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Filleann an feall / What goes around...

dialects of irish seanfhocail useful phrases

This is a very commonly used expression in Irish, and a handy one to know. It expresses the same meaning as the English 'what goes around comes around.' If someone treats someone else badly they shouldn't be surprised when they themselves suffer similar treatment.


Filleann an feall ar an bhfeallaire

The literal meaning of this seanfhocal/proverb is:

Treachery returns to the treacherous


Filleann an feall...

Filleann an feall ar an bhfeallaire is so well known that it's enough just to say filleann an feall in conversation, as the person you are speaking to will know exactly what you mean even with this shortened version.



The word feall means 'deceit' or 'treachery'. It can also be used to talk about a 'foul' in sport. It's generally used with the verb déan (do/make), or imir (play). Here are a few examples:

Rinne tú feall orm / You cheated me (lit. you did a foul/deceit on me)

D'imir tú feall orm / as above (lit. you played a foul/deceit on me)

Tá feall go smior ann / He is deceitful to the core (lit. there is deceit to his bone marrow in him)

This word sounds a little different in the Ulster and Munster dialects. Go to the online dictionary ( to hear the difference in pronunciation.



Someone who commits an act of treachery/deceit is called a feallaire.

Níl ann ach feallaire / He's nothing but a deceitful person

This word sounds a little different in the Ulster and Munster dialects. Check out the online dictionary ( to hear each pronounciation.


Gearrscannán / A short film

'Filleann an Feall' is a short film in Irish (with subtitles) starring Cillian Murphy and Don Wycherly. Watch this short film here. It's a funny film and you'll definitely know exactly what this seanfhocal means after watching it!


Learning Irish with Seanfhocail

The Irish language has lots of well known seanfhocail/proverbs. These are a great way to learn Irish as they are short and easy to remember; and they often contain useful examples of correct use of the language. Use this seanfhocal, for example, to remember that the preposition ar (on) is used with the verb fill (return).

English:      return to

Irish:           fill ar (lit. return on)

Filleann sé ar Éirinn gach samhradh / he returns to Ireland every summer

Beidh sí ag filleadh ar an ollscoil tar éis an tsamhraidh / she will be returning to the university after the summer

The verb 'fill' doesn't always require the preposition 'ar' however:

Filleann sí abhaile gach samhradh / She returns home every summer


How to learn Irish

If you've just started learning Irish it's very important to get a good understanding of the structure of the language right from the start. This will set a solid foundation and make it much easier to learn Irish going forward. You may have been learning for some time, or learned in school, but were never taught the structure of the language. Setting a solid foundation will clear up confusion and make learning so much easier. All of my online courses for learning Irish have a strong emphasis on ensuring that the building blocks are in place to ensure a solid foundation. Beginner Irish starts right at the beginning; but I also offer Beyond Beginner and other courses for intermediate and advanced learners. If you're not sure which course might be the right one for you don't hesitate to contact me here.

Phrases in Irish you won't find in a textbook!

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