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English Proverbs

Here are some 1,610 selected proverbs known from the collections of Willam Hazlitt, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Preston, John H. Bechtel (paginated), and others too (book data is at the bottom of the page).

English is . . . Proverbs are shared among countries and languages. After a centuries-old influx of proverbs from France, Scotland, Ireland and other quarters, what makes a proverb English? It has been told in English and recorded in England, or has been written in English and then recorded and perhaps repeated in England. It may come from far off, though. Scholars have ferreted out sources of many of the common British proverbs (see Speake 2008). Still, "Being told and/ord written/printed in English, preferably some time time ago, makes a proverb called English (too)."

Proverbs about animals and trees may well be about people too. The uses determine whether a proverb about "a crooked tree" with its crooked shadow is about a man and something following him. Much understanding depends on how far a proverb is deemed figurative or hardly so, and whether it is a comment, a moral teaching, a recommendation, a warning or an exposition, as the case may be. We may get to a traditional proverb's inherent savoury meanings by chewing on them and compare with what others get out of them. Some proverb commentaries contain clues for it.

- and there are more. Among the many variants of some proverbs, one or a few only are chosen. Among the following proverbs are some 210 taken from a collection by John H. Bechtel. The spelling of words has been slightly updated.

Remain on your guard: To seek to live up to one proverb may not fully suit our conditions and the associates that we depend on at times.

Book data is given near the bottom of the page, beneath the proverbs.



A bad reaper blames the sickle.

A bad workman quarrels with his tools.

A bald head is soon shaven.

A bird in hand is better far,
Than two which in the bushes are.
(It says: Prefer that which we have to that which we only expect. )

A bird is known by his note, and a man by his talk.

A bitten child is afraid of a stuffed dog.

A black plum is as sweet as a white.

A blind man gets small good of a lantern.

A blind man is no judge of colours.

A book that remains shut is but a block. (184)

A boor remains a boor though he sleep on silken bolsters. (29)

A bow long bent at last waxes weak.

A broad hat does not always cover a venerable head. (55)

A broad hat does not always cover a venerable head.

A brutal action shows a brutish mind.

A calf seems a big beast till you see a cow.

A candle that affords no light,
What profits it by night? (Abr)

A careless watchman invites thieves.

A cat must not always keep her back up.

A cherry year,
a merry year

A clear conscience is a good pillow. (144)

A clear head is desirable; but a clean heart is essential.

A clear understanding saves much quarrelling.

A cock often crows without a victory.

A common jeerer may have wit but not wisdom.

A corporation has no soul to be damned nor body to be kicked. (141)

A cow in a parlour does best when it makes for the door.

A cow is not ashamed because it cannot fly.

A cracked bell can never sound well.

A cracked bell should not be rung.

A crafty fellow never has any peace.

A cripple in the right road is better than a racer in the wrong.

A crooked tree will have a crooked shadow.

A crowd will help you down. [Abr.]

A cursed dog must be tied short.

A danger foreseen is half avoided.

A debauched son of a noble family is a foul stream from a clear spring.

A doctor and a clown know more than a doctor alone.

A doctor and a ploughman know more than a doctor alone.

A dog may look at a doctor.

A drink is shorter than a tale.

A drinking dame: A sight of shame.

A drunkard's mouth dries up his pocket.

A fair booty makes many a thief.

A fair exchange brings no quarrel. (31)

A fair face may be a foul bargain.

A fair face may hide a foul heart.

A fair wife and a frontier castle breeds quarrels.

A fair wife without a fortune is a fine house without furniture.

A faithful preacher is a rare creature.

A fault-mender is better than a fault-finder.

A favour ill placed is great waste.

A feast is not made of mushrooms only.

A fine bonnet may cover an empty head.

A fine woman can do without fine clothes.

A fisherman's walk: three steps and overboard.

A fly in the ointment.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

A fool and his words are soon parted.

A fool at forty is a fool indeed.

A fool frets to flourish full in front. (He must be seen and noticed or he is unhappy.)

A fool in his own house will not be wise in mine.

A fool is fulsome [immoderate, overgenerous; excessive or insincere, especially in a distasteful way].

A fool is none the wiser for having a learned grandfather.

A fool may ask more questions in an hour than a wise man can answer in seven years.

A foolish man is generally a proud man.

A fool's fortune is his misfortune.

A fool's heart dances on his lips.

A fool's tongue is long enough to cut his own throat.

A fox should not be of the jury at a goose's trial.

A friend in court is worth a penny in purse.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

A friend that you buy with presents will be bought from you.

A friend to all is a friend to none.

A full belly neither fights nor flies well.

A full cup needs a steady hand. (Prosperity is not easily endured. Many make a sad spill.)

A full purse makes the mouth to speak.

A gardener is known by his garden.

A given bite
is soon put out of sight.

A glutton buries himself in pudding.

A good action is never thrown away. (13)

A good beginning makes a good ending.

A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever. (184)

A good cat should have a good rat.

A good conscience is a choice companion.

A good education is [a fit] dowry.

A good example is a powerful sermon.

A good example is the best sermon. (69)

A good face is a letter of recommendation.

A good face needs no paint.

A good friend never offends.

A good garden may have some weeds.

A good horse cannot be of a bad colour.

A good husband makes a good wife.

A good lawyer, an evil neighbour.

A good marksman may miss.

A good maxim is never out of season.

A good name is better than riches.

A good name is sooner lost than won.

A good presence is a letter of recommendation. (56)

A good reputation is a fair estate.

A good seaman is known in bad weather.

A good shape is in the shear's [clippers] mouth.

A good take heed
Will surely speed.

A good thing is soon snatched up. [By some who try to appropriate it.]

A good tree is a good shelter.

A good wife makes a good husband.

A good woman is worth (if she were sold)
the fairest crown that's made of gold.

A great city, a great solitude.

A great fear is often concealed by a show of daring. (42)

A great head and a little wit. [The brain is not the seat of good and sound dealings, intelligence, or sense (from ancient Egypt)]

A great lord is a bad neighbour.

A great mark is soonest hit. (82)

A growing youth has a wolf in his belly.

A grumbler in the mud will stick.

A guilty conscience [probably] needs no accuser.

A handful of good life is better than a bushel of learning.

A handsaw is a good thing, but not to shave with.

A hard thing it is, I wise
to judge a thing that unknown is.

A hasty man never wants woe.

A headstrong man and a fool may wear the same cap.

A heavy purse makes a light heart.

A hedgehog is a poor bed-fellow. (And so are bad tempered people.)

A high building, a low foundation.

A hint for a gentleman, a club for a clown. (106)

A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog. (Referring to a man's nature or manners.)

A hog in armour is still but a hog.

A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
It fancies spring, but sorrows fall.

A horse may stumble badly, and yet he may not fall.

A horse stumbles, that has four legs.

A house well furnished makes a good housewife.

A hungry kite sees a dead horse afar off.

A jealous man puts nettles in his own bed.

A journey of a thousand miles is begun with a step.

A king promises, but observes only what he pleases.

A lame foot may tread the right road.

A lazy boy and a warm bed are difficult to part. (99)

A lean fee is fit for a lazy clerk.

A liar should have a good memory.

A lie begets a lie.

A lie is a lie,
whatever name you call it by.

A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.

A little bird only wants a little nest.

A little debt makes a debtor, but a great one an enemy. A little explained, a little endured, a little forgiven, the quarrel is cured. (132)

A little fore-talk may save much after-talk.

A little gall spoils a great deal of honey.

A little leak may sink a great ship.

A little mischief is too much.

A little mouse can help a great lion.

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men. (84)

A little nonsense now and then
Is relished by the wisest men.

A little oil may save a deal of friction.

A little pot is soon hot.

A little ship needs but a little sail.

A little spark shines in the dark.

A little stone in the shoe may lame the pilgrim.

A little stream drives a light mill.

A little wariness may save great weariness.

A little wit will serve a fortunate man.

A loan should come laughing home.

A lock stops a thief; but what can stop a liar?

A lord without riches is a soldier without arms.

A loud horn may play a poor tune.

A lover's soul lives in the body of his mistress.

A low hedge is easily leaped over.

A mad bull is not to be tied up with a packthread.

A man can do no more than he can.

A man gets no thanks for what he loses at play.

A man has learned much, who has learned how to die. (47)

A man has many enemies when his back is to the wall.

A man in debt is caught in a net.

A man is known by the company he shuns. (Quite as much as by the company he keeps.)

A man is not so soon healed as hurt.

A man may be good in the camp, yet bad in the church.

A man may bear till his back breaks.

A man may buy gold too dear.

A man may dig his grave with his teeth.

A man may hold his tongue in an ill time.

A man may live upon little, but he cannot live upon nothing.

A man may lose his goods for want of demanding them.

A man may love his house well, though he ride not on the ridge.

A man may tell a lie till he believes it.

A man must make his opportunity as often as find it. (163)

A man must plough with such oxen as he has.

A man must plough with such oxen as he hath. (190)

A man must sell his ware at the rates of the market.

A man of words and not of deeds, is like a garden full of weeds. (187)

A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds.

A man that keeps riches and enjoys them not, is like an ass that carries gold and eats thistles.

A man will never change his mind if he has no mind to change.

A man without reason
is a beast in season.

A man, like a watch, can be valued for his goings. [Mod]

A man's best fortune, or his worst, is a wife. (108)

A man's country is where he does well.

A man's purse will never be bare,
If he knows when to buy, to spend, and to spare.

A mariner must have his eye on rocks and sands, as well as on the north star.

A mask is an instrument of torture to a true man.

A merry companion on the road is as good as a nag [a small riding horse].

A mischievous dog must be tied short.

A miser grows rich by seeming poor, an extravagant man grows poor by seeming rich. (26)

A miser is a rich pauper.

A miser is like a hog, of no use till he is dead.

A miser lives poor that he may die rich.

A miss is as good as a mile.

A mole wants no lantern.

A mote [tiny piece of something] may choke a man.

A muffled cat is no good mouser.

A new broom sweeps clean.

A new net does not tempt an old bird.

A nod of an honest man is enough.

A pearl among pebbles is still a pearl.

A pebble and a diamond are alike to a blind man.

A penny saved is a penny gained.

A penny well spent is sometimes better than a penny ill spared.

A place at court is a continual bribe.

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

A plant often removed cannot thrive.

A ploughman is known by his furrow.

A poor man wants some things. [Abr]

A poor man's table is soon spread.

A pot that belongs to many, is ill stirred and worse boiled.

A prejudiced man puts out his own eyes. (He refuses to see, or his judgement is blinded for other reasons, including partiality.)

A promise is a debt that we may not forget.

A proud heart and a beggar's purse were never loving companions.

A proud man has many crosses.

A proverb is condensed popular wisdom. (184)

A ragged colt may make a good horse. [Children that seem less handsome when young, may later grow into shape and comeliness.]

A red nose is a danger signal.

A rose among nettles is none the less a rose.

A rotten apple spoils its neighbour.

A rotten cane abides [withstands] no handling.

A rouk-town's seldom a good housewife at home. (Rouk-town: A gossiping house-wife who loves to go from house to house . . .)

A scald [burnt] head is soon broken.

A scalded cat fears cold water.

A sceptre is one thing, and a ladle another.

A servant is best discovered by his master's absence.

A sheep should not tire of carrying its own wool.

A ship and a woman want always trimming.

A shrew is better than a sheep.

A sick man is soon beaten, and a scald head is soon broken.

A single fact is worth a shipload of argument. (23)

A sitting hen gets no barley.

A slanderer that is raised is evil to fell.

A slothful hand makes a slender estate.

A small cloud may hide the sun. (A little shortcoming or transgression, may rob joy.)

A small hurt in the eye is a great one.

A small leak [can] sink a great ship. (171)

A small sore wants not a great plaster.

A sober man, a soft answer.

A sore horse does not like to be curried. (Men who are wrong do not wish to be reproved.)

A sore-eyed person should never be an oculist. (He will not recommend his business, nor be likely to do what is needed with the eyes of others.)

A spoonful of vinegar will sour much sweet milk.

A staff is quickly found to beat a dog.

A still tongue makes a wise head.

A stitch in time saves nine. (128)

A stitch in time saves nine.

A story and a ball of snow
Gather substance as they go.

A straight stick seems crooked in the water.

A stumble may prevent a fall.

A tattler [can do] worse than a thief.

A thief passes for a gentleman when stealing has made him rich.

A thief thinks every man steals.

A thin bush is better than no shelter.

A thin meadow is soon mowed.

A thistle is a fat salad for an ass's mouth.

A thousand probabilities do not make one truth.

A tongue breaks bone,
and itself has none.

A tree is known by its fruit.

A tree that is often transplanted bears little fruit.

A true word needs no oath. (42)

A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.

A wager is a fool's argument.

A white devil does double mischief.

A wicked companion invites us all to hell.

A wife, domestic, good, and pure, should not place all her wealth on her back. (Abr.)

A wild goose never laid a tame egg.

A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.

A wise man knows his own.

A wise man may sometimes take counsel of a fool.

A wise man turns chance into good fortune.

A woman jumps at conclusions where a man limps towards them.

A word before is worth two after. (15)

A word before is worth two after.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. (186)

A word once out flies much about.

A workman is known by his chips. (190)

A wounded reputation is seldom cured.

A young twig is easier twisted than an old tree.

Absence is the mother of disillusion.

Abundance, like want, ruins many. (12)

Accusing is proving, where malice and force sit judges.

Add pence to pence,
for wealth comes hence.

Adversity is the touchstone of virtue.

Adversity makes strange bedfellows.

Adversity tries friends.

Advice when most needed
is least heeded.

Affection has its share of affliction.

After a storm comes a calm. (171)

After clouds comes clear weather.

Agree, for law is costly.

Alas! Alas! Wise men pass a dressy lass.

Alexander himself was once a crying babe. (28)

All are not friends that speak us fair.

All are not hunters that blow the horn.

All cats do not make music under the same window.

All complain of want of memory, but none of want of judgement.

All doors open to courtesy.

All flowers are not in one garland.

All is not at hand that helps.

All is not butter that comes from the cow.

All is not lost that is in peril.

All is not won that is put in the purse.

All lay the load on the willing horse.

All meat is not the same in every man's mouth.

All men can't be masters.

All men think their enemies ill men. All play and no work gives Tom a ragged shirt.

All praise and no pudding starved the parson.

All promises are either broken or kept.

All take and never give,
Better die than thus to live.

All that are black dig not for coals.

All that glitters is not gold.

All the keys hang not at one man's girdle.

All things are not to be granted at all times.

All wit is not wisdom.

All women are good: good for something or good for nothing.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Almost persuaded was never persuaded.

Almost was never hanged.

Always leave a little coal for the next day's fire.

Always put the saddle on the right horse.

Ambition plagues her proselytes. (18)

Amendment is repentance.

An angry man suffers temporary insanity.

An ape is an ape,
though dressed in a cape.

An ape is never merry when his clog is at his heels. [A clamp is a heavy block, a drag, (fetter) attached to one's leg - designed to hinder motion]

An ass is but an ass, though laden with gold.

An ass must be tied where the master will have him.

An ass was never cut out for a lapdog.

An early start makes easy stages.

An empty sack [bag] cannot stand upright.

An empty vessel gives a greater sound than a full barrel.

An envious man throws away mutton because his neighbour has venison.

An honest man's word is as good as his bond.

An ill father is the devil's playfellow.*

An ill marriage is a spring of ill fortune.

An ill wound [can be] cured, [and probably] not an ill name.

An inch in a miss is as good as an ell. [Ell (from elbow): (1) Originally: the span from the elbow to the fingertips. (2) Later standardised to 45 inches - 114 cm.)

An inch is a good deal on a man's nose.

An oak is not felled at one stroke.

An old dog does not bark for nothing.

An old dog will learn no new tricks.

An old fool is the worst of fools.

An old fox understands a trap.

An old house eats up the tenant.

An old naught
will never be aught. [naught: nothing; aught: anything]

An old sack wants much patching.

An old score is an old sore.

An old tub is apt to leak. (E.g. memory fails when age creeps on.)

An ounce of knowledge may be worth a pound of comfort.

An ounce of mother-wit is worth a pound of clergy.

An unchaste wife, working mischief still,
is oft compared to a foul dunghill.

Anger is short-lived in a good man.

Another's misfortune does not cure my pain. (110)

Any boy or girl you see
Can leap o'er a fallen tree.

Any fool can bet.

Any port in a storm.

Apes are never more beasts than when they wear men's clothes.

Appearances are deceitful.

Arthur himself had but his time. [The legendary King Arthur]

As deep drinks the goose as the gander.

As full as an egg is of meat. (12)

As good sit still as rise up and fall. (You might as well . . .)

As long as I am rich reputed,
with solemn voice I am saluted:
but wealth away once worn,
not one will say good morn.

As long as we live we may learn. (Living and learning should go together.)

As soon as a man is born he begins to die.

As the call, so the echo.

As the corn is, such will the walk be. (Corn on the foot or bunions do not contribute to fine walks in the country.)

As the mother, such the daughter;
Look to this before you court her.

As the old birds sing the young birds twitter.

As the old cock crows the young cock learns. (Children imitate their parents.)

As the sow fills the draff sours.

As the tree falls, so will it lie. (Abr.)

As the tree, so the fruit.

As the twig is bent the tree's inclined.

As the wind blows, you must set your sail.

As well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. [One might as well . . .]

As you brew, such your beer.

As you get whiter, try to get wiser.

As you make your bed so you must lie on it. (28)

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

Ask your purse what you should buy,
And oftentimes your whims deny.

Assertion is no proof. (23)

At a great bargain make a pause.

Avoid a slanderer as you would a scorpion. (33)


Bachelors, before you marry,
Have a house in which to tarry.

Bad beef will never make good broth. (Several meanings may be given to this proverb.)

Bad companions are the devil's decoy ducks. (Those who are wicked may quickly tempt others to sin.)

Bad company is the devil's net. (Association with the vicious may corrupt good manners and harm one's reputation if it does not deprave character.)

Bad guides may soon mislead.

Bad news has wings.

Bad work is seldom worth doing. [Mod.]

Badly won is soon wasted.

Bald men have all the less to brush. (Men without property have all the less to take care of.)

Bare-footed folk should not tread on thorns.

Be a man, and not a clothes-horse. (Be not a mere thing to hang clothes on.)

Be as cheerful as you can, try to delight in a sorrowful man.*

Be bail and pay for it.

Be captain of your own ship.

Be gentle so that your peace won't fall away.*

Be good, or it will not be good to be.

Be just before you are generous. (93)

Be kind to your horse, for it cannot complain. (Abr.)

Be merrily wise and wisely merry.

Be not ever and over touchy.

Be not only good but good at something.

Be not the trumpeter of your own praise. (73)

Be slow in choosing, slower in changing. (With regard to wife or husband.)

Be slow of giving advice, ready to do a service. (15)

Be slow to promise, quick to perform. (59)

Be very slow a pledge to make,
But slower still your word to break.

Be wary where'er you be,
From deceit few places are fully free. [Mod]

Be with the bad, and bad you will be.

Bear the hen's cackle for the sake of the eggs.

Beauty is no inheritance.

Before you consult fancy, consult your purse. (Mod] [54)

Before you decide,
Hear the other side.

Before you hang up your hat look at the peg. (See what sort of family you will be connected with by the marriage. Observe well your prospective mother-in-law.)

Before you leap, see where you land. • Look before you leap.

Before you marry
Have a house wherein to tarry."

Before you rectify another, be right yourself.

Before you run in double harness, look well at the other horse.

Before you trust the cat, put the cream out of reach.

Begin only what you can hope to finish.

Believe not all, doubt not all. (Have a judicious mind and neither fall into credulity nor suspicion.)

Better a glorious death than a shameful life.

Better a good groat than a bad bank-note.

Better a little fire to warm us than a great one to burn us. (Hazlitt)

Better a low house than no house.

Better a purse empty than full of other men's money.

Better a small nose than no nose at all.

Better alone than in bad company.

Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow.

Better an upright Turk than a false Christian. (94)

Better are small fish than an empty dish.

Better be a lean bird in a wood than a fat one in a cage.

Better be alone than in bad company. (78)

Better be good and have good than hear of good.

Better be idle than ill employed.

Better be than seem.

Better break your leg than your neck.

Better catch small fish than come home with empty dish.

Better come from the barn than from the band-box.

Better deserve honour and not have it, than have it and not deserve it. (94)

Better do it, than wish it done. (13)

Better enquire and enquire than flounder in the mire.

Better half a loaf than no bread. (67)

Better half an egg than an empty shell.

Better leave undone than have to undo.

Better lose the wool than the sheep.

Better out of fashion than out of credit.

Better poverty and truth than prosperity with falsehood.

Better ride on an ass that carries me than a horse that throws me.

Better sit still than rise to fall.

Better suffer than sin.

Better that the feet slip than the tongue.

Better to be beaten than be in bad company.

Better to do well than to say well.

Better to suffer for truth, than prosper by falsehood. (167)

Better unborn than untaught.

Better wise than wealthy.

Between said and done a race may be run.

Between two stools he falls to the ground.

Beware of a man who has quitted his friend,
His friendship with you too may soon come to an end. [Mod]

Beware of gifts that God never gave.

Beware of the pottage which colours the nose.

Big words from a weak stomach are poor things.

Bind fast, and find fast.

Bind the sack before it be full.

Birds of a feather flock together.

Black soils grow bright flowers.

Blue is blue, but there may be better blue.

Brick by brick houses are built. (Steady plodding can accomplish some things.)

Bring up a raven, and it pecks out your eyes. (Ingratitude is common.)

Buttons all right are husbands' delight.

Buy a bit of flannel, never mind ribbons.

By our own toothache we learn
To pity others in our turn.

By staring at the moon men stumble into the ditch.

By stratagem, not valour.

By the thread we unwind the skein. (Follow up the thread of the matter until all is cleared.)

By timely mending save much spending.


Call me what you like, but don't call me too late for dinner.

Call me wise, and I will allow you to be a judge. (In such a case there could be two who are neither wise nor good judges.)

Carnal joys breed sorrow. (Spurgeon, abr.)

Cast not pearls before swine.

Catch not at the shadow and lose the substance.

Catch the squirrel before you sell its tail.

Cats in mittens catch no mice.

Caution is the parent of safety.

Censure from the bad is true praise.

Change of fortune is the lot of life. (139)

Change of pasture makes fat calves.

Change of weather is the discourse of fools.

Charity begins at home, but should not end there. (104)

Charity begins at home

Charity lives at home, but walks abroad.

Cheerfulness smoothes the road of life.

Children and chicken must ever be picking.

Children are certain cares, but uncertain comforts.

Children suck the mother when they are young, and the father when they are old.

Chins without beards are better than heads without brains.

Choose a kit from a good cat. (Daughters may be like their mothers in some ways. Therefore the mother may be a guide for a young man in selecting a wife.)

Choose not alone a proper mate,
But proper time to marry.
(What is too early or too late can vary a lot.)

Choose your wife from the wash-tub rather than the piano.

Christmas always comes twice a year; knowing it could bring some cheer.* (Buying gifts and goodies cheaply on sale may be easy, for one celebration comes on December 25, and the next starts ca. January 7 (Orthodox Christmas). (WP, "Christmas > Using the Julian Calendar")

Circumstances alter cases, and faces, and paces.

Claw me, and I will claw you.

Clean hands are better than clever hands.

Cleanliness is a fine life-preserver.

Climb not too high, lest the fall be the greater.

Clouds that the sun builds up darken him.

Cobbler, stick to your last.

Cold love soon grows colder.

Commend a wedded life, but keep yourself a bachelor.

Comparisons are odious.

Conscience and wealth are not always neighbours. (167)

Constant dropping wears the stone.

Content is the true philosopher's stone.

Contentment comes of the heart, not of the house.

Cool ovens bake no biscuits.

Counsel over cups is crazy. (Drunkards are never good advisers.)

Count not your chickens before they are hatched

Courtesy on one side never lasts long.

Cowards are always cruel.

Creaking wagons are long on the road.

Crest or no crest, do your best.

Cross the stream where it is shallowest.

Crows do not pick crow's eyes.

Cruelty is a devil's delight.

Custom is a second nature.


Day by day life glides away.

Daylight will peep through a small hole.

Death devours lambs as well as sheep.

Death is the grand leveller.

Debt is the worst kind of poverty.

Deeds, not words.

Delays are dangerous.

Deliberate slowly, execute promptly. (59)

Diamond cut diamond.

Diligence is the mother of success.

Dirty wives make drunken husbands.

Divide and rule.

Do a thing well, or let it alone.

Do as the bee does with the rose, take the honey and leave the thorn. (178)

Do as you are bidden and you'll never be to blame.

Do business, but be not a slave to it. (30)

Do not holloa till you are out of the wood.

Do not in the darkest night,
What you'd shun in broad daylight.

Do not make a butt of another.

Do not ride a free horse to death.

Do nothing rashly.

Do well is better than say well. (14)

Do you think you are wise if you are otherwise.*

Dogs bark as they are bred. (Men act according to their birth and education.)

Don't blame it, but better it. (If you can.)

Don't bolt the door till all the children are in.

Don't burn your lips with other men's broth. (Getting mixed up with their dirty affairs - hot..)

Don't buy a whale till you've paid for your sprats.

Don't carve another man's leg of mutton.

Don't cross the bridge till you come to it.

Don't cry over spilt milk.

Don't cut down an oak to plant a thistle.

Don't cut your nose off to spite your face.

Don't dance to every man's whistle.

Don't drown the man who taught you to swim.

Don't expect to be rich As easy as you jump a ditch.

Don't find fault with what you don't understand. (70)

Don't find fault with what you don't understand.

Don't fire a gun at a bluebottle. (Nor a cannon at a cock-sparrow. - Bluebottle: Blowfly; policeman)

Don't fret over things you can't help or things you can.

Don't gaze at the stars and fall into the ditch.

Don't go out of your road to find something to stumble at.

Don't go out woolly and come home shorn.

Don't go to church to see tho fashions.

Don't go to sea in an egg-chest.

Don't hang your hat on two pegs at once.

Don't hope for the shadow without the tree

Don't kick the bucket out of which you drank.

Don't knock a man down and kick him for falling.

Don't make your promises like pie crust, which goes to be broken.

Don't pitch too high, or you won't get through the tune.

Don't promise pounds and pay pence.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Don't put all your plums into one pudding.

Don't roll in the mire to please the pigs. (Refrain from pleasing those who take delight in evil.)

Don't saw off the branch you're sitting on.

Don't share the spoil before you gain the victory.

Don't stop sowing because of the birds.

Don't stop the plough to catch a mouse.

Don't strut like a crow in a gutter.

Don't take off your clothes before you go to bed. (Do not hand over your property to your children while you are yet alive, and need it. yourself. Remember how possible ingratitude is when no more is to be got out of you.)

Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs.

Don't throw away dirty water till you have clean.

Don't tread on other men's corns, nor on their wheats either.

Don't trust a rickety chair or a tricky man. (For if you do, you may get an ugly fall, or find yourself deceived.)

Don't try to walk on both sides of the hedge.

Don't turn recreation into degradation.

Don't wade where you cannot see the bottom.

Don't wait for something to turn up, but turn it up yourselves.

Drink won't hurt you if you don't drink it.

Drive gently over the stones.

Drop by drop the tub is filled.

Drops of praise are poor acknowledgments for oceans of mercy.

Drunkards drown themselves on dry land.


Each bird whistles its own note.

Each day is the scholar of yesterday. (159)

Each New Year brings death more near.

Early sow, early mow.

Easy come, easy go.

Eaten bread is soon forgotten.

Eating and drinking takes away one's appetite.

ed in the old spot.

Edged tools are dangerous playthings. (Spurgeon, abr.)

Empty vessels make the greatest sound.

End a quarrel before it begins.

Enough, with most people, means a little more than they have.

Envy shoots at others and wounds herself.

Even a clown clings to his cloak when it rains.

Even a fool speaks a wise word sometimes.

Even among apostles there was a Judas.

Even if you eat the pudding, don't swallow the bag. (Set some limit to your credulity. Or: Don't go the whole hog. Draw a line somewhere. )

Every ass thinks himself worthy to stand with the king's horses.

Every bird likes its own nest.

Every bird must hatch her own egg.

Every cock may crow on his own dunghill.

Every day is not Sunday.

Every dog has his day.

Every generation needs regeneration.

Every man cannot be purveyor of cat's-meat to Her Majesty. (Such eminence only awaits a mere handful of officials.)

Every man has his hobby-horse.

Every man is a pilot in a calm sea.

Every man is the best interpreter of his own words.

Every man knows where his own shoe pinches.

Every miller draws water to his own mill.

Every monkey has his tricks.

Every one bastes [moistens during cooking] the fat hog, while the lean one burns.

Every tide has its ebb.

Every tub must stand on its own bottom.

Everybody cannot be first.

Everybody's friend is nobody's friend.

Everyone must row with the oars he has.

Everything has an end, and a pudding has two.

Evil communications corrupt good manners.

Evil communications divide near relations.

Evil deeds are evil seeds.

Evil gotten, evil spent.

Evil is wrought by want of thought as well as want of heart.

Examine well the counsels that favour your desires. (15)

Example teaches more than precept.

Excess of ceremony shows a want of breeding. (107)

Experience is a dear school, but it is the only one we are apt to learn in.

Experience is the mistress of fools and the mother of wisdom. [Two in one]

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools learn in no other.

Extremes seldom last long [Very long-lived trees do, though - Ed.].


Faint praise is often strong censure.

Fair faces need no paint. (27)

Fair faces need no paint.

Fair words feed neither cat nor kitten.

Fair words will not keep a cat from starving.

Faith builds a bridge across the gulf of death. (165)

Familiarity breeds contempt.

Far from court, far from care.

Far sought and dear bought,
May be good for naught.

Far-off water won't quench near fire.

Fast bind, fast find.

Fear not the loss of the bell more than the loss of the steeple.

Feather by feather the goose is plucked.

Fetters, even of gold, are heavy. (25)

Few people are out of the reach of slander.

Fields have eyes, and woods have ears.

Fine birds are all the more likely to be plucked. (Pretty people are tempted, etc.)

Fine clothes cannot hide the clown.

Fine feathers make fine birds. (Some, though, "decorated fools". - Spurgeon, abr.)

Fine stables do not make good horses.

Fine words butter no parsnips.

Fire begins with little sparks: crime begins with evil thoughts.

First catch your hare, then cook it. (124)

First come, first served.

First deserve, and then desire. (51)

First understand, and then undertake.

Fish are not to be caught by a birdcall.

Fit words are fine; but often fine words are not fit.

Five things observe with care: Of whom you speak, to whom you speak, and how, and when, and where. (These are five points of courtesy and caution in conversaŽtion.)

Flattery is pap [food] for fools.

Flattery is the food of fools. (74)

Flattery sits in the parlour, when plain dealing is kicked out of doors. (75)

Follow the river, and you'll come to the sea.

Folly and learning often dwell together. (178)

Foolish pity spoils a city.

Fools are pleased with their own blunders.

Fools grow without watering.

Fools live, but do not learn.

Fools may sometimes speak to the purpose.

Fools set stools for wise folk to stumble at.

Fools think themselves wise to the very last.

For a rainy day lay store away. (In abundance, prepare for days of need.)

For the light of day we have nothing to pay.

For want of a nail the shoe is lost; for want of a shoe the horse is lost; for want of a horse the man is lost. (128)

For want of a nail the shoe is lost; for want of a shoe the horse is lost; for want of a horse the rider is lost.

Forbearance is no acquaintance.

Forecast [may be] better than hard work. (174)

Forethink though you cannot foretell.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Foul hands befoul all they touch.

Fowls should roost where foxes cannot reach.

Friends need no formal invitation. (92)

Friendship is a plant one must often water. (78)

Frogs in a well know nothing of the high seas.

From an empty pot,
Pudding comes not.

From nothing comes nothing.

From saving comes having.

From small profits and many expenses, come a whole life of sad consequences. (31)

Full ears of wheat bend low with weight.


Gain when badly got,
is bound to rot. (Spungeon, Rephrased)

Gambling is play in name, but crime in reality.

Gather thistles, expect prickles.

Gems must not be valued by what they are set in.

Gifts from enemies are dangerous.

Give a fool rope enough, and he will hang himself.

Give alms to the lazy, and you license their laziness.

Give neither counsel nor salt till you are asked for it. (15)

Give the benefit of doubt Till the truth is fully out.

Gnaw your own bone, and let others alone.

God never measures men by inches.

God's mills grind slowly, but they grind small.

Gold alone makes not prosperity.

Good counsel does no harm.

Good counsel never comes too late.

Good health is above wealth.

Good men take good advice.

Good pastures make fat sheep. (12)

Good sees good, and foul sees foul.

Good to begin well; better to end well.

Good wares make quick markets.

Good watch prevents misfortune.

Good words and no deeds.

Good words without deeds
Are rushes and reeds.

Gossiping and lying go hand in hand.

Grass grows not upon the highway.

Great cry and little wool.

Great marks are soonest hit.

Great oaks were once little acorns.

Great quarrels have small beginnings.

Great scholars may be great sinners.

Green are the hills that are far away,
But greener the garden where I stay. (There's no place like home.)

Grey hairs are death's blossoms.

Grief pent up will burst the heart.

Gut no fish till you get them.


Habitual sin dwarfs conscience of sin. (Wrongs can be so often done that the hardened doer thinks he is right.)

Hair by hair old heads grow bare.

Half a loaf is better than no bread.

Half an acre is better than no land.

Half doing is many a man's undoing.

Half-heart is no heart.

Handsome apples are sometimes sour.

Happy is the man that has a hobby.

Hard rocks need hard hammers.

Hard words often come from soft heads.

Harm watch, harm catch.

Haste over nothing but catching fleas.

Hasty climbers have sudden falls.

Have a place for everything and everything in its place. (24)

Have not your cloak to make when it begins to rain.

He asks advice in vain who will not follow it. (15)

He has but sorry food that feeds upon the faults of others. (71)

He is a good friend who speaks well of us behind our backs. (78)

He is a real friend who assists one in a pinch.

He is most cheated who cheats himself. (30)

He is no one's friend who is his own enemy.

He is wise enough that can keep himself warm in winter.

He lives long that lives well.

He must be a wise man himself who can distinguish one. (Diogenes)

He must crack the nut that would eat the kernel.

He must needs swim that is held up by the chin.

He preaches well that lives well. (88)

He smells best that smells of nothing.

He that comes first to the hill may sit where he will.

He that endures is not overcome.

He that goes far from home for a wife, either intends to cheat or will be cheated.

He that goes softly goes surely.

He that has no children knows not what love is.

He that is angry without a cause must be pleased without amends.

He that is down needs fear no fall.

He that is out at sea must either sail or sink.

He that is proud of his fine clothes gets his reputation from his tailor. (54)

He that is unkind to his own will be unkind to others. (103)

He that is your friend indeed, he will help you at your need. (77)

He that keeps malice harbours a viper in his breast. (64)

He that leaves certainty for chance,
When fools pipe, he may dance.

He that makes himself an ass, must not take it ill if men ride him. (63)

He that respects not is not respected.

He that stumbles, but does not fall,
He mends his pace, and that is all.

He that travels far knows much. (183)

He that waits on another man's trencher makes many a late dinner.

He that will not be counselled cannot be helped.

He that would eat the fruit must climb the tree.

He that would have a loaf from his wheat must wait the grinding.

He that would have eggs must endure the cackling of hens.

He that would have his secrets kept must keep his secrets.

He that would please all, and himself too, [often] undertakes what he cannot do. (121)

He who boasts of his descent boasts of that which he owes to others. (19)

He who brings good tidings may knock boldly.

He who cannot swim should never dive.

He who deals with the devil will make small profits.

He who fears to suffer suffers from fear.

He who has a big nose thinks that all are looking at it.

He who has most pride has least sense.

He who has no head, needs no hat.

He who holds the sack is as bad as he who fills it.

He who is full of care is like a hare.

He who is ill to his own is ill to himself.

He who is not his own friend is nobody's friend.

He who keeps off the ice will not slip through.

He who loves right goes against sin. (And her integrity moves her to indignation in a case of injustice.)

He who makes others wretched is himself a wretch, whether prince or peasant.

He who marries a good wife has prospered in life.

He who never begins will never finish.

He who never rides never falls off the horse.

He who once hits the mark keeps on shooting.

He who owns the cow may milk her.

He who scrubs every pig he sees will not long be clean himself.

He who sows thorns should not go barefoot.

He who swims in sin will sink in sorrow.

He who the squalling cannot bear Should take no piggy by the ear.

He who tries to stand in two boats at once runs great risk of drowning.

He who would catch fish must not mind a wetting.

He who would catch fish must not mind getting wet. (127)

He who would catch fish should mend his nets.

He who would eat the kernel must crack the nut.

He who would search for pearls must dive below.

He who would speed must take good heed.

He who would thrive must look alive.

Health is not valued till sickness comes.

Hedges between keep friendship green.

Hedges have eyes, and walls have ears. (It pays to be cautious what you say; where somebody could be listening.)

Help yourself and your friends will like you.

He's a wise man who can make a friend of a foe. (177)

High looks are not good looks. (Pride is uncomely.)

High places have their precipices.

High winds blow on high hills.

Ho who builds by the roadside will have many surveyors.

Ho who dances on the brink may soon be dashed on the bottom.

Hobby-horses are as dear as race-horses. (Hobbies-)

Hoist your sail when the wind is fair.

Home is home, be it ever so homely.

Honey is sweet, but the bee stings. (174)

How easily a hair gets into the butter!

How will it look by daylight? (A very proper question. - Spurgeon)

However small a bush, it casts its shadow.

Hunger breaks through stone walls.

Hunger costs little; daintiness much.

Hunger finds no fault with cookery.

I had rather have a fool to make me merry, than experience to make me sad. (84)

I have a fine cloak, but I left it in France.

I wept when I was born, and every day shows why.


If a cow gives milk, it need not play the piano.

If it cannot be better, be glad it's no worse.

If it's nothing to you, say nothing about it.

If one sheep break the hedge, a flock may follow.*

If the cap should happen to fit, wear it.

If the dog is not at home, he barks not.

If the pills were pleasant, they would not want coating. (48)

If there were no clouds, we should not enjoy the sun.

If there were no fools, there would be no wars.

If we are bound to forgive an enemy, we are not bound to trust him. (81)

If wishes were dishes, beggars would dine.

If you always say "No," you'll never be wed.

If you are a beauty, do without paint.

If you blacken others, it does not whiten yourself.

If you can't bite, don't show your teeth.

If you dig a pit for others, beware of tumbling in yourself.*

If you have no son, don't give him a name.

If you leap into a well, Providence is not bound to help you out. (115)

If you play with cats, expect to be scratched.

If you sow thorns, you will not reap roses.

If you want easier travelling, mend your ways.

If you would enjoy the fruit, pluck not the flower.

If your brother is a donkey, what are you?

Ignorance is the mother of impudence. (The father is pride.)

Ignorance shuts its eyes and believes it is right. (181)

Ill comes often on the back of worse.

Ill doers are ill deemers.

Ill-gotten gain is no gain.

Ill-gotten gains never prosper.

Imitate the best, not the worst.

In a calm sea every man is a pilot.

In an orderly house all is soon ready.

In fair weather prepare for foul.

In showers, the umbrella at home is of no use.

In the country of the blind one-eyed man is a king.

In the evening one may praise the day.

In the garden much more grows,
Than the busiest gardener sows.

Ingratitude is a base vice. [Mod]

It is [at times] better to begin in the evening than not at all. (28)

It is a bad bargain, where both are losers. (32)

It is a fortunate head that never ached.

It is a good horse that never stumbles, and a good wife that never grumbles. (73)

It is a silly fish that is caught twice with the same bait.

It is a sin to steal a pin.

It is a worthier thing to deserve honour, than to possess it. (94)

It is an equal failing to trust everybody, and to trust nobody. (164)

It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest.

It is better to deserve praise than to receive it.

It is better to seek advice at the beginning than at the end. (15)

It is easy to bear the misfortunes of others.

It is good to get out of the net, but better not to get into it.

It is hard for an empty bag to stand upright. (181)

It is hard to get two heads under one hat.

It is more easy to be wise for others than for yourself.

It is never too late to mend. (162)

It is no use crying over spilt milk.

It is not the eye for faults, but beauties, that constitutes the real critic. (73)

It is often harder to unlearn than to learn. [Mod]

It must be a very bad cause if the lawyer is ashamed of it.

It needs great wisdom to play the fool.

It takes two to make a bargain. (17)

It takes two to make a quarrel.

It's a good horse that never stumbles, and a good wife that never grumbles.

It's a good knife; it will cut butter when it's melted.

It's a sad heart that never rejoices. (83)

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

It's an ill wind that blows nobody good.

It's easy to put the pot on, but is there anything in it?

It's good to be merry and wise;
It's good to be honest and true;
It's good to be off with the old love
Before you be on with the new.

It's not how long, but how well we live. (88)

It's not how long, but how well we live.

It's not the many oaths that make the truth. (43)

It's pity fair weather should do any harm.

It's pleasant to see it rain when you're in the dry.

It's skill, not strength, that governs the ship.

It's too late to cast anchor when the ship is on the rocks.


Jest not at another's infirmities.

Jill is what Jack makes her;
For better for worse he takes her.

Judge not a book by its cover. (184)

Judge not a woman by her dress, nor a book by its binding,

Judge not of a ship as she lies on the stocks.

Just is honest and honest is just.


Keep from the anger of a great man.

Keep good company, and you may be of the number. [Mod]

Keep not from sowing for fear of the birds.

Keep within compass, and then you'll be sure
To avoid many troubles which others endure.

Keep your hand out of the fire, and yourself out of quarrels.

Keep your room always tidy and clean;
Let dust on the furniture never be seen.

Keep your sickle out of your neighbour's harvest.

Keep your tongue within your teeth. (129)

Kindness should not be all on one side.

Knowledge is a good burden.*


Laws, like spiders' webs, are wrought,
Large flies break through, the small are caught.

Lawyers' houses are built on fools' heads.

Learn to creep before you leap.

Learning and talent which cannot be put to any service is not much esteemed. (Spurgeion)

Learning makes a man fit company for himself.

Least said is soonest mended.

Lend only what you can afford to lose.

Let another's shipwreck be your beacon.

Let every bird whistle its own tune.

Let every tub stand on its own bottom. (146)

Let the path of duty be the path of safety. (Mod] [58)

Life is but a span.

Life is made up of little things.

Life is not a bed of roses.

Life is not all cakes and ale (no all beer and skittles).

Lightning never strikes twice in the same place. [Sometimes it does, though].

Little boats must keep near shore; Larger ships may venture more.

Little by little the little bird builds its nest.

Little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Little pitchers have great [large] ears. • Little pigs have large ears. (It's about children)

Little pitchers have long ears.

Little things amuse little minds.

Live and die is what we have to do. [Spungeon, mod]

Live not to eat, but eat to live.

Lock the stable door before the steed is stolen. (128)

Long is a day without bread.

Look before you leap;
The ditch may be deep.

Look for hogs in the sty.

Look to the main chance.

Look with suspicion upon the flight of an enemy. (80)

Lookers-on see more than players.

Love and a cough cannot be hid.

Love laughs at locksmiths.

Love your mother;
you'll never have another.


Mad people think others mad.

Make all sure, and keep all pure.
Make every bargain clear and plain,
That none may afterwards complain.

Make hay while the sun shines.

Make home happy, and you will be happy at home.

Make not a toil of your pleasure.

Make not your sail too big for your ballast. (173)

Make not your sail too large for your ship.

Make not your sauce till you have caught the fish. (96)

Make speed today, you may be stopped tomorrow.

Make your hay as best you may.

Make your pudding according to your plums.

Malice is mindful.

Man gives nothing so willingly as advice. (15)

Many a child is hungry because the brewer is rich.

Many a one for land,
Takes a fool by the hand.

Many a true word is spoken in jest.

Many come to bring their clothes to church rather than themselves. (125)

Many drops make a shower.

Many go out for wool, and come home shorn. (52)

Many hands make light work.

Many kinsfolk, few friends.

Many littles make a mickle. (101)

Many men accept offices they cannot fulfil, and enter on positions they cannot maintain.

Many talk of Robin Hood, that never shot with his bow.

Many things are difficult before they are easy. [Mod]

Many things grow in the garden that were never planted there.

Many words hurt more than swords.

Marriage halves our griefs, and doubles our joys.

Marrying is easy, but housekeeping is hard.

Matrimony's a matter of money.

Measure men around the heart. (A man of large heart can be worth knowing.)

Measure twice before you cut once.

Meat is much, but manners is more.

Meddle not with what you don't understand. (110)

Meddlers are never good till they be rotten.

Men are but children of a larger growth. (193)

Men cannot practise unless they know..

Men may live in crowds, but they die one by one.

Men muse as they use. (They think of others as they are and do themselves.)

Men readily believe what they wish to be true.

Men willingly believe what they wish to be true. (51)

Mercy to the criminal may be cruelty to the innocent.

Merit only can measure merit. (A Sanskrit writer says: "No man can others' virtues know, / While he himself has none to show.")

Merry meet, merry part, merry meet again.

Mind your courting does not end in court.

Misfortune is a good teacher. (112)

Misfortunes hasten age.

Misfortunes seldom come alone.

Mocking is catching.

Money answers many things,
But hardly all the conscience stings. [Mod]

Money makes the mare to go.

More have been drowned in wine than water.

Most men get as good a wife as they deserve.

Most people would sooner be told their fortunes than their faults.

Much is expected where much is given.

Much to read, and naught to understand,
Is to hunt much and nothing take by hand.

Much water runs by while the miller sleeps.

Murder will out.

Music helps not the toothache.

Music will not cure the toothache.

My son is my son till he marries a wife,
But my daughter's my daughter all the days of her life.


Nature, though driven out with a fork, will return. (Nature will assert itself - and have its way.)

Necessity is a hard master. (51)

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Needles and pins, needles and pins, when a man marries his trouble begins.

(A quaker who married a couple said, "Now you are at the end of your troubles." Some time after, the afflicted husband reminded him of the saying, and charged him with misleading him. "No," said the friend, "I said you were at the end of your troubles, but I did not say at which end.") Then what are those troubles? A marriage - (Cf. Speake 2008)

Never argue for victory, but for verity.

Never ask a favour of a man until he has had his dinner. (70)

Never bark up the wrong tree.

Never be weary of well-doing. (13)

Never buy a pig in a poke.

Never carry two faces under one hat.

Never comb a bald head. (Don't criticise where there is nothing to work on.)

Never fry a fish till it's caught.

Never give up the ship. (As long as she is above water -Ship can mean a good underŽtaking.)

Never judge a horse by its harness, nor a man or a woman by outward appearances.

Never lean on a broken staff. (Or trust in a broken and deranged fellow.)

Never leave a certainty for an uncertainty.

Never look for pippins on a crab-tree.

Never make troubles of trifles.

Never offer to teach fish to swim.

Never offer to teach fish to swim.

Never play with a mad dog.

Never quit certainty for hope.

Never say of another what you would not have him hear.

Never too much of a good thing. (104)

Never trust to a broken staff. (166)

Never venture out of your depth till you can swim. (45)

Never venture out of your depth until you can swim.

Never wash sheep in scalding water. (This is done when good people are rebuked in anger.)

New brooms sweep clean.

New hearts are more needful than new hats.

Next to no wife a good wife is best.

Nightingales can sing their own song best. (115)

Nimble thought can jump both sea and land. (50)

No answer is also an answer.

No cut like unkindness.

No fishing like fishing in the sea.

No garden without its weeds.

No joy without alloy.

No man better knows what good is than he who has endured evil.

No man should live in this world who has nothing to do in it.

No one knows the weight of another's burden.

No one knows where the shoe pinches so well as him who wears it.

No pillow so soft as God's promise.

No piper can please all ears.

No rose without a thorn.

No sense so uncommon as common sense. (148)

None but a wise man can employ leisure well. (177)

None so blind as those who will not see. (Prejudice makes a man resolve that he will not see. No blinkers are like those of great conceit.)

None so deaf as those that won't hear.

None think the great unhappy but the great.

Not to break is better than to mend. (Prevention is better than cure.)

Not to wish to recover is a mortal symptom.

Nothing comes out of the sack but what was in it.

Nothing is a man's truly,
But what he came by duly.

Nothing is safe from fault-finders.

Nothing must be done hastily but killing of fleas.

Novels contain little that is novel.

Now that I have got no gun,
Rabbits run about like fun.

Nuts are given us, but we must crack them ourselves.


Obedient wives lead their husbands. (Sensible men are glad to let them in many cases.)

Of all crafts, to be an honest man is the master-craft.

Of evil grain no good seed can come.

Oil and truth will yet,
The uppermost get.

Old age makes the head white, but not always wise.

Old birds are seldom caught by chaff,

Old heads will not suit young shoulders.

Old ovens are soon heated.

Old oxen have stiff horns. (When a man of years makes up his mind, he may not easily change it.

Old rats are seldom caught by wooden trap or gin;

Old saws speak the truth.

Old sins breed new shame. (They rise to conscience.)

On a long journey even morsels get heavy. [Mod]

On the sea one has not the sea in his hands.

On the sea sail; on the land settle.

One cannot be in two places at once.

One chick keeps a hen busy. (A child demands much care.)

One dog can drive a flock of sheep. (One single person may face a multitude .)

One drop of ink
May make a million think.

One expense leads to another. (The Sanskrit proverb says, "To protect his rags from the rats he got a cat, to get milk for the cat he bought a cow, to tend the cow he hired a servant, and to manage his servant he got a wife.")

One fact is worth a shipload of opinions.

One false move may lose the game.

One fault will not justify another. (71)

One fool makes many.

One head cannot hold all wisdom.

One keep-clean is better than ten make-cleans.

One lie makes many.

One link broken, the whole chain is broken. (102)

One man may better steal a horse than another look over the hedge.

One man's fault should be another man's lesson.

One may buy gold too dear.

One may think what he dare not speak. (50)

One may tire of eating tarts. (Monotony can get wearisome. Repettition can get tiresome in good time.)

One must plough with the horses one has.

One ploughs, another sows. Who will reap no one knows. (53)

One rotten egg will spoil a large pudding.

One sin opens the door to another.

One's own hearth is gold's worth. (One's own home is a form of wealth.)

Ono good stroke does not prove me a woodman.

Opportunity makes the thief.

Oppression causes rebellion.

Ornament an ass, but it does not make him a horse.

Our homes should be sweet, and airy, and light. Our clothes should be clean, and never fit tight.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Out of the frying-pan into the fire is no gain.


Pains are the payment for sinful pleasures.

Pardoning the bad is injuring the good. (It is often so.] [75)

Patches and darns are better than debts.

Pay beforehand if you would have your work ill done.

Penny laid on penny,
Very soon makes many.

People who live in glass houses should never throw stones.

Peril proves who dearly loves.

Piety is a greater honour than parentage.

Plain dealing is a jewel.

Plain dealing is more praised than practiced. (92)

Plough well if you plough slowly.

Politeness costs little, but can yield much. [Mod]

Poor folk have few kindred.

Possess your money, but let it not possess you.

Pots of beer cost many a tear.

Pour not water on a drowned mouse.

Poverty is no sin, but it is terribly inconvenient. (122)

Poverty laughs at robbery.

Poverty parts friends.

Poverty parts good fellowship.

Practice what you preach. (17)

Practise thrift, or else you'll drift.

Praise from the worthless is worthless.

Praise is not pudding.

Praise little, dispraise less.

Praise the horse which has brought you so far.

Prate is prate: work is the duck which lays the eggs.

Pray to God, sailor, but pull for the shore.

Preach best in your own pulpit. (That is often: at home.)

Pretty speeches will not sugar my gooseberries.

Pretty women may have very bad tempers.

Prevention is better than cure. (52)

Prevention is better than cure.

Pride goes before a fall, and shame follows after.

Procrastination is the thief of time.

Promise is debt.

Promise little and do much. (14)

Proper faith is never out of season, and looks to low precepts as well as all vain promises.*

Pry not into other people's affairs.

Puff not against the wind.

Punctuality is only common honesty.

Punctuality is the hinge of business.

Put by for a rainy day. (128)

Put the saddle on the right horse. (For example: Blame yourself when it is due, and not an innocent one.)


Quick steps are best over miry ground.

Quit not certainty for hope. (33)


Rashness is not valour. (41)

Rats desert a sinking ship. (112)

Read men as well as books.

Reckon not your chickens before they are hatched. (53)

Remove an old tree and it will wither to death.

Repentance is good, but innocence is better.

Report makes the wolf bigger than he is.

Respect yourself, or no one else will respect you.

Riches and cares are quite inseparable. [Mod]

Riches well got, and well used, are a great blessing. (138)

Ride on, but look before you.

Rogues reckon all men rascals.

Roll my log and I will roll yours.

Roses fade away and thorns will stay. [Mod]

Roses, mind you, have thorns.

Rule your temper, or it will ruin you.


Sands form the mountains, moments make the year.

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. (What is fair for women is fair for men.)

Save me from a boar, a boor, and a bore.

Save something for the sore foot. (For yourself, when you cannot move in so lively a way as now, and for others in need.)

Say no ill of the year till it is passed.

Saying and doing are two things.

Second thoughts are best.

Seeing's believing. (148)

Self do, self have.

Self is always at home.

Self-conceit is self-deceit.

Sell not the hare's skin before you have caught him.

Sell not your conscience with your goods. (30)

Sermons should be weighty, but not heavy.

Set a frog on a golden stool,
Away it hops to reach the pool.

Set a stout heart to a steep hill.

Shallow streams make [some] din.

Shallow wits censure everything that is beyond their depth. (72)

Share alike today, and share again tomorrow. (This is a motto for those who have yearnings for equal division of unequal earnings.)

She grieves sincerely who grieves unseen. (152)

Sheathing the sword does not heal the wound.

Sheep may fall into the mire; swine wallow in it.

Short hair is soon brushed. (A little property is soon looked over; slender lender knowledge is speedily arranged, and so on)

Silence is as great an art as speech. (62)

Silence is wisdom, when speaking is folly. (61)

Sin is sin even if it be not seen.

Sit still rather than rise and fall down.

Small beginnings may have great endings.

Small fish are better than no fish. (Scottish)

Small rain lays great dust.

Smooth bullets fly farthest. (Courteous words and arguments -)

Solid arguments are lost on shallow minds.

Some are made ill by trying to be cured.

Some are too ignorant to be humble.

Some are wise, and some are otherwise.

Some give a kiss, but hate is underneath. (Abr)

Some sing who are not merry. (85)

Some swim in wealth, yet sink in tears.

Somebody will grumble at the weather today.

[Sometimes] It matters less to a man where he is born, than where he can live. (29)

Sometimes words
Wound more than swords.

Soon ripe, soon rotten.

Sorrow and trouble break many a bubble.

Sow an act, reap a habit; Sow a habit, reap a character; Sow a character, reap a destiny.

Sparrows fight for corn which is none of their own.

Spend not your money before it be got:
Speak not your mind before you have thought.

Standing pools gather filth.

Step by step one goes far.

Step by step the ladder is climbed.

Still waters run deep.

Straightforward makes the best runner.

Straws show which way the wind blows.

Stretch not your feet
Beyond the sheet.

Stretch your arm no further than your sleeve will reach.

Stretch your legs according to the coverlet.

Strike while the iron is hot.

Strip not before you reach the water. (It is unsound to part with property you may yet need.)

Study to be worthy of your parents.

Success is never blamed.

Such as the tree is, such is the fruit.

Such carpenters, such chips.

Suffering is better than sinning.

Suit yourself [rightly] to the times. (15)

Sure bind, sure find.

Sweep before your own door.

Sweet words butter no parsnips. (188)


Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves.

Take care of your lambs, or where will you get your sheep from?

Take heed when you see no need of taking heed.

Take not advice from a man who never takes advice.

Take the world as it is and try to make it what it ought to be.

Take things always by the smooth handle. (15)

Take time while time is, for time is flying.

Take very great care
Of your own grey mare. (Your wife.)

Tall trees catch much wind. (82)

Tarry, tarry, tarry, tarry,
Think again before you marry.

Tastes differ.

Tell your doctor and lawyer the truth betimes.

That ought to be called a loss that is gained by the sacrifice of character. (35)

That which is bred in the bone will never be out of the flesh.

That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. (36)

Thaw reveals what has been hidden by snow.

The accomplice is as bad as the thief.

The adviser is not the payer. (The one who gives advice in a matter, may have nothing to lose in the matter.

The beard does not make the philosopher. (100)

The beasts are by instinct their own physicians. (53)

The best brewer sometimes makes bad beer. (70)

The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.

The best of cloth
May harbour moth.

The best swimmer is often the first to drown. (Let us all learn to swim. - Spurgeon.)

The big fish eat the little ones.

The biggest pears are not always the best. [Mod]

The cat knows more than the kitten.

The chain is no stronger than its weakest link.

The child says what he heard his mother say.

The chimney catches fire from within.

The common people
Look at the steeple. (Abr.)

The cow in the meadow would like to be on the common. The cow on the common would like to be in the meadow.

The day may be foggy;
You need not be groggy.

The devil is a bad master, and he has bad servants.

The devil may entangle us with gold, power, or doctrine. [Mod. Spurgeon)

The devil will not drive out the devil.

The dog does not get bread every time he wags his tail.

The dogs bark, but the caravan goes on.

The donkey's gallop is short.

The drunken man's joy is the sober man's sorrow.

The empty cask sounds most.

The end of passion is the beginning of repentance. (21)

The fairest rose at last is withered.

The first breath is the beginning of death. (47)

The fish may be caught in a net, that will not come to a hook. (149)

The fox barks not when he would steal the chickens. (He is ELS cautious as a modern theologian . . . Spurgeon, abr.)

The fox knows much, but more he that catches him.

The friend of the table
is very variable. (So say the French, and the English: "He is a wooden friend who owes his friendship to your mahogany." - Spurgeon)

The fur that warms a monarch warmed a bear. (20)

The getting out of doors is a part of the journey. [Mod]

The great Homer himself sometimes nods.

The hog that is filthy tries to make others so.

The horse thinks one thing, and he that rides him another.

The ignorant think all things wrong which they cannot understand.

The king must wait while his pudding's boiling. (Some say, "while his beer is drawing.")

The knot you knit,
Think well on it. (Before you make the thing binding, consider and reconsider.)

The knowledge of the disease is half the cure.

The last drop makes the cup run over. (62)

The last straw breaks the camel's back.

The less said the sooner mended. (61)

The loquacity of fools is a warning to the wise.

The love of the wicked is more dangerous than their hatred.

The man is what his wife makes him.

The maxims of men disclose their hearts. (184)

The meanest reptiles crawl up the highest pillars. (With good men's position in society it could be different.)

The middle path is the safe path. (69)

The miser and the pig are of no use till dead. (26)

The mistress's eye keeps kitchens clean.

The more froth, the less beer.

The more riches a fool has, the greater fool he is. (180)

The more the merrier; the fewer the better cheer.

The more women look in their glasses, the less they look to their houses.

The paleness of the pilot is a sign of a storm.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

The receiver is as bad as the thief. • The receiver is as bad as the thiever.

The right way leads to the right place.

The rotten apple injures its neighbours.

The smaller the house, the sooner cleaned.

The son of an ass is sure to bray.

The sourer the gooseberries the more need of sugar.

The thief's sorry because he is caught, not because he is the thief.

The thread breaks where it is thinnest.

The topmost branch is not the safest perch.

The way (the road) to hell is paved with good intentions.

The wheel that turns gathers no rust. (12)

The wind cannot be caught in a net.

The wind in one's face makes one wise.

The wise man gets learning from those who have none themselves.

The wise man has long ears and a short tongue. (178)

The wise man knows the fool, but the fool does not know the wise man.

The wolf does not weep over the death of the dog.

The work praises the workman [somehow]. (190)

The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page. (183)

The world was not made in a minute.

There are dogs of all sizes.

There are more ways of killing a dog than hanging him.

There are other thieves besides those who are locked up.

There are tricks in all trades but ours. (31)

There are wedges for all woods.

There is a limit when forbearance ceases to be a virtue. (63)

There is a place for everything, and everything in its place.

There is a skeleton in every house.

There is a time to fish, and a time to dry nets.

There is no accounting for tastes, the old woman said when her husband kissed the cow. (157)

There is no law but has a hole in it for those who can find. it out.

There is no place like home.

There's always room at the top.

There's no use crying over spilt milk.

They complain wrongfully of the sea, who twice suffer shipwreck.

They love dancing well that dance among thorns.

They who have money are troubled about it,
And they who have none are troubled without it.

They wonder at the cedar when it is fallen. (So little esteemed when living.).

Think of ease, but work on.

Think thrice before you marry once. (Let the thinking be on both sides. - Spurgeon)

Think well of a man
As long as you can.

Those are wise who learn caution from their own experience; but those are wiser who learn it from the experience of others.

Those best can bear reproof who merit praise. (72)

Those on whom you most rely,
Can do you greatest injury.

Those who do ill, dread ill. (If they expect to be lashed with their own whip.).

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Though one grain fills not the sack, it helps.

Though the speaker be a fool, let the listener be wise.

Though the sun shines, don't give away your coat.

Though the sun shines, leave not your cloak at home.

Though you get the best of whiskey, it will get the best of you. (57)

Thoughts are free.

Throw no stones at your own window.

Time and tide tarry for no man.

Timely blossom timely ripe.

To build high, dig deep. (Get a good foundation for times that that get rough.)

To cast oil in the fire is not the way to quench it.

To fall in love and to be wise are very different things.

To hit the nail on the head. (18)

To say well, it is well, but to do well is better.

To the boiling pot flies come not.

To the wise, a word may suffice. (177)

To weep overmuch for the dead, is to affront the living. (152)

To woo is a pleasure in young men, a fault in old.

Tomorrow comes never.

Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Too much breaks the bag.

Too much familiarity breeds contempt. (79)

Too much sail suits not a small boat.

Touch a galled horse, and he will wince.

True fame is neither sold nor bought;
She sometimes follows where she is not sought.

Trust not a broken staff.

Trust not a horse's heel, a dog's tooth, or a gossip's tongue.

Truth always comes by [obtains] the lame messenger.

Truth cannot be bound nor drowned.

Truths, like roses, have thorns about them.

Try the ice before you venture upon it. (45)


Unborn pups are doubtful dogs.

Unused advantages usually are no advantage. [Mod]

Up hill spare me, down hill forbear me. (A horse's advice to the driver.)

Use legs, and have legs. (Fit exercise of a faculty or ability may help it.)

Use more wit, and less sweat. (Wit is intelligence here - including common sense.)

Use pastime so as not to lose time. (85)

Use pastime so as to save time. (To get able to do all the more when you return to work.)


Vainglory blooms abundantly, but fruits sparingly.

Velvet paws hide sharp claws.

Venture a small fish to catch a great one.

Venture a sprat to catch a herring.

Venture not on one night's ice.

Very few herrings are caught on Newmarket Heath.

Vessels large may venture more, but little boats should keep near shore. (45)

Vice [can be] the most dangerous, when it puts on the garb of virtue. (169)

Vice is learned without a schoolmaster.

Virtue dwells not in the tongue, but in the heart. (169)

Virtue is a jewel of great price.

Virtue is also its own reward. [Mod]


War, hunting, and law, are as full of trouble as pleasure.

We can't all be top sawyers.

We never know the value of water till the well is dry.

We ought to weigh well what we can only once decide. (50)

We should play to live, not live to play.

We soon believe what we desire.

Wealth and worth are different things.

Wedlock is either kill or cure.

Weed your own garden first.

Well may he smell of fire whose gown burns

Well may she smell, whose gown is burning.

Well-drawn wells give the sweetest water.

Well-earned wealth may meet disaster.

What cannot be cured must be endured.

What everyone asks, what everyone gives, but what very few take - advice.

What is a workman without his tools?

What is bred in the bone will not go out of the flesh.

What is done cannot be undone.

What is done can't be begun. (It might be much improved on, thugh.)

What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

What is true is not exactly probable.*

What one man despises, another craves.

What vexation may be caused by neglect of such a little thing as a button (Think little is trivial which tends to peace.)

What you put in the dough you'll find in the cake.

What's everybody's business is nobody's business.

When a thing is plain, don't make a mystery of it.

When fortune smiles take the advantage.

When good cheer is lacking our friends will be packing.

When I have thatched his house he would throw me down.

When jokes give pain, the wise abstain.

When old age is evil, youth can learn no good.

When passion enters at the foregate, wisdom goes out of the postern. (21)

When poverty comes in at the door, friendship leaps out of the window.

When Satan talks of peace, double bolt the door.

When the cat winks, little knows the mouse what the cat thinks.

When the fox preaches, beware of your geese. (48)

When the fox preaches, take care of your geese.

When the joke is at its best,
it's time to let it rest.

When the pirate prays, there is great danger. (44)

When the well is dug it is easy enough to pump.

When there is room in the heart there is room in the house. (91)

When things are well looked over they are not overlooked. (Spurgeon)

When two ride together one must ride behind.

When wine is in wit is out.

When you are poor, stir your hand and work for more. (Spurgeon, abr.)

When you see a snake, never mind where he came from. (Get rid of an evil first, all right.)

When your neighbour's house is on fire, be careful of your own.

Where bad's the best, naught must be the choice.

Where hearts are true,
Few words will do.

Where honour ceases, there knowledge decreases.

Where it is weakest, there the thread breaks.

Where remedies are needed, sighing avails not. (59)

Where the cat caught a mouse she'll mouse again..

Where the river is deepest, it runs quietest. (177)

Where the will is ready, the feet are light.

Where there are lambs, there will be bleating.

Where there are rings on the water a stone has fallen.

Where there is loud cracking, there are few nuts.

Where was ever seen the mother,
Would change her booby for another?

While foxes are so common, we must not be geese.

While still at; sea we must keep watch.

Whisky drinking is risky drinking.

White flour comes not out of a coal-sack.

Who cannot sing may whistle.

Who draws his sword against his prince must throw away the scabbard.

Who eats his fowl alone may saddle his horse alone.

Who fails to-day may rise to-morrow.

Who gives his estate before he is dead,
Takes off his clothes before going to bed.

Who gladdens not is not glad.

Who goes softly goes safely.

Who has spice enough may season his meat as he pleases.

Who is ill to his own, is ill to himself.

Who keeps company with the wolf, will learn to howl.

Who knows where Crooked Lane will end?

Who lives with a praying man may learn to pray.

Who loves his work and knows to spare,
May live and flourish anywhere.

Who makes his bed of briar and thorn, must be content to lie forlorn. (28)

Who nothing saves may nothing have.

Who says little has little to answer for. (129)

Who spits against the wind spits in his own face.

Who wastes his time throws life away.

Who watches not catches not. (173)

Who will not save a penny, shall never have many.

Who wills to fight will find a weapon.

Who would eat a good dinner, let him eat a good breakfast.

Who would keep a cow when he may have a bottle of milk for a penny!

Wholesome and poisonous herbs grow in the same garden. (67)

Why go bare to deck an heir? (And why live poor to die rich?)

Why saddle your horse if you will not ride? (Why get an education and vie all apart from it?)

Wilful waste makes woeful want.

Win gold and wear it, is the motto of the vain man.
Win gold and lose it, of the gambler.
Win gold and use it, of the wise man.

Wisdom does not always speak Latin.

Wisdom is the wealth of the wise.

Wisdom rides upon the ruins of folly.

Wise men learn by others' harms, fools by their own.

Wise men sue for offices, and blockheads get them.

Wish and wish; but who'll fill the dish?

Wishers and wolders [wold dwellers] bee no good housholders. (Heywood) [Wold: treeless hills; - from (wild) forest]

Wit ill applied is a dangerous weapon.

Wit is the lightning of the mind.

Without the doctor one dies a natural death.

Woe be to him whose advocate becomes his accuser. (12)

Women must have their wills while they live, because they make none when they die.

Wool sellers know wool buyers.

Worldly delights are winged delights.

Would you be thanked for feeding your own pigs?


Years know more than books.

You can break an egg without a sledge hammer.

You cannot climb a ladder by pushing others down.

You cannot eat your cake and have it too.

You cannot swallow dates whole.

You can't catch hares with unwilling hounds.

You can't expect apples from brambles. (People act according to their nature.)

You can't get good chickens from bad eggs.

You can't keep a fire and keep the coal too.

You can't kick when your leg is off.

You made your bed, now lie in it.

You may dance on the ropes without reading Euclid. (14)

You may gape long before roast chicken will fly into your mouth.

You may grow good corn in a little field.

[You may] Keep your own counsel. (15)

You may live, but you must die.

You may not be able to tell a nut till you crack it. [Mod]

You may pay too dear for your whistle.

You must not throw your snails into your neighbour's garden.

You must spoil before you spin.

You need not jump over the house to open the window.

You need not lock the stable door when the steed is stolen.

You need not provide frogs for the well you have dug.

You want better milk than moms can give. [Mod] (Never satisfied.)

You will never please everybody.

You would make me believe the moon is made of green cheese.

Young men may die, old men must.

Your dirty shoes are not welcome in my parlour.

Your own legs are better than stilts.

Your wish was father to your thought. (51)

You're worse than a brute if you treat brutes cruelly.


Zeal without knowledge is a runaway horse.

Zeal without knowledge is the sister of folly.


English proverbs, Literature  

Bechtel, John Hendricks. Proverbs: Maxims and Shrewd Phrases Drawn from All Lands and Times: Carefully Selected and Indexed for Convenient Reference. Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Company, 1922.

Camden, William. Remains concerning Britain. London: John Russel Smith, 1870. ⍽▢⍽ A section in it contains proverbs.

Farmer, John S., ed. The Proverbs, Epigrams. and Miscellanies of John Heywood, comprising A dialogue of the effectual proverbs in the English tongue concerning marriages - First hundred epigrams - Three hundred epigrams on three hundred proverbs - The fifth hundred epigrams - A sixth hundred epigrams - Miscellanies - Ballads - Note-book and word-lists. London: Privately Printed for Subscribers by the Early English Drama Society, 1904. ⍽▢⍽ John Heywood (c. 1497 – c. 1580) was an English writer, musician, composer and refugee from England to the Low Countries. Among other things, Heywood is known for his collection of proverbs (c. 1538). Example: "Whan the sunne shinth make hay, whiche is to say, Take time whan time comth, lest time steale away." Such phrases have been shrunk since to such as "When the sun shines make hay" or "Make hay when the sun shines."

Fergusson, Rosalind. The Penguin Dictionary of Proverbs. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983. ⍽▢⍽ The book contains about 6,000 proverbs (with origins of some of them). The proverbs are arranged under thematic headings with subheadings. Thus: "Nature" has the subgroups "Her power", "Her wisdom", "Other characteristics" and "Nature and art". There are concise, useful explanations of many of the proverbs also, and a keyword index. - There is a second edition from 2001 by now.

Hazlitt, William Carew. English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases: Collected from the Most Authentic Sources, Alphabetically Arranged and Annotated. With much Matter not Previously Published. London: Reeves and Turner, 1907. ⍽▢⍽ 10,764 entries. In his introduction, Hazlitt comments on earlier collections of proverbs gathered his material from, and refers to them in his text by abbreviations, so that it is easier to find a proverb in older collections he refers to, and compare too. For example, a D. at the end of a proverb stands for "Denham's Proverbs and Popular Sayings", (1846), and a Hz. stands for "Heywood's Proverbs, etc." (1562). Hazlitt thereby provides a bridge to earlier British literature.

Preston, Thomas. A Dictionary of English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases With a Copious Index of Principal Words. London: Whittaker and Co. [188?] ⍽▢⍽ A collection of 1,880 numbered and unexplained English proverbs and proverbial phrases in A-Z order.

Skeat, Walter William. Early English Proverbs, Chiefly of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, with Illustrative Quotations. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1910.

Speake, Jennifer, ed. A Dictionary of Proverbs. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. ⍽▢⍽ Over 1,100 of the most widely used proverbs in English are arranged in A-Z order, with history and explanations of some of them. Recommended.

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Salt-Cellars. Being a Collection of Proverbs, together with Homely Notes Thereon. Vols 1 and 2. London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1889. ⍽▢⍽ The very good author Spurgeon (1834-92) was a British Baptist preacher. He opposed liberal and pragmatic tendencies in the Church in his day, and delivered messages - among the best in Christian literature, we are told. His life orientation comes through in several ways among the proverbs, but his at times lengthy additions are weeded out or very much condensed above for the sake of keeping the collection "short and sweet".

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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