Shiny green shamrocks and decorative plates with Irish sayings scripted on them crop up everywhere once Valentine’s Day goes by. Maybe you’ve got one sitting near the computer right now. Care to know what that jumble of letters actually means?
Before we begin, you should know that although written Irish uses most of the same letters as the English language, those letters combine in specific ways to form sounds that an American English speaker might have trouble recognizing, much less pronouncing.
Irish has several strong regional accents, so to make things even more confusing there are several standards for how each combination of letters is pronounced. So for now, just take your best stab at the pronunciation guidance given. You may start to notice patterns:
An Irish toast: “Good health!”
Beannachtai na Feile Padraig (bann-ock-tee na fail-eh pawd-rig)
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day
Eireann go bráth (air-in go braa)
Gabh mo leithsceal (gav mo lash-keel)
Nil Gaeilge maith agam (neal ghell-gay mah ah-gum)
I speak very little Irish
Welcome (as in welcome to my home).
Ta failte romhat (taw fail-te rote)
You’re welcome (in response to “thank you”).
Go raibh maith agat (go rive mah ah-gut)
Is maith an scathan suil charad (iss mah on scah-hann soo-ll karr-add)
A friend’s eye is a good mirror.
Giorraionn beirt bothar (gurr-onn bert boh-her)
Two shorten the road.
An rud a lionas an tsuil lionann se an croi (on rud ah lan-uss on soo-ll lan-onn shay on kree)
What fills the eye fills the heart.
And my personal favorite,
Is minic a gheibhean beal oscailt diog dunta (iss minick ah gav-ann bail os-kult dee-ug doonta)
An open mouth often catches a closed fist.
Not Just for St. Patrick’s Day
March is certainly a popular month for anything with an Irish theme, but the Irish are still here the other eleven months out of the year as well. So sharpen your favorite Irish sayings while there’s green beer a-plenty, but don’t forget them—you might need them again, sometime between now and next St. Patrick’s Day.
Additional Reading and Resources
More about the Irish Language
- Is Irish a Dying Language, or Is There Hope?
- Irish Dialects: Gaeilge vs. Gaelic vs. Goidelic: What’s in a Name?
- Da Duit: Can You Learn Irish with Rosetta Stone Online?
- A Candid Review of Rosetta Stone Irish Level 1
More Toasts and Sayings