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Irish Proverbs and Sayings

Updated on October 14, 2012
The Irish have many proverbs and sayings as part of their culture
The Irish have many proverbs and sayings as part of their culture | Source

Irish Proverbs and Sayings

As well as being known for their sense of humor, the Irish have also made a name for themselves with the many sayings, proverbs and blessings that they use. Indeed, every culture has their share of proverbs which are part of the culture of different countries. Here is a selection of Irish proverbs and sayings which I will explain if the meaning isn't clear. I hope you enjoy reading them.

A bald man has been known to say about his baldness "Sure grass doesn't grow on a busy street"

"If you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas."

"A wild goose never reared a tame gosling"

If someone says "You didn't lick that off the ground" what they mean is someone has inherited a trait from his or her parents.

This is a compliment to someone older: " the older the fiddle ,the sweeter the tune"

There are two sayings that are used about letting someone go ahead of you through a doorway. They are "The dirt before the brush". This is not said in a derogatory manner but intended as humor. The other one is "Age before beauty."

If someone is known for their wisdom with money, it is said that "he wouldn't buy a pig in a poke." A poke is another word for a bag and the implication is the wise man would not buy a pig without seeing it.

Biding one's time and choosing the right moment is what is meant by the saying " Don't sell your hen on a wet day." Another one that means the same thing is "The day of the big wind is no time to be doing the thatching."

There is a great tradition of fishing in coastal Ireland and there is a saying that "a trout in the pot is better than a salmon in the sea."

If someone wrongs you and you think it is typical behavior, you might say "what do you expect from a cow but a kick."

Trying to change the mind of a stubborn person is "like whistling jigs to a stone."

If someone overstays their welcome you might say "If that man went to a wedding, he would stay for the christening."

If someone is a bad shot with a gun, you might say "he couldn't hit a hole in a ladder."

If it is raining a lot, you could say "It's good weather for ducks."

"It is said that there are only three kinds of Irishmen who can't understand women-young men, old men and men of middle age."

"There never was worse use made of a man than to hang him."

There is a place in Co. Clare in South-West Ireland called "The Burren." It is made of rocks and there is very little growth there. The Irish say of The Burren that "there is not enough water to drown a man, no trees to hang a man and no soil to bury him."

I will finish off here with a poem you might like to read about a mouse:

Some Guinness was spilled on the barroom floor,

When the pub was shut for the night.

Out of his hole crept a wee brown mouse

and stood in the pale moonlight.

He lapped up the frothy brew from the floor,

then back on his haunches he sat,

And all night long you could hear him roar:

"Bring on the goddam cat!"

I hope you enjoyed reading this and feel free to add any sayings or proverbs you like yourself in the comment box below. Cheers :-)


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      Gregory John Kelly 12 months ago

      Enjoyed the comments. "He/she didn't lick that off the grass." was a common phrase when one observed a predictable behavior in another family member (Kelly) that they had seen in previous generations. Delivered with love and amusement.

    • profile image

      Gretta 13 months ago

      Love this post, thanks. Quick question: I heard the late great comedian George Carlin say "You can't lick that off a rock" but on this post I instead see it said as "off the ground". Can either be used just the same, or is one just not correct and/or not the original version straight from Ireland? Please tell me what you know on this. Thanks!

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 3 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      cheers Venus

    • Venus Rivera profile image

      Daisy Rivera 3 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Wow! What a beautiful hub? my two favorite Irish Proverbs were "You didn't like that off the ground & the older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune." Thank you for writing this hub.

      Absolutely Brilliant!

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 4 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      It sounds like an Irish proverb as right to me. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment and vote up :-)

    • cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

      Treathyl FOX 4 years ago from Austin, Texas

      I don't know if this is an Irish proverb OR if I just assumed it was Irish because the movie or TV show I was watching at the time, the character said it with an Irish accent. I was about 7 or 8 years old (I think) and the old man said: "You know that you begin to die the moment you're born."

      HUB voted up!

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      web watcher 4 years ago

      Hi I'mReally happy that I read this article. It made me smile. Take care, and keep up the nice work. Have a great evening. Regzooka

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 5 years ago

      Great Hub. I am a big fan of "figures of speech". I even have a book the size of a novel on the subject. I how I love hearing new ones. My favorites on your list are " the older the fiddle ,the sweeter the tune" and "a trout in the pot is better than a salmon in the sea".

      Simply fabulous.

      Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post. Voted up for awesome.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Thanks for stopping by 3cardmonte and for your positive feedback. Glad you liked the hub and thanks for tweeting it too :-)

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      3cardmonte 5 years ago

      Excellent hub! my Mum used to say if you lie down with dogd you'll wake up with fleas (she's Irish) and I never really thought it made sense. But the more you think abgout it, the more sense it makes! up, funny and tweeted :D

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Glad you like it justgrace. Thanks for stopping by and commenting

    • justgrace1776 profile image

      justgrace1776 5 years ago

      Irish here! Good read :)

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Thanks for your feedback aficionada. Glad you liked the hub.

    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 5 years ago from Indiana, USA

      What fun! We use a few of these sayings too, and now I know where they started. I'm off now to read the Irish jokes.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      I am glad to hear it. Thanks for your feedback.

    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 5 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      Enjoyed it very much.