Common Proverbs with Meaning and Examples: Who among us hasn’t occasionally used a proverb in speech? Everyone has! Our daily conversation is heavily influenced by proverbs.
You can improve your communication skills and perform well on a variety of competitive tests, such as the TOEFL, IELTS, SSC-CGL, etc., by having a solid understanding of common proverbs with meaning and examples. You can learn some practical English proverbs from this blog that can be applied to daily life.
List Of Common Proverbs With Meaning And Examples
Brief, well-known sayings known as proverbs are typically expressed as phrases. To illustrate a certain point, they are frequently employed. Since proverbs expand your vocabulary and improve your social skills, knowing them is crucial.
Proverbs frequently feature in test questions for a variety of competitive exams, therefore familiarizing yourself with numerous proverbs and their interpretations should be a crucial component of your preparation.
The list of 100 frequently used English common proverbs with meaning and examples that can be seen here was put together by our team. Along with their definitions, we’ve provided a few usage examples:
1. Images are more powerful than words.
Meaning: Using an image rather than words to explain something is easier.
Example: It’s easier to learn from pictures than only text, since a picture is worth a thousand words.
2. All good things come to an end
Meaning: Nothing worthwhile endures forever.
Example: It was a fantastic vacation, but all good things come to an end.
3. All that glitters is not gold
Meaning: Something might not be as valuable as it seems to be
Example: Radhika recently purchased a pretty bracelet, but it was destroyed in less than a week. Not everything that glitters is gold.
4. Beggars can’t be choosers
Meaning: People dependent on others must be content with what is offered to them
Example: People who depend on the generosity of others can’t pick & choose things as per their liking. They’ve to accept what is given to them.
5. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
Meaning: It is necessary to take the first step to reach your goal
Example: I feel overwhelmed with all the tasks I have to finish, but I have to start with something since a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
6. Time and tide wait for no man
Meaning: You’ve no control over the passage of time; it’ll keep slipping. So don’t procrastinate, don’t delay things.
Example: We need to hurry up or else we’ll miss the flight. Time and tide wait for no man.
7. Too many cooks spoil the broth
Meaning: When too many people work together on a project, the result is inferior
Example: This proposal has received feedback from too many parliamentary committees, and that’s probably the reason why it lacks clear actionable. I’ve no doubt that too many cooks spoil the broth.
8. Two heads are better than one
Meaning: Two persons have a better chance to solve a problem than one.
Example: More startups have two cofounders than one. That’s because they very well understand that two heads are better than one.
9. One shouldn’t miss the forest for the trees
Meaning: Sometimes you get so focused on small details that you may miss the larger context.
Example: The marketers got so bogged down on creating the perfect ad campaign that they didn’t realize that the medium – Facebook – they wanted to use was no longer a viable option because of its recent algorithm updates.
10. The show must go on
Meaning: A performance, event, etc., must continue even though there are problems
Example: The chairman died yesterday but the show must go on.
11. The squeaky wheel gets the grease
Meaning: People who complain the most are the ones who get attention or what they want.
Example: If you’re not satisfied with the service at the hotel, then you should call up the manager there. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, after all.
12. No news is good news
Meaning: If you don’t receive any news about someone or something, it means that everything is fine and going normally.
Example: My daughter has been working in Australia for nearly five years now. At first, I used to get worried when I didn’t hear from her, but now I know that no news is good news.
13. Once bitten twice shy
Meaning: You say this proverb when someone won’t do something a second time because they had a bad experience the first time.
Example: I won’t try this drink, because last time I had a burning sensation in my throat. Once bitten twice shy, I guess.
14. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure
Meaning: What may seem to be junk to one person may be valuable to another
Example: I sold my 6-year-old laptop for a little amount, but I’m sure the buyer will make a hefty profit on it by refurbishing and selling it to someone else. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, after all.
15. Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today
Meaning: Don’t delay doing something if you can do it immediately
Example: X: I’m done with most of my assignment, but I’ll pick the remaining part on Monday. Y: Why don’t you complete it now? You’ll be more relieved and in a better state of mind. You shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
16. Never test the depth of the water with both feet
Meaning: If you’re in the water with both feet down, you risk being swept away by the currents. The message is: don’t put all your eggs in the same basket. Think twice before placing all your bets and investments on one thing.
Example: While applying to colleges, don’t limit yourself only to those with high cutoff marks. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
17. No gain without pain
Meaning: It is necessary to suffer or work hard in order to succeed or make progress.
Example: You’ve to drastically reduce the time you spend on video games and TV if you want to get admission to a good college. No gain without pain.
18. It’s not over till it’s over
Meaning: Till the event has completely played, you’re still in with a chance to succeed
Example: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came back from two sets down at Wimbledon to pull off a miraculous win. That’s why they say it’s not over till it’s over.
19. It’s no use crying over spilled milk
Meaning: There is no point in being sad over things that have already happened
Example: There is no point in staying upset over a mistake because you can’t undo what has happened.
20. Necessity is the mother of invention
Meaning: A need or problem forces people to come up with innovative solutions
Example: In some parts of the world, farmers use washing machines to clean potatoes in large volumes. Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention.
21. It’s better to be safe than sorry
Meaning: It’s better to be cautious than regret later
Example: One shouldn’t complain about the inconvenience of security check each time you enter the building. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
22. It’s easy to be wise after the event
Meaning: It is easy to understand what you could have done to prevent something bad from happening after it has happened.
Example: I would have never bought an apartment if I had known that the land on which it has been built is disputed. Well, it’s easy to be wise after the event.
23. It’s never too late to mend
Meaning: It’s never too late to change your wrong ways or habits
Example: X: I still miss my best friend, but it’s been a year since our fight and we haven’t spoken to each other since. Y: Well, it’s never too late to mend; why don’t you call him up and apologize?
24. Practice what you preach
Meaning: Behave the way you encourage other people to behave
Example: You keep telling us to go for a jog in the morning, but I wish you would practice what you preach.
25. Rome wasn’t built in a day
Meaning: Important work takes time to complete
Example: You can’t expect her to finish such a complex project in a week. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
26. Ignorance is bliss
Meaning: If you don’t know about something, you don’t need to bother about it. In other words, if you’re unaware of something, it won’t cause you stress.
Example: I didn’t know that the neighbour next door was involved in criminal activities. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
27. A rolling stone gathers no moss
Meaning: A person who keeps changing his/her jobs always has the advantage of fewer responsibilities and also the disadvantage of no particular place to live
Example: Can’t believe he is married and well settled now. He was a bit of a rolling stone a few years back.
28. Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Meaning: Cleanliness is a good virtue. It is next to Godliness.
Example: You must keep yourself and your room clean. You must remember that cleanliness is next to Godliness.
29. Curiosity killed the cat
Meaning: You should never poke your nose in the business of others. It can be dangerous
Example: I am aware that curiosity killed the cat, but I still want to find out if he hit her. It is not right.
30. Alls well that ends well
Meaning: It doesn’t matter how many problems in the world as long as the result is good
Example: I am glad you didn’t get hurt in the accident, even if the car got smashed. Alls well that ends well.
31. Among the blind the one-eyed man is king
Meaning: Even an incapable person can come to a powerful position if others in the fray are even more incapable
Example: He has become the head of the department in his office despite his lack of skills and exposure. Among the blind the one-eyed man is king.
32. An empty vessel makes much noise
Meaning: People who are stupid or foolish are the most talkative
Example: Rather than help the siblings resolve the fight, he kept interfering and inciting them. An empty vessel makes much noise.
33. A cat has nine lives
Meaning: Cats can survive the most fatal of accidents
Example: We haven’t been able to meet for months now. But I am not worried, I know a cat has nine lives.
34. A drowning man will clutch at a straw
Meaning: If someone is in a difficult or tough situation, he/ she will grasp on any available opportunity to improve it
Example: Since the allopathic medicines have not been able to help him, he is now trying homoeopathic for a cure. A drowning man will clutch at a straw.
35. A leopard doesn’t change its spots
Meaning: A person cannot change his/her innate character, especially the bad aspects
Example: I don’t think he will change his habits if he gets caught? A leopard can’t change its spots.
36. The pen is mightier than the sword
Meaning: Written words are more effective than brute force
Example: The journalists proved to the world that ultimately the pen is mightier than the sword.
37. Birds of a feather flock together
Meaning: One tends to stick together with similar minded people
Example: Both of them are computer geeks, no wonder they are best friends. As they say, birds of a feather flock together.
38. Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Meaning: We love the people who are not with us more in their absence
Example: We never understood each other’s worth when we were together. Now we miss each other all the time. I think absence makes the heart grow fonder.
39. Great minds think alike
Meaning: Intelligent people have similar ideas
Example: both of us suggested similar solutions for this problem, indeed, great minds think alike.
40. Once bitten, twice shy
Meaning: One unpleasant experience leads to caution
Example: After his road accident, he became very cautious during crossing roads. Once bitten, twice shy.
41. Money doesn’t grow on trees
Meaning: It requires effort to earn money
Example: Don’t keep buying unnecessary things, money doesn’t grow on trees.
42. Out of sight, out of mind
Meaning: People or things that are no longer present are easily forgotten
Example: The employees relaxed as soon as the boss left. Out of sight, out of mind.
43. To kill two birds with one stone
Meaning: Achieving two goals at once
Example: Using a cycle for exercise and transport is like killing two birds with one stone.
44. Good things come to those who wait
Meaning: Patience is rewarded
Example: Don’t be hasty with your decisions, good things come to those who wait
45. Look before you leap
Meaning: Act after considering the possible consequences
Example: It is always better to look before you leap.
46. Fortune favours the bold
Meaning: Courageous actions are often rewarded
Example: Although fortune favours the bold, you should also calculate the risks involved in this venture.
47. Rome wasn’t built in a day
Meaning: Good work takes time
Example: It took him ten years to get to this position. Rome was not built in a day.
48. Forgive and forget
Meaning: Pardon and hold no resentment regarding a certain event
Example: What was done cannot be changed, so let’s just forgive and forget.
49. Two wrongs don’t make a right
Meaning: Someone’s wrongful conduct is not a justification for acting in the same way
Example: You shouldn’t hit her because she hit you, two wrongs don’t make a right.
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50. Practice makes perfect
Meaning: You become better at a skill by practising it
Example: Don’t give up if you can’t do it right the first time, remember practice makes perfect.
51. A friend in need is a friend indeed
Meaning: A true friend is one who helps you when you need it
Example: He helped me with the notes while I was sick, a friend in need is a friend indeed.
52. Mind your own business
Meaning: To not interfere in someone else’s matter
Example: Will you please mind your own business and stop telling me what to do?
53. Practice what you preach
Meaning: Follow what you want others to follow
Example: You always tell us to reach early and yourself come late. You should practice what you preach.
54. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
Meaning: A child has similar characteristics to their parents
Example: Renu sings so well, just like her mother. Indeed, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
55. Necessity is the mother of invention
Meaning: When you really need something, you find a way to meet the need
Example: When the strap of my sandals came off while I was in the office, I stapled it back. Necessity is the mother of invention, you know!
56. Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today
Meaning: Do not delay a task if you can do it immediately
Example: Don’t leave the drawing incomplete, you should never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
57. Strike while the iron is hot
Meaning: Grab an opportunity at the most favourable time
Example: To overtake your competitor, you should strike while the iron is hot.
58. Laughter is the best medicine
Meaning: Trying to be happy is the best cure
Example: Being in good company can lift your spirits, after all, laughter is the best medicine.
59. Every dog has its day
Meaning: everyone attains success at some point in their lives
Example: don’t give up just because you were rejected twice, remember every dog has its day.
60. Enjoy it while it lasts
Meaning: Make the best of a moment since it won’t last forever
Example: College life is the best time of your life, enjoy it while it lasts.
61. Honesty is the best policy
Meaning: Being honest is the best characteristic
Example: Don’t lie to land a job, remember that honesty is the best policy.
62. Haste makes waste
|Meaning: Doing something too quickly results in mistakes
Example: Don’t rush through your assignment, remember haste makes waste.
63. It’s no use crying over spilt milk
Meaning: You shouldn’t be upset over something that has already happened
Example: The trip was a disaster, but it’s no use crying over spilt milk.
64. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Meaning: Don’t risk everything on a single venture
Example: Don’t invest all the money in the stock market, you should never put all your eggs in one basket.
65. Early bird catches the worm
Meaning: One who arrives first gets the best chance at success
Example: We should go early to the boutique on the day of their sale to get the best stuff. The early bird catches the worm!
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66. Every cloud has a silver lining
Meaning: There is always a positive side to any difficult situation
Example: I got a much better job after losing my last one. Every cloud does have a silver lining.
67. When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Meaning: Follow the local customs when you visit a foreign place
Example: You cannot be picky about food in this foreign country, you have to make do with the local food. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
68. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
Meaning: Don’t make plans based on events that have not yet happened
Example: Wait for the offer letter before celebrating about getting a job. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
69. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Meaning: Don’t form an opinion about someone by their appearance
Example: She may look innocent, but don’t judge a book by its cover – she is the greatest troublemaker I have ever seen.
70. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Meaning: The perception of beauty varies from person to person
Example: I don’t really like the colour of your car, but then, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
71. Better late than never
Meaning: Getting something late is better than never getting it
Example: we have been waiting for you for 3 hours, but okay, it’s better late than never.
72. Blood is thicker than water
Meaning: Family relationships are always stronger than other relationships
Example: I had a party to attend but I still chose to stay home because my grandmother was sick. As they say, blood is thicker than water.
73. A stitch in time saves nine
Meaning: It is better to deal with problems immediately than letting them become bigger
Example: Don’t ignore the sudden malfunctioning of your car, just go to the garage. A stitch in time saves nine.
74. As you sow, so you shall reap
Meaning: Your actions determine your results
Example: If you don’t go to sleep early, you will wake up late. As you sow, so shall you reap.
75. The grass is always greener on the other side
Meaning: Other people always seem to be in a better situation, although it might not be true
Example: Sometimes I feel I should have gone for my master’s degree like you instead of this job. Well, the grass is always greener on the other side.
76. Appearances can be deceptive
Meaning: Something might be different from how they appear outwardly
Example: Don’t trust people you are not familiar with; appearances can be deceptive.
77. An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Meaning: Eating an apple daily keeps you healthy
Example: You won’t fall ill if you eat the fruits, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
78. An idle brain is the devil’s workshop
Meaning: Evil thoughts come to us easily when we are idle
Example: You should give your daughter something to do in the afternoon, after all an idle brain is the devil’s workshop.
79. Better safe than sorry
Meaning: It is better to take precautions than to regret later
Example: Don’t ride your bike without wearing a helmet. It is better to be safe than sorry.
80. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Meaning: What you have is better than what you might get
Example: I think I’ll sell my car at the offered price instead of waiting for something higher. After all, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
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81. Actions speak louder than words
Meaning: What someone does means more than what they say they will do
Example: She never bragged about her grades but secured the second position in the board exams. Truly, actions speak louder than words.
List of Most Popular Proverbs
Here are some other popular proverbs for you to learn in addition to the most popular ones in English that are listed above. Look them up:
82. Two wrongs don’t make a right
Meaning: You shouldn’t harm a person who has harmed you, even if you think that person deserves it.
Example: Just because he insulted you doesn’t mean it’s OK for you to
start a rumour about him – two wrongs don’t make a right.
83. Watch the doughnut and not the hole
Meaning: Focus on what you have and not on what you don’t.
Example: X: I’ve to submit the assignment next Monday, but I don’t have a clue on the topic. Y: Consult your friends. Consult books. Understand the topic. Watch the doughnut and not the hole.
84. What goes around comes around
Meaning: If someone treats other people badly, he or she will eventually be treated badly by someone else.
Example: He tormented me back in high school, and now he has his own bully. What goes around comes around.
85. When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Meaning: When visiting a foreign land, follow the customs of local people.
Example: I don’t love cotton candy, but we are at a carnival. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right?
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86. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Meaning: When conditions become difficult, strong people take action.
Example: I know you’re not used to climbing at such heights, but come on when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
87. Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Meaning: If you are determined enough, you can find a way to achieve what you want, even if it is difficult.
Example: He had few resources to start his business, but he eventually did through a small opening – blog. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
88. Where there’s smoke there’s fire
Meaning: If there are rumours or signs that something is true so it must be at least partly true
Example: X: Do you believe those rumours about the mayor? Y: Well, you know what they say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
89. Where one door shuts, another opens
Meaning: When you lose an opportunity to do one thing, an opportunity to do something else appears.
Example: X: I failed to get into my dream college. Y: Don’t worry, this has happened with many. I’m sure something better is waiting for you. Where one door shuts, another opens.
90. While the cat’s away, the mice will play
Meaning: Without supervision, people will do as they please, especially in disregarding or breaking rules.
Example: As soon as their parents left, the children invited all their friends over – when the cat’s away, you know.
91. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar
Meaning: It’s easier to win people to your side by persuasion and politeness than by confrontation and threats.
Example: X: The courier service has taken more time to deliver than they had promised. I want to take the issue up with them and get a refund. Y: I would suggest you deal with them politely. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
92. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink
Meaning: You can show people the way to do things, but you can’t force them to act
Example: X: He has received all the resources one needs to start a business, but even after six months I don’t see anything happening. Y: Well, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
93. You can’t always get what you want
Meaning: Sometimes you may face disappointments in your pursuits or your wishes may not be fulfilled.
Example: X: I want a bike on my birthday. Y: Sorry, you can’t always get what you want.
94. Out of sight, out of mind
Meaning: If someone or something is not seen for a long time, it’ll be forgotten.
Example: Many celebrities find a way to appear in the media because they know that out of sight is out of mind.
95. Pen is mightier than the sword
Meaning: Thinking and writing have more influence on people and events than the use of force.
Example: After the mass killings at the newspaper office, there is a protest which is happening in the city declaring support to the paper and proving that pen is mightier than the sword.
Common Proverbs Used in Daily Life
Here is a list of some common proverbs with meaning and examples that you can easily use in you day-to-day lives:
96. An Apple a day keeps the doctor away
Meaning: If you eat healthily, you will be healthy!
97. Its better to be safe than sorry
Meaning: You should always take any necessary precautions.
98. Better late than never
Meaning: You are never too old to do something you want to do.
99. Actions speak louder than words
Meaning: What you do shows how you actually feel more than what you say.
100. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar
Meaning: If you have a sweet disposition you will get more from people than if you are rude to them.
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