Questions tagged [proverbs]

A simple truth that expresses an idea or fact.

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Is "Irish potatoes are not boiled twice" a valid proverb?

This "proverb" was used 40 years ago in my dad's school by an English teacher. My dad says his teacher used it to mean, "Instructions will not be repeated". For example, if a ...
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Saying or expression about modesty [duplicate]

I am looking for a saying or expression in English that is equivalent to "what is an ant that you want to make a meal from?" meaning that, I dont consider myself that important to make such ...
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2 votes
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Are proverbs and metaphors the same thing? [duplicate]

Are all proverbs considered metaphors or does it depend? Here are a couple of proverbs for which I would like to know if they are metaphors or just statements: Rome wasn't built in a day. The best-...
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6 votes
4 answers
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What does 'a death by thousand cuts' mean? [closed]

I learned this is an ancient technique of torture originating from imperial China. But nowadays a lot of articles and blogs use this proverbial expression. I want to know: What does it mean in a ...
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Effect called when humans overvalue one good event after series of Bad events and Overexaggeration one single bad event after series of Good events

What is the effect called on humans when When you have seen series of bad events happen to you, and then the next tend to overvalue an negligible good thing happening as a gratitude or grand success ...
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Saying, proverb, phrase for the idea of Absurdity of concentrating on pointless, over-the-top pleasantries than subject that matters the most [duplicate]

We have newly appointed 75+ power-hog manager (old school but in pejorative sense), affected by second childhood and treated like a lame duck (too good to do anything productive). He is infatuated by ...
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4 votes
3 answers
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What is a saying for "a bookish inexperience preaching the experienced"

Like Preaching to the choir means to speak for or against something to people who already agree with one's opinions. What is saying when an idealist, bookish inexperience, fresh-out-of-college ...
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11 votes
8 answers
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English equivalent of "To those you try to help, he says I am only right." [closed]

There is an old Indian Marathi saying (Mhan in marathi) Jyacha karava bhala to mhanato majhach khara (Pronunciation: Jya-ch K-ra-v Bh-l, To Mh-n-to Ma-zch Kh-r) It means Those you try to help say ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Any similar idioms to "Don't blow your own horn/trumpet"? [closed]

I am looking for idioms in English which convey a message that a person should not testify about his own character. Any ideas?
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23 votes
24 answers
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What's the equal and opposite proverb of "Variety is the spice of life"?

It is a little-known law that most proverbs have an equal and opposite. For example... Too many cooks spoil the broth: Many hands make light work. Fortune favours the brave: Fools rush in where ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Synonym for asking for a discount just before closing a deal

In persian we have this phrase which translates to "the seasoning for the deal" or "نمک معامله" in the exact literature. Now, a realtor friend, as it is common in persian culture, ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Is there a proverb that describes a self-important person of low standing?

For example, when someone thinks they rule the roost in a company, but in reality they don't have an important position.
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1 vote
3 answers
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Does "don't cry over lost Bitcoins" really work? [closed]

There's the old saying: Don't cry over spilled milk! Its meaning, AFAIK, is that you should not cry/be sad/get hung up over losing something trivial which can easily be replaced. If you spill some ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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An idiom expressing the circularity of tool making

Is there an idiom or a proverb like "in order to make a knife you need to use another knife", or, better, "in order to make a sharp knife you need to use a duller knife", ...
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2 answers
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Proverb, quote or phrase which convey that the approach, ideas that are meant to improve the system or process are the onces which fail them [duplicate]

I am looking for a proverb, quote or phrase describing the processes (or structures or ideas) which are supposed to bring in efficiency, enhance the gaps and increases in-efficiencies, but instead ...
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1 vote
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Metaphor similar to "one apple spoils the whole bunch"?

I am trying to describe sectarianism that starts from the oldest generation and seeps down to their children and grandchildren and I am getting major writer's block when trying to find a metaphorical ...
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proverbial idiom that fits the point that "Main contractor asking (polite forcing) subcontractor to spoon feed his own duty in its entirety"

In business, a main contractor is the one who takes up the responsibility of the whole project which he understands he can undertake in its entirety, some without and part with help of a subcontractor....
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3 votes
2 answers
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Does English have a version of "pouring water on a goose"?

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/verkan Det där har lika mycket verkan som att hälla vatten på en gås. That has as much effect as pouring water on a goose. It means that something is futile or ...
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0 votes
1 answer
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Idioms: Exploiting/Taking Advantage of Others (negative connotation) [duplicate]

Could you please give me an idiom, proverb, or saying that describes someone who exploits and take advantage of others? An idiomatic expression that has a negative connotation. Or maybe to say that ...
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9 votes
11 answers
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What is a good proverb in response to "two wrongs don't make a right"?

In an ideal world, I know "two wrongs do not make a right" but in the real world (or at least mine) I have often found that although they may not make a right, they often stop further "...
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Is there a proverb in English to convey the meaning "Attempting to catch a flying bird by accidentally releasing the one in hand."? [duplicate]

Attempting to catch a flying bird by accidentally releasing the one in hand. For example, pursuing other attractive objects for getting more benefit but accidentally losing the benefits from the ...
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0 votes
1 answer
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fantasy and reality sayings

You should never act out a fantasy because the reality never matches up. Is this a famous saying (especially about sexual fantasies)? Or is there any sayings or quotes similar to this? I read this in ...
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0 votes
1 answer
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The bigger the tree, the further the fruit falls

I overheard this once, but can't seem to find the origin of this quote. I checked Bartlet, Times, Yale, and Oxford, so I'm positive I heard it wrong. It might have been "the taller the tree."...
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what is its proverb in English [duplicate]

there is a famous proverb in Nepal, i.e. कागले कान समात्यो भन्दैमा म कागको पछि लग्नु. The meaning of this proverb to believe other blindly. For example: "The man said someone that the crow ...
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Idioms or expressions defining either getting paid fully or being appreciated

I am looking for a common English expression/idiom that defines a situation below: I have done some work for someone, and in return, they are not going to pay me the full payment. Then I will tell ...
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-1 votes
2 answers
303 views

What does "You can't bolt your door with a boiled carrot" mean?

There's an Irish expression: "You can't bolt your door with a boiled carrot." Are there any Irishmen or women who can tell me what it means?
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18 votes
8 answers
4k views

Spoken word equivalent for "paper does not refuse ink"

This phrase advises a healthy skepticism of the written word. Is there a similar idiom that advises skepticism of the spoken word?
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0 votes
3 answers
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Idiom/proverb: if you keep calling someone a mouse, they might start thinking they're a mouse

I know there is a similar idiom in English and in other languages like Chinese languages, but I can't remember the exact idiom. It's something like "if you keep calling an elephant a mouse, it might ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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How would a native speaker react to the proverbial phrase: "Life is lethal"?

Would it sound completely wrong? Would it be understood humoristically? Would "deadly" be better? It's an attempt to translate the humoristic German sentence: Das Leben ist tödlich. I often ...
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1 vote
2 answers
382 views

English alternative for 'gesture for wise, stick for fool'

There is a proverb in Urdu language which translates to "gesture for wise, stick for fool". We use it to mean that a gesture is enough for a wise person, he will understand only by gesture and fool is ...
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3 votes
5 answers
193 views

Phrase for "Night Haystacker"

I want a proverb, a metaphor, or a figure of speech about someone who collects non-selectively and carries a heavy load that hurts him. He wants to quickly unload it. In Arabic, we say a night ...
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0 votes
3 answers
74 views

Is there an expression in English for "being asked to act on your own suggestion"? [duplicate]

Is there an expression in English for "being asked to act on your own suggestion"? Here's an example of the scenario that I'm thinking about: Wife: Husband, the living room light is broken. We ...
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11 votes
7 answers
2k views

English idiomatic proverb that expresses "work makes the doer"?

Latvian language (one of the Baltic languages, others being Lithuanian and extinct Prussian language) has proverb (with alliterations) Darbs dara darītāju, which can be translated literally into ...
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0 votes
2 answers
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Quote similar to "the pen is mightier than the sword"

I'm looking for a quote that is similar to "the pen is mightier than the sword", which is commonly credited to Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. The quote should state the same thing, namely, that words ...
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21 votes
10 answers
4k views

Is there an adage in English for "realizing you are not the biggest"?

There is an adage in South Asia which literally translates to: A camel has finally seen the mountain. Which basically goes back to a story where a camel used to think that it was the tallest until it ...
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3 votes
3 answers
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Proverb that means "Even something done completely wrong might yield a slightly good result (but that doesn't mean it should be done)"

It somewhere on the lines of "Even a dead clock is right twice a day". The proverb is sarcastic. I know it exists, I have just forgotten it. It describes: Something that is abused or used not in a ...
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0 votes
1 answer
245 views

A proverb/idiom synonymous to "changing horses in the midstream"

Is there a synonym to the idiom in the title which uses the simile of changing table cloth during the meal/dinner and if so, how is it properly worded? Heard it in a US movie dubbed in my native ...
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0 votes
1 answer
700 views

"Compass" as in "compass their ends" -- meaning in context

Anatomy of the sentence: Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing I know this is the origin of "all that is necessary for evil to ...
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6 votes
2 answers
3k views

Early use of "there's always a bigger fish"

The old fisherman's proverb popularized by Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace has a history of uses in literal contexts (fishing), however after the release of Phantom Menace the metaphorical use of the ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Is there a proverb for "a problem looks so simple when you know the solution"?

I think I have seen one or two proverbs before that are used in situations where someone thinks a problem/puzzle is very easy but only because he/she has heard the answer to the problem/puzzle. Is ...
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2 answers
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English equivalent of this Tagalog proverb [duplicate]

We have a saying in Tagalog: Aanhin pa ang damo, kung patay na ang kabayo. which literally translates to English as What is grass good for, if the horse is already dead. Basically, the idea is,...
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0 votes
2 answers
186 views

Is there a word/idiom/proverb for this Hindi phrase? [duplicate]

I'd like to know if there is anything for this in English which is roughly: Shoot many arrows, one will fit. I am from India and we have an idiom dedicated to it in Hindi but I, literally, ...
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1 vote
1 answer
261 views

What's another idiom/proverb for there is more to something than meets the eye?

I have to make an idiom/proverb for 'there is more to something than meets the eye' in the context of culture; that often, traditions and customs are just symbolic/representative of bigger things. ...
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-1 votes
1 answer
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English equivalent of Konkani proverb "kam natilo achari bhurganchi kule tasto" (When jobless, a carpenter takes to even filing children's buttocks)

English equivalent of Konkani proverb "kam (job) natilo (not having) achari (Carpenter) bhurganchi (Children's) kule (buttocks) tasto (files)" (When jobless, a Clueless carpenter takes to even filing (...
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-2 votes
2 answers
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Is there a close equivalent to Russian saying "Chem dalshe v les tem bolshe drov"

So far I found only one reference which is not helpful https://www.quora.com/What-does-the-Russian-saying-the-deeper-into-the-forest-the-fatter-the-partisans-mean
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1 vote
2 answers
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What would be english equivalent of Hindi proverb char aane ki murgi barah aane ka masala-Chicken is dirt cheap but its ingredients are costing a bomb

What would be english equivalent of Hindi proverb "char aane (Rs. 0.25) ki murgi (Chicken) barah aane (Rs. 0.75) ka masala (spice)" is an old phrase around 60's and the 70's India which mean Chicken ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Is there an English version for “Unum castigabis, centum emendabis”?

The Latin saying Unum castigabis, centum emendabis is commonly and currently used in Italian as “punirne uno per educarne cento”. Literally the expression means “punish one, to correct one hundred”....
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2 votes
1 answer
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'A mind is like a parachute'—who coined this expression, and when?

I recently received a Facebook notification from an online quotation site, which attributed the following saying to Frank Zappa: A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open. I ...
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5 votes
3 answers
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What is the equivalent proverb/idiom for Hindi saying in English?

Muh mein ram ram bagal mein churi It means Speak praise on the face and stab him from behind.
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28 votes
7 answers
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English equivalent of the Malayalam saying "don't stab/poke the dead body"?

ശവത്തിൽ കുത്തരുത് (śavattil kuttarut) is a Malayalam saying that in literal translation means "Don't stab/poke the dead body". The meaning would be something like: don't humiliate a person when he is ...
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