Proverbs

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Proverbs (from Latin: proverbium) are simple and concrete sayings popularly known and repeated, which express truths, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical. A proverb that describes a basic rule of conduct may also be known as a maxim. If a proverb is distinguished by particularly good phrasing, it may be known as an aphorism. Proverbs are often borrowed from similar languages and cultures, and sometimes come down to the present through more than one language. Both the Bible (Book of Proverbs) and medieval Latin have played a considerable role in distributing proverbs across Europe, although almost every culture has examples of its own.

This page contains quotes about proverbs generally. For specific proverbs, look for the theme article to which the proverb relates.

Quotes[edit]

  • His many years had reduced and polished him the way water smooths and polishes a stone or generations of men polish a proverb.
    • Jorge Luis Borges, "The Man on the Threshold", in The Aleph (1949); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998).
  • All the world over, proverbs run in pairs, and pull both ways: for the most part one neutralizes, by contradiction, the other.
    • Burton, Richard Francis (1863). Abeokuta and the Camaroons Mountains: an exploration, Volym 1. Tinsley Brothers. p. 309. 
  • Proverbs are short sentences drawn from long and wise experience.
  • No hay refran que no sea verdadero.
    • There is no proverb which is not true.
    • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605-1615).
  • The supposed wisdom of proverbs is mainly imaginary. As a rule, proverbs go in pairs which say opposite things. The opposite of 'More haste, less speed' is 'A stitch in time saves nine.' The opposite of 'Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves,' 'Penny wise, pound foolish.' The opposite of 'Two heads are better than one,' is 'Too many cooks spoil the broth.' And so on.
    The great advantage of a proverb in argument is that it is supposed to be incontrovertible, as embodying the quintessential sagacity of our ancestors. But when once you have realised that proverbs go in pairs which say opposite things you can never again be downed by a proverb; you merely quote the opposite.
    • Bertrand Russell, Mortals and Others, p. 133-134, "On proverbs" (16 November 1932).
  • [A proverb is] one man's wit, and all men's wisdom.
    • John Russell, Remark to James Mackintosh on October 6, 1830, reported in his posthumous memoir, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Sir James Mackintosh, Vol. 2 (1836), p. 472
  • Proverbs depend for their truth entirely on the occasion they are applied to. Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.
    • George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Vol. 5: Reason in Science (1906), Ch. 8: "Prerational Morality".
  • Scoundrel maxim.
    • James Thomson, The Castle of Indolence (1748), Canto 1, Stanza 50.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 638-39.
  • I'll tell the names and sayings and the places of their birth,
    Of the seven great ancient sages so renowned on Grecian earth,
    The Lindian Cleobulus said, "The mean was still the best";
    The Spartan Chilo, "Know thyself," a heaven-born phrase confessed.
    Corinthian Periander taught "Our anger to command,"
    "Too much of nothing," Pittacus, from Mitylene's strand;
    Athenian Solon this advised, "Look to the end of life,"
    And Bias from Priene showed, "Bad men are the most rife";
    Milesian Thales urged that "None should e'er a surety be";
    Few were their words, but if you look, you'll much in little see.
    • From the Greek. Author unknown.
  • Know thyself.—Solon.
    Consider the end.—Chilo.
    Know thy opportunity.—Pittacus.
    Most men are bad.—Bias.
    Nothing is impossible to industry.—Periander.
    Avoid excess.—Cleobulus.
    Suretyship is the precursor of ruin.—Thales.
    • Mottoes of the Seven Wise Men of Greece. Inscribed in later days in the Delphian Temple.
  • The genius, wit, and spirit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs.
  • As Love and I late harbour'd in one inn,
    With proverbs thus each other entertain:
    "In love there is no lack," thus I begin;
    "Fair words make fools," replieth he again;
    "Who spares to speak doth spare to speed," quoth I;
    "As well," saith he, "too forward as too slow";
    "Fortune assists the boldest," I reply;
    "A hasty man," quoth he, "ne'er wanted woe";
    "Labour is light where love," quoth I," doth pay";
    Saith he, "Light burden's heavy, if far borne";
    Quoth I, "The main lost, cast the by away";
    "Y'have spun a fair thread," he replies in scorn.
    And having thus awhile each other thwarted
    Fools as we met, so fools again we parted.
  • Proverbs like the sacred books of each nation, are the sanctuary of the intuitions.
  • Much matter decocted into few words.
  • A proverb and a byword among all people.
    • I Kings, IX. 7.
  • Maxims are the condensed good sense of nations.
    • Sir James Mackintosh, quoted on the title page of Broom's Legal Maxims (1911).
  • This formal fool, your man, speaks naught but proverbs,
    And speak men what they can to him he'll answer
    With some rhyme, rotten sentence, or old saying,
    Such spokes as ye ancient of ye parish use.
    • Henry Porter, The Proverb Monger, from Two Angry Women of Abindon.
  • Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked.
    • I Samuel, XXIV. 13. Said to be the oldest proverb on record.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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