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English Proverbs and Proverb Humor

(revised 6 June 2003)


A stumble may prevent a fall

All good things come to those who wait
Everyone must row with the oars he has
Every path has its puddle
God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb
One of these days is none of these days
Revenge is a dish best served cold
Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow

See also Weather Proverbs (external)

Beauty without grace is like a hook without bait.

Contributed by Charon Muck, 26 Jan 2000

Caught between a rock and a hard place

Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea
(to be stuck with two choices that are both undesirable)

Out of the frying pan and into the fire

(to go from a bad to a worse situation)

Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb

(if you're going to get into the same amount of trouble, you might as well commit the
greater offense)

Six of one, half a dozen of the other

(each choice is really the same thing)

Two sides of the same coin

(two aspects of a situation that are connected by necessity)

In for a penny, in for a pound

(if you're going to make a minor committment you might as well make the entire

Don't count your chickens before they're hatched

(don't start making plans for something until it is a reality, rather than a pleasant

Don't cross your bridges before you get to them

(don't worry about future problems before you need to)

A stitch in time saves nine

(if you take care of a problem while it's small you won't have a bigger problem to deal
with later)
(or, as Dr. Who likes to say: A stitch in time takes up space)

Time and tide wait for no man

(act in a timely fashion because you can't get back lost chances)
(or, once again as Dr. Who likes to say: Time and tide melts the snowman.)

Contributed by Rebecca Loos, Spokane, Washington, 5 June 2000

To listen is to learn, and to understand is to inspire.

Contributed by Hannah Martinez, 5 February 2002

A lie well stuck to is as good as the truth.

Contrary Proverbs

A bird in the hand is worth two in the

BUT A man's reach should exceed his grasp

A miss is as good as a mile BUT Half a loaf is better than none

All good things come to those who

BUT Time and tide wait for no man

Birds of a feather flock together BUT Opposites attract

Clothes make the man BUT Never judge a book by its cover

Don't cross your bridges before you

BUT Forewarned is forearmed
come to them

Doubt is the beginning of wisdom BUT Faith will move mountains

Good things come in small packages BUT The bigger the better
Great starts make great finishes BUT It ain't over 'till it's over

BUT Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

He who hesitates is lost
BUT Look before you leap

All work and no play makes Jack a dull

Practice makes perfect BUT

Silence is golden BUT The squeaky wheel gets the grease

The pen is mightier than the sword BUT Actions speak louder than words

You're never too old to learn BUT You can't teach an old dog new tricks

What's good for the goose is good for One man's meat is another man's
the gander poison.

Wise men think alike BUT Fools seldom differ

Cf. Brian S. Kendig's "Proverbs to Live By" (external).

Proverb Humor


A penny saved makes Jack a dull boy A penny saved is a penny earned, and
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Absence makes the heart go wander Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Abstinence makes the heart go wander

Chaste makes waste Haste makes waste

If practice makes perfect and nobody's Practice makes perfect and Nobody's
perfect then why practice? perfect

The early bird catches the worm, but it is

the early worm that gets caught
The early bird catches the worm
The early bird may get the worm, but the
second mouse gets the cheese

Time wounds all heels Time heals all wounds

Where there's a will, there's a relative Where there's a will, there's a way

Circumlocutory Proverbs

A disposition towards inquiry deprived the

Curiosity killed the cat
feline of its vital state

Elementary sartorial techniques initially

applied obviate the need for repetitive A stitch in time saves nine
similar actions to the square of three

Exigency is the matriarch of ingenious

Necessity is the mother of invention

The stylus is more potent than the claymore The pen is mightier than the sword

There is illumination at the termination of There's a light at the end of the tunnel
the subterranean excavation (Barry Klein, Melbourne, Australia)

Contributed by Somakala Somakala, 3 September 2001

Stunted Proverbs

Familiarity breeds contempt BUT Familiarity breeds!

People living in glass houses should People living in glass houses should
not pelt stones not!

Contributed by N. Venkatakrishnan, Chennai, India, August 2000.

Silicon Proverbs

1. Home is where you hang your @

2. The e-mail of the species is more deadly than the mail
3. A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click
4. You can't teach a new mouse old clicks
5. Great groups from little icons grow
6. Speak softly and carry a cellular phone
7. C:\ is the root of all directories
8. Don't put all your hypes in one home page
9. Pentium wise; pen and paper foolish
10. The modem is the message
11. Too many clicks spoil the browse
12. The geek shall inherit the earth
13. A chat has nine lives.
14. Don't byte off more than you can view.
15. Fax is stranger than fiction
16. What boots up must come down
17. Windows will never cease
18. In Gates we trust
19. Virtual reality is its own reward
20. Modulation in all things
21. A user and his leisure time are soon parted
22. There's no place like home.com!
23. Know what to expect before you connect
24. Oh, what a tangled Web site we weave when first we practice
25. Speed thrills
26. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to use the Net and he
won't bother you for weeks

New Proverbs

1. If you're too open-minded, your brains will fall out.

2. Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
3. Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, if he gets angry,
he'll be a mile way - and barefoot.
4. Going to church doesn't make you a holy person any more than going to a garage
makes you a mechanic.
5. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
6. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
7. A closed mouth gathers no feet.
8. If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before.
9. My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.
10. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
11. It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.
12. I have found at my age going bra-less pulls all the wrinkles out of my face.
13. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
14. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.
15. Always yield to temptation, because it may not pass your way again.
16. A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
17. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
18. No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes.
19. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
20. It's amazing what you won't find if you don't look for it, especially if it's not there.
(Thanks to Mark O'Reilly, Dundee, Scotland.)

Proverb completion

A first grade teacher collected old, well known proverbs. She gave each child in her class
the first half of a proverb, and had them come up with the rest.

1. As you shall make your bed, so shall you..........mess it up

2. Better to be safe than....................punch a 5th grader
3. Strike while the................................bug is close
4. It's always darkest before.............daylight savings time
5. You can lead a horse to water but.......................how?
6. Don't bite the hand that.........................looks dirty
7. A miss is as good as a...................................Mr.
8. You can't teach an old dog new..........................math
9. If you lie down with the dogs, you'll.....stink in the morning
10. The pen is mightier than the............................pigs
11. An idle mind is.........................the best way to relax
12. Where there's smoke, there's.......................pollution
13. Happy the bride who......................gets all the presents
14. A penny saved is.....................................not much
15. Two's company, three's..........................the musketeers
16. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and....you have to blow your
17. Children should be seen and not..........spanked or grounded
18. When the blind leadeth the blind..........get out of the way
19. Better late than.....................................pregnant

This collection introduces you to the most often used English proverbs such as:
All wealth begins in mind
A man is known by the company he keeps
Death levels all men
Justice delayed is justice denied
Seeking happiness is a straight way to misery

Additionally you will learn some less well known, more colloquial or even
humorous statements such as:
A heavy purse makes a light heart
A fart does not have a nose
Don't get mad. Get even!
Booze and fags will kill your bugs

You will also learn some famous statements by famous people such as:
Fortune favors the well-prepared (L. Pasteur)
If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, If you teach him to fish,
you feed him for a lifetime (Confucius)

Finally, you will even learn some Latin proverbs like:

Omnia mea mecum porto (Everything I have I carry with me)
Per aspera ad astra
Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi

A bad workman always blames his tools.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

A burnt child dreads the fire.

A constant guest is never welcome.

A contented mind is a perpetual feast.

A cracked bell can never sound well.

Actions speak louder than words.

A drowning man will catch at a straw.

Adversity makes a man wise, not rich.

A fair death honors the whole life.

A friend in need is a friend in indeed.

A friend is easier lost than found.

After a storm comes a calm.

After dinner sit a while; after supper walk a mile.

A good beginning is half the battle.

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

A good husband makes a good wife.

A good name is sooner lost than won.

A good wife is a good prize.

A good winter brings a good summer.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

A lazy youth, a lousy age.

A little is better than none.

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

A little pot is soon hot.

A living dog is better than a dead lion.

All his geese are swans.

All lay loads on a willing horse.

All roads lead to Rome.

All's well that ends well.

All that glitters is not gold.

All things are difficult before they are easy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

A man can only die once.

A man is known by his friends.

A man who has friends must show himself friendly.

A merry heart goes all the way.

A miss is as good as a mile.

Among the blinds the one-eyed man is king.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

An empty sack cannot stand upright.

An Englishman's house is his castle.

An evil lesson is soon learned.

A new broom sweeps clean.

An eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth.

A penny saved is a penny earned.

A rolling stone gathers no moss.

A secret between more than two is no secret.

A still tongue makes a wise head.

A stitch in time saves nine.

A straw will show which way the wind blows.

A tale never loses in the telling.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.

A thing you don't want is dear at any price.

A true jest is no jest.

A useful trade is a mine of gold.

A willful man must have his way.

A woman's work is never done.

A wonder lasts but nine days.

A word to the wise is enough.

Bad excuses are worse than none.

Barking dogs seldom bite.

Beauty and folly are often companions.

Beauty is but skin-deep.

Beggars' bags are bottomless.

Be just before you are generous.

Best is cheapest.

Better buy than borrow.

Better early than late.

Better go to heaven in rags than to hell in embroidery.

Better late than never.

Better lose the saddle than the horse.

Better to wear out than rust out.

Between two stools you fall to the ground.

Birds of a feather flock together.

Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.

Blood is thicker than water.

Books and friends should be few but good.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

Cheats never prosper.

Children and fools tell the truth.

Children should be seen but not be heard.

Choose a wife by your ear rather than by your eye.

Circumstances alter cases.

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Cloudy mornings give way to clear evenings.

Comfort is better than pride.

Coming events cast their shadows before.

Constant dropping wears away a stone.

Content is better than riches.

Courtesy costs nothing.

Cowards die many times before their deaths.

Custom rules the law.

Cut your coat according to your cloth.

Dead men tell no tales.

Death is the great leveler.

Death pays all debts.

Delays are dangerous.

Diamond cut diamond.

Diligence is the mother of good luck.

Dog does not eat dog.

Doing nothing is doing ill.

Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.

Do not cry for the moon.

Do not cry out before you are hurt.

Do not cut down the tree that gives you shade.

Do not cut off your nose to spite your face.

Do not keep all the eggs in one basket.

Do not quarrel with your bread and butter.

Do not rob Peter to pay Paul.

Do not try to teach your grandmother to such eggs.

Don't put the cart before the horse.

Dreams go by contraries.

Dumb dogs are dangerous.

Dying is as natural as living.

Early sow, early mow.

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

Easier said than done.

East or west, home is best.

Easy come, easy go.

Eat to live, but not live to eat.

Empty vessels make the most noise.

Envy never enriched any man.

Even a worm will turn.

Every bean hath its black.

Every bird likes its own nest the best.

Everybody's business is nobody's business.

Every cook praises his own broth.

Every dog has its day.

Every little helps.

Every little makes a mickle.

Every man hath his weak side.

Every man is his won enemy.

Everything comes to him who waits.

Everything is good when new, but friends when old.

Every why has a wherefore.

Example is better than precept.

Experience is the best teacher.

Experience is the father of wisdom.

Experience must be bought.

Extremes are dangerous.

Face to face, the truth comes out.

Facts speak louder than words.

Failure teaches success.

False friends are worse than bitter enemies.

Far from eye, far from heart.

Far water does not put out near fire.

Fast bind, fast find.

Fine feathers make fine birds.

Fire and water are good servants, but bad masters.

First come, first served.

First impressions are most lasting.

Fools build houses and wise men live in them.

Fool's haste is no speed.

Forbidden fruit is sweetest.

Fourtune favours fools.

Fortune favours the brave.

Fortune favours those who use their judgement.

Fortune knocks once at everone's door.

Four eyes see more than two.

Friendship should not be all on one side.


Give him an inch and he will take a yard.

Give him the dose of his own medicine.

God helps those who help themselves.

Gold will not buy everything.

Good advice is harsh to the ear.

Good counsel has no price.

Good health is above wealth.

Good words are worth much and cost little.

Go while the going is good.

Grasp all, lose all.

Great minds think alike.

Great trees keep down the little ones.

Habit is second nature.

Half a loaf is better than no bread.

Harm watch, harm catch.

Haste makes waste.

Health is better than wealth.

Hear all parties.

Hedges have eyes and walls have ears.

He is rich that has few wants.

He knows most who speaks least.

He laughs best who laughs last.

He that begins many things , finishes but few.

He that is full of himself is very empty.

He that runs fastest gets the ring.

He that travels far knows much.

He who has a mind to beat a dog will easily find a stick.

He who is ashamed of asking is ashamed of learning.

He who plays with fire gets burnt.

He who rides on a tiger can never dismount.

Home is where the heart is.

Honesty is the best policy.

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Hunger is the best sauce.

Idleness is the root of all evil.

If a man once fall, all will tread on him.

If it were not for hope, the heart would break.

If we dream, everything is possible.

If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.

Ill news flies apace.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

In the deepest water is the best fishing.

In the end, things will mend.

It is a foolish sheep that makes the wolf his confessor.

It is better to be alone than in bad company.

It is better to do well than to say well.

It is easier to get money than to keep it..

It is good fishing in troubled waters.

It is never too late to learn.

It is never too late to mend.

It is no use crying over spilt milk.

it is the first step that is troublesome.

It is too late to shut the stable door after the horse has been stolen.

It never rains but it pours.

It takes two to make a quarrel.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

Joy surfeited turns to sorrow.

Judge not a book by its cover.

Judge not from appearance.

Judge not of men and things at first sight.

Justice has long arms.

Keep your mouth shut and your ears open.

Kill not the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Kill two birds with one stone.

Kiss and be friends.

Knowledge in youth is wisdom in age.

Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.

Knowledge is power.

Knowledge makes humble; ignorance make proud.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone.

Lay things by, they many come to use.

Learning makes a good man better, and an ill man worse.

Learn not, and know not.

Learn to say before you sing.

Least said, soonest mended.

Let beggars match with beggars.

Let bygones be bygones.

Lies have short legs.

Life is not all beer and skittles.

Lightly come, lightly go.

Like father, like son.

Little and often fills the purse.

Little drops of water make the mighty ocean.

Long absent, soon forgotten.

Look at the bright side.

Look before you leap.

Lookers-on see most of the game.

Lost time is never found again.

Love can neither be bought nor sold; its only prices is love.

Love is blind.

Love me little, love me long.

Love me, love my dog.

Lovers' quarrels are soon mended.

Love thy neighbor, but pull not down thy hedge.

Make hay while the sun shines.

Manners make the man.

Man proposes, God disposes.

Many drops make a shower.

Many hands make light work.

Marry in haste, repent at leisure.

Men make houses, women make homes.

Merry meet, merry part.

Mischiefs come by the pound, and go away by the ounce.

Misfortunes come on wings and depart on foot.

Misfortunes never come singly.

Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends.

Money breeds money.

Money is the root of all evil.

More haste, less speed.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Need makes the old wife trot.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

Never buy a pig in a poke.

Never cross a bridge till you come to it.

Never do things by halves.

Never hit a man when he's down.

Never judge from appearances.

Never light your candle at both ends.

Never make a mountain of a molehill.

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

Never say "die"; up, man , and try.

New brooms sweep clean.

No bees, no honey; no work, no money.

No cross, no crown.

Nobody's enemy but his own.

No fool like an old fool.

No gains without pains.

No man is born wise or learned.

No news is good news.

No pains, no gains.
No road is long with good company.

Nothing is cheap if you don't want it.

Nothing is difficult to the man who will try.

Nothing venture, nothing have.

No way is impossible to courage.

Of nothing comes nothing.

Of two evils choose the less.

Once a thief, always a thief.

Once bitten, twice shy.

One beats the bush, and another catches the birds.

One flower makes no garland.

One man's fault is another man's lesson.

One swallow does not make a summer.

One today is worth two tomorrow.

Other times, other manners.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Pain is forgotten where gain follows.

Pain past is pleasure.

Pardon all men, but never thyself.

Penny wise, pound foolish.

Plenty is no plague.
Poverty is the mother of health.

Practice makes perfect.

Practise what you preach.

Prevention is better than cure.

Ragged colts may make fine horses.

Reason is the guide and light of life.

Remove an old tree and it will wither to death.

Rome was not build in a day.

oses have thorns.

Sadness and gladness succeed one another.

Satan always finds work for idle hands.

Saving is getting.

Saying and doing are two things.

Say nothing, think the more.

Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

Second thoughts are best.

Seeing is believing.

Self do, self have.

Share and share alike.

Short pleasure, long lament.

Silence gives consent.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Soft fire makes sweet malt.

So many countries, so many customs.

So many men, so many minds.

Soon got, soon spent.

Soon learnt, soon forgotten.

Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Speech is silver; silence is golden.

Speech is the picture of the mind.

Standers-by see more than gamesters.

Still waters run deep.

Stolen fruit is sweetest.

Strike while the iron is hot.

Sweet are the uses of adversity.

Sweet discourse makes short days and nights.

Take away my good name, take away my life.

Take honour from me and my life is done.

Take not a musket to kill a butterfly.

Talk of the devil and he will appear.

Tall trees catch much wind.

Teaching others teaches yourself.

The bait hides the hook.

The best mirror is an old friend.

The cheap buyer takes bad meat.

The course of true love never did run smooth.

The day has eyes, the night has ears.

The early bird catches the worm.

The end makes all equal.

The fire is the test of gold; adversity of strong men.

The fox may grow grey, but never good.

The frog in the well knows nothing of the great ocean.

"The grapes are sour", as the fox said when he could not reach them.

The great thieves punish the little ones.

The higher up, the greater the fall.

The lazy man's the beggar's brother.

The leopard cannot change its spots.

The longest day must have an end.

The love of money is the root of all evil.

The more a man learns, the more he sees his ignorance.

The more riches a fool hath, the greater fool he is.

The more you have, the more you want.

The nearer the church, the farther from God.

Under water, famine; under snow, bread.

Union is strength.

Use makes perfectness.

Venture a small fish to catch a great one.

Virtue is a jewel of great price.

Virtue is fairer far than beauty.

Virtue is its own reward.

Walls have ears.

Wash your dirty linen at home.

Waste not, want not.

Weak things united become strong.

Wealth is best known by want.

We can't judge a person by what he says but by what he does.

Well begun is half done.

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

We only live once, but if we work it right, once is enough.

What is done by night appears by day.

When a man is going down-hill, everyone will give him a push.

When children stand quiet, they have done some harm.

When in Rome do as the Romans do.

When one will not, two cannot quarrel.

When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out at the window.
When the cat is away, the mice will play.

When wine sinks, words swim.

Where there is a will there is a way.

Where there's life there's hope.

Will is power.

Wise men are silent; fools talk.

Wise men change their minds; fools never do.

Wise men love truth, whereas fools shun it.

Words are but wind, but seeing is believing.

You are never too old to learn.

You cannot see the wood for the trees.

You enver know till you have tried.

Youth and age will never agree.

Zeal without knowledge is fire without light.

Zeal without kowledge is the sister of folly.

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