Talk:Polish proverbs

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Note: many proverbs are wrongly translated, likely the Polish language changed since the old source was published.[edit]

Bogu świeczkę, a diabłu ogarek.[edit]

  • English equivalent: A fair face and a foul heart. - WRONG.
  • Real meaning 'somebody wants to appease both sides of the conflict, somebody who hedges bets for two outcomes'.

Do tanga trzeba dwojga.[edit]

  • Real meaning 'it takes two to agree or be willing, for any deal or agreement to work'

"It takes two to tango." A real quote from English-language literature.

Postawić wszystsko na jedną kartę.[edit]

  • Real meaning: to go all for it, to risk everything for one outcome.
  • English equivalent: Don't put all your eggs in the same basket. - WRONG. This is the exact opposite of the idiom.
  • Meaning: "Spread your risks or investments so that if one enterprise fails you will not lose everything." - WRONG. This is the exact opposite of the idiom.

Domowe psy, choć się kąsają, wilka ujrzawszy nań się rzucają.[edit]

  • English equivalent: Don't go between the tree and the bark.
  • Meaning: Do not interfere when two parts are having an argument.

The proverb implies little quarrels (maybe in family or between flatmates? – "domowe psy"), but the second part says that they fight against alien threat – wolf. However, the English equivalent and meaning say to not interfere in arguments. Can anyone provide some source with explanation? – Tracerneo (talk) 14:20, 2 February 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Proverb books typically don't provide an explanation to a proverb, because the readers are imposed to infer the meaning. My explanation of the proverbs meaning is the following: "You should not interfere in a conflict when you are not sure you are aware of both sides point of view." Spannerjam (talk) 09:46, 3 February 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • English equivalent: Don't go between the tree and the bark. WRONG
  • Meaning: Do not interfere when two parts are having an argument. WRONG
- The real meaning is "The home conflicts, even if they are common, stop (or rather: 'are suspended') when an external enemy appears, then everybody fight together against him ['all hands on board' applies]". The explanation of Spannerjam is wrong, that of Tracerneo is correct. (NB. I am Polish). NoychoH (talk) 16:23, 6 January 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wyrwać się jak filip z konopii.[edit]

An explanation: And yes - correctly, in that proverb, it should be "filip", not "Filip". While "Filip" in Polish is a male name (="Philip"), a "filip" in hunters jargon means ...a hare. And hares often hid in hemp and, when scared, suddenly hopped out of their hide - that's what the proverb is literally about: "To burst/hop out like a hare from hemp". The proverb is used however in a slightly different context - to describe the action of a person who out of sudden said (or volunteered to do) something silly, without much thinking and consideration. Just like a hare suddenly bursts from its hide.

I am sorry but I can't seem to find where this proverb is written down. Spannerjam (talk) 09:46, 3 February 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Gdzie drwa rąbią, tam wióry lecą.[edit]

  • Word-for-word translation: Where wood is being chopped, shavings fly
  • English equivalent: Where there's smoke, there's fire

well, the original means "Where is action, there might be some victims, sacrifices or results" ; whereas the English equivalent is quite revese- "where are visible results, there must be cause". I cannot think of any better equivalent, thou.

Also, "Gdzie drwa rąbią, tam wióry lecą" - means Where is action, there may be dangerous for the onlookers, or even: where there is troubles, people gets hurt. (compare with collateral damage)
I think the English equivalent is adequate as provided. Spannerjam (talk) 09:46, 3 February 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Bez pracy nie ma kołaczy.[edit]

  • Word-for-word translation: No Work, no Dinner.

Kolacze is not dinner (nie ma kolacji) but its a sort of traditional cookies. So a better direct translation is: No work, no cookies.

Make the change. :) Spannerjam (talk) 09:46, 3 February 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Szlachcic na zagrodzie równy wojewodzie.[edit]

  • Meaning: A rich person (the nobleman with a farmstead) is as powerful and influential as a state official (the voivode, an approximate equivalent of a sherriff in the medieval England).

Szlachcic na zagrodzie means the poor nobility and the proverb's real meaning is that wealth doesn't matter. It used to be popular in Poland in early days of the nobles' democracy and primarly referred only to the nobility, that's why word nobleman is used here.

Its correct a nobleman on a village small farmstead "zagroda" was a poor nobleman, not more than many a peasant in money value. Although he had his full citizen rights yes. A decent equivalent is probably "An Englishmans home is his castle".
/StefanZ 21:49, 23 February 2014
Hi Stefanz and Welcome to Wikiquote! I encourage you to be be bold and make the changes you believe will improve this page. --Spannerjam (talk) 18:28, 24 February 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Gwiazdki z nieba się zachciewa.[edit]

Gwiazdki z nieba - star from haven - something like a dream and also a shuting star coming to earth. Stary mean old. Dogorywa mean is about go to up ,do góry. Nieboszczyk czknie do nieba nieba czeka. The old believ that after death thwy go to stars, (ze iskrami skrami with sparks on funeral pyre) So in logical reverse to be born/reborn stars had to coming down to earth. This is poverb is used freguently to a young ladies. The unspoken (modesty) meaning is - she act as want to be pregnat or act in capricious way as pregnant women. You ma not find this explanation in othr palces since the old contxt is blurring the immemorial times. Ale jeżeli rozumiesz to wspomnij na co się czeka przed rozpoczęciem wigilii z niezdjętą zastawą dla wyglądanych przybyszy co mają obyć się niczym wikt:pl:spaść z nieba.

    • Word-for-word translation: To want a star from the sky
    • Meaning: Somebody wants something they can't possibly get themselves nor from others.
    • English equivalent: to ask/cry for the moon

Unsourced proverbs[edit]

NOTE: These must be sourced before moving them to the page.


  • Baba z wozu, koniom lżej
    • Word-for-word translation: When a woman has got off a wagon, horses have an easier time
    • Meaning: It's all the better when an unhelpful person gets out of the way.
    • English equivalent: Lighten your load!
  • Bez pracy nie ma kołaczy
    • Word-for-word translation: No Work, no Dinner
    • Latin equivalent: Sine labore non erit panis in ore
    • English equivalent: No pain, no gain
  • Bredzi jak Piekarski na mękach
    • Word-for-word translation: S/he talks gibberish like tortured Piekarski
    • Meaning: S/he's lying.
  • Bogatemu to i diabeł dzieci kołysze
    • Word-for-word translation: A rich man even has the devil to lull his children
    • Meaning: All circumstances always turn advantageous for a rich man, in contrast to the poor man, who is always unlucky. Money eases the way to everything.
    • English equivalent: The rich man gets his ice in the summer and the poor man gets his in the winter
  • Bez soli smutna biesiada
    • Word-for-word translation: Without salt the feast is sad
    • English equivalent: Salt is the spice of life!


  • Czekaj, tatka, latka
    • Word-for-word translation: Wait for years, daddy
    • Latin equivalent: Ad calendas Graecas (until Greek calendas) - i.e. until never (the Greeks did not celebrate the day of calendas)
    • English equivalent: You can wait till the cows come home


  • Dobrego i karczma nie zepsuje, a złego i kościół nie naprawi
    • Word-for-word translation: A good man even in a tavern won't be spoiled, a wicked one even in the church won't mend their way
  • Dobrego (nawet) karczma nie zepsuje, a złego (nawet) kościół nie uratuje
    • Same meaning but the second one rhymes unlike the previous proverb.
    • Word-for-word translation: A good man even in a tavern won't be spoiled, not even (a) church can save a bad man.
  • Dobry żart tynfa wart
    • Word-for-word translation: A good joke is worth a tynf (an old Polish penny)
    • Meaning: A compliment for a good joke.
  • Dopóty dzban wodę nosi, dopóki mu się ucho nie urwie
    • Word-for-word translation: A jug carries water until its handle breaks off
    • Meaning: Situation will inevitably change and the circumstances will no longer benefit certain person.


  • Gdy kota nie ma, myszy harcują
    • English equivalent: When the cat's away the mice will play
  • Gdy pies je, to nie szczeka, bo mu miska ucieka
    • Word-for-word translation: When the dog eats, he doesn't bark, because his food will run away
    • Meaning: Don't talk with your mouth full.
  • Gdzie kucharek sześć, tam nie ma co jeść
    • Word-for-word translation: Where there are six cooks, there is nothing to eat
    • German equivalent: Viele Köche verderben den Brei
    • English equivalent: Too many cooks spoil the broth
  • Gadał dziad do obrazu, a obraz do niego ani razu
    • Word-for-word translation: A beggar talked to a picture, but picture answered nothing
    • English equivalent: Like talking to the wall
  • Gdzie diabeł nie może, tam babę pośle
    • Word-for-word translation: Where the Devil can't go, he'll send a woman
    • Meaning: Women often cause trouble.
  • Gdzie drwa rąbią, tam wióry lecą
    • Word-for-word translation: Where wood is being chopped, shavings fly
    • Meaning:
      • It's better to mind your own business when others fight, or you might get hurt.
      • At times when people struggle for some greater goals, the innocents are often harmed.
    • English equivalent: Where there's smoke, there's fire
  • Gdzie dwóch się bije, tam trzeci korzysta
    • Word-for-word translation:
      • Where two people fight against each other, the third one wins
      • Where two are fighting (arguing, suing); it is another who benefits
  • Gdzie zgoda, tam i siła
    • English version: With unity there is strength
  • Gość w dom - Bóg w dom
    • Word-for-word translation: Guest coming into house - God coming into house (essence of Polish hospitality)
    • Meaning: A guest is a blessing for the household.
  • Grosz do grosza, a będzie kokosza
    • Word-for-word translation: Add up your pennies, and buy a hen
    • English equivalent:
      • Every penny adds up
      • A penny saved is a penny earned [Benjamin Franklin]
      • Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves


  • I Herkules dupa, kiedy wrogów kupa
    • Word-for-word translation (vulgar): Even Hercules is a wimp, when he must fight against heaps of enemies
    • Latin version: Nec Hercules contra plures
  • Idzie luty, podkuj buty
    • Word-for-word translation: When February comes, hobnail your shoes


  • Jak Kuba Bogu, tak Bóg Kubie
    • Word-for-word translation: As Jake treats God, God will treat Jake
    • English equivalent: Turnaround is fair play
  • Jak sobie pościelesz, tak się wyśpisz
    • Word-for-word translation: You rest the way you have made your bed
    • English equivalent: As ye sow, so shall ye reap


  • Kowal zawinił, a Cygana powiesili
    • Word-for-word translation: The blacksmith was guilty, but they hanged the Gypsy
    • Meaning: The scapegoat suffers not for his faults
  • Kruk krukowi oka nie wykole
    • Word-for-word translation: The crow won't peck an eye of another crow
    • Meaning: One wrong-doer won't help fighting another.
  • Kto daje i odbiera, ten się w piekle poniewiera
    • Translation: Who gives and then takes it back, goes to hell (is mistreated in hell).
  • Kto szybko daje, dwa razy daje
    • Meaning: A swift help is worth more.
    • Latin version: Bis dat, qui cito dat
    • English translation: He who gives quickly gives twice.
  • Każdego ciągnie do złego
    • Translation: Everyone is tempted to evil.
  • Kropla do kropli i będzie morze
    • Translation: Drop after drop, there will be a sea
    • English equivalent: In unity, there is strength
  • Kto ma sadło, temu snadno
    • Translation: Who's fat, is happy.
  • Kto ucieka, winnym się staje
    • Translation: Running away makes you guilty.
  • Kurwa kurwie łba nie urwie (vulgar)
    • Translation: A whore won't tear off another whore' head.
    • Meaning: People who are somehow similar don't hurt one another. Instead, they tend to cooperate.
  • Kto nie słucha ojca i matki, ten się posłucha psiej skóry
    • Translation: Who is not (listening to) obeying their parents, is listening to dogs skin
    • Meaning: If you don't learn from your parents, you'll learn from the school of hard knocks.
  • Kto nie słucha ojca, matki, ten posłucha psiej kołatki.
    • Rhyming version of the above proverb.


  • Lepiej późno niż wcale
    • English equivalent: Better late than never
  • Lepsza jedna panna niż cztery wdowy
    • Translation: One maiden is better than four widows.
  • Los szczęście rzuca, ale nie każdy je łapie
    • Translation: Fate throws fortune, but not everyone catches.
  • Ładnemu we wszystkim ładnie
    • Translation: A pretty person looks pretty in every clothing.


  • Między młotem a kowadłem
    • Translation: Between the hammer and the anvil
    • English: Between a rock and a hard place; between the devil and the deep blue sea.
  • Musi to na Rusi, w Polsce jak kto chce
    • Translation:
      • "Must to" is good in Russia, in Poland it's as one pleases
      • In Russia it's as you must, in Poland as you wish.
  • Myszy harcują, gdy kota nie czują
    • Translation: Mice play around, when they don't smell the cat
    • English equivalent: When the cat's away, the mice will play.


  • Najlepsze mienie - czyste sumienie
    • Translation: The best asset is a clean conscience
  • Na kogo kruki, na tego wrony
    • Alternative: Siła złego na jednego
    • Translation: the one attacked by ravens is also attacked by crows (i.e. used when one is unfairly attacked from all sides by a large number of enemies).
    • English equivalent: All against one.
  • Nie masz na upór lekarstwa
    • Translation: You can't heal stubbornness
  • Nie ma tego złego, co by na dobre nie wyszło
    • Translation: Bad things often turn out to be good for you
  • Nie mów o nikim, nie będą o tobie.
    • Translation: Don't talk about others, they won't talk about you
  • Nie wszystko się godzi, co wolno
    • Translation: Not everything that's allowed is agreeable
    • English equivalent: Not everything legal is ethical
  • Nie od razu Kraków zbudowano
    • Translation: Krakow wasn't built immediately
    • English equivalent: Rome wasn't built in a day
  • Nieznajomość prawa szkodzi
    • Translation: ignorance of law is harmful
    • Latin equivalent: Ignoratia iuris nocet
    • English Equivalent: Ignorance is not an excuse


  • O umarłych mówi się dobrze albo wcale
    • Latin: De mortuis nihil nisi bene
    • Translation: of the dead speak well or not at all.
  • O wilku mowa, a wilk tuż tuż
    • Translation: Talk of a wolf and the wolf is here
    • Similar to:
      • Speak of the Devil (and he will appear)
      • Light on a mention


  • Panu Bogu świeczkę, a diabłu ogarek
    • Translation: Light a candle for God and a candle-stub for the Devil
    • Meaning: Everyone has his share
  • Paluszek i główka to szkolna wymówka
    • Translation: A sore finger and a headache are standard excuses for not going to school
  • Patrzy jak cielę na malowane wrota
    • Translation: He/She is staring like a calf at the painted gate
    • Meaning: He is clueless
  • Piękna miska jeść nie daje
    • Translation: A beautifully decorated plate won't feed anyone
  • Piekło jest wybrukowane dobrymi chęciami
    • Alternatively: "Dobrymi chęciami piekło jest wybrukowane"
    • Translation: The road to hell is paved with good intentions
  • Pokorne cielę dwie matki ssie
    • Translation: A humble calf will feed from two mothers
    • English equivalent: Humility gets you everywhere.
  • Przyszła koza do woza
    • Translation: Goat came to the cart
    • Meaning: Someone who earlier refused to accept your help or advice now asks for it.


  • Ręka rękę myje (Rączka rączkę myje)
    • Translation (and English equivalent): One hand washes the other. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.
    • Latin equivalent: Manus manum lavat


  • Szlachcic na zagrodzie równy wojewodzie
    • Translation: A nobleman at his farmstead is equal to a voivod
    • English equivalent: A man's home is his castle
  • Szukajcie, a znajdziecie
    • English equivalent: Seek and ye shall find


  • Tylko trzewik wie, że pończocha dziurawa
    • Translation:
      • Only the shoe knows the stocking to be torn
      • Only the shoe knows that the stocking is torn.
    • Meaning: Those close to us know our secrets.


  • Ucz się ucz, bo nauka to do potęgi klucz
    • Translation: Keep learning because knowledge is the key to might


  • Wolnoć, Tomku, w swoim domku
    • Translation: You are free, Tom, in your own home
    • Meaning: Do as you please at your own home
    • English equivalent: A man's home is his castle
  • Wszędzie dobrze, ale w domu najlepiej
    • Translation: Everywhere's fine, but best at home
    • English equivalent: Home, sweet home
  • Wszystko dobre, co się dobrze kończy
    • English equivalent: All's well that ends well
  • Wszystkie drogi prowadzą do Rzymu
    • English equivalent: All roads lead to Rome
  • W zdrowym ciele zdrowy duch
    • Meaning: In healthy body a healthy spirit resides
    • English equivalent: In a sound body, a sound mind.


  • Zobaczysz (coś), jak świnia niebo
    • Translation: You will see something as surely as a pig will see the sky. (pigs cannot look up)
    • Meaning: In a pig's eye. Or 'It will happen, when pigs fly.' It's not likely.
    • English equivalent: When pigs fly
  • Za dukata brat sprzeda brata
    • Translation: For a ducat, he would sell his own brother