In English, do you have a proverb like “big fish eats small fish” which means “justice belongs to the stronger”?

For example, suppose there is a successful new startup. Big companies start to eye the smaller one. Finally they acquire the small startup even though the startup wants to be independent. But the startup couldn’t keep its independence due to its limited financial resources.


We have an allied proverb sometimes referred to as "the New Golden Rule":

He who has the gold rules.

Doyle, Mieder & Shapiro, The [Yale] Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (2012), expresses this saying somewhat differently:

He who has the gold makes the rules.


Whoever has the gold rules.

The earliest citation of its first formulation is from 1967 (referring to an earlier Wizard of Id cartoon).

A much older and very well known expression of the same idea is "Might makes right," which I suppose includes the right under big-fish law to eat little fish.

Or again, to invoke the spirit of Anatole France, "The law, in its majestic equality, permits big fish and little fish alike to gulp each other down."

And to top things off, we do have the saying "Big fish eat little fish" in English. Here is the entry for that proverb in Martin Manser, The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs (2002):

big fish eat little fish Small organizations or insignificant people tend to be swallowed up or destroyed by those that are greater and more powerful ... The proverb was first recorded in a text dating from before 1200. In Shakespeare's play Pericles (2:1), the following exchange occurs between two fishermen: "'Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.' 'Why, as men do a-land—the great ones eat up the little ones.'"

  • are you sure? what about "survival of the fittest"? – Tom Jul 26 '15 at 1:35
  • 1
    See the additions to my original answer (above). – Sven Yargs Jul 26 '15 at 1:38

Another saying that can convey the concept you are referring to is:

The law of the jungle:

  • the way in which only the strongest and cleverest people in a society stay alive or succeed.

    • I was brought up on the streets where the law of the jungle applies, so I soon learnt how to look after myself.

Cambridge IdiomS Dictionary


In a larger sense, we can say "Survival of the fittest" which is Darwin's famous theory. It not a proverb, but a phrase that can be used. This can be used in the context where a company is able to sustain in the volatile global market. This can also be used in the above scenario of comparing the might of one company against another.


An old proverb, "The weakest go to the wall" (or "...goes to the wall" as in Romeo and Juliet) looks like what you are looking for.

  • "go to the wall" - Lose a conflict, be defeated TFD

There is also "The House always wins.", an old proverb where "The House" means a casino, where every game is statistically in the house's favor.

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