Icelandic Proverbs

Sayings of Icelandic origin

You will reach your destination even though you travel slowly.

You do not really know your friends from your enemies until the ice breaks.

You can’t complain about the sea if you suffer shipwreck for the second time.

Wrath often consumes what god gives husbands.

When your neighbor’s wall breaks, your own is in danger.

Useless wisdom is double foolishness.

Two make an army against one.

To whom it itches, scratches it.

There will fly no fried goose into the sleeping mans mouth.

There seldom is a single wave.

The twigs are rarely better than the trunk.

The spoon maker’s children have often the worst spoons.

The revenge that is postponed is not forgotten.

One enemy is too many; 100 friends are far too few.

On the ladder to success there is always somebody on the rung above you and who uses your head to steady himself.

Often beautiful nuts has an ugly core.

Never is a good verse too often said.

Need is not governed by the law.

Need is a bad negotiator.

Much always longs for more.

Mediocrity is climbing molehills without sweating.

It would be good to have two mouths and speak to yourself with both.

It is difficult to steal when the boss is a thief.

Hunger, work, and sweat are the best herbs.

He who lives without discipline dies without honor.

He who lives without discipline dies without honor.

God helps those who help themselves.

Few are like father, no one is like mother.

Everyone wants to live long, but no one wants to be called old.

Everyone wants to be lord, but no one wants to carry the bag.

Every story has two sides and every song has twelve versions.

Every man likes the smell of his own farts.

Every man is the smith of his own fortune.

Each country has its own custom.

Character is always corrupted by prosperity.

Better wise language than well combed hair.

Better to drink the milk than to eat the cow.

Bare is the back of a brother less man.

Bad birds seldom bring good weather.

As the old birds sing, so do the young ones tweet.

All sails do not suit every ship.

All old sayings have something in them.

A story is only half told if only one side has been presented.

A sitting crow starves.

A man’s will can be his paradise, but it can also be his hell.

A man yearns for his paradise but it could become his hell.

A lenient doctor creates stinking injuries.

A greasy kitchen; a will with not much in it.

A good beginning makes a good ending.

A burnt child keeps away from fire.

A bad rower blames the oar.

Icelandic Proverbs

Iceland is a Nordic island country marking the juncture between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The country has a population of 321,857 and a total area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), which makes it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík, with the surrounding areas in the southwestern region of the country being home to two-thirds of the country’s population. Reykjavík is the most northern capital in the world. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.

Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. It is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the colonisation of the Americas. Icelandic, Faroese, Norn, and Norwegian formerly constituted West Nordic; Danish and Swedish constituted East Nordic. Norwegian Bokmål later becoming influenced by the latter two languages, the Nordic languages are now divided into mainland Scandinavian languages and Insular Nordic (including Icelandic).

The national anthem of Iceland is known as as “Ó Guð vors lands” which means “God of our Land”.


Oh, God of our country! Oh, our country’s God!

We worship Thy name in its wonder sublime.

The suns of the heavens are set in Thy crown

By Thy legions, the ages of time!

With Thee is each day as a thousand years,

Each thousand of years, but a day,

Eternity’s flow’r, with its homage of tears,

That reverently passes away.

Iceland’s thousand years,

Iceland’s thousand years!

Eternity’s flow’r, with its homage of tears,

That reverently passes away.

Our God, our God, we bow to Thee,

Our spirits most fervent we place in Thy care.

Lord, God of our fathers from age unto age,

We are breathing our holiest prayer.

We pray and we thank Thee a thousand years,

For safely protected we stand;

We pray and we bring Thee our homage of tears,

Our destiny rest in Thy hand.

Iceland’s thousand years!

The hoarfrost of morning which tounted those years,

Thy sun rising high, shall command!

Our country’s God! Our God’s country!

Our life is a feeble and quivering reed;

We perish, deprived of Thy spirit and light

To redeem and uphold in our need.

Inspire us at morn with Thy courage and love,

And lead through the days of our strife!

At evening send peace from Thy heaven above,

And safeguard our nation through life.

Iceland’s thousand years,

Iceland’s thousand years!

O, prosper our people, diminish our tears

And guide, in Thy wisdom, through life!

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