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Around the World in 25 Proverbs

Proverbs are universally prolific, with deep societal and historical roots. These concise verbal insights preserve and pass on the wisdom, values, beliefs, and customs of a particular people, religion, or philosophy.

Often born of common human experiences, proverbs offer moral guidance while reflecting on life's complexities. In oral traditions, these succinct sayings facilitate the sharing of cultural heritage from one generation to the next, making them powerful tools for education and community — and an inherently fascinating anthropological compass.

Around the world, varying cultural, linguistic, and historical circumstances mean that, while proverbs may share the common purpose of imparting wisdom, they do so in unique ways. This selection of proverbs offers a glimpse into the diversity of human thoughts and experiences across the globe, but the proverbs themselves are nonetheless related in the way they guide, connect, and enrich society.

Asia

China

祖先亲手栽下的树木,为子孙后代提供荫凉

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Trees planted by the ancestors provide shade for their descendants.

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Japan

七転び八起き

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Fall down seven times, get up eight.

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Korea

말에는 날개가 없지만 수천 마일을 날아갈 수 있다

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Words have no wings, but they can fly a thousand miles.

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Indonesia

Air yang beriak menunjukkan kurangnya kedalaman.

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Rippling water shows lack of depth.

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India

यदि आप नदी पर रहते हैं, तो मगरमच्छ से मित्रता करें।

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If you live on the river, befriend the crocodile.

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Africa

Ghana

Mma nea wuntumi nyɛ nntetew wo mfi nea wubetumi ayɛ no ho.

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Let not what you cannot do tear you from what you can do.

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Zimbabwe

Kana uchigona kufamba, unogona kutamba, kana uchigona kutaura, unogona kuimba.

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If you can walk, you can dance, if you can talk, you can sing.

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Angola

Se você não juntar lenha, não conseguirá se aquecer.

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If you do not gather firewood, you cannot keep warm.

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Tanzania

Nyumba daima ina nafasi kwa watu unaowapenda, hata ikiwa ina watu wengi.

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A home always has room for the people you love, even if it is crowded.

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Rwanda

Umuntu ubona ibisebe bivuye mu ntoki za hoe ntazapfa inzara.

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He who gets blisters from the hoe handle will not die of hunger.

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Australia

New Zealand

He taonga rongonui te aroha ki te tangata.

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Goodwill toward others is a precious treasure.

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Australia

The bigger the hat, the smaller the property.

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Europe

Ireland

Tá iasc níos míne san fharraige ná mar a gabhadh riamh.

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There are finer fish in the sea than have ever been caught.

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Portugal

Honra e lucro não ficarão no mesmo saco.

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Honor and profit will not keep in one sack.

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Romania

Abundența, ca și dorința, îi distrug pe mulți.

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Abundance, like want, ruins many.

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Sweden

Delad glädje är en dubbel glädje, delad sorg är en halv sorg.

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Shared joy is a double joy, shared sorrow is half a sorrow.

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North America

United States

Every fire is the same size when it starts.

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Haiti

Piti piti zwazo fè nich.

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Little by little, the bird builds its nest.

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Mexico

Despertarse más temprano no hará que el sol salga antes.

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Waking up earlier will not make the sun rise sooner.

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Canada

Don't let the windows of your home be so small that the light of the sun cannot enter your rooms.

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South America

Chile

El que se va sin ser expulsado, vuelve sin ser llamado.

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He who goes away without being turned out comes back without being called.

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Brazil

Água mole em pedra dura, tanto bate até que fura.

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Soft water on hard stone hits until it bores a hole.

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Argentina

La nobleza existe en la virtud.

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Nobility exists in virtue.

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Peru

Del árbol del silencio cuelga el fruto de la tranquilidad.

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From the tree of silence hangs the fruit of tranquility.

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Ecuador

Nunca se cae sino del lado hacia el que se inclina.

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One never falls but on the side toward which one leans.

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Featured image credit: Fadil6379/ Shutterstock

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About the Author
Nicole Villeneuve
Nicole is a writer, thrift store lover, and group-chat meme spammer based in Ontario, Canada.
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