The proverb "When the pig has had a belly full, it upsets the trough" is from

A Dictionary of English and French Equivalent Proverbs and A Dictionary of English and Italian Equivalent Proverbs by Teorod Flonta.

Does anyone have more information about this old saying?

but mostly:

What does it mean?


1 Answer 1


According to Charles H Spurgeon in The Salt Cellars:

When the pig has a bellyful, he upsets the trough.

Which is very malicious of him; but wonderfully like a pig. May not others feed also? What harm has the trough done[.] We know evil persons who spoil the trade by which they have lived, [and] thus knock down the ladder by which they rose.

This refers to people who have benefited from something (like the pig's feeding trough) who, after enjoying their benefits, spoil it for others. The allusion is to pigs who eat their fill, then cause the trough to spill its contents so that other pigs can't also eat from it.

  • Interesting finding, so it is a metaphor to criticise selfish behaviour?
    – user66974
    Apr 3, 2017 at 18:52
  • It would appear so, but going beyond just wanting something for themselves to wanting others to miss out.
    – Lawrence
    Apr 3, 2017 at 18:56
  • Some sources call this a German proverb. E.g., James Lawton, The World's Best Proverbs and Maxims: Gleaned from Many Sources (1937) has "When the sow is satisfied she overturns the trough." I found a 1919 source with that wording....
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 3, 2017 at 20:05
  • ... Spurgeon's Salt Cellars, however, is even older, having been published in 1889.
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 3, 2017 at 20:06

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