Gaelic proverbs



An nì chì na big, ‘s e nì na big.
What the little ones see, the little ones do.

Cha deoch-slàint, i gun a tràghadh.
It’s no health if the glass is not emptied.

Cha bhi fios aire math an tobair gus an tràigh e.
The value of the well is not known until it goes dry.

Cha dèan ‘Tapadh leis an fhìdhlear’ am fìdhlear a phàigheadh.
A ‘thank you’ doesn’t pay the fiddler.

Cha b’e là na gaoithe là nan sgolb.
The windy day is not the day for thatch-wattles.

Bidh an t-ubhal as fheàrr air a’mheangan as àirde.
The best apple is on the highest bough.

Ge milis am fìon, tha e searbh ri dhìol.
The wine is sweet, the paying bitter.

Fear sam bith a loisgeas a mhàs, ‘s e fhèin a dh’fheumas suidhe air.
Whoever burns his backside must himself sit upon it.

Gluais faicilleach le cupan làn.
Go carefully with a full cup.

Is e ‘n t-ionnsachadh òg an t-ionnsachadh bòidheach.
The learning in youth is the pretty learning.

An làmb a bheir, ‘s i a gheibh.
The hand that gives is the hand that gets.

Chan ann leis a’chiad bhuille thuiteas a’chraobh.
It is not with the first stroke that the tree falls.

Bidh mìr a’ ghill’ èasgaidh air gach mèis.
The smart fellow’s share is on every dish.

Cha bhi fios aire math an tobair gus an tràigh e.
The value of the well is not known until it goes dry.

Chan fhiach cuirm gun a còmhradh.
A feast is no use without good talk.

Cha tuit caoran à cliabh falamh.
Peats don’t fall from empty creels.

Cha toir a’bhòidhchead goil air a’ phoit.
Beauty won’t boil the pot.

Far an taine ‘n abhainn, ‘s ann as mò a fuaim.
Where the stream is shallowest, it is noisiest.

Na toilich do mhiann gus am feuch thu do sporan.
Check your purse before you please yourself.

Is uaisle am breid na toll.
A patch is better than a hole.

Tachraidh na daoine, ach cha tachair na cnuic.
Men will meet, but the hills will not.

Dùnan math innearach, màthair na ciste-mine.
A good dungheap is mother to the meal chest.

Am feur a thig a-mach sa Mhàrt, thèid e staigh sa Ghiblean.
The grass that grows in March disappears in April.

Bàthaidh uisge teth teine.
Hot water will quench fire.

Cha robh dithis riamh a’ fadadh teine nach do las eatarra.
Two never kindled a fire but it lit between them.

Chan eil deathach an taigh na h-uiseig.
There is no smoke in a lark’s house.

Cha chinn feur air an rathad mhòr.
Grass does not grow on the high road.

Cha d’dhùin doras nach d’fhosgail doras.
No door ever closed, but another opened.

Cùm do chù ri leigeadh.
Hold back your dog till the deer falls.

Cha dèan cas làidir nach ith brù mhòr.
The strong foot will not find more than the big belly will devour.

Cha d’fhuair sùil ghionach riamh cunnradh math.
A covetous eye never got a good bargain.

Cha do bhrist fear riamh a bhogha nach d’fheum fear eile ‘n t-sreang.
No man ever broke his bow but another man found a use for the string.

Chan iongnadh boladh nan sgadan a bhith den t-soitheach sam bi iad.
No wonder the cast smells of the herrings that it holds.

Cha tèid nì sam bith san dòrn dùinte.
Nothing can get into a closed fist.

Ge milis a’ mhil, cò dh’imlicheadh o bhàrr dri i?
Honey may be sweet, but no-one licks it off a briar.

Gabhaidh an connadh fliuch, ach cha ghabh a’ chlach.
Wet fuel may kindle, but a stone never will.

Is sleamhainn leac doras an taigh mhòir.
The chief’s house has a slippery doorstep.

Ge b’e thig gun chuireadh, suidhidh e gun iarraidh.
Who comes uninvited will sit down unbidden.

Is truagh a’bhantrach a’ phiob.
Poor is the bagpipe when widowed.

Is fheàrr teine beag a gharas na teine mòr a loisgeas.
The little fire that warms is better than the big fire that burns.

Is àrd ceann an fhèidh sa chreachann.
Lofty is the deer’s head on the top of the mountain.

Is luath fear doimeig air fàire, latha fuar Earraich.
Swift is the slut’s husband over the hill, on a bleak day in Spring.



Bàthaidh toll beag long mhòr.
A little hole will sink a big ship.

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

Dèan maorach fhad ‘s a bhios an tràigh ann.
Dig your bait while the tide is out.

An nì a thig leis a’ghaoith, falbhaidh e leis an uisge.
What comes with the wind will go with the water.



Cha sgeul-rùin e ‘s fios aig triùir air.
It’s no secret if three know it.

Is ann den aon chlò an cathdath.
The tartan is all of the one stuff.

Socraichidh am pòsadh an gaol.
Marriage takes the heat out of love.

Is math an sgàthan sùil caraide.
A friend’s eye is a good looking-glass.

Breac à linne, slat à coille is fiadh à fìreach - mèirle às nach do ghabh gàidheal riamh nàire.
A fish from the river, a staff from the wood and a deer from the mountain - thefts no Gael was ever ashamed of.

Suirghe fada bhon taigh, ‘s pòsadh am bun an dorais.
Go courting afar, but marry next door.

Teine chaoran is gaol ghiullan - cha do mhair iad fada riamh.
A fire of broken peat, and a boy’s love, do not last.

Furain an t-aoigh a thig, greas an t-aoigh tha falbh.
Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest.

Nì òigear leisg bodach brisg.
A lazy youth will make an active old man.



Cha dèan aon smeòrach Samhradh.
One mavis doesn’t make summer.

Cha dèan cat miotagach sealg.
A cat in mittens won’t catch mice.

Cha chòir an t-each glan a chur uige.
The willing horse should not be spurred.

Chan i bhò ‘s àirde geum as mò bainne.
The loudest cow is not the best milker.

Cha shoirbh triubhas a chur air cat.
It’s not easy to put trews on a cat.

Is ladarna gach cù air a shitig fhèin.
Every dog is bold on his own midden.

The iongantas air a chat earball a bhith air.
The cat wonders at its own tail.

Cha sgal cù roimh chnàimh.
A dog yells not when hit with a bone.

Is bean-taighe ‘n luchag air a taigh fhèin.
The mouse is mistress in her own house.

Gach madadh air a’ mhadadh choimheach.
Every dog sets upon the stranger dog.

Cha mhisd’ a’ ghealach na coin a bhith comhartaich rithe.
The moon is none the worse for the dogs’ barking at her.

Bu gheur an cù a bheireadh an t-earball uaithe.
Sharp would the dog be that could snatch his tail from him.

Cha tàinig eun glan riamh à nead a’chlamhainn.
A clean bird never came out of a kite’s nest.

Gheibh cearc an sgrìobain rudeigin, is chan fhaigh cearc a’ chrùbain dad idir.
The scraping hen will find something, but the creeping hen will find nothing.



Am fear a bhios a’ riarachadh na maraig, bidh an ceann reamhar eige fhèin.
The man that divides the pudding will have the thick end to himself.

Am fear dan dàn a’chroich, cha tèid gu bràth a bhàthadh.
Who is born to be hanged will never be drowned.

Cha dèanar sagart gun fhoghlam, ‘s cha dèan foghlam sagart.
A priest should be learned, but learning won’t make a priest.

Chan eil saoi air nach laigh leòn.
No hero is proof against injury.

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.

Is i mhàthair bhrisg a nì ‘n nighean leisg.
The active mother makes the lazy daughter.

Seachnaidh duin’ a bhràthair, ach cha sheachain e choimh-earsnach.
A man may do without a brother, but not without a neighbour.

Is fad’ an oidhche gu latha do dh’fhear na droch mhnatha.
The night is long for the husband of a bad wife.

Saoilidh an duin’ air mhisg gum bi a h-uile duin’ air mhisg ach e fhèin.
The drunk man thinks himself the only one sober.

Is treasa dithis a’ dol thar àn àtha na fad’ o chèile.
Two should stay together when crossing a ford.

An uair a thèid na mèirlich a throd, thig daoin‘ ionraic gu ‘n cuid fhèin.
When thieves dispute, honest men will get their own.

Am fear nach dèan cur sa Mhàrt, cha bhuain e san Fhoghar.
He who will not sow in March will not reap in autumn.

Am fear nach cuir a shnaidhm, caillidh e chiad ghrèim.
The man who puts not a knot on his thread loses the first stitch.

Am fear a thèid a ghnàth a-mach le lìon, gheibh e eòin air uairibh.
The man who always goes out with his net will catch birds sometimes.

Gabhaidh fear na sròine mòire a h-uile rud ga ionnsaigh fhèin.
The man with a big nose thinks everyone talks of it.

Bidh cron duine cho mòr ri beinn mun lèir dha fhèin e.
A man’s fault will be as big as a mountain before he sees it.

Ged bheir thu bean o Ifrinn, bheir i dhachaigh thu.
Though you should take a wife from Hell, yet she will bring you home.

Is ioma nì a chailleas fear na h-imrich.
Many a thing drops from the man who often flits.



Is fheàrr teicheadh math na droch fhuireach.
Better a good retreat than a bad stand.

Is ann an ceann bliadhna a dh’innseas iasgair a thuiteamas.
It is at the year’s end that the fisher can tell his luck.

Mol an latha math mu oidhche.
Praise the good day at the close of it.

Brìgh gach cluiche gu dheireadh.
The essence of a game is at its end.



Copyright © K. Dauth 1999