Swedish Proverbs and Sayings: Bilingual Selection
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Swedish proverbs are influenced by the people's history, the Bible and modern sources. They reflect at times the climate, conditions, and people high up north, and do it typically in terse ways, that is, by brief statements.
Enjoy the selection of Swedish proverbs to ponder - over 200 so far.
We praise in order to be praised in return.
A stern creditor is [often] a poor payer.
All are not men that wear trousers (some women are mannish and some men are womanish).
Many who kiss the child mean the nurse.
I suspected this might happen, said the one that was kicked out.
We know others by ourselves, sid the loafer about the lice.
Let the other party be heard too (before you judge). (From Latin: Audiatur et altera
We notice faults of others and easily forget our own.
The damage of another is soon forgotten.
Do not judge all you see, do not believe all you hear, do not do all you can, do not say
all you know, do not eat all you have, let no one know what you have in your heart or in
All are not virgins that carry wreaths. [i.e. bridal wreaths].
By being in front everywhere one may get a telling-off.
Alms do not decrease, going to church does not hinder. (One does not become poor by
sharing with the poor, and there is time enough for duties even though one devotes some time
Things are always rotten for me, said the farmer when they ran out of sacrament wine
precisely when he wanted to go forward.
Seriousness and pleasure should thrive together.
When the child is weened, the nurse is fired.
Other times other customs [and manners].
It is well to learn from the errors of others, since there is not time enough to make all
of them by yourself.
Pay back with the same coin (get even).
Give equal in reply, answer according to the call.
One does not accept praise from anybody.
The waiting man gets the wind behind him (: success).
The bee has a sting but honey too.
Who proves too much proves ingenting.
Recognize gladly great exploits, but wait a while first.
Behind the mountain there are people too.
Paid work progresses slowly.
The poorest payer is the best collector of his own credits.
The modest one gets nothing.
He gets a tailwind who bothers to wait.
Nothing beneath the sun is lasting.
One talks against praise in order to hear it once again
A successful writer has a good memory and hopes that others do not have it.
A hardworking man is better than a crowd of loafers.
The perch has a good time, it drinks when it wants to [reads:when it pleases] - Abborren har goda dagar, han dricker när han vill [läs: när han behagar]
How long was Adam in Paradise? (one should be prepared that happy conditions won't last,
or won't get prolonged).
Nobility follows the man.
Nobility follows the man's line at a wedding.
Lawyers and soldiers are the Devil's playmates.
Big [legal] processes make well dressed lawyers and naked parties.
Fools and stubborn people make rich lawyers [through processes].
When a lawyer dies, the Devil follows him to his grave (like a relative).
Business is business (and will not be mixed with feelings and charity).
A business is good, when both parties make a good bargain.
All days' evening is not come (No one knows what may happen before life is over; still,
all hope is not lost).
You don't know what may happen before evening (before you die).
Evening song with drinks: morning song with coughs.|
- Aftonsång med dryck, morgonsång med hosta.
The well-bred child chastizes itself (said when someone accidentally hurts himself or
If we reject the chaff, we may easily lose the kernel.
The is unnecessary to make a fuss of (make up to) any sort of thrash.
Alder fences don't last more than a year (Poor matierial results in nonlasting quality). - Gärdsgård av al håller inte mer än ett år; av dåligt material får man ohållbart arbete.
All is not for all.
Not all who fold their hands, are praying. (watch out for hypocrites).
Where all limp, everybody thinks he walks straight.
Now the fairytale is over (the fun is over now).
It will once come to pass as the old goose quacked. [read: värpte] (heritage can be
Who is in front everywhere often gets a nose-burn.
Who is everywhere is nowhere.
The public is an animal with many heads (and many different wills).
Charity does not lessen you, going to church does not hinder you. (One does not become
poor by sharing with the poor, and there may be time enough for duties and chores even
though one spends some time on sound devotions).
Charity supports both the giver and receiver.
Those who want to share the gains, shall also share the losses.
"It may come in handy," said the maid, she took the cradle along with her.
Everything comes round.
Being serious and having a good time thrive together.
The joke is the weapon of the witty; being serious is the shield of the stupid (he needs
The old have the calendar in their bodies (rheumatism predicts the weather like the old
Old men carry the almanac in their bones.
Amen [to the text], said the minister, he hit the old lady in the head with the New
Many caress the child for the sake of the wet nurse.
One kisses the child and means the nurse.
When the child is weaned, they say goodbye to the nurse.
Other times, other customs (and manners).
Other years other hairs (old age brings grey hairs with it).
One is also to let the other party be heard (before sentencing - From Latin).
We note the faults of others and forget our own.
The faults of others make no law (a wrong does not become correct because others have
done the same crime or mistake. It is no help for a criminal that others have done the same
things that he did).
The faults of others are the best teachers.
It's good to learn from the errors of others, since we don't have time to carry out all
of them ourselves.
Another's damage is soon forgotten.
The cow of another has always a bigger udder.
It's an easy burden that another carries.
When the businessmen sleep, the ad works.
A nice face is the best letter of recommendation.
The appetite grows [reads: comes] while one eats; (French: L'appetit vient a mangeant).
Nothing stimulates the appetite like little on the plate.
We get tired of doing nothing.
Who does not want to work in the heat, will have to starve in the cold.
Work sweetens the sleep.
Anyone can tame a shrew but he who has her (for his wife).
Poverty and love are difficult to hide.
Where poverty comes in, love goes out.
Who waits for a heritage may have to wait long.
The wails of heirs are halfway laughter.
Who wants to have something good, will have to seek it where it is.
Who is insulted for a long time, finally loses his patience.
Envy is the companion of great success.
Envy is the truest form of flattery.
The poor man has none to envy him.
Don't throw out the child with the bathwater (Don't indiscriminately discard the good
along with the valueless.
Slander makes friends part.
There would be no slanderers if none would listen to them.
Undeserved curses don't bite a lot.
From children and fools we may hear the truth (they do not know how to feign).
The child is the father of the man (the child's oddities are found even when it has grown
up). [A saying by William Wordsworth]
All are children (at the start).
Children travel from the heart to the heart (in that their mother carry them beneath her
heart, and keeps them near afterwards).
Give the white child so that the black child doesn't cry (don't be unfair to a
From children old people arise (Children get old too, eventually).
We have all been children (and should remember it when we judge the children's
wilfulness, mistakes, and offences).
It's bad is to have many children and [too] little food.
Many children and little food make thin smoerbroeds (sandwiches).
One should go out of the way for little children and drunks.
Only child, dear child.
Children's bread is hard to chew.
Childhood memories last long.
The child's bottom and April weather arre not to be trusted.
Pitch and tar are the navy seaman's pride.
That our hands show signs of our work, is nothing to be ashamed of.
Pray and work (Latin: ora et labora).
Who cannot pray to God, let him go to sea (where he will learn soon enough to fear and
pray in anguish or distress).
Who has once deceived will ever be a suspect.
Take with you an onion to the funeral (to shed tears more easily).
When we all do as we please, all the food is eaten and all the girls will be maiden.
To get may rest on luck, to keep may rest on virtue.
What is well-known only seems to be testified.
The dogs in Lund bark.
Behind the mountain are people too.
Praise makes the good man better, blame makes the bad one worse.
Over-praise is a burden.
Praise gets closer than blame.
Praise is easier got than kept.
To praise is to assess (so we don't want to be praised by all and sundry).
Don't sit among scoffers (do not socialize with such people).
Prepaid work is slow.
Seriousness and mildness ought to work in unison.
The bee without a sting collects no honey.
A hard-working man is worth more than a crowd of loafers.
A bee does not touch a withered flower.
To the one who waits comes the tailwind at last.
All cannot have the Bishop for uncle (so one has to try to make it on one's own,
Many buy the bearskin before the bear is shot.
Shoot the bear before you skin it.
Do not wake up the sleeping bear (refrain from saying or doing anything which may cause
dangerous thoughts or awaken slumbering passions - let a settled dispute lie too).
It's no good to sprick the bear with a needle.
The bearskin does not bite (the dead one cannot do any damage).
The tables are turned (the situation has changed).
We are esteemed and treated by the company we keep.
Who winks to the blind, does work in vain (it's no use to suggest things to those who
When the blind one carries the lame one, both of them gets ahead (since the lame may
direct where to go; two or more people with different weaknesses can at times help one
another to good results.
It goes off as when the blind fight (all wrong).
Even a blind dove finds a grain of wheat at times.
The older the buck gets, the harder his horns get (the older we get, the more stubborn we
Even after the accusation or rumour has been refuted, a suspicion nonetheless
In a good book the best is between the lines.
Manure and diligence makes the farmer rich.
The farmer should be mightier than his land (having no more land than he can deal
Farmers are people too [so to say] (and should be treated decently).
Long vouched for is not donated.
No letters are good letters (bad news may arrive early enough anyway).
For the lack one thing, take another, whether better or worse.
For lack of hens the fox catches crows.
It has to be fixed one way or another.
Bare is a brotherless behind (without support from relatives).
There is seldom cattle without some motley animals.
A tiny one seems arrogant (to compensate for a feeling of inferiority).
A bad reputation is seldom completely amiss.
There are more motley dogs than the priest's.
Peculiar people may show up anywhere. (t)
It is the crime that causes the shame, and not the punishment (French).
Small wells are soon drained.
The deepest well can also be drained.
When the well is dry, we know what it's worth (we don't always realize and appreciate the
value of a thing until we have lost it).
Who digs many wells doesn't get sweet water in all of them.
Poor material yields poor results.
Quickly dear and soon forgotten.
What was bought in a hurry may soon be regretted.
Premature purchase is repented.
There's no hurry, said the shoemaker, he had gruel with his awl.
The burnt child shuns the fire.
Self-praise smells badly (or stinks).
From damage one may get wiser.*
Don't scald your lips on another's soup (don't meddle a lot in the affairs of
Don't get scaled by the gruel of another (don't meddle with what is not your
We should not burn the light in both ends (don't shorten your life by excessive work and
Hard bread does the cheek red.
A piece of bread in the pocket is better than a feather in the hat (what is needed for
life is more important than outward show).
The ring of gold is never so red that it is not dispensed with for bread.
Who has much, he gets even more (Biblical)
Where are breads in the desert? (where shall we get what we need where there is nothing?) Var taga bröd i öknen?.
Do not hang the bread basket too high (don't give the servants too little food).
Lack of bread [food] forces one to work.
A quarrel between brothers costs soul and life.
A brother's wrath is a devil's wrath.
If it weren't for my need to fill my belly, I would have gilded my arm (then I could have
afforded some jewelry).
The stomack is filled earlier than the eye.
Here there will be different buns, said the baker, he "sat down" (shit) on the bread
He who fears every bush, comes late to the wood. (he is poorly suited to something that
fears its small discomforts).
Who builds something, had better count two dollars for one (be prepared that prices will
We should build with the stones we have (be content with the adequate means we have).
Don't build bigger houses than you may set roofs on.
Below are some Swedish sources. The comprehensive book by Dr. Pelle Holm contains explanations of some of the proverbs too.
Oo: Wahlund, Per: Osed och ordsed. (Fra Penu Proverbiale). Stockholm: Natur och Kultur, 1988. Old Swedish proverbs. Some are hardly intelligible.
Osæ: Strøm, Fredrik: Svenska ordstäv. Np: Prisma. Ny utg., 1985 (?).
Po: Holm, Pelle: Ordspråk och talesätt. Stockholm: Bonniers, 1973.
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