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Scottish Proverbs

October 24, 2005 - Public Domain - Here is a collection of Scottish Proverbs that has been compiled from many sources. This compilation has not rephrased any of the proverbs into English; those that appear in English have been preserved that way for at least 200 years.

The Scottish Proverbs:

"Amaist" and "very near" hae aye been great liars.

Weel begun is half done.

There's nain sae busy as them that hae least to do.

Seek till you find, and you'll nae lose your labour.

Little and often fills the purse.

He that sleeps wi' dogs maun rise wi' fleas.

Greatness may big (build) the monument, but goodness maun gie the epitaph.

Better be merry wi' something than sad wi' naething.

A' complain o' want o' money, but nane o' want o' judgment.

Amendment is true repentance.

A little pot is soon hot.

Better be friends at a distance than enemies at hame.

The first step to virtue is to love it in anither.

Choose thy wife amang the virtuous and thy friend amang the wise.

The friar preached against stealing while he had the pudding in his sleeve.

The Englishman greets, the Irishman sleeps, but the Scotsman gangs till he gets it.

Where vice is, vengeance follows.

Ane may think that daurna speak.

Lean liberty is better than fat slavery.

Mony ane speaks o' Robin Hood, that ne'er shot wi' his bow.

Muckle (much) power maks mony enemies.

Now-a-days, truth is news.

Our first breath is the beginning o' death.

Right mixture maks gude mortar.

Sober, neighbor; the night's but young yet!

Soon ripe, soon rotten.

Speech is the midwife o' the mind.

The stout horse gets aye the hard work.

The wolf may loose his teeth, but never his nature.

There's nane sae deaf as them that winna hear.

To promise is ae thing, to keep it is anither.

Wha' never climbs nevers fa's.

Ye canna sell the cow and sup the milk too.

A man's mind is a mirk (dark) mirror.'

Better to live in hope than to die in despair.

Bode (wish for) a silk gown and ye'll get a sleeve o't.

A Scotch mist will weet an Englishman to his skin.

Your mind's aye chasing mice.

Ye canna preach out o' your ain pu'pit.

When the tod (fox) preaches, tak care o' the lambs.

True blue will never stain, but dirty red will dye again.

We hounds slew the hare, quo the messan (small dog).

Pu' the rose and leave the thorn.

Ne'er tak a forehammer to break an egg, when a rap wi' a knife will do.

Keep your tongue within your teeth.

It's time enough to screech when you're struck.

He hae a gude sword, but it's in the castle.

He wha seeks trouble seldom misses it.

Gude folk are scarce; tak care o' ane.

Forced prayers are nae gude for the soul.

Fools aye see ither folks' faults and forget their ain.

As ye use your parents, sae will your children use you.

Bachelors' wives and maidens' bairns are aye weel bred.

Envy aye shoots at a high mark.

Three can keep a secret if two be awa'.

Courtesy is cumbersome in him that kens it not.

Every man's blind in his ane cause.

Fair words butter nae parsnips.

Folk canna help a' their kin.

Gude ale warms the heart o' man, but whisky maks them quarrel.

He that has his hand in the lion's mouth maun tak it out the best way he can.

He that would climb the ladder maun begin at the first step.

Horns and grey hair dinna aye come o' years.

If you like the nut, crack it.

Keep your mouth shut and your een open.

Listeners ne'er heard a gude tale o' themsels.

Ne'er bite unless you mak your teeth meet.

Put your saddle on the right horse.

Confess and be hanged.

When ae door steeks, anither ane opens.

A weel-bred dog goes out when he sees them preparing to kick him out.

He's like a bagpipe; he's never heard till his wame's fou (till his belly's full).

Better idle than ill employed.

A' are gude lasses, but whare came the ill wives frame?

A wise man wavers; a fool is fixed.

Virtue that requires a guard is no worth a sentinel.

Buy what you dinna want, and ye'll sell what you canna spare.

Sorrow and ill weather come unsent- for.

A careless watch invites the thief.

Wealth, like want, ruins mony.

A rich man has mair cousins than his father has kin.

A gude name is sooner tint (lost) than won.

A closed mouth catches nae flies.

Get what you can, and keep what you hae, is the way to get rich.

When pride's in the van, beggin's in the rear.

Prayer should be the key o' the day and the lock o' the night.

Poverty is the mither o' a' arts.

Praise without profit puts little in the purse.

Your feet will ne'er fit your father's shoon.

He that gets forgets; he that wants thinks on.

Ane maun sometime draws the belt nearer the ribs.

I wish you were laird o' your word.

If you dinna like what I gie you, tak what you brought wi' you.

He that's ill to himsel will be gude to naebody.

Ne'er marry a pennyless maiden, wha's proud o' her pedigree.

He thinks his eggs a' hae twa yolks.

He wha has horns in his bosom need not put them on his head.

A pund o' care winna pay an ounce o' debt.

I like him as the devil likes holy water.

When drink's in, wit's out.

A gossip speaks ill o' a', and a' o' her.

Fools are fond o' flittin, and wise men o' sittin.

Friends are like fiddle strings: they maunna be screwed ower tight.

Gentry sent to the market winna buy a peck o' meal.

There's nae sport where there's neither auld folk nor bairns.

They're no a' saints that get the name o't.

The post of honour is the post of danger.

A drink is shorter than a tale.

A safe conscience makes a sound sleep.

A' cats are gray in the dark.

An auld goat is no the mair reverend for his beard.

An ill cook should have a gude cleaver.

As ye are strong, be merciful

Be not a baker if your head be o' butter.

Fair words winna mak the pot boil.

Grudge not anither what you canna get yoursel.

He has mair floor than he has flail for.

If I canna do it by might, I can do it by slight.

Keep the head and the feet warm, and the rest will tak nae harm.

Never is a lang term.

The richer the souter (shoemaker), the blacker his thumbs.

Ye're nae chicken for a' your cheeping.

Worth has been under-rated ever since wealth as been over-rated.

An ill man's like a rotten nut: nae worth crackin' for the kernel.

A raggit coat is armour against the robber.

Bees that hae honey in their mouths, hae stings in their tails.

Beefsteaks and porter are gude belly-mortar.

"Because" is a woman's reason.

Better keep the deil without the door that have to drive him out o' the house.

He that liveth weel, liveth lang.

It's a rare matter for siller (silver) to lack an owner.

If youth knew what age would crave, it would baith get and save.

Mony ane blames their wife for their ain unthrift.

Nae man is wise at a' times, nor wise on a' things.

O' a little meddlin' comes muckle (much) care.

Sharp sauce gies a gude taste to sweetmeats.

The nearer the rock, the sweeter the grass.

There are mair wark days than life days.

The tree doesna fa' at the first stroke.

Patience wi' poverty is a man's best remedy.

Married folk sometime are like rats in a trap fain to get ithers in, but fain to be out themsels.

He that hae nae siller (silver) in his purse, should hae silk on his tongue.

God help the rich folk, for the poor can beg.

Pride that dines wi' vanity, sups wi' contempt.

Be what you seem, and seem what you are.

A gude tongue is a safe weapon.

A' that's said in the kitchen, shouldna be tauld in the ha'.

The first step to a gude name is a gude life, and the next step is gude behaviour.

Time and thinking tame the strongest grief.

Search others for their virtues, and yousel for your vices.

Fresh fish, and unwelcome visitors, stink before they are three days auld.

An ounce o' a man's ain wit is worth ten o' ither folks'.

He's a wise man what can tak care o' himsel.

Ne'er tak a wife till you ken what to do wi' her.

Maidens want naething but a husband, and then they want everything.

A wee housie weel filled; a wee piece land weel tilled; a wee wife weel willed-will make a happy man.

Bargains made in a hurry are aften repented o' at leisure.

It's not what we hae, but what we do wi' what we hae, that makes us happy or miserable.

Light suppers mak lang life.

The nod o' an honest man is aneugh.

Nae man can mak his ain hap (destiny).

By doing naething, we learn to do ill.

Perseverance performs greater works than strength.

O' a' crafts, to be an honest man is the master-craft.

Kindness comes o' will; it canna be coft (bought).

A pennyweight o' love is worth a pound o' law.

They should kiss the gudewife that would win the gudeman.

Kindness is like cress seed; it increases by sowing.

Love ower het soonest cools.

Shaw me a constant liar, and I'll shaw you a constant thief.

A man canna wive and thrive the same year.

Love looks o'er mony faults.

He wha tells his wife a' is but shortly married.

Charity ne'er made a man poor, nor robbery rich, nor prosperity wise.

Silence and thoughts hurt nae man.

A man's greatest wealth is contentment wi' little.

It's a gude tongue that says nae ill, but a better heart that thinks nane.

Anger is the fever and frenzy of the soul.

The fish that's bred in a dirty puddle will aye taste o' mud.

Every gude act is best taught by example.

Experience teaches fools, and fools will learn nae ither way.

Anger's short-lived in a gude man.

Of a' flatterers, self-love is the greatest.

A fool may earn money, but it takes a wise man to keep it.

A faithful friend is the medicine of life.

God does not measure men by inches.

Keep gude company, and you'll be counted ane o' them.

Gude advice is ne'er out o' season.

A gude friend is my nearest relation.

A man may speak like a wise man, but act like a fool.

He that's born to hang will never be drowned.

Death is deaf, and will nae hear denial.

A crafty man's ne'er at peace.

A covetous man lives in dread, and dies wretched.

Contentment is a constant feast.

A courageous foe is better than a cowardly friend.

Ne'er trust muckle (much) to an auld enemy, nor a new friend.

If ye dinna see the bottom, dinna wade.

When bairns are young they gar their parents' heads ache; when they are auld, they mak their hearts ache.

Beauty's a fair but fading flower.

Avarice generally miscalculates, and as generally deceives.

Anger may glance into the breast o' a wise man, but only rests i' the bosom o' a fool.

There's beild (shelter) beneath an auld man's beard.

Beauty but bounty (without goodness) availeth nothing.

Measure twice, cut but aince. Anger's mair hurtfu' than the wrang that caused it.

He'll gang to hell for house profit.

There's more glory in forgiving an injury, than there is pleasure in revenging it.

Do the likeliest and hope the best.

God shapes the back for the burden.

A gude cause maks a stout heart and a strong arm.

Be slow in choosing a friend, but slower in changing him.

Forbid a fool a thing and that he will do.

A flatterer is a dangerous enemy.

Sometimes words cut mair than swords.

Say what you will, an ill mind will turn 't to ill.

He that has gall in his mouth canna spit honey.

Lay a thing by and it will come o' use.

What you do when you are drunk, you must pay for when you're sober.

He that wad thrive, must rise by five; he that has thriven, may lie till seven.

Eat in measure and defy the doctor.

He that deals in dirt has aye foul fingers.

The deil's a busy bishop in his ain diocese.

A liar should hae a gude memory.

Ye hae gude manners, but ye bear them not about wi' you.

If a lie could hae worried you, you would hae been dead langsyne.

Love is ne'er without jealousy.

The slothful man is the beggar's brither.

Law-makers shouldna be law-breakers.

Mony ane kisses the bairn for love o' the nurse.

Kindness begets kindness.

Better tine (lose) your joke than tine your friend.

If you want your business weel done, do't yoursel.

Sharp stamachs mak short graces.

Life consists not in breathing but in enjoying life.

Naething is a man's truly but what he cometh by duly.

Better wait on the cook than on the doctor.

An ill custom is like a gude cake better broken than kept.

Gratitude preserves auld friendships and begets new.

Ye'll break your neck as soon as your fast in his house.

A man may dig his grave wi' his teeth.

Avoid in yoursel what you blame in ithers.

Better do it than wish it done.

Command your passions, or they will command you.

Better unborn than untaught.

Eagles flae alane, but sheep herd the gither.

Better ride on an ass that carries you than on a horse that throws you.

Ae turn weel done is twice done.

Better be the head o' the commons than the tail o' the gentry.

Evil words cut mair than swords.

Gude men are the masters o' their pleasures; bad men are the slaves o' theirs.

He that avoids temptation avoids the sin.

High trees show mair leaves than fruit.

If better were within, better would come out.

He that swims in sin will sink in sorrow.

Four-and-twenty tailors canna mak a man.

It's ower late to cast the anchor when the ship's on the rock.

Keep your tongue a prisoner, and your body will gang free.

When sorrow sleeps, wake it not.

A fat kitchen is near to poverty.

Truth will aye stand without a prop.

Search others for their virtues and yoursel for your vices.

His absence is gude company.

Stay nae langer in a friend's house than you're welcome.

When [war] drums beat, law is silent.

A wise man gets learning frae them that hae nane to themsels.

A bonnie wife and a back door aften mak a man poor.

Ladies and turkeys need delicate upbringing.

Virtue ne'er grows auld.

Reckless youth maks ruefu' age.

A craw is nae whiter for being washed.

A doctor and a clown kens mair than a doctor alane.

A muffled cat was ne'er a good mouser.

A wild goose ne'er laid tame eggs.

Ance is nae custom.

Better be alane than in ill company.

Poets and painters are aye poor.

Self-praise is nae honour.

Pride and grace ne'er dwalt in ae place.

The ill use we mak o' our prosperity is often the cause o' our misfortunes.

A sma' leak will sink a great ship.

Be the thing ye wad be ca'd.

It's gude to dread the worst; the best will be the welcomer.

Lock your door that you make keep your neighbour honest.

Wink at sma faults; ye hae great anes yoursel.

A gude word is as easy said as an ill ane.

Believe not a' you hear, and tell not a' you believe.

It's a gude tongue that says nae ill, but a better heart that thinks nane.

Reputation is to virtue what light is to a picture.

A penny in the purse is better than a crown spent.

Little wealth, little sorrow.

He that winna be counselled canna be helped.

A tale-bearer is waur than a thief.

Never speak ill o' them whose bread you eat.

Ingratitude comprehends every vice.

He that maks folk afraid o' his wit, should be afraid o' their memories.

A kindly word cools anger.

Kissing gangs by favour.

As lang lives the merry man as the sad.

A lawyer's gown is lined by the selfishness o' his clients.

We're aye to learn as lang as we live.

Love is as warm amang cottars as courtiers.

A liar is an economist of truth.

Ye didna lick your lips since you lied last.

Meat feeds, claith cleads (clothes), but manners make the man.

Better half hanged than ill married.

He that marries a widow will hae a dead man's head often thrown in his dish.

A fou wame (full stomach) makes a strong back.

Necessity is a hard master.

An empty purse fills the face wi' wrinkles.

It's sin, and no poverty, that maks a man miserable.

Friendship multiplies our joy, and divides our grief.

Forsake not God till you find a better maister.

A gude example is the best sermon.

Do weel and dread nae shame.

A gift wi' a kind look is a double present.

Suppers kill mair than doctors cure.

He that gies to a gratefu man, puts out to interest.

A blythe heart makes a blooming look.

Haste makes waste, and waste makes want, and wants makes strife between the gudeman and gudewife.
After dinner sit a while; after supper walk a mile.

East or west, hame is best.

Confessed faults are half mended.

He wha lives on hope has a slender diet.

The langer we live, we see the mae ferlies (wonders).

A hungry man is an angry man.

Idle young, needy auld.

Nae gains without pains.

He wha keeks (peeps) through a key-hole may see what will vex him.

Draff (grain) he sought, but drunk was his errand.

They wha are early up and hae nae business, hae either an ill bed, an ill wife, or an ill conscience.

Frae saving comes having.

Keep a thing seven years and you'll find a use for it.

Envy is the rack of the soul, and torture of the body.

Of twa ills, choose the least.

Tell me the company you keep, and I'll tell you your character.

He that does you an ill turn will ne'er forgie you.

Gie your tongue mair holidays than your head.

Burnt bairns dread the fire.

As the auld cock craws, the young cock learns.

Common fame is often a common liar.

You're feared for the day you never saw.

A fool at forty will never be wise.

It's folly to live poor and die rich.

An inch o' gude luck is worth a fathom o' forecast.

A father is a treasure, a brither is a comfort, but a friend is baith.

Auld folk are twice bairns.

Anger begins wi' folly, and ends wi' repentance.

Bairns speak in the field what they hear by the fireside.

Gie a beggar a bed, and he'll pay you wi' a louse.

A blind man's no judge o' colours.

A crooked stick will throw a crooked shadow.

Nae whip cuts sae sharp as the lash o' conscience.

Charity begins at home, but shouldna end there.

Cleanliness is nae pride, dirt's nae honesty.

A man's weel or wae (troubled) as he thinks himsel sae.

Happy is the wooing that's nae lang o' doing.

A covetous man does naething that he should do, till he dies.

He wha's lost his credit is dead to the warld.

Death comes in and speirs (asks) nae questions.

Out o' debt, out o' danger.

There's naething got by delay, but dirt and lang nails.

Mony an honest man needs help, that hasna the face to seek it.

If gude marriages are made in heaven, where are the bad anes made?

He wha lives on hope will die fasting.

He that isna handsome at twenty, strong at thirty, wise at forty, rich at fifty, will never be handsome, strong, wise nor rich.

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