Top 40 English Proverbs And Their Meanings

Check out our list of proverbs or sayings and find out what they mean.
Have a look at our list of English proverbs.

 

Top 40 English Proverbs And Their Meanings

Proverbs are short popular wise sayings that express a piece of advice. They are based on life experience and common sense. They teach us very good lessons that we all should apply on a daily basis. 

There are different proverbs used in many languages, and many of them are actually similar or the same. In the list below, you will find 40 of the most common proverbs in English. If there are some that you didn't know, try to remember them and improve your English language skills. 

You might be interested in these Spanish proverbs: 150 refranes cortos, populares, españoles y más

 

1A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

We should value what we have rather than always look for more.

2Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

This proverb emphasizes the fact that who gets enough sleep and starts the day early and with energy will be successful.

3Actions speak louder than words.

Very similar to “A picture is worth a thousand words”. This proverb lets us understand that it is very easy to say things, but the difficult thing is to prove what you’re saying.

4Two wrongs don't make a right.

Just because someone did something bad to you, you shouldn’t do the same to them.

5Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

People shouldn’t criticize other people when they could be criticized for the same thing.

6A picture is worth a thousand words.

As we previously explained in number 3, people should prove by doing and not just speaking.

7An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

It encourages us to eat fruit and vegetable in general because they are healthy.

8Birds of a feather flock together.

This saying tells us that people with the same character or that do similar things look for similar company.

9Barking dogs seldom bite.

Nasty people that threaten others rarely take action.

10A watched pot never boils.

Things take time, and we need to be patient, it won’t help if you constantly wait for something to happen.

11Beggars can’t be choosers.

If you’re going through a tough moment in life and someone offers you some help, take what you are given and don’t complain about it. Remember: you didn’t have it before they helped.

12A stitch in time saves nine.

Sort out problems as soon as possible, don’t let them get even bigger.

13Better late than never.

This proverb doesn't really need an explanation.

14Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

You should be thankful to people that are helping you, not hurt them.

15Don’t judge a book by its cover.

You shouldn’t judge people by their appearance.

16Curiosity killed the cat.

It basically means to mind your own business, or it could be dangerous.

17Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Don’t try and do more than you can.

18Every cloud has a silver lining.

You can get something good out of every negative or bad time you go through.

19Good things come to those who wait.

In other words, be patient, happiness arrives.

20It’s better to be safe than sorry.

This proverb shows us that is better to do things with caution so you don’t regret it later.

21It takes two to make a quarrel.

One does not argue on its own, you can't blame only the other side.

22Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Don't question someone's gift.

23Practice makes perfect.

This proverb shows us that repeating or trying something many times will make you better at it

24Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If it's hard, it will take time, you just need to be patient. 

25The early bird gets the worm.

Wake up early or arrive early and you will succeed. 

26What goes around comes around.

This proverb is another way of defining Karma. 

27Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

There is always a reason for a reason to spread and probably some truth in it. 

28You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

You can't force people to do something, you can only give them some advice or make it easy for them. It's their choice to do it.

29If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If something works well, why do you want to change it?

30One man's trash is another man's treasure.

What you think is useless for you might be valuable for someone else. 

31While the cat’s away, the mice will play.

Think about this situation at work: your boss is not in today. You will probably do as you like or do it in a more relaxed way. 

32You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

It is very difficult to change the way of doing something if you have been doing it the same way for many years. 

33He who pays the piper calls the tune.

The person who has de money gets to decide how to spend it. 

34When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

When difficult times come, the ones that survive are the strong ones, the ones that are determined to get on with it.

35Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Not everyone will see beauty in the same things. It is subjective. 

36Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

This is a piece of advice for those who are used to betting everything or putting all their efforts in something: be careful, you could lose everything. 

37If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

If you do something yourself you will be certain that it is well done. Don't trust other people to do important things for you. 

38The exception proves the rule.

There is always something that doesn't follow the rule, which means the rule applies in all other cases. 

39Necessity is the mother of invention.

Find your own ways of getting or achieving something when this something becomes essential. 

40Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Last but not least, this proverb teaches us that we should watch our enemies closely and stay alert, just in case they try harming you.