Sometimes wise, sometimes funny and sometimes confusing, Irish proverbs reveal the wit, wisdom and storytelling ability of the Irish.
IrishCentral has comprised a rundown of some of the best (and some of the worst) of these classic nuggets of advice. So grab a cuppa tea, and perhaps a wayward friend in need of some guidance, and settle down with these Irish words of wisdom.
The Irish proverbs you probably heard from your Irish mother:
(She may have told you these time and time again, but you probably had to figure them out for yourself!)
"It is sweet to drink but bitter to pay for."
"It's often a person's mouth breaks his nose."
"You never miss the water till the well has run dry."
"A cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle."
"There is no fireside like your own fireside."
The most accurate Irish proverbs:
(Not romantic, not cynical – just realistic …)
"There are no unmixed blessings in life."
"Beware of the anger of a patient man."
"Every dog is brave on his own doorstep."
"A friend's eye is a good mirror."
"You've got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your father was."
The funniest Irish proverbs:
(Whether these are true, false or just don’t plain make sense, they’ll be sure to get a giggle out of you!)'
"If a cat had a dowry, she would often be kissed."
"One may live without one's friends, but not without one's pipe."
"Women do not drink liquor but it disappears when they are present."
"Everyone is sociable until a cow invades his garden."
"Never bolt the door with a boiled carrot."
The most confusing Irish proverbs:
(Anyone have a clue what these mean? Let us know…)
"Put a beggar on a horse and he'll ride it to hell."
"What butter or whiskey does not cure cannot be cured."
"The skin of the old sheep is on the rafter no sooner than the skin of the young sheep."
"A hole is more honorable than a patch."
"There never was an old slipper but there was an old stocking to match it."
The worst Irish proverbs:
(So bad, they deserve individual commentary…)
"Work without end is housewife's work." (Last time I checked, it ain’t no man’s world anymore.)
"Talk of the devil, and he will appear." (Like saying Bloody Mary in the mirror?)
"A change of work is as good as a rest." (Speak for yourself – I’d say most of us need a vacation every once in a while.)
"It is better to be lucky than wise." (Better for who? Lotto winners? What about the lotto curse?!)
"Sense does not come before age." (Perhaps not, but sense sure doesn’t come WITH age.)
"Only the rich can afford compassion." (See: “A cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle.")
* Originally published in 2013, updated in Oct 2022.