Scottish Gaelic proverbs

From Quotes
The aim of life is some way of living, as flexible and gentle as human nature; so that ambition may stoop to kindness, and philosophy to condor and humor. Neither prosperity nor empire nor heaven can be worth winning at the price of a virulent temper, bloody hands, an anguished spirit, and a vain hatred of the rest of the world.
George Santayana
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  • Cha d'fhag claidheamh Fhinn riamh fuigheall beuma.
    • Fingal's sword never had to cut twice.
  • Is fhearr fheuchainn na bhith san duil.
    • It's better to try than to hope.
  • Chan eil tuil air nach tig traoghadh.
    • Every flood will have an ebb.
  • Is e 'n cadal fada ni 'n t-iomradh teth.
    • Long sleep makes hot rowing.
  • Na abair do sheanfhacal gus an toir thu do long gu caladh.
    • Don't quote your proverb till you bring your ship to port.
  • Aon bho a bhristeas an garradh, 's a dha dheug a leumas
    • One cow breaks the fence, and a dozen leap it.
  • Is leor luathas na h-earba gun na coin a chur rithe.
    • The roe is swift enough without setting the dogs on her.
  • Mhealladh e 'n t-ugh bhon chorra-ghlais, ged bhiodh a da shuil a' coimhead air.
    • He would cheat the heron of her egg, though her two eyes were fixed on him.
  • Is duilich burn glan a thoirt a tobar salach.
    • It's difficult to draw pure water from a dirty well.
  • Is fhearr an t-olc a chluinntinn na fhaicinn.
    • Better to hear the evil than see it.
  • Dh'aithnichinn air do sheirc do thabhartas.
    • I would know your gift by your graciousness.
  • Far an taine 'n abhainn, 's ann as mo a fuaim.
    • Where the stream is shallowest, greatest is its noise.
  • An car a bhios san t-seana mhaide, 's duilich a thoirt as.
    • The warp in the old wood is hardest to remove.
  • Is bior gach srabh san oidhche.
    • Every straw is a thorn at night.
  • Is iomadh urchair tha dol san fhraoch.
    • Many a shot goes into the heather.
  • Is fad' an abhainn air nach fhaighear ceann.
    • It's a long river whose head can't be found.
  • Gheibh righ feachd, 's gheibh domhan daoine.
    • Kings will find armies, and the world men.
  • Ge cruaidh sgarachdainn, cha robh dithis gun dealachadh.
    • Though separation be hard, two never met but had to part.
  • Ruigidh an ro-ghiullachd air an ro-ghalar.
    • The best of nursing may overcome the worst disease.
  • Eisd ri gaoth nam beann gus an traoigh na h-uisgeachan.
    • Listen to the mountain wind, till the streams abate.
  • Chan eil gach iuchair san tir an crochadh ri aon chrios.
    • All the keys in the land do not hang from one girdle.
  • Mas olc am fitheach, chan fhearr a chomann.
    • If bad be the raven, his company is no better.
  • Cuir do lamh sa chliabh, 's thoir do rogha leabaig as.
    • Put your hand into the creel, and take your choice of flounders.
  • Cho corrach ri ugh air droll.
    • As unsteady as an egg on a stick.
  • Is fhurasda caisteal gun seisdeadh a ghleidheach.
    • It's easy to keep a castle that's not besieged.
  • Ge fagas clach don lar, is faisge na sin Choibhi.
    • Though near be the stone to the ground, closer is the help of Coivi.
  • Mar lus an Domhnaich, gun mhath, gun dolaidh
    • Like the herb plucked on Sunday, it does neither good nor ill.
  • Is i chuileag bhuidhe bhuachair as airde srann.
    • The yellow dung-fly makes the loudest hum.
  • Is minig a bha claidheamh math an droch thruaill.
    • Good sword has often been in poor scabbard.
  • Ma bheir thu Muile dhiom, cha toir thu muir is tir dhiom
    • You may take Mull from me, but you can't take sea and land from me.
  • Is minig a thainig comhairle ghlic a ceann amadain.
    • Often has wise counsel comes from a fool's head.
  • Is trom snighe air taigh gun tughadh.
    • Raindrops come heavy on a house unthatched.
  • Na geill do ghis, cha gheill gis dhut.
    • Don't give in to spells, they won't give in to you.
  • Gabh eolas Rubh' a' Bhaird air.
    • Take it like the Bard's Point.
  • Is i an dias as truime as isle chromas a ceann.
    • The heaviest ear of corn bends its head lowest.
  • Is tric as daoir' a' chomain na 'n dubh-cheannach.
    • A favour often costs more than what's hard-bought.
  • Cha bhi suaimhneas aig eucoir, no seasamh aig droch-bheairt.
    • Wrong cannot rest, nor ill deed stand.
  • Is ann a tha 'n cairdeas mar a chumar e.
    • Friendship is as it's kept.
  • Am fear nach gleidh na h-airm san t-sith, cha bhi iad aige 'n am a' chogaidh.
    • He that keeps not his arms in time of peace will have none in time of war.
    • (IE: If you want peace, prepare for war. Cf. Latin and French proverbs.)
  • Cha tig muir mhor tron chaolas chumhann.
    • A great sea comes not through a narrow strait.
  • Tha fios fithich agad.
    • You have a raven's knowledge.
  • Cha tuig an t-og aimbeart, 's cha tuig amadan aimhleas.
    • Youth foresees not poverty, nor the fool his mischief.
  • Chan e ciad sgeul an t-sagairt bu choir a chreidsinn.
    • It is not the priest's first story that should be believed.
  • An uair as laine 'n cupan, 's ann as dorr' a ghiulan.
    • When the cup is fullest it is most difficult to carry.
  • Is mios' an t-eagal na 'n cogadh.
    • Fear is worse than fighting.
  • Bidh gach fear a' tarraing uisge gu mhuileann fhein.
    • Each draws water to his own mill.
  • Bheir duine beath' air eiginn, ach cha toir e rath air eiginn.
    • A man may force a livelihood, but cannot force fortune.
  • Dean maorach fhad 's a bhios an traigh ann.
    • Get bait while the tide is out.
  • Is uaine feur na faiche as fasaiche.
    • Green is the grass of the least trodden field.
  • Ma tha Dia ann, 's chan eil fhios a bheil, fag eadar sinn fhein 's na biodagan!
    • If there be a God, and no one knows whether there be, leave it between ourselves and the dirks!
  • Is minig a bha an fhirinn searbh ri h-innse.
    • Truth is often harsh to tell.
  • Is buaine bladh na saoghal.
    • Renown is more lasting than life.
  • Na tarraing mi gun adhbhar, 's na pill mi gun chliu.
    • Neither draw me without cause, nor return me without honour.
    • (A sword inscription.)
  • Is cruaidh a leonar an leanabh nach innis a ghearan.
    • The child is sadly hurt that doesn't tell his illness.
  • Caidlidh duine air gach cneadh ach a chneadh fhein.
    • A man can sleep on every hurt but his own.
  • Is fhearr na 'n t-or sgeul innse air choir.
    • Better than gold is a tale rightly told.
  • Chan or a h-uile rud buidhe, 's chan uighean a h-uile rud ban.
    • All that's yellow is not gold, and all white things are not eggs.
  • Tha chomhachag ri bron, thig tuiltean oirinn.
    • The owl is mourning, rain is coming.
  • Fialachd don fhogarrach, 's cnaimhean briste don eucorach!
    • Hospitality to the exile, and broken bones to the oppressor!
  • Ruithidh an taigeis fhein le bruthaich.
    • Even a haggis will run downhill.
  • Is ioma doigh a th' air cu a mharbhadh gun a thachdadh le ìm.
    • There are many ways of killing a dog without choking him with butter.
  • Is mor toirm cuilce gun dol troimhpe.
    • The storm of reeds is loud till you go through them.
  • Is lugha na fride mathair a' chonnsachaidh.
    • The mother of dissension is smaller than a mite.'
  • Mar a theid an t-eun o dhuilleag gu duilleag, theid am meanan o dhuine gu duine.
    • As the bird goes from leaf to leaf, the yawn goes from man to man.
  • Moran sgalan, 's beagan ollainn, mun dubhairt Muisean 's e lomairt na muice.
    • Great cry and little wool, as the Devil said when he sheared the sow.
  • Na innis do run do d'charaide gorach, no do d'namhaid glic.
    • Tell not thy mind to thy foolish friend, nor to thy wise enemy.
  • Ithear cruach 'na breacagan.
    • A stack can be eaten in cakes.
  • Chan e gogadh nan ceann a ni an t-iomradh.
    • It is not the nodding of heads that does the rowing.
  • Is math an sgathan suil caraide.
    • A friend's eye is a good looking-glass.
  • Is fhearr deagh chainnt na h-asail na droch fhacal faidh.
    • The good speech of an ass is better than the bad word of a prophet.
  • Shaoil leis gum bu leis fhein an cuan fo gheasaibh.
    • He thought the ocean his own under his spells.
  • Is binn gach eun 'na dhoire fhein.
    • Sweet sings each bird in his own grove.
  • An rud a nitear sa chuil, thig e dh'ionnsaigh an teine.
    • What's done in the corner will come to the hearth.

Source: Gaelic Proverbs, by Alexander Nicolson. October 2003; Birlinn, Limited.