47 of the Most Popular Proverbs From Around the World

What Do They Mean to You, and Which Ones Resonate the Most?

Egypt, Sinai Desert, hiker standing on rock

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Proverbs are usually concise phrases that give advice or state a truism. Proverbs can sound deep and wise, but it is the cultural context of proverbs that lend them meaning. Without context, these proverbs must be interpreted in light of your own personal experience.

Proverbs have been part of human culture for thousands of years. Some of those from China, Africa, and the Middle East, for example, were first coined long before the Roman Empire.

Some proverbs from other countries may sound familiar to you. It is common for countries to have their own versions of a proverb. For example, the Dutch proverb "Do not wake sleeping dogs" appears in the U.S. as "Let sleeping dogs lie." They mean the same thing. Here is a collection of famous proverbs from around the world.

African Proverbs

"A king's child is a slave elsewhere."

"What forgets is the ax, but the tree that has been axed will never forget."

"It is no shame at all to work for money." 

"A loose tooth will not rest until it's pulled out." 

"He who digs too deep for a fish may come out with a snake." 

"The path is made by walking."

Australian Proverbs

"None are so deaf as those who would not hear."

"Once bitten, twice shy."

"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

"A bad worker blames his tools."

"In the planting season, visitors come singly, and in harvest time they come in crowds."

Egyptian Proverbs

"We tell them it is a bull, they say milk it."

"Go far, you'll be loved more."

"Do a good deed and throw it into the sea."

"Time never gets tired of running."

Bulgarian Proverbs

"Tell me who your friends are, so I can tell you who you are."

"The wolf has a thick neck because he does his job on his own." 

"Measure thrice, cut once." 

"Help yourself to help God help you." 

Chinese Proverbs

"If you're poor, change and you'll succeed."

"Big fish eat small fish."

"No one knows a son better than the father." 

"No shame in asking questions, even to people of lower status."

Croatian Proverbs

"The way it came is the way it will go."

"Hasten slowly." 

"All that's well lasts short." 

Dutch Proverbs

"Cost goes before the profit."

"Do not wake sleeping dogs."

"Every little pot has a fitting lid."

"Think before acting; and whilst acting, still think."

English Proverbs

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

"The pen is mightier than the sword."

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease."

"No man is an island."

"People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

"Better late than never."

"Two wrongs don't make a right."

German Proverbs

"He who rests grows rusty."

"Starting is easy, persistence is an art."

"The cheapest is always the most expensive."

"Make haste with leisure."

Hungarian Proverb

"Who is curious gets old quickly."

Russian Proverbs

"Draw not your bow till your arrow is fixed."

"When the rich make war, it's the poor that die."

"When the cat is away, the mice will play."

"Many hands make light work."

"Be swift to hear, slow to speak."

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Khurana, Simran. "47 of the Most Popular Proverbs From Around the World." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/famous-proverbs-and-quotes-2833003. Khurana, Simran. (2020, August 26). 47 of the Most Popular Proverbs From Around the World. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/famous-proverbs-and-quotes-2833003 Khurana, Simran. "47 of the Most Popular Proverbs From Around the World." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/famous-proverbs-and-quotes-2833003 (accessed June 4, 2023).