Arabic proverbs

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He who doesn't know the falcon roasts it.

Proverbs from all Arabic speaking parts of the world.


  • Any wise enemy is better than an ignorant friend.
    • "We have met the enemy and he is us."
    • Walt Kelly, the words of Pogo in an Earth Day, 1971, cartoon strip, The Best of Pogo, ed. Mrs. Walt Kelly and Bill Crouch, Jr., p. 163 (1982). This succinct expression was derived from a sentence in the Foreword of an earlier publication, The Pogo Papers (1953): Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.
    • Quoted in Carol Bardenstein, Translation and Transformation in Modern Arabic Literature:The Indigenous Assertions of Muḥammad 'Uthmān Jalāl, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005, p. 66.
  • The food of the lion (causes) indigestion to the wolf.
  • The remedy may be worse than the disease.
    • English equivalent: The remedy is often worse than the disease; Burn not your house to rid it of the mouse.
    • "Action taken to put something right is often more unpleasant or damaging than the original problem."
    • Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. 
    • Atmaram Sadashiv, G. Jayakar (1900). Omani proverbs (Reimpresa ed.). Oleander Press. p. 69. ISBN 0906672120. 
  • He with no ears gets the earrings !
  • When suitors came asking for her hand, she played hard-to-get, when they all left her, she regretted it.
  • حبل الكذب قصير
    • Translation: The rope of lying is short.
    • English equivalent: A lie has short legs.
    • Katibah, Habib Ibrahim (1940). The new spirit in Arab lands. Published privately by the author. p. 121. 
  • كل ساقط له لاقط
    • Translation: Every faller has a catcher.
    • حسن, دين، محمد علي (2011). الامثال الشعبية. دار المحجة البيضاء للطباعة والنشر والتوزيع،. 
  • لا يفل الحديد إلا الحديد
    • Translation: Only iron strikes iron.
    • English equivalent: Fight fire with fire.
    • Meaning: "The best way to deal with an opponent is to fight back with similar 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. 
    • al-Kitäb. 1946. 
  • الوقت كالسيف إن لم تقطعه قطعك
    • Translation: Time is like a sword; if you don't cut it it'll cut you.
    • "Age imprints more wrinkles in the mind than it does on the face."
    • Michel de Montaigne, Essays (1595)
    • Manṣūr, ʻAbd al-Fattāḥ (1987). Mudhakkirāt kāìn maḥmūm. 

Bedouin Proverbs[edit]

  • الطول طول نخله والعقل عقل سخله*
    • Translation: [He has] The length of a palm tree but the brain of a goat.
    • فوزية, دريع، (2008). الرجل الحيوان. منشورات الجمل،. 
  • إلى كثروا الرعيان ضاعت الغنم
    • If the herders are a lot the sheep will get lost.
    • English equivalent: Too many cooks spoiled the broth.
    • "There may not be that natural connection and unity so essential to any production of merit."
    • Porter, William Henry (1845). Proverbs: Arranged in Alphabetical Order .... Munroe and Company. p. 173. 
  • لا تقول بـُر ليـن توكيــه
    • Translation: Don't say its wheat until you harvest it
    • English equivalent: Sell not the bear's skin before you have caught him.
    • Meaning: "Do not plan too far ahead and do not be too optimistic. One cannot be sure of the success of a job until it is completed. Unforeseen unfavourable developments can never be excluded."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "X". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 217. ISBN 1-875943-44-7.