Talk:French proverbs

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V

Previous content[edit]

The following quotes have been removed from the page as unsourced. They may be moved back once reliable sources are provided for the proposition that these are known French-language proverbs.

A[edit]

  • À la Sainte-Luce, les jours accroissent du saut d'une puce.
    • Literal translation: On Saint Lucia's Day, the days grow by the jump of a flea.
    • Meaning: The days begin to get longer on Saint Lucia's Day, December 16 (which formerly coincided with the Winter Solstice).
  • À Rome, fais comme les Romains.
    • Translation: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  • Après la pluie, le beau temps.
    • Translation: After troubles, calm comes back.
  • Autre temps, autres mœurs.
    • Translation: Other days, other ways.
  • Avec des si et des mais, on mettrait Paris en bouteille
    • Literal translation: With these ifs, we put Paris in a bottle.
    • Idiomatic translation 2: If wishes were fishes we'd all cast nets.
    • Idiomatic translation 3: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

B[edit]

  • Bien mal acquis ne profite jamais.
    • Idiomatic translation: Ill-gotten gains seldom prosper.
    • Literal meaning: Goods badly acquired never profit.
  • Bon repas doit commencer par la faim.
    • Idiomatic translation: Hunger is the best spice.
    • Literal meaning: A good meal must begin with hunger.

C[edit]

  • C'est bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet.
    • Literal translation: It's white hat and hat white.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's six of one and half a dozen of the other.
  • C'est dans les vieilles marmites qu'on fait les meilleures soupes.
    • Literal Translation: It's in old kettles that one makes the best soup.
    • Idiomatic Translation: The best broths are made in the oldest pots.
  • C'est l'arroseur arrosé.
    • Literal meaning: It's the waterer getting drenched.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's the biter bit.
  • C'est la goutte d'eau qui fait déborder le vase.
    • Literal meaning: It's the drop of water that makes the jug overflow.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's the straw that breaks the camel's back.
  • C'est la paille et la poutre.
    • Literal meaning: It's the straw and the beam.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's the mote and the beam (or the pot calling the kettle black).
  • C'est la Pitié / l'hôpital qui se moque de la Charité.
    • Literal meaning: It's Pity / the hospital that mocks Charity.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's the pot calling the kettle black.
  • C'est la poêle qui se moque du chaudron.
    • Literal meaning: It's the pan mocking the cauldron.
    • Idiomatic translation: The pot that calls the kettle black.
  • C'est trop aimer quand on en meurt.
    • Idiomatic translation: They love too much who die for love.
    • Literal translation: It´s loving too much when one dies of it.
  • C'est un prêté pour un rendu.
    • Translation 1: Tit for tat.
    • Translation 2: One good turn deserves another.
    • Literal meaning: It is one loaned for one returned.
  • Ce que femme veut, Dieu le veut.
    • Idiomatic translation: A woman's will is God's will.
    • Literal translation: That which a woman wishes, God wishes.
  • Chacun voit midi à sa porte.
    • Idiomatic translation: To each his own.
    • Literal meaning: Everyone sees noon at his door.
  • Chantez à l'âne, il vous fera des pets.
    • Literal translation: Sing to a donkey, he will fart to you.
    • Idiomatic translation: Hold food in your hand, and the dog will bite it.
  • Charbonnier est maître chez soi.
    • Translation (British): An Englishman's home is his castle.
    • Literal meaning: A coalman is master of his own house.
  • Chose promise, chose due.
    • Literal meaning: Thing promised, thing owed.
    • Idiomatic translation: Promises are made to be kept.
  • Cœur qui soupire n'a pas ce qu'il désire.
    • Translation: The heart that sighs does not have what it desires.
  • Comme on fait son lit on se couche.
    • Literal meaning: As one makes one's bed, one lies in it.
    • Idiomatic translation: As you make your bed, so you are going to lie in it.
  • Contentement passe richesse.
    • Idiomatic translation: Happiness is worth more than riches.

D[edit]

  • Dans le doute, abstiens-toi.
    • Literal translation: In doubt, abstain.
    • Idiomatic translation: When in doubt, forbear.
  • De la discussion jaillit la lumière. or Du choc des idées jaillit la lumière
    • Idiomatic translation: Two heads are better than one.
    • Literal meaning: Out of discussion springs forth the light.
    • French signification: Good ideas emerge from discussion/argument.
  • Demain il fera jour.
    • Literal meaning: Tomorrow will be a day.
    • Idiomatic translation: Tomorrow is another day.
  • Deux avis valent mieux qu'un.
    • Idiomatic translation: Two heads are better than one.
    • Literal meaning: Two opinions are better than one.
  • Dis-moi qui tu fréquentes, je te dirai qui tu es.
    • Idiomatic translation: A man is known by the company he keeps.
    • Literal meaning: Tell me whom you spend time with and I will tell you who you are.
  • Douce parole n'écorche pas langue.
    • Idiomatic translation: Good words break no bones.
    • Literal meaning: Soft words don't scratch the tongue.

E[edit]

  • En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil ; en mai, fais ce qui te plaît.
    • Idiomatic translation: Never cast a clout till May is out.
    • Literal meaning: In April, do not shed a single thread; in May, do as you please.
  • En toute chose il faut considérer la fin.
    • Idiomatic translation: In your every endeavor reflect the end.
    • Literal meaning: Whatever you do, act wisely, and consider the end.
  • En tout pays, il y a une lieue de mauvais chemins.
    • Idiomatic translation: There will be bumps on the smoothest roads.
    • Literal translation: In every country, there's a league of bad paths
  • Entre deux maux, il faut choisir le moindre.
    • Translation: Of two evils one must choose the lesser.
  • Entre l'arbre et l'écorce, il ne faut pas mettre le doigt.
    • Idiomatic translation: Do not meddle in other people's family affairs.
    • Literal meaning: Don't poke your finger 'twixt the bark and the tree.

F[edit]

  • Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra.
    • Idiomatic translation: Do your duty, come what may.
  • Fais ce que je dis, ne fais pas ce que je fais.
    • Idiomatic translation: Do as I say, not as I do.
  • Faute de grives, on mange des merles.
    • Translation 1: Half a loaf is better than no bread.
    • Translation 2: You have to cut your coat according to your cloth.
    • Literal meaning: Eat blackbirds if you can't have thrushes.
  • Femme rit quand elle peut et pleure quand elle veut.
    • Idiomatic translation: A woman laughs when she can and weeps when she wants.
  • Filer à l'anglaise.
    • Idiomatic translation: To take French leave.
    • Literal translation: Leave the English way.
  • Force fait loi.
    • Translation: Might makes right.
    • Transliteration: Strength makes law.

G[edit]

  • Grosse Corvette, petite cervelle.
    • Literal translation: Big Corvette, small brain.
    • Idiomatic translation: Big car, no brain.
  • Grosse Corvette, petite quéquette. (Quebec)
    • Literal translation: Big Corvette, small willie. (penis - quéquette being informal French).
    • Meaning: someone who buys a big car is compensating for sexual shortcomings.

H[edit]

  • Heureux au jeu, malheureux en amour.
    • Idiomatic translation: Lucky in cards, unlucky in love.
    • Literal meaning: Fortunate in games, unfortunate in love.
  • Homme mort ne fait guerre.
    • Idiomatic translation: A dead man deals no blows.
    • Literal meaning: A dead man cannot make war.
  • Honni soit qui mal y pense.
    • Idiomatic translation: Evil be to he who evil thinks.
    • Literal meaning: Shameful be they who thinks badly of it.

I[edit]

  • Il faut apprendre à obéir pour savoir commander.
    • Translation: It is necessary to learn how to obey to know to comand.
  • Il faut de tout pour faire un monde.
    • Idiomatic translation: It takes all sorts to make a world.
    • Literal meaning: It takes everything to make a world.
  • Il faut le voir pour le croire
    • Translation: Seeing is believing.
  • Il faut ménager la chèvre et le chou.
    • Idiomatic translation: One must run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
    • Literal meaning: One must spare both the goat and the cabbage.
  • Il faut que jeunesse se passe.
    • Translation 1: Youth must have its fling.
    • Literal translation: Youth must happen.
  • Il faut savoir obéir avant que de commander.
    • Idiomatic translation: Obedience comes before leadership.
    • Literal meaning: One must learn to obey before he can command.
  • Il faut tourner sa langue sept fois dans sa bouche avant de parler.
    • Idiomatic translation: Think before you speak.
    • Literal meaning: One must turn the tongue seven times in the mouth before speaking.
  • Il ne faut jamais dire « Fontaine, je ne boirai pas de ton eau ». Most often said Il ne faut jamais dire Fontaine
    • Idiomatic translation: Never say never.
    • Literal meaning: Never say, "Fountain, I shall not drink of your water."
  • Il ne faut jamais remettre au lendemain ce qu'on peut faire le jour même.
    • Literal translation: Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today.
    • Translation: One of these days is none of these days.
  • Il ne faut pas chercher midi à quatorze heures.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't complicate the issue.
    • Idiomatic translation: To look for knots in a bulrush
    • Literal meaning: Don't look for noon at two o'clock.
  • Il ne faut pas confondre vitesse et précipitation.
    • Idiomatic translation: More haste, less speed.
    • Literal meaning: One must not confuse speed with haste.
  • Il ne faut pas déshabiller Pierre pour habiller Paul.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't rob Peter to pay Paul.
    • Literal meaning: Don't undress Peter to dress Paul.
  • Il ne faut pas mettre la charrue avant les bœufs.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't put the cart before the horse.
    • Literal meaning: Don't put the plough before the oxen.


  • Il n'est jamais trop tard pour bien faire.
    • Idiomatic translation: It is never too late to mend.
    • Literal meaning: It is never too late to do well.
  • Il n'est pire aveugle que celui qui ne veut pas voir.
    • Idiomatic translation: There are none so blind as they who will not see.
  • Il n'est pire eau que celle qui dort. also "Méfie-toi de l'eau qui dort"
    • Literal meaning: There is no worse water than the water which sleeps / Beware of the water which sleeps.
    • Idiomatic translation: Still waters run deep.
  • Il n'est pire sourd que celui qui ne veut pas entendre.
    • Idiomatic translation: There is none so deaf as he who will not hear.
    • Literal meaning: There are none so deaf as those who will not listen.
  • Il n'y a pas d'ânesse qui ne trouve son âne.
    • Idiomatic translation: Every Jack has his Jill.
    • Literal meaning: There is no jenny who does not find her donkey.
  • Il n'y a pas d'anguilles sans fémur
    • Idiomatic translation: Where the birds are, the trees grow.
  • Il n'y a pas de petit profit.
    • Idiomatic translation: A penny saved is a penny earned.
    • Literal meaning: There is no small profit.
  • Il n'y a pas de sot métier.
    • Literal meaning: There is no inane craft.
    • Idiomatic translation: Every trade has its value.
  • Il n'y a que la vérité qui blesse.
    • Literal meaning: Only truth hurts.
    • Idiomatic translation: Truth hurts.
  • Il n'y a que les montagnes qui ne se rencontrent jamais.
    • Idiomatic translation: There are none so distant that fate cannot bring together.
    • Literal meaning: It is only the mountains which never meet.
  • Il vaut mieux un petit chez soi, qu'un grand chez les autres.
    • Idiomatic translation: There's no place like home.
    • Literal meaning: It's better to be in your own home, though small, than the large home of someone else.
  • Il y a loin de la coupe aux lèvres.
    • Idiomatic translation: There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.
    • Literal translation: There is a long way between the cup and the lips.
  • Il y a plus d'un âne à la foire qui s'appellent Martin. also "Tous les ânes ne s'appellent pas Martin."
    • Idiomatic translation 1: If one will not, another will.
    • Idiomatic translation 2: There's plenty more fish in the sea
    • Literal meaning: There is more than one donkey at the fair called Martin.
  • "Impossible" n'est pas français.'
    • Idiomatic translation: There is no such word as "can't".
    • Literal meaning: Impossible is not a French word.

J[edit]

  • Jamais couard n'aura belle amie.
    • Literal translation: Never coward shall have fair lady for friend.
    • Idiomatic translation: Faint heart never won fair lady.
  • Jamais deux sans trois.
    • Literal translation: Never twice without thrice.
  • Je ne suis ni pour, ni contre, bien au contraire.
    • Literal translation: I am neither for nor against, much to the contrary!

L[edit]

  • Laissez les bons temps rouler.
    • Idiomatic translation: Let the good times roll [Cajun French].
  • " Le chien abboie la caravane passe"
    • Idiomatic translation:
  • L'amour fait beaucoup, mais l'argent fait tout.
    • Translation: Love does much, but money does all.
  • L'argent n'a pas d'odeur.
    • Idiomatic translation: Money is money (wherever it comes from).
    • Literal meaning: Money has no smell.
    • Latin: Pecunia non olet.
  • L'argent ne fait pas le bonheur.
    • Idiomatic translation: Money can't buy happiness.
    • Literal meaning: Money doesn't make happiness.
  • L'argent ne se trouve pas sous le sabot / le pas d'un cheval.
    • Idiomatic translation: Money doesn't grow on trees.
    • Literal meaning: Money is not found under a horse's hoof / step.
  • L'amour est aveugle.
    • Translation: Love is blind.
  • L'habit ne fait pas le moine.
    • Idiomatic translation 1: One cannot judge a book by its cover.
    • Idiomatic translation 2: Clothes don't make the man.
    • Literal translation: The dress doesn't make the monk.
  • L'herbe est toujours plus verte chez le voisin.
    • Idiomatic translation: The grass is always greener on the other side.
    • Literal translation: The grass is always greener at the neighbours'
  • L'homme est un loup pour l'homme.
    • Idiomatic translation: Brother will turn on brother. /'dog eat dog'
    • Latin: Homo homini lupus
    • Literal meaning: The man is a wolf for the man.
  • La bave du crapaud n'atteint pas la blanche colombe.
    • Idiomatic translation: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
    • Literal meaning: The spit of the toad doesn't reach the white dove.
  • La caque sent toujours le hareng.
    • Idiomatic translation: What's bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.
    • Literal meaning: A herring barrel will always smell of herring.
  • La culture, c'est comme la confiture, moins on en a, plus on l'étale.
    • Idiomatic translation: people who always shows their sciences are those who know the less. "étale" means spread or to show
    • Literal meaning: Culture is like jam, the less we have the more we spread it.
  • La curiosité est un vilain défaut.
    • Idiomatic translation: Curiosity killed the cat.
    • Literal meaning: Curiosity is a wicked fault.
  • La faim chasse le loup hors du bois.
    • Translation: Hunger drives the wolf out of the wood.
  • La fête passée, adieu le saint.
    • Idiomatic translation: The river passed, and God forgotten.
    • Translation: The festival has passed, goodbye to the saint.
  • La nuit tous les chats sont gris.
    • Translation: At night all cats are grey.
    • Idiomatic translation: All cats are grey in the dark.
  • La pluie de vos injures n'atteint que le parapluie de mon indifférence.
    • Translation: Your spluttering insults only reach the umbrella of my indifference.

Le train de vos injures, n'atteint que le rail de mon indifférence

  • La plus belle fille du monde ne peut donner que ce qu'elle a.
    • Translation: The prettiest girl in the world can only give what she has.
  • L'appétit vient en mangeant.
    • Idiomatic translation: The more you have, the more you want.
    • Literal meaning: Appetite comes while eating.
  • La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid.
    • Idiomatic translation: Revenge is a dish best served cold.
    • Literal: Revenge is a dish that is eaten cold.
  • La vérité est dans le vin. = "L'alcool délie les langues"
    • Idiomatic translation: In wine is truth.
    • Latin: In vino veritas
    • Literal: The truth is in the wine.
    • When you want someone to tell you the truth make him/her drink.
  • La vérité sort de la bouche des enfants.
    • Idiomatic translation: Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings comes forth truth.
    • Latin: Ex ore parvulorum veritas
    • Literal meaning: The truth comes from the mouth of children.
  • Le crime ne paie pas.
    • Translation: Crime does not pay.
  • Le Diable chie toujours au même endroit.
    • Idiomatic translation: The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.
    • Literal meaning: The Devil always shits in the same place.
  • La bible comme lu par le diable.
    • Idiomatic Translation: Devil quoting scripture.
    • Literal Translation: The Bible as read by the devil.
  • Le malheur des uns fait le bonheur des autres.
    • Idiomatic translation: One man's meat is another man's poison. OR One man's trash is another man's treasure.
    • Literal meaning: The misfortune of some makes the joy of others.
  • Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.
    • Idiomatic translation: Let well alone.
    • Literal meaning: Better is the enemy of good.
  • Le ridicule ne tue pas.
    • Being ridiculed isn't lethal.
  • Le roi est mort, vive le roi!
    • Translation: "The King is Dead, Long live the King!"
  • L'erreur est humaine.
    • Literal translation: The error is human.
    • Idiomatic translation: To err is human.
    • Latin: Errare humanum est
  • Les affaires sont les affaires.
    • Translation: Business is business.
  • Les amis de mes ennemis sont mes ennemis. Et les ennemis de mes ennemis sont mes amis
    • Idiomatic translation: A friend of yours is a friend of mine / The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
    • Literal meaning: Friends of my enemies are my enemies / Enemies of my enemies are my friends.
  • Les bons outils font les bons ouvriers
    • Translation: Good tools make good workers.
  • Les chiens ne font pas des chats. = "tel père, tel fils / Telle mère, telle fille"
    • Idiomatic translation: Like breeds like / The apple does not fall far from the tree.
    • Literal meaning: Dogs don't make cats.
  • Les conseillers ne sont pas les payeurs.
    • Idiomatic translation: Advice is cheap.
    • Literal meaning: Advisors aren't the ones who pay.
  • Les couteaux volent bas.
    • Literal translation: Knives are flying low.
    • Meaning: Used to describe a conversation in which sarcasm and cross-eye looks are frequent.
  • Les fruits défendus sont les meilleurs.
    • Idiomatic translation: Forbidden fruits are the sweetest.
    • Literal meaning: Forbidden fruits are the best.
  • Les grands diseurs ne sont pas les grands faiseurs.
    • Idiomatic translation: Talkers are not doers.
    • Literal meaning: Big talkers are not big doers.
  • Les grands esprits se rencontrent.
    • Idiomatic translation: Great minds think alike.
    • Literal meaning: Great spirits meet one another.
  • Les jours se suivent et ne se ressemblent pas.
    • Translation 1: After Christmas comes Lent.
    • Translation 2: Time changes and we with time.
    • Literal meaning: The days follow one another and do not look alike.
  • Les loups ne se mangent pas entre eux.
    • Translation 1: Dog does not eat dog.
    • Translation 2: There is honour among thieves.
    • Literal translation: Wolves don't eat each other.
  • Le soleil luit pour tout le monde.
    • Idiomatic translation: The sun shines for one and all.
    • Literal meaning: The sun shines for everybody.
  • Les petits ruisseaux font les grandes rivières.
    • Idiomatic translation: Tall oaks from little acorns grow.
    • Literal meaning: Little streams make big rivers.
  • Les voyages forment la jeunesse.
    • Idiomatic translation: Travel broadens the mind.
    • Literal meaning: Travels train young people.
  • Le temps c'est de l'argent.
    • Translation: Time is money.
  • L'exactitude est la politesse des rois. or "La ponctualité est la politesse des rois"
    • Translation: Punctuality is the politeness of kings.
  • L'excès en tout est un défaut.
    • Idiomatic translation: Too much is too much.
    • Literal meaning: Excess in everything is a fault.
  • L'habit ne fait pas le moine.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't judge the book by its cover.
    • Literal meaning: The cowl does not make the friar.
  • L'occasion fait le larron.
    • Idiomatic translation: Opportunity makes the thief.
  • L'oisiveté est la mère de tous les vices.
    • Literal translation: Idleness is the mother of all sins.
    • Idiomatic translation: An idle mind is ur mom's workshop.
  • L'union fait la force.
    • Idiomatic translation: United we stand, divided we fall.
    • Literal meaning: Unity makes strength.

forsm acto suponut lack of character is punished

M[edit]

  • Mange ton poisson à présent qu'il est frais, marie ta fille à présent qu'elle est jeune.
    • Idiomatic translation: Eat your fish while it is fresh, marry your daughter while she is young.
  • Mars venteux et avril pluvieux font mai gai et gracieux.
    • Literal translation: Windy March and rainy April make May jolly and gracious
    • Idiomatic translation: March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.
  • Mieux vaut plier que rompre.
    • Idiomatic translation: Adapt and survive.
    • Literal meaning: Better to bend than to break.
  • Mieux vaut rire que pleurer.
    • Idiomatic translation: Laughter is the best medicine.
    • Literal meaning: Better to laugh than to weep.
  • Mieux vaut s'adresser à Dieu qu'à ses saints.
    • Idiomatic translation: It is better to talk to the organ-grinder than to his monkey.
    • Literal meaning: It is better to address God than His saints.
  • Mieux vaut tard que jamais.
    • Idiomatic translation: Better late than never.
  • Mon petit doigt me l'a dit.
    • Translation: A little bird told me.
  • Morte la bête, mort le venin.
    • Idiomatic translation: Dead dogs don't bite.
    • Literal meaning: Dead is the beast, dead is the venom.

N[edit]

  • Nécessité fait loi.
    • Idiomatic translation: Beggars can't be choosers.
    • Literal meaning: Need makes law.
  • Noël au balcon, Pâques au tison.
    • Idiomatic translation: A warm Christmas means a cold Easter.
    • Literal meaning: Christmas on the balcony, Easter with a firebrand (in hand).
  • Nul n'est prophète en son pays.
    • Idiomatic translation: No man is a prophet in his country.

O[edit]

  • On a souvent besoin d'un plus petit que soi.
    • Translation: We often need someone smaller than ourselves.
  • On est tous dans le même bain.
    • Literal meaning: We're all in the same bath.
    • Idiomatic translation: We're all in the same boat.
  • On ne fait pas d'omelette sans casser des œufs.
    • Translation: You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.
  • On ne marie pas les poules avec les renards.
    • Idiomatic translation: Different strokes for different folks.
    • Literal meaning: You can't marry a hen and a fox.
  • On ne peut avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre. Sometimes On ne peut pas avoir le beurre, l'argent du beurre et la crémière.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't have your cake and eat it.
    • Literal meaning: You can't have both the butter and the butter money / and the dairywoman.
  • On ne peut avoir le lard et le cochon.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't have your cake and eat it.
    • Literal meaning: You can't have the bacon and the pig.
  • On ne peut être à la ville et aux champs.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't be in two places at once.
    • Literal meaning: You can't be in town and in the country.
  • On ne peut être au four et au moulin.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't be in two places at once.
    • Literal meaning: You can't be at the oven and in the mill.
  • On ne peut faire d'une buse un épervier.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
    • Literal meaning: You can't turn a buzzard / a dolt into a sparrowhawk.
  • On ne prend pas les mouches avec du vinaigre.
    • Idiomatic translation: Honey catches more flies than vinegar.
    • Literal meaning: You don't catch flies with vinegar.
  • On ne prête qu'aux riches.
    • Translation 1: Reputations shape reactions.
    • Translation 2: Only the rich get richer.
    • Literal meaning: One lends only to the rich.
  • Où la vache / la chèvre est attachée, il faut qu'elle broute.
    • Idiomatic translation: The cow / goat must browse where she is tethered.

P[edit]

  • Pas de nouvelle, bonne nouvelle.
    • Translation: No news is good news.
  • Peu importe le flacon, tant qu'il y à l'ivresse.
    • Literal meaning: What does the bottle matter, so long as there is drunkenness.
  • Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid.
    • Translation 1: Many a mickle makes a muckle.
    • Translation 2: Little strokes fell great oaks.
    • Literal meaning: Little by little the bird builds its nest.
  • Petite pluie abat grand vent.
    • Idiomatic translation: Little rain lays great dust.
    • Literal meaning: Little rain calms great wind.
  • Pierre qui roule n'amasse pas mousse.
    • Translation: A rolling stone gathers no moss.
    • Meaning: "There are a Set of People in the World of fo unfettled and reftleis a Temper, and such Admirers of Novelty, that they can never be long pleafed with one way of’ living, no more than to continue long in one Habitation; but before they are well enter’d upon one Bufinefs, dip into another, and before they are well fettled in one Habitation, remove to another; fo that they are always bufily beginning to live, but by reafon of Ficklenefs and Impatience, never arrive at a way of living: fuch Perfons fall under the Doom of this Proverb, which is delign’d to fix the Volatility of their Tempers, by laying before them the ill Confequences of fuch Ficklenefs and Inconltancy."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Divers Proverbs, Nathan Bailey, 1721 [1]
    • Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "14". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 100. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
  • Plaie d'argent n'est pas mortelle.
    • Idiomatic translation: Money isn't everything.
    • Literal meaning: A wound caused by money is not mortal.
  • Plus fait douceur que violence.
    • Idiomatic translation: Kindness succeeds where force will fail.
    • Literal meaning: More does gentleness than violence.
  • Plus on boit, plus on a soif.
    • Translation: The more one drinks, the thirstier one gets.
  • Plus on est de fous, plus on rit.
    • Literal meaning: The more birdbrains we are, the more we laugh"
    • Idiomatic translation: The more the merrier.
  • Prendre le taureau par les cornes.
    • Translation: Take the bull by the horns.
  • Promettre et tenir sont deux.
    • Literal meaning: Promising and keeping (one's promise) are two (different things).
    • Idiomatic translation: It's one thing to promise and another to perform.
  • Proverbe ne peut mentir.
    • Literal translation: Proverb cannot lie.
  • Prudence est mère de sûreté.
    • Idiomatic translation: Discretion is the better part of valour.
    • Literal meaning: Caution is the mother of safety.

Q[edit]

  • Quand le chat n'est pas là, les souris dansent.
    • Idiomatic translation: While the cat's away the mice will play.
    • Literal meaning: When the cat's away the mice dance.
  • Quand le vin est tiré, il faut le boire.
    • Idiomatic translation: In for a penny, in for a pound.
    • Literal meaning: Once the wine is drawn, it must be drunk.
  • Quand les poules auront des dents.
    • Idiomatic translation: When pigs fly / When hell freezes over.
    • Literal meaning: When chickens will have teeth.
  • Quand on parle du loup, on en voit la queue.
    • Idiomatic translation: Talk of the Devil and he will appear.
    • Literal meaning: When you talk about the wolf, you see its tail.
  • Quand on veut, on peut.
    • Literal meaning: When we want, we can.
    • Idiomatic translation: When there's a will, there's a way.
  • Qui a bon voisin a bon matin.
    • Literal meaning: Those who have good neighbors, have good mornings.
    • Idiomatic translation: Good neighbours give good days.
  • Qui a bu, boira.
    • Idiomatic translation: Once a drunkard, always a drunkard.
    • Literal meaning: Who has drunk will drink.
  • Qui aime bien, châtie bien.
    • Idiomatic translation: Spare the rod and spoil the child.
    • Literal meaning: Who loves well, punishes well.
    • Latin: Qui bene amat, bene castigat
  • Qui casse les verres les paie.
    • Idiomatic translation: Who breaks pays.
    • Literal meaning: Who breaks the glasses, pays for them.
  • Qui cherche, trouve.
    • Idiomatic translation: Seek and ye shall find.
    • Literal meaning: Who seeks, finds.
  • Qui donne aux pauvres prête à Dieu.
    • Idiomatic translation: Charity will be rewarded in heaven.
    • Literal meaning: Who gives to the poor, lends to God.
  • Qui dort dîne.
    • Idiomatic translation: He who sleeps forgets his hunger.
    • Literal meaning: Who sleeps, dines.
    • Historical origin: travelers staying overnight at hostels were required to also purchase meals.
  • Qui ne dit mot, consent.
    • Idiomatic translation: Silence gives consent.
    • Latin: Qui tacet consentire videtur.
    • Literal meaning: Who says no word, consents.
  • Qui n'entend qu'une cloche, n'entend qu'un son.
    • Idiomatic translation: Hear the other side and believe little.
    • Literal meaning: Who hears naught but one bell, hears naught but one sound.
  • Qui ne veut rien n'a rien.
    • Idiomatic translation: If you don't ask, you don't get.
    • Literal meaning: Who wants nothing, gets nothing.
  • Qui paye ses dettes s'enrichit.
    • Idiomatic translation: The rich man is the one who pays his debts.
    • Literal meaning: He who pays his debts, gets richer.
  • Qui peut le plus peut le moins.
    • Idiomatic translation: He who can do more can do less.
  • Qui plus sait, plus se tait.
    • Idiomatic translation: He who knows most, says least.
  • Qui se couche avec les chiens se lève avec des puces.
    • Idiomatic translation: Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.
  • Qui se fait brebis, le loup le mange.
    • Literal translation: Who makes himself a ewe, the wolf eats him.
    • Idiomatic translation: He that makes himself a sheep shall be eaten by the wolf.
    • Idiomatic translation: Make yourself a sheep and the wolf will eat you.


  • Qui se ressemble s'assemble.
    • Literal meaning: Those who look alike associate together.
    • Idiomatic translation: Like attracts like / Birds of a feather flock together.
  • Qui se sent morveux, qu'il se mouche.
    • Idiomatic translation: Who feels snotty, let him blow his nose.
  • Qui s'y frotte s'y pique.
    • Literal meaning: He who rubs against it, get stung by it.
    • Idiomatic translation: Gather thistles, expect prickles.
  • Qui va à la chasse perd sa place.
    • Idiomatic translation: He who leaves his place, loses it.
    • Literal meaning: Who goes hunting, loses his place.
  • Qui veut la fin veut les moyens.
    • Translation: He who wills the end wills the means.
  • Qui veut noyer son chien l'accuse de rage.
    • Idiomatic translation: Give a dog a bad name and hang him.
    • Literal meaning: He who wants to drown his dog says it has rabies.
  • Qui veut voyager loin, ménage sa monture.
    • Translation: He who wishes to ride far spares his horse.
  • Qui vivra verra.
    • Idiomatic translation: Time will tell.
    • Literal meaning: Who shall live, shall see.
  • Qui vole un œuf vole un bœuf.
    • Translation: He that steals an egg will steal an ox.

R[edit]

  • Remuer le couteau dans la plaie.
    • Idiomatic translation: To rub it in.
    • Literal meaning: To twist the knife in the wound.
  • Rien ne sert de courir, il faut partir à point.
    • Idiomatic translation: Slow and steady wins the race.
    • Literal meaning: It is useless to run, one must leave in time.
  • Rira bien qui rira le dernier.
    • Literal meaning: Well laughs he who laughs last.
    • Idiomatic translation: He who laughs last laughs best.
  • Rome ne s'est pas faite en un jour.
    • Idiomatic translation: Rome wasn't built in a day.
  • Rouge soir et blanc matin, c'est la journée du pèlerin.
    • Idiomatic translation: Evening red and morning grey will set the traveller on his way.
    • Idiomatic translation: Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning, red sky at night, sailor's delight.
    • Literal Meaning: Red evening and white morning, such is the pilgrim's day.

S[edit]

  • Sage comme une image.
    • Idiomatic translation: As good as gold.
  • Secret de deux, secret de Dieu; secret de trois, secret de tous.
    • Idiomatic translation: When three people know, the whole world knows.
    • Literal meaning: A secret shared by two is shared with God; a secret shared by three is shared with everybody.
  • Si tu veux la paix, prépare la guerre.
    • Literal meaning: "If you want peace prepare for war."
    • (Original in Latin by Scipio Africanus: "Si vis pacem para bellum.")
  • Si tu veux connaitre la fille, regarde la mère.
    • If you want to know the daughter, look at the mother
    • If you don't like your mother-in-law, you'll hate your girlfriend/wife after a few years. (work for appereances and mind)
  • Souris qui n'a qu'un trou est bientôt prise.
    • Idiomatic translation: Better safe than sorry.
    • Literal meaning: A mouse that has only one hole is soon caught.
  • Souvent femme varie, bien fou qui s'y fie.
    • Literal meaning: Often does a woman change her heart, mad be the man who will trust her.
    • Idiomatic translation: Woman is fickle, man beware!
  • Suffisance vaut abondance.
    • Idiomatic translation: Enough is as good as a feast.
    • Literal meaning: Enough is worth plenty.

T[edit]

  • Tant dort le chat qu'il se réveille.
    • Translation: The sleeping cat at length awakes.
  • Tel est petit qui boit bien.
    • Idiomatic translation: Though he is little, he can tipple.
  • Tel est pris qui croyait prendre.
    • Translation 1: It's the biter bit.
    • Translation 2: The hunter becomes the hunted.
    • Literal meaning: He is caught who thought to catch.
  • Tel père, tel fils.
    • Idiomatic translation: The apple does not fall far from the tree.
    • Translation: Like father, like son.
  • Tel qui rit vendredi, dimanche pleurera.
    • Idiomatic translation: Sing before breakfast, cry before night.
    • Literal meaning: Laugh on Friday, cry on Sunday.
  • Tous les chemins mènent à Rome.
    • Translation: All roads lead to Rome.
  • Tous les goûts sont dans la nature.
    • Idiomatic translation: It takes all sorts to make a world.
    • Literal meaning: All tastes are in nature.
  • Tout est poison. Rien n'est poison. Le poison c'est la dose.
    • Literal meaning: Everything is poison. Nothing is poison. The poison is the dose.
    • Attributed to Paracelsus.
  • Tout nouveau, tout beau.
    • Translation 1: Anything for a change.
    • Translation 2: New brooms sweep clean.
    • Literal meaning: All new, all beautiful.
  • Toute médaille a son revers.
    • Translation 1: Every rose has its thorn.
    • Translation 2: Every path has its puddle.
    • Literal meaning: Every medal has its back.
  • Toute peine mérite salaire.
    • Idiomatic translation: The labourer is worthy of his hire.
    • Literal meaning: Every job deserves a wage.
  • Toute vérité n'est pas bonne à dire.
    • Translation: The truth is sometimes best left unsaid.
  • Trop de hâte nuit.
    • Idiomatic translation: Haste makes waste.
    • Literal meaning: Too much haste is harmful.
  • Trop gratter cuit, trop parler nuit.
    • Translation: Too much scratching pains, too much talking plagues.

U[edit]

  • Un bienfait n'est jamais perdu.
    • Translation: A favour is never lost.
  • Un chien regarde bien un évêque.
    • Idiomatic translation: A cat may look at a king.
    • Literal meaning: A dog may look at a bishop.
  • Un(e) de perdu(e), dix de trouvé(e)s.
    • Idiomatic translation: There are plenty more fish in the sea.
    • Literal meaning: One lost, ten found.
  • Un homme averti en vaut deux.
    • Translation 1: Forewarned is forearmed.
    • Translation 2: Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.
    • Literal meaning: A forewarned man is worth two.
  • Un sou est un sou.
    • Idiomatic translation: Every little helps.
    • Literal meaning: A penny is a penny.
  • Une fois n'est pas coutume.
    • Translation 1: Just this once will not hurt.
    • Translation 2: Once in a while does no harm.
    • Literal meaning: Once does is no habit.
  • Une journée est perdu si l'on n'a pas ri.
    • Literal meaning: A day is lost if one has not laughed.

Wrong translations[edit]

I do not know if it is the sources that are wrong or if the one who wrote many of those proverbs added his own translation of them, but a large number of those are horribly wrong, sometimes even saying the opposite of what the original proverb says. I'll add here more proper translations to show what I mean, please tell me if I should just correct them, or if I need to actually find some sources who can actually translate French to English properly.

-À mauvais ouvrier point de bon outil.

   Translation: A bad craftsman blames his tools.
   Source: Strauss, Emmanuel (1998). Dictionary of European Proverbs. Routledge. p. 4. ISBN 0415160502.

Correct Translation: To a bad craftsman, no tools are ever good.

-À tort se lamente de la mer qui ne s'ennuie d'y retourner.

   Translation: He complains wrongfully at the sea that gets bored on it twice.
   English equivalent: He complains wrongfully at the sea that suffer shipwreck twice.
   Meaning: Don't do the same thing again and expect different results.
   Strauss, Emanuel (1994). Dictionary of European proverbs (Volume 2 ed.). Routledge. p. 898. ISBN 0415096243.

Correct Translation: Wrongfully he complains of the sea he who is not eager to go back to it. In this case, the meaning is also wrong due to the translation being wrong.

-Au bout du fossé, la culbute.

   Translation: Pride comes before fall.
   Strauss, Emmanuel (1994). Dictionary of European Proverbs, Volym 1. Routledge. p. 1148. ISBN 0415096243.

Correct Translation: At the end of the ditch, the fall.

-Au fruit on connaît l'arbre.

   Translation: The fruit is known by its tree.
   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 meaning: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. DeProverbio.com. p. 259. ISBN 1-875943-44-7.
   Strauss, Emanuel (1994). Dictionary of European proverbs (Volume 2 ed.). Routledge. p. 488. ISBN 0415096243.

Correct Translation: The tree is known by its fruits. Correct Meaning: Same as "À l'oeuvre, on reconnait l'artisan" (The craftsman by his work is known.)

And that's only for the As, ignoring a few smaller mistakes which do not alter the meaning of the translation and one which is there twice. What do more experimented members believe? Should I go ahead with changing those translations? (if so, I'll correct the rest too, I just didn't want to waste time if I need to find sources that understand archaic french enough to translate them into English CyberDraconian (talk) 07:12, 24 August 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing this out. I would say, go ahead and correct the translations! ("It is better to be vaguely right than exactly wrong.") ~ DanielTom (talk) 10:27, 24 August 2013 (UTC)
One of Wikipedia's policies, which also counts for Wikiquote, is to be bold, so go ahead! I am using the book Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs, which does not provide a literal translation for non English proverbs, but merely a similar English equivalent proverb vastly varying in alikeness. Google Translate is used for translation because I do not understand French, and that software is often not entirely correct. Therefore you see these faulty translations. I mostly aim for finding a meaning provided by a published source because Wikipedia and also Wikiquote aims for no original research. However, there is no deadline so feel free to add unsourced meanings. Translations though, do not need to be sourced according to Wikiquote praxis.--Spannerjam (talk) 05:44, 25 August 2013 (UTC)
This is the actual Wikiquote praxis as explained at WQ:SOURCE: "Wikiquote editors should prefer a published translation by a reliable, professional translator to their own translation. (At some point, it is likely that only published translations will be permitted.)"

If you know that you don't know the language then it would behoove you to refrain from posting made up stuff. Competence is required. There is no deadline for completing an article, but there is no excuse for filling it with false information. ~ Ningauble (talk) 17:17, 25 August 2013 (UTC)

@Spannerjam: you should know Google Translate must be used with great skepticism even by people who understand both languages. I suggest you use it only to confirm/double check the translations as given in the books, to then add those. There is no need to add "literal translations" which are not literal at all. Sincere, DanielTom (talk) 18:22, 25 August 2013 (UTC) last edit: 09:17, 26 August 2013 (UTC)
@Ningauble and DanielTom Criticism duly noticed. I will henceforth try to avoid posting translations which likely are essentially wrong.
@CyberDraconian Just a clarification:Ningauble pointed out "Wikiquote editors should prefer a published translation by a reliable, professional translator to their own translation." But it is not required, so be bold and make changes you believe to be necessary! --Spannerjam (talk) 09:11, 26 August 2013 (UTC)
Personally I'd rather translate by the equivalent expression (wikt:a bad workman always blames his tools) than a literal one (but we could put the both), because the figurative meaning is the main topic. JackPotte (talk) 13:35, 1 September 2013 (UTC)