In my language (Vietnamese), there is a proverb (or at least a common saying) that proverbs are the treasure of our ancestors. Do we have such proverbs, proverbial phrases or sayings in English?

There is a book Proverbs and sayings from ancient times - the imperishable treasure of Bulgaria. Maybe we can say "proverbs are the imperishable treasure from ancient times"?

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    I've often heard For every proverb there is an opposite proverb and variations thereof. In Anglophone cultures, "proverbs, saws, sayings* are likely to be dismissed as "old wives' tales" rather than revered as representing "the wisdom of our ancestors". May 17, 2018 at 17:15

2 Answers 2


Wolfgang Mieder, A Dictionary of American Proverbs (1992) lists three sayings that field researchers collected in various parts of the United States:

Mad folks and proverbs reveal many truths. [Recorded in Illinois.]

Proverbs are the daughters of daily experience. [Recorded in Alabama and in New York.]

Proverbs are the wisdom of nations. [Recorded in Wisconsin; traced to Francis Bacon's Novum Organum {published in 1620}.]

Rosalind Fregusson, The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs (1983) renders the Bacon proverb as follows:

The genius, wit, and spirit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs.

Of course, if it first appeared in the Novum Organum, Bacon must have written it in Latin.

Fergusson lists a number of other proverbs about proverbs, but without specifying their place of origin. My two favorites from her collection are

Proverbs are like butterflies, some are caught, others fly away.


Wise men make proverbs and fools repeat them.

This last saying goes back at least as far as James Kelly, A Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs: Explained and Made Intelligible to the English Reader (1721). Kelly explains its origin as follows:

Fools make Feasts and wise Men eat them.

This was once said to a great Man in Scotland, upon his giving an Entertainment. Who readily answer'd,

Wise Men make Proverbs and Fools repeat them.


Here are a few proverbs about proverbs, they say, in English.

A good maxim is never out of season. (English).

Proverbs are the children of experience. (English).

Proverbs are the wisdom of the street. (English).

Proverbs lie on the lips of fools. (English).

There is no proverb which is not true. (English).

(D.E. Marvin, comp. Curiosities in Proverbs. 1916.)

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