Proverbial Sayings

Is cend daim for dartaid...

Is cend daim for dartaid mórpersan for becphopul.

(is * head * of ox * on * heifer * great person * on * small people)

A great man leading a small people is like an ox's head on a heifer.

This saying is recorded in O’Mulconry’s Glossary.

Condolb cách ima dáinib fodesin.

Condolb cách ima dáinib fodesin.

(kin-loving * everyone * regarding his * people * own)

Everyone loves his own people best.

Medb uses this saying on Fer Diad as part of her campaign to persuade him to fight on behalf of Connacht against the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn, despite the fact that the two had a deep bond of affection. This version of the saying is from the YBL Táin. Another similar saying in found in Windisch's edition of the text:

"uair as badhach nech imá tir fén" (for one is partial to ones own country).

Rot·gíuil ind shrathar dodcaid.

Rot·gíuil ind shrathar dodcaid.

(has-stuck-to-you * the * pack-saddle * of ill-luck)

The pack-saddle of misfortune has stuck to you.

This is the fourth and final line of a one-stanza poem recorded in the margin of a manuscript, one of three short poems in Old Irish published in the Thesaurus. Here's the whole poem as it appears there:

Gaib do chuil insin charcair,
ni róis chluim na colcaid.
Truag insin amail bachal;
rot giuil ind shrathar dodcaid.

Ba maith fer for a ferand fadessin.

Ba maith fer for a ferand fadessin.

(would be * good * a man * on * his * land * own)

A man were well in his own land.

Spoken by Conall Corc in "Conall Corc & the Corcu Luigde", published in Anecdota, iii.59. Conall is in Scotland but wants to return to Ireland. The heavy alliteration on 'f' in the original lends this statement the feel of a maxim.

At·tá lá i ndegaid alaile.

At·tá lá i ndegaid alaile.

(is * day * in * following * of another)

One day follows another.
Tomorrow is another day.

In the tale "Tochmarc Étaíne" Ailill feels remorse because he fell asleep and missed his tryst with Étaín. She reassures him, saying "Ní ba son, ata la i ndegaid aloile." (Never mind. There's always tomorrow.)

Is fér bó aenmachaidh ...

Is fér bó aenmachaidh, is geilt aengeóid, is milide oenbeich.

(is * grass * of cow * of one-field * is * grazing * of one goose * is * honey-pasture * of one bee)

It's grass for one cow, grazing for one goose, flowers for one bee.

In other words, this is a poor, small, unproductive place, so don't expect much from it. The run is found in "Erchoitmed Ingine Gulidi", where Guilide's daughter is putting on the poor mouth in an attempt to dissuade unexpected visitors from wanting to spend the night.

Ard bot fiaich ...

Ard bot fiaich ocainn, íseal bot con.

(high * tail * of raven * at-us * low * tail * of hound)

The raven's tail is high for us and the hound's tail is low.

In other words, food is scarce for us. The expression is presumably based on a close observation of the appearance of animals at the beginning of spring, when the winter's stores of food were almost exhausted.

cenn i mbolg

cenn i mbolg

(head * in * bag)

head in a bag

This proverbial metaphor for ignorance is found in "In Tenga Bithnua" a sermon for the vigil of Easter composed around 1000 A.D, where it is paired with the similar expression "bith i tig dorcha" (being in a dark house). The full context is:

"ar ba cenn i mbolg 7 ba bth i tigh dhorcha do sil Adhuimh iarsindi na fes riam cissi dealbh ro bai forsin domun nó cia dhorigne" (for it was "head in a bag" and "being in a dark house" for the seed of Adam, since it had never been known what shape the world had or who made it).

barae fri búire

barae fri búire

(wrath * against * rage)

anger in answer to anger

This alliterative formula is found in "Tochmarc Étaíne", where Mider tells Echaid that he is furious with him. Eochaid replies placatingly that he will not return anger for anger: "Ní bara fri búre daitsiu ón" in the LU spelling.

Ní maith senóir gan seinsceoil.

Ní maith senóir gan seinsceoil.

(not * good * elder * without * old-story)

An old person should have tales to tell.

This proverb is found in "Acallam na Senórach" at line 1385.

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