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Greek Proverbs

English translations of 123 Greek proverbs.


A bad dog dies hard. [It is difficult to get rid of a bad person.]

A cassock [long garment] doesn't make someone a priest. [Clothes don't make the man.]

A donkey's tail will not make a sieve. [You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.]

A dove has no place amongst the crows.

A friend who injures me [by injudicious conduct] is not unlike an enemy.

A good neighbour is a great advantage.

A great city is a great solitude. [To those who have no friends in it.]

A hungry bear does not dance.

A jackdaw is always found near a jackdaw. • A jackdaw always perches near a jackdaw.

A library is a repository of medicine for the mind.

A little bait catches a large fish.

A rolling stone gathers no moss.

A shoeless man saw a one-legged man and felt better.

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

A thousand men cannot undress a naked man.

A wheel that turns gathers no rust.

A word out of season may mar a whole lifetime.

A word unseasonably spoken may mar the course of a whole life.

All things move and nothing remains still, and you cannot step twice into the same stream

An iron rod bends while it is hot.

Ask for advice but do what you think is best.

At a deaf man's door it is all one whether you knock or not. • At the deaf man's door, knock as much as you like.

Bean by bean, the sack gets full.

Before you can score you must first have a goal.

Better to live apart and get along than to live together and argue.

Chance (often) contrives better than we ourselves.

Deeds are fruits, words are only leaves.

Do not despise a rustic orator.

Do not give a sword to a child.

Do not give judgment till you have heard the story of both sides.

Do not hang by one hope only.

Do not lean on a worm-eaten staff.

Don't feel pity for the rider's hanging legs [so long as he has a horse, and you don't.]

Don't forget to distrust.

Don't hear one and judge two.

Dread old age, for it does not come alone

Either dance well or quit the ballroom.

Either remain quiet, or say things that improve the silence.

Even from a foe a man may learn wisdom.

Even when he becomes a gentleman the shepherd smells of the lamb.

Every tale can be told in a different way.

Everyone ought to be his own physician.

Everything about the wedding is difficult (obstacles or objections) and the bride is pregnant. [When people make excuses or place obstacles about a task that has to be done.]

From a broken violin do not expect fine music.

Goodness is simple, badness is manifold. (Anon.)

Grey hair is a sign of age, not wisdom.

Hand washes hand, and finger finger.

Happy is he who owes nothing

He who becomes a sheep is eaten by the wolf.

He who has much weeps as well as he who has little.

He who is about to marry is on the road to repentance.

He who lost his pig, kept hearing grunts.

Health and understanding are the two great blessings of life.

How thrice wretched is he who marries when he is poor!

How vain is learning, unless understanding be united with it!

"I tell as I was told" or "I report reports."

If you cannot catch a fish, do not [always] blame the sea.

Impose lighter tasks on the aged courser [horse, hound, trainer]

In the night there is counsel. [Cf. I will sleep on it.]

In times of difficulty, friendship is on trial.

Insolence is a prelude to destruction. (Proverb quoted by Gregory Nazianzen.)

It is a sort of encumbrance to be praised overmuch.

It is disgraceful to stumble three times at the same stone.

It is sad how envy is exchanged for beautiful deeds.*

Know yourself. (Aphorism inscribed over the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi.)

Like pleases like • Like loves like.

Never too much of anything.

Man is born to do good.

Many a pupil has gained more wealth than his master.

Many things happen between the cup and the lip.

Medèn ágan. - "Nothing in excess".

Music not heard [may be] held in no esteem. [It depends on what is meant by "not heard". Is it "never heard?" or "not heard for a long time?". That makes a difference.]

Never give a sword to a fool or power to an unjust man.

Not too much of anything.

Now you've eaten the bull, will you leave the tail?" [On seeing a task through to completion.]

Old age does not come alone.

Poor men's words have little weight.

Put the blame where it belongs. (Sophocles)

Some one related a fable to a donkey, and he wagged his ears. [Don't throw your pearls for swine.]

Some toil, others reap.

Someone with an unrelenting heart is his own executioner.

Tell me with whom you go and I'll tell you your value.

The best fish hook cannot catch limp cheese.

The big fish eat the little one. [People of wealth or high positions take advantage of the less fortunate or weak.]

The camel, even when mangy, bears the burdens of many donkeys.

The conqueror mourns, but the conquered is undone.

The cracked glass cannot be fixed. [Speaks of broken relationships, when one did or said something that can hardly be rectified.]

The dirty love the dirty. [People of lower standards mingle with their equals.]

The elephant does not catch mice.

The fountain of wisdom flows through books.

The great ship has also great dangers.

The king is cursed behind his back.

The net of the sleeper catches fish • While the fisher sleeps the net takes fish.

The potter puts the handles wherever he wishes. (Kefalonian)

The sea is blue but the wind turns her black.

The sick needs a doctor and the dead, mourning.

The swine delights in dung and filth.

The walls have ears. [What you say may be overheard; used as a warning.]

The wise children are cooking before they get hungry. [Wise people take precautions.]

There's no place like home. (Hesiod)

Through our ears others may persuade us not to believe the evidence of our own eyes.

Time is a river of passing events.

Time is precious.

To rebel in season is not to rebel.

Wealth of the mind is a true form of wealth. (Mod)

Well, this is solitude; whatever I say, there's no one here to listen. (Anon.)

What has a dog to do with a bath?

What is good [may be] difficult.

What is handsome? The noble and beautiful.

What the fox cannot reach he allows to hang.

When the light is out every woman is alike.

When your neighbor's house is on fire look to your own.

When your own courtyard thirsts do not pour the water abroad.

Where rage seeds, repentance reaps.

White hairs are a proof of age, not of wisdom.

Without a bait fish is not caught. [It depends on the kind of fishery, though.]

Wood that grows warped never can be straightened.

You are looking for fleas in the straw. [- something hard to find, like a needle in a haystack.]

You are seeking wool from a donkey.

You can't hide behind your finger.

You can't take from one who doesn't have. (Menippus to Charon)

You sleep with salt on board. [Said of those who are careless in danger; as in case of a leak a cargo of salt would be liquefied and wasted, even if it did not sink the ship.]

You will pass your life more easily if you don't have to maintain a wife.


Greek proverbs, Literature  

Benham, William Gurney. A Book of Quotations, Proverbs and Household Words. London: London: Cassell and Co., 1907. ⍽▢⍽ There are Greek quotations and proverbs in it too. Reprint editions exist.

Christy, Robert, comp. Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages: Classified Subjectively and Arranged Alphabetically. Vol 1. London: Putnam, 1887. ⍽▢⍽ About 205 Greek proverbs are included.

Negris, Alexander. A Dictionary of Modern Greek Proverbs. Edinburgh: Thomas Clark, 1831.

Pilitsis, George, et al. Greek Proverbs and Other Popular Sayings. New York: Seaburn Books, 1995.

Harvesting the hay

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

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