Italian Proverbs

Proverbi Italiani



You may recognize some of these Italian proverbs...Wise, sometimes humorous, and often truthful. I'm not Italian, but my husband spent 4 years there with his family, as his Father was stationed in the Navy - 2 years in Rome and 2 in Naples. And although he doesn't consider himself Italian, he still understands quite a bit (even though his stay in Italy was over 20 years ago) and most importantly, he knows good Italian food when he eats it (arguing most of "Italian" food in America is NOT Italian)!

Just as with other cultural expressions, some of these Italian sayings are easily translated and may be used by other cultures as well.

Italian proverbs are simple and full of wisdom and cover all facets of Italian life: relationships, weather, food - you name it. Other than a jab or two at the wife (which I have found in most, if not all cultural proverbs and sayings), these Italian sayings are a great addition to any story, essay or article. Enjoy these bits of Italian proverbial wisdom. Reading these with an Italian accent may help get you in the mood.

A bad agreement is better than a good lawsuit.

A candle looses nothing by lighting another candle.

A cat pent up becomes a lion.

A drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts.

A fool can ask more questions than seven wise men can answer.

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions.

A forced kindness deserves no thanks.

A friend is not known until he is lost.

A gift with a kind countenance is a double present.

A gold key opens every door.

A gold ring does not cure a felon.

A good appetite does not want sauce.

A good wife is the key to a good home

A happy heart is better than a full purse.

A hard beginning maketh a good ending.

A hundred years cannot repair a moment's loss of honour.

A hurried cat produces blind kittens.

A little man often casts a long shadow.

A little stream drives a great mill.

A little truth makes the whole lie pass.

A mad parish, a mad priest.

A man of straw needs a woman of gold.

A man of words and not of deeds Is like a garden full of weeds.

A man should learn to sail in all winds.

A man without a wife is a man without a master.

A man's own opinion is never wrong.

A market is three women and a goose.

A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.

A mill and a wife are always in want of something.

A mill cannot grind with the water that is past.

A mischievous dog must be tied short.

A near neighbour is better than a distant cousin.

A proud pauper and a rich miser are contemptible beings.

A ragged sack holds no grain, a poor man is not taken into counsel.

A rainy morn oft brings a pleasant day.

A sailor must have his eye trained to the rocks and sands as well as the north star.

A scalded dog thinks cold water hot.

A secret imparted is no longer a secret.

A starved town is soon forced to surrender.

A stout heart overcomes ill fortune.

A thousand probabilities do not make one truth.

A volunteer is worth twenty pressed men.

A wise man cares not for that which he cannot have.

A wise man does at first what a fool must do at last.

After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box.

All tastes are tastes.

All that's fair must fade.

All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of yesterday.

All the honey a bee gathers during its lifetime doesn't sweeten its sting.

Among men of honour a word is a bond.

Among thorns grow roses.

An idle man is the devil's bolster.

An old flag is an honour to its captain.

An ounce of discretion is better than a pound of knowledge.

An unasked for excuse infers transgression.

Anger can be an expensive luxury.

Anger can be an expensive luxury.

Any plan is bad that cannot be changed.

Any publicity is good publicity.

Any water will put out fire.

Anyone who is satisfied to stand still should not complain when others pass him.

As you would have a daughter so choose a wife.

Asking costs little.

At a dangerous passage yield precedence.

At a good bargain pause and ponder.

At a great river be the last to pass.

At a round table there is no dispute about place.

At an open chest the righteous sins.

At table bashfulness is out of place.

At the end of the work you may judge of the workmen.

Bad grass does not make good hay.

Bad is the wool that cannot be died.

Bad news is the first to come.

Believe a boaster as you would a liar.

Below the navel there is neither religion nor truth.

Bend the tree while it is young.

Better a lean agreement than a fat sentence.

Better give than not to have to give.

Better no law than laws not enforced.

Better one day as a lion than one day as a sheep.

Better slip with the foot than with the tongue.

Better to ask than go astray.

Better to be envied than pittied.

Better to fall from the window than the roof.

Better to have a husband without love than one who is jelous.

Between saying and doing, many a pair of shoes is worn out.

Between two cowards, he has the advantage who first detects the other.

Beware of a poor alchemist.

Beware of one who has nothing to lose.

Beware the person with nothing to lose.

Blessed is the misfortune that comes alone.

Blows are not given upon conditions.

Borrowed garments never sit well.

By asking for the impossible we obtain the possible.

By learning to obey, you will know how to command.

Chastise the good and he will mend, chastise the bad and he will grow worse.

Choose neither a lover nor linen by candlelight.

Conscience is as good as a thousand witnesses.

Conscience is the chamber of justice.

Conscience makes cowards of us all.

Criticizing another's garden doesn't keep the weeds out of your own.

Crooked by nature is never made straight by education.

Cunning men's cloaks sometimes fall.

Curses are like processions: they return to whence they set out.

Deliberate before you act.

Different times different manners.

Dirty water does not wash clean.

Do no evil and have no fear.

Do not give the dog bread every time he wags his tail.

Do not judge of the ship from the land.

Dogs bark, but the caravan goes on.

Either eat this soup or jump out the window.

Empty vessels make most noise.

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.

Even among the apostles there was a Judas.

Even the sea. great as it is, grows calm.

Every fool wants to give advice.

Every one can navigate in fine weather.

Every one likes justice in another's house, none in his own.

Every one thinks himself without sin because he has not those of others.

Every one thinks his own cross heaviest.

Every promise is a debt.

Every time history repeats itself the price goes up.

Everyone loves justice in the affairs of another.

Everything may be borne except good fortune.

Everything may be repaired except the neckbone.

Far from the eyes, far from the heart.

For the buyer a hundred eyes are too few, for the seller one is enough.

For the enemy who escapes, golden bridges.

Gluttony kills more than the sword.

Go abroad and you'll hear news of home.

God gives a curst one short horns.

God save me from him who studies but one book.

God save you from a bad neighbour, and from a beginner on the fiddle.

Gratitude is the memory of the heart.

Hatred renewed is worse than at first.

He got out of the mud and fell into the river.

He is not free who drags his chain after him.

He is very blind who cannot see the sun.

He is wise who learns at another's cost.

He measures others with his own yard.

He that jokes, confesses.

He that seeks, finds, and sometimes what he would rather not.

He that shows his passion, tells his enemy where he may hit him.

He that stands may fall.

He that will not strive in this world should not have come into it.

He wastes his tears who weeps before the judge.

He who begins many things finishes but few.

He who is guilty think all men speak ill of him.

He who know little quickly tell it.

He who scrubs the head of an ass wastes his time and efforts.

Hope is the last to abandon the unhappy.

I (can) protect myself from my enemies; may God protect me from my friends.

If you scatter thorns, don't go barefoot.

It is not enough to aim, you must hit.

It's the merry drizzle that makes the grass grow fine.

Little February, short and cursed.

Love rules without rules.

Neither marry nor travel on Tuesday or Friday!

Not everything which is bad comes to hurt us.

One enemy is too many and a hundred friends is not enough.

One may have good eyes but see nothing.

One who sleeps doesn't catch the fish

One who wants too much holds onto nothing.

Rain on the day you get married brings good luck.

Steal a little, go to jail; steal a lot, make a career of it.

The best armor is to keep out of range.

The habit does not make the monk.

The liar needs a good memory.

The morning hours are the most precious of the day.

Those who arrive late lodge poorly.

Those who do nothing make no mistakes.

To a quick question give a slow answer.

To confessor, doctor, and lawyer, do not hide the truth.

When God punishes a land He deprives its leaders of wisdom.

When the cat is missing the mice dance.

Wine, women, and tobacco reduces one to ashes.

Women and motors, joy and pain.

You can't have a full bottle and a drunken wife. Though this is certainly not an exhaustive list of Italian proverbs, it sure is a good start. There are endless books and references to Italian proverbs in literature and I will add to this list Italian proverbs with more Italian sayings as time permits.

More Italian proverbs


Be sure and look for the

Love and Friendship Card Series

to be released soon, as it features Italian as well as proverbs from 11 other languages. The box of 12 Proverb Greeting Cards will make a great gift. It will be handy to have around for those special occasions you just need a single greeting card too!

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