Vietnamese proverbs

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Proverbs from all Vietnamese speaking parts of the world.


  • 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. p. 14. ISBN 978-2-9531291-0-6. 

Proverbs [prov-erbz] Spell Syllables Synonyms Examples Word Origin See more synonyms on noun

1. (used with a singular verb) a book of the Bible, containing the sayings of sages. Abbreviation: Prov. proverb [prov-erb] Spell Syllables noun 1. a short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought; adage; saw. 2. a wise saying or precept; a didactic sentence. 3. a person or thing that is commonly regarded as an embodiment or representation of some quality; byword. 4. Bible. a profound saying, maxim, or oracular utterance requiring interpretation. verb (used with object) 5. to utter in the form of a proverb. 6. to make (something) the subject of a proverb. 7. to make a byword of. Origin of proverb Expand Middle EnglishMiddle FrenchLatin 1275-13251275-1325; Middle English proverbe < Middle French < Latin prōverbium adage, equivalent to prō- pro-1+ verb (um) word + -ium -ium Related forms Expand proverblike, adjective Can be confused Expand adage, aphorism, apothegm, axiom, maxim, proverb. Synonyms Expand See more synonyms on 1. aphorism, apothegm. Proverb, maxim are terms for short, pithy sayings. A proverb is such a saying popularly known and repeated, usually expressing simply and concretely, though often metaphorically, a truth based on common sense or the practical experience of humankind: “A stitch in time saves nine.”A maxim is a brief statement of a general and practical truth, especially one that serves as a rule of conduct or a precept: “It is wise to risk no more than one can afford to lose.”.

pro-verb [proh-vurb] Spell Syllables noun, Grammar. 1. a word that can substitute for a verb or verb phrase, as do in They never attend board meetings, but we do regularly. Origin Expand 1905-10; by analogy with pronoun Unabridged Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016. Cite This Source Examples from the Web for Proverbs Expand Contemporary Examples She hilariously explains Chinese Proverbs when someone sneezes off-camera during interviews.

Tennis Star Li Na Says Goodbye to the Court…and Puts the Sport’s Rise in Asia in Question Nicholas McCarvel September 18, 2014 When you think of Proverbs, you picture expressions of ancient wisdom.

13 Crazy, Dirty Modern Proverbs Fred R. Shapiro May 29, 2012 He reminded the audience of the words of Proverbs : As iron sharpeneth iron, so a friend sharpens the mind of his friend.

The Hitchens Memorial Service David Frum April 20, 2012 Scripture is real clear in Proverbs 15:1, ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’

The GOP Sounds Un-Christian in Condemning Obama’s Quran-Burning Apology Kirsten Powers February 27, 2012 Historical Examples The Proverbs, that third branch of Hebrew poetry, were not only collected, but also amplified by the poets of Hezekiah's time.

History of the Jews, Vol. I (of 6) Heinrich Graetz Hunt out your Bible and turn to the Book of Proverbs, chapter 31, verse 7.

The Common Sense of Socialism John Spargo A highland scholar tells me that his country people use the wind in their talk and in their Proverbs as I use it in my poem.

The Wind Among the Reeds William Butler Yeats In Proverbs (30, 4): "Who hath established all the ends of the earth?"

A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy Isaac Husik Agur, in the book of Proverbs, refers to some; and all through Scripture we find animals used as types of human character.

The Book of Cats Charles H. Ross Place these letters aright, and you will see three Proverbs come to view.

Little Folks (July 1884) Various

British Dictionary definitions for Proverbs Expand Proverbs /ˈprɒvɜːbz/ noun 1. (functioning as sing) a book of the Old Testament consisting of the proverbs of various Israelite sages including Solomon proverb /ˈprɒvɜːb/ noun 1. a short, memorable, and often highly condensed saying embodying, esp with bold imagery, some commonplace fact or experience 2. a person or thing exemplary in respect of a characteristic: Antarctica is a proverb for extreme cold 3. (ecclesiast) a wise saying or admonition providing guidance verb (transitive) 4. to utter or describe (something) in the form of a proverb 5. to make (something) a proverb Word Origin C14: via Old French from Latin prōverbium, from verbum word

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012 Cite This Source Word Origin and History for Proverbs Expand proverb n. c.1300, in boke of Prouerbyys, the Old Testament work, from Old French proverbe (12c.) and directly from Latin proverbium "a common saying, old adage, maxim," literally "words put forward," from pro- "forth" (see pro- ) + verbum "word" (see verb ). Used generally from late 14c. The Book of Proverbs in Old English was cwidboc, from cwide "speech, saying, proverb, homily," related to cwiddian "to talk, speak, say, discuss;" cwiddung "speech, saying, report."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper Cite This Source Proverbs in Culture Expand proverb definition

A brief, memorable saying that expresses a truth or belief, such as “ A friend in need is a friend indeed.” ( See examples under “Proverbs.”)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. Cite This Source Proverbs in the Bible Expand

a trite maxim; a similitude; a parable. The Hebrew word thus rendered (mashal) has a wide signification. It comes from a root meaning "to be like," "parable." Rendered "proverb" in Isa. 14:4; Hab. 2:6; "dark saying" in Ps. 49:4, Num. 12:8. Ahab's defiant words in answer to the insolent demands of Benhadad, "Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off," is a well known instance of a proverbial saying (1 Kings 20:11).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary Cite This Source Word of the Day biota

Difficulty index for Proverbs Some English speakers likely know this word Word Value for Proverbs 15 18 Scrabble Words With Friends Related Words Hagiographa Pirke Avoth Prov proverbial

Nearby words for proverbs

prover proverb proverbed proverbial proverbially proverbs proverbs, book of provertebra providable provide provided


  • 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.
    • 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."
    • Extended Meaning: "Beauty comes from within, which kills good looks", in another perspective; being genuine human beings mean we should be less perceptive on other human beings, as it isn't their fault they were born with good looks. In conclusion, just be kind always. with or without deeds. where ever, when ever, how ever, and to whoever".
    • 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.
    • English equivalent: The more, the merrier.
    • Bảo (2001). Văn nghệmột thời đênhớ. Văn học. p. 455. 
  • "Cây lành sinh trái ngǫt"
    • Translation and English equivalent: good tree produces fruit
  • Chậm mà chắc.
    • Translation and English equivalent: Slow and steady wins the race
  • Cháy nhà mới lòi mặt chuột
    • 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. 
  • Chó sủa là chó không cắn.
    • Translation and English equivalent: Barking dogs seldom bite
  • 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 trí 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. 


  • 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.
    • 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. 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.
    • English equivalent: Birds of a feather flock together.
    • Meaning: Similar people often become friends.
    • Tùng, Kieu (2006). Tửvi Chân Thuyên. 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. 


  • 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. 


  • 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. 


  • 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. 


  • Kiên nhẫn là mẹ thành công.
    • Translation: Good things come to those who wait.
  • 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. 


  • 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)


  • 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. 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)


  • Nhân nào, quả nấy.
    • Translation: For every seed a corresponding fruit.
    • English equivalent: You reap what you sow.
    • 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. 
* Ngọt mật chết ruồi.
    • Translation: You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.


  • 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. 



  • 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. 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.
    • Translation: You get what you pay for.
    • 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. 


    • Vụng chèo khéo chống
    • Translation: A poor workman blames his tools.


  • 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.