‘Tis not just the lilting, musical tone of Gaelige that charms the ear and wins friends and sweethearts. The Irish have a way of speaking even curses that plays on the soul and begs to be sung.
I’ve gathered some of my own favorite Irish blessings, curses, drinking toasts and folk sayings. I’m sure you have a treasure trove of your own. If so, please add them to the comment section below.
When I could find the Gaelige, I put it next to the English translation. I’ve also added a few common endearments and other everyday expressions.
Health! (Cheers!) Sláinte!
Ireland forever! Eireann go Brach!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!
Thirst is a shameless disease…so here’s to a shameful cure.
‘Tis the first drop that destroys you. There’s no harm at all in the last.
Good as drink is, it ends in thirst.
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you
In the palm of his hand.
May you live as long as you want,
And never want as long as you live…
May the road rise with you.
Go n-éirí on bóthar leat.
(And my favorite:)
May your feet never sweat.
Burning and scorching on you.
Dóite agus loisceadh ort.
May you leave without returning.
Imeacht gan teacht ort.
May you fall without rising.
Titim gan eiri ort.
[And, if it’s a particularly cringe-worthy curse:]
The same to you.
Gurab amhlaidh duit.
Kiss my butt!
Póg mo thoin! pronounced <pohg muh hoin>
Say little but say it well.
Beagán agus a rá go maith.
May you be across Heaven’s threshold before the Devil knows you’re dead.
Man is incomplete until he marries. After that, he is finished.
You can’t kiss an Irish girl unexpectedly. You can only kiss her sooner than she thought you would.
Wisdom is the comb given to a man after he has lost his hair.
God is good, but never dance in a small boat.
The man with the boots does not mind where he places his foot.
The only cure for love is marriage.
Nil aon leigheas ar an ngra ach posadh.
Many a time a man’s mouth broke his nose.
Is minic a bhris beal duine a shron.
I put the following original sayings in the mouth of one if my characters, Ryan Murphy, a character in Storm Maker and The Wakening Fire. Ryan is a kind of home-spun cowboy who always has something to say about the ageless dance of man with woman.
The less said, the longer wed.
A woman’s mouth can be a man’s downfall–or the way to stand him up again.
If ye’d be wealthy, marry a smart woman.
When first ye wed, ye stay in bed.
Quotes about the Irish:
I’m troubled, I’m dissatisfied. I’m Irish. ~Marianne Moore
Terms of endearment and everyday sayings:
The equivalent of “Hello” means “God be with you”:
Dia dhuit < dee-ah dwit> or <dee-ah gheet>
A chuisle mo chroí... <a quish/leh muh kree> Literally means “beat of my heart”
I love you.
Is tú mo ghra. <ees too muh grah>
In conclusion, may I say
Goodbye… an’ blessings on ye.
Slán agus beannacht leat.
Those who enjoyed these expressions may also enjoy the characters in my novels–ancient Gaelic warriors, cowboys, brehons, druids, tonsured monks, high kings, St. Paddy himself, and many more. I use Gaelic words often, for I love the cadence and the soft blur around the edges of the language.
Author Erin O’Quinn