The Gaelic language originated in Ireland as far back as antiquity. The Gaels are known to have traded with the Roman Empire, and expanded their reach to Scotland by the Middle Ages. The original Gaelic kingdom [in present day Ireland] was formed by many individual kingdoms, and these strongholds remained until around the seventeenth century, when they were taken under English control.
While Gaelic is undoubtedly a historical language, many proverbs and sayings still form an important part of Irish culture today. In this post, we share some of the most well-known and best loved Irish phrases that have stood the test of time, and contribute a unique insight into the history of Gaelic and Irish culture.
“Aithníonn ciaróg eile” – It takes one to know one.
This classic Irish phrase doesn’t need an in depth explanation! It cautions us to reserve judgement on others, as we’re likely to have the very same fault that we’re quick to point out in others.
“Níl saoi gan locht” – There’s not a wise man without fault.
This one is an Irish take on the classic ‘nobody is perfect.’ It’s a gentle reminder that even the best of us can’t be perfect all the time, even the wisest of the wise.
“Ní bhíonn an rath acht mar a mbionn an smach” – There is no prosperity without discipline.
One of our favourite Irish proverbs, it reminds us that hard work and sacrifice are vital traits if we hope to live a life of wealth and good fortune.
“An té a bhíónn siúlach, bíonn scéalach” – He who travels has stories to tell.
Historically, the Irish are known as great story tellers and far flung travellers, settling in every corner of the world. It seems that travel and folk tales are built into the Irish psyche, and this phrase encourages people to explore the world around them.
“Is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla cliste” – Broken Irish is better than clever English.
Here we have one of the most well-loved Gaelic phrases of them all! It’s really an appeal for everyone to try and speak Gaelic, whenever they can. It’s shared in the hope that the language will survive long into the future.
“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.” – Under the shelter of others, people survive.
In order for communities to survive and thrive, we must look after our fellow citizens. If we’re looking out for one another, it offers protection from foe and enables prosperity.
“An té a luíonn le madaí, eiroidh sé le dearnaid.” – He who lies down with dogs, gets up with fleas.
We all meet countless people throughout our lives, but we should think wisely about who we spend our time with. Here we’re reminded that the characteristics of certain individuals will rub off on us, so we should exercise caution when choosing our companions.
“Iss min-ick a vrish bay-al din-eh a hrone.” – Many a time, a man’s mouth broke his nose.
Remember how we told you that the Irish are great storytellers? They have also been known to get themselves into trouble for things they’ve said! This is a clever reminder to watch what you say, to save yourself from a punch in the face. Classy.
“Mol an oige agus tiocfaidh sí” – Encourage young people and they will get there.
This is a lovely one to finish on. Instead of scolding and pointing out the mistakes of youngsters, we’re much better served to encourage and support them on their way to their goals.
Ireland is a land full of great people and wonderful sayings. Those we’ve shared here really encompass the Irish mentality and humour, and offer you a great insight into Ireland’s rich and celebrated culture.