Basque proverbs

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The Basque language (called Euskara by the Basque language speakers or Basques themselves) is the oldest language in Europe, the only non Indo-European language that survived after the administration of the Roman Empire spread throughout Europe. It is spoken by about one million people in the seven provinces of the Euskal Herria, that is, in North East Spain and South West France. No relationship between Basque and any other language has been established with certainty. The alphabet used for Basque employs Roman letters. The first printed book in Basque appeared in the 16th century. Basque is both agglutinative and polysynthetic.


  • A zer parea! Karakola eta barea![1]
    • Translation: Oh, what a pair! A snail and a slug!
  • Abadearen lapikoa, txikia baina gozoa.[1]
    • Translation: The priest's pot is small but tasty.
  • Aberats izatea baino, izen ona hobe.
    • Translation: It's better to have a good name than to be rich.
    • English equivalent: A good name is the best treasure.
    • "The greatest expression of rebellion is joy."
    • Joss Whedon, Acceptance speech for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog at the Creative Art Emmys (2008)
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 2
  • Adiskidegabeko bizitza, auzogabeko heriotza.[1]
    • Translation: Life without friends means death without neighbors.
  • Aditu nahi ez duenak, ez du esan behar.[1]
    • Translation: He who doesn't want to hear, shouldn't say.
    • "Who says Jack is not generous? he is always fond of giving, and cares not for receiving. –What? Why; Advice."
    • Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack (1740)
  • Alferkeria, askoren ondamendia.
    • Translation: Laziness leads many people astray.
    • Latin equivalent: Ignavum fortuna repugnat.
      • Translation: Fortune disdains the lazy.
    • "Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is."
    • Albert Camus, The Rebel (1951)
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 2
  • Adiskide onekin, orduak labur.[1]
    • Translation: With a good friend the hours are short.
    • English equivalent: Friends are thieves of time.
  • Agindua zorra, esan ohi da.[1]
    • Translation: A promise is a debt, it's always been said.
  • Aita biltzaileari, seme hondatzaile.[1]
    • Translation: A miserly father begets a squandering son.
    • English equivalent: A miserly father makes a prodigal son.
  • Aita ongi eginkari (xarakiten zau) seme berartrakari.
    • Translation: A father doing good things will have a similar son.
    • English equivalent: Like father, like son.
    • Tristo è quel discepolo che non avanza il suo maestro. (Modern Italian)
    • Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. p. 170. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
  • Alferrak, beti lanez beterik.[1]
    • Translation: Lazy people are always busy.
    • English equivalent: Busy people have the most spare time.
  • Alferrarendako lanik ez, eta astirik ez.[1]
    • Translation: The lazy person has no work and has no time.
  • Alferrarentzat jana eta langilearentzat lana, ez da inoiz faltako.[1]
    • Translation: There is never a lack of food for the lazy person, nor of work for the industrious.

Anthony LaPaglia

  • Aditzaile onari, hitz gutxi.[1]
    • Translation: A good listener needs few words.
  • Alferrik da, ura joan eta gero, presa egitea.[1]
    • Translation: It is useless, once the water is gone, to hurry.
  • Amari egindako zorrak ez dira inoiz ordaintzen.[1]
    • Translation: The debts made to one's mother are never paid.
  • Amen: Zu hor eta ni hemen.[1]
    • Translation: Amen: you there and me here.
    • "The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never made up their mind to be good or evil. "
    • Hannah Ardent, The Life Of The Mind (1978)
  • Apaizaren eltzea, txikia baina betea.[1]
    • Translation: The priest's pot is small but full.
  • Ardi galdua atzeman daiteke, aldi galdua berriz ez.[1]
    • English equivalent: Time is precious.
    • "Days are of the least pretension, and of the greatest capacity of anything that exists. They come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party; but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away."
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Works and Days. (1904)
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 3
  • Ardi txikia, beti bildots.[1]
    • Translation: The small sheep, always a lamb.
    • "Think of enlightment as you shift from the character to the player. You're still playing the game, there is still high's and lows. But your experience changes completely because you detach your self-worth and it is a lot less heavy."
    • Julien Blanc, Julien Blanc Shows Disillusioned Man The Way to "Enlightment" (Letting Go and Trauma Q&A) (2020)
  • Ardiak beeka egonik, ez du jaten belarrik.[1]
    • Translation: A bleating sheep eats no grass.
  • Arian, arian, zehetzen da burnia.[1]
    • Translation: Working and working at it, iron can be pulverized.
    • English equivalent: Constant dripping wears the stone.
    • "If thy hope be any thing worth, it will purify thee from thy sins."
    • Joseph Alleine, The Solemn Warnings of the Dead: or, An Admonition to Unconverted Sinners (1804), Chapter 3, p. 44
  • Aŕian handiak yaten ditu tipiak.
    • Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. p. 420. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
  • Arotzaren extean keŕena zurez.
    • Translation: The craftsman has a bad roof.
    • English equivalent: The shoemaker goes barefoot.
    • 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. 
    • comparable and akin to "Familiarity breeds contempt" The more you know, experience or work with (in the sense of a job) a thing - the less importance you place upon it.
  • Arranoak lumak behar, txepetxak ere bai.[1]
    • Translation: The eagle needs feathers, and the wren does too.
    • "If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you."
    • Attributed to Lao Tzu
  • Arrotz-herri, otso-herri.[1]
    • Translation: A foreign land is a land of wolves.

  • Aseak gosea ezin ikus.[1]
    • Translation: The satiated cannot see the hungry.
    • “People whose wishes get granted often don't turn out to be very nice people.”
    • Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad (1991)
  • Aski ez duena, deusik ez duena.[1]
    • Translation: Not having enough is like not having anything.
    • "The eradiction of envy: gratitude."
    • Giannina Braschi, United States of Banana (2011).
  • Asko baduk/n, asko beharko duk/n.[1]
    • Translation: If you have much, you will need much.
    • "Little is needed to make a wise man happy, but nothing can content a fool."
    • La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, L. Tancock trans. (1665) p. 108
  • Asko daki zaharrak, erakutsi beharrak.[1]
    • Translation: Old people know much; they were taught by necessity.
    • English equivalent: Time discloses all.
    • TIME
  • Asko dakin/k/zu, bizitzen baldin badakin/k/zu.[1]
    • Translation: You know much if you know how to live.
    • "Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good."
    • Augustine of Hippo, In epistulam Ioannis ad Parthos, Tractatus VII, 8 (Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 7)
    • Latin: "dilige et quod vis fac."; falsely often: "ama et fac quod vis."
    • Translation by Professor Joseph Fletcher: Love and then what you will, do.
  • Askoren mina, tontoen atsegina.[1]
    • Translation: The stupid find relief in the suffering of others.
    • "Most people have no imagination. If they could imagine the sufferings of others, they would not make them suffer so."
    • Anna Funder, All That I Am (2011)
  • Asto askok, lasto asko.[1]
    • Translation: A lot of donkeys means a lot of hay.
    • English equivalent: Fools live poor to die rich
    • "People are a thousand times more concerned to become wealthy than to acquire mental culture, whereas it is quite certain that what we are contributes much more to our happiness than what we have. Therefore we see very many work from morning to night as industriously as ants and in restless activity to increase the wealth they already have. Beyond the narrow horizon of the means to this end, they know nothing; their minds are a blank and are therefore not susceptible to anything else. The highest pleasures, those of the mind, are inaccessible to them and they try in vain to replace them by the fleeting pleasures of the senses in which they indulge at intervals and which cost little time but much money. If their luck has been good, then as a result they have at the end of their lives a really large amount of money, which they now leave to their heirs either to increase still further or to squander. Such a life, though pursued with a very serious air of importance, is therefore just as foolish as is many another that had for its symbol a fool’s cap."
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life,” Parerga und Paralipomena, E. Payne, trans. (1974) Vol. 1, p. 321.
  • Astoari ezin mendeka, mendeka albardari.[1]
    • Translation: Not able to take revenge on the donkey, take it out on the saddle.
  • Aukera maukera, azkenik trankera.[1]
    • Translation: The choosy one ends up with the ordinary.
  • Aurrera begiratzen ez duena, atzean dago.[1]
    • Translation: Those who don't look forward, stay behind.
    • Latin equivalent: If you are not moving forward, you are losing ground.
    • "Death is a friend of ours; and he that is not ready to entertain him is not at home."
    • Francis Bacon, An Essay on Death published in The Remaines of the Right Honourable Francis Lord Verulam (1648) but may not have been written by Bacon
  • Bat izatea hobe, bi itxo egitea baino.
    • Translation: It's better to have one than be waiting for two.
    • English equivalent: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 4
  • Azeri zaharrak ile zaharra uzten du, aztura zaharrik ez.
    • Translation: The old fox sheds its old hair, but not its old habits.
    • English equivalent: Old habits die hard.
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 4
  • Azeria solas ematen zaukanean ari, gogo emak heure oiloari.[1]
    • Translation: When the fox is engaging you in conversation, keep an eye on your chicken.
  • Azken gaizto egingo duk, txoria, gazterik egiten ez baduk habia[1]
    • English equivalent: They who would be young when they are old must be old when they are young.
    • "The greatest part of mankind employ their first years to make their last miserable."
    • Jean de La Bruyère, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895) p. 623


  • Bere etxe pobrea, erregearena baino hobea.
    • His or her poor house is better than a king's.
    • "Never think that the Things thou wantest will cure thee of thy Discontents; for they will enlarge thy Desires, and make the Wounds wider. The Way to think we have enough, is not to desire to have too much."
    • Thomas Fuller, Introductio ad prudentiam (1727)
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 4
  • Bihotzean dagoena, mihira irten.
    • Translation: What is in the heart, comes to the tongue.
    • English equivalent: The tongue ever turns to the aching tooth.
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 5
  • Bururik ez duenak, hankak ibili behar.
    • If you don't have a good head, then you better have good legs.
    • English equivalent: A forgetful head makes a weary pair of heels.
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 5


  • Ez egin gaitzik eta ez izan beldurrik.
    • Translation: If you do no wrong, you need not be afraid.
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 8


  • Lehenean barka, bigarrenean urka.
    • The first time, forgive; the second time, hang.
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 12


  • Mendiak mendiaren behaŕik ez, bainan gizonak gizonaren bai.
    • Translation: It is the mountains that do not move to help one another; but one man surely comes to the help of another.
    • English equivalent: A mountain never meets a mountain, but a man meets a man.
    • "Speak gently--it is better far
      To rule by love than fear;
      Speak gently--let no harsh word mar
      The good we may do here.

      Speak gently to the young,
      for they Will have enough to bear;
      Pass through this life as best they may,
      'Tis full of anxious care.

      Speak gently to the aged one,
      Grieve not the careworn heart;
      The sands of life are nearly run--
      Let them in peace depart.

      Speak gently to the erring ones;
      They must have toiled in vain;
      Perchance unkindness made them so;
      Oh, win them back again!

      Speak gently--'tis a little thing,
      Dropped in the heart's deep well;
      The good, the joy, that it may bring,
      Eternity shall tell."
    • G. W. Hangford, London Magazine (1848)
    • Source for proverbs and meaning: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. p. 213. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 


  • Nahi dukana hiretzat, besterentzat.
    • Translation: What you want for yourself, want also for others.
    • "It is not the smallest use to try to make people good, unless you try at the same time — and they feel that you are trying — to make them happy. And you rarely can make another happy, unless you are happy yourself."
    • Dinah Craik, A Woman's Thoughts About Women (1858), Ch. 10.
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 13
  • Nola bizi, hala hil.
    • Translation: How you live is how you will die.
    • "The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more you will become comfortable."
    • Attributed to Conor Mcgregor
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 14
  • Nola soinu, hala dantza.
    • Translation: As is the music, thus will be the dance.
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 14


  • Ongi nahi hauenak negar eginaraziko dauk/daun/dizu, gaizki nahi hauenak barre eginaraziko dauk/daun/dizu.
    • Translation: The one who loves you will make you cry, the one who hates you will make you laugh.
    • Swedish equivalent: A friend's slap has honest intentions, your enemies' kisses are meant to deceive.
    • "The salvation of the world depends on the men who will not take evil good-humouredly, and whose laughter destroys the fool instead of encouraging him."
    • George Bernard Shaw, Quintessence Of Ibsenism (1891; 1913)
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 14
  • Osasuna, paregabeko ondasuna.
    • English equivalent: Good health is above wealth.
    • "We gotta make a change
      It's time for us as a people to start makin' some changes
      Let's change the way we eat
      Let's change the way we live
      And let's change the way we treat each other
      You see the old way wasn't workin'
      So it's on us to do what we gotta do to survive."
    • Tupac "2Pac" Shakur, Changes (1992)
    • Source: Aske, (1994) p. 8


  • Untsa habiatu den lana, erdi akabirik.
    • Translation: Well begun, is half done.
    • English equivalent: Also, Well begun, is half done.
    • 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 and proverbs: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. p. 228. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 


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