20 Irish Sayings That Are Surprisingly Useful
These blessings, curses, and clever turns of phrase will give you a hearty dose of Irish pride.
Whether you make a pilgrimage back to Ireland as often as you can or you've never even been there, if you're Irish, you probably have a great deal of pride in that heritage. Language-wise, there are a lot of reasons to be proud of your people. The Irish are known for their pithy turns of phrase, cutting curses, and imaginative blessings. So we've collected our 20 favorite Irish sayings of all time—some of which you'll want to start working into everyday conversation.
1. What's the craic?
"Craic" can mean news or gossip, so greeting someone with this phrase essentially means that you're asking them what's new. A good time can also be described as "a good craic."
2. A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.
The Irish are known for having their priorities in order and a handle on what constitutes a happy life. In this case—and in every case, just about—that's laughter and a lie-in.
3. That one suffers from a double dose of original sin.
This is a clever, Biblical way of calling out someone who seems to be a natural-born troublemaker.
4. You'll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind.
You can mentally plan out your to-do list all you like, but you won't be able to check it off until you actually complete your tasks.
5. The older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune.
We just get better with age.
6. May the most you wish for be the least you get.
An Irish blessing that means you want more for your friend than they even dream of for themselves.
7. Stop acting the maggot.
You'd say this Irish phrase to someone who's fooling around or acting silly when they shouldn't be.
8. It is better to spend money like there's no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there's no money.
As we said above, the Irish know how to enjoy life. And this saying is a reminder that it's difficult to make memories if you're not willing to live outside your means every once in a while.
9. Away with the fairies.
If someone accuses you of being "away with the fairies," that means that they think you're living in a dream world or refusing to face reality. The saying has its roots in folklore, as it was said that fairies would sometimes take humans away to live in their world.
10. If you want praise, die.
People will speak most kindly about you after you're gone, but why would you want to rush that process?
11. You've got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your father was.
Wherever (and whomever) you come from, you have to make your own way in the world.
12. May the cat eat you, and may the devil eat the cat.
The Irish also don't mince words with their curses. This one is two-fold, hoping not only that you end up inside a cat but also head to hell along with it.
13. Forgetting a debt doesn't mean it's paid.
Your debts will follow you, even if you've let your memory of them lapse.
14. May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.
15. Two people shorten the road.
Every journey goes by faster if you have a little company.
16. Where the tongue slips, it speaks the truth.
The things you say when you're not monitoring your speech—especially about sensitive topics—are closer to your true feelings than the responses you planned.
17. May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty.
Exactly as it sounds, this blessing is a wish for long-lasting friendship.
18. There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were.
The Irish have so much pride in their heritage that they basically feel sorry for the rest of us.
19. Don't give cherries to pigs or advice to fools.
Pigs won't discriminate between cherries and slop, just as fools can't tell the difference between good and bad advice. So don't waste your breath or good sense on anyone who is unlikely to follow it.
20. A good word never broke a tooth.
You don't lose anything by being kind.
And for some vintage slang that's not as timeless as these phrases, check out 20 Slang Terms From the '80s No One Uses Anymore.