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Proverbs from the Faroe Islands

Faroese Proverbs
Faroese proverbs use old standards that stem from Scandinavian settlers.

Proverbs of the Faroe Islands ("The Sheep Islands") reflect the geography, history, and people on the archipelago. About 47.000 inhabitants of Scandinavian descent enjoy "mild winters, cool summers; usually overcast; foggy, windy" in a terrain that is "rugged, rocky", with "cliffs along most of the coast", and they are largely descended from Viking settlers who arrived in the 800s AD. Until the 1800s the Faroese used open boats that were able to fish close to the Faroese coasts. And today still the people depend on fishing. The islands have been under Denmark for many centuries. Much self-government, Home Rule, was had in 1948. The Faroese have a standard of living not far below Danes and Norwegians, and enjoy far more freedom to go fishing, etc; a rural, fairly natural environment, a strong cultural integrity and lots of birds winging, flying, sailing, singing, cawing and screaming in the countryside.

In 2007 the National Geographic Traveler ranked the Faroe Islands as their top destination among 111 island communities in the world: "Authentic, unspoiled, and likely to remain so." [◦National Geographic Traveler Article from 2007]

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færøyiske ordspråk ordtak, Faroese proberbs
When ale goes in,
the wit goes out
[Havamal]
A boatless man is tied up.
- Bundin er bátleysur maður.

After a landslide one more can be expected.
- Har ein skriðan er lopin, er onnur væntandi.

An eager dog often gets a torn skin.
- Ágrýtin hundur fær ofta rivið skinn.

As we are egged on, we rage.
- So argast hvør, sum hann eldist.

Better be a good man's slave than badly married.
- Betri er at vera góðs manns frilla enn gift illa.

Better leave something than eating overly much.
- Betri lítið leivt, enn ovmikið etið.

Better to own it than asking your brother for it.
- Betri er sjálvur at eiga enn bróður at biðja.

Big rivers are made out of many small brooks.
- Mangir løkir smáir gera stórar áir.

Blind is the bookless man.
- Blindur er bókleysur maður.

Burnt child fears the fire.
- Brent barn ræðist eld(in).

Done by oneself is well done.
- Sjálvgjørt er væl gjørt.

Every day is not a baking-day.
- Tað er ikki hvør dagur bakudagur.

Everything is better than owning nothing.
- Alt er betri enn einki at eiga.

Haste often causes nasty things.
- Ofta nýtst ilt av bræði.

He that rows out often, gets fish at last.

He who waits gets a tailwind, and he who rows, a harbour.
- Hann fær byr, ið bíðar, og havn, ið rør.

Hear about others, but make it cosy for yourselves.
- Hoyr um ein annan, hygg um teg sjálvan.

Heavy is an old man's fall.
- Tungt er gamla manna fall.

High calling brings a high fall.
- Høgt kall gevur høgt fall.

If a Dane first has come into the room, more Danes will probably follow.

It is a poor mouse that doesn't have more than one hole.
- Ring er músin, ið hevur ikki meira enn eina holuna.

It is best to ask a man who manages on his own.
- Best er manni at biðja, tá ið hann er sjálvbjargin.

It is better to attract two birds to the nest than one.
- Betur draga tveir fuglar í reiðrið enn ein.

It is good to wait for a man that is alive.
- Livandi maður er góður at vænta.

It mars to tie the dog to the butter stamp.
- Ilt er at binda hund við smørleyp.

It's a poor bird that fouls its own nest.
- Tað er ringur fuglur, ið drítur í egið reiður.

It's bad to have to trust in others.
- Vont man vera á annan at líta.

It's better to be prepared than swift afterwards.
- Betri er at vera fyrivarin, enn eftirsnarur.

It's difficult to build a boat plank against the wave.
- Ilt er at byggja borð fyri báru.

It's the owner of the cow who walks close to her tail.
- Hann, ið kúnna eigur, gongur halanum næstur.

Keeping silence won't get you to court (i.e. to the Thing).
- Tøgn kemur ikki á ting.

Wool is the gold of the Faroes • Wool is the gold of the Faroe Islands.

Loans are to come home (back) laughingly.
- Lán skal komma læandi aftur.

Mad dogs get their skin torn.
- Galnir hundar fáa rivið skinn.

Many can carry things on both shoulders.
- Mangur kann at bera á báðum økslum.

No one should forget old friends and old goats.
- Gamlar vinir og gamlar gøtur skal eingin gloyma.

Nobody is to eat the morsel of someone else.
- Eingin skal annans bita eta.

None reaches further than his arms reach.
- Eingin toyggir seg longri, enn armarnir røkka.

Nothing is as bad that it isn't good for something.
- Einki er so ilt, tað er ikki gott fyri okkurt.

Nothing ventured, nothing won.
- Hann, ið einki vágar, hann einki vinnur.

Old ones are good at councelling.*
- Góður er gamalur í ráðum.

Old ravens are not easy to fool.
- Gamal ravnur er ikki góður at narra.

See the guest out if you want to see him again.

Small birds lay small eggs.
- Smáir fuglar verpa smá egg.

Small boats sail, as well as ships.
- So leika bátar sum skip.

Small fish are better than empty dishes.
- Betri eru smáir fiskar enn tómir diskar.

Swimming is easy if someone holds your head above water.
- Gott er at svimja, tá ið annar heldur høvdinum uppi.

The blind one asked the naked guy to lead him on.
- Hin blindi bað leiða seg, hvar nakað var.

The child does not cry as long as it has its way.
- Barnið grætur ikki, tá ið tað fær vilja sín.

The coward falls.
- Hann fellur, ið feigur er.

The crow thinks best of her own chickens.*
- Kráku tykist best um unga sín.

The dead man's heirs are many, but not his brothers.
- Mangur er deyðs manns arvingi og ikki er deyðs manns bróðir.

The dog is as his master. (Like master, like dog.)
- Hundurin er sum húsbóndin.

The food we grow ourselves, is fit. *
- Søtur er sjalvgivin biti.

The knifeless man is a lifeless man.
- Knívleysur maður er lívleysur (maður).

The one who derides others, gets derided too.
- Hann ið spottar annan, spottast sjálvur.

The thief believes that everybody steals.
- Tjóvur trýr, at hvør maður stjelur.

There are misfortunes in almost every family (slekt).*
- Tað er vanlukkudýr í hvørjari ætt.

There is always something the matter with a bad child.
- Altidz bagir illum barni okkurt.

There lies often falsehood beneath a pretty skin.
- Ofta býr fals undir fríðum skinni.

There should be good embers after a good fire.*
- Góðar gløður eftir góðan eld.

Things don't always go as planned.
- Mongum brestur ætlan.

Time runs like the river current.
- Tidinn rennur sem streymur i á.

We are born to be our own, and not fed to it.
- Maður eigur at verða føddur, og ikki gøddur.

When ale goes in, the wit goes out [Havamal, v. 12].
- Tá ið ølið fer inn, fer vitið út.

When the mouse is satisfied, the flour is bitter.
- Tá músin er mett er mjølið beikst.

Who does not eat till he is full, won't lick himself satisfied.
- Hann, ið ikki etur seg mettan, sleikir seg ikki mettan.

Who fares suitably, (carefully), gets ahead.
- Fram kemur hann, ið hóvliga fer.

Who is reared at home fares wrong away from home.*
- Heima alin er burtur galin.

Who rides first, controls the speed.
- Hann eigur reiðina, ið fyri ríður.

You can take the ox to the river, but begging it won't make it drink.
- Ein kann leiða oksan at ánni, men tíggju fáa hann ikki at drekka.

You've made your bed, so you can lie in it (Literally: As you make your bed, you lie in it).
- Sum tú reiðir, skalt tú liggja.

Contents


Faroese proverbs in English and Faroese, Literature  

Sources include:

Young, G. V. C. and Cynthia R. Clewer, comps. Føroysk-ensk orðabók = Faroese-English Dictionary. Peel, Isle of Man: Mansk-Svenska Publishing, 1985.

Learning with markers

On many pages are simple markers, brackets and some symbols. What they stand for and how they are used is shown on the page that the 'Gain-Ways link below will open.

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