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SeanFhocail

Cultúr, Teanga & Oidhreacht – Culture, Language & Heritage

 

The Irish language is a treasure chest of wonderful sayings and pithy lines of advice, commonly know as Seanfhocail. A favourite among Gaelic football and sports teams throughout the county is “ní neart go cur le chéile”, essentially, there is no strength without unity. From my schooldays with Master Roarty, a Gaoth Dobhair man in Bundobhráin, my favourites were “nil aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin” (no place like home) agus “an té nach bhfuil láidir ní folair dó a bheith glic” (if you’re not strong you need to be clever – unfortunately when it came to cluiche peil I was neither). Everyone has their own favourite – our Irish cultural officer here in Donegal, Fergus Mac Aodha, has well over a hundred and here are some of them:

 

Seanfhocail

Gaeilge amháin English Version Only
Ag duine féin is fearr a fhios cá luíonn an bhróg air. A person best knows where the shoe troubles him
Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile. It takes one to know one
Aithnítear cara i gcruatan. It is in hardship that a friend is recognised
An gad is giorra don scornach is túisce is ceart a scaoileadh. The knot nearest the throat is the the one to release first
An lao ite i mbolg na bó. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched
An luibh ná faightear is í a fhóireann. The herb that can’t be found is the very one which works
An rud a chíonn an leanbh is é a níonn an leanbh. What the child sees the child does
An rud a scríobhann an púca, léann sé féin é. What the ghost writes, the ghost reads
An rud a théann i bhfad téann sé i bhfuaire. What goes on for a long time loses its attractiveness
An rud is annamh is iontach. What’s seldom is wonderful
An rud is measa le duine ar domhan n’fheadair sé nach é lár a leasa é. The very thing a person dreads most in the world could be the best thing for him
An rud nach bhfuil leigheas air caithfear cur suas leis. What can’t be cured must be endured
An rud nach féidir ní féidir é. The impossible cannot be done
An t-uan ag múineadh méilí dá mháthair. The lamb teaching its mother how to bleat
An tslat nuair a chruann le haois is deacair í a shníomh ina gad. When the rod hardens with age it’s difficult to bend it
An té a bhfuil builín aige gheobhaidh sé scian lena ghearradh. The man who has a loaf will get a knife to cut it
An té a bhíonn amuigh fuarann a chuid. The one who is out, his share gets cold
An té a bhíonn siúlach bíonn sé scéalach. Travellers have tales
An té a bhíonn thuas óltar deoch air. When you’re up, they drink to you
An té a bhíonn thíos buailtear cos air. When you’re down, they kick you
An té a dtéann teist na mochóirí amach air ní cás dó codladh go headra. The person who gains the reputation of getting up early can sleep late
An té a mbíonn an rath ar maidin air bíonn sé air tráthnóna. He who is lucky in the morning tends to be luck in the evening too
An té nach bhfuil láidir ní foláir dó bheith glic. He who is not strong has to be clever
An té nach mbeireann ar an ngnó beireann an gnó air. He who does not get a grip on the job, the job gets a grip on him
An té nach nglacann comhairle glacfaidh sé comhrac. Whoever will not accept advice must accept strife
An té nach trua leis do chás, ná déan do ghearán leis. He who does not sympathise with your plight, don’t make your complaint to him
Ar mhaithe leis féin a níos an cat crónán. The cat purrs to please itself
Ar scath a chéile a mhaireann na daoine. People live in one another’s shadow
Bailíonn brobh beart. A little gathers to a lot
Beart gan leigheas, foighne is fearr dó. Patience is the best thing for an incurable situation
Beatha duine a thoil Everyone to his own tastes
Beatha teanga í a labhairt. It’s the life of a language to speak it
Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach. Power will have another day
Bliain le duine agus bliain ina choinne. One year with you, one against you
Breithnigh an abhainn sara dtéir ina cuilithe. Observe the river before you venture into its currents
Briseann an dúchas trí shúile an chait. Nature breaks out through the eyes of the cat
Bíonn adharca fada ar na buaibh thar lear. Faraway cows have long horns
Bíonn an fhírinne searbh. Truth is often bitter
Bíonn blas ar an mbeagán. A little of anything is tasty
Bíonn blas milis ar phraiseach na gcomharsan. The neighbours gruel tastes sweet
Bíonn caora dhubh ar an tréad is gile Even the whitest flock has a black sheep
Bíonn cead cainte ag fear caillte na himeartha. The man who has lost the match has permission to talk
Bíonn dhá insint ar gach aon scéal. There are two sides to every story
Bíonn gach tosú lag. Every beginning is weak
Bíonn súil le muir ach ní bhíonn súil le huaigh. There is hope of coming back from the sea but none of coming back from the dead
Cad a dhéanfadh mac an chait ach luch a mharú. Like father like son
Cailín ag Móir is Móir ag iarraidh déirce. Mór has a servant girl while she herself is out begging
Caora mhór an t-uan i bhfad. The lamb becomes a big heavy sheep over distance
Chonaic mé cheana thú, arsa an cat leis an mbainne te. I saw you before, as the cat said to the warm milk…
Ciall agus míchiall – dís ná gabhann le chéile. Sense and nonsense – two which do not go together
Cuir an breac san eangach sula gcuire tú sa phota é. Put the trout in the net before you put it in the pot
Cuir síoda ar ghabhar – is gabhar fós é. Put silk on a goat, it’s still a goat
D’ordaigh Dia cúnamh. God helps those who help themselves
Doras feasa fiafraí. The door to wisdom is to ask questions
Dá dhonacht é Séamas ba mheasa bheith ina éagmais. However bad Séamas is it would be worse to be without him
Dá fhad lá tagann oíche. However long the day, night comes
Dá mbeadh soineann go Samhain bheadh breall ar dhuine éigin. If it was fine till Halloween someone would be unhappy
Éire i bpáirt, Éire ar lár. Ireland divided is Ireland laid low
Éist le fuaim na habhann agus gheobhair breac. Listen to the sound of the river and you will catch a trout
Fear na bó faoina heireaball. The cows owner must go under her tail
Feileann spallaí do bhallaí chomh maith le clocha móra. Small shards suit as well as big stones for building walls
Filleann an feall ar an bhfeallaire. The evil deed returns to the evildoer
Gach dalta mar oiltear. Every pupil is as he is trained
Galar gan náire an tart. Thirst is a shameless disease
Giorraíonn beirt bóthar. Two people shorten the road
Glacann fear críonna comhairle. A wise man accepts advice
I dtosach na haicíde is fusa í a leigheas. It’s at the beginning of the disease it is easiest to cure
dtus an mhála is ceart a bheith tíosach. It’s at the beginning of the bag that one must be economical
I ndiaidh a chéile a thógtar na caisleáin. Rome wasn’t built in a day
Imíonn an tuirse is fanann an tairbhe. Tiredness goes away and the benefit remains
Iomad den aithne a mheadaíonn an tarcaisne. Familiarity breeds contempt
Is ait an mac an saol. Life is strange
Is beo duine tar éis a bhuailte ach ní beo é tar éis a cháinte. A person is alive after being beaten but not after his good name is taken
Is binn béal ina thost. Sweet to hear is a mouth which is silent
Is breá an ní an óige ach ní thagann sí faoi dhó. Youth is a fine thing but it does not come twice
Is báidhiúil iad lucht aoncheirde. Birds of a feather flock together
Is cuma nó muc duine gan seift. A shiftless person is the same as a pig
Is deacair ceann críonna a chur ar cholainn óg. It’s hard to put a wise head on young shoulders
Is deacair rogha a bhaint as dhá dhíogha It’s hard to choose between two evils
Is dána gach madra i ndoras a thí féin. Every dog is bold in his own doorway
Is dóigh le fear na buile gurb é féin fear na céille. The crazy man reckons he is the sensible one
Is fada an bóthar nach bhfuil casadh ann. It’s a long road that has no turning
Is fada siar a théann iarsma an drochbhirt. The trail of a bad deed goes a long way
Is fearr a bheith díomhaoin ná droch-ghnóthach. Better to be idle than up to no good
Is fearr an t-imreas ná an t-uaigneas. Arguing is better than loneliness
Is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte. Health is better than wealth
Is fearr beagán den ghaol ná mórán den charthanas. A little relationship is better than a lot of charity
Is fearr cara sa chúirt ná punt sa sparán. Better a friend in court than a pound in the purse
Is fearr go mall ná go brách. Better late than never
Is fearr leath ná meath . Half is better than nothing (literally: decaying)
Is fearr lán doirn de cheird ná lán mála d’ór. A fistful of a trade is better than a bagful of gold
Is fearr mac le himirt ná mac le hól. Better to have a son mad for sport than mad for drink
Is fearr marcaíocht ar ghabhar ná coisíocht dá fheabhas. Better to ride on a goat than the finest walking
Is fearr rith maith ná drochsheasamh. A good run is better than a bad stand
Is fearr súil le glas ná súil le huaigh. Better to look forward to prison than to the grave
Is fearr súil romhat ná dhá shúil i do dhiaidh. Better one look before you than two behind
Is furasta fuineadh in aice na mine. It’s easy to knead next to the mill
Is gaire cabhair Dé ná an doras. God’s help is nearer than the door
Is geal gach nua agus is searbh gach gnáth. Every novelty is great and every commonplace is bitter
Is geal leis an bhfiach dubh a ghearrcach féin. The black raven thinks its own offspring is bright
 Is geall le scíth malairt oibre. A change of work is as good as a rest
Is glas iad na cnoic i bhfad uainn. Faraway hills are green
 Is iad na muca ciúine a itheann an mhin. It’s the quiet pigs who eat the meal.
 Is in ithe na putóige a bhíonn a tástáil. The proof of the pudding is in the eating
Is iomaí cor a chuireann an saol de. Life goes through many twists and turns
 Is leor nod don eolach. A nod is enough to the wise
Is leor ó Mhór a dícheall. All anyone can do is his best
 Is lia gach othar i ndiaidh a leighis. Every patient is a surgeon after he is cured
 Is lú ná fríd máthair an oilc. It takes very little to cause trouble
 Is mairg a dheanann deimhin dá dhóchas. Woe to he who checks out what he hopes to be true
 Is mairg a dhéanann an t-olc is a bhíonn bocht ina dhiaidh. Woe to the one who does evil and does not profit by it
Is maith an scáthán súil charad. A friend’s eye is a good mirror
Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir. Time will tell
 Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras. Hunger is a good sauce
 Is maith an t-iománaí an té a bhíonn ar an gclaí. The hurler on the ditch is a great fellow
 Is maith le Dia féin cúnamh. God himself likes a bit of help
 Is maol gualainn gan bhráthair. A shoulder without a friend is undefended
Is minic a bhris béal duine a shrón. It’s often a person’s mouth broke his nose
 Is minic a bhí cú mhall sona. It’s often a slow hound was content
Is minic a gheall tailliúir is ná tiocfadh sé. It’s often a tailor promised to come and did not
 Is minic ciúin ciontach . The quiet ones are often guilty
 Is mór é luach na foighne. Patience is worth a lot
Is olc an chearc nach scríobann di féin. It’s a poor hen won’t scratch for itself
Is olc an ghaoth nach séideann do dhuine éigin. It’s an ill wind blows nobody any good
Is sleamhain an leac ag doras duine uasail. The flagstone is slippery at the door of a decent man
Is treise dúchas ná oiliúint. Nature is stronger than training
Is trom cearc i bhfad. A small burden grows heavier with distance
Is túisce deoch ná scéal. First a drink, then your news
 Is í an chiall cheannaigh an chiall is fearr. Sense bought dearly is the best kind
Is í an dias is troime is ísle a chromann a ceann. It is the heaviest ear of corn which bows its head lowest
Mair a chapaill is gheobhair féar. Live horse and you will get hay
Maireann an chraobh ar an bhfál ach ní mhaireann an lámh a chuir. The branch lives on the fence but not the hand that planted it
Maireann croí éadrom i bhfad. Light heart lives long
Marbh le tae agus marbh gan é. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it
Mian mic a shúil. A child wants everything he sees
Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí. Praise youth and youth will respond
Mol gort is ná mol geamhar. Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched
Mura gcuirfidh tú san Earrach ní bhainfidh tú sa bhFómhar. If you don’t sow in Spring you won’t reap in Autumn
Mura mbeadh agat ach pocán gabhair bí i lár an aonaigh leis. Even if you have only a puck goat to sell be in the middle of the fair with it
Más cam díreach an ród is é an bóthar mór an t-aicearra. Be it crooked or straight, it’s the main road is the shortest way
Más maith leat do mholadh faigh bás: más maith leat do cháineadh pós. If you want to be praised, die: if you want to be criticized, marry
 Más olc maol is measa mullach. If it’s bad on the flat it’s worse at the summit
Múineann gá seift. Necessity teaches resourcefulness
Namhaid an cheird gan í a fhoghlaim. If you don’t learn your trade, it becomes your enemy
Nuair a bheidh do lámh i mbéal na con tarraing go réidh í. When your hand is in the hound’s mouth withdraw it gently
Nuair a bhíonn an cat amuigh bíonn na lucha ag rince. When the cat’s away the mice dance
Nuair is crua don chailleach caithfidh sí rith. When it’s tough for the hag she has to run
Nuair is gann é an bia is fial é a roinnt. When the food is scarce it’s generous to share it
Ná bac le mac an bhacaigh is ní bhacfaidh mac an bhacaigh leat. Mind your own business
Ná cuir do leas ar cairde. Don’t procrastinate
Ná déan nós is ná bris nós. Don’t make a custom and don’t break a custom
Ná tabhair breith ar an gcéad scéal. Hear both sides before judgement
Ní bheathaíonn na breithre na braithre. Words alone won’t feed the brothers
Ní bhfuair minic onóir. Familiarity breeds contempt
Ní bhíonn an rath ach mar a mbíonn an smacht. No success without discipline
Ní bhíonn fear náireach éadálach. A shy man won’t be rich
Ní bhíonn in aon rud ach seal. Nothing lasts for ever
Ní bhíonn tréan buan. The strong don’t prevail for ever
Ní breac é go raibh sé ar an bport. Don’t count your fish till it’s landed
Ní dhéanfadh an saol capall ráis d’asal. The world won’t make a racehorse out of a donkey
Ní dhéanfaidh smaoineamh an treabhadh duit. Thinking will not do the ploughing for you
Ní fhaigheann lámh iata ach dorn dúnta. A closed hand gets nothing but a closed fist
Ní fiú bheith ag seanchas agus an anachain déanta. No point in talking when the damage is done
Ní féasta go rósta is ní céasta go pósta. It’s not a feast without a roast and true suffering comes with marriage
Ní féidir bheith ag feadaíl is ag ithe mine. You can’t whistle and eat meal at the same time
Ní féidir leis an ngobadán an dá thrá a fhreastal. You can’t be two places at once
Ní féidir é a bheith ina ghruth is ina mheadhg agat. You can’t have it both ways
Ní haithne go haontíos. You want to know me, come live with me
Ní heaspa go díth carad. There is no lack so bad as the lack of a friend
Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb. The windy day is not the day for thatching
Ní ionann dul go tigh an rí agus teacht as. It’s not the same thing to go to the king’s house and to come out of it
Ní lia duine ná tuairim. People are not more numerous than opinions
Ní lia tír ná gnás. There are not more countries than there are customs
Ní mar a shíltear a bhítear. Things aren’t always what they seem
Ní mhealltar an sionnach faoi dhó. You won’t fool the fox a second time
Ní neart go cur le chéile. There is no strength like co-operation
Ní sia gob an ghé na gob an ghandail. The goose’s beak is no longer than the gander’s
Ní thagann ciall roimh aois. Sense does not come before age
Ní théann dlí ar riachtanas. Necessity overrides the law
Ní troimide an loch an lacha. The lake is not heavier for having the duck on it
 Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin. No place like home
Níl leigheas ar an gcathú ach é a mharú le foighne. There is no cure for regret but to kill it with patience
Níl luibh ná leigheas in aghaidh an bháis. There is no herb or cure for death
Níl saoi gan locht ná daoi gan tréith. There is no wise man without a fault nor any fool without a good feature
Níl sprid ná puca nach bhfuil fios a chúise aige. There is no spirit nor ghost doesn’t know his own business
Níl tuile dá mhéad nach dtránn. There is no flood, however great, that does not ebb away
Níl íseal ná uasal ach thíos seal agus thuas seal. There is neither low not high but down for a while and up for a while.
Níor bhris focal maith fiacail riamh. A good word never broke a tooth
Níor chaill fear an mhisnigh riamh é. The man of courage never lost it
Níor líon beannacht bolg riamh. A blessing never filled a belly
Pós bean ón sliabh agus pósfaidh tú an sliabh ar fad. Marry a woman from the mountain and you will marry the entire mountain
Ritheann fear buile trí thuile go dána, ach is minic thug tuile fear buile le fána. A crazy man runs through a flood boldly, but it’s often a flood swept a crazy man away
Sciúrdann éan as gach ealta. A bird flies out of every flock
Seachnaíonn súil an ní ná feiceann. An eye disregards what it does not see
Síoda ar Shiobhán is na preabáin ar a hathair. Silk on Siobhán and her father in rags
Súil le breis a chailleann an cearrbhach. Hoping to beats the odds is what ruins the gambler
Tabhair rogha don bhodach agus is é an díogha a thoghfaidh sé. Give a choice to the churl and it’s the worst he will pick
Tagann gach maith le cairde. No grace comes singly
Taithí a dhéanann máistreacht. Practice makes perfect
Tar éis a thuigtear gach beart. Hindsight is a great thing
Tarraingíonn scéal scéal eile. One story leads on to another
Tosach sláinte codladh : deireadh sláinte osna. The beginning of health is sleep: the end of health is a sigh
Tuigeann Tadhg Taidhgín. Like understands like
Tír gan teanga tír gan anam. A country without a language is a country without a soul
 Tús maith leath na hoibre. A good start is half the work