Proverbs and Sayings on Friends [With Meaning and Example]

Proverbs and sayings are popular nuggets of wisdom, often in circulation for centuries and even millenniums. This post contains proverbs and sayings on friends, divided into five categories.

If you’re looking for more proverbs and sayings, you can find plenty of them in the resource below. It contains proverbs on topics such as life, family, friends, love, health, happiness, money, hard work, time, time management, teamwork, leadership, business, education & learning, and more.

1. Good friends

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?

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.

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.

The best of friends must part.

Good friends are a treasure, but unfortunately even they’ve to depart one day because of some differences or the eventuality of death.

Example: It was shocking to know that the two, friends since early teens, are no longer friends. Even the best of friends must part.

2. Bad friends

The dog wags his tail not for you, but for your bread.

A Portuguese proverb. If you’re rich, many of your friends are there for your money and not for you.

Example: I thought I had plenty of friends in college because of my multi-faceted personality. But after our family’s fortunes swung for worse, most friends disappeared. Then I realized that the dog wags his tail not for you, but for your bread.

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Live with wolves, and you learn to howl.

A Spanish proverb. 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.

It is hard to soar like an eagle when surrounded by turkeys.

Similar to the last proverb

Tell me who’s your friend, and I’ll tell you who you are.

A Russian proverb. 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.

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.

Who gossips to you will gossip about you.

A Spanish proverb. 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.

3. How to pick friends?

Birds of a feather flock together.

People with similar nature seek out each other’s company.

Example: You usually hang out with people with background similar to yours. Birds of a feather flock together, after all.

Common fame is seldom to blame.

Common perception about a person is usually right, implying you can rely on it in most cases to weed out bad people.

Example: I had heard about Tom’s proclivity to talk behind people’s back, and hence I decided to stay away from him. Common fame is seldom to blame.

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.

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.

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

A Scottish proverb. 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.

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 or her. So, spend sufficient time before trusting someone with your friendship.

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.

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.

Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come.

A Chinese proverb. If your friends are happy with you, more prospective friends will be attracted to you through word of mouth.

Example: Many of Tom’s friends were his friends’ friends. Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come.

Sometimes, you’ve no option but to make someone friend. The next three proverbs describe such situations.

If you live in river, it is best to be friends with crocodile.

You should be friends with the most powerful person in your neighborhood or organization.

Example: Even though I don’t like few senior persons at my workplace, I stay on good terms with them. That’s because if you live in river, you should be friends with crocodile.

It is ill sitting at Rome and striving with the Pope.

Similar to the last proverb

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Two persons or entities who don’t go along well can come together to fight a common adversary.

Example: Political rivals commonly come together to win election against a common foe. They certainly believe that enemy of my enemy is my friend.

4. How to maintain friendship?

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.

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.

Short reckonings make long friends.

Similar to the last one

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.

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.

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.

Blood is thicker than water.

Relationship 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.

Long absent, soon forgotten.

A Romanian proverb. 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.

5. Others

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.

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.)

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Anil Yadav

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