There are many common proverbs that you probably hear on a daily basis. For instance, ‘time and time wait for none’, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, ‘honesty is the best policy’, or ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’. There are, however, many uniquely coined adages that are used only by the most ardent students of the English. Proverbs state an experience or truth based on common sense and is sometimes metaphorically used. They are also called aphorisms, maxims or adage. Some simple and short proverbs teach ethical principles. For the sake of convenience for children, some English proverbs for kids are being listed along with their meanings.
Proverbs where largely collected and used by my old friend John Florio, but of course they were created and employed much earlier from a lot of other different writers all around the world. John Florio was a teacher, an interpreter, a grammarian, a translator, a lexicographer, a writer, a journalist, and a poet. I wrote something about him in my book on William Shakespeare’s genial aphorisms, so if you want to find out more you can download it for free. He was the son of an Italian Protestant exile, Florio (1553-1625) and became one of the most cultured and educated man in Elizabethan England during Shakespeare’s time.
Florio made the development of modern English language his primary mission. Firstly, he became tutor of Italian language to John Lyly and Stephen Gosson and many other writers, then with the accession of James I John Florio obtained a promotion and began a new life at court first becoming reader in Italian to Queen Anne and a year later Gentleman Extraordinary and Groom of the Privy Chamber to the King. In addition to his attendance on the Queen, John Florio was also tutor in Italian and French to Prince Henry at court. He probably supplemented his income also by serving as a minor cog in Sir Francis Walsingham’s vast machinery of state espionage. His dictionary, which by its 1611 edition contained over 70,000 entries, therefore more than the Italian dictionary of The Crusca Accademy published in 1612, catered for both the potential visitor to Italy and the reader who wished to read Italian books, now being imported to England in large numbers.
When we quote John Lyly we have to remember “Euphuism” that is a peculiar mannered style of English prose and it takes its name from a prose romance by this author. It consists of a preciously ornate and sophisticated style, employing a deliberate excess of literary devices such as antitheses, alliterations, repetitions and rhetorical questions. Classical learning and remote knowledge of all kinds are displayed. Euphuism was fashionable in the 1580s, especially in the Elizabethan court. Contents “Euphues” is the Greek for “graceful, witty”. John Lyly published the works Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578)and Euphues and his England (1580). Both works illustrated the intellectual fashions and favourite themes of Renaissance society – in a highly artificial and mannered style. The plots are unimportant, existing merely as structural elements on which to display conversations, discourses and letters mostly concerning the subject of love. Its essential features had already appeared in such works as George Pettie’s A Petite Pallace of Pettie his pleasure (1576), in sermon literature, and Latin tracts. Lyly perfected the distinctive rhetorical devices on which the style was based.
Florio probably knew Shakespeare; literary London was a small circle, they shared patrons in the Earls of Pembroke and Southampton and Love’s labour’s lost and The tempest both contain passages indicating a familiarity with some of Florio’s other published works. That Shakespeare shared the contemporary interest in all Italian things is suggested by the large number of his plays which are set wholly or partly in Italy, but that Shakespeare was in fact Florio, a theory first advanced in 1927 by the Italian journalist Santi Paladino in a fascist literary magazine, L’impero, is, to say the least, unlikely for many reasons; but the dispute and the research on this field is gathering always more interesting facts and information all around the world, even though as William would say, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” Anyway this is a real mistery, as the life of the great national bard of England.
Giovanni Florio, known as John Florio, is anyway recognized as the most important humanist in Renaissance’s England, the author who translated Michel de Montaigne’s Essais into English. When he arrived in London at 18 years old, John Florio found a job as dyer for the Venetian merchant Gaspare Gatti. His passion for literature and writing lead him, seven years later his arrival in London, to publish his first work, First Fruits, a bilingual language lesson manual structured in dramatic dialogues, where he showed that he was able to combine his love for literature, proverbs and poetry, with language teaching, explaining in this way mankind’s debt to literature and to great writers.
This work is particularly interesting as an expression of Florio’s observations and opinions on various aspects of London life at the time, making this book one of the most interesting of the Elizabethan language lesson textbooks. So, with First Fruits, John Florio left the job as dyer and officially began a new career as a language teacher, writer and translator, while having contacts at the same time with actors, writers, theatre businessmen and court men. In his own words we can read: “Firste Fruites which yeelde familiar speech, merie prouerbes, wittie sentences, and golden sayings. Also a perfect induction to the Italian, and English tongues, as in the table appeareth. The like heretofore, neuer by any man published (1578).
Second Fruits publication appeared 13 years later the first one and even contains dialogues about sonnets and poems themes that other language lesson books never dared to include, and of course proverbs, in fact he wrote: “To use them (proverbs) is a grace, to understand them a good, but to gather them a paine to me, though game to thee. I, but for all that I must not scope without some new flout: now would I were by thee to give thee another, and surely I would give thee bread for cake. Farewell if thou meane well; els fare as ill, as thou wishest me to fare.” It is true that proverbs were a usual feature of most Elizabethan language teaching books, and they were also employed in drama writing and theatre playings, but in no manual did they play such an important part as in the Second Fruits.
The proverbs of the book are, in fact, intertwined with those published in a corollary work by Florio, the Giardino di Ricreatione: six thousands Italian proverbs, without their English translations, one of the most important of the earlier collections of this kind. “Proverbs are the pith, the properties, the proofes, the purities, the elegancies, as the commonest so the commendablest phrases of a language.” Florio endeavored particularly “to finde matter to declare those Italian wordes & phrases, that never yett saw Albions cliffes.” Yet, the proverbs used in the Second Fruits seem to have been especially selected as those which could be transported from the Italian to the English without strain or loss of meaning. But in this book Florio also devoted an entire chapter to a discussion of “newes”, “devices”, “tales”, written reports, printed “letters”, rumors, and scandal; so we can say that The Second Fruits might also be considered as one of the earliest pieces of journalism written in England.
Talking about the use of proverbs in language teaching nowadays, we can say that they play a great part in gaining cultural knowledge, metaphorical understanding and communicative competence. Proverbs are a part of every language as well as every culture. They have been used to spread knowledge, wisdom and truths about life from ancient times up until now. They have been considered an important part of the fostering of children, as they signal moral values and exhort common behaviour. Proverbs belong to the traditional verbal folklore genres and the wisdom of proverbs has been guidance for people worldwide in their social interaction throughout the ages. Proverbs are concise, easy to remember and useful in every situation in life due to their content of everyday experiences.
Since a proverb is a short, generally known sentence of the folk which contains wisdom, truth, morals, and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed and memorizable form and which is handed down from generation to generation, many scholars think that they should be used in teaching as didactic tools because of their content of educational wisdom. When it comes to foreign language learning, proverbs play a role in the teaching as a part of cultural and metaphorical learning. Linguists also claim that the use of proverbs in the teaching of English as a second or foreign language is important for the learners’ ability to communicate effectively.
What’s more proverbs “stick in the mind”, “build up vocabulary”, “illustrate admirably the phraseology and idiomatic expressions of the foreign tongue”, “contribute gradually to a surer feeling for the foreign tongue” and proverbs “consume very little time”. It was also said that proverbs are not only melodic and witty, possessed with rhythm and imagery; proverbs also reflect “patterns of thought”. As proverbs are universal, there are analogous proverbs in different nations that have related cultural patterns. Proverbs are therefore useful in the students’ discussions of cultural ideas when they compare the proverbs equivalents in different languages.
But as the experience shows the incorporation of proverbs in the foreign language classroom is rare. When proverbs are included, they are often used as time fillers and not integrated into a context. The proverbs that are used are often randomly picked from dictionaries, which often include archaic proverbs and new proverbs might therefore be missed. The suitability of proverbs in teaching is due to their form; they are pithy and easy to learn, they often rhyme and contain repetition figures like alliteration and assonance. Some scholars propose the use of proverbs in a range of areas within language teaching: grammar and syntax, phonetics, vocabulary development, culture, reading, speaking and writing. They state that proverbs, besides being an important part of culture, also are an important tool for effective communication and for the comprehension of different spoken and written discourses.
Obviously proverbs change with time and culture. Some old proverbs are not in use any longer because they reflect a culture that no longer exists, e.g. Let the cobbler stick to his last, which has vanished more or less, because the profession of the cobbler nowadays is rare. However, new proverbs that reflect the contemporary society are created instead, e.g. Garbage in, garbage out, a proverb created due to our computerized time. Old proverbs are also used as so called anti-proverbs today, i.e. “parodied, twisted, or fractured proverbs that reveal humorous or satirical speech play with traditional proverbial wisdom”. One example is Nobody is perfect, which as an anti-proverb is changed to No body is perfect.
Anyway working with proverbs and sayings during the lessons not only helps to diversify educational process and to make it brighter and interesting. Moreover it helps to solve a number of very important educational problems: proverbs in the classroom can improve students’ learning experiences, their language skills, and their understanding of themselves and the world in general.
This happens because proverbs provide opportunities for students to learn a lot of different things about each other and their shared values, human experiences and cultures, the world of linguistic rhetoric figures, since they are full of metaphors, rhymes, puns, irony, humor, definitions, and so on, all seasoned with a strong moral wisdom and an old and proved useful common sense. That’s why now I report in this quite dense article a list of the most used and famous English proverbs, selected by my large collection, that can naturally be used for language teaching and thinking learning as well.
31. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
32. Still waters run deep.
33. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
34. Many hands make light work.
35. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
36. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
37. Make hay while the sun shines.
38. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
39. Better late than never.
40. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
41. Ignorance is bliss.
42. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
43. The forbidden fruit is always the sweetest.
44. If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
45. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
46. It takes two to tango.
47. It’s the tip of the iceberg.
48. Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it.
49. Curiosity killed the cat.
50. Every cloud has a silver lining.
51. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
52. Money doesn’t grow on trees.
53. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
54. The cat is out of the bag.
55. You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.
56. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
57. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
58. Always put your best foot forward.
59. Look before you leap.
60. Be good and if you can’t be good, be careful.
61. Easy come, easy go.
62. Between the devil and the deep blue sea.
63. Don’t make a mountain out of an anthill.
64. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
65. After the feast comes the reckoning.
66. All that glitters is not gold.
67. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
68. Bad news travels fast.
69. Barking dogs seldom bite.
70. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
71. Beggars can’t be choosers.
72. The best things in life are free.
73. Better a live coward than a dead hero.
74. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
75. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
76. Blood is thicker than water.
77. Charity begins at home.
78. Clothes do not make the man.
79. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.
80. Don’t put the cart before the horse.
81. Familiarity breeds contempt.
82. The first step is always the hardest.
83. A friend who shares is a friend who cares.
84. He who hesitates is lost.
85. He who laughs last, laughs best.
86. If you can’t beat them, join them.
87. In unity there is strength.
88. A leopard cannot change its spots.
89. Love is blind.
90. Love makes the world go round.
91. Abundance, like want, ruins many.
92. Laws catch flies, but let hornets go free
93. A man without money is no man at all.
94. Art has no enemy but ignorance.
95. If you cannot bite, never show your teeth.
96. Look not a gift horse in the mouth.
97. A good name is sooner lost than won.
98. A heavy purse makes a light heart.
99. A hungry man is an angry man.
100. A Joke never gains an enemy but often loses a friend.
Proverbs Quiz Test 1
Proverbs Quiz Test 2
Proverbs Quiz Test 3
Wisdom of proverbs
Quotes and aphorisms on proverbs
Italian proverbs and sayings
English and world proverbs
Famous English Sayings
Dictionary of English World proverbs
English quotes and aphorisms
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List of Proverbs in English!
A proverb (from Latin: proverbium) is a simple, concrete, traditional saying that expresses a perceived truth based on common sense or experience. The definition of a proverb is a short saying that is widely used to express an obvious truth. An example of proverb is “Practice makes perfect.” Let us Explore some very useful list of proverb in English.
List of Proverbs in English
A absence makes the heart grow fonder
If people are parted for a time, they tend to appreciate each other more.
All that glitters is not gold
Appearance can be deceptive one should not judge the value of things by their pleasing appearances.
Among the blind the one eyed man is king
A person with a modicum of ability will pass for a genius among nincompoops.
Answer a fool according to his folly
A silly question deserve a silly answer.
All’s well that ends well
If the final result is good previous failures are forgotten, as the end result is most important.
Actions speak louder than words
People can say many things because talking is easy, but what really matters is what one does, not what one says.
All work and no play makes jack a dull boy
It is not wise to concentrate only on working and not to allow time for relaxation. Without proper leisure time, the workers and, therefore, the work will suffer.
Borrowed garments never fill well
Copied behavior always cramps one style.
Birds of a feather flock together
Persons of like tastes seek one another’s society.
A burnt child dreads the fire
One who has suffered becomes wary and cautious.
A bad workman quarrels with his tools
One tries to cover up one’s failures by putting the blame on the tools at one’s disposal.
Brevity is the sole of wit
Brief remarks keep humor alive, while explanations tend to kill it.
Blood is thicker than water
Bonds between blood-relation are stronger than other bonds.
Proverbs in English
A bird in hand is worth two in the bush
It is better to be content with what we have or can easily get than to reject it in the hope of getting something better, as this may never happen.
Cleanliness is next to godliness
Cleanliness is the biggest human virtue.
Cut your car according to your cloth
Regulate your expenses according to your income.
The child is father of the man
The influence which contribute to form the character of the child endure through life.
Do not look a gift horse in the mouth
One should be grateful and question the quality or use of a lucky chance per gift.
A drowning man will catch at straw
A man in danger would cling to anything to seek safety.
Do unto others as you would be done by
The kind of treatment you give to other, the kind you get.
Do not count your chickens before they are hatched
Do not raise your expectations about something. They may prove falls and hence cause dismay.
Discretion is better part of valor
It is wise to avoid avoidable risks than to run into them foolishly.
The devil can cite scripture for his purpose
A wicked person does not shrink from exploitation religion to serve his own ends.
List of Proverbs in English
Do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today
Do not postpone things.
The early bird catches the worm
Immediately or quick action bring success.
Every cloud has a silver lining
Even if the affairs are in darkest condition, one should not despair. There is always a ray of hope
Example is better than precept
Practice is better than teaching.
Fit words are better than fine ones
Words should be chosen for their apt meaning and not for their floridity.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
Wise people think before they act or do something whereas fools say and do things rashly without thinking.
Frailty the name is woman
it is generally believed that women cannot resist temptation.
Fine feathers make fine birds
Dress makes the man.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice
Give everybody a patient hearing but exercise the strictest caution in entrusting your thoughts to others.
God made the country and man-made the town
The natural is more beautiful than the artificial.
Heaven helps those who help themselves
Constant effort is the key to success.
He laughs best who laughs last
One should not rejoice until.one is sure that there are no further problems ahead.
Home-keeping youths have ever homely wits
An insular life does not broaden one’s horizon.
Handsome is that handsome does
Action appropriate to the occasion are the teats of one’s sincerity or merits.
An honest man is the noblest work of God
Honesty is the best of virtues.
Proverbs with Meanings
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world
Mothers are in truth the makers of great men.
Half a loaf is better than none
We must be grateful for what we receive even though we expected more.
It is an ill wind that blows nobody good
Unfavorable happening that brings no advantages at all to anyone.
It is a long lane that has no turning
Unpleasant things can’t last forever, they improve with time.
An idle man’s brain is the workshop of the devil
An idle man can think of and do a lot of mischief.
It is more blessed to give than to receive
Doing a favor is better than receiving one.
An injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult
Physical pain is nothing compared to an affront to one’s dignity.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, again
If you want to achieve something in life we must have patience and courage.
It is easy to be wise after the event
It is idle to find justification for once mistakes after the damage is done.
A live ass is stronger than a dead lion
The living have more utility than the dead.
It takes all sorts to make a world
The World is made up of many sorts of people good and evil, wise and foolish we should try tolerate other even if they are different from us.
Kind words are more than coronets
Words of sympathy bring more relief than gifts.
It is never too late to mend
It is never too late to improve one’s manners, behavior, way of life etc. In order to lead a better life.
Let every herring hang by id own tail
Let everyone attend to his/her business.
Little strokes fell mighty oaks
Perseverance is the key to success.
Learn to walk before you run
Learn to do things gradually. One cannot learn things at once.
Many hands make lighter work
If many people work together, they can complete their quickly as well as easily.
List of Proverbs in English
The mills of God grind slowly
Retribution must come to the wicked sooner or later.
Man is box nature a political animal
Man is by nature gregarious.
A miss is as good as a mile
Failure is failure even if it is by a narrow margin.
No man can serve two masters
It is difficult to serve God and mammon at the same time
No one but the wearer knows where the shoe pinches only the sufferer realizes the cause of pain.
Only he who bears the burden knows its weight
Only the person who suffers knows the intensity of pain.
One crowded hour of crowded life is worth son age without name
A short span of intense activity is better than years of routine drudgery.
One swallow does not make a summer
One reality does not prove something as it can be an exception.
One should eat to live, not live to eat
Temperance is a great virtue.
One good turn deserves another
If we receive help from someone, we should try to help him in return.
The pen is mightier than the sword
The written word is more effective than brute force.
People who live in glass houses should not throw stones
People must realize their own weakness before exploiting those of others.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating
One can be certain of a thing when one has actually experienced it.
Prosperity gain friends adversity tries them
A friend in need is a friend indeed.
Very Useful Proverbs List
The proper study of mankind is man
Self-examination is the key to the understanding of human life.
Procrastination is the thief of time
Do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
Prevention is better than cure
Nip the evil in the bud prevent a mishap if you can than to find a remedy after wards.
A rolling stone gathers no moss
A men who is not steady cannot succeed.
Strike when the Iron is hot
Do not lose an opportunity when it comes.
Speech is silver, buzz silence is golden
Speak fitly or be silent wisely.
A stitch in time saves nine
If a thing goes wrong it must be mended at once otherwise it will cost extra money, time and trouble.
A sleeping fox catches no poultry
An idle man does not get anything.
Slow and steady wins the race
A man who sticks to his task is bound to succeed.
Time and tide wait for no man
The forces of nature are stronger than the powers of man.
They never fail who die in a good cause
Success is measured by the nobility of the cause.
Too many cooks spoil the broth
When too many people try the same thing at the same time, the result is naturally poor. There is no smoke without fire
There is many slip betwixt the cup and the lip
One should not be so confident about anything unless it is really in one’s grasp.
Two heads are better than one
Consultation lead to better results.
There is no smoke without fire
There is no effect without a cause.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Beauty is timeless and beyond the finite.
List of Proverbs in English
There is always a ‘but’ in this imperfect world
The strongest chain has its weakest link.
Time is a vest physician
Time heals all wounds.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown
Bigger responsibility mean bigger worries.
Virtue is its own reward
Do well and forget the rest.
Variety is the spice of life
Life is livable owing to change.
Where there is a quill there’s a way
When one is resolute to do something, the difficulties disappear all by themselves.
What can’t be cured must be endured
If you fail to find a remedy for a difficulty then try to bear it patiently.
Where ignorance is bliss ‘its folly to be wise
Blissful ignorance is at time to be preferred to wisdom which brings anxiety.
Whom the gods love die young
An early death spares youth from the bitterness of life.
When the cat’s away the mice will play
When the person in command is absent the other will do everything that they cannot do in his presence.
Who loves the roses must pull up with its thorns
Pleasure and pain go together.
Willful waste brings woeful want
Extravagance leads to poverty.
You can’t make an omelet without breaking egg
If you want to gain something in life, you will have to make small sacrifices.
You may lead a horse to a well, but you cannot make him drink
We can force a person to do what he does not want to do. We can direct him.to a certain extent but the final decision must be his.