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16th Century English Proverbs

Dates given are generally for the first written appearance of the form of the proverb in English; the proverb may have been in spoken use, in England or orther countries, much earlier and in some cases referred to as "an old saying" prior to that time.

After dinner rest awhile, after supper walk a mile.
-late 16th

The age of miracles is past.
-late 16th

All cats are grey in the dark.
-mid 16th

All is fish that comes to the net.
-early 16th

All things come to those who wait.
-early 16th

An ape's an ape, a varlet's a varlet, though they be clad in silk or scarlet.
-mid 16th; 2nd century in Greek

April showers bring forth May flowers.
-mid 16th

As a tree falls, so shall it lie.
-mid 16th

As good be an addled egg as an idle bird.
-late 16th

As you bake so shall you brew.
-late 16th

A bad excuse is better than none.
-mid 16th

Bad news travels fast.
-late 16th

A barking dog never bites.
-late 16th

Bear and forbear.
-late 16th

Beauty draws with a single hair.
-late 16th-Howell

Beggars can't be choosers.
-mid 16th

The best doctors are Dr Diet, Dr Quiet, and Dr Merryman.
-mid 16th

As you make your bed, so you must lie upon it.
-late 16th or possibly 15th century

Be the day weary or be the day long, at last it ringeth to evensong.
-early 16th

Better a dinner of herbs than a stalled ox where hate is.
-mid 16th

Better to be an old man's darling than a young man's slave.
-mid 16th

Better to be envied than pitied.
-mid 16th, 5th century BC in Greek

Better one house spoiled than two.
-late 16th

Birds of a feather flock together.
-mid 16th

A bleating sheep loses a bite.
-late 16th

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
-mid 16th

Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest.
-late 16th

Call no man happy till he dies.
-mid 16th

A carpenter is known by his chips.
-early 16th

A cat in gloves catches no mice.
-late 16th; 14th century in French

A cat may look at a king.
-mid 16th

Children and fools tell the truth.
-mid 16th; late 14th century in French

Confess and be hanged.
-late 16th

The course of true love never did run smooth.
-late 16th

Cowards may die many times before their deaths.
-late 16th, Shakespeare

Cut your coat according to your cloth.
-mid 16th

Dead men don't bite.
-mid 16th

A deaf husband and a blind wife are always a happy couple.
-late 16th

Delays are dangerous.
-late 16th

Desperate diseases must have desperate remedies.
-mid 16th

The devil can quote Scripture for his own ends.
-late 16th

The devil is not so black as he is painted.
-mid 16th

The devil makes his Christmas pies of lawyers' tongues and clerks' fingers.
-late 16th

Diligence is the mother of good luck.
-late 16th

Dirty water will quench fire.
-mid 16th

Discretion is the better part of valour.
-late 16th

Do as I say, not as I do.
-early 16th

Do as you would be done by.
-late 16th

Dog does not eat dog.
-mid 16th

Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.
-late 16th

Don't cry before you're hurt.
-mid 16th century; early 14th century in French

Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.
-mid 16th; mid 14th century in French

A drowning man will clutch at a straw.
-mid 16th

Eagles don't catch flies.
-mid 16th

The end crowns the work.
-early 16th

The end justifies the means.
-late 16th

An Englishman's home is his castle.
-late 16th; Coke

An Englishman's word is his bond.
-early 16th

Even a worm will turn.
-mid 16th

Every bulet has its billet.
-late 16th; William III

Every dog has his day.
-mid 16th

Every man for himself and God for us all.
-mid 16th

Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost.
-early 16th

Every man is the architect of his own fortune.
-early 16th

Every man to his taste.
-late 16th

Every man to his trade.
-late 16th

Every tub must stand on its own bottom.
-mid 16th

Evil doers are evil dreaders.
-late 16th

The eyes are the window of the soul.
-mid 16th

Faint heart never won fair lady.
-mid 16th

A fair exchange is no robbery.
-mid 16th

A false confessed is half redressed.
-mid 16th

Fine feathers make fine birds.
-late 16th

Fingers were made before forks.
-mid 16th

The fish always stinks from the head downwards.
-late 16th

Fish and guests stink after three days.
-late 16th

A fool and his money are soon parted.
-late 16th

Forewarned is forearmed.
-early 16th

Fortune favours fools.
-mid 16th

Four eyes see more than two.
-late 16th

From the sweetest wine, the tartest vinegar.
-late 16th

Give a thing, and take a thing, to wear the devil's gold ring.
-late 16th

Give the devil his due.
-late 16th

Go further and fare worse.
-mid 16th

God helps them that help themselves.
-mid 16th; early 15th in French

God sends meat, but the Devil sends cooks.
-mid 16th

Gold may be bought too dear.
-mid 16th

A golden key can open any door.
-late 16th

Good seed makes a good crop.
-late 16th

A grey mare is the better horse.
-mid 16th

Half a loaf is better than no bread.
-mid 16th

The half is better than the whole.
-mid 16th

Handsome is as handsome does.
-late 16th

Hanging and wiving go by destiny.
-mid 16th

Happy's the wooing that is not long a-doing.
-late 16th

Hawks will not pick out hawks eyes.
-late 16th

He gives twice who gives quickly.
-mid 16th

He lives long who lives well.
-mid 16th

He that cannot obey cannot command.
-early 16th

He that liveth in hope dances to an ill tune.
-late 16th

He that will thrive must first as his wife.
-early 16th

He who fights and runs away, may live to fight another day.
-mid 16th

Home is home though it's never so homely.
-mid 16th

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
-early 16th; Bible

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
-mid 16th

Hunger is the best sauce.
-early 16th

If Saint Paul’s day be fair and clear, it will betide a happy year.
-late 16th

If two ride on a horse, one must ride behind.
-late 16th

If you don’t work you shan’t eat.
-mid 16th

If you gently touch a nettle it’ll sting you for your pains; grasp it like a lad of mettle, an’ as soft as silk remains.
-late 16th

If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.
-late 16th

If you’re born to be hanged then you’ll never be drowned.
-late 16th

If you run after two hares you will catch neither.
-early 16th

If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.
-mid 16th

If you want peace, you must prepare for war.
-mid 16th

In the country of the blind the one eyed man is king
-early 16th

It is a poor dog that’s not worth whistling for.
-mid 16th

It is a wise child that knows its own father.
-late 16th

It is easier to pull down than to build up.
-late 16th

It is easy to find a stick to beat a dog.
-mid 16th

It is good to make a bridge of gold to a flying enemy.
-late 16th

It is never too late to mend.
-late 16th

It is the first step that is difficult.
-late 16th

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
-mid 16th

It’s ill waiting for dead men’s shoes.
-early 16th

It takes two to make a bargain.
-late 16th

Jove but laughs at lovers’ perjury.
-mid 16th

Kings have long arms.
-mid 16th

Knowledge is power.
-late 16th

The leopard does not change his spots.
-mid 16th

Let the buyer beware.
-early 16th

Let the cobbler stick to his last.
-mid 16th

Let them laugh that win.
-mid 16th

Let well alone.
-late 16th

A liar ought to have a good memory.
-mid 16th; 1st century AD in Latin

Like breeds like.
-mid 16th

Like master, like man.
-early 16th

Like people, like priest.
-late 16th

Little pitchers have large ears.
-mid 16th

A little pot is soon hot.
-mid 16th

Little things please little minds.
-late 16th

Long and lazy, little and loud; fat and fulsome, pretty and proud.
-late 16th

Lookers-on see most of the game.
-early 16th

Love and a cough cannot be hid.
-early 16th

Love me little, love me long.
-early 16th

Love me, love my dog.
-early 16th

Make haste slowly.
-late 16th

Make hay while the sun shines.
-mid 16th

A man is known by the company he keeps.
-mid 16th

Man is the measure of all things.
-mid 16th

Many go out for wool and come home shorn.
-late 16th

Marriages are made in heaven.
-mid 16th

Marry in haste repent at leisure.
-late 16th

Misery loves company.
-late 16th

Money makes a man.
-early 16th

Money makes money.
-late 16th

Money makes the mare to go.
-early 16th

The more you stir it the worse it stinks.
-mid 16th

Morning dreams come true.
-mid 16th

A mouse may help a lion.
alluding to Aesop’s fable of the lion and the rat
-mid 16th

Nature abhors a vacuum.
-mid 16th

Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin.
-late 16th

Necessity is the mother of invention.
-mid 16th

Never choose your women or linen by candlelight.
-late 16th

Never do evil that good may come of it.
-late 16th

Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
-early 16th

Never mention rope in the house of a man who has been hanged.
-late 16th

Never speak ill of the dead.
-mid 16th; 6th century BC in Greek

Never tell tales out of school.
-early 16th

Never too old to learn.
-early 16th

New brooms sweep clean.
-mid 16th

New lords, new laws.
-mid 16th

Night brings counsel.
-late 16th

No money, no Swiss.
the Swiss were particularly noted as mercenaries

-late 16th

No pain, no gain.
-late 16th

No penny, no paternoster.
-early 16th

No time like the present.
-mid 16th

One cannot love and be wise.
-early 16th

One Englishman can beat three Frenchmen.
-late 16th

One hand washes the other.
-late 16th

One man may steal a horse, while another may not look over a hedge.
-mid 16th

One man’s loss is another man’s gain.
-early 16th

One man’s meat is another man’s poison.
-late 16th

One story is good till another is told.
-late 16th

One swallow does not make a summer.
-mid 16th

Opportunity never knocks twice at any man’s door.
-mid 16th

Other times, other manners.
-late 16th

An ounce of practice is worth a pound of precept.
-late 16th

Pay beforehand was never well served.
-late 16th

A peck of March dust is worth a king’s ransom.
-early 16th

The pen is mightier than the sword.
-late 16th

The post of honour is the post of danger.
-early 16th

Poverty is no disgrace, but it’s a great inconvenience.
-late 16th

Poverty is not a crime.
-late 16th

Practice makes perfect.
-mid 16th

Put a stout heart to a stey brae.
stey = steep
-late 16th

The quarrel of lovers is the renewal of love.
-early 16th

Quickly come, quickly go.
-late 16th

Revenge is sweet.
-mid 16th

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
-late 16th

Rome was not built in a day.
-mid 16th

Safe bind, safe find.
-mid 16th

Second thoughts are best.
-late 16th

Seek and ye shall find.
-early 16th

September blow soft till the fruit’s in the loft.
-late 16th

Set a beggar on horseback, and he’ll ride to the Devil.
-late 16th

The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot.
-mid 16th

Short reckonings make long friends.
-early 16th

A shut mouth catches no flies.
-late 16th

Silence is a woman’s best garment.
-mid 16th

A slice off a cut loaf isn’t missed.
-late 16th

Small choice in rotten apples.
-late 16th

Something is better than nothing.
-mid 16th

The sooner begun, the sooner done.
-late 16th

Spare well and have to spend.
-mid 16th

A still tongue makes a wise head.
-mid 16th

Stretch your arm no further than your sleeve will reach.
-mid 16th

A tale never loses in the telling.
-mid 16th

Tell the truth and shame the Devil.
-mid 16th

There are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it.
-late 16th

There goes more to marriage than four bare legs in a bed.
-mid 16th

There is an exception to every rule.
-late 16th

There is a time and place for everything.
-early 16th

There is luck in odd numbers.
-late 16th

There is nothing new under the sun.
-late 16th

There is truth in wine.
-mid 16th

There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip.
-mid 16th

There’s no fool like an old fool.
-mid 16th

There’s no place like home.
-late 16th

There’s none so blind as those who will not see.
-mid 16th

There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear.
-mid 16th

They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind.
-late 16th

Think first and speak afterwards.
-mid 16th

The third time pays for all.
-late 16th

Threatened men live long.
-mid 16th

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
-mid 16th

Time is money.
-late 16th

Time will tell.
-mid 16th

Time works wonders.
-late 16th

Times change and we with time.
attributed to the Emperor Lothar I (795-855) in the form ‘Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis [All things change, and we change with them]’

-late 16th

To err is human (to forgive divine).
-late 16th

Tomorrow is another day.
-early 16th

Tomorrow never comes.
-early 16th

The tongue always returns to the sore tooth.
-late 16th

Too many cooks spoil the broth.
-late 16th

The tree is known by its fruit.
-early 16th

Truth lies at the bottom of a well.
-mid 16th

Turkey, heresy, hops, and beer came into England all in one year.
-late 16th

Virtue is its own reward.
-early 16th

Walls have ears.
-late 16th

The weakest go to the wall.
-early 16th

What a neighbour gets is not lost.
-mid 16th

What can’t be cured must be endured.
-late 16th

What is got over the Devil’s back is spent under his belly.
-late 16th

What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.
-mid 16th; earlier in Latin

What you don’t know can’t hurt you.
-late 16th

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
-mid 16th

When one door shuts, another opens.
-late 16th

When thieves fall out, honest men come by their own.
-mid 16th

When things are at the worst they begin to mend.
-late 16th

Where God builds a church, the Devil will build a chapel.
-mid 16th

Where the carcase is, there shall the eagles be gathered together.
-mid 16th

While there’s life there’s hope.
-mid 16th

Whom the Gods love die young.
-mid 16th

Why keep a dog and bark yourself?
-late 16th

The wish is father to the thought.
-late 16th

A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, the more you beat them the better they be.
-late 16th

A woman and a ship ever want mending.
-late 16th century; 2nd century BC in Latin

A woman’s work is never done.
-late 16th

A word to the wise is enough.
-early 16th

The worth of a thing is what it will bring.
-late 16th

You can drive out nature with a pitchfork but she keeps on coming back.
-mid 16th

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
-early 16th

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
-early 16th

You cannot have your cake and eat it.
-mid 16th

You cannot lose what you never had.
-late 16th

You cannot put an old head on young shoulders.
-late 16th

You cannot serve God and Mammon.
-early 16th

You cannot shift an old tree without it dying.
-early 16th

Young folks think old folks to be fools, but old folks know young folks to be fools.
-late 16th

A young man married is a young man marred.
-late 16th

Young men may die, but old men must die.
-mid 16th



NOTE: Some of this information can be found in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

 



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