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Tattoo Ideas: Gaelic Words + Phrases

Updated on November 3, 2013

Like their Native American counterparts did with tribal tattoos, Scottish and Irish warriors also defined their rank or commemorated a particular battle by tattooing permanent marks onto their skin. As far back as the 1600's Scots were using tattoos as identifiers in times of war. As warriors of old evolved into military men and firefighters of now, Scottish tattoos took on a new form. A firefighter, for example, will not get a tattoo until the day of his retirement, at which point he will ink a Lifetime of Service memorial on his arm, often symbolized by flames or a fireman's helmet. Another type of Scottish tattoo is the Fallen Fighter memorial tattoo, which honors a friend or family member who died in the line of duty. If his or her occupation was that of a firefighter, the tattoo will often have the person's name, date of birth, date of death and ladder number.

But perhaps the most popular tattoo of Irish/Scottish descent is the Scottish clan tattoo that has emerged over the past 20 years or so. Scottish clan tattoos are family crests of Scottish families that typically include the "swatch" or plaid design. Each of the 13 regions in Scotland have their own crest along with their own plaid, so tattooing a particular design explains where an individual's family hails from.

Gaelic is the language that is spoken by Irish and Scottish people, with differences in usage, accent and pronunciation depending on which country you are in. There are a number of different dialects spoken within various areas of the country as well. The three main Irish dialects can be found in the provinces of Munster, Connacht and Ulster, with the newest (but rarely recorded) dialect appearing in Dublin and spoken amongst the younger generations. The Scottish Gaelic language (a branch of Celtic) is the main language spoken in Scotland today and dates back as early as the 5th or 6th century. There are a number of English names that can be directly translated to Gaelic. Ailean is Alan, Donnchadh is Duncan, Coinneach is Kenneth; Iain is John, Uilleam is William, Catriona is Catherine, Mairi is Mary, Seumas is James and Padraig is Patrick. Other names, however, have no direct equivalent, so if you're interested in getting your name tattooed in Gaelic you will have to settle for the closest translation.

As with any tattoo that is done in a foreign language not your own, make sure you do your homework. Double check your translation with several sources. A native speaker is your best bet, someone who speaks Gaelic as their first language, English as their second. If a native speaker is not available to you, your next best bet is a Gaelic scholar who has studied the language extensively. Last but not least, there are several online translators who offer their services for free. Although they can be very useful, keep in mind that it is important to ensure your translation is correct by either using several different online translators or confirming it's accuracy with native speakers on a Gaelic forum or message board.

Here are some Gaelic phrases to get your creative juices flowing:

Is fhearr fheuchainn na bhith san duil -- It's better to try than to hope

An uair as laine 'n cupan, 's ann as dorr' a ghiulan -- When the cup is fullest it is most difficult to carry

B' i sin reul 's an oidhche dhoilleir -- That were a star on a dark night

Níl aon leigheas ar an ngrá ach pósadh -- The only cure for love is marriage

Gra, Dilseacht, Cairdeas -- love, loyalty, friendship

Cha d'dhùin doras nach d'fhosgail doras -- No door ever closed, but another opened

Eiridh tonn air uisge balbh -- A wave will rise on quiet water

Fear gu aois, is bean gu bàs -- A son is a son until he comes of age; a daughter is a daughter all her life

An rud is annamh is íontach -- What is seldom is wonderful

Ceileann searc ainimh 's locht -- Love is blind

Tada gan iarracht -- Nothing without effort

Gaelic Tattoos

"Father until we meet again may God hold you in the hallow of His hand"
"Father until we meet again may God hold you in the hallow of His hand"
"Friendship, loyalty, love"
"Friendship, loyalty, love"
"Live, love, laugh"
"Live, love, laugh"
"Scotland forever"
"Scotland forever"
"The girl made lovely by sorrow"
"The girl made lovely by sorrow"
"Truth" and "Strength"
"Truth" and "Strength"
"You are half of me"
"You are half of me"


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    • AlasdairMacCaluim profile image

      AlasdairMacCaluim 18 months ago

      If anybody is having any trouble sourcing Gaelic for a tattoo - or for any other purpose, I am a professional Scottish Gaelic translator and offer translations for Gaelic tatoos for a small fee.

    • profile image

      james1952 22 months ago

      i would like some help if i can i want to put a tatoo in uncial script saying ( Beware the anger of a patient man

    • profile image

      Henrique 2 years ago

      Hi, I'm from Brazil and I like a lot celtic culture, and I have parents in my family that's related. I would like to tattoo this blessing in gaelic that I think is very important " May the road rise to meet you May the wind be always at your back May the sun shine warm upon your face The the rain fall soft upon your fields And until we meet again May God hold you in the palm of his hand". Please if someone can help me, I'm trying a long time to translate correct this, my email is

    • profile image

      Gaelic? 3 years ago

      keep seeing "Eiridh tonn air uisge balabh" A Wave will rise on quiet water. But it should be "Èirigh with a grave on the e and gh not dh. This means "rise" or the act of rising in Scottish Gaelic. direct translation is "Rising wave upon water silent"

    • profile image

      Gammy 3 years ago

      Looking to say

      "Blood makes you related,

      Loyalty makes you family"

      can anyone help me?

    • profile image

      josh 4 years ago

      Im trying to translate my daughters my love or my daughters are my world in gaelic

    • profile image

      Miro pls help 4 years ago

      hi :) I want a tattoo in gaelic saying : stranger in a strange land

      can anyone help me ? :) pls answer me on my mail

      THANKS :)

    • profile image

      Ackerson 4 years ago

      How would you write or say

      "Fighting Everyday" ?

    • profile image

      Bruce Fummey 5 years ago

      As a Scotsman with some Gaelic, I have read the information above. I have to say that I have never heard so much nonsense in many a long year. It was particularly funny that the site then encourages people to get their facts correct when they haven't even checked the basic fact that Gaelic has not been the main language spoken in Scotland for many hundreds of years

    • profile image

      Steve 5 years ago

      Hi could someone please translate the phrase

      "what's for you won't go by you"

      into Scottish Gaelic?

      please email to

      Thanks, Steve.

    • profile image

      Kath 5 years ago


      Can someone please translate "The love of family" into scottish gaelic?


    • profile image

      ELAINE 5 years ago

      PLEASE TRANSLATE "YEHLEN & ELAINE FOREVER" IN Gaelic thanks ..... its our secret love thnks

    • profile image

      Atmoneeunsunc 5 years ago

      hard work drink iPhone request puts tempers floating

      yonex nanospeed-yonex voltric-

    • profile image

      julie 5 years ago

      i want one love tattooed on me in scottish gaelic. can anyone give me the translation?

      and also the translation for, " i know the rocks are heavy, and i know the sea may always be rough, but there's sunshine for tomorrow, and for me that is enough. " - Julie Murphy

    • profile image

      Katie 5 years ago

      I want 'through my mothers eyes' in Irish Gaelic. I have to be 100% certain before I have it tattooed forever. Any help would be much appreciated x

    • profile image

      Jessicaa 5 years ago

      I want to get "Honor Thy Father" in Gaelic , but I'm unsure of how it is spelled & how to obtain this information . considered using a translator but I'm iffy on how much I can trust anything over the Internet these days , ya know..

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      David 5 years ago

      hello im looking to get a tattoo in scottish gaelic and would like it to say

      "Family is an unbreakable bond"

      please email if you can help to


    • profile image

      James 5 years ago

      How would you translate "mind over body" and "let it strengthen you not weaken you" into Scottish Gaelic

    • profile image

      April 5 years ago

      Hello My Fellow Gaelic lovers!!

      I am looking for "wisdom born of pain" in gaelic. The person I used to get my translations has unfortunately passed away.

      I am hoping someone can help me! Please e-mail me

      Much appreciated!!!

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      Stephanie 5 years ago

      Hey I'm looking to get my first tattoo. Can someone please help me translate to gaelic please! Thank you !!!

      "Family is Life"

      "Live Life"

      Please email

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      Missy 5 years ago

      Hello, I'm looking for a translation in Scottish/Gaelic for

      " I am the Hero of this Story "

      Can anyone help me with this? Thank you!

    • profile image

      maxine taylor 5 years ago

      I'm needing a phrase translating to Scottish gaelic

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder


      Eyes are the gateway to your soul

      If anyone could help me it would be greatly appreciated

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      Jordan 5 years ago

      Hey my name is Jordan and I wanna get a tattoo on my side saying family but everyones getting it already so I figured getting it in Gaelic scottish since im almost 90% percent lol but yea any suggestions iknow it starts with a te I'm pretty positive

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      Wiz 5 years ago

      Hey guys,

      Can someone translate, into Scottish Gaelic, please

      "Be happy while you're living, for you're a long time dead"

      Hope someone can help, me and my friend are getting this tattoed to commemorate her 21st :) Thanks

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      Scott 5 years ago

      Can anyone please tell me what Brennen, Conner, and Addison would be in Irish Gaelic? thanks

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      Alex 5 years ago

      My dad is from Scottland, and I have worked out a design combining a "triquetra" with a "&" and plan to do "Dad" + my name in his handwriting in this design, covering parts of the Triquetra+& combo.

      This will be my first and most likely only tattoo, so I appreciate help from those who speak Scottish Gaelic to advice on all words for Dad in Sc. Gaelic and what the English translation is/word to use would be. I have no idea what I would call him, had I spoken Sc. Gaelic.

      However if I do it in Scottish Gaelic it must not mean Daddy & Alex, as I want Dad & Alex, as I call him dad. Father is way to formal for me, and I hate Daddy as all brats who nags on their parents says Daddy/Mummy slowly in that annoying way.

      The D and X could be fitted as part of the triquetra, but before I work more on the design I need to know the Scottish Gaelic word/names to use. Alex is of course short for Alexander, but I can't remember he calling me that, not even once.

      Is the "&" symbol for AND used in Scottish Gaelic?

      I could ask him to help, but that would spoil the surprise as the triquetra is a copy of his tattoo.

    • profile image

      kaytelizabeth 5 years ago

      if someone could help me out with a quote to be translated into Scottish Gaelic i would be so grateful!!! i want 'the brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all'

      i've been trying to find it for a while and haven't been able to :(

    • profile image

      Kt 6 years ago

      I was wondering, the word happiness. is it "sonas" or "athas"?

    • profile image

      Póilína 6 years ago


      "My home" in Irish gaelic would be "Mo bhaile", pronounced kinda like 'muh wahl-ya' in English. Unless you wanted Scottish Gaelic, then I really dont know :/

    • profile image

      Lafferty 6 years ago

      I have Beatha,Gra',Ga'ire which is also Live,love,laugh

    • profile image

      Sara 6 years ago

      Hi ya! Can anyone translate in scottish gaelic " you keep me under your spell " for me please?? I've found the meaning of each word but I don't know if the phrase will have a sense...Thank u!

    • profile image

      stephen 6 years ago


      i would really like to know the translation of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" thank you

    • profile image

      lisa 6 years ago

      hey guys, i would like to know the translation of McConnell in Irish or Scottish Gaelic. Also, it would be awesome to know the translation of 'The light of god encircles me, the love of god enfolds me, and the strength of god protects me' thank you!

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      Nicky 6 years ago

      Hi my mum is want to have 'be impulsive' in Scottish Gaelic. This is special to her as it was her way of coping with what was going on in her life at the this time. Please help. X

    • profile image

      C.Milne 6 years ago

      I am trying to get the translation of "My Home" in gaelic

      Any Ideas,


    • profile image

      melanie 6 years ago

      I want a tattoo to say to love with one heart and my kids name jack deven hayden and lucus

    • profile image

      abes84 6 years ago

      I'm looking for a Gaelic saying for my son and my daughter can anyone help

    • profile image

      abes84 6 years ago

      I'm looking for a Gaelic saying for my son and my daughter can anyone help

    • profile image

      warrior1 6 years ago

      Can someone translate "simply the best" into Irish Gaelic please

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      Amanda 6 years ago

      Can anyone tell me what the phrase "CRAZY STYLE" would be in gaelic?

    • profile image

      Vicky 6 years ago

      Can someone translate Born Again into Scottish Gaelic please? Thank you.

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      ruthieb 6 years ago

      Been researching translations for mother, sister, daughter and friend in Scottish Gaelic and have found mathair, piuthar, nighean, caraid. Can someone confirm this is correct? Also interested in what "protect and serve" would be as well. I've been looking at older posts and have found some good resources...thanks for the suggestions. E-mail me Thanks much!

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      Jeff 6 years ago

      I am looking translate "keep the peace" and " protect and serve" for a law enforcement tattoo. Can anyone help. English to Irish Gaelic please

    • profile image

      Jeff 6 years ago

      I am looking translate "keep the peace" and " protect and serve" for a law enforcement tattoo. Can anyone help.

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      Elijah 6 years ago

      Can some one please translate, brothers for life, in Scottish Gaelic. Many thanks. My email is,

    • profile image

      Michiel 6 years ago

      Hi can someone help me translate this: Hapiness and luck is the road we travel by and not our destination,


      Ps: apologies for any miss spelling etc. Englisch is not my native language

    • profile image

      Jeff 6 years ago

      Hi can anyone translate Nothing is True, Everything is allowed into Scottish Gealic...?


    • profile image

      erin 6 years ago

      can anyone tell me how to spell "what does not kill me will only make me stronger" in irish/gaelic please ta

    • profile image

      kennedy 6 years ago

      can i have the scottish translation for, "consider the end"

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      ravi 6 years ago

      combine ravi{my name} Krishna{my gf name}...

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      shakespam 6 years ago

      Scottish Gaelic translation for "you are the light that shines in dark" or "forever loved"

      for a friend that wants to get them in a tattoo

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      samantha 6 years ago

      Hi im looking to get a tattoo off beauty attracts beauty but I can't find a translation anywhere would some be able to email me a translation too

    • profile image

      Tattoo 6 years ago

    • profile image

      trevor 6 years ago

      can anybody translate live for your self die for your family into irish gaelic

    • profile image

      teresa 6 years ago

      how to put teresa in celtic

    • profile image

      ELMA 6 years ago

      Hi can someone please translate "Father until we meet again may God hold you in the hallow of His hand" into gaelic for me please


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      rhondadawn 6 years ago

      i want to get a tatto about my feelings for my sister but dont want it to be a whole page on my back looking for a nice small script to sum up my love for her she is my best friend we are a year apart we were raised by our dad are mom left when i was 2and sis was 1 we didn't meet are mother till were 9 and 10 are dad was are everyting and me and my sis had eachother she is my rock means the world to me she was diganosed two years ago with mulitple sclarosis and she has been very sick so i would love to get the tatto sooner then later if anyone has a way to sum it up with the words sister bestfriend and my rock or other half just wanting sopmething beautifull to be written on my body thank you

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      allen 6 years ago

      hey was looking for the translation of "don't worry be happy" into irish

    • profile image

      dan 6 years ago

      can someone please translate McAlpine into scottish gaelic for me :D

    • profile image

      cailean 6 years ago

      translation for made in scotland and also born in scotland. can anyone help thanks email .alba gu brath.

    • profile image

      billie 6 years ago

      i want to get many things in life may change us but we start and end in family translated to scotish gaelic can someone help me

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      Haylee 6 years ago

      I am looking for the irish gaelic translation of "May God watch over my family" and "stay strong"

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      Brittany 6 years ago


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      Brittany 6 years ago

      Hi im looking for irish gaelic that says, to live lif can anyone help? Thanks can also email me: :)

    • profile image

      Gary Vincent 6 years ago

      I am trying to find the translation in Scottish Gaelic for 'Honour thy Family, Clan and Country'

    • profile image

      lisamae63 6 years ago

      How do you say "forever young" in scottish gaelic?


    • profile image

      Mary Henry 6 years ago

      Can anyone translate in Scottish Gaelic the following phrase with the word "forever" meaning eternity/everlasting?

      "Forever and a day"

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      Bruce 6 years ago

      Joined: Sat May 19, 2007 8:26 pm

      Posts: 981

      I would be likely to say:

      Cho fad' 's a mhaireas ceudnar againn beò, cha strìochd sinn fo smachd nan Sasainnich

      As long as 100 of us remain alive, we will not yield to the control of the English

      Is this translation correct?

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      Lori 6 years ago

      Looking for a Gaelic symbol and or words for the words.... Love, Happiness and Simplicity.


    • profile image

      Tamara 6 years ago

      Is there anyone who can please tell me how to say " Harm None " in Scottish Gaelic.. I've tryed looking everywhere... Thanks sooooo much!

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      MissJohnno 6 years ago


      I just wanted to know if anyone could help me with translating the of the below few words.

      "Watch over me"

      "Always loved, never forgotten"

      Can you also help me with the name Tony Kenneth is possible.


    • profile image 6 years ago

      My last name is WARRIOR. I want to get a gaelic tattoo of Warrior. Does anyone have any ideas?

    • becauseilive profile image

      becauseilive 6 years ago from N.J.

      @missmeaghan - Very cool! If you send me a pic, I'd be happy to post it :)

    • profile image

      missmeaghan 6 years ago

      Hi - just wanted to thank you for this page. I got "Cha d'dhùin doras nach d'fhosgail doras" and I love love love it!

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      redheadsrtrouble 6 years ago

      I am looking for a translation of

      Always A Part of My Heart, Forever In My Soul

      in Scottish Gaelic.

      Can anyone out there help me?

      Thanks so much!!

      If you know how to pronounce, please add in phonetics...hard to find anyone who speaks Gaelic in Canada!

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      Anne 6 years ago

      Hi, could someone please tell me if this translation is correct? It should be in Irish Gaelic. "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace." : "Déan gléas chun síochána díom id láimh, a Thiarna."

      Thank you very much!!

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      Kelsey 6 years ago

      I wanted to get a tattoo named after an Irish song played at my grandmother's funeral - the song is called "Island Girl" - how would this translate into Gaelic? I know there isn't an exact translation...but how would you say, "the girl from the island" or "the girl of the island"?? Help please!

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      Steven Carlin 6 years ago

      Hi could any one translate 'My Family My life'.. 'Brendon'and'Mikayla' in Irish Gaelic. Thanks Steve

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      Megan 6 years ago

      Hi, can anyone tell me the scottish garlic translation for ' sisters by choice' please. thanx

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      Ryan 6 years ago

      Can anyone tell me the Irish Gaelic spelling for "family, Faith, Forgiveness" thanks!!

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      Brett 6 years ago

      Can someone please translate the name "Randles" into Irish gaelic please. Much appreciated

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      Michael 6 years ago

      can someone translate.. Through every dark night, there's a brighter day.. into irish gaelic please

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      William MacLaine 6 years ago

      I have a translation of a phrase my grandfather used to say, but I do not remember the pronunciation (or the words he used). Translated in english it means "Beware the wrath of a patient man". In Scots (I've been told) it can be written "BI AIR FAICEALL FEARG DUINE FOIGHIDNEACH".

      Can someone confirm this is correct for me? Thanks.

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      Cheylene 6 years ago

      HEY can anyone translate

      "Then a light among them brightened,

      So that, if Cancer one such crystal had,

      Winter would have a month of one sole day."

      into IRISH GAELIC please, I want to get my tatto done in the next 2 months xo.

      My email is

      Thank you sososo much.

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      padraig 6 years ago

      Google translate is usually wrong with its gaelic translations, and even if it were always right, it only has irish gaelic. And lol at the Lord of the Rings tattoo in the corner of the third pic.

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      sarah 6 years ago

      use google translation.........

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      adam 6 years ago

      hello, can anyone translate ' soo when your hopes on fire, but you know your desire into gaelic please?... cheers

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      Connie Westbrook 6 years ago

      I am wanting to know how to say (Rusty Nail) n Gaelic. Please thnk you>

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      Heather G 6 years ago

      Hey im heather ... ( Fhraoich if any one wanted to know the translation lol.. oh and its said like frew-och btw thats scot gaelic )

      i really liked this page erm so thought i would put a few translations of english into scottish gaelic of a few quotes im in love with and some words lol

      Na gèill is tu beò.

      Do not surrender while you are alive.

      Brìgh gach cluiche gu dheireadh.

      The essence of a game is at its end.

      Beag air Bheag

      little by little



      tha mi sona gu leòr

      I'm happy enough

      Tha gaol agam ort

      I love you

      Tha e math a bhith beò

      It's good to be alive

      hope this keeps you going for now :)

      beannachd leibh!

      ( which is bye )

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      evey 6 years ago

      i need "beautiful fighter" translated into irish gaelic for a tattoo im finishing

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      mic 6 years ago

      hi does anyone know if there is a way to write your last name in scottish gaelic, or if there is a previous scottish alphabet to scottish gaelic? perhaps someone can translate "valentine" for me, is there a website that you can write your family name into and have it translated?

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      Matt 6 years ago

      wow, there are some people about to get some really cliché and stupid tattoos. LOL. gotta love people. So stupid

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      je85 6 years ago

      does anyone know what script the one that says "The girl made lovely by sorrow" is in?

    • profile image

      pk11 6 years ago

      i am looking for a translation of"i work to live i dont live to work" thank you

    • profile image

      fashion 6 years ago

      Interesting tattoo ideas.Informative hub.You did well job.

    • profile image

      Donna 6 years ago

      I'm looking for the words Walk with me in Scottish Gaelic. Any input would be much appreciated.

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      christopher 6 years ago

      can someone help me with, is there any difference of the quote "Nothing without effort" in irish gaelic or in scottish gaelic? help me please :)

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      Lane 6 years ago

      Could someone translate "Moore" for me in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic. I dont know if there is a difference. Thanks

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      Paul 6 years ago

      Could somebody translate "Never forget your past, but never lose sight of your future" into Irish Gaelic for me?

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      melissa 6 years ago

      if someone could translate,

      'this too shall pass'

      into SCOTTISH GAELIC that would be great!