English Proverbs

Compiled by Donia Zhang

1. Time and tide wait for no man.
Take time while time is, for time will away.

2. What may be done at any time will be done at no time.
What greater crime than loss of time.

3. What the fool does in the end,
the wise man does at the beginning.

4. Well begun is half done.
All is well that ends well.

5. Where there's a will there's a way.
Where there is life there is hope.

6. Money spend on the brain is never spent in vain.

7. The love of money and the love of learning rarely meet.

8. How much better to get wisdom than gold,
to choose understanding rather than silver!

9. Wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.

10. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.

11. Who is wise and understanding among you?
Let him show it by his good life,
by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
- James 3:13

12. Wisest is she who knows she does not know.
- Socrates, Greek philosopher

13. True insight comes from within.
- Socrates, Greek philosopher

14. He who knows what is right will do right.
- Socrates, Greek philosopher

15. A man's wisdom gives him patience;
it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

16. He has wit at will that with an angry heart can hold him still.

17. Wise men learn by other men's mistakes, fools, by their own.

18. Wit bought is better than wit taught.

19. A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.
The fool wanders, the wise man travels.

20. Wise men have their mouths in their hearts,
fools their hearts in their mouths.

21. No man can play the fool as well as the wise man.

22. A wise man's heart guides his mouth,
and his lips promote instruction.

23. The wise in heart are called discerning.
The discerning heart seeks knowledge.

24. He that boasts of his knowledge proclaims his ignorance.

25. Penny wise, pound foolish.
Spare well, spend well.

26. When I lent I was a friend, when I asked I was unkind.

27. Rich folk have many friends.
Poverty parts fellowship.
(Everyone is kin to the rich man.)

28. If you are too fortunate, you will not know yourself,
if you are too unfortunate, nobody will know you.

29. People who live in glass houses should never throw stones.

30. Glasses and lasses are brittle ware.
It is never too late to mend.

31. All roads lead to Rome.
Do in Rome as the Romans do.
Rome was not built in a day.

32. Still waters run deep.
A still tongue makes a wise man.

33. Speech is silver but silence is gold.
Speak fitly or be silent wisely.

34. Small sorrows speak, great ones are silent.

35. Learn to listen deeply without giving an overly quick reply.
Be a consoler, not a consultant. - Patrick Morley

36. It is the promise of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.
- The Poet at the Breakfast Table

37. Life is half spent before we know what it is.

38. A lazy youth, a lousy age.
(If you lie upon roses when young, you will lie upon thorn when old.)

39. Diligence is the mother of good luck.
Experience is the father of wisdom.

40. Necessity is the mother of invention.
Ignorance is the mother of devotion.

41. Knowledge is power. Knowledge increases strength.

42. Knowledge without practice makes but half an artist.

43. S/he who is ashamed of asking is ashamed of learning.

44. The devil sometimes speak the truth.
A liar is not believed when s/he speaks the truth.

45. The greater the truth, the greater the libel.

46. Great winds blow upon high hills.
A small leak will sink a great ship.

47. Words are but wind.
Word cut more than swords.
Let not your tongue cut your throat.

48. The greatest talkers are always the least doers.
Actions speak louder than words.

49. A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.
(Good words without deeds are rushes and reeds.)

50. Let patience grow in your garden always.

51. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

52. Better pay the butcher than the doctor.
Prevention is better than cure.
What can't be cured must be endured.

53. Good advice is beyond price.
Bitter pills may have wholesome effects.

54. Eat to live, but do not live to eat.
It is not how long, but how well we live.

55. One enemy is too many,
and a hundred friends too few.

56. Diamond cut diamond.
(Of people matched in cunning.)

57. Cups that cheer, but not inebriate.
Old friends and old wine are best.

58. What soberness conceals, drunkenness reveals.

59. Never cross a bridge before you come to it.

60. Never do things by halves.
Never write what you dare not sign.
Never too old to learn.

61. No pains, no gains.
No cross, no crown.
No root, no fruit.
No mill, no meal.

62. No rose without a thorn.
No joy without annoy.
No sweet without sweat.

63. That which was bitter to endure may be sweet to remember.

64. Who has never tasted bitter, knows not what is sweet.

65. S/he deserves not the sweet that will not taste the sour.

66. There is great force hidden in a sweet command.
There is no general rule without some exception.

67. A good lawyer makes an evil neighbor.

68. Fools build houses, and wise men buy them.
If you want a thing well done, do it yourself.

69. A bad workman quarrels with his tools.
Good workmen are seldom rich.

70. A good surgeon must have an eagle's eye, a lion's heart, and a lady's hand.

71. The chamber of sickness is the chapel of devotion.
A heart at peace gives life to the body.

72. The best physicians are Dr Diet, Quiet, and Dr Merryman.

73. A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit.

74. A cheerful heart is good medicine.
Hearts may agree though heads differ.

75. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Two of a trade never agree.

76. He is happiest, king or peasant, who finds his peace at home. - Goethe

77. Dry bread at home is better than roast meat abroad.
The way to be safe is never to feel secure.

78. Pride and grace dwell never in one place.

79. Promise is debt.
Promise little, do much.

80. Everybody's business is nobody's business.

81. The buyer needs a hundred eyes, the seller not one.

82. Honesty is the best policy.
Punctuality is the soul of business.

83. If a man deceives me once, shame on him;
if he deceives me twice, shame on me.

84. The darkest hour is before the dawn.

85. If there were no clouds, we should not enjoy the sun.
There are spots even on the sun.

86. When we bring sunshine into the lives of others, we are warmed by it ourselves.
When we spill a little happiness, it splashes on us.
- Barbara Johnson

87. A rainbow in the morning is the shepherd's warning;
a rainbow at night is the shepherd's delight.

88. The day has eyes and the night has ears.

89. The tortoise wins the race while the hare is sleeping.

90. Plough deep while others sleep and you shall have corn to sell and to keep.

91. Under water, famine, under snow, bread.

92. Little by little as the cat ate the flickle.
Many a little makes a mickle.

93. When the cat is away the mice will play.

94. When the fox says he is a vegetarian, it's time for the hen to look out.

95. Names and natures do often agree.
Nature draws more than ten oxen. Nature will out.

96. Thirty-five is a very attractive age.
London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have,
of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.
- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Anglo-Irish playwright and poet

97. A good poem begins in delight and ends with wisdom.

98. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
If you wish for peace, be prepared for war.

99. Yesterday is history,
tomorrow is a mystery,
and today is a gift,
that is why we call it the present.


Dale, R. (Ed.) (2004). A treasury of essential proverbs. Vancouver, Canada: Blue Heron Books.

Ellis, G. & Matuszak, P. (Eds.) (1999). Love everlasting. Michigan, USA: Zondervan Publishing House.

Gaarder, J. (1994). Sophie's world: a novel about the history of philosophy (Translated by P. Moller). New York: Berkley Books.

Liang, S., Zhang, L., & Liang, L. (Tr.) (1981). A selection of English proverbs. Hohhot, China: Inner Mongolia People's Press.

Back to Top