There are several ‘Gaeltacht’ regions in Ireland, where Irish or ‘Gaeilge’ is commonly spoken.
As you probably know, the Irish language, or Gaeilge, has produced countless linguistic gems that span from wise and thought provoking to bemusing and hilarious.
We love our national language, so we’ve picked 12 of our favorite Irish sayings and phrases to share and enjoy with our Irish-American cousins.
We’ve got wisdom, toasts, threats, blessings, proverbs and curses (which seem extra menacing when spoken in Irish, for whatever reason).
So let’s get started with a simple one that will have you right at home in any bar or pub in Ireland:
Irish Saying: Fad Saol Agat, Gob Fliuch, Agus Bás In Eirinn.
Translation: Long Life To You, A Wet Mouth, And Death In Ireland.
Pronounced: Fah-D Seal Ah-Gut, Gob Fluck, Ah-Gus Boss In Air-Inn.
Imagine you’d just proudly rolled that last one out in a small pub in an Irish-speaking part of rural County Galway, only there’s someone nearby, being generally loud and bothering you everyone around you, – you might be inclined to say something like this…..
Irish Saying: Is Minic A Bhris Beál Duine A Shrón.
Translation: Many A Time A Man’s Mouth Broke His Nose.
Pronounced: Iss Minick A Vrish Bale Dinn-Eh A Shrone.Needless to say this could be used in humorous context too – we’re not suggesting you actually threaten anyone! Essentially, this is the Irish equivalent of ‘Talk sh*t get hit’...
But maybe you’re kind of person that the above may in fact apply to? Then you’d likely respond with something to the effect of -
Irish Saying: Póg Mo Thóin!
Translation: Kiss My Ass!
Pronounced: Pogue Muh Ho-In
A classic, but maybe avoid that one if you value your ‘shrón’….
This next saying sums things so far up pretty well -
Irish Saying: Nuair A Bhíonn An Fíon Istigh, Bíonn An Ciall Amuigh.Translation: When The Wine Is In, The Sense Is Out (There's No Sense In Someone Who's Drunk)
Pronounced: Nuh-Ar A Vee-On Fee-On Iss-Chih, Bee-On An Keel Am-Wih.
Perhaps you’re not loud, obnoxious or much of a drinker, but more of a hyper-critical parent, or maybe you’re just easily irritated by badly behaved kids? If this resonates, try this wonderfully-judgmental Irish saying:
Irish Saying: Drochubh, Drochéan
Pronounced: Druck-Uv, Druck-Ay-An
Translation: Bad Egg, Bad Bird (Bad Kids = Bad Parents)
As Philip Larkin once wrote, "They fuck you up, your mum and dad".
If Philip Larkin was Irish it would have been simply Drochubh, Drochéan. No need for that terrible language!
Speaking of eggs actually, ever been so feckin hungry that you don’t give two shites what kind of food you get? Even the most plain, basic thing is so satisfying purely because of how you are? Well, the Irish have a saying for that…
Irish Saying: Is Maith An T-Anlann An T-Ocras
Translation: Hunger Is The Best Sauce
Pronounced: Iss Mawt On Tawn-Lonn On Tuck-Russ
We like to imagine this being used by Irish mothers as a way of stopping kids snacking between meals!
As you may know, it’s only in recent decades the Ireland began to see any kind of economic prosperity - for the majority of it’s modern history the Irish have actually experienced considerable hardship and scarcity.
We get the feeling these conditions gave rise to our next saying, which distinguishes between the ‘haves and have-nots’ in Irish society.
Irish Saying: Ní Thuigeann An Sách An Seang
Translation: The Well-Fed Does Not Understand The Lean
Pronounced: Nee Hig-Ann On Sawk On Shang
But maybe your neither particularly hungry nor well-fed? In fact, food is actually the last thing on your mind right now. This is because you’re thinking about your enemies……
More specifically, you’re thinking about the best way to curse them when you next cross paths…..
Well good news! Doing it through Irish can make it all the more menacing…….
Irish Saying: Go N-Ithe An Cat Thú, Is Go N-Ithe An Diabhal An Cat!
Translation: May The Cat Eat You, And May The Devil Eat The Cat!
Pronounced: Guh N-Ih-Heh On Cot Hoo, Iss Guh N-Ih-Heh On Jow-Al On Cot!
Just so we’re 100% clear – you’re wishing that your enemy (or friend) gets eaten by cat, and as if that wasn’t grim enough, you then want the cat – who’s done nothing to you by the way – to be then eaten by none of than The Devil himself.
If you’re more of a straight-to-the-point kind of person, and you like your curses to be nice and clear - with no room for any ambiguity or confusion, then maybe this next one is more your style……
Irish Saying: Ualach Sé Chapall De Chré Na H-Úire Ort.
Translation: Six Horse-Loads Of Graveyard Clay Upon You.
Pronounced: Ooh-Lock Shay Cawpill Deh Cray Na Hoy-Ra Urt’
One horse-load would probably have done it – but there you go……
But we don’t all have as many enemies as you, so if you’ve more friends than enemies and want to wish them well, we like this one -
Irish Saying: Go Gcuire Dia An T-Ádh Ort
Translation: May God Put Luck Upon You
Pronounced: Guh Gir’uh D’eeuh Uhn Tah Ort
Many Irish well-wishes refer to God, due to the strong influence of Christianity on the vernacular and traditional Irish society as it developed.
Tá sé deas a bheith deas! (It’s nice to be nice!)
But what if you’re not toasting to good health, threatening/blessing others, judging their parenting, thinking about food, socio-economics, or in the business of poetically cursing your enemies?
What if you’re becoming increasingly aware of the uphill battle the Irish language is facing?
The reality is that Irish language is at risk of becoming virtually extinct outside of school classrooms (where it’s sadly poorly taught) in a few generations; so speaking even a little Irish connects you and your family on a real level to your Irish heritage and helps keep the language alive!
So on that note we’ll leave you with our final Irish saying which we feel sums up the essence of this article!
Irish Saying: Is Fearr Gaeilge Briste, Na Bearla Cliste
Translation: Broken Irish Is Better Than Clever English
Pronounced: Iss Far Gale-Geh Brishteh Naw Bear-Elh Clish-Teh
Irish Saying: Sláinte
Translation: ‘Health’ (Cheers!)