In this guide, you’ll find a collection of Gaelic sayings, phrases and proverbs.
The first section contains the most common Gaelic phrases, like ‘Go raibh maith agat’, which means ‘Thank you’.
The second section contains Irish proverbs and Gaelic sayings, like ‘Am agus foighne a thógann seilide go Corcaigh’ meaning ‘Time and patience brings a snail to Cork’.
Now, despite growing up in Ireland, I am not fluent in Irish. So, I hired a qualified Irish translator to translate the Gaelic phrases below. Enjoy!
Basic Gaelic sayings used in everyday life
The first section of this guide uses the most basic Gaelic phrases that are used as part of everyday life in certain places in Ireland.
Below, you’ll find the Irish saying, what it means in English and how you pronounce it.
1. Dia dhuit
- Meaning: Hello
- Pronunciation: ‘Dee-ah gwit’
- Meaning: Goodbye
- Pronunciation: ‘Slawn’
3. Go n-éirí leat
- Meaning: Good luck to you
- Pronunciation: ‘Guh n-eye-ree lat’
4. Maidin mhaith
- Meaning: Good morning
- Pronunciation: ‘Maw-din wha’
5. Gabh mo leiscéal
- Meaning: Excuse me
- Pronunciation: ‘Gow muh lesh-kale’
6. Go raibh maith agat
- Meaning: Thank you
- Pronunciation: ‘Guh rev maw aw-gut’
7. Sea, le do thoil
- Meaning: Yes please
- Pronunciation: ‘Sha, leh duh hull’
8. Oíche mhaith
- Meaning: Good night
- Pronunciation: ‘Ee-ha wha’
- Meaning: Welcome
- Pronunciation: ‘Fall-chah’
10. Feicfidh mé go luath thú
- Meaning: See you soon
- Pronunciation: ‘Feck-ig may guh lu-a who’
11. Conas atá tú?
- Meaning: How are you?
- Pronunciation: ‘Cun-is ah-taw two’
- Meaning: Translates to ‘Health’ but many use it as a ‘Cheers’ for Irish toasts
- Pronunciation: ‘Slawn-cha’
13. Aon scéal/craic?
- Meaning: What’s the story/craic?
- Pronunciation: ‘Ay-in shk-ale / crack’
14. Lá féile Pádraig faoi mhaise
- Meaning: Happy St. Patrick’s Day
- Pronunciation: ‘Law fay-lih Paw-rig f-we wash-eh’
Famous Gaelic sayings and proverbs
Now that we have the more everyday Gaelic words and phrases out of the way, it’s time to move onto the more famous Gaelic sayings and proverbs.
Below, you’ll find a collection of ‘wise’ Irish words, what they mean and how to pronounce them. Enjoy!
1. Dramhaíl toiliúil a dhéanann riachtannas truamhéalach
The first of our Gaelic sayings is one of the better-known Irish proverbs, and it translates to ‘Wilful waste makes woeful want’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Drawv-wheel till-ool ah yay-nin reech-tin-is true-ah-vale-uck’
- What it means: It suggests that purposefully wasting something often results in scarcity later on
2. Is anlann maith é an t-ocras
The second of our Gaelic phrases in Irish means ‘Hunger is good sauce’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Is on-linn maw ay on tuc-ris’
- What it means: Hunger enhances taste or need intensifies enjoyment (similar to “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”)
3. Ní mhaireann solas na maidine don lá
The next of our Irish Gaelic sayings is a deep one and it translates to ‘No Mornings sun lasts all day’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Nee war-in sul-is nah mawd-in-ye gun law’
- What it means: It’s a reminder that most things have finite lifespans, so enjoy them while they’re here
4. Am agus foighne a thógann seilide go Corcaigh
One for the impatient among us, the next of our Gaelic phrases translates to ‘Time and patience brings a snail to Cork’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Awm awg-is fi-nih ah hoe-ginn shell-ih-deh guh curk-ig’
- What it means: This is a reminder that achieving a goal(s) isn’t always a fast/smooth journey and it often takes time and patience
5. Chomh ciotach le muc i sciamhlann
Used to describe a particularly awkward individual, this translates to ‘As awkward as a pig in a parlour’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Cove c-yut-uck leh muck ih shceev-linn’
- What it means: It describes someone that is very out of place and uncomfortable in a specific setting
6. Fásann roinnt mhaith ar thalamh éadomhain
The next of our Gaelic phrases in Irish is steeped in meaning, translating to ‘Many a good tree grew on shallow ground’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Faw-sin ree-nt wha air hall-iv ay-doh-in’
- What it means: Anyone can achieve brilliance, regardless of where they are from
7. Méid coirnéal le mála móin
One of the many funny Irish sayings, this one translates to ‘As many corners as a bag of turf’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘May-d kern-ale leh mall-a mow-in’
- What it means: This saying describes something or someone with an irregular shape
8. Ná scall do bheola ar leite fear eile
One of the wiser Gaelic phrases in Irish, this one warns you to ‘Never scald your lips with another man’s porridge’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Naw sc-all duh v-o-la air let-ih far ell-ih’
- What it means: This Gaelic proverb advises against getting involved in someone else’s affairs
9. Cuir síoda ar ghabhar agus is gabhar i gconaí é
This one will come in handy every once and a while. It means ‘You can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear’.
- How it’s pronounced: Cur she-da air g-ouw-ar awg-is is g-ouw-ar ih go-knee ay
- What it means: You can’t transform something of poor quality to something of high quality (either a person or a thing)
10. Is é an bealach is faide timpeall an bealach is goire abhaile
Packed with fine words of wisdom, this translates to ‘The longest way around is the shortest way home’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Is ay on bal-uck is f-wid-ih team-pull an bal-uck is gear-ah ah-wall-yeh’
- What it means: It’s often the longer, more deliberate route that delivers a quicker result
11. Is minic an béal a bhriseann an srón
One of my favourite Irish idioms, this translates to ‘It’s often a person’s mouth breaks his nose’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Is minick an bail a vrish-inn an shr-own’
- What it means: It’s often by talking/saying something that’ll get you a punch
12. Ní hiasc é go dtí go bhfuil sé ar an mbanc
A warning to those that count their chickens before they’ve hatched, this translates to ‘It is not a fish until it is on the bank’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Nee heesk ay guh dee guh will shay air on mank’
- What it means: The outcome isn’t guaranteed until the task is finished, similar to ‘Don’t count your chickens’
13. Cailleadh morán long i shúile an chuain
Another of the Gaelic sayings that warns against being presumptive, it translates to ‘Many a ship is lost within sight of the harbour’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Kyle-ew more-an lung ih hoola on cue-in’
- What it means: Similar to our previous Gaelic sayings, it means the outcome is never certain until the task is complete
14. Ní mór ort ar an uisce go dtí go stopann an tobar
Stellar advice to those, like myself, that often take things for granted, it means ‘You never miss the water till the well has run dry’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Nee more urt air on ishka guh dee guh stup-in on tub-er’
- What it means: You’ll only miss what you had when it’s no longer there
15. Ná cheannaigh le do chluasa ach le do shúile
One of the more apt Irish sayings for the world we live in, it means ‘Never buy through your ears but through your eyes’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Naw can-ig leh duh clew-sa awk leh duh hoola’
- What it means: Don’t let second-hand information lead your decision – experience for yourself and then decide
16. Ní bhreitheamh maith dathanna é an fear dall
A blind man is a bad judge of colour
- How it’s pronounced: Nee breh-nimh wha daw-hihna ay on far dawl
- What it means: Don’t take advice from someone who lacks experience/first had knowledge
17. Níor thacht an fhírinne fear ar bith
If you encounter someone that shies away from telling the truth, this one, which means ‘The truth never choked a man’, will come in handy.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Near hawcht on ear-in-ye far air bih’
- What it means: Telling the truth won’t hurt you, despite how hard it is to do so
18. Is fearr an fhuaim ó fhidil níos sine
One of the more popular Irish Gaelic sayings, it means ‘The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Is far on ew-m o idil niece shin-ih’
- What it means: Things get better with age
19. Nuair atá an braon istigh, tá’n chiall amuigh
Irish drinks can be the curse for many. This translates to ‘When the drop is inside the sense is outside’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Nur a-taw on brain is-tih, tawn keel am-wih’
- What it means: When there’s drink involved, all common sense goes out the window
20. Bíonn adharca fhada ar eallach thar lar
One of the stranger Gaelic idioms, this one translates to ‘Cows from over the sea have long horns’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Been arc-a awda air al-uck har lar’
- What it means: Just because something lives/can be found in a far off place doesn’t make it any more unique/special
21. Tá sé ró-dhéanach le spáráil nuair atá gach rud chaite
One of the more common Gaelic proverbs, this means ‘It is too late to spare when all is spent’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Taw shay row-yay-nuk leh spawr-all nur ah-taw gock rood caw-ta’
- What it means: There’s no point trying to save something when it has already been fully used
22. Is deas an béal tostach a chloisteáil
A handy one to have in a situation where you want the person to listen, rather than speak, it means ‘A silent mouth is sweet to hear’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Is dass an bail tust-uck a clush-tall’
- What it means: Silence is appreciated, especially when words are unnecessary
23. Ná dhíol do chearc ar lá fliuch
Another of the Gaelic sayings that likely emerged from farming communities, it translates to ‘Don’t sell your hen on a wet day’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Naw yeel do yark ar law f-luck’
- What it means: Never take action when conditions are unfavourable, i.e. think don’t act
24. Sroicheann an capall mall an muileann
There are versions of this Irish saying in many communities. It translates to ‘The slow horse reaches the mill’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Sh-rik-in on cop-all mall an mwil-inn’
- What it means: Persistence or steady progress will eventually lead to success (slow is fast and fast is steady)
25. Tagann ádh mhaith go rian, mí-ádh go flúirse
The next of our Gaelic phrases in Irish translates to ‘Good luck comes in slender currents, misfortune in a rolling tides’.
- How it’s pronounced: Tog-on aw wha guh reen, mee-aw guh flew-irsha
- What it means: Good luck can come in gradual every once and a while – bad luck can hit hard and often
26. Bí ag gearán faoi bhróga go dtí go mbuaileann tú le fear gan cois
One to remember when you/another is taking things for granted, it means ‘Complain that you have no shoes until you meet a man who has no feet’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Bee egg gar-on f-we vr-o-ga guh dee guh moo-linn two leh far gone kush’
- What it means: Appreciate what you have as there’s always someone worse off
27. Caill uair an chloig ar maidin ‘s beidh tú á lorg don lae
Never underestimate the importance of a good start to the day. This translates to ‘Lose an hour in the morning you’ll be looking for it all day’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Kyle ew-er on ch-lig air mawd-in ‘s bay two aw lure-ug done lay’
- What it means: A good start sets you up for the day
28. Is deas an rud nach bhfuil riachtannach
If you have to defend yourself for indulging, this Gaelic phrase, which means ‘That which is not necessary is pleasant’, may come in useful.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Is dass on rood nawk will reek-tonn-uck’
- What it means: Things we don’t really need can be enjoyable (e.g. a night in a 5-star hotel)
29. Glanann scuab nua, ach cuimhnín seanscuab
One of my favourite Irish sayings and meanings, this translates to ‘A new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows the corners’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Glawn-in scewb new-ah, awk cwiv-neen shan-scewb’
- What it means: New things/people may initially seem more efficient, but experience can never be underestimated
30. Tiocfaidh an lá a bhfuil úsáid ag an mbó d’eireaball
One of the odder (terrible pub intended…), the next of our Gaelic phrases in Irish means ‘The day will come when the cow will have use for her tail’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Chuck-ig on law ah will ooh-saw-d egg on mow der-ihbil’
- What it means: It can often be the case that a seemingly useless/unnecessary thing can have purpose/use in the future
31. Is fearr rith maith ná droch-sheas
The last of our Gaelic sayings translates to ‘A good run is better than a bad stand’.
- How it’s pronounced: ‘Is far rih wha naw druck-hass’
- What it means: Taking action, even when the outcome isn’t clear, is often better than doing nothing
What Irish sayings and meanings have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve left out some beautiful Irish sayings in the guide above.
If you have any Irish words and phrases that you’d like to recommend, shout in the comments below.
FAQs about Irish sayings in Gaelic
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are some old Gaelic phrases in Irish’ to ‘What are some ancient Celtic sayings?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What is the most famous Gaelic saying?
Although this will vary from county-to-county, one of the most famous Gaelic sayings is ‘Is deas an béal tostach a chloisteáil’, which means ‘A silent mouth is sweet to hear’.
What are some old Irish sayings?
‘Is deas an rud nach bhfuil riachtannach’ (That which is not necessary is pleasant), ‘Is fearr rith maith ná droch-sheas’ (A good run is better than a bad stand) and ‘Sroicheann an capall mall an muileann’ (The slow horse reaches the mill) are some old Irish sayings in Gaelic.
What is a good Irish greeting?
The most straightforward Irish greeting is ‘Dia dhuit’ which means ‘Hello’. It is pronounced ‘Dee-ah gwit’.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.