As we Americans celebrate Labor Day today, I thought it might be interesting to gather old Irish sayings that speak to the importance of work and labor in our lives.
The Irish throughout the world are not known for their riches, pockets full of gold, or affluent lifestyles, but throughout the ages the Irish have never been afraid of hard work. This collection of old Irish sayings is evidence the Irish fully understood the need to earn prosperity through the fruits of their labor.
Irish Americans were integral to proposing Labor Day as a holiday. Founding of the holiday is credited to a Peter McGuire or a Matthew Maguire. Whether McGuire or Maguire first came up with this holiday idea, it is very clear by both men’s last names, this holiday was the idea of an Irishman.
I hope you enjoy this selection of wise old words and famous Irish sayings. I’ve added a new feature where you can listen to the pronunciation of the Irish or Gaelic phrases. I’m not a native Irish speaker, but I learned enough Irish in my school years to be able to read these phrases for you. I hope this helps.
Many readers ask for phonetic pronunciation of the Irish language on my blog, but this post has so many Irish language sayings, the post would be full of nonsensical words if I tried to create phonetic phrases for everything. You can read all about how the people of Ireland call their language Irish, not gaelic or Irish gaelic in a previous ramble.
Without further ado, here’s my collection of Irish sayings and proverbs about work and labor especially for Labor Day….
A Good Start:
The following collection of Irish sayings focuses upon the importance of getting off to a good start for every day and every task. Let’s start with the most popular saying of all ….
“Tús maith, leath na hoibre.”
“A good start is half the work.”
If you wish to hear the pronunciation of this saying just click on the play arrow on the sound file below. You’ll find recordings of all the Irish sayings in this post so that you can hear how these Gaelic phrases sound …
“Lose an hour in the morning
and you’ll be looking for it all day.”
“An té a dtéann cáil na mochéirí amach dó
ní miste dó codladh go méanlae.”
“He who gets a name for early rising
can stay in bed until midday.”
Here’s a short sound file so you can listen to the pronunciation of this Irish saying.
This particular saying can be expressed alternatively as ….
“Those who get the name of rising early,
may lie all day.”
“Bíonn gach tosach lag.”
“Every beginning is weak.”
Here’s a sound file for the Irish pronunciation of the saying above:
The Importance Of Skill:
The next selection of sayings emphasizes the importance of skill, diligence and perseverance if one is to succeed in life. Nothing is accomplished without skill and patience.
“A bad workman quarrels with his tools.”
“Keep your shop
and your shop will keep you.”
“Is fearr lán doirn de cheird
ná lán mála d’ór.”
“A handful of skill is better
than a bagful of gold.”
“Buail an iarann te.”
“Strike the hot iron.”
“It’s not a delay to stop and sharpen the scythe.”
“Cleachtadh a dhéanann maistreacht.”
“Practice makes mastery.”
The Perils Of Laziness:
The next grouping of old Irish sayings pulls no punches when warning about the dangers of laziness, idleness and sloth. Those who choose not to work are destined to a life of poverty according to our ancestors.
“Unwillingness easily finds an excuse.”
“Laziness is a heavy burden.”
“Poverty waits at the gates of idleness.”
“It’s a dirty bird that won’t keep its own nest clean.”
“Snathán fada, táilliúr falsa.”
“A long stitch, a lazy tailor.”
“Ní dhéanfaidh smaoineamh an treabhadh duit.”
“You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.”
“Fat is not to be had without labor.”
“Is fearr obair ná caint.”
“Work is better than talk.”
“The person of the greatest talk,
is the person of the least work.”
“Ní fhanann trá le fear mall.”
“An ebb tide does not wait for a slow man.”
Diligence and Patience:
Planning, steadfastness and a ‘can-do’ attitude are highlighted in this next collection of Irish proverbs. They are all along the lines of the old saying “you reap what you sow.”
“Time and patience would bring a snail to America.”
“Mura gcuirfidh tú san earrach
ní bhainfidh tú san fhómhar.”
“If you do not sow in the spring,
you will not reap in the autumn.”
“Cé gur beag díol dreoilín,
caithfidh sé a sholáthar.”
“Little as a wren needs,
it must gather it.”
“Obair ó chrích obair bean tí.”
“Work without end is housewife’s work.”
“Is crua a cheannaíonn an droim an bolg.”
“The back must slave to feed the belly.”
“Molann an obair an fear.”
“The work praises the man.”
“Ní thuirsítear fear na héadála.”
“One does not tire of a profitable occupation.”
“Many hands make light work.”
“Put it on your shoulder,
and say it is not a burden.”
“Imíonn an tuirse ach fanann an tairbhe.”
“The tiredness leaves but the profit remains.”
“Ní neart go cur le chéile.”
“There is no strength without unity.”
“Ní bhíonn an rath,
ach mara mbíonn an smacht.”
“There is no prosperity
unless there is discipline.”
Wishing you all a very happy Labor Day with your loved ones. As we remember the workers who built America over the centuries, let’s celebrate their sacrifices by enjoying a little time off.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
If you enjoyed this collection of blessings and sayings from Ireland, here are some more you may enjoy….