Here's a lovely collection of Irish sayings and proverbs to help sustain us in times of trouble. These wise old words are part of our oral cultural inheritance.
These original sayings are found in the language of our ancestors, Irish or Gaeilge, which is one of the world's six Gaelic or Celtic languages.
Table of Contents
Words of Kindness
There's kindness, compassion and wisdom in the words of our predecessors, and in times of trouble we can turn to their ancient advice to find comfort. Irish proverbs contain a wealth of knowledge and wisdom.
These old sayings were a way of passing down knowledge through the generations, and many of these sayings date back hundreds of years.
Our Irish ancestors faced many trials and tribulations over the centuries, so I thought why not examine some of their uplifting sayings, to help us find courage and resolve when life gets challenging.
The Importance of Working Together
Here's a collection of sayings that underline the importance of working together. In rural Ireland in days gone by, people often came together to help one another out. This tradition is known as a meitheal (pronounced meh-hull), and it is through this cooperative vision that Irish people survived in years gone by.
Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Err scawh a ch(k)ale-ah a wir-enn na dee-neh.
Under the shadow of each other, people survive.
(In other words: In the shelter of each other, people survive.)
Here's a saying that is the Irish version of always look on the bright side of life. I suppose the Irish often think in terms of wind and weather when penning proverbs, simply because the harsh weather on the west coast of Ireland had a deep impac on people's lives.
Is olc an ghaoth nach séideann do dhuine éigin.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Is ulk an gway nawch(k) shay-dan do gwin-eh aye-gan.
It is a bad wind that does not blow (bring good) to somebody.
(In other words - No matter how bad something that happens, someone will benefit.)
The Irish always expected the unexpected from life. No matter how you rear a child, you never know how he is going to turn out. Life is very similar, in that it can turn out in strange ways.
Is ait an mac an saol.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Iss atch on moc an say-ol.
Life is a strange son.
(In other words - Life is strange.)
Always Appreciate What You Have
Here's a wonderful saying advising us to never give up, despite feeling like there is no end in sight, and that there are too many twists and turns in life's daily journey.
Dá fhada an lá tagann an tráthnóna.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Daw aw-dah on law tog-ann an traw-no-nah.
No matter how long the day, the evening comes.
(In other words - No matter how bad things are, they will end)
Here's the Irish version of the old proverb, there's no place like home. This is what Dorothy would have said in the Wizard of Oz if she was returning to Ireland and not Kansas.
Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Neel ane tin-tawn mawr duh hin-tawn fayne.
There's no hearth or fireplace like your own hearth.
In other words, there's no place like home.
Here's a little advice about not getting too big for our boots or dreaming of too much.
A little fire that warms is better than a big fire that burns.
Here's an old saying that is telling us that good luck might be just around the corner, since life is full of all kinds of ups and downs.
Ní huasal ná íseal, ach thuas seal is thíos seal.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Nee hoo-sal naw ee-shal, ock hoo-uss shal iss hee-uss shal.
Neither noble nor lowly, but up for a while and down for a while.
(In other words - It doesn't matter who you are, you will have your ups and downs)
Here's one of my favorite Irish proverbs of all times, reminding us that God is everywhere. All we need to do is ask for His help.
Is giorra cabhair Dé ná an doras.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Iss gur-rah cow-er Day naw an dur-ass.
God's help is nearer than the door.
(In other words: You only have to ask God for help.)
Life is never straight forward, and our journeys will bring us many joys and challenges. Appreciate the turns and bumps along the way on the journey of life.
Is fada an bóthar nach mbíonn casadh ann.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Iss faw-dah on boh-har noch(k) me-on caw-sah ann.
It's a long road that has no turning.
(In other words: Things never go completely smoothly or badly)
Here's another version of this old saying.
Is iomaí cor sa tsaol.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Iss um-eeh cur sah thail.
There is many a twist in life.
Prayers for Health and Wealth
The next collection of sayings focuses on some lovely old prayers, seeking God's help and protection.
Dia idir sinn agus an t-olc.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Dee-ah id-ir shin og-uss on tulk.
God between us and all harm.
(This is often said upon hearing bad news)
Here's one with a little advice about catching illnesses early.
I dtosach na h-aicíde is fusa í a leigheas.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Ih dus-ock nah hack-ee-deh iss fuss-ah eeh ah lye-uss
It is easier to cure a disease if caught early
(A stitch in time saves nine.)
Now the Irish suffered through a long a protracted famine in the middle of the 19th century. This old proverb provides advice about sharing what we have with others.
Nuair is gann é an bia is ea is fial é a roinnt.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Noo-ur iss gone ay on bee-ah is sha iss fee-ul ay ah rye-unt.
When food is scarce it is generous to share it.
Here's an old Irish greeting that asks for the blessings of heaven on those we meet along the way.
Mo sheacht mbeannacht ort!
Phonetic Pronunciation: Muh hy-awkth mann-ock-th urt
My seven blessings on you!
Here's another Irish salutation that would have been used to say goodbye or when leaving a home. God was often called upon to bring blessings to friendships.
Nár laga Dia thú.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Nawr lag-ah Dee-ah hoo
May God never weaken you.
Here we return to the topic of good health and good fortune. The Irish knew that their livlihoods depended on their ability to work, and they valued health immensly.
Is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Iss fahr an tlawn-teh naw na tawn-teh.
Health is better than wealth.
In Ireland there was great devotion to Holy Mary, the mother of Jesus. Many prayers passed the of our ancestors on a daily basis, and many were directed to Mother Mary. Here's an expression often used to find hope in troubled times.
Tá Dia láidir is máthair mhaith aige.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Thaw Dee-ah law-dir iss maw-hir wah egg-eh
God is strong and He has a good mother.
Many Irish proverbs deal with the topic of friendship, and devleoping long lasting supportive relationships with friends and relatives. As one saying goes, "May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty."
In Ireland's troubled past and traumatic history, many only survived because of the support of friends. This saying tells us that we will only ever know our true friends in times of hardship. The Irish always say that a friend's eye is a good mirror.
Aithnítear cara i gcruatán.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Ah-nee-tar cah-rah ih grew-tawn
A friend is known in hardship.
Friends were always viewed as faithful companions with whom to enjoy good times and bad times. I think this next proverb refers to a good laugh with friends as being a cure for all that ails us.
A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.
And always remember...
No time for health today, no health for your time tomorrow.
Irish Proverbs help us ponder on what is important in life, and in many old Irish sayings whiskey features prominently.
Here's a humorous way at looking at what is needed for health. Few doctors might agree today, but this is how our ancestors viewed life.
What butter and whiskey won’t cure, there is no cure for.
And if the butter and whiskey fail to heal, you can always turn to God. This greeting was often used when leaving a person's home.
Go bhfága Dia do shláinte agat.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Guh vaw-gah Dee-ah dhu hlaw-un-teh ah-gut.
May God spare you your health.
Despite Ireland's difficult history, faith in God and His ability to bring comfort, did not fade in Ireland after the Famine. Here's a lovely old saying about God's help.
Níor dhún Dia doras riamh nár oscail Sé ceann eile.
Phonetic Pronunciation: Nee-ur goon Dee-ah dur-uss ree-uv naw-r us-kil shay ku-own ell-ah.
God never closed one door without opening another.
Here's a little advice about bravery and too much bravado. The Irish don't believe in feeling bad if you simply survive.
"It is better to be a coward for a minute than dead for the rest of your life."
And never feel bad about growing old, because...
"The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune."
And finally here's one I don't have the exact wording for in Irish, but it's a blessing or wish I often heard said by my granny, when she would hear that someone wasn't well.
In Irish it would be close to this... Le cabhair Dé, go n-éirðidh tú níos fearr (pronounced Leh cow-ir day, guh ni-row-ig thu nee-us far). If any Irish speaker reads this and knows the exact wording of this blessing in Irish, please do let us know in the comment section.
With the help of God, you'll pull through.
(Said to someone who is ill or out of sorts)
The Irish Way With Words
And there you have it - a collection of Irish blessings and sayings in times of trouble.
The Irish have a way with words, and between blessings, sayings, toasts and proverbs, our ancestors had an insightful or humorous word for every occasion in life. Troubled times were no exception.
Here are some more collections of Irish words, blessings and proverbs you might enjoy.
- Inspirational Irish Words and Sayings
- Words of Wisdom and Faith Found in the Breastplate of Saint Patrick
- The Gift of Peacefulness in Irish Words of Wisdom
- Irish Blessings and Sayings About Faith
- Irish Proverbs About Proverbs
I hope you find comfort in these soft words of our ancestors.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
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