Sunday, December 18, 2011


Proverb Meanings

"The best things in life are


We don't have to pay

for the things that are

really valuable, like

love, friendship and

good health.

"A stitch in time saves nine."

Repair something as

soon as it is damaged.

That's a small repair

job. If not, you will

have a much bigger and

more expensive repair

job later. Do it now and

you'll need one stitch.

Do it later and you'll

need 9 stitches! (Why

nine and not eight or

ten? Because "nine"

rhymes, approximately,

with "time".)

stitch (noun) = a

link made with

thread in sewing

in time = not late

"Still waters run deep."

Some rivers have rough

surfaces with waves.

That's usually because

the water is shallow

and there are rocks

near the surface. But

deep rivers have no

rocks near the surface

and the water is

smooth and still. "Still

waters run deep"

means that people who

are calm and tranquil

on the outside, often

have a strong, "deep"


still (adjective) =

calm, motionless

deep (adjective) =

going far down

"He teaches ill, who teaches


The unusual structure

of this proverb may

make it difficult to

understand. It

becomes easier if we

change the structure to

"He who teaches all

teaches ill." The word

"ill" here means

"badly". So it means

that the teacher who

teaches students

everything, does not

teach well. A good

teacher lets students

discover some things

for themselves.

ill (adverb) = badly

"You can't take it with you

when you die."

When we die we leave

everything on earth. We

don't take anything

with us. Even the

richest people cannot

take their money with

them after death. This

proverb reminds us

that some material

things are not really so

valuable as we think.

"Better untaught than ill


This proverb drops the

verb "to be". But we

understand: "It is

better not to be taught

at all than to be taught

badly." It's better not

to learn something than

to learn it badly. This

idea is echoed in

Pope's famous line: "A

little learning is a

dang'rous thing;".

taught = past

participle of verb

"teach" (here used

in passive voice)

ill taught = badly


"Don't cross your bridges

before you come to them."

Don't worry about

problems before they


"Soon learnt, soon


Something that is easy

to learn is easy to


"Even a worm will turn."

Everybody will revolt if

driven too far. Even the

lowest of people, or

animals, will revolt and

hit back at some stage.

Even a worm, the

simplest of animals,

will defend itself.

worm (noun) =

small thin animal

with soft body and

no bones or legs

turn (verb) = revolt,

fight back

"It was the last straw that

broke the camel's back."

There is a limit to

everything. We can load

the camel with lots of

straw, but finally it will

be too much and the

camel's back will break.

And it is only a single

straw that breaks its

back - the last straw.

This can be applied to

many things in life.

People often say

"That's the last straw!"

when they will not

accept any more of


straw (noun) =

dried stalk of grain

(like dry piece of


camel (noun) =

large long-necked

animal used for

riding and carrying

goods in the desert

"The way to a man's heart is

through his stomach."

Many women have won

a man's love by

cooking delicious meals

for him. They fed his

stomach and found

love in his heart.

way (noun) = path;


"If the stone fall upon the

egg, alas for the egg! If the

egg fall upon the stone, alas

for the egg!"

Life just isn't fair, and

this realistic Arabic

proverb recognizes

that. The stone will

always break the egg.

Life's like that!

alas = bad luck;

pity; tough;


"Where there's a will there's

a way."

If we have the

determination to do

something, we can

always find the path or

method to do it.

will (noun) = strong



way (noun) = path,


"Marry in haste, and repent

at leisure."

If we get married

quickly, without thinking

carefully, we may be

sorry later. And we will

have plenty of time to

be sorry.

in haste = quickly

repent (verb) = feel

sorry, regret

at leisure = slowly,

over time

"One tongue is enough for a


Some people think that

women talk too much.

If they already talk too

much, they don't need

another tongue. One

tongue is sufficient.

This proverb is another

way of saying that

women talk too much.

tongue (noun) =

large, movable

fleshy part in the

mouth that we use

for talking and


"If you wish good advice,

consult an old man."

Old people have a lot

of experience. If you

want to have good

advice or

recommendations, ask

an old person, not a

young one.

wish (verb) = want,


advice (noun) =


as to what to do

consult (verb) = ask;

go to for advice or


"The best advice is found on

the pillow."

If we have a problem,

we may find the

answer after a good

night's sleep. People

also often say: "I'll

sleep on it."

advice (noun) =


as to what to do

pillow (noun) =

cushion that you

rest your head on

while you sleep

"All clouds bring not rain."

We can rephrase this:

"Not every cloud brings

rain." And that's true.

Sometimes there are

many clouds in the sky,

but it doesn't rain.

Sometimes it's the

same with problems,

or what we think are


"You can't tell a book by its


We need to read a

book to know if it's

good or bad. We

cannot know what it's

like just by looking at

the front or back cover.

This proverb is applied

to everything, not only


"Bad news travels fast."

"Bad news" means

news about "bad"

things like accidents,

death, illness etc.

People tend to tell this

type of news quickly.

But "good

news" (passing an

exam, winning some

money, getting a job

etc) travels more


"No news is good news."

This is like the proverb

"Bad news travels

fast." If we are waiting

for news about

someone, it's probably

good if we hear nothing

because "bad news"

would arrive quickly.

"Live and let live."

This proverb suggests

that we should not

interfere in other

people's business. We

should live our own

lives and let others live

their lives. The title of

the famous James

Bond story Live and Let

Die was a play on this


"Birds of a feather flock


"Birds of a feather"

means "birds of the

same type". The whole

proverb means that

people of the same

type or sort stay

together. They don't

mix with people of

another type.

feather (noun) =

part of the soft,

light covering of a

bird's body

flock (verb) = gather

in a crowd

"Tell me who you go with and

I'll tell you who you are."

Similar to "Birds of a

feather...", this proverb

suggests that like minds

stick together.

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