A simple truth that expresses an idea or fact.

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73
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12answers
4k views

Is there English counterpart(s) to Japanese old saying, “Present salt to your enemy.”?

We have a popular Japanese saying, “敵に塩を送る” — literally, “present (supply) salt to one's enemy”, meaning ‘play fair and square, not taking advantage of the weak point of your rival.’ It’s different ...
44
votes
24answers
4k views

Are there counterpart English expressions to Japanese proverb, "the nail that pops up is always hammered down?

I was once reminded by Robusto-san of a Japanese popular saying, ‘出る釘は打たれる - the nail that pops up is always hammered down,’ when I complained about sequential down-votes that I received. I wondered ...
22
votes
4answers
582 views

Meaning of “medicine bringeth double care when the malady is past cure”

This is an excerpt from John Lyly 'Euphues: the Anatomy of Wit, does anybody know what does it mean? Search the wound while it is green; too late cometh the salve when the sore festereth, and ...
20
votes
12answers
9k views

Proverb or expression for a situation with two choices, both leading to a different kind of trouble

I'm searching for a proverb or expression that describes a situation which has two choices or two ways out (that is, somewhat of a forced choice) where both lead to some kind of trouble (but not the ...
18
votes
8answers
3k views

The logic behind “better safe than sorry”

It struck me that the phrase "better safe than sorry" is somewhat illogical, or perhaps more accurately, it is so logical and obvious that it seems to carry no meaning at all. My problem with this ...
18
votes
6answers
3k views

Time and tide wait for no man

In the old proverb: Time and tide wait for no man. Our first record of the proverb is from St Marher in 1225: And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet. When it was ...
16
votes
7answers
2k views

English equivalent of a Kannada proverb

The saying goes like "ಬಡವನ ಸಿಟ್ಟು ದವಡೆಗೆ ಮೂಲ". When roughly translated to English it means: A poor man's anger only hurts his jaw [due to all the grinding of teeth in the process]. How to ...
11
votes
4answers
4k views

Is there honour among thieves or not?

I'm not sure which one of these apparently flatly contradictory proverbs I heard first but I have definitely heard both several times. One of them is: There is honour among thieves. Another is: ...
9
votes
7answers
58k views

Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth

Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth. What is a gift-horse? Why shouldn't you look in its mouth? What does this idiom actually mean and how is it used?
9
votes
2answers
278 views

Is there English version of French army cliché, “A friend when you’re lieutenant, companion when captain, … the enemy when you’re general"?

I found a French army cliché; “A friend when you’ re a first lieutenant, a companion when you’re captain, a colleague when you’re major, a rival when you’re colonel, the enemy when you’re general” ...
8
votes
4answers
16k views

Meaning of “no man is an island, entire by itself”

From an excerpt by Francis Bacon (1561-1626), and does it count as a proverb?
8
votes
2answers
558 views

What is the similar meaning proverb in English?

We have a proverb in Bengali, if I translate it directly into English, it emerges as: Who is in there in the temple? I did not eat the banana! Meaning in the temple banana is used for prayer to ...
8
votes
6answers
3k views

Proverb or expression for someone taking on too much

What is an appropriate proverb or expression that means one has: Taken on too many tasks Set out to do something that one isn't qualified to do and hence probably will fail Set out to do something ...
8
votes
5answers
839 views

Is there a saying in English corresponding to “Another loach under the willow tree”?

In Japanese there's a saying "another loach" in the short form, "look for another loach under the same willow tree" in the long form. This saying is for ridiculing a person who blindly repeats what ...
8
votes
2answers
333 views

Beggars on Horseback

Near the end of Book I, chapter 17 of Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens writes: There are the beggars on horseback too, in another sense from the sense of the proverb. These are mounted and ready ...
7
votes
2answers
65k views

Can someone explain the phrase “All is fair in love and war”?

What are its origins and what does it really mean?
6
votes
13answers
2k views

Are there any English sayings to the effect that little changes may lead to big changes?

Can you think of any sayings about change, especially ones expressing how a big change must begin with a little change? how certain institutions, ideas, or God remain eternally unchanged? Note: ...
6
votes
2answers
199 views

Meaning of “A man has as many masters as he has vices.”

What does this saying mean? It was said by Augustine of Hippo, but I do not exactly understand it. Thanks. A man has as many masters as he has vices.
6
votes
3answers
7k views

“Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco”

Is this a proverb? What does it mean and what is the origin?
6
votes
6answers
19k views

What is the meaning of “Many a mickle makes a muckle”?

I've heard this phrase, and don't know what a "mickle" or a "muckle" is. Hence I have no idea at all what the phrase itself is supposed to mean.
6
votes
4answers
1k views

Idiom for opportunistically exploiting a situation to one's advantage

I was wondering what various figures of speech could be used to describe a situation where somebody exploits a situation in order to push their own agenda. For example in Persian we have 'Catching a ...
6
votes
1answer
2k views

What does “God sends meat and devil sends cooks” mean?

What does the quote God sends meat and devil sends cooks by Thomas Deloney mean? And if it doesn't have a specific meaning, in which situation can I use it?
5
votes
2answers
354 views

“The more chickens in a farm the more crap and the fewer eggs”

Consider: The more chickens in a farm the more crap and the fewer eggs. This is a proverb I hear often in Spanish (Cuba). I think it is pretty much self-explained: it is related to productivity ...
5
votes
1answer
604 views

English equivalent of a Malayalam saying

There is a saying in Malayalam which can be roughly translated as "In the land where noone has a nose, the broken-nosed one is the king". Is there a way to express the same sentiment in English?
5
votes
3answers
776 views

“Rome was not built in a day” [closed]

I always heard this phrase from school, but never understood the actual meaning of it or how this phrase originated. What does this actually mean, and why was it Rome and not any other city? ...
5
votes
4answers
909 views

Is “life is hard without jam” in use?

I am looking for a translation of the French "la vie est dure sans confiture". Babel Fish gives me "life is hard without jam". But I am not sure whether this phrase is really in use. Are there ...
5
votes
1answer
854 views

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

A recent question on Skeptics SE, brought up an interesting debate on the origin of this proverb. Particularly, in the comments to this answer we were wondering whether apple really refers to the ...
5
votes
4answers
1k views

English proverb for when a solution comes too late

In Dutch we have a saying "Vijgen na pasen". Translated: "figs after Easter". It means a solution comes too late to be of any use. What is the English equivalent for this? Some googling gives me ...
5
votes
7answers
845 views

Meaning of “Butter is Gold in the Morning, Silver at Noon, and Lead at Night.”

In his book A Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs: Explain'd and Made Intelligible to the English (1721, http://books.google.com/books?id=BEgOAAAAQAAJ), James Kelly offers this interesting saying ...
5
votes
2answers
53k views

Origin of “do not argue with idiots” [closed]

What is the origin of the phrase “do not argue with idiots”? Please cite some credible references. From googling around, I found these three variations. One came from the Bible but I couldn’t find ...
4
votes
6answers
384 views

Do we have an equivalent for Persian's proverb “to stretch one's leg more than one's rug”?

In Persian we have this proverb which translated literally becomes: To stretch one's leg more than one's rug which means that you go beyond the circle of your authorities, or the circle of your ...
4
votes
6answers
337 views

What is an English word to mean “something that makes already strong one much stronger”?

We have a Japanese idiom, “鬼に金棒- oni ni kanabo,” of which literal translation is “let an ogres get an iron club,” or an ogres carrying with an iron club. For instance, the United States of America ...
4
votes
1answer
12k views

When is “no rest for the wicked” used?

I've stumbled over some dialogue in a textbook, where some people have a chat at work, and at the end, when they get back to their urgent tasks, one character says (emph. mine): Well, I'd better ...
4
votes
8answers
182 views

Proverb for Someone will work, but another will get the benefit

Can you suggest what would be a good proverb for "Someone will work, but another will get the result"? Like for the situation when one person does the hard work, but some other reaps the benefits. ...
4
votes
3answers
10k views

What's the difference between a proverb and an idiom?

I think I have a notion what is what but maybe you know a good definition what is what? For example "Hindsight is always 20:20" — is that a proverb or an idiom?
4
votes
4answers
10k views

Origin of the phrase “third time's the charm” / “third time lucky”?

What would the origin of the saying "Third time's the charm" ? I've also heard it used as "third time lucky" ....Does anyone know if they are related ?
4
votes
3answers
1k views

How to use “It ain't over till the fat lady sings”?

I know the meaning of this phrase: One should not assume the outcome of some activity (e.g. a sports game) until it has actually finished. I'm curious as to whether it would more likely be used when ...
3
votes
3answers
3k views

Why is “xxxx doth not a yyyy make” considered valid English?

Reading doth not a writer make. This sounds all wrong so why it is acceptable to use? The word order looks to be all out sequence (Object-Subject-Verb). It should be "reading does not make you a ...
3
votes
2answers
419 views

What does this proverb mean and what is the origin [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What does this mean: ‘Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink’? Why is it funny? You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink
3
votes
5answers
261 views

Few lawyers die well, few physicians live well

What is the meaning of the proverb "Few lawyers die well, few physicians live well"? I think "few physicians live well" has to do with the fact that the salary of physicians was once very low, but ...
3
votes
3answers
916 views

“Nobody does something for nothing”

I have a proverb in my native tongue saying something like "there is no cat chasing fish for God" which implies that anyone who does anything that may seem beneficial to you, is doing it for ...
3
votes
4answers
127 views

Looking for a word similar to “proverbial”, but referring to fables or folk stories

I would like to reference something a character said in a famous childhood story, e.g. The Boy Who Cried Wolf, or, Goldilocks and the Three Bears etc. amidst normal writing. For instance, I'll use ...
3
votes
1answer
138 views

The name of an honest woman

Could someone clarify the meaning of the following proverb? The name of an honest woman is mickle worth. (the entry in the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs is not very helpful)
3
votes
0answers
642 views

What is the precise meaning of “fuck” in the context of the hip hop mantra, “Fuck bitches, get money”? [closed]

I've been hearing the line "Fuck bitches / Get money" in hip hop songs recently. I mostly noticed it lately in a couple of notable songs by Lil Wayne and other Young Money affiliated artists, but ...
2
votes
6answers
241 views

A proverb to denote the importance of talking and acting in showing your abilities

There is a proverb in Persian which says: تا مرد سخن نگفته باشد عیب و هنرش نهفته باشه This proverb literally translated means: One's skills and weaknesses won't be seen, unless one talk ...
2
votes
3answers
178 views

correct idiom for if you were me

I am looking for an idiom that can be used for this like "if you were me you would have done the same thing " OR something like empathy , think from my sight, is there any idiom for such scenerio? I ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

What does “separated at birth” mean?

Sometimes, you come across someone saying something (usually tongue-in-cheek), which might go like this: Tom: I really love eating noodles while watching Star Trek. Linda: Wow, I do exactly the ...
2
votes
3answers
1k views

Proverb: “have fate without destiny”

I was looking for an English equivalent of the Chinese proverb (有缘无分) which describes couples who meet but who do not for whatever reason stay together. My friend (native speaker, no Chinese ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

What construction does ‘A wise man is never less alone than when alone’ have?

I think this proverb roughly means that a wise man isn’t lonely even if he is without company. However, when considering its construction, my understanding is starting to get shaky. Let me explain ...
2
votes
2answers
69 views

How should I understand “He was a wise man who invented beer”?

I love beer, and I recently saw a magnet with this phrase on it: He was a wise man who invented beer My knowledge in English is limited, and I'm not sure if I understand correctly this phrase. ...