A proverb is a short saying that expresses a traditionally held truth or piece of advice, based on common sense or experience.
Nothing defines a culture as distinctly as its language, and the element of language that best encapsulates a society’s values and beliefs is its proverbs.
Here’s a list of the top 50 common proverbs with their meanings 👇🏾
- Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Meaning: being away from someone or something for a period of time makes you appreciate that person or thing more when you see them or it again.
- Actions speak louder than words
Meaning: Just saying that you’ll do something doesn’t mean much. Actually doing it is harder and more meaningful.
- All that glitters is not gold
Meaning: something might not be as valuable as it seems to be.
- All good things come to an end
Meaning: nothing great lasts forever.
- An idle brain is the devil’s workshop
Meaning: if you’ve nothing to do, you’ll likely think of mischief.
- Barking dogs seldom bite
Meaning: people who appear threatening rarely do harm.
- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Meaning: what may seem beautiful to one person may not seem the same to another.
- Beggars can’t be choosers
Meaning: people who depend on the generosity of others can’t pick and choose things as per their liking.
- Blood is thicker than water
Meaning: relationships with family (or blood relatives) is stronger than other relationships.
- Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Meaning: Cleanliness is a sign of goodness, a great virtue.
- Curiosity killed the cat
Meaning: inquisitiveness can lead one into dangerous situations.
- Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
Meaning: if someone’s paying you or helping you out, you have to be careful not to make them angry or say bad things about them.
- Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
Meaning: don’t make plans based on future events that may not happen at all.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover
Meaning: don’t form an opinion about someone by their appearance.
- Early bird catches the worm
Meaning: one who arrives first gets the best chance at success.
- Every cloud has a silver lining
Meaning: there is always a positive side to any difficult situation.
- Every dog has his day
Meaning: even the unluckiest or the most unfortunate will taste success at some point.
- Familiarity breeds contempt
Meaning: if you know a situation, person, or thing well, you stop respecting them and become careless.
- Fortune favours the bold
Meaning: people who bravely go after what they want are more successful than people who try to live safely.
- God helps those who help themselves
Meaning: don’t just wait for good things to happen to you. Work hard to achieve your goals.
- Good things come to those who wait
Meaning: Be patient. Eventually something good will happen to you.
- Grass is always greener on the other side
Meaning: people tend to want whatever they don’t have.
- Honesty is the best policy
Meaning: being honest is the best characteristic trait you can have.
- Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst
Meaning: bad things might happen, so be prepared.
- If wishes were horses, beggars would ride
Meaning: there’s no point in merely wishing for things. You need to actually work for them.
- It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all
Meaning: having experienced real love in one’s life is worth the pain of losing it.
- It never rains but it pours
Meaning: misfortunes or difficult situations tend to follow each other in rapid succession or to arrive all at the same time.
- Jack of all trades, master of none
Meaning: refers to a person who can do many different types of work but who is not necessarily very competent at any of them.
- Keep your friends close and your enemies closer
Meaning: keep a keen eye on enemies beyond what one might have on their friends.
- Laughter is the best medicine
Meaning: thinking positively and laughing will help you to feel better.
- Let bygones be bygones
Meaning: forget past offences or causes of conflict and be reconciled.
- Look before you leap
Meaning: consider all consequences before taking an action, especially when you can’t retract.
- Make hay while the sun shines
Meaning: make the most of favorable conditions till they last.
- Necessity is the mother of invention
Meaning: when you’re really in need, you think of creative solutions to your problems.
- Never look a gift horse in the mouth
Meaning: if someone offers you a gift, don’t question it.
- One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
Meaning: different people have different ideas about what’s valuable.
- Out of sight, out of mind
Meaning: the idea that something is easily forgotten or dismissed as unimportant if it is not in our direct view.
- Pen is mightier than the sword
Meaning: writing is more effective than military power or violence.
- People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at others
Meaning: people who have faults should not criticize other people for having the same faults.
- Practice makes perfect
Meaning: you have to practice a skill a lot to become good at it.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day
Meaning: important work takes time to complete.
- Slow and steady wins the race
Meaning: slow and consistent work leads to better chance of success than quick work in spurts.
- Strike while the iron is hot
Meaning: take advantage of an opportunity as soon as it comes along.
- There is no time like the present
Meaning: the best time to do something is right now. So, act now.
- Two heads are better than one
Meaning: when two people cooperate with each other, they come up with better ideas.
- What goes around comes around
Meaning: if someone treats other people badly, he or she will eventually be treated badly by someone else.
- When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Meaning: when visiting a foreign land, follow the customs of local people.
- When the going gets tough, the tough get going
Meaning: when conditions become difficult, strong people take action.
- You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink
Meaning: if you try to help someone, but they don’t take your advice or offers, give up. You can’t force someone to accept your help.
- You show me the man and I’ll show you the rule
Meaning: rules change depending on how influential or powerful the person likely to be affected by the rules is.