Irish Proverbs



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


About evening a man is known.


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 fool and his money are easily parted. 


A foolish woman knows a foolish man’s faults.


After the gathering comes the scattering


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


A good beginning is half the work.


A greyhound finds food in its feet.


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


A heavy purse makes a light heart.


A hut is a palace to a poor man.


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


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


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A live dog is better than a dead lion.


All happy endings are beginnings as well.


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 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 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.


An old broom knows the dirty corners best.


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 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.


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


A secret is a weapon and a friend.


A shame-faced man seldom acquires wealth.

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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 soft dropping April brings milk to cows and sheep.


A spender gets the property of the hoarder.


As the old cock crows the young cock learns.


A story without an author is not worth listening to.


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


A turkey never voted for an early Christmas.


A watched pot never boils.


A wedge from itself splits the oak tree.


A wild goose never reared a tame gosling.


A windy day is the wrong one for thatching.


A wise head keeps a shut mouth.


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Beef to the heels like a Mullingar heifer


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


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


Better an idle house than a bad tenant.


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


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


Better own a trifle than want a great deal.


Better sit beside him than in his place.


Better the certainty of the straddle (packsaddle) than the mere loan of a saddle.


Big bellies are rarely generous. 


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


By degrees the castles are built.

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Castles were built a stone at a time.


Constant company wears out its welcome.

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Discord is less painful than loneliness.


Do it as if there was fire in your skin.


Do not keep your tongue under your belt.


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


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.


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


Even a tin knocker shines on a dirty door.


Even black hens lay white eggs.


Even the truth may be bitter.


Everyone is wise till he speaks.


Everyone lays a burden on the willing horse.


Everyone praises his native land.


Every patient is a doctor after his cure.


Everything troubles you and the cat breaks your heart.

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F air words never fed a


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.


Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.


For what cannot be cured, patience is best


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


Going in is not the same as going out.


Great mansions have slippery doors.


Great talk and little action


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


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’s more to be pitied than laughed at.


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


He who pays the piper calls the tune.


His own wound is what everyone feels soonest.


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


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Idleness is a fool’s desire.


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


It destroys the craft not to learn it.


If it’s a secret, it’s binding.


If it’s got badly, it’ll go badly.


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 lie down with dogs you’ll rise with fleas.


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


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


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


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


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


It is a hard task to comfort the proud.


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


It is better to be born lucky than rich.


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.


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


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


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


It’s a small thing that outlives a man.


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 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 a bare arse.


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 often a man’s mouth broke his nose.


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

Least said soonest mended.


Leave the bad tale where you found it.


Let your bargain suit your purpose.


Little talk is easy to cure.


Long churning makes bad butter.


Long loneliness is better than bad company.


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


Many a sudden change takes place on a spring day.


Many hands make light work.


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


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


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


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 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.


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


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-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.


No rearing, no manners.


No stopping the force of a going wheel by hand.


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


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P atience 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.


Peace(quietness) is worth buying.


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.


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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.


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.


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.


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T ake 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 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 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 longest road out is the shortest road home.


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


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


The money-maker (profiteer) is never tired.


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The older the fiddle the sweeter the tune.


The old pipe gives the sweetest smoke.


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.


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 misfortune only where there is wealth.


There is no pain greater than the pain of rejection.


There is no smoke without fire.


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 no thing wickeder than a woman of evil temper.


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


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


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


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.


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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.


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


The road to hell is paved with good intentions.


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


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


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The youngest thorns are the sharpest.


The young shed many skins.


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.


Time and Patience would bring the snail to Jerusalem.


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

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W atching is a part of good play.


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


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


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


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


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


What is nearest the heart is nearest the mouth.


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


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.


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


When all fruits fail welcome haws.


When the apple is ripe, it will fall.


When the fruit is scarcest, its taste is sweetest.


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


When wrathful words arise a closed mouth is soothing.


Whoever the cap fits, takes it.


Willful waste makes woeful want.


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


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.


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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 can’t teach an old dog new tricks.


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


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


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


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


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


You must empty a box before you fill it again.


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


Youth likes to wander.

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