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Greek proverbs with English translation

 Proverbs are short statements of wisdom or advice that are transmitted from generation to generation Proverbs are short statements of wisdom or advice that are transmitted from generation to generation

A proverb is a simple and concrete saying, popularly known and repeated, that expresses a truth based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity.

Along with each Greek proverb we are providing an English translation for what the Greeks really mean when using it or an equivalent English one.

Αγάλι-αγάλι γίνεται η αγουρίδα μέλι

  • Translation: A green fruit gets ripe slowly
  • Patience

Αν δεν παινέσεις το σπίτι σου, θα πέσει να σε πλακώσει

  • Translation: If you do not praise your own home, it will fall on you and squash you
  • You do not speak badly about your own family

Δώσε τόπο στην οργή

  • Translation: Shove anger aside.
  • English equivalent: Whom God wishes to destroy he first makes mad.

Είπε ο γάιδαρος τον πετεινό κεφάλα

  • Translation: The donkey called the rooster bigheaded
  • English equivalent:The pot calling the kettle black or Look who's talking.

Η γριά κότα έχει το ζουμί

  • Translation: It's the old chicken that makes good broth
  • Don't discredit elder people/ideas (also used ironically). It often refers to sexual relations, with older women having more sexual experience and being able satisfy a man more than a younger woman can

Η καμήλα δεν βλέπει την καμπούρα της

  • Translation: The camel does not see her own hump
  • We readily see other people's faults but fail to see our own

Η φτήνια τρώει τον παρά

  • Translation: The cheap is eating the money
  • English equivalent: If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly.

Η γλώσσα κόκκαλα δεν έχει, μα κόκαλα τσακίζει

  • English equivalent: The pen is mightier than the sword.

Και οι τοίχοι έχουν αυτιά

  • English equivalent: The walls have ears
  • "What you say may be overheard; used as a warning"

Και την πίτα ολόκληρη, και το σκύλο χωρτάτο

  • Translation: And the whole pie, and the dog full
  • It is said of someone who wants to accomplish something without making any concession even though it's obvious that one is needed. Akin to: "He wants to have his cake and eat it, too."

Κάλλιο γαϊδουρόδενε, παρά γαϊδουρογύρευε

  • English equivalent: An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure

Κάλλιο να σου βγει το μάτι παρά το όνομα

  • Translation: It's better to lose an eye than to get a bad name
  • If one gets the reputation (name) of being something, it is very hard to lose it.

Kάλλιο πέντε και στο χέρι, παρά δέκα και καρτέρι

  • English equivalent: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • "Something you have for certain now is of more value than something better you may get, especially if you risk losing what you have in order to get it

Κι αν είσαι και παπάς, με την αράδα σου θα πας

  • Translation: Even if you are a priest, you get in line
  • The implication is that even if you are a person of high position you do not get priority, you must wait your turn as all the others

Κόρακας κοράκου μάτι δε βγάζει

  • English equivalent: Hawks will not pick out Hawk's eyes
  • "One belonging to a group having common interests is not likely to act against or find fault with another member of the same group. Solidarity may prevail over law, justice or truth"

Καλή ζωή, κακή διαθήκη

  • English equivalent: Fools live poor to die rich

Κύλισε ο τέτζερης και βρήκε το καπάκι

  • Translation: The kettle rolled down and found the lid.
  • A person of a certain character always finds another of the same

Μ'ένα σμπάρο, δυο τρυγώνια

  • Translation: One shot, two birds
  • Killing two birds with one stone. Σμπάρος in Greek is a shotgun shot. Pigliar due piccioni con una fava. Prendere due piccioni con una fava. Abattre deux mouches d’un coup de savate. Matar dos pajaros de una pedrada.

Μια του κλέφτη, δυό του κλέφτη, τρεις και την κακή του μέρα

  • Translation: Once for the thief, twice for the thief, three and it's his bad day
  • If you commit a crime you will eventually get caught

Μοναχός σου χόρευε, κι' όσο θέλεις πήδα

  • Translation: Dance by yourself and you can jump as much as you want
  • If you are alone you can do as you wish, but in a group you have to take others into consideration; Compromise

Νηστικό αρκούδι δεν χορεύει

  • Translation: A hungry bear does not dance
  • If you don't eat (get paid), you cannot function

Ο θεός αγαπάει τον κλέφτη, μα σαν τον νοικοκύρη, όχι

  • Translation: God loves the thief, but not like the master of the house
  • The crook may get away initially, but he will eventually get caught

Ολα του γάμου δύσκολα κι η νύφη γκαστρωμένη

  • Translation: Everything about the wedding is difficult (obstacles or objections) and the bride is pregnant
  • When people make excuses or place obstacles about a task that has to be done

Ο λύκος κι αν εγέρασε κι άσπρισε το μαλί του, ούτε την γούνα του άλλαξε, ούτε την κεφαλή του

  • Translation: Even though the wolf got old and his fur is white, he neither changed his skin or his head
  • When a person is bad to begin with, this doesn't change in old age

Ο πνιγμένος, από τα μαλλιά του πιάνεται

  • English equivalent: A drowning man will clutch at a straw

Ο ψεύτης κι ο κλέφτης τον πρώτο χρόνο χαίρονται

  • Translation: Liars and thieves are happy only the first year (after the deed)
  • The implication here is that they eventually get caught

Οποιος μπλέκεται με τα πίτουρα τον τρων οι κότες

  • Translation: He who gets in chicken feed is eaten by the chickens
  • On the perils of getting involved with the wrong people or with the wrong activities

Όποιος πίνει βερεσέ, δυο φορές μεθάει

  • He who drinks on credit, gets twice as drunk
  • Don't create credits, you'll be in trouble

Όπου ακούς πολλά κεράσια, βάστα μικρό καλάθι

  • Translation: When you hear of many cherries, hold a small basket
  • Don't get overwhelmed, and be cautious

Όπως έστρωσες θα κοιμηθείς

  • Translation: How you make your bed is how you are going to sleep (in it)
  • You got yourself into this, now get yourself out of it

Οταν λείπει ο γάτος, χορεύουν τα ποντίκια

  • Translation: When the cat is absent, the mice dance
  • When the cat's away, the mice will play.

Ότι μικρομάθεις, δεν γερονταφήνεις

  • Translation: What you learn as a child, you cannot forget as an old person
  • Refers to knowlegde/skills one acquires as a youngster, and continues to remember for ever

Παπούτσι από τον τόπο σου κι ας είναι μπαλωμένο

  • Translation: Shoe from your place, even if it is patched
  • Take a spouse from the place you come from, even if she is not so great

Πήρες πολύ ψηλά τον αμανέ

  • Translation: You are singing the song too high
  • Arrogance or over-reaching. Akin to: "Bit off more than he can chew."

Πρώτα βγαίνει η ψυχή του ανθρώπου και μετά το χούι του

  • Translation: First leaves the soul of a person and then his quirks
  • Refers to the fact that some habits are ingrained in a person's personality

Στου κουφού την πόρτα, όσο θέλεις βρόντα

  • Translation: At the deaf man's door, knock as much as you like
  • Some people ignore any advice or guidance that may be provided to them. In more modern Greek, there is a funny spoof of this proverb : "Στου κουφού την πόρτα, μπες απ'το παράθυρο" ("When at a deaf man's door, get in through the window").

Συν Αθηνά και χείρα κίνει

  • English equivalent: Heaven help those who help themselves
  • "When in trouble first of all every one himself should do his best to improve his condition"

Τα εν οίκω μη εν δήμω

  • English equivalent: Don't wash your dirty linen in public; It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest
  • "Why wantonly proclaim one's own disgrace, or expose the faults or weaknesses of one's kindred or people?"
  • "It is considered contemptible to defy the rule of solidarity by revealing facts harmful to the group one belongs to"

Τον αράπη κι αν τον πλένεις, το σαπούνι σου χαλάς

  • Translation: No matter how much you wash a black person, you are wasting your soap
  • This proverb is mainly used to express the futility of trying to change the mentality of a headstrong person (the color of a black person cannot be washed off) and it does not have racist connotations. In modern Greek, the word "αράπης" (arapis -- black man) is a lay (and at times borderline pejorative) term -- originally probably derived from the word "Άραβας" (Aravas -- Arab).

Το καλό το παλικάρι ξέρει κι'άλλο μονοπάτι

  • Translation: The good (wise) lad always knows of an alternate path
  • Used when an effort goes wrong or not as expected, but still you manage to find another solution

Το μήλο κάτω απ` τη μηλιά θα πέσει

  • Translation: The apple will fall under the apple-tree
  • The offspring will be like his parents, usually derogatory. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Το 'να χέρι νήβει τ' άλλο, και τα δυο το πρόσωπο

  • Translation: The one hand washes the other, and both wash the face
  • Used when referring to cooperation and mutual dependency. Also possibly exchanging illicit favours

Το παιδί σου και το σκυλί σου όπως τα μάθεις

  • Translation: Your child and your dog (behave) the way you teach them
  • When you set up rules early, the behaviour that follows adheres to these rules

Το σκοινί το μαλακό, τρώει την πέτρα την ξερή

  • Translation: The soft rope corrodes the dry stone
  • Using persuasion and kindness, one can change strong opinion

Φασούλι το φασούλι γεμίζει το σακούλι

  • Translation: Bean by bean, the sack gets full
  • On the merits of saving

Φύλαγε τα ρούχα σου να έχεις τα μισά

  • Translation: Mind your clothes so that you can keep half of them
  • Refers to the fact that you can never be too careful, and even if you are very careful, there is still going to be some losses

Η φτήνια τρώει τον παρά

  • Translation: Shove anger aside.
  • English equivalent: If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly.

Η γλώσσα κόκαλα δεν έχει, μα κόκαλα τσακίζει

  • English equivalent: The pen is mightier than the sword.

Και οι τοίχοι έχουν αυτιά

  • English equivalent: The walls have ears
  • "What you say may be overheard; used as a warning"

Κάλλιο γαϊδουρόδενε, παρά γαϊδουρογύρευε

  • English equivalent: An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure

Kάλλιο πέντε και στο χέρι, παρά δέκα και καρτέρι

  • English equivalent: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • "Something you have for certain now is of more value than something better you may get, especially if you risk losing what you have in order to get it

Κόρακας κοράκου μάτι δε βγάζει

  • English equivalent: Hawks will not pick out Hawk's eyes
  • "One belonging to a group having common interests is not likely to act against or find fault with another member of the same group. Solidarity may prevail over law, justice or truth"

Καλή ζωή, κακή διαθήκη

  • English equivalent: Fools live poor to die rich

Ο πνιγμένος, από τα μαλλιά του πιάνεται

  • English equivalent: A drowning man will clutch at a straw

Συν Αθηνά και χείρα κίνει

  • English equivalent: Heaven help those who help themselves
  • "When in trouble first of all every one himself should do his best to improve his condition"

Τα εν οίκω μη εν δήμω

  • English equivalent: Don't wash your dirty linen in public; It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest
  • "Why wantonly proclaim one's own disgrace, or expose the faults or weaknesses of one's kindred or people?"
  • "It is considered contemptible to defy the rule of solidarity by revealing facts harmful to the group one belongs to"
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