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Proverbs and their meanings

  • A bad workman always blames his tools - A careless or unskilled worker blames bad work on his tools rather than himself.

 

  • A bird in hand is worth two in the bush - Something that one already has is better than going after something seemingly more worthwhile that one may not be able to get.

 

  • A burnt child dreads fire - A bad experience or a horrifying incident may scar one's attitude or thinking for a lifetime.

 

  • A chicken and egg question-A mysterious question which can't be answered

 

  • A constant guest is never welcome-We are apt to grow to dislike friends who visit us too often

 

  • A contented mind is a perpetual feast-Contentment of mind is the cause of lasting happiness.

 

  • A fool and his money are soon parted-A person who spends his money foolishly will soon be penniless

 

  • A friend in need is a friend indeed - A friend who helps when one is in trouble is a real friend.

 

  • A good name is sooner lost than won-It takes a long time to build up a good reputation which can be easily destroyed by misconduct.

 

  • A great talker is a great liar -A smooth and persuasive talker may be a good liar.

 

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand-Discord breaks up families.

 

  • A hungry man is an angry man - A person who does not get what he wants or needs is a frustrated person and will be easily provoked to rage.

 

  • A job worth doing is a job worth doing well-When you do something you should do it as well as you can.

 

  • A leopard cannot change its spots - A person's nature cannot change.

 

  • A light purse makes a heavy heart-We cannot be cheerful when we have financial problems.

 

  • A man is as old as he feels - A person's age is immaterial - it is only when he thinks and feels that he is ageing that he actually becomes old.

 

  • A miss is as good as a mile - Something that one already has is better than something that one may not be able to get

 

  • A new broom sweeps clean - A person newly appointed is always eager and enthusiastic in his work.

 

  • A nod is as good as a wink-A hint or suggestion can be accepted and acted upon without further elaboration.

 

  • A penny saved is a penny gained - By being thrifty one will be able to save up.

 

  • A rolling stone gathers no moss - A person who never settles in one place or who often changes his job will not succeed in life; one who is always changing his mind will never get anything done.

 

  • A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet-It is not what a thing is called that matters, but what it is.

 

  • A stitch in time saves nine- By taking immediate action we can prevent a fault, damage or trouble from getting worse

 

  • A straw will show which way the wind blows- A small incident can reveal an important event

 

  • A thing of beauty is a joy forever- It means that though something beautiful may not last, the happy memory of it will live forever.

 

  • A trouble shared is a trouble halved - Your troubles seem half as great when you discuss them with someone else

 

  • A watched pot never boils - If you watch or wait for something to get done or to happen it seems to take forever

 

  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder -One usually desires another more when he or she is far away.

 

  • Actions speak louder than words - Children usually learn more from the examples set by their elders than from what they are told; a person's character is judged by the thing she does and not by what he says; actions give evidence or proof of.

 

  • All that glitters is not gold - Do not be deceived by things or offers that appear to be attractive.

 

  • All's fish that comes the net-When something comes our way we should consider how it might be useful or benefit us.

 

  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away-It means that apples are so nutritious they keep you in the peak of health.

 

  • An exception to the rule-Something does not conform to or agree with a rule

 

  • An idle brain is the devil's workshop - One who has nothing to do will be tempted to do many mischievous acts.

 

  • An ounce of discretion is worth a pound of wit - It is better to be careful and discrete than to be clever.

 

  • An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure-It is even better to be cautious and prevent a misfortune or an accident from happening.

 

  • Any time means no time - When an event is not decided on or planned earlier it will never take place.

 

  • As you make your bed so must you lie on it -You must accept the consequences of your act

 

  • As you sow, so you shall reap - One will either enjoy or suffer the consequences of his earlier actions or inactions.

 

  • Barking dogs seldom bite - Those who make loud threats seldom carry them out.

 

  • Be on the safe side-To take special precautions to avoid making a mistake

 

  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder-What is beautiful to one person may not be beautiful to others.

 

  • Beggars can't be choosers-Someone in need should be grateful for what is given to him -- even if it's not what he wants or expects

 

  • Better late than never -To do something that is right, profitable, or good a little late is still better than not doing it at all.

 

  • Between a rock and a hard place - To be in a difficult situation from which there seems to be no escape

 

  • Between the devil and the deep sea - To choose between two equally bad alternatives in a serious dilemma.

 

  • Birds of a feather flock together -People of the same sort of character or belief always go together.

 

  • Bite off more than one can chew - To try to do something one is unable to do or incapable of doing.

 

  • Blood is thicker than water - Family ties are stronger than any other.

 

  • Burn the candle at both ends-Those who are always busy and seem to get little rest

 

  • Buy a pig in a poke-Buy something without examining it for faults or checking to see if they are really getting what they believe they have purchased

 

  • Call a spade a spade -If you say that someone calls a spade a spade, you mean that they speak frankly and directly, often about embarrassing or unpleasant subjects; an informal expression.

 

  • Catch as catch can-To do anything or use any means to achieve an aim or reach a goal.

 

  • Catch not at the shadow and lose the substance-We should not waste time on trivial aspects of a matter and neglect the essential matter itself.

 

  • Charity begins at home - A person's first obligation should be to help the member of his own family before he can begin thinking of talking about helping others.

 

  • Children should be seen and not heard-To stop a child from asking questions, talking, or making unnecessary noise.

 

  • Christmas comes but once each year-An excuse to indulge in food and drink and spend money during the Christmas season.

 

  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness - To be clean and tidy is just as important as being spiritually good and religious.

 

  • Cross the stream where it is shallowest-Don't make things difficult for yourself; always find the simplest means of achieving your objective.

 

  • Cry over spilled milk-It's pointless to get upset or feel regret about a loss or mistake that can't be undone

 

  • Curiosity killed the cat-To warn people not to show too much interest in affairs that don't concern them.

 

  • Cut off your nose to spite your face-When people are dissatisfied or angry, they sometimes react by doing foolish things that prove harmful to themselves.

 

  • Cut your coat according to your cloth - Live within your income; don't be too ambitious in your plans

 

  • Dead men tell no lies - (often used as an argument for killing someone whose knowledge of a secret may cause one loss or get into serious trouble.)

 

  • Discretion is the better part of valor - If you say discretion is the better part of valor, you mean that avoiding a dangerous or unpleasant situation is sometimes the most sensible thing to do.

 

  • Do not cross a bridge till you come to it-Do not worry about something before it has happened

 

  • Do not have too many irons in the fire-If we attempt to do too much at once, we shall not do anything properly

 

  • Do not ride the high horse-Do not be arrogant

 

  • Do unto others as you would others do unto you-Treat others as you would like them to treat you.

 

  • Dog eat dog- In competitive situations where each person has his own interests at heart, it is usually the strong and the determined who succeed.

 

  • Don't count your chickens before they are hatched. - Do not make plans based on something that has not happened.

 

  • Don't judge a book by its cover - Do not be deceived by appearances.

 

  • Don't make a mountain out of a molehill - Do not make a big fuss or issue over something minor or small

 

  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket - One should not risk everything he has in a single venture.

 

  • Eat to live, but do not live to eat - Man was created for a divine purpose and he has a destiny with his Creator - he was not born just to enjoy food.

 

  • Empty vessels make the most noise - Those people who have a little knowledge usually talk the most and make the greatest fuss.

 

  • Even Homer sometimes nods-Even the best of us are liable to make mistakes.

 

  • Every cloud has a silver lining - If you say that every cloud has a silver lining, you mean that every sad or unpleasant situation has a positive side to it. If you talk about silver lining you are talking about something positive that comes out of a sad or unpleasant situation.

 

  • Every dog has its day -Everyone will get a period of success or satisfaction during his lifetime.

 

  • Every flow must have its ebb- Life has its ups and downs, neither good fortune nor ill fortune lasts forever.

 

  • Every oak must be an acorn- Everything has to have a small beginning.

 

  • Every one can find fault, few can do better - It is easier to find fault in other people's actions or methods than to do it properly or correctly.

 

  • Experience is the best teacher - The best way to learn a job is to do it.

 

  • Faint heart never won fair lady - To succeed in life one must have the courage to pursue what he wants.

 

  • Fair exchange is no robbery - A contract is fair as long as both the parties understand and agree to the conditions willingly; after a deal is closed neither side can turn around and say that he was unfairly treated.

 

  • Fire is a good servant but a bad master - Fire, like any other manmade tool or device, will serve man well only when it is controlled and used wisely.

 

  • First come, first served - The first in line will be attended to first.

 

  • Fling/throw mud at someone-To say evil or bad things about someone and in doing so, to damage his or her reputation.

 

  • Fools rush in where angels fear to tread - Foolish people tend to act too hastily and do things that wise people would avoid.

 

  • Forgive and forget- Excusing or pardoning someone for doing something

 

  • Fortune knocks once at every man's door - Everyone gets at least one good opportunity in his lifetime; everyone has the opportunity to be successful in life.

 

  • Give someone enough rope and he will hang himself-If we allow someone to continue in his bad ways he'll eventually bring about his own downfall or ruin.

 

  • Give the devil his due - Be just and fair-minded, even to the one who does not deserve much or who is unfriendly or unfair; we should punish a person according to his wrongdoings.

 

  • Go from the sublime to the ridiculous - Move from one situation which is wonderful or perfect to another which is absurd or awful

 

  • God helps those who help themselves - God only helps those people who work hard and make an honest effort.

 

  • Great haste makes great waste - If one does things hastily he will make a lot of mistakes - he will need to spend a lot of time correcting those mistakes later.

 

  • Great minds think alike - Wise people will normally think and behave alike in certain situations.

 

  • Great talkers are little doers - Those people who talk a lot and are always teaching others usually do not do much work.

 

  • Grin and bear it- To put up with discomfort or a bad situation without complaining.

 

  • Habit is second nature - An act done repeatedly and often enough will sooner or later become a habit or second nature.

 

  • Half a loaf is better than none - It's better to have or receive less than one desire than to have or receive nothing at all.

 

  • Have an old head on young shoulders - Youngsters who possess qualities of wisdom one would only expect to find in experienced older people.

 

  • Have eyes in the back of one's head - An ability to know what is happening not within the scope of one's vision.

 

  • He laughs best who laughs last - A person who does his best is the one who will get the greatest satisfaction in the end.

 

  • He who pays the piper calls the tune-The person who pays for something has the right to do as he wants.

 

  • Hide your light under a bushel-Concealing your talents, skills or abilities

 

  • History tends to repeat itself-What has happened once is liable to happen again.

 

  • Hitch one's wagon to a star-To Move forward in a way to improve your chances of achieving success.

 

  • Home is where the heart is-No matter where you are, 'home' is where you feel most comfortable and content.

 

  • Honesty is the best policy - Being honest is believed to be the best route to take.

 

  • If it's not one thing it's another - The troubles seem to go on and on without end.

 

  • If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch-Those without knowledge should not try to teach the ignorant.

 

  • If wishes were horses, beggars would ride- If we could get all the things we wanted just by making a wish, everyone would have all he ever wanted.

 

  • If you can't lick them, join them-If you cannot defeat an opponent or get him to change his ideas, plans or way of doing things, the best thing is to change your ideas, plans, etc.

 

  • In for a penny, in for a pound-If we decide to do something, we should commit ourselves to it boldly and completely.

 

  • It is useless to flog a dead horse-It is no use spending your time and energy on an activity or belief that is already widely rejected or outdated.

 

  • It never rains but it pours-Events, especially misfortunes, always come together and not one at a time.

 

  • It takes all sorts to make a world - You should not expect everyone to think and act as you do.

 

  • It takes two to make a quarrel - Both parties in a quarrel should share the blame or take responsibility for it; no one can start a quarrel all by himself.

 

  • It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good - A bad or evil occurrence.

 

  • It's never too late to mend - It is never too late to correct one's mistakes or faults.

 

  • It's no use crying over spilt milk - It is pointless to feel remorseful over a thing lost that can never be found or a mistake done that can never be corrected or rectified.

 

  • Jack of all trades and master of none - Is a person who can do almost anything, but he rarely excels in any of them.

 

  • Jump from the frying pan into the fire - To go from a bad position to a worse one.

 

  • Keep the wolf from the door- To avoid hunger and poverty

 

  • Kindle not a fire you cannot put out-Do not start something you cannot control or resolve

 

  • Laugh and the world laughs with you- When someone is in a happy, cheerful mood, people like being with him.

 

  • Least said, soonest forgotten- The less we say about it the sooner the incident will be forgotten.

 

  • Let bygones by bygones - One should consider forgiving one's and forget all the bad deeds done by others.

 

  • Let not the pot call the kettle black - A person who has a fault should not point out the same fault in another; do not criticize another person as you may have the same weakness.

 

  • Let sleeping dogs lie - One should preferably avoid discussing issues that are likely to create trouble.

 

  • Life is just a bowl of cherries-Life is full of happiness and pleasure

 

  • Like a bull in a china shop-A clumsy or tactless person

 

  • Like father, like son, like mother, like daughter - (used to describe a child's behavior when he or she acts like the father or mother )

 

  • Lock the stable door after the horse has bolted-Once a mistake has been made or an error committed, it's too late to take precautions to prevent it from happening.

 

  • Look at the bright side - Be optimistic

 

  • Look before you leap - Avoid acting hastily, without considering the possible consequences.

 

  • Losers weepers, finders keepers-If someone loses something, he weeps -- but if someone finds it, he keeps it.

 

  • Love me, love my dog-If we want a person's friendship we must accept him totally, faults and all.

 

  • Make hay while the sun shines - Seize opportunities

 

  • Many hands make light work-Many people sharing a job or tasks make easier work of it.

 

  • Money is the root of all evil - Crimes and wickedness are associated with money.

 

  • Necessity is the mother of invention - When a person is in great need of something, he will find a way of getting it.

 

  • Never do things by halves - One should not do an incomplete or imperfect job - certain tasks must not be left half done; they must be done away with immediately.

 

  • No news is good news - When there is no news, it is likely that everything is all right.

 

  • Once bitten twice shy - If a person has been tricked once he will more be careful and alert the next time.

 

  • One man's meat is another man's poison - No two persons are alike - every one has his own preferences, likes and dislikes.

 

  • One swallow doesn't make a summer - One success doesn't guarantee complete success

 

  • Opportunity only knocks once-Seize an opportunity when it occurs for it may never happen again.

 

  • Out of sight, out of mind - You will soon forget friends you do not meet or keep in contact with.

 

  • Possession is nine points of the law-In disputes over property ownership, the person in possession of something is sometimes said to have nine-tenths a chance of winning it in a legal argument

 

  • Practice makes perfect - It is believed that if one practices a certain skill often, he will excel in it

 

  • Prevention is better than cure - It is better to be careful beforehand than to try to solve a problem after it has arisen.

 

  • Promises are like pie crust-Most promises cannot be kept

 

  • Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them-If you are rich and successful, you will attract many friends, but if you should suffer hardship or have misfortune (adversity), your friends will quickly depart.

 

  • Put a quart into a pint pot- Doing something that's impossible

 

  • Robbing Peter to pay Paul - (this is quoted when one takes another loan to pay off an earlier loan ) taking from one to give another.

 

  • Rome was not built in a day - Any great plan or big dream cannot be achieved overnight or easily.

 

  • Someone's bark is worse than his bite-People sometimes bark but in time we learn they're not always as frightening as they seem.

 

  • Spare the rod and spoil the child - A child who is not punished and showed the error of his ways will become unruly.

 

  • Speech is silver, silence is golden - Talk may be beneficial, but sometimes acquiescence may be the best option to take.

 

  • Still waters run deep - One who is usually silent and goes about his business quietly may be a very wise person.

 

  • Strike while the iron is hot - Seize a good opportunity as quickly as possible.

 

  • Teach an old dog new tricks - It is impossible to change someone's ways or habits, especially if he is old and resists change

 

  • That's where the shoe pinches- That's the source or cause of a problem or an annoyance

 

  • The best fish swim near the bottom-The best things are hard to come by

 

  • The blind leading the blind-A person helping or advising someone knows as little about the subject as the person who is being advised.

 

  • The buck stops here-It means final decision or total responsibility for an action

 

  • The darkest hour is that before dawn-Even when things seem at their very worst, they may shortly improve.

 

  • The devil finds work for idle hands- Unless one keeps busy doing useful or constructive things he could be tempted into mischief or evil.

 

  • The devil has the best tunes-To do something unworthy because it gives you pleasure

 

  • The last straw that broke the camel's back - The final thing that, when added to a bad or unpleasant situation, causes failure or ruin.

 

  • The longest day must have an end -All difficult jobs or situations also have an end.

 

  • The mountain labors and brings forth a mouse-To work hard and long on a project that turns out to be pretty useless.

 

  • The pen is mightier than the sword-The written word is more to be feared than physical violence

 

  • The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike-No matter how good or bad a person, he must still face the everyday problems that confront us all.

 

  • The sins of the fathers will be visited upon the children- People will be punished for the wrongs committed by their parents, forefathers, or those who have preceded them.

 

  • The sky is the limit - There is no upper limit to something

 

  • The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak- To do something unworthy just because it gives you the pleasure

 

  • The thin end of the wedge - That something can appear to be small and of no particular importance - yet it can turn out to be the beginning of a major problem.

 

  • The truth will out-Truth about something will eventually be discovered or made known

 

  • The way to a man's heart is through his stomach-Most men love to eat so feed your husband well and he will always love you.

 

  • There are none so blind as those that will not see- People, who never admit they might be wrong, refuse to listen to the opinions or ideas of anyone

 

  • There are none so deaf as those who will not hear- People sometimes hear only what they want to hear

 

  • There are two sides to every question - There are always two ways of looking at something

 

  • There is no place like home-Even a simple home is the best place in the world for the people who live in it.

 

  • There's more than one way to skin a cat-There is more than one way of getting a job done

 

  • There's no smoke without fire - Rumors do not spread unless there is some element of truth in them.

 

  • Time and tide wait for no one - Time is precious, once it is past no one can go back and claim it thus everyone should be mindful of how his time is spent.

 

  • Time heals old wounds- The passing of time helps us to forget things that have caused us pain or made us unhappy.

 

  • To err is human, to forgive divine - It is only normal for man to make mistakes and do wrong, but for one to forgive another for his wrong is indeed great and gracious act.

 

  • To put the cart before the horse - To do something in an incorrect order

 

  • Too many cooks spoil the broth - Too many people doing the same thing at the same time will not be successful

 

  • Truth is stranger than fiction - Real life can be more incredible than anything which can be imagined

 

  • Turn up like a bad penny- Something or someone disliked just won't go away

 

  • Two heads are better than one - It is always better to get the view of another than to rely entirely on one's own judgment.

 

  • Two wrongs do not make a right- If a person does something to harm or offend us, that's wrong. If we do something to harm them back, that's wrong too.

 

  • Two's company, three's a crowd - It is always fun while there are only two people whereas the third person is an unwelcome intrusion.

 

  • Uneasy is the head that wears the crown- Notable or important people are often concerned about losing their positions.

 

  • Variety is the spice of life- Life becomes very monotonous without some break or change in the daily routine.

 

  • Waste not, want not-If we're careful and waste nothing we'll never go without things we need.

 

  • We never miss the water till the well runs dry -You only realize the importance of something when it is gone

 

  • Wear out one's welcome-One is no longer welcome, usually because he has become a nuisance

 

  • What's done can't be undone - In life there are some things once done or decisions once made cannot be changed; malicious words once uttered or harmful actions once done cannot be taken back.

 

  • When in Rome do as the Romans do - When one is in a new place, country or situation he must adapt himself to the new manners and customs.

 

  • When poverty comes in the door, love flies out the window- As soon as a happily married couple begins having financial problems and the bills pile up their love will disappear.

 

  • When the cat is away the mice will play - When law enforcers are not present, certain public members will take the opportunity to break the law

 

  • Where there's a will there's a way - When a person really wants to do something, he will find a way of doing it.

 

  • Who keeps company with wolves, will learn to howl- If we associate with bad companions we, too, will become bad

 

  • Worship the ground somebody walks on - Very much in love with somebody

 

  • You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink-We can help, show or encourage someone to do something but we can't make him do what he is unwilling or unable to do

 

  • You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear-You cannot change a person's real character

 

  • You can't have your cake and eat it - You must choose between two things as it is impossible to have both at the same time

 

  • You pays your money and you takes your chances-A humorous way of saying that we sometimes must trust in luck when buying something.
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