How to be an Instant Irishman

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‘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.

Cheers and sayings related to drink:                                                                                                           

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>

Folk Sayings:                                                                                                 

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.

He who gets a name for early rising can stay in bed until midday.                                                                   

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.


Other sayings:

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:

[The Irish]  is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever. ~Sigmund Freud                     

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>

My dear/darling/treasure…
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.

Note: In order to update this blog, I’ve put a new date…and a whole new look…to the post you just read.



How do you say “kiss my behind” in Irish?

When my heroine Caylith meets her future lover Liam, they are confronted immediately by a language barrier. In the 5th century AD, she would be speaking some variant of Britonnic, and he would be speaking “old Gaelic”–whatever that was. Both of these are languages that no longer exist.

For the sake of readability, I have to assume that Cay is speaking English; and because Liam is an uneducated clansman, he speaks rough Gaelige–modern Irish Gaelic– because we do not know what the language was like before it was set down by monks in the years following St. Patrick.

At first, Cay and Liam speak the language of the body. That in itself is highly entertaining. But as they begin slowly to understand each other, the reader has to learn some key words and phrases:  Now!  Thank you. Kiss me. I love you.  Hmmm, pretty much in that order.

So that Liam can speak, I had to learn a little Gaelige–words, phrases, even a little grammar and phonology. I learned, for instance, that the Irish say póg dom (“kiss me”). But they also say póg mo thoin (“kiss my butt” in a taunting sense) and, even more naughty, póg mé  (“kiss my behind,” but in a sensuous way).

In Storm Maker, the first of the Dawn of Ireland trilogy, Cay and Liam get by largely on love and the syntax of sex. By the time they are married in The Wakening Fire and Captive Heart, Cay sets herself to learning as much as possible; and thus the reader has to learn more, too.

When researching the Irish Gaelic language, I found out that upwards of a million people have hit the websites that purport to tell us how to say, “I love you” in that melodic language. And so I have taught the reader how to say it, and I have also introduced numerous other phrases of endearment.

In another long-departed literary world, I would have included a pronouncing glossary with my books. In place of that, I have attempted to give my readers not just the words, but a clue to the pronunciation and the spirit behind the lovely, lilting tongue of Éire.

By the way, if you want to use the taunting “póg mo thoin,” it’s pronounced <pohg muh hoin> with a slight stress on the last word. But don’t taunt too much, because the Irish are past masters at effective curses!

Slán! Erin