French proverbs

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Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth, We are happy when we are growing.
William Butler Yeats
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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V

A

  • À chaque jour suffit sa peine.
    • English equivalent: Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (New Testament, Matthew 6:34)
  • À cheval donné on ne regarde pas les dents (French) / la bride (Canadian).
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't look a gifthorse in the mouth.
    • Literal translation: On a given horse one doesn´t look at the teeth / bridle (the bit in the horse's mouth).
  • A l'oeuvre, on connaît l'ouvrier.
    • Translation: A carpenter is known by his chips.
  • Après la pluie, le beau temps.
    • Translation: After the rain comes the nice weather.
  • Autre temps, autres moeurs.
    • Translation: Other days, other ways.

B

  • Bien mal acquis ne profite jamais.
    • Idiomatic translation: Ill-gotten gains seldom prosper.
    • Literal meaning: Goods badly acquired never profit.
  • Bon repas doit commencer par la faim.
    • Idiomatic translation: Hunger is the best spice.
    • Literal meaning: A good meal must begin with hunger.
  • Bon sang ne saurait mentir.
    • Idiomatic translation: Blood will out.
    • Literal meaning: Good blood cannot lie.
  • Bonne renommée vaut mieux que ceinture dorée.
    • Idiomatic translation: A good name is better than riches.
    • Literal meaning: A good name is worthier than a golden belt.

C

  • C'est bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet.
    • Literal translation: It's white hat and hat white.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's six of one and half a dozen of the other.
  • C'est dans le besoin qu'on reconnaît ses vrais amis.
    • Literal translation: It's when in need that one recognises his friends.
    • Idiomatic translation: A friend in need is a friend indeed.
  • C'est dans les vieilles marmites qu'on fait les meilleures soupes.
    • Literal Translation: It's in old kettles that one makes the best soup.
    • Idiomatic Translation: The best broths are made in the oldest pots.
  • C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron.
    • Literal meaning: By dint of forging one becomes a blacksmith.
    • Idiomatic translation: Practice makes perfect.
  • C'est l'arroseur arrosé.
    • Literal meaning: It's the waterer getting drenched.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's the biter bit.
  • C'est l'exception qui confirme la règle.
    • Translation: It's the exception that proves the rule.
  • C'est la goutte d'eau qui fait déborder le vase.
    • Literal meaning: It's the drop of water that makes the jug overflow.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's the straw that breaks the camel's back.
  • C'est la paille et la poutre.
    • Literal meaning: It's the straw and the beam.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's the mote and the beam (or the pot calling the kettle black).
  • C'est la Pitié / l'hôpital qui se moque de la Charité.
    • Literal meaning: It's Pity / the hospital that mocks Charity.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's the pot calling the kettle black.
  • C'est la poule qui chante qui a fait l'oeuf.
    • Literal meaning: It is the hen which sings which has laid the egg.
    • Idiomatic translation: The guilty dog barks the loudest.
  • C'est la poêle qui se moque du chaudron.
    • Literal meaning: It's the stove mocking on the cauldron.
    • Idiomatic translation: The pot that calls the kettle black.
  • C'est le ton qui fait la chanson.
    • Literal meaning: It's the melody that makes the song.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's not what you say but the way you say it.
  • C'est trop aimer quand on en meurt.
    • Idiomatic translation: They love too much who die for love.
    • Literal translation: It´s loving too much when one dies of it.
  • C'est un prêté pour un rendu.
    • Translation 1: Tit for tat.
    • Translation 2: One good turn deserves another.
    • Literal meaning: It is one loaned for one returned.
  • Ce qui est fait n'est plus à faire.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don´t leave till tomorrow what can be finished today.
    • Literal translation: What is done no longer needs to be done.
  • Ce n'est pas aux vieux singes qu'on apprend à faire des grimaces.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
    • Literal meaning: You can't teach old monkeys how to make faces.
  • Ce n'est pas la vache qui crie le plus fort qui donne le plus de lait.
    • Idiomatic translation: Great cry, little milk.
    • Literal meaning: It is not the cow who shouts the loudest who gives the most milk.
  • Ce que femme veut, Dieu le veut.
    • Idiomatic translation: A woman's will is God's will.
    • Literal translation: That which a woman wishes, God wishes.
  • Cela m'est égal.
    • Translation: I don't mind.
  • Chacun pour soi et Dieu pour tous.
    • Translation 1: Every man for himself, and God for us all.
    • Translation 2: Every man for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost.
  • Chacun son métier, les vaches seront bien gardées.
    • Idiomatic translation: One should mind one's own business.
    • Literal meaning: Each to his craft, and the cows will be well looked after.
  • Chacun voit midi à sa porte.
    • Idiomatic translation: To each his own.
    • Literal meaning: Everyone sees noon at his door.
  • Chantez à l'âne, il vous fera des pets.
    • Literal translation: Sing to a donkey, he will fart to you.
    • Idiomatic translation: Hold food in your hand, and the dog will bite it.
  • Charbonnier est maître chez soi.
    • Translation (British): An Englishman's home is his castle.
    • Literal meaning: A coalman is master of his own house.
  • Charité bien ordonnée commence par soi-même.
    • Idiomatic translation: Charity begins at home.
  • Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop.
    • Idiomatic translation: A leopard cannot change its spots.
    • Literal meaning: Chase away the natural and it returns at a gallop.
  • Chat échaudé craint l'eau froide.
    • Literal meaning: A scalded cat fears cold water.
    • Translation 1: Once bitten, twice shy.
    • Translation 2: A burned child dreads the fire.
  • Cherchez la femme.
    • Literal meaning: Look for the woman.
    • Idiomatic translation: A woman is probably at the heart of the quarrel.
  • Chien qui aboie ne mord pas.
    • Literal meaning: Dog that barks does not bite.
    • Idiomatic translation: Barking dogs seldom bite.
    • Translation 2: His bark is worse than his bite
  • Chose promise, chose due.
    • Literal meaning: Thing promised, thing owed.
    • Idiomatic translation: Promises are made to be kept.
  • Coeur qui soupire n'a pas ce qu'il désire.
    • Translation: The heart that sighs does not have what it desires.
  • Comme on fait son lit on se couche.
    • Literal meaning: As one makes one's bed, one lies in it.
    • Idiomatic translation: As you make your bed, so you are going to lie in it.
  • Comparaison n'est pas raison.
    • Literal meaning: Comparison is no reason.
    • Idiomatic translation: Comparisons are misleading.
  • Contentement passe richesse.
    • Idiomatic translation: Happiness is worth more than riches.
  • Coucher de poule et lever de corbeau écartent l'homme du tombeau.
    • Idiomatic translation 1: Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
    • Literal meaning: Going to bed with the hen and waking with the crow keeps the man from the grave.

D

  • Dans le doute, abstiens-toi.
    • Idiomatic translation: When in doubt, forbear.
  • De la discussion jaillit la lumière. or Du choc des idées jaillit la lumière
    • Idiomatic translation: Two heads are better than one.
    • Literal meaning: Out of discussion springs forth the light.
  • Demain il fera jour.
    • Literal meaning: Tomorrow will be a day.
    • Idiomatic translation: Tomorrow is another day.
  • Deux avis valent mieux qu'un.
    • Idiomatic translation: Two heads are better than one.
    • Literal meaning: Two opinions are better than one.
  • Dis-moi qui tu hantes, je te dirai qui tu es.
    • Idiomatic translation: A man is known by the company he keeps.
    • Literal meaning: Tell me whom you spend time with and I will tell you who you are.
  • Douce parole n'écorche pas langue.
    • Idiomatic translation: Good words break no bones.
    • Literal meaning: Soft words don't scratch the tongue.

E

  • En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil ; en mai, fais ce qui te plaît.
    • Idiomatic translation: Never cast a clout till May is out.
    • Literal meaning: In April, do not shed a single thread; in May, do as you please.
  • En tout pays, il y a une lieue de mauvais chemins.
    • Idiomatic translation: There will be bumps on the smoothest roads.
    • Literal translation: In every country, there's a league of bad paths
  • Entre deux maux, il faut choisir le moindre.
    • Translation: Of two evils one must choose the lesser.
  • Entre l'arbre et l'écorce, il ne faut pas mettre le doigt.
    • Idiomatic translation: Do not meddle in other people's family affairs.
    • Literal meaning: Don't poke your finger 'twixt the bark and the tree.

F

  • Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra.
    • Idiomatic translation: Do your duty, come what may.
  • Fais ce que je dis, ne fais pas ce que je fais.
    • Idiomatic translation: Do as I say, not as I do.
  • Faute avouée est à moitié pardonnée.
    • Idiomatic translation: A fault confessed is a half redressed.
  • Faute de grives, on mange des merles.
    • Translation 1: Half a loaf is better than no bread.
    • Translation 2: You have to cut your coat according to your cloth.
    • Literal meaning: Eat blackbirds if you can't have thrushes.
  • Femme rit quand elle peut et pleure quand elle veut.
    • Idiomatic translation: A woman laughs when she can and weeps when she wants.
  • Filer à l'anglaise.
    • Idiomatic translation: To take French leave.
    • Literal translation: Leave the English way.
  • Force fait loi.
    • Translation: Might makes right.

G

  • Grosse Corvette, petite cervelle.
    • Literal translation: Big Corvette, small brain.
    • Idiomatic translation: Big car, no brain.
  • Grosse Corvette, petite quéquette.
    • Literal translation: Big Corvette, small willie. (penis - quéquette being informal French).
    • Note: A typicaly Quebecois saying, not used in other French-speaking countries. It pokes fun of Corvette drivers by implying they are driving a loud muscle car to compensate their shame of having a short penis.

H

  • Hâtez-vous lentement.
    • Literal translation: Make haste slowly.
    • Idiomatic translation: More haste less speed
    • Latin: Festina lente.
  • Heureux au jeu, malheureux en amour.
    • Idiomatic translation: Lucky in cards, unlucky in love.
  • Homme mort ne fait guerre.
    • Idiomatic translation: A dead man deals no blows.
    • Literal meaning: A dead man cannot make war.
  • Honni soit qui mal y pense.
    • Idiomatic translation: Evil be to he who evil thinks.
    • Literal meaning: Shameful be they who thinks badly of it.

I

  • Il faut apprendre à obéir pour savoir commander.
    • Translation: It is necessary to learn how to obey to know to command.
  • Il faut battre le fer pendant qu'il est chaud.
    • Translation 1: Strike while the iron is hot.
    • Translation 2: Make hay while the sun shines.
    • Literal Translation: It is necessary to strike the iron while it is hot.
  • Il faut casser le noyau pour avoir l'amande.
    • Literal Translation: It is necessary to break the shell to have the almond
    • Translation 1: He who would eat, crack the kernel.
    • Translation 2: No pain, no gain.
  • Il faut de tout pour faire un monde.
    • Idiomatic translation: It takes all sorts to make a world.
  • Il faut laver son linge sale en famille.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't air your dirty laundry in public.
    • Literal translations: One needs to wash one's dirty laundry with family around.
  • Il faut manger pour vivre, et non vivre pour manger.
    • Idiomatic translation: Eat to live, don't live to eat.
  • Il faut ménager la chèvre et le chou.
    • Idiomatic translation: One must run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
    • Literal meaning: One must spare both the goat and the cabbage.
  • Il faut que jeunesse se passe.
    • Translation 1: Youth must have its fling.
    • Translation 2: Boys will be boys.
    • Literal translation: Youth must happen.
  • Il faut qu'une porte soit ouverte ou fermée.
    • Idiomatic translation: There can be no middle ground.
    • Literal meaning: A door must be either open or shut.
  • Il faut savoir obéir avant que de commander.
    • Idiomatic translation: Obedience comes before leadership.
  • Il faut tourner sa langue sept fois dans sa bouche avant de parler.
    • Idiomatic translation: Think before you speak.
    • Literal meaning: One must turn the tongue seven times in the mouth before speaking.
  • Il ne faut jamais dire « Fontaine je ne boirai pas de ton eau ». Most often said Il ne faut jamais dire Fontaine
    • Idiomatic translation: Never say never.
    • Literal meaning: Never say, "Fountain, I shall not drink of your water."
  • Il ne faut jamais remettre au lendemain ce qu'on peut faire le jour même.
    • Literal translation: Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today.
    • Translation: One of these days is none of these days.
  • Il ne faut pas chercher midi à quatorze heures.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't complicate the issue.
    • Literal meaning: Don't look for noon at two o'clock.
  • Il ne faut pas confondre vitesse et précipitation.
    • Idiomatic translation: More haste, less speed.
    • Literal meaning: One must not confuse speed with haste.
  • Il ne faut pas déshabiller Pierre pour habiller Paul.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't rob Peter to pay Paul.
    • Literal meaning: Don't undress Peter to dress Paul.
  • Il ne faut pas mettre la charrue avant les bœufs.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't put the cart before the horse.
    • Literal meaning: Don't put the plough before the oxen.
  • Il ne faut pas mettre tous ses œufs dans le même panier.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
  • Il ne faut pas réveiller le chat qui dort.
    • Idiomatic translation: Let sleeping dogs lie.
    • Literal meaning: Don't wake a cat who sleeps.
  • Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l'ours avant de l'avoir tué.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.
    • Literal meaning: Don't sell the bearskin before you've killed the bear.
  • Il n'est jamais trop tard pour bien faire.
    • Idiomatic translation: It is never too late to mend.
    • Literal meaning: It is never too late to do well.
  • Il n'est pire aveugle que celui qui ne veut pas voir.
    • Idiomatic translation: There are none so blind as they who will not see.
  • Il n'est pire eau que celle qui dort. also "Méfie-toi de l'eau qui dort"
    • Literal meaning: There is no worse water than the water which sleeps / Beware of the water which sleeps.
    • Idiomatic translation: Still waters run deep.
  • Il n'est pire sourd que celui qui ne veut pas entendre.
    • Idiomatic translation: There is none so deaf as he who will not hear.
  • Il n'y a pas d'ânesse qui ne trouve son âne.
    • Idiomatic translation: Every Jack has his Jill.
    • Literal meaning: There is no jenny who does not find her donkey.
  • Il n'y a pas de fumée sans feu.
    • Literal translation: There's no smoke without fire.
    • Idiomatic translation: Where there's smoke, there's fire.
  • Il n'y a pas de petit chez soi.
    • Idiomatic translation: There's no place like home.
  • Il n'y a pas de petit profit.
    • Idiomatic translation: A penny saved is a penny earned.
    • Literal meaning: There is no small profit.
  • Il n'y a pas de sot métier.
    • Literal meaning: There is no inane craft.
    • Idiomatic translation: Every trade has its value.
  • Il n'y a que la vérité qui blesse.
    • Literal meaning: Only truth hurts.
    • Idiomatic translation: Truth hurts.
  • Il n'y a que les montagnes qui ne se rencontrent jamais.
    • Idiomatic translation: There are none so distant that fate cannot bring together.
    • Literal meaning: Only mountains never meet.
  • Il tombe des cordes.
    • Literal meaning: Ropes are falling / It is raining ropes.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's raining cats and dogs.
  • Il y a loin de la coupe aux lèvres.
    • Idiomatic translation: There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.
  • Il y a plus d'un âne à la foire qui s'appellent Martin. also "Tous les ânes ne s'appellent pas Martin."
    • Idiomatic translation 1: If one will not, another will.
    • Idiomatic translation 2: There's plenty more fish in the sea
    • Literal meaning: There is more than one donkey at the fair called Martin.
  • Impossible n'est pas français.
    • Idiomatic translation: There is no such word as "can't".
    • Literal meaning: Impossible is not a French word.

J

  • Jamais couard n'aura belle amie.
    • Literal translation: Never coward shall have fair lady for friend.
    • Idiomatic translation: Faint heart never won fair lady.
  • Jamais deux sans trois.
    • Literal translation: Never twice without thrice.
  • Je ne suis ni pour, ni contre, bien au contraire.
    • Literal translation: I am neither for nor against, much to the contrary!

L

  • Laissez les bons temps rouler.
    • Idiomatic translation: Let the good times roll [Cajun French].
  • L'amour fait beaucoup, mais l'argent fait tout.
    • Translation: Love does much, but money does all.
  • L'argent n'a pas d'odeur.
    • Idiomatic translation: Money is money (wherever it comes from).
    • Literal meaning: Money has no smell.
    • Latin: Pecunia non olet.
  • L'argent ne fait pas le bonheur.
    • Idiomatic translation: Money can't buy happiness.
    • Literal meaning: Money doesn't make happiness.
  • L'argent ne se trouve pas sous le sabot / le pas d'un cheval.
    • Idiomatic translation: Money doesn't grow on trees.
    • Literal meaning: Money is not found under a horse's hoof / step.
  • L'amour est aveugle.
    • Idiomatic translation: Love is blind.
  • L'habit ne fait pas le moine.
    • Idiomatic translation 1: One cannot judge a book by its cover.
    • Idiomatic translation 2: Clothes don't make the man.
    • Literal translation: The dress doesn't make the monk.
  • L'herbe est toujours plus verte chez le voisin.
    • Idiomatic translation: The grass is always greener on the other side.
    • Literal translation: The grass is always greener at the neighbours'
  • L'homme est un loup pour l'homme.
    • Idiomatic translation: Brother will turn on brother. /'dog eat dog'
    • Latin: Homo homini lupus
    • Literal meaning: The man is a wolf for the man.
  • La bave du crapaud n'atteint pas la blanche colombe.
    • Idiomatic translation: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
    • Literal meaning: The spit of the toad doesn't reach the white dove.
  • La caque sent toujours le hareng.
    • Idiomatic translation: What's bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.
    • Literal meaning: A herring barrel will always smell of herring.
  • La chance sourit aux audacieux.
    • Idiomatic translation: Fortune favours the brave.
    • Literal meaning: Luck smiles at the bold.
  • La culture, c'est comme la confiture, moins on en a, plus on l'étale.
    • Idiomatic translation:
    • Literal meaning: Culture is like jam, the less we have the more we spread it.
  • La curiosité est un vilain défaut.
    • Idiomatic translation: Curiosity killed the cat.
    • Literal meaning: Curiosity is a wicked fault.
  • La faim chasse le loup hors du bois.
    • Translation: Hunger drives the wolf out of the wood.
  • La fête passée, adieu le saint.
    • Idiomatic translation: The river passed, and God forgotten.
    • Translation: The festival has passed, goodbye to the saint.
  • La nuit porte conseil.
    • Translation 1: Take advice of your pillow.
    • Translation 2: Sleep on it.
    • Literal meaning: The night brings advice.
  • La nuit tous les chats sont gris.
    • Translation: At night all cats are grey.
    • Idiomatic translation: (Political incorrectness alert!) When the lights are out (i.e., in bed), they (i.e., women) all look the same.
  • La parole est d'argent, mais le silence est d'or.
    • Idiomatic translation: Silence is golden.
    • Literal meaning: Talk is silver, silence is golden.
  • La pluie de vos injures n'atteint pas le parapluie de mon indifférence.
    • Translation: Your spluttering insults do not reach the umbrella of my indifference.
  • La plus belle fille du monde ne peut donner que ce qu'elle a.
    • Translation: The prettiest girl in the world can only give what she has.
  • L'appétit vient en mangeant.
    • Idiomatic translation: The more you have, the more you want.
    • Literal meaning: Appetite comes while eating.
  • La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure.
    • Idiomatic translation: Might is always right.
    • Literal meaning: The motive of the strongest is always the best.
  • La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid.
    • Idiomatic translation: Revenge is a dish best served cold.
    • Literal: Revenge is a dish that is eaten cold.
  • La vérité est dans le vin.
    • Idiomatic translation: In wine is truth.
    • Latin: In vino veritas
    • Literal: The truth is in the wine.
  • La vérité sort de la bouche des enfants.
    • Idiomatic translation: Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings comes forth truth.
    • Latin: Ex ore parvulorum veritas
    • Literal meaning: The truth comes from the mouth of children.
  • Le crime ne paie pas.
    • Translation: Crime does not pay.
  • Le Diable chie toujours au même endroit.
    • Idiomatic translation: The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.
    • Literal meaning: The Devil always shits in the same place.
  • La bible comme lu par le diable.
    • Idiomatic Translation: Devil quoting scripture.
    • Literal Translation: The Bible as read by the devil.
  • Le malheur des uns fait le bonheur des autres.
    • Idiomatic translation: One man's meat is another man's poison. OR One man's trash is another man's treasure.
    • Literal meaning: The misfortune of some makes the joy of others.
  • Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.
    • Idiomatic translation: Let well alone.
    • Literal meaning: Better is the enemy of good.
  • Le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt.
    • Idiomatic translation: The early bird catches the worm.
    • Literal meaning: The world belongs to those who rise early.
  • Le ridicule ne tue pas.
    • Being amusing isn't lethal.
  • Le roi est mort, vive le roi!
    • Translation: "The King is Dead, Long live the King!"
  • L'enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions.
    • Idiomatic translation: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
    • Literal meaning: Hell is paved with good intentions.
  • L'erreur est humaine.
    • Literal translation: The error is human.
    • Idiomatic translation: To err is human.
    • Latin: Errare humanum est
  • Les absents ont toujours tort.
    • Translation: The absent are always in the wrong.
  • Les affaires sont les affaires.
    • Translation: Business is business.
  • Les amis de mes amis sont mes amis. and "les ennemis de mes ennemis sont mes amis"
    • Idiomatic translation: A friend of yours is a friend of mine / The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
    • Literal meaning: Friends of my friends are my friends / Enemies of my enemies are my friends.
  • Les apparences sont trompeuses.
    • Idiomatic translation: All that glitters is not gold.
    • Literal meaning: Appearances are deceptive.
  • Les bons comptes font les bons amis.
    • Translation 1: Short reckonings make long friends.
    • Translation 2: Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
    • Literal meaning: Good accounts make good friends.
  • Les bons outils font les bons ouvriers
    • Translation: Good tools make good workers.
  • Les chiens aboient, la caravane passe.
    • Idiomatic translation: Let the world say what it will.
    • Literal meaning: The dogs bark, the caravan passes by.
  • Les chiens ne font pas des chats.
    • Idiomatic translation: Like breeds like / The apple does not fall far from the tree.
    • Literal meaning: Dogs don't make cats.
  • Les conseillers ne sont pas les payeurs.
    • Idiomatic translation: Advice is cheap.
    • Literal meaning: Advisors aren't the ones who pay.
  • Les cordonniers sont les plus mal chaussés.
    • Idiomatic translation: The cobbler's children go barefoot.
    • Literal translation: The cobblers have the worst shoes
  • Les fruits défendus sont les meilleurs.
    • Idiomatic translation: Forbidden fruits are the sweetest.
    • Literal meaning: Forbidden fruits are the best.
  • Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas.
    • Idiomatic translation: There's no accounting for tastes.
    • Literal meaning: Tastes and colors cannot be questioned.
    • Latin: De gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum.
  • Les grands diseurs ne sont pas les grands faiseurs.
    • Idiomatic translation: Talkers are not doers.
    • Literal meaning: Big talkers are not big doers.
  • Les grands esprits se rencontrent.
    • Idiomatic translation: Great minds think alike.
    • Literal meaning: Great spirits meet one another.
  • Les habitudes ont la vie dure.
    • Idiomatic translation: Old habits die hard.
  • Les jours se suivent et ne se ressemblent pas.
    • Translation 1: After Christmas comes Lent.
    • Translation 2: Time changes and we with time.
    • Literal meaning: The days follow one another and do not look alike.
  • Les loups ne se mangent pas entre eux.
    • Translation 1: Dog does not eat dog.
    • Translation 2: There is honour among thieves.
    • Literal translation: Wolves don't eat each other.
  • Les murs ont des oreilles.
    • Translation: Walls have ears.
  • Le soleil luit pour tout le monde.
    • Idiomatic translation: The sun shines for one and all.
    • Literal meaning: The sun shines for everybody.
  • Les petits ruisseaux font les grandes rivières.
    • Idiomatic translation: Tall oaks from little acorns grow.
    • Literal meaning: Little streams make big rivers.
  • Les plaisanteries les plus courtes sont les meilleures.
    • Idiomatic translation: Brevity is the soul of wit.
    • Literal meaning: The shortest jokes are the best ones.
  • L'espoir fait vivre.
    • Idiomatic translation: Where there's life, there's hope.
    • Literal meaning: Hope keeps alive.
  • Les voyages forment la jeunesse.
    • Idiomatic translation: Travel broadens the mind.
    • Literal meaning: Travels train young people.
  • Le temps c'est de l'argent.
    • Translation: Time is money.
  • L'exactitude est la politesse des rois. or "La ponctualité est la politesse des rois"
    • Translation: Punctuality is the politeness of kings.
  • L'excès en tout est un défaut.
    • Idiomatic translation: Too much is too much.
    • Literal meaning: Excess in anything is a fault.
  • L'habit ne fait pas le moine.
    • Idiomatic translation: Don't judge the book by its cover.
    • Literal meaning: The cowl does not make the friar.
  • L'occasion fait le larron.
    • Idiomatic translation: Opportunity makes the thief.
  • Loin des yeux, loin du coeur.
    • Idiomatic translation: Out of sight, out of mind.
    • Literal translation: Far from the eyes, far from the heart
  • L'oisiveté est la mère de tous les vices.
    • Literal translation: Idleness is the mother of all sins.
    • Idiomatic translation: An idle mind is the devil's workshop.
  • L'union fait la force.
    • Idiomatic translation: United we stand, divided we fall.
    • Literal meaning: Unity makes strength.

M

  • Mange ton poisson à présent qu'il est frais, marie ta fille à présent qu'elle est jeune.
    • Idiomatic translation: Eat your fish while it is fresh, marry your daughter while she is young.
  • Mars venteux et avril pluvieux font mai gai et gracieux.
    • Literal translation: Windy March and rainy April make May jolly and gracious
    • Idiomatic translation: March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.
  • Mieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné.
    • Idiomatic translation: Better be alone than in bad company.
  • Mieux vaut faire que dire.
    • Literal translation: Better to do than to say.
    • Idiomatic translation: Actions speak louder than words / Well done is better than well said.
  • Mieux vaut plier que rompre.
    • Idiomatic translation: Adapt and survive.
    • Literal meaning: Better to bend than to break.
  • Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir.
    • Literal translation: Better to prevent than to cure.
    • Idiomatic translation: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Mieux vaut rire que pleurer.
    • Idiomatic translation: Laughter is the best medicine.
    • Literal meaning: Better to laugh than to weep.
  • Mieux vaut s'adresser à Dieu qu'à ses saints.
    • Idiomatic translation: It is better to talk to the organ-grinder than to his monkey.
    • Literal meaning: It is better to address God than His saints.
  • Mieux vaut tard que jamais.
    • Idiomatic translation: Better late than never.
  • Mieux vaut tenir que courir.
    • Idiomatic translation: A bird in hand is worth two in a bush.
    • Literal meaning: Better to hold than to run.
  • Moineau à la main vaut mieux que grue qui vole.
    • Idiomatic translation: A bird in hand is worth two in a bush.
    • Literal meaning: Better a sparrow in hand than a crane in flight.
  • Mon petit doigt me l'a dit.
    • Translation: A little bird told me.
  • Morte la bête, mort le venin.
    • Idiomatic translation: Dead dogs don't bite.
    • Literal meaning: Dead is the beast, dead is the venom.

N

  • Nécessité fait loi.
    • Idiomatic translation: Beggars can't be choosers.
    • Literal meaning: Need makes law.
  • Noël au balcon, Pâques au tison.
    • Idiomatic translation: A warm Christmas means a cold Easter.
    • Literal meaning: Christmas on the balcony, Easter with a firebrand (in hand).
  • Nul n'est prophète en son pays.
    • Idiomatic translation: No man is a prophet in his country.

O

  • Oignez vilain, il vous poindra.
    • Literal meaning: Anoint the villain he will stab you (oindre and poindre being outdated verbs)
    • Idiomatic translation: Claw a churl by the breech, and he will shite in your fist.
  • On a souvent besoin d'un plus petit que soi.
    • Translation: We often need someone smaller than ourselves.
  • On est tous dans le même bain.
    • Literal meaning: We're all in the same bath.
    • Idiomatic translation: We're all in the same boat.
  • On ne change pas une équipe qui gagne.
    • Literal meaning: One doesn't change a team that wins.
    • Idiomatic translation: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • On ne fait pas boire un âne qui n'a pas soif.
    • Literal meaning: One does not make a donkey drink if it isn't thirsty.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
  • On ne fait pas d'omelette sans casser des œufs.
    • Translation: You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.
  • On ne marie pas les poules avec les renards.
    • Idiomatic translation: Different strokes for different folks.
    • Literal meaning: You can't marry a hen and a fox.
  • On ne peut avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre. Sometimes On ne peut pas avoir le beurre, l'argent du beurre et la crémière.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't have your cake and eat it.
    • Literal meaning: You can't have both the butter and the butter money / and the dairywoman.
  • On ne peut avoir le lard et le cochon.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't have your cake and eat it.
    • Literal meaning: You can't have the bacon and the pig.
  • On ne peut être à la ville et aux champs.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't be in two places at once.
    • Literal meaning: You can't be in town and in the country.
  • On ne peut être au four et au moulin.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't be in two places at once.
    • Literal meaning: You can't be at the oven and in the mill.
  • On ne peut faire d'une buse un épervier.
    • Idiomatic translation: You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
    • Literal meaning: You can't turn a buzzard / a dolt into a sparrowhawk.
  • On ne prend pas les mouches avec du vinaigre.
    • Idiomatic translation: Honey catches more flies than vinegar.
    • Literal meaning: You don't catch flies with vinegar.
  • On ne prête qu'aux riches.
    • Translation 1: Reputations shape reactions.
    • Translation 2: Only the rich get richer.
    • Literal meaning: One lends only to the rich.
  • On n'est jamais si bien servi que par soi-même.
    • Idiomatic translation: If you want something done right, do it yourself.
    • Literal meaning: One is never so well served as by oneself.
  • On revient toujours à ses premières amours.
    • Literal meaning: One always returns to his first loves.
  • Où la vache / la chèvre est attachée, il faut qu'elle broute.
    • Idiomatic translation: The cow / goat must browse where she is tethered.

P

  • Pas de nouvelle, bonne nouvelle.
    • Translation: No news is good news.
  • Peu importe le flacon, tant qu'il y à l'ivresse.
    • Literal meaning: What does the bottle matter, so long as there is drunkenness.
  • Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid.
    • Translation 1: Many a mickle makes a muckle.
    • Translation 2: Little strokes fell great oaks.
    • Literal meaning: Little by little the bird builds its nest.
  • Petite pluie abat grand vent.
    • Idiomatic translation: Little rain lays great dust.
    • Literal meaning: Little rain calms great wind.
  • Petit poisson deviendra grand.
    • Translation 1: Tall oaks from little acorns grow.
    • Translation 2: Boys will be men one day.
    • Literal meaning: The little fish will grow.
  • Pierre qui roule n'amasse pas mousse.
    • Translation: A rolling stone gathers no moss.
  • Plaie d'argent n'est pas mortelle.
    • Idiomatic translation: Money isn't everything.
    • Literal meaning: A wound caused by money is not mortal.
  • Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. or Plus ça change, plus c'est pareil.
    • Translation: The more things change, the more they're the same.
  • Plus fait douceur que violence.
    • Idiomatic translation: Kindness succeeds where force will fail.
    • Literal meaning: More does gentleness than violence.
  • Plus on boit, plus on a soif.
    • Translation: The more one drinks, the thirstier one gets.
  • Plus on est de fous, plus on rit.
    • Literal meaning: The more birdbrains we are, the more we laugh"
    • Idiomatic translation: The more the merrier.
  • Prendre le taureau par les cornes.
    • Translation: Take the bull by the horns.
  • Promettre et tenir sont deux.
    • Literal meaning: Promising and keeping (one's promise) are two (different things).
    • Idiomatic translation: It's one thing to promise and another to perform.
  • Proverbe ne peut mentir.
    • Literal translation: Proverb cannot lie.
  • Prudence est mère de sûreté.
    • Idiomatic translation: Discretion is the better part of valour.
    • Literal meaning: Caution is the mother of safety.

Q

  • Quand le chat n'est pas là les souris dansent.
    • Idiomatic translation: While the cat's away the mice will play.
    • Literal meaning: When the cat's away the mice dance.
  • Quand le vin est tiré, il faut le boire.
    • Idiomatic translation: In for a penny, in for a pound.
    • Literal meaning: Once the wine is drawn, it must be drunk.
  • Quand les poules auront des dents.
    • Idiomatic translation: When pigs fly / When hell freezes over.
    • Literal meaning: When chickens have teeth.
  • Quand on parle du loup, on en voit la queue.
    • Idiomatic translation: Talk of the Devil and he will appear.
    • Literal meaning: When you talk about the wolf, you see its tail.
  • Quand on n'a pas ce que l'on aime, il faut aimer ce que l'on a.
    • Translation: If you don't have what you love, you have to love what you have.
  • Quand on veut, on peut.
    • Literal meaning: When we want, we can.
    • Idiomatic translation: Where there's a will, there's a way.
  • Qui a bon voisin a bon matin.
    • Literal meaning: Those who have good neighbors, have good mornings.
    • Idiomatic translation: Good neighbours give good days.
  • Qui a bu boira.
    • Idiomatic translation: Once a drunkard, always a drunkard.
    • Literal meaning: Who has drunk will drink.
  • Qui aime bien châtie bien.
    • Idiomatic translation: Spare the rod and spoil the child.
    • Literal meaning: Who loves well, punishes well.
    • Latin: Qui bene amat, bene castigat
  • Qui casse les verres les paie.
    • Idiomatic translation: Who breaks pays.
    • Literal meaning: Who breaks the glasses, pays for them.
  • Qui cherche trouve.
    • Idiomatic translation: Seek and ye shall find.
    • Literal meaning: Who seeks, finds.
  • Qui donne aux pauvres prête à Dieu.
    • Idiomatic translation: Charity will be rewarded in heaven.
    • Literal meaning: Who gives to the poor, lends to God.
  • Qui dort dîne.
    • Idiomatic translation: He who sleeps forgets his hunger.
    • Literal meaning: Who sleeps, dines.
    • Historical origin: travelers staying overnight at hostels were required to also purchase meals.
  • Qui m'aime aime mon chien.
    • Idiomatic translation: Love me, love my dog.
    • Literal meaning: Who loves me, loves my dog.
    • Compare in Latin: Qui me amat, amat et canem meum.
  • Qui ne dit mot consent.
    • Idiomatic translation: Silence gives consent.
    • Literal meaning: Who says no word, consents.
  • Qui n'entend qu'une cloche n'entend qu'un son.
    • Idiomatic translation: Hear the other side and believe little.
    • Literal meaning: Who hears naught but one bell, hears naught but one sound.
  • Qui ne risque rien n'a rien.
    • Idiomatic translation: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    • Literal meaning: Who risks nothing, gets nothing.
  • Qui ne veut rien n'a rien.
    • Idiomatic translation: Where there's a will there's a way.
    • Literal meaning: Who wants nothing, gets nothing.
  • Qui paye ses dettes s'enrichit.
    • Idiomatic translation: The rich man is the one who pays his debts.
    • Literal meaning: He who pays his debts, gets richer.
  • Qui peut le plus peut le moins.
    • Idiomatic translation: He who can do more can do less.
  • Qui plus sait, plus se tait.
    • Idiomatic translation: He who knows most, says least.
  • Qui se couche avec les chiens se lève avec des puces.
    • Idiomatic translation: Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.
  • Qui se fait brebis le loup le mange.
    • Idiomatic translation: Who will needs be sheep, the wolf devours.
    • Literal translation: Who makes himself a ewe, the wolf will eat.
  • Qui sème le vent récolte la tempête.
    • Translation 1: As you sow, so you shall reap.
    • Translation 2: He who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.
  • Qui se ressemble s'assemble.
    • Literal meaning: Those who look alike associate together.
    • Idiomatic translation: Like attracts like / Birds of a feather flock together.
  • Qui se sent morveux, qu'il se mouche.
    • Idiomatic translation: Who feels snotty, let him blow his nose.
  • Qui s’excuse, s’accuse.
    • Translation: He who excuses himself accuses himself.
  • Qui s'y frotte s'y pique.
    • Literal meaning: He who rubs against it, get stung by it.
    • Idiomatic translation: Gather thistles, expect prickles.
  • Qui trop embrasse mal étreint.
    • Literal meaning: He who embraces too much, fails to secure.
    • Idiomatic translation: Grasp all, lose all.
  • Qui va à la chasse perd sa place.
    • Idiomatic translation: He who leaves his place, loses it.
    • Literal meaning: Who goes hunting, loses his place.
  • Qui veut la fin veut les moyens.
    • Translation: He who wills the end wills the means.
  • Qui veut noyer son chien l'accuse de rage.
    • Idiomatic translation: Give a dog a bad name and hang him.
    • Literal meaning: He who wants to drown his dog says it has rabies.
  • Qui veut voyager loin, ménage sa monture.
    • Translation: He who wishes to ride far spares his horse.
  • Qui vivra verra.
    • Idiomatic translation: Time will tell.
    • Literal meaning: Who shall live, shall see.
  • Qui vole un œuf vole un bœuf.
    • Translation: He that steals an egg will steal an ox.

R

  • Remuer le couteau dans la plaie.
    • Idiomatic translation: To rub it in.
    • Literal meaning: To twist the knife in the wound.
  • Revenons à nos moutons
  • Rien ne sert de courir, il faut partir à point.
    • Idiomatic translation: Slow and steady wins the race.
    • Literal meaning: It is useless to run, one must leave in time.
  • Rira bien qui rira le dernier.
    • Literal meaning: Well laughs he who laughs last.
    • Idiomatic translation: He who laughs last laughs best.
  • Rome ne s'est pas faite en un jour.
    • Idiomatic translation: Rome wasn't built in a day.
  • Rouge soir et blanc matin, c'est la journée du pèlerin.
    • Idiomatic translation: Evening red and morning grey will set the traveller on his way.
    • Literal Meaning: Red evening and white morning, such is the pilgrim's day.

S

  • Sauve qui peut.
    • Translation: Every man for himself.
  • Secret de deux, secret de Dieu; secret de trois, secret de tous.
    • Idiomatic translation: When three people know, the whole world knows.
    • Literal meaning: A secret shared by two is shared with God; a secret shared by three is shared with everybody.
  • Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait.
    • Idiomatic translation: Youth is wasted on the young.
    • Literal meaning: If youth but knew, if old age but could.
  • Si tu veux la paix, prépare la guerre.
    • Literal meaning: "If you want peace prepare for war."
    • (Original in Latin by Scipio Africanus: "Si vis pacem para bellum.")
  • Souris qui n'a qu'un trou est bientôt prise.
    • Idiomatic translation: Better safe than sorry.
    • Literal meaning: A mouse that has only one hole is soon caught.
  • Souvent femme varie, bien fol qui s'y fie.
    • Literal meaning: Often does a woman change her heart, mad be the man who will trust her.
    • Idiomatic translation: Woman is fickle, man beware!
  • Suffisance vaut abondance.
    • Idiomatic translation: Enough is as good as a feast.
    • Literal meaning: Enough is worth plenty.

T

  • Tant crie-t-on Noël qu'il vient.
    • Idiomatic translation: A constant importunity at length prevails.
    • Literal meaning: So much does one shout 'Christmas' that it comes.
  • Tant dort le chat qu'il se réveille.
    • Translation: The sleeping cat at length awakes.
  • Tant va la cruche à l'eau qu'à la fin elle se brise.
    • Literal meaning: So often does the jug go to water that in the end it breaks.
    • Translation 1: Do not strain your luck.
    • Translation 2: Anyone can only take so much.
  • Tel est petit qui boit bien.
    • Idiomatic translation: Though he is little, he can tipple.
  • Tel est pris qui croyait prendre.
    • Idiomatic translation: It's the biter bit.
    • Literal meaning: He is caught who thought to catch.
  • Tel maître, tel valet.
    • Translation: Like master, like man.
  • Tel père, tel fils.
    • Translation: Like father, like son.
  • Tel qui rit vendredi, dimanche pleurera.
    • Idiomatic translation: Sing before breakfast, cry before night.
    • Literal meaning: Laugh on Friday, cry on Sunday.
  • Tous les chemins mènent à Rome.
    • Translation: All roads lead to Rome.
  • Tous les goûts sont dans la nature.
    • Idiomatic translation: It takes all sorts to make a world.
    • Literal meaning: All tastes are in nature.
  • Toute médaille a son revers.
    • Translation 1: Every rose has its thorn.
    • Translation 2: Every path has its puddle.
    • Literal meaning: Every medal has its back.
  • Toute peine mérite salaire.
    • Idiomatic translation: The labourer is worthy of his hire.
    • Literal meaning: Every job deserves a wage.
  • Toute vérité n'est pas bonne à dire.
    • Translation: The truth is sometimes best left unsaid.
  • Tout est poison. Rien n'est poison. Le poison c'est la dose.
    • Literal meaning: Everything is poison. Nothing is poison. The poison is the dose.
    • Attributed to Paracelsus.
  • Tout nouveau, tout beau.
    • Translation 1: Anything for a change.
    • Translation 2: New brooms sweep clean.
    • Literal meaning: All new, all beautiful.
  • Tout vient à point à qui sait attendre.
    • Literal meaning: All things come to those who can wait.
    • Idiomatic translation: Every dog has his day.
  • Trop de hâte nuit.
    • Idiomatic translation: Haste makes waste.
    • Literal meaning: Too much haste is harmful.
  • Trop gratter cuit, trop parler nuit.
    • Translation: Too much scratching pains, too much talking plagues.

U

  • Un bienfait n'est jamais perdu.
    • Translation: A favour is never lost.
  • Un bonheur n'arrive jamais seul and "un malheur n'arrive jamais seul"
    • Translation: Happiness / Misery does not arrive alone.
  • Un chien regarde bien un évêque.
    • Idiomatic translation: A cat may look at a king.
    • Literal meaning: A dog may look at a bishop.
  • Un clou chasse l'autre.
    • Idiomatic translation: One man goes and another steps in.
    • Literal meaning: One nail drives the other out.
  • Un(e) de perdu(e), dix de trouvé(e)s.
    • Idiomatic translation: There are plenty more fish in the sea.
    • Literal meaning: One lost, ten found.
  • Une fois n'est pas coutume.
    • Translation 1: Just this once will not hurt.
    • Translation 2: Once in a while does no harm.
    • Literal meaning: Once does is no habit.
  • Une hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps.
    • Literal meaning: A swallow doesn't make spring.
  • Un petit dessin vaut mieux qu'un long discours.
    • Idiomatic translation: A picture is worth a thousand words.
    • Literal meaning: A small drawing is better than a long speech.
  • Une place pour chaque chose et chaque chose a sa place.
    • Translation: A place for everything and everything in its place.
  • Un homme averti en vaut deux.
    • Translation 1: Forewarned is forearmed.
    • Translation 2: Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.
    • Literal meaning: A forewarned man is worth two.
  • Un jour sans vin est comme un jour sans soleil.
    • Translation: A day without wine is like a day without sunshine.
  • Un sou est un sou.
    • Idiomatic translation: Every little helps.
    • Literal meaning: A penny is a penny.
  • Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l'auras.
    • Idiomatic translation: A bird in hand is worth two in a bush.
    • Literal meaning: One "this is yours" is worth more than two "this will be yours".

V

  • Vache de loin a lait assez.
    • Idiomatic translation: Blue are the hills that are far away.
    • Literal meaning: From afar, the cow has milk enough.
  • Ventre affamé n'a pas d'oreilles.
    • Idiomatic translation: Words are wasted on a starving man.
    • Literal meaning: The hungry belly has no ears.
  • Vive la différence.
    • Literal meaning: Long live the difference.
    • Translation: Hooray for the difference!
  • Voir, c'est croire
    • Translation: Seeing is believing.
  • Vouloir, c'est pouvoir.
    • Idiomatic translation: Where there's a will there's a way.
    • Literal meaning: To want to is to be able to.

See also

External Links