miles of ditches. Meaning that that it’s good to remember that there are two sides to every story, as our two-faced politicians take note of!
  • There’s no use boiling your cabbage twice. Meaning don’t go over and over the same worries in your head because it solves nothing.
  • As the old cock crows, the young cock learns. Meaning that your children learn by your examples. That’s a good thing to remember as you keep them close all day during the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • If there was work in the bed he’d sleep on the floor. Meaning, “That fella is super falsa (lazy)!
  • A woman planted feathers in the dunkel and thought she’d grow hens. Meaning that just because you thought something would work doesn’t mean you were right. Ever been there? Yeah, thought so.
  • No need to fear the ill wind when your haystacks are tied down. Meaning that once you’ve prepared correctly for the task at hand, then there’s no need to fret over the outcome. Yet another sign of maturity, bean mhór (old woman).
  • He didn’t lick it off a stone. Meaning that his actions are influenced by those around him. But if it is any consolation, tá an chloch mhór sin go deas (that big stone is nice).
  • You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind. Meaning sure and it’s nice sitting and thinking about something, but that won’t get it done, mate.
  • It’s a long road there’s no turn in. Meaning no matter how bad your current situation is, things always change. Stiff upper lip now.
  • Now you know you’re home. Meaning that now you’re in your happy place. Or safe space with rainbows and legos to play with if you are a social warrior.
  • I wouldn’t call the Queen my aunt. Meaning that you are in such a blissful frame of mind that even suddenly becoming royalty couldn’t improve it.
  • What I’m afraid to hear I had better say first myself. Meaning that you have to be honest and guard against your own shortcomings.
  • The road to Heaven is well signposted, but it’s badly lit at night. Meaning that life has many challenges in store for us but the reward is well worth it. Once again, the Irish spirit of optimism in future rewards for hard work and diligence.
  • It’s as easy to catch a cold in a king’s castle as in a shepherd’s hut. Meaning that wealth gained won’t protect you from the trials that life brings you.
  • It’s better to pay the butcher than the doctor. Meaning don’t skimp on healthy food as it will cost you your health dearly in the long run.
  • A broken man is better than no man. Meaning that you shouldn’t wait for Mr. Perfect to come along at the expense of becoming an old maid. The same applies to men about the fairer sex. Tá bean mhór bhreá anseo. Ach tá mé sásta! (There is a fine big woman there. But I am satisfied!)
  • A lamb’s bleat is often more telling than a dog’s bark. Meaning a subtle way and a quiet approach can yield more beneficial results than brute force and loudness. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Walk softly and carry a big stick.”
  • It’s a lonely washing that has no man’s shirt in it. Meaning that more’s the pity for the widow woman or the one who has spurned all her suitors.
  • No matter how many rooms you have in your house you can only sleep in the one bed. Meaning, your possessions might not be what ye think they are.
  • Even black hens lay white eggs. Meaning that, as ye are wont to say, never judge a book by its cover.
  • An empty sack does not stand. Meaning that folks that bluff and are truly ignorant will always be found out in the long run. If you like your doctor you can keep him comes to mind.

So, now you are well-armed for your next office meeting or dinner party. Wow ’em with your new-found array of the wisdom of Irish proverbs.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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