35 Old Gaelic Expressions that Hilariously Explain Life’s Truths

There are thousands of great Gaelic sayings, many are currently used by English-speaking Irish. Here’s a sample of some Celtic wisdom that explain life in simple terms:

Courtesy of Gaelic Matters


1. An té a luíonn le madaí, eiroidh sé le dearnaid.

He who lies down with dogs, gets up with fleas.
 
 


2. Is minic a bhris béal duine a shrón.

Many a time a man’s mouth broke his nose.
 
 

3. Cuir síoda ar ghabhar ach is gabhar i gcónaí é.

Dress a goat in silk and he still remains a goat = You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
 
 

4. Is ait an mac an saol.

Life is strange.
 
 

5. Inis do Mháire i gcógar é, is inseoidh Máire do phóbal é.

Tell something to Mary in confidence and she will tell the whole parish.
 
 

6. Níl aon tóin tinn mar do thóin tinn féin.

There’s no sore ass like your own sore ass. (Meaning “there’s no place like home”)
 
 

7. An té nach bhfuil láidir, ní foláir dó bheith glic.

He who is not strong must be clever.
 
 

8. Nuair a bhíonn an fíon istigh, bíonn an ciall amuigh.

When the wine is in, sense is out.
 
 

9. Drochubh, drochéan

A bad egg, a bad bird.

Or

If the child is bad, blame the parent!
 
 

10. Ní chaitheann an chaint an t-éadach.

Talk doesn’t wear the clothes. (Talk is cheap)
 
 

11. Ní scéal rúin é ó tá a fhios ag triúr é.

It is not a secret after three people know it.
 
 

12. Nuair a bhíonn an cat amuigh, bíonn an luch ag rince.

When the cat is outside, the mouse does be dancing.
 
 

13. Bíonn gach duine go lách go dtéann bó ina gharraí.

Everybody is good-natured until a cow goes into his garden.
 
 

14. Inis do Mháire i gcógar é, is inseoidh Máire dó phóbal é.

Tell it to Mary in a whisper, and Mary will tell it to the parish.
 
 

15. Is teann gach madra gearr i ndoras a thí féin.

Every terrier is bold in the door of its house. (Meaning people are typically only fearless in comfortable surroundings.)
 
 

16. Glaonn gach coileach go dána ar a atrainn fhéin.

Every cock crows boldly in his own farmyard.
 
 

17. An áit ina mbíonn toit bíonn tine, San áit ina mbíonn tine bíonn teas,
San áit ina mbíonn teas bíonn mná, San áit ina mbíonn mná bíonn gab!

Where there’s a roof, there’s a fire where there’s a fire, there’s heat
where there’s heat there’s women , where there’s women, there’s gossip! (Of course, that’s merely an ignorant stereotype about women, but the expression is too quirky to leave out!)
 
 

18. An té is mó a osclaíonn a bhéal is é is lú a osclaíonn a sparán.

The one who opens his mouth the most, it is he who opens his purse the least.
 
 

19. Ná feic a bhfeicir, Is ná clois a gcloisir
Is má fiafraítear díot, Abair ná feadrais

Don’t see what you see, Don’t hear what you hear
And if you’re asked, Say you don’t know

 
 

20. Is fearr marcaíocht ar ghabhair ná siúlóid, dá fheabhas

A ride, even on a goat, is better by far than having to walk.
 
 

21. An té nach bhfuil láidir, ní foláir dó bheith in ann rith go tapa.

He who’s not strong, has to be able to run well
 
 

22. Is trom an t-ualach an leisce

Laziness is a heavy burden
 
 

23. Is geal leis an bhfiach dubh a ghearrcach féin.

The black raven thinks its own offspring is bright.
 
 

24. Ná nocht d’fhiacla go bhféadair an greim do bhreith.

Don’t bare your teeth until you can bite.
 
 

25. Nuair a bheidh do lámh i mbéal na con tarraing go réidh í.

When your hand is in the hound’s mouth withdraw it gently.
 
 

26. Seachain tigh an tabhairne nó is bairnigh is beatha duit

Beware of the drinking house or you’ll be living on barnacles.
 
 

27. Na ceithre rud is measa amú;
ceann tinn, béal seirbh, intinn bhuartha, agus poca folamh.

The four least useful things;
a headache, a bitter mouth, a worried mind, and an empty pocket
 
 

28. Níl leigheas ar an ngrá ach pósadh

There is no cure for love other than marriage
 
 

29. Pós bean ón sliabh agus pósfaidh tú an sliabh ar fad.

Marry a woman from the mountain and you will marry the entire mountain
 
 

30. Trí ní is deacair a thuiscint;
intleacht na mban, obair na mbeach,
teacht agus imeacht na taoide.

Three things hardest to understand;
the intellect of women, the work of the bees,
the coming and going of the tide.
 
 

32. Is minic a chealg briathra míne cailín críonna.

Many a prudent girl was led astray with sweet words.
 
 

33. Is fearr an t-imreas ná an t-uaigneas.

Arguing is better than loneliness.
 
 

34. Faigh do bhean i gcóngar, ach i bhfad uait díol do bhó

Get your wife locally, but far from you sell your cow. (Meaning, marry someone you trust, but sell things far away so no one can find where you live if they’re bad.)
 
 

35. Más mian leat cáineadh pós, Más mian leat moladh faigh bás.

If it’s abuse you want, marry. If it’s praise you want, die.

1 Comment on "35 Old Gaelic Expressions that Hilariously Explain Life’s Truths"

  1. Number six is wrong. It’s a modern parody of the original. It should read “Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin”.

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