Proverbs and sayings are popular nuggets of wisdom, often in circulation for centuries and even millenniums. They’re different from quotes, which are relatively recent and can often be attributed to a well-known person.
This post contains proverbs and sayings on family, friends, and love. Each saying is followed by its meaning and an example sentence using it. If you’re interested in meaning alone, just skip the examples.
You may find more proverbs here:
- Proverbs (with meanings) on life
- Proverbs (with meanings and examples) on health, happiness, and money
- Proverbs (with meanings) on books
Note: Origin of the saying, wherever available, is mentioned next to it in square brackets.
1. Proverbs and sayings on family
1.1 Family, home, and relationships
1. Married couples tell each other a thousand things without speech.
Married couples can understand what their partner wants to say through non-verbal communication such as mood, expression, and habits.
Example: Tom knew his wife was upset because the food was tad less lavish than it normally was. Married couples tell each other a thousand things without speech.
2. He that will thrive must first ask his wife.
If a man is supported in his actions by his wife, he is more likely to be at peace and succeed in his pursuits.
Example: As a top-5 professional tennis player, he has to train hard and travel almost year-round. Without support from his wife, he couldn’t have pulled this off for so many years. He that will thrive must first ask his wife.
3. First thrive and then wive.
Since financial distress can wreck a marriage, one should marry only after getting financially stable.
Example: I’ve been working for five years now in a stable job and have significant savings too. I think I should settle down now. Rightly said, first thrive and then wive.
4. The family that (eats) prays together stays together.
The family that gets together regularly to pray or eat is more close-knit than the family that doesn’t.
Example: Our grandfather ensured that all family members come together, howsoever busy they may be, at least once a week for dinner, which likely was the reason why our family was so close-knit. The family that (eats) prays together stays together.
5. Look for the good, not the evil, in the conduct of members of the family. [Jewish]
Our friends and family, like anyone else, have good as well as bad traits. Look for good in them. Ben Casnocha, who co-authored The Start-up of You with Reid Hoffman, founder and former CEO of LinkedIn, says this about him: “One of Reid’s underrated gifts in this regard is that he maintains very complicated portraits of the people he knows. He appreciates the full spectrum of strengths and weaknesses of a particular person. Along these lines, Reid forgives mistakes in his friends.” People, however, easily forget several positive qualities in friends and family members when they exhibit just one negative quality. This can result in cracks in relationships.
Example: Overlooking several positive qualities in your friend, you’re angry with him because he failed to act in time. You should look for the good, not the evil, in the conduct of members of the family.
6. Though a tree grows ever so high, the falling leaves return to the ground. [Chinese]
You may go any distance away from your town or family, but you’ll eventually come back.
Example: After the bitter public quarrel, Tom left his family and town to work in another, but he made up and returned after six months. Though a tree grows ever so high, the falling leaves return to the ground.
7. Eat and drink with your relatives but do business with strangers. [Greek]
Don’t do business with your relatives. In business, things may go wrong, sometimes for no one’s fault, which will put cracks in your relationships.
Example: I sold my car to my cousin, but it didn’t perform as expected. This led to some friction between us. I wish I had known: eat and drink with your relatives but do business with strangers.
8. Home is where the heart is.
Don’t you feel relieved on reaching home after you’ve been away for few days? No matter where you visit, you’ll long to return to your home and family.
Example: I’ve been out of the town on work for only three days now, and I’m already longing to get back home. I guess, home is where the heart is.
9. A man’s home is his castle.
People can do what they wish in their homes: They’re the rulers in their castles (homes). Others have no right to interfere in their lives.
Example: As long as he doesn’t create nuisance, it’s none of my concern what my neighbor does in his home. After all, his home is his castle.
10. Familiarity breeds contempt.
We tend to take people with whom we spend time for granted and start finding faults with them.
Example: Few years after the marriage, things started going southwards as the husband saw more and more faults with the wife. Familiarity can indeed breed contempt.
11. Clothing is cherishable when new, but relationship when old.
We like clothes more when they’re new, but with relationships, it’s the other way round. Old relationships have stood the test of time. Cherish them as precious possession because such relationships are hard to find.
Example: I care for my old friends, who’ve stood by me in thick and thin. After all, clothing is cherishable when new, but relationship when old.
12. A constant guest is never welcomed.
Don’t burden a friend, neighbour, or relative with too many visits.
Example: I could sense lack of warmth and unease when I visited my uncle’s family to stay with them over the weekend. I then decided not to visit them too often because a constant guest is never welcomed.
13. Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on their toes.
If parents are too indulgent towards their children and fulfil every demand to keep them happy, the children will resent even a genuine ‘no’, leading to crankiness and discipline problems.
Example: My brother has spoilt his children by fulfilling their every wish, good or bad. Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on their toes.
14. If you want your children to have a peaceful life, let them suffer a little hunger and a little coldness.
It builds on the previous saying. We want our children to be happy, but we’re often too indulgent to bring them happiness. We take care of slightest of their problems and, in the process, make them too dependent on elders, a trait which may carry on later in their lives. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, while narrating his growing-up years, mentioned how he learnt resourcefulness from his grandfather, who could perform small maintenance tasks at his farm on his own. Bezos, in fact, mentioned that he would rather see his children lose a finger or two and become resourceful than become too dependent. This line (paraphrased) from the book Sapiens sums this up well: “You love your children more than evolution requires”.
Example: For their age, your kids are too dependent on you. You should let them handle their work more independently even if it means discomfort to them. If you want your children to have a peaceful life, let them suffer a little hunger and a little coldness.
15. When a twig grows hard, it is difficult to twist it.
A person can be moulded when young but not when she has grown up. So, one should inculcate good values in children while they’re still young.
Example: Your son doesn’t take responsibility when he fails at something. You must take corrective action now, for when a twig grows hard, it is difficult to twist it.
16. Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time. [Hebrew]
The world has changed a lot since you were in school and college, and it still is changing fast. What you learnt is probably obsolete now, so don’t limit your children to your own learning.
Example: Why do you want to force engineering or medicine as a career option on your kids? World has changed a lot. There are far wider variety of jobs today, and many jobs of future don’t even exist. Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.
17. Giving your son a skill is better than giving him one thousand pieces of gold. [Chinese]
Give your children skills. Skill will not only help them earn a living but also keep them meaningfully engaged. Bequeathed money is also helpful, but it can go away, and then they’ll have nothing to fall back on. Moreover, money without skill won’t keep them meaningfully engaged, which can lead to problems of its own.
Example: The film actor’s son inherited quite a fortune but frittered it away in foolish ventures. He isn’t left with much money now and, unfortunately, doesn’t possess a worthwhile skill to maintain his lifestyle. His father should have remembered the saying: Giving your son a skill is better than giving him one thousand pieces of gold.
2. Proverbs and sayings on friends
18. Prosperity makes friends, and adversity tries them.
Prosperity attracts friends, but you come to know who your real friends are only in times of adversity.
Example: His parties used to be so sought-after, but you hardly see anyone around after his fortunes went down. Prosperity makes friends, and adversity tries them, don’t they?
19. In times of prosperity, friends will be plenty; in times of adversity, not one in twenty.
You’ll have plenty of friends in your good times, but most will disappear in your bad times. That’s why it’s important to have few but good friends.
Example: After the TV journalist lost her job, many so-called friends who used to request her for appearance on her TV show disappeared overnight. In times of prosperity, friends will be plenty; in times of adversity, not one in twenty.
20. A friend in need is a friend indeed.
Someone who helps you in difficult time is truly a friend.
Example: When I met with an accident, Tom travelled all the way to my city to support and help me. A friend in need is a friend indeed.
21. Books and friends should be few but good.
If you’ve too many books, you can’t read them all. If you’ve too many friends, you can’t find time to build deeper bonds with most of them. Therefore, have few but good friends.
Example: Tom: I see that you’ve friends in dozens. How do you find time to make meaningful bond with them? Jerry: I talk to them occasionally. Sometimes, I bump on them on social media. Tom: Look, I’m not saying it’s bad to know lot of people. What I’m saying is devote more time to people with whom you want to be good friends. Books and friends should be few but good.
22. The more acquaintances you have, the less you know them.
The more friends you have, lesser time you would have for each, implying somewhat diluted relationships. An extreme example of this would be friends on social media, who are of little help unless you know them personally.
Example: I thought I know so many people, but after getting could-shouldered by most of them in my time of need, I realize I was wrong. The more acquaintances you have, the less you know them. I should have focused on fewer contacts but developed stronger relations.
23. Lend your money and lose your friend.
Lending money to a friend can lead to souring of friendship. If you ask to repay, he may feel offended, and if he fails to repay, you’ll be offended.
Example: I don’t like calling up Tom any longer for regular chitchats after he failed to return the money I lent three months back. Lend your money and lose your friend, I guess.
24. A hedge between keeps friendship green.
If friends meet too often or they intrude into each other’s lives, friendship may weaken. It’s best to keep a hedge – and not a completely opaque, solid wall – between friends to ensure just the right mix of intimacy and distance.
Example: I see you meet your friend too often. Nothing wrong with it, but too much intimacy and intrusion into each other’s life may affect your friendship. A hedge between keeps friendship green.
25. Be slow in choosing a friend, but slower in changing him. [Scottish]
Make sure you’ve done adequate due diligence before making someone friends, which may take time. (Note that this isn’t about casual friends.) But once you’ve made a friend, maintain friendship for long; after all, it’s not easy to find good friends.
Example: Try to resolve differences with your long-time friend because such friends don’t come by easily. Be slow in choosing a friend but be slower in changing him.
26. Come live with me and you’ll know me.
It’s difficult to understand true character of a person in casual meetings. One has to live or travel with the person to know the real him.
Example: I’ve known Tom for three years now, but I truly understood him only after our travel together. It’s rightly said, come live with me and you’ll know me.
27. If you trust before you try, you may repent before you die.
Similar in meaning to the previous saying. Don’t trust people before knowing them well. If you do, you may be in for a rude shock.
Example: To my shock, my friend didn’t help me in my time of need. I guess I made a wrong choice in him. If you trust before you try, you may repent before you die.
28. Good company on the road is the shortest cut.
Haven’t we all experienced this? If you’ve good company while traveling, time will fly fast.
Example: My two-week road trip with friends passed in no time. Good company on the road is the shortest cut.
29. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Secrets among friends, especially indiscretions, shouldn’t go out.
Example: The college group enjoyed themselves to the hilt, sometimes bordering on recklessness, during their spring break in Miami. But they trust each other and know that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
30. Better a dinner of herbs than a stalled ox where hate is.
Have you sat with friends for a frugal meal or drink after a long time at a spartan place? You would have still enjoyed it. And what about a royal meal with people you don’t want to talk to? Quite the opposite. A frugal dinner with persons you like is better than a lavish dinner with people you don’t like.
Example: Tom: This is not an upscale bar. I hope you’re liking the snacks and the drink? Jerry: Of course. Better a dinner of herbs than a stalled ox where hate is. (Jerry then recalled the unpleasant Monday evening when he bumped into his ex-boss and was forced to share a drink with him.)
31. Long absent, soon forgotten. [Romanian]
If you haven’t met or spoken to a friend or relative in long time, he’ll be forgotten. Such friendships eventually wither away or may just remain a distant acquaintance. You’ve to constantly nurture relationships, including friendship.
Example: I haven’t spoken to my college friend in years, and now I don’t even like to make the call. I guess I’ve moved on. Long absent, soon forgotten.
32. Who gossips to you will gossip about you. [Spanish]
Someone who gossips to you about someone else will, sooner or later, gossip about you to others.
Example: I’ve been told by a mutual friend that Tom was talking about some of my personal stuff to other people. It’s my fault, though. I shouldn’t have confided him with my personal matters as he had once revealed someone else’s personal matters to me. Who gossips to you will gossip about you.
33. Live with wolves, and you learn to howl. [Spanish]
If your friends are bad characters, you’ll become bad like them. (A wolf is associated with bad company.)
Example: One of my classmates got into bad company and started missing too many classes, leading to failing the semester. Live with wolves, and you learn to howl.
34. Tell me who’s your friend, and I’ll tell you who you are. [Russian]
You soak qualities and habits, good or bad, of your friends. In a way, you’re an average of your friends. So, your character can be predicted from the character of your friends. Message: pick your friends carefully because it’ll eventually reflect on you.
Example: You’re on a slippery road of too much booze and entertainment, and I believe it’s the influence of your new friends. It’s rightly said, tell me who’s your friend, and I’ll tell you who you are.
35. Ask about your neighbours, then buy the house. [Jewish]
Similar in meaning to the previous saying. Live in a place with good neighbours because their character will eventually leave an imprint on yours.
Example: I wouldn’t advise you to move to that locality as it’s not peaceful and sees occasional law & order problems. You should ask about your neighbours, and then buy the house.
36. Good accounting makes good friends.
Don’t be a parasite who only takes and takes from a friend. That way, some broad accounting of give and take can prevent resentment in friendship. You need not though go to the extent of keeping track of each and every give & take and get even.
Example: Yesterday, I finally complained to my friend that I’ve borne most of the bills on our joint meals, and it can’t continue like this. It’s good accounting that makes good friends.
37. Friendship is like money, easier made than kept.
It’s relatively easier to reach a milestone than to hold on to it. It’s easier to make money and friendship but difficult to keep them. You’ve to invest time and effort to nurture them.
Example: When I look at friendships I’ve made since college, I realize that most of them are either over or have become once-in-six-month-texting type. It seems true that friendship is like money, easier made than kept.
38. Don’t fear the enemy that attacks you, but the fake friend that hugs you.
A fake friend can be more dangerous than an enemy because, first, you trust your friend and, second, your friend knows your vulnerabilities.
Example: Many kingdoms have fallen to enemies not because of strength of the enemies but because of betrayal of friends and insiders. It’s rightly said, don’t fear the enemy that attacks you, but the fake friend that hugs you.
39. Blood is thicker than water.
Relationships with family (or blood relatives) is stronger than other relationships. So, you shouldn’t try to outweigh your friend’s relationships in his family or get under the illusion that your friend values you more than his family members. Both relationships have their place but shouldn’t compete.
Example: Bypassing competent professionals in his Company, the businessman appointed his less-experienced son to a senior position. After all, blood is thicker than water.
3. Proverbs and sayings on love
40. Love and cough cannot be hidden.
Despite best efforts, you cannot hide love like you cannot hide cough.
Example: The relationship between the two cine stars became widely known, despite efforts to keep it under wraps. Love and cough cannot be hidden.
41. Love laughs at locksmiths.
Locksmiths make locks, which are used to confine people or things. But love can’t be confined. It finds a way. That’s why love laughs at locksmiths.
Example: The girl’s family was against her marriage to her former classmate, but the two, with great effort, convinced her family. Despite hiccups, their love found a way. It’s rightly said love laughs at locksmiths.
42. Love me little, love me long.
Mild affection is more likely to last long than burning passion.
Example: Many relationships these days start on high passion but die down quickly because of lack of commitment. People, therefore, crave for mild but long-lasting affection. Love me little, love me long, in other words.
43. Love me, love my dog. [Russian]
If you love someone, then you should love them as they come with their qualities, shortcomings, friends, family, and so on.
Example: If you love her, then you should love her family and friends as well. Love me, love my dog. Isn’t it?
44. When love is not madness, it is not love. [Spanish]
People can do things in love that, to an outsider, may look madness.
Example: Love stories are replete with examples of people doing crazy things in love. It seems that when love is not madness, it is not love.
45. Where there is no trust, there is no love.
Love rests on the foundation of trust. If the foundation collapses, love too collapses.
Example: I wasn’t surprised when our neighbours filed for divorce as they had regular verbal duels in the past over not being transparent with each other on certain matters. Clearly, where there is no trust, there is no love.
46. Faults are thick where love is thin.
If the love is shallow, people will find faults in each other.
Example: We occasionally overhear accusations and counter-accusations coming from the neighbouring family. Faults are thick where love is thin.
47. When the wolf comes in at the door, love creeps out of the window.
When financial distress comes in, love and relationships fall apart. (Here, ‘wolf’ refers to poverty.)
Example: I’ve seen cracks developing in relationships in my extended family when financial wellbeing of the family was affected. When the wolf comes in at the door, love creeps out of the window.
48. The heart that loves is always young. [Greek]
A person in love is full of hope and buoyancy, which keep him young.
Example: Since he started dating, Tom looks buoyant, energetic, and a man with goals in life. The heart that loves is always young.
49. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
When you’re away from someone, you miss them more.
Example: While I was away on one-month training, I missed by family more than I did in normal circumstances. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
50. All is fair in love and war.
One can deploy any means, fair or unfair, to win in love and war.
Example: In the movie Aladdin, the thief takes help from the genie to impress the princess. All is fair in love and war.
51. The course of true love never did run smooth.
True love goes through ups and downs.
Example: Romeo and Juliet went through lot of trials and tribulations in their love. The course of true love, it seems, never did run smooth.
52. Faint heart never won fair lady.
You’ve to make effort and be bold to achieve something difficult. The proverb applies to variety of situations and particularly to matters of love because of its literal meaning.
Example: I wasn’t ready for the time and effort required to pursue, court, and endure potential heartbreak, and therefore didn’t succeed in love. Faint heart never won fair lady.