Vietnamese proverbs

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Proverbs from all Vietnamese speaking parts of the world.

A[edit]

  • Ác giả, ác báo.
    • English equivalent: What you reap is what you sow.
    • Seitz (2009). A Hundred Years of Happiness. Thomas Nelson. p. 51. 
  • Ai làm nấy chịu.
    • Translation: Whoever does something is responsible for it.
    • English equivalent: Whoever sows wind shall harvest storm.
    • Meaning: "Trouble once started can spark off a chain reaction, often resulting in a great trouble out of control."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "103". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 459. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • Minh (2005). Thá̆p ngọn đuó̂c hò̂ng. Nhàxuá̂t bản Tộng hợp Thành phó̂Hò̂ChíMinh. p. 118. 
  • Ăn mày đòi xôi gấc
    • Translation: Beggars must be no chosers.
    • Englsh equivalent: Beggars can't be chosers.
    • Meaning: "We must accept with gratitude and without complaint what we are given when we do not have the means or opportunity to provide ourselves with something better."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent:Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. Retrieved on 29 June 2013. 
    • Chu, Lương, Tri (1993). Tục ngữViệt Nam. Khoa học xãhội. p. 378. 

B[edit]

  • Bắt cá hai tay.
    • Translation: You catch fish with two hands.
    • English equivalent: Between two stools, you fall to the ground; To run with the hare and hold with the hound; Two timer; You have one cake but cannot eat it up.
    • Meaning: If you cannot make up you mind which of two things to do, you are liable to get yourself into difficulties by doing neither.
    • Vocabulaire élémentaire Français-Vietnamien. Lulu.com. p. 14. ISBN 978-2-9531291-0-6. 

C[edit]

  • Cái khó ló cái khôn.
    • English equivalent: Adversity is the mother of wisdom.
    • "Most of us seldom take the trouble to think. Crises and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage, that they force us to think."
    • Jawaharlal Nehru The Unity of India : Collected Writings, 1937-1940 (1942), p. 94
    • Hoàng, (Vietnam) (1994). Kể chuyện thành ngữ, tục ngữ. Khoa học xãhội. p. 7. 
  • Cái nết đánh chết cái đẹp.
    • Translation: Goodness is better than beauty
    • English equivalent: Handsome is as handsome does.
    • Meaning: "People should be valued for their good deeds, not their good looks, also occasionally used of things, or as a warning not to be misled by an attractive appearance."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. 
    • Quang (2004). Khơi nguò̂n mỹhọc dân tộc. Nhàxuá̂t bản Chính trịquó̂c gia. p. 27. 
  • Càng đông càng vui.
    • Translation and English equivalent: The more, the merrier.
    • Bảo (2001). Văn nghệmột thời đênhớ. Văn học. p. 455. 
  • Cháy nhà mới lòi mặt chuột
    • Translation: Only when the house is on fire do the rats show themselves (to runaway).
    • English equivalent: Rats desert a sinking ship.
    • Meaning: Only when something bad happens; the skeleton(s) in the closet will be revealed.
    • Lê (1991). Lột mặt nạnhững con thòlòchính trị. MẹViệt Nam. p. 38. 
  • Chơi chó, chó liếm mặt Familiarity breeds contempt.
    • Nguyêñ, Nguyêñ, Phan, (Vietnam) (1993). Từđiên̕thành ngữViệt Nam. Văn hóa. p. 154. 
  • Chứng nào tật nấy.
    • Van Giuong (2008). Tuttle Compact Vietnamese Dictionary: Vietnamese-English English-Vietnamese. Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd.. p. 61. 
  • Con sâu làm rầu nồi canh - Một người làm đĩ xấu danh đàn bà .
    • Hoà (2011). Mille et un proverbes. Publibook/Sociétédes écrivains. p. 73. 
  • Có chí thì nên.
    • English equivalent: Where there's a will, there's a way.
    • Meaning: "If you are sufficiently determined to achieve something, then you will find a way of doing so."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 299. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. 
    • Stone, J. R. (2005). The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations: The Illiterati's Guide to Latin Maxims, Mottoes, Proverbs and Sayings, Routledge. p. 351
    • Nguyẽ̂n (1971). Cóchíthìnên. Nam-hà1. 
  • Của thiên, trả địa.
  • Translation: (That which) Belongs to heaven, returns to earth.
    • English equivalent: Ill gotten, ill spent. (Mr. B Lam)
    • English Equivalent: Easy come, easy go.
    • Meaning: "Things that are easily acquired, especially money, are just as easily lost or spent."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. Retrieved on 7 September 2013. 
    • Lân (2006). Của thiên trảđịa. Tổng hợp Đồng Nai. 
  • Có công mài sắt có ngày nên kim.
    • Translation: If you put in the work to sharpen the steel, it will eventually turn into needles.
    • English equivalent: Persevere and never fear.
    • Meaning: Persistence pays.
    • Lương. Yêu ngoài giờ. Công ty Văn hóa Hương Trang. p. 83. 
  • Có thực mới vực được đạo.
    • English equivalent: It's no use preaching to a hungry man
    • Meaning: Having food (energy/money) is the prerequisite to achieve anything.
    • United States. Joint Publications Research Service (1996). Vietnamese-English dictionary, Volume 1. U.S. Joint Publications Research Service. p. 173. 
  • Chim sợ cành cong.
    • Chơn, Tâm Chơn. Bóng trúc bên thềm. Nhàsách Quang Minh. p. 119. 
  • Có còn hơn không.
    • Giáo sưHoàng Xuân Việt. Tìm hiểu lịch sửchữquốc ngữ. Công ty Văn hóa Hương Trang. p. 369. 
  • Chở củi về rừng
    • Hoà (2011). Mille et un proverbes. Publibook/Sociétédes écrivains. p. 91. 
  • Có tiền mua tiên cũng được.
    • English equivalent: Money talks. (Mr. B)
    • Nguyẽ̂n, Hoa, Phan (2006). Tuttle English-Vietnamese dictionary. Tuttle. p. 154. ISBN 0804837422. 
  • Chưa đỗ ông nghè đã đe hàng tổng
    • Sơn (2001). Truyện cỏ̂tích Việt Nam: bình giải. Vǎn học. p. 690. 
  • Chưa khỏi vòng đã cong đuôi.
    • Meaning: Don't celebrate untill you are 100 % sure there is a reason to do so.
    • (Vietnam) (1999). Tuyển tập văn học dân gian Việt Nam. Nhàxuất bản Giáo dục. p. 47. 
  • Cười người hôm trước, hôm sau người cười.
    • Translation: Laughs at others today, (and) tomorrow others will laugh at you
    • English equivalent: He who laughs last, laughs longest.
    • Meaning: "Minor successes or failures along the way are of no significance – the person who is ultimately triumphant is the only real winner."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. 
    • Minh. Học tròkhông học buổi nào. Công ty Văn hóa Hương Trang. p. 81. 

D[edit]

  • Đánh chết cái nết không chừa.
    • Translation: You can't kill someone's habit.
    • English equivalent: Old habits die hard.
    • Hoà (2011). Mille et un proverbes. Publibook/Sociétédes écrivains. p. 102. 
  • Đầu xuôi đuôi lọt.
    • Translation: A good beginning is half the battle.
    • 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. 
    • Hoang. Van minh lam giau \& Nguon goc cua cai (NXB Chinh tri Quoc gia, 2007). Dr. Vuong Quan Hoang. p. 157. 
  • Dĩ độc trị độc.
    • English equivalent: Fight fire with fire.
    • Meaning: "The best way to deal with an opponent is to fight back with similair weapons or tactics."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. 
    • Thiền sư Quy Sơn Linh Hựu - Nguyễn Minh Tiến dịch và chú giải. Quy Sơn cảnh sách văn. Công ty Văn hóa Hương Trang. p. 70. GGKEY:UHY5HY2HSS4. 
  • Dĩ hoà vi quý.
    • Translation: Making peace is treasured.
    • Closest English equivalent: Make love, not war.
    • Minh. Gọi nắng xuân về. Nhàsách Quang Minh. p. 116. 
  • Đi với bụt mặc áo cà sa, đi với ma mặc áo giấy.
    • Nguyê̋n, Lê, Vő, Viê̜t Nam, (Vietnam) (2006). Thông báo văn hoádân gian 2005. Nhàxuá̂t bản Khoa học xa̋hội. p. 150. 
  • Điếc không sợ súng.
    • Translation: He that knows nothing doubts nothing.
    • Ky Su Trong Tu. Lulu.com. p. 325. 
  • Dục tốc bất đạt. More haste, less speed.
    • Nguyẽ̂n (2000). Côđơn con người, côđơn thi sĩ: tiểu luận-phêbình. Nhàxuất bản Văn hóa dân tộc. p. 71. 
  • Đời cha ăn mặn, đời con khát nước.
    • Translation: When the father's generation eats salt, the child's generation thirsts for water.
    • Chinese equivalent: Father's debt, son to give back.
    • Minh (2005). Thá̆p ngọn đuó̂c hò̂ng. Nhàxuá̂t bản Tộng hợp Thành phó̂Hò̂ChíMinh. p. 118. 
  • Đồng thanh tương ứng, đồng khí tương cầu.
    • Translation: Birds of the same feather stick together.
    • English equivalent: Birds of a feather flock together.
    • Meaning: Similar people often become friends.
    • Tùng, Kieu (2006). Tửvi Chân Thuyên. Lulu.com. p. 2. 
  • Đoàn kết thì sống, chia rẽ thì chết. United we stand, divided we fall
    • Quỳnh, Lâm (1968). Từ diển Anh-Việt, chính-trị, hành-chính, kinh-tế, tài-chính, pháp-luật. In tại Thanh-Hiền. p. 256. 
  • Dục tốc bất đạt.
    • English equivalentː Haste makes waste.
    • Hoà, Vân (14 April 2011). "466". Mille et un proverbes. Editions Publibook. p. 97. ISBN 978-2-7483-6347-0. 
  • Được đằng chân, lân đằng đầu.
    • Nguyễn (1997). Bímật gia đình Lâm Bưu. Văn Nghệ. p. 432. 

G[edit]

  • Gậy ông đập lưng ông.
    • Meaning: Evil acts quite often punish themselves. Conversely, good acts quite often reward themselves.
    • Vũ, Quốc (2003). Gậy ông đập lưng ông. NXB. Thanh niên. pp. 159. 
  • Gieo gió gặp bão.
    • Minh. Nắng mới bên thềm xuân. Công ty Văn hóa Hương Trang. p. 102. 
  • "Gian nan mới biết bạn hiền."
  • English equivalent: A friend in need is a friend indeed. (Mr. B Lam)
  • Gần mực thì đen, gần đèn thì rạng.
    • Translation: If near ink, you will be black, if near light, you will shine.
    • English equivalent: Tell me with whom though goest, and I will tell what though doest.
    • Meaning: If you live in a bad environment, you will be so influenced; if you live in a good environment, you will be so influenced.
    • Chʻing-yün Chu-ko; Khánh Phụng Từ (1971). Thư kiếm xuân thu: (võ hiệp kỳ tình trường thiên tiểu thuyết). Đại Nam. p. 179. Retrieved on 4 September 2013. 

H[edit]

  • Học không chơi đánh rơi tuổi trẻ. (Mr. B Lam)
    • English equivalent: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
  • Hoạ vô đon chí.
    • Translation: Misfortunes never come singly.
    • English equivalent: Misery loves company.
    • Nguyen (2011). Legends of the Promised Land. Dorrance Publishing Company. p. 38. 

I[edit]

  • Im lặng là vàng.
    • English equivalent: Silence is golden. (Mr. B Lam)
  • Im lặng tức là đồng ý.
    • Translation: Silence gives consent.
    • Hoàng (1998). Vằng vặc sao khuê: tiểu thuyết lịch sử. Văn học. p. 155. 

K[edit]

  • Kiêu ngạo đi trước, bại hoại theo sau. (Kinh Thánh)
    • Fall comes after pride. (the Bible) Mr. B
  • Không có lửa sao có khói.
    • Translation and English equivalent: There is no smoke without fire.
    • Meaning: "There is no effect without some cause." or "It is supposed that if there is a rumour, there must be some truth behind it."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "1". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 33. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • Van Giuong (2008). Tuttle Compact Vietnamese Dictionary: Vietnamese-English English-Vietnamese. Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd.. p. 180. 

L[edit]

  • Lời nói không đi đôi với việc làm.
    • Translation: Words don't match with actions.
    • Meaning: The person referred to in the proverb is a hypocrite; he says one thing but does another.
    • English closest equivalent: Practice what you preach. (Ms. C Foot)

M[edit]

  • Mưu sự tại nhân, thành sự tại thiên.
    • English equivalent: Man proposes, but god disposes.
    • Meaning: Things seldom turn out as you have planned.
    • Van Giuong (2007). Tuttle Compact Vietnamese Dictionary. C. E. Tuttle. p. 339. ISBN 0804838712. 
  • Một giọt máu đào hơn ao nước lã.
    • Translation: Blood is much thicker than water.
    • English equivalent: Blood is thicker than water.
    • Meaning: "In case of need relatives usually help each other more than strangers. – The bonds of relationship are more binding than other bonds."
    • Vocabulaire élémentaire Français-Vietnamien. Lulu.com. p. 59. 
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "41". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 233. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
  • Một câu nhịn chín câu lành.
    • Translation: Better a lean peace than a fat victory.
    • Minh. Hoa nhẫn nhục. Nhàsách Quang Minh. p. 15. 
  • Méo mó có hơn không.
    • English equivalent: Half a loaf is better than no bread. (Ms. C Foot)
    • "As to the quantity of absolute truth in a thought: it seems to me the more comprehensive and unobjectionable a thought becomes, the more clumsy and unexciting it gets. I like half-truths of a certain kind — they are interesting and they stimulate."
    • Eric Hoffer, Entry (1950)

N[edit]

  • Nhân nào, quả nấy.
    • Nguyễn Hữu Kiệt dịch. Những bíẩn cuộc đời. Công ty Văn hóa Hương Trang. p. 288. 
  • Nói trước bước không qua.
    • English equivalent: Don't count your chickens before they're hatched. (Mr. B Lam)
  • Nước chảy đá mòn.
    • Translation: Water flows, rock erodes.
    • English equivalent: Constant dripping wears the stone.
    • "A drop hollows out the stone by falling not twice, but many times; so too is a person made wise by reading not two, but many books."
    • (Giordano Bruno, Il Candelaio)
    • Diệu, Nguyễn (2001). Toàn tập Xuân Diệu. Văn học. p. 76. 

P[edit]

  • Phi thương,bất phú.
    • Translation: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    • Meaning: It is necessary to take risks in order to achieve something.
    • Hoàng (2007). Silk for Silver: Dutch-Vietnamese Relations, 1637-1700. Brill. p. 125. 

S[edit]

T[edit]

  • Tay làm hàm nhai
    • Translation: The hand works, the mouth (is allowed to) chew.
    • English equivalent: He that does not work shall not eat.
    • Meaning: "Without due effort one is not entitled to the fruits of the work."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. DeProverbio.com. p. 256. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • Van Giuong (2008). Tuttle Compact Vietnamese Dictionary: Vietnamese-English English-Vietnamese. Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd.. p. 125. 
  • Tham thì thâm.
    • Translation and English equivalent: Grasp all, lose all.
    • Van Giuong (2008). Tuttle Compact Vietnamese Dictionary: Vietnamese-English English-Vietnamese. Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd.. p. 331. 
  • Tiền nào của đó.
    • Translation: Like money, like stuff.
    • English equivalent: If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly; If you buy quality you only cry once.
    • Lê (2000). Một giáhai giáhay vôgiá?: một sốbài phóng sự, kýsựvàghi chép. Trẻ. p. 35. 
  • Trèo cao, té nặng.
    • Translation: The higher you climb, the greater you fall.
    • Meaning: Slip-ups becomes more consequential, the more influence you have.
    • (Vietnam) (2005). Tié̂ng Hué̂, người Hué̂\& văn hóa Hué̂. Nhàxuá̂t bản Văn học. p. 47. 

X[edit]

  • Xa mặt, cách lòng.
    • Translation: Out of sight, out of mind.
    • English equivalent: "Long absent, soon forgotten" and also "Out of sight, out of mind."
    • Diệu Kim biên soạn. Đốvui Phật pháp. Nhàsách Quang Minh. p. 195. 
  • Xem việc biết người.
    • English equivalent: A workman is known by his chips.
    • Võ (2004). Ngôn ngữdân gian Việt Nam: song ngữViệt-Anh. Nhàxuất bản Văn hóa thông tin. p. 31.