American proverbs

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American Proverbs

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

A

  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    • It's better to keep what little you have, than to risk it for something more.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Act your age, not your shoe size. (Also, "Act your age, not your IQ")
    • Act maturely.
  • Actions speak louder than words, but words of action speak proudly.
    • Actions will inspire people to do what they believe, but words will inspire people to believe what they do.
  • A good friend is someone who will bail you out of jail, but your best friend is the one sitting next to you saying "Man, we screwed up."
    • A close friend will help you out of a dark situation, but your best friend will always be with you even in the darkest of days.
  • A fool and his money are soon parted
    • spend wisely
  • A friend in need, is a friend indeed!
    • Have good, trusting friends
  • A horse with two heads wins no races. (another variant: Too many chiefs, and not enough Indians)
    • A situation has too many people trying to lead, with no unified direction
  • All hat, no cattle
    • used to describe someone who is pretending to be something they're not (such as wearing a cowboy hat and acting like a cowboy, when you don't have any cows).
  • All's fair in love and war.
  • Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Variant: Close only counts with horseshoes, hand grenades, and tactical nuclear weapons
Variant: Close only counts with horseshoes, hand grenades, and carpet bombings
Explanation: In the game of horseshoes, if the horseshoe lands within a certain distance of the target, it gets a point. Grenades only need to be thrown within a certain distance of a person to work, and with nuclear weapons and carpet bombings, accuracy is only moderately necessary
  • All roads lead to Rome.
  • A man who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.
  • An idle mind is the devil's workshop/playground
    • Referring that the more lazy or less productive you are, the more prone you are to bad temptation and ideas.
  • An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. - Unknown
  • A penny saved is a twopence earned.
  • As California goes, so goes the nation.
    • If one person does something interesting, people will soon follow. [Referring to fads or bandwagon appeals]
  • As the crow flies
    • A statement-ending expression meaning, "if you could go in a straight line to your destination." Often used when referring to the location of a destination in terms of time or distance. For instance, "It is six miles away as the crow flies" or, "It takes two hours as the crow flies but the creek is flooded so you'll have to take the long way around."
  • A bad guy is another man's good guy
    • Meaning: Everyone has his or her own opinion
  • A watched pot never boils.
  • A wise man admits his ignorance; an ignorant man admits he's wise.
  • All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
  • A stitch in time saves nine.

B

  • Be careful what you wish for.
  • Be the best that you can be.
  • Be yourself in every situation.
  • Beggars can't be choosers.
  • Better late than never.
  • Better safe than sorry.
  • Be Useful better than beautiful.

C

  • Curiosity killed the cat
Variant: Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.
    • Close is nice, but it isn't enough
  • Clothes make the man, naked people have little or no influence in society. - Mark Twain
  • Close enough for government work.
  • Chase two rabbits and they'll both get away.

D

  • Different strokes for different folks
    • Different people have different opinions on things. [From the chorus of "Everyday People" by Sly and the Family Stone]
  • Don't do the crime if you can't do the time
    • If you are going to do something you are not supposed to, be ready to accept the consequences.
  • Don't remove a fly from your friend's head with a hatchet.
  • Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
  • Don't get high on your own supply
    • Don't get greedy or Don't get too much stuff that most of its useless.
    • Explanation: From drug dealers using their own drugs, which severly cuts into one's profit.
  • Don't make your monster so big that you can't feed it. [Jamie Matthews]
    • Don't make your project so ambitious that you won't be able to keep up with it day to day.
  • Don't take any wooden nickels
    • Don't get cheated.
  • Don't count your chickens before they hatch.
    • Don’t assume that you’ll get the things you want until you have them.
  • Don't say it, Do it
  • Don't walk around with your butt on your shoulders
    • Don't be overly proud based on your achievements. The quote refers to a star athelete (or hero) being carried off the field on the shoulders of praising fans or teammates. This quote may also refer to walking around with ones head up their butt. Which would result in one not knowing what is going on around them because they are focusing on themselves.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

E

  • Even the smallest pebble dropped in a silent pond moves the entire pond.
  • Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
  • Everyone gets their fifteen minutes of fame. - Andy Warhol
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • Every dog has his day.
    • Everyone has their moment of recognition.
  • Every man looks the same dipped in tar.
    • Underneath the skin, we are all human.
  • The enemy of my enemy is my friend

F

  • Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
  • Fortune favors the bold.

G

  • Good fences make good neighbors.
  • Good enough for Government work.
    • Something done at a minimum passing standard. Taken from the idea that most military equipment is bought from the least expensive contract. Therefore it is not the best, it is the cheapest that meets the criteria given.
  • Greed is Good. -- G. Gekko
    • Greed stated as a positive when most morality holds it as a negative.

H

  • Haste makes waste. - Ben Franklin
    • Doing things too fast is inefficient.
  • Hay is for horses.
    • Play on words. A gentle rebuke that one shouldn't greet another with the expression "Hey, you!"
  • He who has the gold makes the rules.
  • He who laughs last laughs the loudest.
Variant: He who laughs last, thinks slowest.
  • Ben Franklin said as Poor Richard, "He who teaches himself hath a fool for a teacher", but I must tell you that he who does not teach himself has no teachers at all
    • Without teachers we are nowhere. [Christopher Berkeley, Professor of History]
  • Hindsight is 20/20.

I

  • I don't know how cloud's are formed, but the clouds do, and that's the important thing.
  • If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
    • Don't meddle with things just for the sake of change, if they're working fine already.
  • If it seems too good to be true then it probably is.
  • If three people tell you that you are drunk, you better lie down.
    • If many people tell you that you're acting inapproprately, you must act appropriately.
  • If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.
  • If you can't beat them, join them.
  • If you wait till the last minute, it'll only take a minute.
    • Procrastinators' credo; Also credo of subordinate workers who are given a task by their boss with a deadline completely inadequate to allow for a well-researched respone or product.
  • If you want it bad, you'll get it bad.
    • Credo of subordinate workers who are given a task by their boss with a deadline and/or budget/manpower resources completely inadequate to allow for a well-researched response or product.
  • Imitations is the most sincere form of flattery.
  • It is better to say nothing and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
  • It's always darkest before the dawn
  • It is easier said than done
  • It takes a village to raise a child
  • It takes two to tango.
  • If knowledge of all is power, then knowledge of self is divine. - Carlos Lugo II
  • I'd be a failure if it weren't for all the mistakes I've made
    • Success is achieved through an iterative process of learning from mistakes
  • It's not over till the fat lady sings.
  • It's never too late to be what you might have been. - George Eliot
  • It's nice to be at the end of a journey but it's the journey that matters in the end.
  • It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.

J

Jack of all trades, Master of none.

K

  • Kill two birds with one stone.
    • To accomplish two objectives with a single action.
  • Keep it simple, stupid (or otherwise known as "K.I.S.S.")
  • Knowledge is like manure, it's only good when spread.
    • It's best to spread information, or good word, of any kind.

L

  • Let bad situations roll off of you like water on a duck. - Shaylyn Galvin
  • Let sleeping dogs lie.
  • Life is a journey, not a destination
  • Life is like a box of chocolate; it's full of surprises
    • Variant: Life is like a box of chocolates; You never know what you're gonna get - Forrest Gump
  • Loose lips sink ships

M

  • Many hands make light work
    • Working together can get the job done easier, and more efficiently
  • Misery loves company.
  • Money is like manure, it does no good until it is spread.
  • Money talks, BS walks
    • In business, "show me the money" is the rule of thumb, papers must be signed, collateral promised, not much trust is placed on "good faith."

N

  • Never approach a bull from the front, never approach a horse from the rear and never approach a fool from any direction
  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth, you might get bit.
    • Explanation: Do not judge the quality of something that is given to you.
  • Never pick a fight with someone who buys Ink by the barrel.
  • Nice guys finish last - quote from Leo "the Lip" Durocher, major league baseball manager.
  • No good deed goes unpunished.
  • No honor among thieves.
  • Nobody leaves us, we only leave others.
    • Explanation: A memory will stay forever
  • All that glitters, is not gold!

O

  • Old habits die hard.
  • One bad apple can spoil the bunch.
  • One fly makes a summer - Mark Twain
    • One person can make a difference.
  • One man's trash is another man's treasure.
  • One can only hope

P

  • Practice makes perfect
  • "Procrastination is the key to failure"
  • People who don't talk are thought to be stupid; people who do prove it.
  • People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones

Q

  • Quitters never win and winners never Quit -- Cathalen Reece

R

  • Rome wasn't built in a day
    • Great things take time
  • Rolling stone gathers no moss...

S

  • Six of One, Half a dozen the other.
  • Second place just means first loser.- Kevin Costner
  • Some things just take time. You can't have a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.-Warren Buffet
  • Stupid is as stupid does. - Forrest Gump

T

  • The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
  • The best way to get someone to stop digging his heels in is to dig out the sand around him
    • The best way to deal with a stubborn person, is to take away his reasons for being stubborn.
  • The early bird get the worm
  • The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese
    • There are situations in which it is better not to be the first.
  • The grass is always greener on the other side
    • We tend to want the opposite of what we have, while those who have the opposite want what you have.
  • The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • The pot calling the kettle black.
    • A rebuke to someone who is criticizing flaws in others that they themselves have.
  • The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • The straw that broke the camel's back.
    • There comes a point when just a little more pressure will cause one to fail.
  • The tongue is the enemy of the neck.
  • The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
  • There ain't no such thing as a free lunch
    • No one offers something without expecting something in return. (This proverb or its acronym "TANSTAAFL" are often attributed to the author Robert A. Heinlein who used them in his novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), but the expression has been dated to the late 1930s, and the acronym to at least as early as October 1949. Another common variant is: There's no such thing as a free lunch.)
  • There's no place like home. - Dorothy, in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz.
  • There's more than one way to skin a cat.
  • There's plenty of fish in the sea.
    • There are plenty of men or women to choose from, in regard to marriage.
  • Time flies when you're having fun.
    • Time passes quickly when you're enjoying yourself.
  • Time shall tell.
  • There are no shortcuts to life's greatest achievments
  • To each their own.
    • Varient: Different strokes for different folks
    • Meaning: Different people have different preferences.
  • There is nothing as powerful as truth
  • Two heads are better than one.
  • Two's company, three's a crowd.

U

V

W

  • Words uttered only causes confusion. Words written only causes history.
  • What goes up must come down.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do
  • When it rains, it pours.
  • When you aren't ready you're scared, when you are ready you're nervous
  • Where there's a will there's a way
  • When the cat's away, the mice will play.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going
  • When life hands you lemons make lemonade
    • This quote generally means to make do with what is handed to you in life.

Variant: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Then find someone who's life has given them vodka, and have a party. -Ron White

  • When life hands you lemons, add vodka and chill.
    • A saying advocating drinking to relax
  • Where there's smoke, there's fire.
  • When god gives you lemons... you find a new god!

Y

  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
  • You can't get there from here
    • You need to find another starting point to reach your destination.
  • You can't have your cake and eat it, too.
  • You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
    • Something of top quality cannot be produced from something of poor quality.
  • You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
  • You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.