Icelandic proverbs

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Proverbs reflective of conventional wisdom in Iceland.

A[edit]

  • Af gódu upphafi vonast góður endir.
    • Translation and English equivalent: A good beginning makes a good ending.
    • Meaning: "Starting properly ensures the speedy completion of a process. A – beginning is often blocked by one or more obstacles (potential barriers) the removal of which may ensure the smooth course of the process."
    • Source for meaning: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "40". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 228. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • Strauss, Emanuel (1994). "190". Dictionary of European Proverbs. I. Routledge. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-134-86460-7. 
  • Allir vilja herrann vera, en enginn sekkinn bera.
    • Translation: Everyone wants to be lord, but no one wants to carry the bag.
    • English equivalent: There are too many chiefs and not enough indians.
    • Emanuel Strauss (1994). "1263". Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs. Routledge. p. 770. ISBN 978-1-136-78978-6. 
  • Aldrei er góð vísa of oft kveðin.
    • Translation: Never is a good verse too often said.
    • English equivalent: The truth never gets old
    • Saga. Isafoldarprentsmiðja.. 1964. p. 102. 

B[edit]

  • Ber er hver að baki nema sér bróður eigi.
    • Translation: Bare is the back of a brotherless man.
    • Meaning: Every man is defenseless unless he has a brother/friend.
    • Source: Hreinsson, Viðar, ed (1997). Brennu-Njáls saga. 3. Translated by Robert Cook. Leifur Eiriksson Publishing. p. 209. ISBN 9979929308. 
  • Betra er einn að vera, en illan stallbróður hafa.
    • English equivalent: Better be alone than in bad company.
    • Emanuel Strauss (1994). "654". Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs. Routledge. p. 478. ISBN 978-1-136-78978-6. 
  • Brennt barn forðast eldinn.
    • Translation: A burnt child keeps away from fire.
    • English equivalent: Once bitten, twice shy.
    • Meaning: "Somebody who has had an unpleasant experience thereafter shrinks from the cause of that experience."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. Retrieved on 30 July 2013. 
    • Dal, Gunnar (2007). Einn heimur: fimm heimsmyndir. Jonas Halldorsson. p. 124. ISBN 9979651032. 

E[edit]

  • Eftir því sem gamlir fuglar sungu, kvökuðu þeir ungu.
    • Translation: As the old birds sing, so do the young ones tweet.
    • English equivalent: As the old cock crows, so crows the young.
    • Meaning: "Children generally follow the example of their parents, but imitate their faults more surely than their virtues."
    • Norwegian equivalent: Some dei gamle sungo, so kveda dei unge.
    • Emanuel Strauss (1994). "544". Dictionary of European Proverbs. Routledge. p. 1389. ISBN 978-1-134-86460-7. 
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Kelly, Walter Keating (1859). Proverbs of all nations. W. Kent & co. (late D. Bogue). p. 130. 
  • Engum flýgur sofanda steikt gæs i munn.
    • Translation: There will fly no fried goose into the sleeping mans mouth.
    • English equivalent: Birds fly not into our mouth ready roasted.
    • Meaning: "One cannot (or should not) expect to benefit without making some effort."
    • Source for meaning: (Paczolay, 1997 p. 455)
    • Strauss, Emanuel (1994). Dictionary of European proverbs (Volume 2 ed.). Routledge. p. 171. ISBN 0415096243. 

G[edit]

  • Guð hjálpar þeim sem hjálpa sér sjálfir.
    • Translation: God helps those who help themselves.
    • English equivalent: Heaven helps 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. DeProverbio.com. p. 150. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • Source: Laxness, Halldór (2000). Smásögur. Vaka-Helgafell. p. 131. ISBN 9979214546. 
  • Góð orð finna góðan samastað.
    • Translation: Polite words will be well received.
    • English equivalent: Politeness costs little but yields much.
    • Strauss, Emanuel (1998). Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs (Abbreviated ed.). Routledge. p. 70. ISBN 0415160502. 

H[edit]

  • Hvar sem fjandinn er þar hefur hann sína.
    • English equivalent: A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.
    • Emanuel Strauss (1994). "589". Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs. Routledge. p. 446. ISBN 978-1-136-78978-6. 
  • Hver er sinnar gæfu smiður.
    • Translation: Every man is the smith of his own fortune.
    • English equivalent: Also, Every man is the smith of his own fortune.
    • Meaning: "In shaping one's own fortune one should not rely on the help of others, as they are also concerned mainly about their own matters."
    • Source for meaning and proverbs: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. DeProverbio.com. p. 388. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 

L[edit]

  • Linur bartskeri gjörir fúin sár.
    • Translation: A lenient doctor creates stinking injuries.
    • English equivalent: Mild physician – putrid wounds.
    • Meaning: In order to achieve a good figurative or literal cure, one must sometimes undertake stern measures.
    • Emanuel Strauss (1994). "1465". Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs. II. Routledge. p. 1090. ISBN 978-1-136-78978-6. 

K[edit]

  • Kemst þó hægt fari.
    • Translation: You will reach your destination even though you travel slowly.
    • English equivalent: We rode slow, but we ride sure.
    • Source: Íslands, Landsbókasafn (1980). Árbók. Bókasafnið. p. 71. ISBN 9979911107. 
  • Kornbarn, drukkin maðr og dárinn segja sannleikann.
    • English equivalent: Children, fools and drunken men tell the truth.
    • Meaning: "Children and fools have no inhibition, and alcohol consumed removes the inhibition against telling the truth that occasionally one would like to keep secret."
    • Source for proverbs and meaning: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. DeProverbio.com. p. 272. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 

O[edit]

  • Oft hafa fagrar hnetur fúinn kjarna.
    • Translation: Often beautiful nuts has an ugly core.
    • English equivalent: A fair face and a foul heart.
    • Emanuel Strauss (11 January 2013). "120". Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs. I. Routledge. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-136-78978-6. 

P[edit]

  • Þá mér klær, þarf ég að klóra mér.
    • Translation: When I itch, I must scratch.
    • English equivalent: If the shoe fits, wear it.
    • Meaning: "If it seems that a critical remark applies to you, then you must accept it; often said when somebody's response to a general remark suggests that it is appropriate to that particular person."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. 
    • Strauss, Emanuel (1994). Dictionary of European proverbs (Volume 2 ed.). Routledge. p. 998. ISBN 0415096243. 

R[edit]

  • Ragur maður fíflar aldrei fríða konu.
    • Translation: A coward will never bed a pretty woman.
    • English equivalent: Faint heart never won fair lady.
    • "Our lack of confidence is not the result of difficulty. The difficulty comes from our lack of confidence."
    • Seneca the Younger, Epistulae morales ad Lucilium (65)
    • Source: Strauss, Emmanuel (1998). Dictionary of European Proverbs. Routledge. p. 130. ISBN 0415160502. 

S[edit]

  • Sá er fuglinn verstur, sem í sjálfs síns hreiður dritar.
    • English equivalent: It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest; Don't wash your dirty linen in public.
    • Meaning: "Why wantonly proclaim one's own disgrace, or expose the faults or weaknesses of one's kindred or people?"
    • Source for meaning: Kelly, Walter Keating (1859). Proverbs of all nations. W. Kent & co. (late D. Bogue). p. 109. 
    • Source for provers: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. DeProverbio.com. p. 466. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
  • Sjaldan er ein báran stök.
    • Transation: There seldom is a single wave.
    • Meaning: Good luck or bad luck is often followed by more of the same.
    • Source: Sigurðsson, Arngrímur (1975). Íslenzk-ensk orðabók. Leiftur. p. 731. ISBN 9979651032. 
  • Sjaldan fellur eplið langt frá eikini.
    • English equivalent: The apple does not fall far from the tree.
    • Meaning: "Children observe daily and — in their behaviour — often follow the example of their parents."
    • Source for proverbs and meaning: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. DeProverbio.com. p. 259. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
  • Spónasmiða börn eiga oft versta spæni.
    • Translation: The spoonmaker's children have often the worst spoons.
    • English equivalent: Cobblers' children are worst shod.
    • Meaning: "Working hard for others one may neglect one's own needs or the needs of those closest to him."
    • Source for meaning and proverbs: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "7". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 65. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
  • Sinn er siður í landi hverju.
    • Translation: Each country has its own custom.
    • Sven Grundtvig; Jón Sigurðsson; Pálmi Pálsson (1854). Íslenzk fornkvæði. Brødrene Berlings og S.L. Møllers bogtrykkeri. p. 103. 
  • Sá vinnur sitt mál, sem þráastur er.
    • Translation: He who is most stubborn will win
    • English equivalent: God is with those who persevere; Persevere and never fear.
    • Strauss, Emanuel (1994). "130". Dictionary of European Proverbs. I. Routledge. p. 126. ISBN 978-1-134-86460-7. 

Á[edit]

  • Árinni kennir illur ræðari.
    • Translation: A bad rower blames the oar.
    • English equivalent: A bad workman blames his tools.
    • Source: Magnúsdóttir, Elín Bára (1993). Halldórsstefna, 12.-14. júní 1992. Stofnun Sigurðar Nordals. p. 116. ISBN 9979911107.