Danish proverbs

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Love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
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A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - R - S - T - U - V - X - Y - Æ - Ø - Å

A

B

  • "Blind høne kan også finde korn."
    • Translation: "Blind hens can find grain too"
    • Interpretation: Some things succeed because of luck.
  • "Børst ikke tænder før du har åbnet munden."
    • Translation: "Dont brush you teeth before you have opened your mouth."

C

D

  • "Den der ler sidst ler bedst."
    • Translation: "He who laughs last, laughs the better."
  • "Den man elsker tugter man."
    • Translation: "The one you love you punish."

E

  • "En fugl i hånden er bedre end ti på taget."
    • Translation: "One bird in your hand is better than ten on the roof."
    • English equivalent: "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
    • Interpretation: A small amount that you have is worth more than a large amount that is uncertain.
  • "Enhver er sin egen lykkes smed."
    • Translation: "Everybody is the smith of his own happiness"
    • Possible interpretation: Don't wait for luck. Create your own happiness.

F

  • "For mange kokke fordærver maden."
    • Translation: "Too many cooks spoil the meal."
  • "Fra børn og fulde folk skal man høre sandheden."
    • Translation: "From children and drunks will you hear the truth."
    • Possible Interpretation: Sometimes, ordinary people are too afraid or blind to see the truth.
    • Possible Interpretation: Believe in the words of children and drunk people, who are not afraid of the consequences of telling the truth.

G

  • "Græsset er altid grønnere hos naboen."
    • Translation: "The grass is always greener at the neighbour's." Or, loosely: "Your neighbour's grass is always greener."
    • Possible Interpretation: You will always envy others and you will always want more.
      • English equivalent: "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."
  • "Gå ikke over åen efter vand."
    • Translation: "Don't cross the stream to get water."
    • Possible Interpretation: Easy does it
      • English equivalent: "Don't carry coal to Newcastle"


  • "Græsset bliver ikke brændt i skyggen, om sommeren."
    • Translation: "The grass won't be burnt in the summer, in the shadows."

H

  • "'Hvis og hvis min røv er spids og fyldt med marmelade'"
    • Translation: "If and if my ass is pointy and full of marmalade."
    • Possible Interpretation: If there are too many unknowns in a statement, the chance of it being true is the same as the chance of my ass being pointy and full of marmelade (i.e. zero).
    • English equivalent: If pigs had wings...
    • English equivalent: On the twelfth day of Never.
  • "Hvo intet vover intet vinder."
    • Translation: "He who takes no chances wins nothing."
    • English equivalent: "Nothing ventured nothing gained" or "Who dares wins."
    • Possible Interpretation: Sometimes you must run a risk, otherwise you will get nowhere.
  • "Hvor der handles, der spildes."
    • Translation: "Where there is action, there is waste."
    • Possible Interpretation: You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs.

I

  • "Ingen roser uden torne"
    • Translation: "No roses without thorns"
    • Possible Interpretation: "You can't filter likes and dislikes - it's all part of the package"

J

K

  • "Kast ikke med sten hvis du selv bor i et glashus."
    • Translation: "Don't throw rocks if you live in a glass house."
    • Interpretation: Don't criticize others for faults you have yourself (usually to an even larger degree).
  • "Kryds ikke vejen når du ikke kan finde ud af køkkenet"
    • Translation: "Don't cross the road when you can't find your way out of the kitchen."

L

  • "Lige børn leger bedst."
    • Translation: "Equal children play best."
    • Possible Interpretation: You should stick to your own social class.
    • Possible Interpretation: Do not match uneven things
  • "Lige ved og næsten slår ingen mand af hesten."
    • Translation: "'Almost' and 'nearly' do not throw a man from his horse."
    • Possible Interpretation: Sometimes 'almost' is not enough, eg. "I almost won the contract" (i.e. did not)
    • English Equivalent: "Close only counts in horseshoes and handgrenades"
    • Possible Interpretation: Although nearly "not-X", was still "X" in the end... or the converse.

M

  • "Man må hyle med de ulve man er i blandt"
    • Translation: "One must howl with the wolves one is among"
    • English equivalent: "When in Rome do as the Romans"
  • "Man skal smede mens jernet er varmt"
    • Translation: "One should do the blacksmithing while the iron is hot"
    • English equivalent: "Strike while the iron is hot"
    • Possible interpretation: Seize the moment. Take the opportunity now; don't waste it.
  • "Mange bække små gør en stor å."
    • Translation: "Many small brooks make the river strong."
    • English equivalent: "Every little bit helps."
    • Possible Interpretation: If You save a little here and a little there, You will eventually get rich.
    • Possible Interpretation: Be aware of aggregates (can also be a warning, i.e. towards going into debt)

N

  • "Nød lærer nøgen kvinde at spinde."
    • Translation: "Necessity teaches the naked woman to spin (a yarn)."
    • Possible Interpretation: You can if you must.
    • English equivalent: Necessity is the mother of invention.

O

  • Over skyerne er himlen altid blå
    • Translation: Above the clouds, the sky is always blue
    • Interpretation: Though you can't think of any good things at the moment, they're right behind the bad.
  • Operationen var en succes, men patienten døde
    • Translation: The operation was a success but the patient died

P

  • "Pels ikke bjørnen før den er skudt."
    • Translation: Don't skin the bear before it's been shot
    • English equivalent: "Don't count your chickens before they hatch"
    • Possible Interpretation: Don't think you have something, until you really got it

R

S

  • "Sku ikke hunden på hårene."
    • Translation: "Don't judge the dog by its fur."
    • Danish version of "Don't judge a book by the cover."
    • Possible Interpretation: Although a beautiful exterior, it is the inside/mentality of the individual that matters.
    • Possible Interpretation: Be aware that not all important traits are easily observed (applies broadly to both physical and non-physical traits of fellow humans).


  • "Sælg ikke skindet før bjørnen er skudt."
    • Translation: "Don't sell the fur before shooting the bear."
    • Possible Interpretation: Don't be too ambitious. Having done something and planning to do it are two different things. Do things in the right order.
    • Possible Interpretation: Is a warning against acting on hopeful predictions, i.e. don't spend your raise until it really is yours.


  • "Sæt ikke dit lys under en skæppe."
    • Translation: "Do not hide your light under a bushel"
    • Possible Interpretation: Don't hide your talents.


  • "Skik følge eller land fly"
    • Translation: "Custom follow or country flee"
    • English equivalent: "When in Rome do as the Romans"

T

  • "Tale er sølv, tavshed er guld"
    • Translation: "Speaking is silver, silence is gold"
    • Possible interpretation: Speaking is fine, but being silent can be of more value.
  • "Tomme tønder buldrer mest."
    • Translation: "Empty vessels make most noise/sound"
    • Possible Interpretation: "The ignorant make themselves known." (Empty head = loud mouth)
  • "Tab og vind med samme sind."
    • Translation: "Lose and win in the same spirit"
    • Possible Interpretation: "Exercise Sportsmanship. Winning isn't everything"
  • "Tyv tror hver mand stjæler."
    • Translation: "It is the thief who thinks that all men steal."
    • English equivalent: "The jaundiced eye sees all things yellow."

U

  • "Uden mad og drikke duer helten ikke."
    • Translation: "Without eating and drinking the hero is no good."
    • Possible Interpretation: "To achieve greatness also requires attention to the basics/mundane".
    • Possible Interpretation: It should be taken literally. It is usually only used when talking about food (breaks).


  • "Ude godt, men hjemme bedst."
    • Translation: "It's good to be out (and about), but at home is best."
    • Seeing different things (cultures) is good, but we still prefer our own way of life.

V

X

Y

Z

Æ

  • "Ærlighed varer længst""
  • Translation: "Honesty last longest"
    • Possible Interpretation: In the long term, honesty is the best policy

Ø

  • "Øvelse gør mester."
    • Translation:"Practice makes master"
    • English equivalent: "Practice makes perfect"

Å