A proverb is a short, pithy saying that expresses a traditionally held truth or piece of advice, based on common sense or experience. ... No collection of proverbs in English would be complete without the proverbs.
Some examples of English proverbs include: Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. It's no use locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.
A 'proverb' is a wise saying. It is similar to a parable in the fact it bears a hidden message. Therefore,The Book of Proverbs has been known as the book of wisdom from the very beginning. Most of the writing of Proverbs has been credited to the pen of Solomon.
Proverbs become popular because “people use them to connect with other people and the wisdom of the past.” In our work life, that wisdom is usually usedto motivate colleagues and employees. ... That, in turn, may keep proverbadherents “from thinking more deeply about what they're doing.”
1. A bad workman always blames his tools.
This proverb is used when someone blames the quality of their equipment or other external factors when they perform a task poorly.
Example: X: The turkey isn’t cooked well because the oven is not functioning well. Y: Well, it’s the case of a bad workman blaming his tools.
2. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Things we already have are more valuable than what we hope to get.
Example: The question now is will Carmichael live to regret turning down such a lucrative offer? A bird in the hand…
3. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
When people we love are not with us, we love them even more.
Example: When I was with her she always fought with me but now she cries for me on phone. I think that distance made her heart grow fonder.
4. A cat has nine lives.
Cat can survive seemingly fatal events.
Example: I haven’t seen him for several weeks, but I wouldn’t really worry about him. Everyone knows a cat has nine lives.
5. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
One weak part will render the whole weak.
Example: No matter how confident the team is, it is as strong as its weakest link – its defence.
6. Actions speak louder than words.
Actions are a better reflection of one’s character because it’s easy to say things, but difficult to act on them and follow through.
Example: Julie always says she’ll donate to the school, and she never does, so I doubt she will this year. Actions speak louder than words, after all.
7. A drowning man will clutch at a straw.
When someone is in a difficult situation, s/he will take any available opportunity to improve it.
Example: After trying all reliable medicines, he is now visiting quacks to get a cure for his baldness. A drowning man will clutch at a straw.
8. A fool and his money are soon parted.
Foolish people do not know how to hold on to their money.
Example: She gave up her entire estate on the basis of a verbal promise. A fool and his money are indeed easily parted.
9. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Howsoever big a task is, it starts with a small step.
Example: I’m feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of completing my 4,000-word paper by next week, but I guess I’ll start by writing 500 words every day. After all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
10. All good things come to an end.
Good experiences eventually come to an end.
Example: I was so sad to graduate from college and leave all of my friends, but I’ve to realize that all good things come to an end.
11. All’s well that ends well.
As long as the outcome is good, problems on the way don’t matter.
Example: I’m glad you finally got here, even though your car had a flat tire on the way. Oh well, all’s well that ends well.
12. All roads lead to Rome.
There are many different routes to the same goal.
Example: Mary was criticizing the way Jane was planting the flowers. John said, “Never mind, Mary, all roads lead to Rome.” Some people learn by doing. Others have to be taught. In the long run, all roads lead to Rome.
13. All that glitters is not gold.
Things that look good outwardly may not be as valuable or good.
Example: X: I want to be a movie star when I grow up. Y: Film industry looks good from the distance, but it has its own problems. Remember, all that glitters is not gold.
14. All’s fair in love and war.
One can break the rules of fair play under extenuating circumstances.
Example: X: How can you pitch my idea to the boss to look good? Y: Come on, all is fair in love and war.
15. Always put your best foot forward.
Try as hard as you can or give your best.
Example: You need to put your best foot forward in the interview if you want to land that job.
16. Among the blind the one-eyed man is king.
An incapable person can gain powerful position if others in the fray are even more incapable.
Example: Despite his obvious lack of exposure and skills, he became head of the department because he is one-eyed among the blind.
17. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Eating an apple a day will keep you healthy.
Example: Switch from chips to apples for your snack. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
18. An empty vessel makes much noise.
Foolish or stupid people are the most talkative.
Example: The spokesperson of the ruling political party yesterday was shouting at the top of his voice on a TV debate, trying to defend the indefensible. Empty vessel makes much noise.
19. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
If someone does something wrong, then they should be punished by same degree of injury or punishment.
Example: I won’t be satisfied with such paltry punishment to the wrongdoers. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; this I demand from all who have wronged me.
20. An idle brain is the devil’s workshop.
If you’ve nothing to do, you’ll likely think of mischief.
Example: The kids should be kept busy during the summer break. Otherwise, you know an idle brain is devil’s workshop.
21. An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.
A little precaution before a crisis hits is better than lot of firefighting afterwards.
Example: Get the vaccination on priority. An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.
22. A picture is worth a thousand words.
It is easier to show or explain something through a picture than through words.
Example: A picture is worth a thousand words. It is easier to learn biology through pictures than through reams of text.
23. A rolling stone gathers no moss.
A person who is always changing jobs and places has the advantage of less responsibilities, but also the disadvantage of no fixed place to live.
Example: He was a bit of rolling stone before he got the job and settled down.
24. As fit as a fiddle.
To be very healthy and strong.
Example: The deputy Prime Minister is 87, but he’s as fit as a fiddle.
25. A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is for.
Get out of your comfort zone to grow and fulfill your potential.
Example: I think your fears are unfounded. You should travel to Italy for the Model UN. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot. Remember, a ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is for.
26. A stitch in time saves nine.
It’s better to deal with problems immediately rather than wait by when they worsen and become much bigger.
Example: Because we anticipated and responded to the possible change in Facebook algorithm, the referral traffic to our website dropped much less than what happened to some of our competitors. A stitch in time saves nine.
27. As you sow, so you shall reap.
Your actions – good or bad – determine what you get.
Example: You’ve got entangled in few cases of fraud. That’s a result of your illegal get-rich-quick methods. You should have known as you sow, so you shall reap.
28. A thing begun is half done.
A good beginning makes it easier to accomplish the rest of the project.
Example: He has already won first set in the match. I think he is on course to take this match. Well begun is half done, after all.
29. Barking dogs seldom bite.
People who appear threatening rarely can do harm.
Example: X: I’m really scared to report the delay in the project to the boss. His temper is so over the top. Y: I don’t think you should worry too much about it. Barking dogs seldom bite.
30. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
What may seem beautiful to one person may not seem to another.
Example: You may not like the curves of my new car, but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
31. Beauty is only skin deep.
A person’s character, intellect, and other inner qualities are more important than his/ her physical beauty.
Example: That gorgeous actress behaved so rudely with the driver – beauty is skin deep, after all.
32. Beggars can’t be choosers.
People who depend on the generosity of others can’t pick & choose things as per their liking. They’ve to accept what is given to them.
Example: X: I borrowed this jacket from my friend, but it’s not one of his nice ones. Y: Well, but, beggars can’t be choosers.
33. Better late than never.
It is better to get something (you desire) late than get it never.
Example: I’m sorry I’m late to the party, but better late than never, right?
34. Better to be poor and healthy rather than rich and sick.
Good health is more important than money.
Example: The pharma tycoon has been in and out of hospital for the last two months because of kidney ailments. It’s better to be poor and healthy than rich and sick.
35. Blood is thicker than water.
Relationships with family (or blood relatives) is stronger than other relationships.
Example: My friends invited me for the picnic on Sunday, but I have to go to my cousin’s birthday instead. Blood is thicker than water, isn’t it?
36. Call a spade a spade.
To say the truth about something, even if it is not polite or pleasant.
Example: To call a spade a spade, he wouldn’t hesitate from backstabbing you if it serves his interests.
37. Clothes do not make the man.
A person’s character can’t be judged by his/ her clothing and outward appearance.
Example: X: I can’t believe he has been charged for insider trading. He always seemed so professional and impeccable. Y: Well, clothes don’t make the man.
38. Cowards die many times before their deaths.
Cowards suffer the feared effects of death many times over in their lives.
Example: X: He is constantly worried about the security of his job, and I don’t think he’ll pursue his true interests. Y: He exemplifies the saying ‘cowards die many times before their deaths’.
39. Cross the stream where it is shallowest.
To do things in the easiest possible way.
Example: Let’s just cross the stream where it is shallowest and find a spot that you can pull right in to—don’t worry about parallel parking.
40. Curiosity killed the cat.
Enquiring into others’ work can be dangerous. One should mind own business.
Example: I know curiosity killed the cat, but I can’t stop the investigation until I know where the donations are really going.
41. Curses, like chickens, come home to roost.
The consequences of doing wrong always catch up with the wrongdoer.
Example: Politicians can fool some people some of the time, but in the end, the chickens come home to roost.
42. Discretion is the better part of valor.
It is wise to be careful and not show unnecessary bravery.
Example: Son: Can I go hand gliding with my friends? Father: No. Son: But they’ll say I’m chicken if I don’t go! Father: Discretion is the better part of valor, and I’d rather have them call you chicken than risk your life.
43. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Don’t take more responsibility than you can handle.
Example: I bit off more than I can chew when I said ‘yes’ to my boss for another project.
44. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Don’t act badly toward the person who has helped you or from whom you derive some benefits, for you may lose those benefits in future.
Example: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you by talking ill of your mentor for such a small thing. If he distances himself from you or talk bad about you, it can hurt you bad.
45. Don’t cast pearls before swine.
Don’t offer something valuable to someone who doesn’t value it.
Example: To serve them French cuisine is like casting pearls before swine.
46. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Don’t make plans based on future events that may not happen at all.
Example: X: I’ve to prepare for my campaign. Y: But you haven’t been nominated yet. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
47. Don’t cross a bridge until you come to it.
Deal with a situation when it happens and not unnecessarily worry about it in advance.
Example: I know you’re worried about the mortgage payment in January, but don’t cross the bridge till you come to it.
48. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Just like you can’t form an opinion of a book just by looking at its cover, you can’t form an opinion about someone (or something) from their outward appearance.
Example: He seems a bit jerk to me, but, hey, you never know. He may be good. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
49. Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
If you kill a goose that lays golden eggs, you destroy something that makes lot of money for you.
Example: Tourists come to this city mainly to see this monument. By opening it to commercial use, the city council may kill the goose that lays golden eggs.
50. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.
To exaggerate a small problem to make it seem like a major one.
Example: One incorrect answer in the exam is not going to tank your grades. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.
51. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Don’t put all your effort into a single course of action, venture, investment, goal, or the like, because if it doesn’t work, you lose everything.
Example: Almost entire revenue of the Company comes from the Facebook platform. If Facebook tweaks its policies in future, the Company may sink. They shouldn’t put all their eggs in the same basket.
52. Don’t put the cart before the horse.
Do things in proper order. ‘Horse before the cart’ is the proper order, and not ‘cart before the horse’.
Example: Don’t put the cart before the horse by finalizing the house you want to buy before you arrange the funds for down payment.
53. Don’t throw the baby with the bathwater.
Don’t discard something valuable while getting rid of something worthless.
Example: We shouldn’t scrap the entire project for a subpart not planned well. Let’s not throw the baby with the bathwater.
54. Early bird catches the worm.
One who starts early on the work has higher chance of success.
Example: X: Why have you come so early for the season-ending sale? Y: So that I can choose from a wider selection and get a better piece. Early bird catches the worm, after all.
55. Easy come, easy go.
You say this when you get something easily and then lose it as easily.
Example: I found fifty dollars while on my morning walk, but I frittered it away foolishly by the afternoon – easy come, easy go.
56. Every cloud has a silver lining.
Every bad or negative situation can result in some benefit to you. (The presence of silver lining means that the sun is behind the cloud and will eventually emerge.)
Example: I know your business has suffered few setbacks this season. But remember, every cloud has a silver lining.
57. Every dog has his day.
Even the unluckiest or the most unfortunate will taste success at some point.
Example: Are you surprised that John, the laggard, has got 92 percent marks in math? Well, every dog has his day.
58. Eat like a bird.
Example: You don’t need to order that much food. She eats like a bird.
59. Every man has his price.
Anyone can be swayed to do something. It’s just that some may demand high price, some low. This proverb is also used in the sense of bribing people.
Example: X: He has declined our offer to join the company. Y: Sweeten the offer. Raise the compensation. Every man has his price.
60. Fall seven times. Stand up eight.
Be resilient and try despite failures. That’s how you succeed.
Example: Abraham Lincoln lost so many elections, but he kept trying. Eventually he became the President of United States. It’s rightly said: Fall seven times. Stand up eight.
61. First come, first served.
Those who arrive first will receive first.
Example: The first 100 subscribers will receive an Amazon gift card. It’s first come, first served.
62. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Fools or inexperienced persons get involved in situations or pursue goals without much thought. In contrast, wise are thoughtful about such situations or goals.
Example: He sent an angry email without going into the background of the matter – fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
63. Fortune favors the brave.
If you carry out your plans boldly, the luck is more likely to favor you.
Example: I know you’re hesitant to accept the overseas position in your Company because the ground realities there are different from what you’ve faced so far, but remember fortune favors the brave.
64. Get out while the going (getting) is good.
To leave a place or situation before conditions worsen and it becomes difficult to leave.
Example: With the stock market at an all-time high and further upside looking difficult, we decided sell our shares and get out while the going was good.
65. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.
If you give someone a small amount of power or freedom to do something, they may try to get a lot more.
Example: He borrowed my car for a day, but hasn’t returned even after four days. Well, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.
66. God helps those who help themselves.
God doesn’t help those who don’t try. You’ve to make effort if you want to succeed.
Example: You’ve to take the bull by horns and try getting a new job. God helps those who help themselves.
67. Go in one ear and out the other.
If something you hear goes in one ear and out the other, you quickly forget it.
Example: Their advice to her went in one ear and out the other.
68. Good things come to those who wait.
Patience is often rewarded.
Example: The best investors in the world have made their fortunes by investing for the long term. Good things come to those who wait.
69. Grief divided is made lighter.
If you share your grief, it’ll get easier to bear.
Example: You shouldn’t hold back the news of financial loss you’ve incurred in your business. Grief divided is made lighter.
70. Half a loaf is better than none.
Getting less than what one wants is better than not getting anything.
Example: X: Did you get the compensation for damage to your vehicle? Y: I was hoping for $2,000, but the judge awarded only $800. X: Well, half a loaf is better than none.
71. Honesty is the best policy.
It’s always better to be truthful and honest, even if the opposite may get you the benefits.
Example: I think you should just explain what happened, rather than trying to cover your tracks. Honesty is the best policy, after all.
72. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Be optimistic, but be prepared for a scenario where things can go wrong.
Example: We’re hoping to raise capital from investors, but it may not come so soon. Therefore, it’s imperative to look for alternatives as well. Let’s hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
73. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If something is working fine, don’t change it unnecessarily.
Example: X: Why do you want to change this component in the machine when everything is working fine? Y: OK. I agree. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
74. If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.
If things don’t turn the way you want them to, then adjust your way to suit those things.
Example: I need that book for completing my assignment. If you aren’t coming to the college tomorrow, I’ll come to your place to take it – if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.
75. If you can’t beat them, join them.
If you can’t beat your opponent, then work alongside them for mutual benefit.
Example: ABC Pvt. Ltd. has struck partnership with its competitor after it failed to gain market share despite aggressive marketing. If you can’t beat them, join them.
76. If you play with fire, you’ll get burned.
If you do something dangerous or adventurous, you may get harmed.
Example: Enacting the stunts of movie superheroes in real life is playing with fire. You may get burned.
77. Ignorance is bliss.
If you don’t know about something, you don’t need to bother about it. In other words, if you’re unaware of something, it won’t cause you stress. This proverb, however, is often used in negative way – ignorance is not bliss.
Example: I didn’t know that the neighbor next door was involved in criminal activities. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
78. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
It’s better to be cautious than regret later.
Example: One shouldn’t complain about the inconvenience of security check each time you enter the building. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
79. It’s easy to be wise after the event.
It is easy to understand what you could have done to prevent something bad from happening after it has happened.
Example: I would have never bought an apartment if I had known that the land on which it has been built is disputed. Well, it’s easy to be wise after the event.
80. It’s never too late to mend.
It’s never too late to change your wrong ways or habits.
Example: X: I still miss my best friend, but it’s been a year since our fight and we haven’t spoken to each other since. Y: Well, it’s never too late to mend; why don’t you call him up and apologize?
81. It’s no use crying over spilt milk.
There is no point in staying upset over a mistake because you can’t undo what has happened.
Example: X: He is feeling terrible for accidently elbowing the flower pot from the window. Y: It’s broken now. It’s no use crying over spilt milk.
82. It’s the tip of the iceberg.
If you say something is tip of the iceberg, you mean that thing is just a small part of the entire thing.
Example: The flooding is bad, but we’re dealing with just the tip of the iceberg – water-borne diseases are waiting to break out.
83. It takes two to make a quarrel.
An argument of quarrel is not one person’s fault.
Example: X: Why are you always so quarrelsome? Y: I’m not the only person involved. It takes two to make a quarrel.
84. It takes two to tango.
Where two parties are involved in a situation, fault usually lies with both if things go wrong. Rarely can one party be blamed entirely.
Example: This deal won’t go through unless you too are willing to compromise. It takes two to tango, after all.
85. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open.
Speak only when necessary and remain alert and observant at all times.
Example: We’re in a hostile territory. So, to avoid problems, keep your mouth shut and your eyes open.
86. Kill two birds with one stone.
Solve two problems with the same action.
Example: He killed two birds with one stone by buying the grocery and visiting the museum on the same route.
87. Laughter is the best medicine.
Thinking positively and laughing will help you to feel better.
Example: I think the best thing for you right now would be to spend some time with people you can joke around with. Laughter is the best medicine, after all.
88. Learn to walk before you run.
Learn basic skills first before venturing into complex things.
Example: X: I want to submit my first article to Fortune magazine for publication. Y: I think I you should aim for smaller publications to start with. You should learn to walk before you run.
89. Let sleeping dogs lie.
Don’t talk about a bad situation people have forgotten and that could unnecessarily create problem in the present.
Example: X: Should I ask the professor if he is upset about my late submission of the assignment? Y: If he hasn’t said anything, then don’t bring forth the topic – let sleeping dogs lie.
90. Lightning never strikes twice in the same place.
Misfortune does not occur twice in the same way to the same person.
Example: X: I don’t want to take this route, because I was robbed the last time I traveled on this route. Y: Don’t worry, lightning never strikes twice in the same place.
91. Like a fish out of water.
To feel awkward because you are in a situation that you have not experienced before.
Example: I felt like a fish out of water during my first week in the college, as I hardly knew anyone there.
92. Look before you leap.
Consider all consequences before taking an action, especially when you can’t retract.
Example: X: I’m planning to pursue an MBA. Y: It’s an expensive degree and, moreover, you’ll be out of work for two years. I would say look before you leap.
93. Make an offer one can’t refuse.
Make such an attractive proposition that it would be foolhardy for anyone to refuse it.
Example: The competitor offered $6 billion for our company. It was an offer we couldn’t refuse.
94. Make hay while the sun shines.
Make the most of favorable conditions till they last.
Example: I got plenty of referral traffic to my website from Facebook in its initial years. I made hay while the sun shone. Later on they changed their algorithm, after which the traffic dried.
95. Money doesn’t grow on trees.
Spend money carefully because it’s limited. You can’t grow it on trees and replenish.
Example: I’m surprised that you spent your entire month’s salary on a frivolous gadget. Well, money doesn’t grow on trees.
96. Money talks.
Money gives one power and influence.
Example: I don’t have access to many people like he has, after all he is a scion of a rich family. Money talks, you know.
97. Necessity is the mother of invention.
A need or problem forces people to come up with innovative solutions.
Example: In some parts of the world, farmers use washing machine to clean potatoes in large volumes. Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention.
98. Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Don’t delay doing something if you can do it immediately.
Example: X: I’m done with most of my assignment, but I’ll pick the remaining part on Monday. Y: Why don’t you complete it now? You’ll be more relieved and in a better state of mind. You shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
99. No gain without pain.
It is necessary to suffer or work hard in order to succeed or make progress.
Example: You’ve to drastically reduce the time you spend on video games and TV if you want to get admission in a good college. No gain without pain.
100. No news is good news.
If you don’t receive any news about someone or something, it means that everything is fine and going normally.
Example: My daughter has been working in Australia for nearly five years now. At first I used to get worried when I didn’t hear from her, but now I know that no news is good news.
101. Once bitten twice shy.
You say this proverb when someone won’t do something a second time because they had bad experience the first time.
Example: I won’t try this drink, because last time I had a burning sensation in my throat. Once bitten twice shy, I guess.
102. One shouldn’t miss forest for the trees.
Sometimes you get so focused on small details that you may miss the larger context.
Example: The marketers got so bogged down on creating the perfect ad campaign that they didn’t realize that the medium – Facebook – they wanted to use was no longer a viable option because of its recent algorithm updates.
103. Out of sight, out of mind.
If someone or something is not seen for a long time, it’ll be forgotten.
Example: Many celebrities find a way to appear in media because they know that out of sight is out of mind.
104. Paddle your own canoe.
Be independent and not need help from anyone.
Example: After I went to boarding school in my teens, I started paddling my own canoe to a large extent.
105. Pen is mightier than sword.
Thinking and writing have more influence on people and events than use of force.
Example: After the mass killings at the newspaper office, there is a protest which is happening in the city declaring support to the paper and proving that pen is mightier than sword.
106. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at others.
People who have faults should not criticize other people for having the same faults.
Example: The main political party in the opposition has blamed the ruling party for giving tickets to people with dubious background in the upcoming elections. But the big question is: are they themselves clean on this count? People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at others.
107. Practice makes perfect.
Doing something over and over makes one better at it.
Example: You can’t expect to master guitar in two months. You’ve to keep at it for several months, as practice makes perfect.
108. Practice what you preach.
Behave in the way that you encourage other people to behave in.
Example: You keep telling us to go for a jog in the morning, but I wish you would practice what you preach.
109. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Important work takes time to complete.
Example: You can’t expect her to finish such a complex project in a week. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
110. Silence is half consent.
If you don’t object to what someone says or does, you may be assumed to agree to some extent.
Example: He didn’t say anything to my proposal of going for a picnic on the weekend. I believe he is not saying ‘no’. Silence is half consent.
111. Slow and steady wins the race.
Slow and consistent work leads to better chance of success than quick work in spurts.
Example: X: I’ve built a strong vocabulary by learning a word a day for the last three years. Y: Mine has been much less even though I’ve had days when I polished ten words. I guess slow and steady wins the race.
112. Still waters run deep.
If a person doesn’t speak much, it doesn’t mean they lack depth or are uninteresting.
Example: She is one of the smartest persons in the organization. She may not talk much, but still waters run deep.
113. Strike while the iron is hot.
Take advantage of an opportunity as soon as it exists.
Example: I thought over the job offer I got way too long. Now it has been offered to someone else. I should have struck while the iron was hot.
114. The best-laid plans go astray.
Despite best preparations, things may not go your way.
Example: X: I had everything covered for this project, but now I’m told that the project can’t go ahead because the Company is planning an organizational restructuring. Y: Well, that’s unfortunate, but sometimes the best-laid plans go astray.
115. The end justifies the means.
A desired result is so important that any method, even a morally bad one, may be used to achieve it.
Example: He’s campaigning with illegal funds on the theory that if he wins the election the end will justify the means.
116. The harder you work, the luckier you get.
The harder you work, the more good ideas and chances you may make for yourself.
Example: Many think he got lucky in getting that fat contract, but few know he had been pursuing dozens of such contracts for several weeks – the harder you work, the luckier you get.
117. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
People are never satisfied with their own situation; they always think others have it better.
Example: X: When I see him post all those travel pictures on Instagram, I feel he has the perfect life. Y: It’s usually not like that in real life. I’m sure he too has his share of problems. I see your thought as grass being greener on the other side of the fence.
118. The pot is calling the kettle black.
People should not criticize someone else for a fault that they themselves have.
Example: He accused me of being selfish. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
119. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
You can only judge the quality of something after you have tried, used, or experienced it.
Example: X: Marketers have claimed that this weight loss diet produces strong results in just two months. Y: Well, I’ll reserve my opinion till I’ve tried it myself. After all, proof of pudding is in the eating.
120. There are more ways than one to skin a cat.
There is more than one way to reach the same goal.
Example: We can get around that by renting instead of buying the delivery van – there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
121. There is no time like the present.
The best time to do something is right now. So, act now.
Example: Don’t wait until New Year to change this bad habit. There’s no time like the present.
122. There is safety in numbers.
A group offers more protection than when you are on your own.
Example: Her parents won’t allow her to date but do let her go to parties, saying there’s safety in numbers.
123. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Good intentions do not matter if a person’s actions lead to bad outcomes.
Example: X: Well, I was only trying to be helpful by mixing those two acids. Y: But, it exploded the beaker. Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
124. The show must go on.
A performance, event, etc., must continue even though there are problems.
Example: The chairman died yesterday but the show must go on.
125. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
People who complain the most are the ones who get attention or what they want.
Example: If you’re not satisfied with the service at the hotel, then you should call up the manager there. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, after all.
126. The tail is wagging the dog.
If the tail is wagging the dog, then a small or unimportant part of something is becoming too important and is controlling the whole thing.
Example: Their group is small but very vocal, so be sure that management doesn’t give in to their demands. We don’t want the tail wagging the dog, after all.
127. Time and tide wait for no man.
You’ve no control over passage of time; it’ll keep slipping. So don’t procrastinate, don’t delay things.
Example: We need to hurry up or else we’ll miss the flight. Time and tide wait for no man.
128. To know which side your bread is buttered on.
Be aware of where one’s best interests lie.
Example: I know which side my bread is buttered on. So, I was very nice to the recruiter and promptly sent her a thank you card after our interview.
129. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
When too many people work together on a project, the result is inferior.
Example: This proposal has received feedback from too many parliamentary committees, and that’s probably the reason why it lacks clear actionables. I’ve no doubt that too many cooks spoil the broth.
130. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
You shouldn’t harm a person who has harmed you, even if you think that person deserves it.
Example: Just because he insulted you doesn’t mean it’s OK for you to start a rumor about him – two wrongs don’t make a right.
131. What goes around comes around.
If someone treats other people badly, he or she will eventually be treated badly by someone else.
Example: He tormented me back in high school, and now he has his own bully. What goes around comes around.
132. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
When visiting a foreign land, follow the customs of local people.
Example: I don’t love cotton candy, but we are at a carnival. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right?
133. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
When conditions become difficult, strong people take action.
Example: I know you’re not used to climbing at such heights, but come on when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
134. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
If you are determined enough, you can find a way to achieve what you want, even if it is very difficult.
Example: He had little resources to start his business, but he eventually did through a small opening – blog. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
135. Where there’s smoke there’s fire.
If there are rumors or signs that something is true so it must be at least partly true.
Example: X: Do you believe those rumors about the mayor? Y: Well, you know what they say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
136. Where one door shuts, another opens.
When you lose an opportunity to do one thing, an opportunity to do something else appears.
Example: X: I failed to get into my dream college. Y: Don’t worry, this has happened to many. I’m sure something better is waiting for you. Where one door shuts, another opens.
137. While the cat’s away, the mice will play.
Without supervision, people will do as they please, especially in disregarding or breaking rules.
Example: As soon as their parents left, the children invited all their friends over – when the cat’s away, you know.
138. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
It’s easier to win people to your side by persuasion and politeness than by confrontation and threats.
Example: X: The courier service has taken more time to deliver than they had promised. I want to take the issue up with them and get a refund. Y: I would suggest you deal with them politely. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
139. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
You can show people the way to do things, but you can’t force them to act.
Example: X: He has received all the resources one needs to start a business, but even after six months I don’t see anything happening. Y: Well, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
140. You can’t always get what you want.
Sometimes you may face disappointments in your pursuits or your wishes may not be fulfilled.
Example: X: I want a bike on my birthday. Y: Sorry, you can’t always get what you want.
141. You can’t fit a round peg in a square hole.
You can’t force someone into a role for which s/he is not suited.
Example: It took me a while, but I eventually understood that I was a round peg in a square hole in the firm. That’s why I quit for a better fitting role.
142. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
To have two things that one desires, but they’re normally impossible to get simultaneously.
Example: If you want more local services, you can’t expect to pay less tax. Well, you can’t have your cake and eat it.
143. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.
It is hard to achieve something important without causing unpleasant effects.
Example: If I don’t slash people’s salaries, the company is going to go bankrupt. It’s unfortunate, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.
144. You can’t perform with one arm tied behind your back.
If you’ve to work with one arm tied behind, you work with a big handicap.
Example: How do you expect me to win that deal without the flexibility to reduce price? You can’t expect me to deliver results with one arm tied behind my back.
145. You can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
You can’t support both sides of a conflict or dispute.
Example: How can you be taken seriously as a reformer when you have continued to accept gifts? You can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, Senator.
146. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
People who have long been used to doing things in a particular way will not abandon their habits.
Example: I bet you can’t get him to get up at 5 AM and go out for a walk. After all, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
147. You can’t win them all.
It is not possible to succeed at everything you do.
Example: I know you’re disappointed to not convert that interview, but you can’t win them all.
148. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
If you help me, I’ll help you.
Example: If you help me get customers, I’ll put in a good word for you. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
149. You should know which way the wind is blowing.
Anticipate how a certain plan or situation will likely unfold.
Example: I think I’ll see which way the wind is blowing before I vote at the board meeting.
150. You show me the man and I’ll show you the rule.
Rules change depending on how influential or powerful the person likely to be affected by the rules is.
Example: X: He has been treated leniently by the police. Y: That’s why they say – you show me the man and I’ll show you the rule.