What is a proverb?

A proverb is a short and striking saying that expresses a truth or advice traditionally based on common sense or experience.

Nothing defines a culture as clearly as its language, and the language element that best embodies the values and beliefs of a society is made up of proverbs.

Here is a list of the most commonly used proverbs in English with links to their meaning and origin.

  1. A bad penny always turns up
  2. A barking dog never bites
  3. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  4. A cat may look at a king
  5. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link
  6. A change is as good as a rest
  7. A dog is a man’s best friend
  8. A drowning man will clutch at a straw
  9. A fish always rots from the head down
  10. A fool and his money are soon parted
  11. A friend in need is a friend indeed
  12. A golden key can open any door
  13. A good beginning makes a good ending
  14. A good man is hard to find
  15. A house divided against itself cannot stand
  16. A person is known by the company he keeps
  17. A house is not a home
  18. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
  19. A leopard cannot change its spots
  20. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
  21. A little learning is a dangerous thing
  22. A little of what you fancy does you good
  23. A man is known by his friends
  24. A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client
  25. A miss is as good as a mile
  26. A new broom sweeps clean
  27. A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse
  28. A penny saved is a penny earned
  29. A picture paints a thousand words
  30. A place for everything and everything in its place
  31. A poor workman always blames his tools
  32. A person is known by the company he keeps
  33. A problem shared is a problem halved
  34. A prophet is not recognized in his own land
  35. A rising tide lifts all boats
  36. A rolling stone gathers no moss
  37. A soft answer turneth away wrath
  38. A stitch in time saves nine
  39. A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly
  40. A thing of beauty is a joy forever
  41. A trouble shared is a trouble halved
  42. A volunteer is worth twenty pressed men
  43. A watched pot never boils
  44. A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke
  45. A woman’s place is in the home
  46. A woman’s work is never done
  47. A word to the wise is enough
  48. Absence makes the heart grow fonder
  49. Absolute power corrupts absolutely
  50. Accidents will happen (in the best-regulated families).
  51. Actions speak louder than words
  52. Adversity makes strange bedfellows
  53. After a storm comes a calm
  54. All good things come to he who waits
  55. All good things must come to an end
  56. All is grist that comes to the mill
  57. All publicity is good publicity
  58. All roads lead to Rome
  59. All that glisters is not gold
  60. All that glitters is not gold
  61. All the world loves a lover
  62. All things come to those that wait
  63. All things must pass
  64. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
  65. All you need is love
  66. All’s fair in love and war
  67. All’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds
  68. All’s well that ends well
  69. A miss is as good as a mile
  70. An apple a day keeps the doctor away
  71. An army marches on its stomach
  72. An Englishman’s home is his castle
  73. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
  74. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
  75. Another day, another dollar
  76. Any port in a storm
  77. Appearances can be deceptive
  78. April is the cruellest month
  79. April showers bring forth May flowers
  80. As thick as thieves
  81. As you make your bed, so you must lie upon it
  82. As you sow so shall you reap
  83. Ashes to ashes dust to dust
  84. Ask a silly question and you’ll get a silly answer
  85. Ask no questions and hear no lies
  86. Attack is the best form of defence
  87. Bad money drives out good
  88. Bad news travels fast
  89. Barking dogs seldom bite
  90. Be careful what you wish for
  91. Beat swords into ploughshares
  92. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
  93. Beauty is only skin deep
  94. Beggars should not be choosers
  95. Behind every great man there’s a great woman
  96. Better late than never
  97. Better safe than sorry
  98. Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t
  99. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all
  100. Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness
  101. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool that to speak and remove all doubt
  102. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts
  103. Beware the Ides of March
  104. Big fish eat little fish
  105. Birds of a feather flock together
  106. Blessed are the peacemakers
  107. Blood is thicker than water
  108. Blue are the hills that are far away
  109. Boys will be boys
  110. Brevity is the soul of wit
  111. Business before pleasure
  112. Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion
  113. Carpe diem (Pluck the day; Seize the day)
  114. Charity begins at home
  115. Charity covers a multitude of sins
  116. Cheaters never win and winners never cheat
  117. Cheats never prosper
  118. Children and fools tell the truth
  119. Children should be seen and not heard
  120. Christmas comes but once a year
  121. Cleanliness is next to godliness
  122. Clothes maketh the man
  123. Cold hands, warm heart
  124. Comparisons are odious
  125. Count your blessings
  126. Cowards may die many times before their death
  127. Crime doesn’t pay
  128. Cut your coat to suit your cloth
  129. Dead men tell no tales
  130. Devil take the hindmost
  131. Different strokes for different folks
  132. Discretion is the better part of valour
  133. Distance lends enchantment to the view
  134. Do as I say, not as I do
  135. Do as you would be done by
  136. Do unto others as you would have them do to you
  137. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
  138. Don’t burn your bridges behind you
  139. Don’t cast your pearls before swine
  140. Don’t change horses in midstream
  141. Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched
  142. Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it
  143. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face
  144. Don’t get mad, get even
  145. Don’t keep a dog and bark yourself
  146. Don’t leave your manners on the doorstep
  147. Don’t let the bastards grind you down
  148. Don’t let the cat out of the bag
  149. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet
  150. Don’t meet troubles half-way
  151. Don’t mix business with pleasure
  152. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
  153. Don’t put the cart before the horse
  154. Don’t put new wine into old bottles
  155. Don’t rock the boat
  156. Don’t shoot the messenger
  157. Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar
  158. Don’t shut the stable door after the horse has bolted
  159. Don’t sweat the small stuff
  160. Don’t throw pearls to swine
  161. Don’t teach your Grandma to suck eggs
  162. Don’t throw good money after bad
  163. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
  164. Don’t trust anyone over thirty
  165. Don’t try to run before you can walk
  166. Don’t try to walk before you can crawl
  167. Don’t upset the apple-cart
  168. Don’t wash your dirty linen in public
  169. Doubt is the beginning not the end of wisdom
  170. Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
  171. Each to their own
  172. East is east, and west is west
  173. East, west, home’s best
  174. Easy come, easy go
  175. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die
  176. Empty vessels make the most noise
  177. Enough is as good as a feast
  178. Enough is enough
  179. Even a worm will turn
  180. Every cloud has a silver lining
  181. Every dog has its day
  182. Every little helps
  183. Every man for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost
  184. Every man has his price
  185. Every picture tells a story
  186. Every stick has two ends
  187. Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die
  188. Everything comes to him who waits
  189. Failing to plan is planning to fail
  190. Faint heart never won fair lady
  191. Fair exchange is no robbery
  192. Faith will move mountains
  193. Familiarity breeds contempt
  194. Feed a cold and starve a fever
  195. Fight fire with fire
  196. Fight the good fight
  197. Finders keepers, losers weepers
  198. Fine words butter no parsnips
  199. First come, first served
  200. First impressions are the most lasting
  201. First things first
  202. Fish always stink from the head down
  203. Fish and guests smell after three days
  204. Flattery will get you nowhere
  205. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
  206. For everything there is a season
  207. For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the man was lost
  208. Forewarned is forearmed
  209. Forgive and forget
  210. Fortune favours the brave
  211. From the sublime to the ridiculous is only one step
  212. Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains
  213. Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration
  214. Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day…
  215. Give a dog a bad name and hang him
  216. Give a man enough rope and he will hang himself
  217. Give credit where credit is due
  218. Give the Devil his due
  219. Go the extra mile
  220. God helps those who help themselves
  221. Good fences make good neighbours
  222. Good talk saves the food
  223. Good things come in small packages
  224. Good things come to those that wait
  225. Great minds think alike
  226. Half a loaf is better than no bread
  227. Handsome is as handsome does
  228. Hard cases make bad law
  229. Hard work never did anyone any harm
  230. Haste makes waste
  231. He that goes a-borrowing, goes a-sorrowing
  232. He who can does, he who cannot, teaches
  233. He who fights and runs away, may live to fight another day
  234. He who hesitates is lost
  235. He who laughs last laughs longest
  236. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword
  237. He who pays the piper calls the tune
  238. He who sups with the Devil should have a long spoon
  239. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned
  240. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty
  241. History repeats itself
  242. Hold with the hare and run with the hounds – You can’t
  243. Home is where the heart is
  244. Honesty is the best policy
  245. Hope springs eternal
  246. Horses for courses
  247. If anything can go wrong, it will
  248. If a job is worth doing it is worth doing well
  249. If at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again
  250. If God had meant us to fly he’d have given us wings
  251. If ifs and ands were pots and pans there’d be no work for tinkers
  252. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
  253. If life deals you lemons, make lemonade
  254. If the cap fits, wear it
  255. If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain
  256. If the shoe fits, wear it
  257. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride
  258. If you build it they will come
  259. If you can’t be good, be careful
  260. If you can’t beat em, join em
  261. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen
  262. If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas
  263. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys
  264. If you want a thing done well, do it yourself
  265. Ignorance is bliss
  266. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
  267. In for a penny, in for a pound
  268. In the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is king
  269. In the midst of life we are in death
  270. Into every life a little rain must fall
  271. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings
  272. It goes without saying
  273. It is best to be on the safe side
  274. It is better to give than to receive
  275. It is easy to be wise after the event
  276. It never rains but it pours
  277. It takes a thief to catch a thief
  278. It takes all sorts to make a world
  279. It takes one to know one
  280. It takes two to tango
  281. It’s all grist to the mill
  282. It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good
  283. It’s better to give than to receive
  284. It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all
  285. It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness
  286. It’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive
  287. It’s never too late
  288. It’s no use crying over spilt milk
  289. It’s no use locking the stable door after the horse has bolted
  290. It’s the early bird that catches the worm
  291. It’s the empty can that makes the most noise
  292. It’s the singer not the song
  293. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease
  294. Jack of all trades, master of none
  295. Judge not, that ye be not judged
  296. Keep your chin up
  297. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer
  298. Keep your powder dry
  299. Know which side your bread is buttered
  300. Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone
  301. Laughter is the best medicine
  302. Least said, soonest mended
  303. Less is more
  304. Let bygones be bygones
  305. Let not the sun go down on your wrath
  306. Let sleeping dogs lie
  307. Let the buyer beware
  308. Let the dead bury the dead
  309. Let the punishment fit the crime
  310. Let well alone
  311. Life begins at forty
  312. Life is just a bowl of cherries
  313. Life is what you make it
  314. Life’s not all beer and skittles
  315. Lightning never strikes twice in the same place
  316. Like father, like son
  317. Little pitchers have big ears
  318. Little strokes fell great oaks
  319. Little things please little minds
  320. Live and learn
  321. Live for today for tomorrow never comes
  322. Look before you leap
  323. Love of money is the root of all evil
  324. Love is blind
  325. Love makes the world go round
  326. Love thy neighbour as thyself
  327. Love will find a way
  328. Make hay while the sun shines
  329. Make love not war
  330. Man does not live by bread alone
  331. Manners maketh man
  332. Many a little makes a mickle
  333. Many a mickle makes a muckle
  334. Many a true word is spoken in jest
  335. Many are called but few are chosen
  336. Many hands make light work
  337. March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb
  338. March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers
  339. Marriages are made in heaven
  340. Marry in haste, repent at leisure
  341. Might is right
  342. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow
  343. Misery loves company
  344. Moderation in all things
  345. Monday’s child is fair of face,
    Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
    Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
    Thursday’s child has far to go,
    Friday’s child is loving and giving,
    Saturday’s child works hard for its living,
    And a child that’s born on the Sabbath day
    Is fair and wise and good and gay.
  346. Money doesn’t grow on trees
  347. Money is the root of all evil
  348. Money isn’t everything
  349. Money makes the world go round
  350. Money talks
  351. More haste, less speed
  352. Music has charms to soothe the savage breast
  353. Nature abhors a vacuum
  354. Necessity is the mother of invention
  355. Needs must when the devil drives
  356. Ne’er cast a clout till May be out
  357. Never give a sucker an even break
  358. Never go to bed on an argument
  359. Never judge a book by its cover
  360. Never let the sun go down on your anger
  361. Never look a gift horse in the mouth
  362. Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today
  363. Never speak ill of the dead
  364. Never tell tales out of school
  365. Nine tailors make a man
  366. No man can serve two masters
  367. No man is an island
  368. No names, no pack-drill
  369. No news is good news
  370. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
  371. No pain, no gain
  372. No rest for the wicked
  373. Nothing new under the sun
  374. Nothing is certain but death and taxes
  375. Nothing succeeds like success
  376. Nothing ventured, nothing gained
  377. Oil and water don’t mix
  378. Old soldiers never die, they just fade away
  379. Once a thief, always a thief
  380. Once bitten, twice shy
  381. One good turn deserves another
  382. One half of the world does not know how the other half lives
  383. One hand washes the other
  384. One man’s meat is another man’s poison
  385. One might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb
  386. One law for the rich and another for the poor
  387. One swallow does not make a summer
  388. One volunteer is worth ten pressed men
  389. One year’s seeding makes seven years weeding
  390. Only fools and horses work
  391. Opportunity never knocks twice at any man’s door
  392. Opposites attract
  393. Out of sight, out of mind
  394. Parsley seed goes nine times to the Devil
  395. Patience is a virtue
  396. Pearls of wisdom
  397. Penny wise and pound foolish
  398. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
  399. Physician, heal thyself
  400. Possession is nine points of the law
  401. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely
  402. Practice makes perfect
  403. Practice what you preach
  404. Prevention is better than cure
  405. Pride goes before a fall
  406. Procrastination is the thief of time
  407. Put your best foot forward
  408. Quid pro quo
  409. Rain before seven, fine before eleven
  410. Red sky at night shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning
  411. Revenge is a dish best served cold
  412. Revenge is sweet
  413. Rob Peter to pay Paul
  414. Rome wasn’t built in a day
  415. See a pin and pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck; see a pin and let it lie, bad luck you’ll have all day
  416. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil
  417. Seeing is believing
  418. Seek and ye shall find
  419. Set a thief to catch a thief
  420. Share and share alike
  421. Shrouds have no pockets
  422. Silence is golden
  423. Slow but sure
  424. Softly, softly, catchee monkey
  425. Spare the rod and spoil the child
  426. Speak as you find
  427. Speak softly and carry a big stick
  428. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me
  429. Still waters run deep
  430. Strike while the iron is hot
  431. Stupid is as stupid does
  432. Success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan
  433. Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves
  434. Talk is cheap
  435. Talk of the Devil, and he is bound to appear
  436. Tell the truth and shame the Devil
  437. That which does not kill us makes us stronger
  438. The age of miracles is past
  439. The apple never falls far from the tree
  440. The best defence is a good offence
  441. The best is the enemy of the good
  442. The best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley
  443. The best things in life are free
  444. The bigger, the better
  445. The bigger they are, the harder they fall
  446. The bottom line is the bottom line
  447. The boy is father to the man
  448. The bread always falls buttered side down
  449. The child is the father of the man
  450. The cobbler always wears the worst shoes
  451. The course of true love never did run smooth
  452. The customer is always right
  453. The darkest hour is just before the dawn
  454. The Devil makes work for idle hands to do
  455. The Devil is in the details
  456. The Devil looks after his own
  457. The Devil take the hindmost
  458. The early bird catches the worm
  459. The end justifies the means
  460. The exception which proves the rule
  461. The fat is in the fire
  462. The female of the species is more deadly than the male
  463. The fruit does not fall far from the tree
  464. The good die young
  465. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence
  466. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world
  467. The husband is always the last to know
  468. The labourer is worthy of his hire
  469. The law is an ass
  470. The leopard does not change his spots
  471. The longest journey starts with a single step
  472. The more the merrier
  473. The more things change, the more they stay the same
  474. The only good Indian is a dead Indian
  475. The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings
  476. The pen is mightier than sword
  477. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance
  478. The proof of the pudding is in the eating
  479. The road to hell is paved with good intentions
  480. The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot
  481. The squeaking wheel gets the grease
  482. The truth will out
  483. The wages of sin is death
  484. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach
  485. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts
  486. There are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream
  487. There are none so blind as those, that will not see
  488. There are two sides to every question
  489. There but for the grace of God, go I
  490. There’s a time and a place for everything
  491. There’s an exception to every rule
  492. There’s always more fish in the sea
  493. There’s honour among thieves
  494. There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle
  495. There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip
  496. There’s more than one way to skin a cat
  497. There’s no accounting for tastes
  498. There’s no fool like an old fool
  499. There’s no place like home
  500. There’s no smoke without fire
  501. There’s no such thing as a free lunch
  502. There’s no such thing as bad publicity
  503. There’s no time like the present
  504. There’s none so blind as those who will not see
  505. There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear
  506. There’s nowt so queer as folk
  507. There’s one born every minute
  508. There’s safety in numbers
  509. They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind
  510. Third time lucky
  511. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it
  512. Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
  513. Those who sleep with dogs will rise with fleas
  514. Thou shalt not kill
  515. Time and tide wait for no man
  516. Time flies
  517. Time is a great healer
  518. Time is money
  519. Time will tell
  520. ’tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all
  521. To err is human; to forgive divine
  522. To every thing there is a season
  523. To the victor go the spoils
  524. To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive
  525. Tomorrow is another day
  526. Tomorrow never comes
  527. Too many cooks spoil the broth
  528. Truth is stranger than fiction
  529. Truth will out
  530. Two blacks don’t make a white
  531. Two heads are better than one
  532. Two is company, but three’s a crowd
  533. Two wrongs don’t make a right
  534. Variety is the spice of life
  535. Virtue is its own reward
  536. Walls have ears
  537. Walnuts and pears you plant for your heirs
  538. Waste not want not
  539. What can’t be cured must be endured
  540. What goes up must come down
  541. What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts
  542. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander
  543. When in Rome, do as the Romans do
  544. When the cat’s away the mice will play
  545. When the going gets tough, the tough get going
  546. When the oak is before the ash, then you will only get a splash; when the ash is before the oak, then you may expect a soak
  547. What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over
  548. Where there’s a will there’s a way
  549. Where there’s muck there’s brass
  550. While there’s life there’s hope
  551. Whom the Gods love die young
  552. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?
  553. Women and children first
  554. Wonders will never cease
  555. Work expands so as to fill the time available
  556. Worrying never did anyone any good
  557. You are never too old to learn
  558. You are what you eat
  559. You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family
  560. You can have too much of a good thing
  561. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink
  562. You can’t have your cake and eat it too
  563. You can’t get blood out of a stone
  564. You can’t get blood out of a turnip
  565. You can’t hold with the hare and run with the hounds
  566. You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear
  567. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs
  568. You can’t make bricks without straw
  569. You can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds
  570. You can’t take it with you [when you die]
  571. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
  572. You can’t judge a book by its cover
  573. You can’t win them all
  574. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar
  575. You pays your money and you takes your choice
  576. You reap what you sow
  577. You win some, you lose some
  578. Youth is wasted on the young

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