Greek proverbs

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Proverbs from all Greek speaking parts of the world.



  • Δώσε τόπο στην οργή.
    • Translation: Shove anger aside.
    • Meaning: Don't make a harsh decision while angry; Don't make a decision/choice out of anger.
    • English equivalent: Whom God wishes to destroy he first makes mad.
    • Nea hestia. I. D. Kollaros \& Sa.. 1996. 


  • Ἐν οἴνῳ ἀλήθεια
    • Translation: There is truth in vine.
    • English equivalent: In wine there is truth.
    • Meaning: "Alcohol consumed removes the inhibition against telling the truth that occasionally one would like to keep secret."
    • Source for meaning and proverbs: European Proverbs in 55 languages. 1997. p. 272. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 


  • Η καλύτερη άμυνα είναι η επίθεση.
  • Η φτήνια τρώει τον παρά.
    • Translation: Cheapness 'eats' the (value of) money.
    • Meaning: if something is cheap usually does not last long, so it is wasted money.
    • Other meaning: When items or articles are cheap people tend to buy more than they need. Used for compulsive buyers.
    • English equivalent: If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly; Unneeded bargain is dear at any price.
    • Spoudōn (1998). Λεξικό της κοινής νεοελληνικής. Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θεσσαλονίκης. p. 1027. 
  • Η γλώσσα κόκαλα δεν έχει, αλλά κόκαλα τσακίζει.
    • Translation: The tongue has no bones, yet it crushes bones.
    • English equivalent: The pen is mightier than the sword.
    • Venizelos (1867). Paroimiai dēmōdeis. Ek tou typographeiou tēs Patridos. p. 95. 


  • Και οι τοίχοι έχουν αυτιά.
    • Translation and English equivalent: The walls have ears.
    • Meaning: "What you say may be overheard; used as a warning."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. Retrieved on 27 September 2013. 
  • Κάλλιο γαϊδουρόδενε, παρά γαϊδουρογύρευε.
    • Translation: It's better to tie your donkey than to go searching for it (afterwards).
    • Note: This proverb contains two composite verbs that are invented especially for the phrase, and do not occur elsewhere: γαϊδουροδένω (donkey-tying) and γαϊδουρογυρεύω (donkey-searching).
    • English equivalent: An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
    • Βασιλειάδης. ΈγκλημαστοΚΕΛΥΦΩΣ Αστυνομικόμυθιστόρημα. Dimitri Vasileiadis. p. 105. 
  • Kάλλιο πέντε και στο χέρι, παρά δέκα και καρτέρι.
    • Translation: It's better to have five in your hand, than ten lurking elsewhere.
    • English equivalent: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    • Meaning: "Something you have for certain now is of more value than something better you may get, especially if you risk losing what you have in order to get it."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. Retrieved on 29 July 2013. 
    • Berettas (1863). Syllogēparoimiōn tōn neōterōn Hellēnōn meta parallēlismou pros tas tōn archaiōn. Ek tou typ. ho Hellēnopelasgos. p. 37. ISBN 1. 
  • Κόρακας κοράκου μάτι δε βγάζει.
    • Translation: The crow does not take the eye out of another crow.
    • English equivalent: Hawks will not pick out Hawk's eyes.
    • Meaning: "One belonging to a group having common interests is not likely to act against or find fault with another member of the same group. Solidarity may prevail over law, justice or truth."
    • Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "X". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 96. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • Shqiptaro-Greke (1999). Albanohellenica. Albanian-Greek Philological Association. p. 22. 
  • Καλή ζωή, κακή διαθήκη.
    • Translation: Good life, bad testament.
    • Meaning: Most likely, you will leave little in your will by living a good life.
    • Chakkas (1978). Hapanta. Kedros. 


  • Ο χρόνος είναι ακριβός
    • Translation: Time is expensive.
    • English equivalent: Time is precious.
    • Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. p. 428. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
  • Όποιος γίνεται πρόβατο τον τρώει ο λύκος.
    • Translation: He who becomes a sheep is eaten by the wolf.
    • Meaning: Follow the wrong people, and you will fail with them.
    • Dostoyevsky, Koteliansky (2010). Dostoevsky: Letters and Reminiscences. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 304. ISBN 1163449024. 
  • Όφις ην μη φάγη όφιν, δράκων ου γενήσεται.
    • Alternatively: Όφις ει μη φάγοι όφιν, δράκων ου γενήσεται. (see Robert Nares)
    • A serpent, unless it devours a serpent, will not become a dragon. (Erasmus, translated by Barker)
    • Quoted by Erasmus, Apostolius, and in Suda (according to Robert Nares)
    • Translated into Latin by Apostolius, Erasmus, and Francis Bacon.
    • Paraphrased in English by John Dryden (Oedipus III.1): "A serpent ne'er becomes a flying dragon, / Till he has eat a serpent." (see Robert Nares)
    • Meaning: In order to transcend, one must sometimes associate with the lowly.
    • Closest English equivalent: It is better to be a head of a fox than the tail of a lion.
    • Sources:
      • Robert Nares, A Glossary, p. 781. (Nares's "φύγοι" emended to "φάγοι" based on Apostolius's text.)
      • Erasmus III iii 61, translated in William Watson Barker, ed. The Adages of Erasmus, p. 271.
      • Michael Apostolius, Paroemiae [Proverbs]. Ed. Daniel Heinsius. Leiden, 1619. p. 187.
      • A search of the Suda does not return this proverb.
  • Ο πνιγμένος, από τα μαλλιά του πιάνεται.
    • Translation: The drowning man grips to his own hair.
    • English equivalent: A drowning man will clutch at a straw.
    • Meaning: A person in a desperate situation will try the most desperate measures.
    • Κριαρας (2007). Αλλελωγραφιαδυο:. ΕκδοσειςΠολυτυπο. p. 33. 


  • Συν Αθηνά και χείρα κίνει.
    • Translation: Aided by Athena (ancient Greek goddess) and move your hand.
    • English equivalent: Heaven help those who help themselves.
    • Meaning: "When in trouble first of all every one himself should do his best to improve his condition."
    • Source for meaning: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. p. 150. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • Karagiōrgos, Panos (1999). Greek and English proverbs. P. Karagiorgos. p. 99. 


  • Τα εν οίκω μη εν δήμω.
    • Translation: Not for public the private ones.
    • English equivalent: Don't wash your dirty linen in public; It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest.
    • Meaning: Don't speak in public of unpleasant private affairs; Don't speak ill of yourself and the groups you belong to.
    • Karagiōrgos, Panos (1999). Greek and English proverbs. P. Karagiorgos. p. 99. 
  • Τα μεγάλα πνεύματα συναντώνται
    • English equivalent: Great minds think alike.
    • Karagiōrgos, Panos (1999). Greek and English proverbs. P. Karagiorgos. p. 138.