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Important Proverbs and their meanings

Important Proverbs and their meanings

absence is the mother of disillusion: A period of separation may enable you to consider people or things more objectively and see them in a truer but less favorable light:

absence makes the heart grow fonder:Your affection for those close to you—family and friends—increases when you are parted from them.

accidents will happen in the best-regulated families: No matter how careful you are, you may still do something by accident or mistake; often used to console somebody who has done such a thing.

accusing the times is but excusing ourselves:People who seek to blame the times or conditions they live in are really trying to avoid taking the blame themselves:
Proverb expressing similar meanings:
he who excuses himself accuses himself.

admiration is the daughter of ignorance:People often admire others about whom they only have incomplete knowledge:
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.
Proverb expressing opposite meaning:
prejudice is the daughter of ignorance.

adventures are to the adventurous:Those who are not bold, and who take no risks, will not have exciting lives or achieve spectacular things:

adversity makes strange bedfellows: In times of hardship or misfortune people often befriend or form alliances with those whose company they would normally avoid:
Variants of this proverb: misery makes strange bedfellows; poverty makes
strange bedfellows.

alcohol will preserve anything but a secret: People have a tendency to talk too freely and become indiscreet when they are drunk.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
drunkenness reveals what soberness conceals; there’s truth in wine.

all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others: In a society or organization where all are supposedly equal, it is often the case that some have special privileges,or greater power than others.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
all men are created equal.

the age of miracles is past:
 Miracles no longer happen; used when some desirable occurrence seems highly unlikely.
Proverb expressing opposite meaning:wonders will never cease!

agree, for the law is costly: It is expensive to settle disputes in court because of the legal costs involved.

all arts are brothers, each is a light to the other: The arts should not be considered as separate entities but as parts of one whole, each complementing and leading to a better understanding and appreciation of the others.

all cats are gray in the dark: People have no distinguishing features, and their appearance becomes unimportant, in the dark; sometimes used with reference to a person’s choice of sexual partner:

all good things must come to an end: Nothing lasts forever; often said resignedly when a pleasant experience or sequence of events finally ends.

all is fish that comes to the net:Everything,no matter how small or unpromising, can be put to use:
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
all is grist that comes to the mill.

all fish are not caught with flies: In some circumstances different methods must be employed to achieve a desired end.

all’s fair in love and war: Any action,however mean or unscrupulous, is permissible in certain situations; often used to justify cheating or deception.

all men are created equal: No person is born superior or inferior to another, so all should have equal rights.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
jack’s as good as his master; all
animals are equal, but some are more
equal than others.
Proverb expressing opposite meaning:
equality begins in the grave.

all’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds: Everything that happens does so for a good reason, and things in general cannot be any better; generally used to present an optimistic worldview.

all roads lead to Rome: There are many different ways to achieve the same result,or to come to the same conclusion:
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
there are more ways of killing
a cat than choking it with cream;
there’s more than one way to skin
a cat.

all things are possible with God: Nothing is impossible to the divine will; often used more generally to imply that anything might happen.

all words are pegs to hang ideas on:Words are simply tools for the formulation and communication of ideas.

always in a hurry, always behind: When you try to do things too quickly you work less efficiently and ultimately take longer.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
more haste, less speed; haste makes waste.

all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy: People who do not make time for leisure activities risk damaging their health, the quality of their work, or their personal relationships; often used to justify a break from work or to persuade somebody to take one.

always something new out of Africa:Africa is an endless source of novelty and interest.

any port in a storm: In desperate circumstances people will accept help from any source, including those they would normally shun.

any publicity is good publicity: Even bad publicity draws attention to a person or product and may therefore serve a useful purpose.

another day, another dollar: However hard or tedious paid work may be, at least there is some financial reward; often said with relief at the end of the working day or, more generally, in the hope of a better day tomorrow.

an ape’s an ape, a varlet’s a varlet, though they be clad in silk or scarlet: The true nature of a person or thing may be hidden by outside appearance but cannot be changed.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
clothes don’t make the man.
Proverb expressing opposite meaning:
clothes make the man.

appetite comes with eating:
 Desire or enthusiasm for something often increases as you do it:
Variant of this proverb: the appetite grows on what it feeds on.

the apple never falls far from the tree: Children resemble their parents in character and nature.
The proverb is also sometimes used with reference to children who choose to live close to their parents or their place of birth,
Variant of this proverb: an apple doesn’t roll far from the tree.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
like father, like son; like mother,
like daughter.

April showers bring May flowers: Something unpleasant often leads to something more desirable.
Variant of this proverb: March winds and April showers always bring
May flowers.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
every cloud has a silver lining.

an army marches on its stomach:
 You must eat well if you want to work effectively or achieve great things.

as a tree falls, so shall it lie: People should not attempt to change their beliefs or opinions just because they are about to die.

as good be an addled egg as an idle bird: Somebody who tries and fails has achieved no less than somebody who does nothing at all; used as a reprimand for idleness or inaction.

ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies: It is better not to ask questions that somebody is likely to be unwilling to answer truthfully; used in response to such a question or simply to discourage an inquisitive person.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
curiosity killed the cat

as Maine goes, so goes the nation:
 The members of a large group will follow the lead of an infl uential part of the group.

as the day lengthens, so the cold strengthens:
 The coldest part of the winter often occurs in the period following the shortest day, as the hours of daylight begin to grow longer.

as the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined:
 A child’s early education and training are of great importance in determining the way he or she will grow up.
Proverb expressing opposite meaning:
nature passes nurture.

as you make your bed, so you must lie in it: You must put up with the unpleasant results of a foolish action or decision.

away goes the devil when he finds the door shut against him: Evil will never triumph if all temptations are rejected.


a bad excuse is better than none: It is better to give a poor or implausible excuse—which may, in fact, be believed—than to have no explanation or justification at all.

bad money drives out good: The existence or availability of something inferior or worthless—whether it be money,music, literature, or whatever—has a tendency to make things of better quality or greater value more scarce.

a bad penny always turns up: Undesirable people will always return; often used when somebody who has left in disgrace reappears after a long absence.

a bad workman quarrels with his tools: Workers who lack skill or competence blame their tools or equipment when things go wrong.

bear and forbear: Patience, tolerance,endurance, and forgiveness are valuable qualities in all walks of life.

beauty is in the eye of the beholder: The perception of beauty is subjective, and not everybody finds the same people or things attractive.

beauty draws with a single hair: A beautiful woman has great powers of attraction.

beauty is a good letter of introduction: Beautiful people make a better first impression on strangers than ugly people do.

beauty is only skin deep: Beauty is only a superficial quality, and may conceal an unpleasant character or nature.

beauty is but a blossom:
 Good looks do not last.
Proverb expressing opposite meaning:
a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

beauty is truth, truth beauty: The qualities of beauty and truth are, or should be, inseparable and interlinked;often used when real life falls short of this ideal:

be just before you’re generous: You should make sure all your debts are paid and other obligations met before you start giving money away or living extravagantly.

a believer is a songless bird in a cage: Religious belief restricts a person’s freedom of action and expression.

believing has a core of unbelieving: Belief and unbelief are closely related, and sometimes you need to start from a position of skepticism to arrive at the truth.

the best art conceals art: Artistic excellence lies in making something that is subtle or intricate in construction appear simple and streamlined.

a bellowing cow soon forgets her calf: The loudest laments or complaints are often the first to subside; used specifically of those whose mourning seems excessive.

the best is the enemy of the good: By constantly striving for the best we risk destroying, or failing to produce, something good.

the best of men are but men at best: Even the greatest people have their failings and limitations.

the best things in life are free: The most rewarding or satisfying experiences in life are often those that cost nothing;also used of the wonders of nature or of abstract qualities such as health and friendship.

the best things come in small packages: Size has no bearing on quality, and a small container may hold something of great value; often said by or to a short person.

be the day weary or be the day long, at last it ringeth to evensong: No matter how tiring or stressful a day you are having,you can console yourself with the fact that it will eventually be over; also used more
generally to recommend perseverance or endurance in a trying situation.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
it’s a long road that has no turning; the longest day must have an end.

better a good cow than a cow of a good : A person’s character is of more importance than his or her family background.

better a big fish in a little pond than a little fish in a big pond: It is better to have a position of importance in a small organization than to be an unimportant member of a large group.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
better be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion.

better a little fire to warm us than a big one to burn us: Sometimes it is more desirable to have only a small amount of something.

better a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox where hate is: It is better to be poor or dine badly in a loving environment than to eat well or have a wealthy lifestyle in an atmosphere of discord or hatred.

better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know: It is often preferable to choose or stay with people or things you know, despite their faults, than to risk replacing them with somebody or something new but possibly less desirable.

better one house spoiled than two:
 It is a good thing for two bad, foolish, or otherwise undesirable people to become husband and wife and thus avoid causing trouble in two separate marriages.

beware of an oak, it draws the stroke;avoid an ash, it counts the flash; creep under the thorn, it can save you from harm: It is dangerous to shelter from lightning under the oak, ash, or other trees.

beware of Greeks bearing gifts: It is wise to be suspicious of offers or friendly gestures made by enemies or opponents.

a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: Something you have for certain now is of more value than better you may get, especially if you risk losing what you have in order to get it.

birds in their little nests agree; People who live or work together should try to do so in harmony; often used to stop children from arguing.

birth is much but breeding more: A person’s upbringing counts for more in the long run than the traits of character he or she was born with.

birds of a feather flock together: People tend to associate with those of similar character, interests, or opinions; often used with derogatory implications.

the biter is sometimes bit :Those who criticize or otherwise set about others are not immune from criticism or other attack themselves.

a bleating sheep loses a bite: Those who talk too much may miss an important opportunity.

a blind man’s wife needs no Paint : Attempts to improve the appearance of somebody or something are superfluous when it is the true nature of the person or thing that is of value, or when the improvements will not be appreciated.

blood is thicker than water: Bonds of loyalty and affection between members of the same family are much stronger than any other relationship.

blessings brighten as they take their flight: People often fail to appreciate the good things that they have until they lose them.

blood will have blood: One act of violence provokes another, by way of revenge: blood will tell Inherited characteristics—whether good or bad—cannot be hidden forever.

boys will be boys: Boys must be forgiven for their bad or boisterous behavior; also used ironically when grown men behave in an irresponsible or childish manner.

burn not your house to scare away the mice: Do not try to solve a minor problem by taking action that will cause much greater harm.

a bribe will enter without knocking: The use of money enables access where it would otherwise be denied.

the busiest men have the most leisure: People who are industrious by nature always seem to have the most spare time,either because they accomplish their work more quickly and efficiently or because they cram so much into their busy lives.

busy folks are always meddling: It is in the nature of busy people to interfere in the affairs of others.


Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion: Those in positions of importance—and their associates—must lead blameless lives and have spotless reputations.

call a spade a spade: Identify things by their real names; do not prevaricate about awkward truths; say what you mean.

calamity is the touchstone of a brave mind: It is at times of crisis that you find out who the truly strong, courageous, or great people are.

call a man a thief and he will steal: Give a person a bad reputation and he or she may start to justify it.

a cat can look at a king: Even the lowliest people have the right to look at, or show an interest in, those of higher status or prestige; often used by somebody accused of staring insolently.

care is no cure: Worrying about something does nothing to put it right.

catching’s before hanging: Offenders can only be punished when or if they are caught.

catch not at the shadow and lose the substance: Do not allow yourself to be distracted from your main purpose by irrelevancies.

a cat in gloves catches no mice: It is sometimes necessary to be bold or ruthless, or to do unpleasant things, in order to achieve one’s ends.

a chain is no stronger than its weakest link:
 A weak part or member will affect the success or effectiveness of the whole.

the cat would eat fish, but would not wet her feet: You must be prepared to put up with personal inconvenience, discomfort,or risk in order to get what you want;often used when somebody is hesitant about doing something for this reason.

a change is as good as a rest: Doing something different for a time can be just as refreshing as taking a break from work; also used more generally of any change in routine.

charity is not a bone you throw to a dog but a bone you share with a dog:
 There should be more to charity than simply giving money or other material goods—it is better to establish a relationship with those in need and to work with them for the benefit of all concerned.

children and fools speak the truth: Children and foolish people have a tendency to say what is true, because they have not learned that it may be advantageous or diplomatic to do otherwise.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
give me a child for the first seven years and he is mine for life.

the child is father of the man: A child’s character is an indication of the type of adult he or she will become—human nature does not change from youth to maturity.

children are certain cares, but uncertain comforts: Children are bound to cause their parents anxiety, and may or may not also bring them joy.

circumstances alter cases: The same general principle cannot be applied to every individual case, and what is right,good, or appropriate in one set of circumstances may be wrong in another.

Christmas comes but once a year: Extravagance and self-indulgence at Christmas—or any other annual celebration—can be justified by the fact that it is a relatively infrequent occurrence.

the clock goes as it pleases the clerk: It is up to civil servants and other bureaucrats how time is governed and spent.

coming events cast their shadows before: Future events, especially those of some significance, can often be predicted from the warning signs that precede them.

common fame is seldom to blame: Rumors are rarely without substance, and if unpleasant things are being said about somebody, then that person has probably done something to deserve them.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
there’s no smoke without fire; what everybody says must be true.

confess and be hanged: There is little incentive for confession when punishment is the inevitable result; used as justification for not owning up to wrongdoing.

the company makes the feast: You will enjoy a meal or celebration far more if you are among cheerful friendly people,and the quality of the food and drink—or of the surroundings—is of lesser importance.

conscience gets a lot of credit that belongs to cold feet :Something commended as an act of conscience may be simply due to cowardice or loss of nerve.

councils of war never fight: When a number of people get together to discuss something important, they rarely decide on a drastic course of action.

courage is fear that has said its prayers: A brave person is not necessarily fearless, but has drawn strength from religion or some other source.

courtesy is contagious: If you are polite to other people, then they will be polite to you.

the cowl does not make the monk: Do not judge a person’s character by his or her outward appearance or behavior.

a creaking door hangs longest: Those who have many minor ailments and infirmities often outlive those who don’t.

cream always comes to the top: People of great worth or quality will ultimately enjoy high achievement or public recognition.

crosses are ladders that lead to heaven: Suffering and misfortune often bring out the best in a person’s character.

crime doesn’t pay: Criminal activity may seem to be profitable, at least in the short term, but it ultimately leads to far greater loss—of liberty, or even of life;used as a deterrent slogan.

cross the stream where it is shallowest :Always take the easiest possible approach to doing something.

crime must be concealed by crime: One crime often leads to another, committed to avoid detection of the first.

curses, like chickens, come home to roost: Wrongdoers ultimately have to suffer the consequences of their bad deeds;also used when those who have wished evil on others are struck by misfortune themselves.

cut your coat according to your cloth: Match your actions to your resources, and do not try to live beyond your means.


the danger past and God forgotten: People are prone to calling on God in times of trouble, only to forget all about their newly found religious faith as soon as the crisis is past.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
man’s extremity is god’s opportunity

dead men don’t bite: A dead person can no longer do others any harm; often used to justify murder.

dead men tell no tales: It may be expedient to kill somebody who could betray a secret or give information about the criminal activities of others.

death is the great leveler: People of all ranks and classes are equal in death, and nobody is exempt from dying.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
equality begins in the grave.

desert and reward seldom keep company :People are often not rewarded for their good deeds or meritorious behavior; conversely, those who do receive rewards have often done nothing to deserve them.

desperate diseases must have desperate remedies: Drastic action is called for— and justified—when you find yourself in a particularly difficult situation.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
killing no murder.

the devil dances in an empty pocket :The poor are easily tempted to do evil.

the devil finds work for idle hands to do:Idle people may find themselves tempted into wrongdoing.

the devil looks after his own: Bad or undeserving people often prosper and thrive; said in response to the success or good fortune of such a person.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
the devil’s children have the devil’s luck.Bad people often have good luck;usually said with envy rather than malice on hearing of somebody’s good fortune:

the devil is in the details; The details of something are of paramount importance, and you should always examine or pay attention to them in any proposition you are considering or any project you undertake.

the devil is not as black as he is painted:
 People are rarely as bad as others say they are; often used in defense of a specific person.

the devil was sick, the devil a saint would be; the devil was well, the devil a saint was he: People often turn to religion or promise to reform when they are ill or in trouble, only to revert to their former ways as soon as the crisis is over.

the difficult is done at once, the impossible takes a little longer: Difficult tasks present no problem, and even those that seem impossible will ultimately be accomplished; used as a motto or policy statement, as in commerce.

diamond cuts diamond: The only match for a very sharp-witted or cunning person is somebody of equally sharp wit or great cunning.

discretion is the better part of valor:
 It is often wiser to avoid taking an unnecessary risk than to be recklessly courageous.

do as I say, not as I do:
 Do what somebody tells or advises you to do rather than what that person actually does himself or herself.
Proverbs expressing opposite meaning:
example is better than precept; a good example is the best sermon.

the dog always returns to his vomit: People always return to the scene of their crime or wrongdoing.

the dogs bark, but the caravan goes on; The warnings or protests of those in lowly positions are often ignored by those in power and are not allowed to stand in the way of progress.

a dog that will fetch a bone will carry a bone: 
Beware of people who bring you gossip about others, because they are equally likely to pass on gossip about you.

don’t bite the hand that feeds you: do not behave unkindly or ungratefully toward those on whom you depend for financial or other support.

don’t cry before you’re hurt :There is no point in upsetting yourself about something bad that may or may not happen.

don’t cut off your nose to spite your face:
 Do not take action to spite others that will harm you more than them.

don’t get mad, get even :Take positive action to retaliate for a wrong that has been done to you, rather than wasting your time and energy in angry recriminations.

don’t hide your light under a bushel: If you have special skills or talents, do not conceal them through modesty and prevent others from appreciating or benefiting from them.

don’t let the fox guard the hen house: Do not put somebody in a position where he or she will be tempted to wrongdoing.

don’t overload gratitude; if you do, she’ll kick: When people are grateful to you, do not take excessive advantage of the situation, because any sense of obligation has its limits.

don’t put the cart before the horse: It is important to do things in the right or natural order; also used when people confuse cause and effect:
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
first things first.

don’t shout until you are out of the woods :Avoid any show of triumph or relief until you are sure that a period of difficulty or danger is over.

don’t take down a fence unless you are sure why it was put up: Most things were constructed or established for a purpose, and it is unwise to destroy or dismantle them unless you are certain that they are not longer required.

don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk: Don’t boast of something if you are unwilling or unable to back it up by your actions.

don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs: Do not presume to give advice or instruction to those who are older and more experienced than you.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
they that live longest see most.

don’t wash your dirty linen in public:
 Do not discuss private disputes or family scandals in public.

don’t wish too hard; you might just get what you wished for: Beware of wishing for something too much, because you might not like it when you get it.

don’t throw good money after bad: If you have already spent money on a venture that seems likely to fail, do not waste any further money on it.

don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater: Do not take the drastic step of abolishing or discarding something in its entirety when only part of it is unacceptable.

a dose of adversity is often as needful as a dose of medicine: Hardship and misfortune may be unpleasant, but they can sometimes have a beneficial effect on the character, especially when people fail to appreciate the good things they have.

dream of a funeral and you hear of a marriage: According to popular superstition, if you dream about a funeral you will shortly receive news that somebody of your acquaintance is to be married:
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
dreams go by contraries.

a dripping June sets all in tune: A rainy June means there will be a good harvest of crops and flowers later in the summer:

drive gently over the stones: Take a cautious and delicate approach to any problems or difficulties you encounter in life.

a dwarf on a giant’s shoulders sees further of the two: Those who build on the breakthroughs of their predecessors surpass their achievements.


easy come, easy go: Things that are easily acquired, especially money, are just as easily lost or spent.

East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet: People who are very different in background or outlook are likely never to agree.

an empty sack cannot stand upright: People who are poor or hungry cannot survive, work effectively, or remain honest.

education doesn’t come by bumping your head against the schoolhouse: Education can only be acquired by studying, and by listening and talking to teachers.

empty vessels make the most sound: Foolish people are the most talkative; often used as a put-down to somebody who chatters incessantly.

the end justifies the means: Any course of action, however immoral or unscrupulous, is justifiable if it achieves a worthy objective.

enough is as good as a feast: A moderate amount is sufficient; often said by somebody who does not want any more.

even a worm will turn: Even the most humble or submissive person will ultimately respond in anger to excessive harassment or exploitation.

everybody has his fifteen minutes of fame: Most people will find themselves briefly in the public eye at least once in their lives.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
every dog has his day.

even a blind pig occasionally picks up an acorn: An incompetent person or an unsystematic approach is bound to succeed every now and then by chance.

everybody’s business is nobody’s business: Matters that are of general concern,but are the responsibility of nobody in particular, tend to get neglected because everybody thinks that somebody else should deal with them.

everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it : People are always ready to complain about a problem but never willing to solve it.

everybody to whom much is given, of him will much be required: More is expected of those who have received more—that is, those who have had good fortune, are naturally gifted, or have been shown special favor.

everybody’s queer but you and me, and even you are a little queer: There are times when it seems that you are the only normal or sane person in the world.

every bullet has its billet: In a life threatening situation, destiny decides who will die and who will survive.

every dog is allowed one bite: Somebody may be forgiven for a single misdemeanor, provided that it does not happen again

every herring must hang by its own gill; Everybody must take responsibility for his or her own actions.

every horse thinks its own pack heaviest: Everybody thinks that he or she has harder work, greater misfortune, or more problems than others.

every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence :People in a hierarchical organization are promoted until they reach a position that is just beyond their capabilities; this cynical observation implies that nobody is fit to do the work he or she is employed to do.

every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost : In highly competitive or dangerous situations, you must guard or pursue your own interests with ruthless disregard for those who are falling behind or struggling to cope.

every man after his fashion; Every individual must follow his or her own inclination.

every man must skin his own skunk: People should be self-reliant and not depend on others to do things—especially unpleasant tasks—for them.

every man thinks his own geese swans: Everybody tends to rate his or her own children, possessions, or achievements more highly than others would do.

every picture tells a story: Meaning is often conveyed by people’s actions,
movements, gestures, or facial expressions without the need for words.

every soldier has the baton of a field marshal in his knapsack :A common soldier, or any other worker, may aspire to senior rank.

every tub must stand on its own bottom: People should be self-sufficient and not dependent on others, financially or otherwise.

evil communications corrupt good manners:
 Good people can be led astray by listening to bad ideas, associating with bad people, or following a bad example.

the exception proves the rule: The existence of an exception to a rule shows that the rule itself exists and is applicable in other cases; often used loosely to explain away any such inconsistency.

evil doers are evil dreaders: Criminals and other wrongdoers have a tendency to fear and suspect all those around them; sometimes used to imply that a distrustful person has something on his or her conscience.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
do right and fear no man.

extremes meet: People and things that seem to be diametrically opposed are often found to have a point of contact.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
opposites attract.

experience is the teacher of fools; It is foolish to learn—or to expect other people to learn—solely by making mistakes; also used with the implication that wise people learn from others’ mistakes rather than their own.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
learn from the mistakes of others.
Proverb expressing opposite meaning:
experience is the best teacher.


fact is stranger than fiction: Things that happen in real life are often far more unlikely than those dreamed up by writers.

fancy passes beauty: It is more important that a potential partner is likeable than good-looking.

fear lends wings: Fear inspires extra speed in those attempting to escape whatever threatens them.

a fat kitchen makes a lean will: Those who eat well all their lives will have little money left when they die.

feed a cold and starve a fever :You should eat well when you have a cold but fast when you have a fever:

the female of the species is deadlier than the male:
Women often prove to be more dangerous than men, when roused to anger.

fields have eyes and woods have ears: There are very few places where you can do or say something without the risk of being seen or overheard.

fine words butter no parsnips: Promises or compliments are pleasant to hear but serve no practical purpose unless they are backed up by action.

first catch your hare: Do not act in anticipation of something that is yet to be achieved.

the first hundred years are the hardest: Life will always be difficult; said jocularly or ironically to those who complain about their problems, sometimes with the implication that things will improve eventually.

fish or cut bait :The time has come to choose between two courses of action—either get on with what you have to do, or go away and let somebody else do it:.

first try and then trust: Before relying upon something (or someone), it is best to test it first.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
trust not one night’s ice.

a fish stinks from the head :A corrupting influence often spreads from a leader to the rest of the organization or group.

food without hospitality is medicine: It is hard to enjoy refreshments that are offered with ill grace, or without friendly companionship.

flattery, like perfume, should be smelled but not swallowed: There is no harm in taking pleasure from flattery, but do not make the mistake of believing it.

a fool at forty is a fool indeed: People who have not gained the wisdom of experience by the time they reach middle age are likely to remain fools for the rest of their lives:
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
there’s no fool like an old fool.

a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds: A lack of flexibility in making judgments is regarded as a sign of petty narrow-mindedness.

fools and children should never see half done work: You should not judge the quality of a piece of work until it is complete, because it often appears unpromising in its unfinished form; sometimes said in response to criticism, or as a reason for not letting such work be seen.

a fool may give a wise man counsel:
 People are often able to give good advice to those who are considered to be intellectually superior; sometimes said apologetically by the giver of such advice, or used as a warning against disregarding it.

a fool’s bolt is soon shot: Foolish people act hastily and thus waste their efforts.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
hasty climbers have sudden falls.

footprints on the sands of time are not made by sitting down: People who idle their lives away will not make a lasting impression on history or be remembered for their great achievements; used as a spur to action and industry.

fools build houses and wise men live in them: The cost of building property is such that those who build houses cannot afford to live in them, and have to sell them to recoup their losses; also applied to other things that are expensive to produce

forbidden fruit is sweet :Things that you must not have or do are always the most desirable.

for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider was lost: Do not neglect minor details that seem insignificant in themselves.

four eyes see more than two: Two people keeping watch, supervising, or searching have a better chance of noticing or finding something.

from the sweetest wine, the tartest vinegar: Great love may turn to the intense hatred; also used of other changes of feeling or nature from one extreme to the other.


garbage in, garbage out: A person or machine provided with inferior source material, faulty instructions, or erroneous information can produce only poor-quality work or rubbish.

the game is not worth the candle: It is not worth persisting in an enterprise that is unlikely to yield enough profit or benefit to compensate for the effort or expense involved, or that carries a risk, actual harm or loss.

gather ye rosebuds while ye may: Live life to the full while you are still young enough to enjoy it.

genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains: What appears to be a product of superior intellectual power is often simply the result of great assiduity and meticulous attention to detail.

give a beggar a horse and he’ll ride it to death: People who suddenly acquire wealth or power are likely to misuse it.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
set a beggar on horseback, and he’ll ride to the devil.

give a loaf and beg a slice: People who are too generous risk having to beg themselves.

give and take is fair play: Exchanging like for like—whether it be a blow, an insult, a favor, or a pardon—is a fair and legitimate way to proceed.

give a man an inch and he’ll take a mile: People are inclined to take excessive advantage of the tolerance or generosity of others; often used to warn against making even the smallest concession.

give a thing, and take a thing, to wear the devil’s gold ring: It is wrong to take back a gift.

give a man enough rope and he’ll hang himself:
 People who are given complete freedom of action will ultimately bring about their own downfall, for example by inadvertently revealing their guilt.

go abroad and you’ll hear news of home :People often remain ignorant of matters concerning their family and friends, or events in their own neighborhood,until they go traveling, when they hear about them at second hand.

give the devil his due: People deserve recognition for their skills and contributions even if they are otherwise unworthy or unlikable.

God made the country and man made the town :The urban environment, constructed by human hands, is inferior to the natural countryside, which is the work of divine creation.

God never sends mouths but he sends meat:
 God can be relied upon to provide for everybody.

God sends meat, but the devil sends cooks :Good food can be ruined by a bad cook.

God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb: Weak or vulnerable people have divine protection from the worst misfortunes; also used when such people are treated with compassion by their fellow human beings.

the gods send nuts to those who have no teeth: Opportunities or good fortune often come too late in life for people to enjoy them or take full advantage of them; also applied more generally to people of any age who are unable to use or benefit from good things that come their way.

go farther and fare worse: If you reject something acceptable in the hope of finding something better, you may end up having to settle for something worse.

the golden age was never the present age:The past and the future always seem infinitely preferable to the present time.

a golden key can open any door:
 With money you can gain access to anything you want; used specifically of bribery, or more generally of the power and influence of wealth.

gold may be bought too dear: Wealth is not worth having if there is too great a risk or sacrifice involved in acquiring it.

a good face is a letter of recommendation: An honest demeanor may be interpreted as a sign of a person’s integrity.

good fences make good neighbors: A good relationship between neighbors depends on each respecting the other’s privacy and not entering his or her property uninvited; also used more broadly of international relations and the need to maintain trade barriers and border controls.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
a hedge between keeps friendship green.

a good dog deserves a good bone: A loyal servant or employee deserves his reward.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
the laborer is worthy of his hire.

a good horse cannot be of a bad color :Superficial appearances do not affect the essential worth of something.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
appearances are deceiving; judge not according to appearances.

a good Jack makes a good Jill: People who live or work together should set a good example to each other—a good husband will have a good wife, a good master will have a good servant, and so on.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
a good husband makes a good wife.

a good name is better than precious ointment:
 Your good name should be your most cherished possession.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
a good reputation is more valuable than money.

a good tale is not the worse for being told twice: 
There is no harm in telling a good joke or anecdote—or a story with a moral—a second time; often used by way of apology or justification for such repetition.

good riddance to bad rubbish: We are better off without worthless people or things; usually said on the departure of such a person or the loss of such a thing.

gossip is the lifeblood of society: Social intercourse thrives on gossip—if people stopped talking about each other they might stop talking to each other.

good wine needs no bush:
 A good product does not need advertising.

grace will last, beauty will blast: A good character will outlive superficial physical attractiveness.

a goose quill is more dangerous than a lion’s claw: Written words of criticism or defamation can do more harm or cause more pain than a physical attack.

a great city, a great solitude: People often feel more lonely in a large city, among thousands of strangers, than they would do if they were actually alone.

the gray mare is the better horse: A woman is often more competent or powerful than a man; used specifically of wives who have the upper hand over their husbands.

the greater the truth, the greater the libel: Some people will take greater offense at a true accusation of wrongdoing than at a false one.

great men have great faults: Remarkable people tend to have serious character flaws.

a great book is a great evil: A long book is a bad book—good writers know how to express themselves concisely.

great trees keep down little ones: The predominance of a particular person, company, nation, etc., results in lesser rivals being kept in the shade.

a growing youth has a wolf in his stomach: Adolescent boys are perpetually hungry.


half the truth is often a whole lie: Not telling the whole truth, or saying something that is only partly true, is tantamount to lying.

happy is the bride that the sun shines on: According to popular superstition, a woman who has a sunny wedding day will have a happy marriage.

the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world: Mothers have a powerful influence— if indirectly—on world affairs,because it is they who mold the characters of future leaders.

hanging and wiving go by destiny :Some people are fated to marry each other, just as some are fated to be hanged.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
marriages are made in heaven.

happy is the country that has no history: It is a happy or fortunate country that has no unpleasant events worth recording in its past.

hard cases make bad law: Cases that are complex or difficult to decide often cause the true meaning of the law to be distorted or obscured and sometimes lead to what is perceived as a miscarriage of justice.

hard words break no bones: Adverse criticism or verbal abuse may be unpleasant, but it does no physical harm.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
sticks and stones may break my bones,but words will never hurt me.
Proverb expressing opposite meaning:
the tongue is not steel, but it cuts.

hawks will not pick out hawks’ eyes: People who belong to the same group will not—or should not—harm one another.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
dog does not eat dog; there’s honor among thieves.

hear all, see all, say nowt: It is sometimes prudent to listen and watch carefully, but say nothing.

heads I win, tails you lose: In some situations it is impossible for one person not to be a winner—or impossible for another person not to be a loser—whatever the outcome.

he gives twice who gives quickly: A prompt response to a request for something,such as money or help, is of greater value than a more generous offering given late.

a heavy purse makes a light heart: Those who have plenty of money are happy and carefree.

he comes too early who brings bad news: People are never in a hurry to hear bad news.

hell hath no fury like a woman scorned: A woman who is rejected by the man she loves has an immense capacity for ferocious or malicious revenge.

he that complies against his will is of his own opinion still: By forcing somebody to do something, or to admit that something is true, you have not actually succeeded in changing that person’s mind.

help you to salt, help you to sorrow :According to popular superstition, it is unlucky to add salt to another person’s food at table.

he that has a full purse never wanted a friend: Wealthy people never lack friends—or those who claim to be their friends until their money runs out.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
a rich man’s joke is always funny;wealth makes many friends.

he that is down need fear no fall; Those in lowly positions, or who have already fallen from lofty positions, have no need to worry about failure.

he that is too secure is not safe: Beware of complacency—you must remain alert and watchful if you want to avoid danger:

he that lives in hope dances to an ill tune: It is unwise to let your future happiness or well-being depend on expectations that may not be realized.

he that will not when he may, when he will he may have nay: Take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself, even if you do not want or need it at the time, because it may no longer be available when you do.

he that lives on hope will die fasting: do not pin all your hopes on something you may not attain, because you could end up with nothing.

he that will thrive must first ask his wife: A married man’s financial situation, his success or failure in business, and the like often depend on the behavior and disposition of his wife.

he that touches pitch shall be defiled: If you get involved with wicked people or illegal activities, you cannot avoid becoming corrupted yourself.

he that would go to sea for pleasure would go to hell for a pastime:
 A sailor’s life can be so unpleasant and dangerous, it seems that those who choose spend their leisure hours at sea must be either masochistic or insane.

he that would hang his dog gives out first that he is mad: Those who are planning some action that might attract criticism first seek to justify it in advance.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
give a dog a bad name and hang him.

he that would have eggs must endure the cackling of hens: You must be prepared to put up with something unpleasant or annoying in order to get what you want; also used of an undesirable aspect or drawback that accompanies something.

he who fights and runs away may live to fight another day: It is wiser to withdraw from a situation that you cannot win than to go on fighting and lose—by a strategic retreat you can return to the battle or argument with renewed energy at a later date.

he who laughs last, laughs longest: Minor successes or failures along the way are of no significance—the person who is ultimately triumphant is the only real winner; often used when somebody turns the tables with a final act of retaliation.

he who sups with the devil should have a long spoon:
 Those who have dealings with wicked, dangerous, or dishonest people should remain on their guard and try not to become too intimately involved.

he who pays the piper calls the tune: The person who pays for a service or finances a project has the right to say how it should be done.
Proverb expressing similar meaning:
whose bread i eat, his song i sing.

he who wills the end, wills the means: Those who are determined to achieve something are equally determined to find a way of achieving it.

he who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount: When you are in a dangerous situation, or have embarked on a dangerous course of action, it is often safer to continue than to try to stop or withdraw.

he who would write and can’t write can surely review: People who become critics are those who lack the talent to be novelists, dramatists, or other kinds of artists in their own right; used in response to a bad review.

the highest branch is not the safest roost: Those in the highest positions of power or authority are, in some respects, the most vulnerable, because there will always be plenty of others eager to take their place or cause their downfall.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
the post of honor is the post of danger; uneasy lies the head that
wears a crown.
Proverb expressing opposite meaning:
better be first in a village than second at rome.

the higher the monkey climbs the more he shows his tail: People’s faults and shortcomings become increasingly obvious as they advance to positions of high office.

history is a fable agreed upon:
 History represents the traditionally accepted interpretation of what actually happened in the past.

history repeats itself: Similar events tend to recur in different periods of history— for example, when rulers or governments fail to learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before; also used when some more trivial or personal incident recurs.

the hole calls the thief: Criminals and other wrong-doers will go where opportunity presents itself.

home is home, be it ever so homely: However simple or lowly a person’s abode may be, it is still his or her home and therefore the best place to be.

hitch your wagon to a star: You must be ambitious, and aim to achieve the highest possible goal; also used as advice to cultivate the acquaintance of powerful, successful, or influential people who can help to advance your interests.

honest men marry quickly, wise men not at all: Honest men marry without hesitation, seeing no threat in a wife, but wise men know better.

Homer sometimes nods: Even the greatest minds have lapses of attention, leading to mistakes; often used as an excuse for error:

honors change manners :People who improve their status in society all too often become arrogant.

horses for courses: Different people have different strengths and talents, and each person should be assigned to the task or job that is best suited to that particular individual.

hope is a good breakfast but a bad supper: There is no harm in being optimistic at the beginning of something, but beware of being left with nothing but unrealized expectations at the end.

hope springs eternal in the human breast:
 It is human nature to remain optimistic— even after a setback, or despite evidence to the contrary.

an hour in the morning is worth two in the evening: People are at their most efficient early in the day, when they are refreshed by sleep.

a horse can’t pull while kicking: People engaged in acts of insubordination or protest cannot work efficiently or productively.

hunger drives the wolf out of the wood :
People in dire need are forced to do things that would be unwise or undesirable in other circumstances.

hunger is the best sauce: Hunger makes all food taste good, regardless of its quality or the way it is served.

the house shows the owner: A person’s character is revealed by the state of his or her house.

a house without books is like a room without windows: Books brighten and enlighten our daily lives in the same way that windows brighten and illuminate a room.

humble hearts have humble desires: People with timid characters tend to have modest ambitions.

a hungry stomach has no ears: There is no point in talking to or reasoning with hungry people, or those who are greedily devouring their food.

hurry no man’s cattle: Do not try to make others hurry or rush because you are impatient.


if and an spoils many a good charter: Excellent plans may be doomed to failure because of the conditions that come with them.

if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck :It is usually safe to identify somebody as a particular type of person when his or her appearance, behavior, and words all point to the same conclusion.

if one sheep leaps over the ditch, all the rest will follow :Where one person sets an example by doing something risky or dangerous others are likely to follow.

if two ride on a horse, one must ride behind: When two people undertake a joint activity or enterprise, one of them invariably takes the lead and the other has to be content with a more subordinate role; also used of a fight argument, where only one can win and the other must lose or surrender.

if the shoe fits, wear it: If it seems that a critical remark applies to you, then you must accept it; often said when somebody’s response to a general remark suggests that it is appropriate to that particular person.

if the sky falls, we shall catch larks: Do not make plans based on things that cannot possibly happen.
Proverbs expressing similar meaning:
if a pig had wings, it might fly; if ifs and ans were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers; if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

if wishes were horses, beggars would ride :There is no point in indulging in wishful thinking.

if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay under the porch: If you lack the strength, courage, skill, or experience to compete with the major players—in politics, business, or any other field—then it is better not to try at all.

if you can’t bite, never show your teeth: Do not make empty threats; also used to warn against making a show of aggression when you unable to defend yourself.

if you don’t like it, you can lump it :Whether or not you like what is offered or approve of what is proposed, you will have to put up with it.

if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys:
 Competent and highly qualified people will not work for derisory fees or wages.

if you’ve got it, flaunt it:
 Those who have wealth, beauty, or talent should not be ashamed to show it off; used as an excuse for ostentation.

if you want peace, prepare for war :A nation that is seen to be ready and able to defend itself—for example, with strong armed forces and powerful weapons—is less likely to be attacked.

ignorance is a voluntary misfortune: Everybody has the opportunity to acquire knowledge, so you have only yourself to blame if you remain ignorant.

ill weeds grow apace: Worthless people or evil things have a tendency to flourish where better ones fail.

in for a penny, in for a pound: Once you have committed yourself to something, you might as well do it wholeheartedly and see it through to the end.

in politics a man must learn to rise above principle: A successful politician cannot afford to have too many scruples; a cynical observation.

in war there is no substitute for victory: A war is only truly won by total defeat of the enemy, not by diplomatic negotiations or compromise.

it never rains but it pours: One setback, misfortune, or other undesirable occurrence is inevitably followed by many more; also occasionally used of pleasant things, such as a run of good luck.

it’s a foolish sheep that makes the wolf his confessor : Do not confide in somebody unless you are certain that he or she can be trusted.

it’s all in a day’s work: Unpleasant things have to be accepted as part of the daily routine; also used to play down a major achievement or a heroic act by implying that it is just part of your job.

it’s an ill bird that fouls its own nest: You should not say or do anything that will bring discredit or harm to your own family or country.

it’s a poor dog that’s not worth whistling for: Everybody has some value, or some redeeming feature.

it’s better to be happy than wise: Happiness is more important than wisdom, knowledge, or learning.

it’s better to be right than in the majority; Do not follow or side with the majority, just for the sake of conformity, if you believe them to be wrong.

it’s better to lose the battle and win the war: It is sometimes prudent or expedient to concede a minor point in an argument or dispute in order to gain the overall victory.

it’s easy to find a stick to beat a dog: It is easy to find some reason or excuse to justify a critical attack or a harsh punishment.




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