List 17 - Proverbs and Sayings




1. A bad excuse is better than none.

 Giving a poor excuse is better than not having an excuse as a poor excuse may be believed.


2. A bad workman blames his tools.

 Workers who do not have the necessary ability to do something successfully blames their equipment or tools.


3. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

 What you actually have now is more valuable than something you may get, so avoid risking what you have to get it.


4. A bully is always a coward.

 A bully is one who picks on someone who is weaker and cannot fight back.


5. A burnt child dreads fire.

 Someone who has a bad experience tends to always avoid such experience.


6. A dog is man's best friend.

 Dogs are more faithful than any human companion.


7. A chip off the old block.

 A person who has similar character or appearance as that of his or her parent.


8. A cold hand and a warm heart.

 This is used to say to someone with cold hands in order to stop them being shy or embarrassed.


9. A drowning man will clutch at a straw.

 When a person is desperate or in a very difficult situation, he will seize any opportunity to save or improve himself.


10. A fate worse than death

 An experience that is so bad that we wish we need not have to go through


11. A fool and his money are soon parted.

 There is a tendency for foolish people to be easily cheated or lose their money.


12. A friend in need is a friend indeed.

 If someone is your true friend, he will stand by you in times of difficulties.


13. A friend to all is a friend to none.

 A person who tries to be friends with everyone will end up being friends with no one.


14. A good beginning is half the battle

 A good start to an undertaking is halfway to making a success of it.


15. A good beginning makes a good ending

 Thorough preparation ensures a successful ending.


16. A good tale is none the worse for being told twice.

 It is all right to tell a story, joke, etc. a second time if it is a good story. This proverb is often used to justify repeating a story.


17. A good wife/husband makes a good husband/wife.

 A wife or husband who treats the family well will find her or his spouse doing the same.


18. A guilty conscience needs no accuser.

 People who have done wrong unconsciously express their guilt in what they say or how they behave, or think they are always the subject of other people's talk.


19. A heavy purse makes a light heart.

 People who have plenty of money are happy and free from worry.


20. A hungry man is an angry man.

 Hunger makes a man angry.


21. A man is as old as he feels; a woman is as old as she looks.

 A man may feel younger on a good day and older on a bad day, and a woman makes herself look younger or older by using clothing and make-up to make herself younger or older than she actually is.


22. A man is known by the company he keeps.

 People's judgement of you may be based on the reputation or character of the people you associate with.


23. A miss is as good as a mile.

 If you miss, you miss even though you almost hit the target.


24. A penny saved is a penny earned/gained.

 However small the amount you save, it is still wise to save.


25. A rich man's joke is always funny

 Wealthy people are surrounded by flatterers who strive to win their favour by laughing at all their jokes even though they are not funny.


26. A rolling stone gathers no moss.

 People who move or travel around freely or easily have less personal responsibility or attachment.


27. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

 It the qualities inherent in someone or something that matter and not whatever name they are called.


28. A small leak will sink a great ship.

 Unimportant or insignificant problem can escalate into big or serious problem.


29. A stitch in time saves nine.

 It is better to deal with problems early than to wait until they get worse.


30. A watched pot never boils.

 When we watch impatiently to happen, it seems to take longer than usual to happen.


31. A wolf in sheep's clothing.

 There are people who hide the fact that they are evil with a pleasant and friendly appearance.


32. A woman's work is never done.

 The household chores are unending being repeated day after day.


33. A word spoken is past recalling.

 This is a reminder that we should think carefully before speaking because we cannot take back what we have said.


34. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

 One's feeling of affection increases when a close one such as a family member or a friend is not in one's company.


35. Actions speak louder than words.

 What one does is more important than what one says.


36. Action without thought is like shooting without aim.

 One should think before one acts in order to get what one wants.


37. All roads lead to Rome.

 All the methods of doing something will achieve the same result in the end.


38. All that glitters is not gold.

 Things are not always as valuable as they appear to be.


39. All things are possible with God.

 Anything might happen as nothing is impossible to the divine will.


40. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

 One should take a break from work for leisure or relaxation to prevent harm to one's health, quality of work or personal relationships.


41. All's fair in love and war.

 One can skip all reasonable behaviour when in love and war.


42. All's well that ends well.

 When everything ends in a good or satisfactory way, all difficulties one encounters along the way can be forgotten.


43. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride.

 Someone who is never the most important person in a situation.


44. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

 This proverb lays emphasis on fruit as an important element in one's healthy diet.


45. An Englishman's home is his castle.

 English people believe that they should be able to control what happens in their own homes, and that no one else should tell them what to do there.


46. As you make your bed, so must you lie on it.

 You must accept the consequences of your foolish action or decision.


47. As you sow, so you shall reap.

 Whether you do something good or bad determines what will happen to you in the future.


48. Ask a silly question and you get a silly answer.

 If you ask a question that cannot be answered, or to which the answer is obvious, you are likely to receive a humorously inappropriate or nonsensical reply.


49. Ask no questions and you'll be told (or hear) no lies.

 It is better you do not ask questions of someone who is not willing to answer and so may tell a lie.


50. Barking dogs seldom bite.

 People who make the most or loudest threats are unlikely to carry out their threats.


51. Barking up the wrong tree.

 Have a wrong idea of getting something that is desired.


52. Be born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

 To be born into a rich family.


53. Beggars can't be choosers.

 We must be grateful for what is given to us, otherwise we would have nothing.


54. Beat about the bush.

 To avoid or delay talking about something by talking about something else that is irrelevant or insignificant.


55. Beauty is but skin-deep.

 Beauty exists on the surface only, and may conceal an unpleasant character.


56. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 Not everyone will agree that the same thing or person is attractive which means beauty is subjective.


57. Beggars must not be choosers.

 When we cannot get something better, what we get we must be grateful and without complaint.


58. Better a devil you know than a devil you don't know.

 It is wiser to deal with someone familiar although you do not like them than to deal with someone who you do not know, who might be worse.


59. Better an old man's darling than a young man's slave.

 It is better to be married to an older man who will care for you lovingly than to a younger man who may ill-treat you.


60. Better late than never.

 Someone arrives or something happens later as one wishes is better than not at all.


61. Between the devil and the deep blue sea.

 One has two choices which are both undesirable.


62. Birds of a feather flock together.

 People tend to associate with others who have same interests or possess similarly bad character.


63. Bite off more than one can chew.

 To try to do more than one is able to do.


64. Blood is thicker than water.

 The affection between members of a family is much stronger than any other relationship.


65. Blow one's own trumpet.

 To praise oneself for one's own achievements


66. Born with a silver spoon in the mouth.

 To be born into a rich family.


67. Both poverty and prosperity come from spending money – prosperity from spending it wisely.

 Spending money without thought or care for the consequences makes one poor while spending money to get good returns on investments makes one succeed financially.


68. Boys will be boys.

 Boys must be excused for their bad behaviour.


69. Bread always falls buttered side down.

 It often happens that the least desired of all possible outcomes will result.


70. Burn the candle at both ends.

 Work so hard for too long.


71. Business is business.

 There is no sympathetic feeling in business.


72. Call a spade a spade.

 Say the truth about someone or something even if the truth is not respectful, polite or pleasant.


73. Cast pearls before swine.

 To offer something that is very valuable to someone who does not understand how valuable it is.


74. Charity begins at home.

 Caring for someone should begin with those closest and dearest to you before others.


75. Children should be seen and not heard.

 In the presence of adults, children should not speak unless spoken to.


76. Christmas comes but once a year.

 Excessive spending and enjoying the pleasure of Christmas or other celebrations are justified as they don't happen often.


77. Civility costs nothing.

 There is nothing to lose by being polite.


78. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

 It emphasizes the importance of personal hygiene and cleanliness.


79. Cold hands, warm heart.

 Those whose hands are cold to the touch are supposedly kind and affectionate by nature; this is used to comfort someone whose hands are cold to stop them from feeling embarrassed.


80. Cross the bridge only when you come to it.

 You will not think or worry about something until it actually happens.


81. Curiosity killed a cat.

 Desire to find out about something can lead you into trouble.


82. Cut your coat according to your cloth.

 Spend only as much money as you can afford, and do not try to live beyond your means.


83. Dead men tell no tales.

 People who are dead cannot tell secrets, so it may be expedient to kill somebody who could betray a secret or give information about the criminal activities of others.


84. Death pays all debts.

 Dead people do not owe anything to people who are living.


85. Desires are nourished by delays.

 A desire or wish becomes stronger if it is not satisfied immediately.


86. Desperate diseases need desperate remedies.

 When we are in a particularly difficult situation, it is right or reasonable to take drastic action.


87. Diamond cut diamond.

 One cunning person is a match for another.


88. Discretion is the better part of valour.

 It is often wiser to be careful than to take unnecessary risks.


89. Don't bite off more than you can chew.

 Don't take on a difficult task that you cannot tackle.


90. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

 One should not be unkind or ungrateful to those on whom one depends for financial or other support.


91. Don't build your castles in the air.

 Don't have plans or hopes that are unlikely ever to become real.


92. Don't burn your bridges behind you.

 Be wise enough not to make an irrevocable decision before thinking carefully as one can never be sure of what the future holds.


93. Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.

 It is better not to optimistically assume one will get or be successful until one has actually got it or succeeded.


94. Don't cry out before you're hurt.

 There is no need to upset yourself about something bad that may or may not happen.


95. Don't cry over spilt milk.

 Don't feel sorry about an earlier mistake or misfortune that cannot be put right.


96. 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 recrimination


97. Don't halloo till you're out of the wood.

 Avoid any show of victory, achievement, relief until you are certain that you have overcome the difficult circumstances.


98. Don't judge a book by its cover.

 Do not judge someone or something from outward appearance as we don't know what that someone or something is like.


99. Don't meet trouble half-way.

 Don't worry about problems before they actually happen.


100. Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

 Don't risk doing only one thing but spread your risks so that if it fails you will not lose everything.








101. Don't put the cart before the horse.

 Don't do things in the wrong order.


102. Don't shoot the messenger.

 Don't blame or get angry with the messenger who brings you the bad news.


103. Don't swap horses in midstream.

 Don't change tactics or strategy in the midst of a course of action or task.


104. Don't wash your dirty linen in public.

 Don't discuss matters in public when they should be discussed in private.


105. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

 This means to have a good body and mind and financial success, one need to lead a way of life that does not involve staying up late or going to bed late.


106. East, west, home's best.

 Wherever you are or however far you have travelled, you cannot deny that your own home is still a better place.


107. Easy come, easy go.

 What you can easily come to possess especially money can also be just as easily lost or used up.


108. Eat to live; do not live to eat.

 One eats to stay fit and healthy and not to allow oneself to enjoy the pleasure of eating that leads excessive consumption of wrong types of food.


109. Empty vessels make the most noise.

 This is often used as a remark with the intention to humiliate or criticize someone who talks incessantly as is mostly the case that foolish people are the most talkative.


110. Err on the side of caution.

 Be extra careful rather than taking unnecessary risk or making a needless mistake.


111. Every cloud has a silver lining.

 There is always something good in a bad experience or difficult situation.


112. Every dog has its day.

 Every one has a period of time in life of good fortune.


113. Every Jack has his Jill.

 Everybody will ultimately find a suitable partner in their life.


114. Every little helps.

 However small a contribution is, it still helps.


115. Every man for himself, and God for us all.

 At times of intense difficulty or danger, everyone is responsible for his or her own safety, and divine protection for all.


116. Every man is the architect of his own fortune.

 Every person is responsible for his or her success or failure in life.


117. Every time a sheep baas, he loses a bite.

 This is said to children who talk too much at meals.


118. Everybody's business is nobody's business.

 People tend not to care about matters of general concern because they think they are of nobody's responsibility and that somebody else should deal with them.


119. Evil be to him who thinks it.

 Those who wish ill upon others deserve ill luck themselves.


120. Faint heart never won fair lady.

 It is necessary to be confident and daring to be successful with women or to accomplish one's aim.


121. Fair exchange is no robbery.

 Exchanging things which are of about equal value is fair exchange; this is also used to justify taking something from someone who has taken something from you.


122. Faith can move mountains.

 If someone's beliefs and confidence are strong enough, they can achieve almost everything.


123. Familiarity breeds contempt.

 The tendency is to become less respectful of people with whom we have become better acquainted.


124. Few words are best.

 It is best to communicate in as few words as possible.


125. Fight fire with fire.

 Use the same methods as someone else in order to defeat them.


126. Fire is a good servant but a bad master.

 Fire is very useful when it is under control, but highly dangerous when it takes control.


127. First come, first served.

 A person who arrives before other people will be served before them.


128. Flog a dead horse.

 To waste one's time and effort on something that has no possibility of success.


129. Forgive and forget.

 Do not bear grudges – forgive those who have wronged you and forget the wrong.


130. Fortune favours the brave.

 Those who act daringly or courageously are most likely to succeed.


131. God helps those who help themselves.

 Those who are self-reliant and make an effort are more likely to get what they want than those who sit back and wait for divine assistance.


132. Good masters make good servants.

 People who live or work together should set a good example to each other.


133. Good people are scarce.

 There is a lack of decent people; also applies to the difficulty in recruiting people with the desired talent or qualification.


134. Great minds think alike.

 This is used when people share the same opinion or act in the same way.


135. Half a loaf is better than no bread.

 If we get less than we desire, we should still be grateful as it is better to get something than nothing.


136. Handsome is as handsome does.

 People should be valued for their good deeds, not their good looks.


137. Hard words break no bones.

 How harsh criticism or abusive words may be, it can cause no physical harm.


138. Hasty climbers have sudden falls.

 Rapid advancement in one's life often ends in sudden and unexpected and disgraceful or shameful downfall.


139. Have an axe to grind.

 To have a strong opinion about something which you try to persuade other people to accept.


140. He who hesitates is lost.

 A person who delays in making a decision or seize an opportunity is very likely to miss out.


141. He who is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else.

 A person who constantly gives excuses is found lacking in own worth or abilities.


142. He who laughs last laughs best.

 Successes or failures along the way are of no consequence; it is the ultimate success that matters.


143. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.

 Those who live a life with behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill will end their lives in a similar manner.


144. He who pays the piper may call the tune.

 The person who pays has the right to decide.


145. He who will not when he may, when he will he shall have nay.

 One must take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself, even if one does not want it at the time because it may no longer be available when one does want it.


146. He who would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin.

 If you want to ask for a young woman's hand in marriage, it is important to make a favourable impression on her mother.


147. Heads I win, tails you lose.

 The outcome of any situation is that it's impossible for one person not to be a winner and just as impossible for another person not to be a loser.


148. Here today and gone tomorrow.

 This refers to something which lasts only a short time.


149. His bark is worse than his bite.

 Though he talks in an angry way, he would not behave violently.


150. History repeats itself.

 Things often happen in the same way as they happened before.


151. Hit the nail on the head.

 To give an accurate description of what causes a problem.


152. Honesty is the best policy.

 It is better to tell the truth than to lie.


153. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

 Remain optimistic, but be fully prepared to face failure or disaster.


154. Hunger is the best sauce.

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


155. If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again!

 Never give up or lose confidence or enthusiasm, persist until success is yours.


156. If the cap fits, wear it/If the shoe fits, wear it.

 If you are guilty of bad behaviour, you should accept criticism.


157. If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain.

 If you fail to achieve something, readjust yourself or try another way.


158. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

 It's pointless imagining a very unlikely future event or situation as if it were possible and might one day happen.


159. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

 Those who cannot or refuse to contribute to an improvement or a solution are a serious obstacle.


160. If you desire peace, prepare for war.

 A nation that is seen to be ready and able to defend itself is less likely to be attacked.


161. If you don't make mistakes, you don't make anything.

 If we do nothing, we make no mistakes so to make something we must not be afraid to make mistakes.


162. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

 People having the necessary ability or knowledge to do something successfully will not work for a paltry sum of money.


163. If you run after two horses, you will catch neither.

 If you try to do two things at once you will fail at both.


164. If you want a thing well done, do it yourself.

 To ensure something is done properly, rely not on others but to do it yourself.


165. Ignorance is bliss.

 It is often better not to have knowledge of something that would alarm or distress you.


166. Ill/bad news travels fast.

 Bad news tend to be spread more quickly than good news as people take great pleasure in talking or listening to the misfortunes of others.


167. Ill-gotten gains never prosper / ill-gotten goods never thrive.

 Something obtained by dishonest means will not bring good fortune to the person who acquires it.


168. In at one ear, out at the other.

 This is used to mean you quickly forget something that you hear.


169. In the country of the blind the one-eyed is king.

 Someone with only a limited ability is in a better position to succeed than those who have none or are even less able.


170. It never rains but it pours.

 When one bad thing happens and is followed by a lot of other bad things, it makes a bad situation worse.


171. It takes all sorts to make a world / it takes all kinds of people to make a world.

 People are different in many ways and it calls for tolerance and mutual respect.


172. It takes a thief to catch a thief.

 One dishonest person can guess what another dishonest person might do.


173. It takes one to know one.

 Only those who have faults are able to recognize similar faults in others.


174. It takes two to make a quarrel.

 A quarrel cannot happen unless both parties want to get involved in it.


175. It takes two to tango.

 It takes two persons to get willingly involved in an activity.


176. It's an ill bird that fouls its own nest.

 One should not say or do anything that will harm the good reputation of one's family or country.


177. It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

 There is usually somebody who benefits from an unfavourable set of circumstances.


178. It's easy to be wise after the event.

 We become wiser after what we have done wrong or what went wrong when we have the benefit of hindsight.


179. It's good fishing in troubled waters.

 Sometimes we delight in taking advantage in other people's misfortune.


180. It is love that makes the world go round.

 Love is extremely important, without it many ordinary events could not happen.


181. It's never too late to mend.

 We can improve ourselves or things at any time


182. It's not over till it's over.

 Don't despair until you have finally lost or there's complete absence of hope.


183. Its' not the end of the world.

 An event is not beyond hope as it seems; this is used to allay the doubts and fears of someone after a minor unlucky accident.


184. It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

 In a fight or dispute, the will and desire to win override other factors such as physical size or strength, or numerical strength.


185. It's no use crying over spilt milk.

 It is not useful feeling sorry about something which has already happened.


186. It takes money to make money.

 Any moneymaking enterprise requires money as capital.


187. It takes all kinds of people to make a world.

 People vary widely in attribute, aspect, etc and one should accept and respect this diversity.


188. Jack of all trades and master of none.

 Someone is able to do many things, but is not an expert in any of them.


189. Keep a thing seven years, and you'll find a use for it.

 Do not get rid of something which seems no longer useful but may be desirable in the future.


190. Keep your shop and your shop will keep you.

 If you manage your business in the way you should, it will continue to be a source of

 regular income.


191. Kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

 To destroy something valuable or makes a lot of money for you.


192. Kill two birds with one stone.

 Succeed in achieving two things in a single action.


193. Know thyself.

 Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses.


194. Knowledge is power.

 Those who possess knowledge wield power or influence over those who do not.


195. Last but not least.

 A person is not any less important because mentioned or listed last.


196. Laugh and grow fat.

 Lively amusement or the experience of finding something funny is good for the health.


197. Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep along.

 Happy people attract company while miserable people are avoided and ignored.


198. Least said soonest mended.

 This means a bad situation can be quickly forgotten if people stop talking about it.


199. Let bygones be bygones.

 This is to say that you should forgive and forget by forgetting about bad things that happened in the past and forgive that someone who has done them to you.


200. Let sleeping dogs lie.

 To avoid or warn someone against mentioning a past matter that has been forgotten.