proverbs and sayings

Idiom of “proverbs and sayings”

A proverb is a quotation from popular wisdom, unattributable to a particular author or thinker. It expresses an agreed truth in a memorable way. Some proverbs are very old, as we realise from their archaic language: Judge not, that ye be not judged. Others are recent, reminding us that they continue to be made: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Alliteration (Punctuality is the politeness of princes), assonance (A stitch in time saves nine) and rhyme (A friend in need is a friend indeed) are common devices in proverbs. They have given many idiomatic nuggets to the language, often in the form of parts of proverbs bandied about as allusions and catch-phrases. The following brief list of proverbs is the tip of a huge iceberg, the bracketed sections indicating those parts which are often dropped from speech.

All that glisters (is not gold).
All work and no play (makes Jack a dull boy).
An apple a day (keeps the doctor away).
Ask a silly question (and you’ll get a silly answer).
Ask no questions (and you’ll hear no lies).
Better safe than sorry.
Better late than never.
A bird in the hand (is worth two in the bush).
Birds of a feather (flock together).
A cat may look at a king.
Curiosity killed the cat.
Cut your coat (according to your cloth).
Don’t count your chickens (before they’re hatched).
Don’t cross your bridges (till you come to them).
Don’t spoil the ship (for a halfpennyworth of tar).
The early bird (catches the worm).
Empty vessels (make the most noise).
Finders keepers(, losers weepers).
Fine words butter no parsnips.
A fool and his money are soon parted.
Forewarned is fore-armed.
Give a thief enough rope (and he’ll hang himself).
God helps them who help themselves.
Half a loaf is better than no bread.
He who pays the piper (calls the tune).
He who sups with the devil (should use a long spoon).
Honesty is the best policy.
If wishes were horses(, beggars would ride).
If you want a thing well done, do it yourself.
In for a penny(, in for a pound).
It is no use crying over spilt milk.
It will be all the same in a hundred years.
Jack of all trades(, master of none).
Laughter is the best medicine.
Let sleeping dogs lie.
Love laughs at locksmiths.
Love your neighbour but don’t pull down the fence.
Make hay (while the sun shines).
Many a mickle (makes a muckle).
Many a true word (is spoken in jest).
Many hands make light work.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Needs must (when the devil drives).
Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
Nothing succeeds like success.
One good turn deserves another.
One man’s meat (is another man’s poison).
Spare the rod (and spoil the child).
There’s many a slip (twixt cup and lip).
There’s no place like home.
There’s no fool like an old fool.
Too many cooks (spoil the broth).
A watched kettle/pot (never boils).
When the cat’s away(, the mice will play).
Why keep a dog and bark yourself?
You can lead a horse to water(, but you can’t make it drink).
You can’t get blood out of a stone.
You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.
You can’t teach an old dog (new tricks).
You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Many proverb snippets have become cliché expressions in the vast cupboard of the English language.

By comparison with proverbs, sayings are usually pithier everyday observations along the lines of Time flies; Waste not, want not; Moderation in all things; It never rains but it pours; Smile, it might never happen; The proof of the pudding’s in the eating; etc. Some of these are local, as Scots The nearer the grave, the greedier; The loudest buzzer’s maybe not the best bee; Ye’ve never died a winter yet; etc.