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17th 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.

Actions speak louder than words.
-early 17th

All is grist that comes to the mill.
-mid 17th

All's fair in love and war.
-early 17th

All things are possible with God.
-late 17th (Bible)

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
-mid 17th

Appearances are deceptive.
-mid 17th

Appetite comes with eating.
-mid 17th - Rabelais

As the day lengthens, so the cold strengthens.
-early 17th

A bad workman blames his tools.
-early 17th, late 13th century in French

Barnaby bright, Barnaby bright, the longest day and the shortest night.
-St Barnabas' Day, 11 June -mid 17th century

Beauty is only skin deep.
-early 17th

The best of friends must part.
-early 17th

The best of men are men at best.
-late 17th

Better be out of the world than out of the fashion.
-mid 17th

The better the day, the better the deed.
-early 17th

Better wed over the mixen than over the moor.
better to marry a neighbor than a stranger
-early 17th

Blessed are the dead that the rain rains on.
-early 17th

A blind man's wife needs no paint.
-mid 17th

Boys will be boys.
Girls will be girls.
-early 17th

Brevity is the soul of wit.
-early 17th, from Shakespeare

The buyer has need of a hundred eyes, the seller of but one.
-mid 17th

Charity covers a multitude of sins.
-early 17th

A cherry year, a merry year; a plum year, a dumb year.
-late 17th

Circumstances alter cases.
-late 17th

Common fame is seldom to blame.
-mid 17th

The company makes the feast.
-mid 17th

Confession is good for the soul.
-mid 17th

Conscience makes cowards of us all.
-early 17th

Corporations have neither bodies to be punished nor souls to be damned.
-mid 17th

Crosses are ladders that lead to heaven.
-early 17th

The darkest hour is just before dawn.
-mid 17th

Dead men tell no tales.
-mid 17th

Death pay all debts.
-early 17th

The devil's children have the devil's luck.
-late 17th

Devil take the hindmost.
-early 17th

The devil was sick, the Devil a saint would be; the Devil was well, the devil a saint was he.
-early 17th

Diamond cuts diamond.
-early 17th

Divide and rule.
-early 17th

Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
-mid 17th

Dream of a funeral and you hear of a marriage.
-mid 17th

The early bird catches the worm.
-mid 17th

The early man never borrows from the late man.
-mid 17th

Easy come, easy go.
-mid 17th

Empty sacks will never stand upright.
-mid 17th

Every herring must hang by its own gill.
-early 17th

Every Jack has his Jill.
-early 17th

Every law has its own law.
-early 17th

Every little helps.
-early 17th

Everybody's business is nobody's business.
-early 17th

Everyone speaks well of the bridge which carries him over.
-late 17th

The exception proves the rule.
-mid 17th

Experience is the best teacher.
-late 16th; Tacitus

Experience is the father of wisdom.
-mid 16th

Fine words butter no parsnips.
-mid 17th

Fire is a good servant but a bad master.
-early 17th

Fools ask questions that wise men cannot answer.
-mid 17th

Fools build houses and wise men live in them.
-late 17th

Give a man rope enough and he will hang himself.
-mid 17th

Go abroad and you'll hear news from home.
-late 17th

God made the country and man made the town.
-mid 17th

God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.
-mid 17th

The good die young.
-late 17th

Good fences make good neighbours.
-mid 17th

A good horse cannot be of a bad color.
-early 17th

Good men are scarce.
-early 17th

A great book is a great evil.
-early 17th; Callimachus

Great minds think alike.
-early 17th

A green Yule makes a fat churchyard.
meaning a mild winter
-mid 17th

Happy is the bride that the sun shines on.
-mid 17th

Hard words break no bones.
-late 17th

Haste is from the Devil.
-mid 17th

He laughs best who laughs last.
-early 17th

He that cannot pay, let him pray.
-early 17th

He that complies against his will is of his own opinion still.
-late 17th

He who excuses, accuses himself.
-early 17th

He who is absent is always in the wrong.
-mid 17th

He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.
-mid 17th; Bible

He who wills the end, wills the means.
-late 17th

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
-late 17th; Congreve

Help you to salt, help you to sorrow.
-mid 17th

Honesty is the best policy.
-early 17th

Honey catches more flies than vinegar.
-mid 17th

Hope is a good breakfast but a bad supper.
-mid 17th; Bacon

A hungry man is an angry man.
-mid 17th

The husband is always the last to know.
-early 17th

An idle brain is the devil’s workshop.
-early 17th

Idle people have the least leisure.
-late 17th

If Candlemas day be sunny and bright, winter will have another flight; if Candlemas day be cloudy with rain, winter is gone and won’t come again.
Candlemas Day = 2 February

-late 17th

If every man would sweep his own door-step the city would soon be clean.
-early 17th

If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain.
-early 17th

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
-early 17th

If you would be happy for a week take a wife; if you would be happy for a month kill a pig; but if you would be happy for all your life plant a garden.
-mid 17th

If you would be well served, serve yourself.
-mid 17th

In for a penny, in for a pound.
-late 17th

It is a long lane that has no turning.
-early 17th

It is as cheap sitting as standing.
-mid 17th

It is best to be on the safe side.
-late 17th

It is better to be born lucky than rich.
-mid 17th

It is easier to raise the Devil than to lay him.
-mid 17th

It is easy to be wise after the event.
-early 17th

It is idle to swallow the cow and choke on the tail.
-mid 17th

It is ill sitting at Rome and striving with the Pope.
-early 17th

It is never too late to learn.
-late 17th

It is no use crying over spilt milk.
-mid 17th

It is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.
-mid 17th

It’s ill speaking between a full man and a fasting.
-mid 17th

It takes all sorts to make a world.
-early 17th

Keep a thing seven years and you’ll always find a use for it.
-early 17th

Keep no more cats than will catch mice.
-late 17th

Keep your shop and your shop will keep you.
-early 17th

Killing no murder.
-mid 17th

The king can do no wrong.
-mid 17th

A king’s chaff is worth more than other men’s corn.
-early 17th

Kissing goes by favour.
-early 17th

The last drop makes the cup run over.
-mid 17th

Listeners never hear any good of themselves.
-mid 17th

Little birds that can sing and won’t sing must be made to sing.
-late 17th

Little leaks sink the ship.
-early 17th

Little thieves are hanged, but great ones escape.
-mid 17th

Live and learn.
-early 17th

Live and let live.
-early 17th

The longest way round is the shortest way home.
-mid 17th

Love begets love.
-mid 17th

Love will find a way.
-early 17th

Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.
-early 17th

March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb.
-early 17th

Marriage is a lottery.
-mid 17th

Marry in May, rue for aye.
-late 17th

Meat and mass never hindered man.
-early 17th

The mill cannot grind with the water that is past.
-early 17th

The mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small.
-mid 17th; translation of an anonymous verse in Sextus Empiricus Adversus Mathematicos bk. I, sect. 287

A miss is as good as a mile.
the syntax has been distorted by abridgement: the original form was ‘an inch in a miss is as good as an ell’

-early 17th

Money talks.
-mid 17th

More people know Tom Fool than Tom Fool knows.
-mid 17th

The mother of mischief is no bigger than a midge’s wing.
-early 17th

My son is my son till he gets him a wife, but my daughter’s my daughter all the days of her life.
-late 17th

Never let the sun go down on your anger.
-mid 17th

Nine tailors make a man.
the literal meaning is that a gentleman must select his attire from various sources; it is now also associated with bell-ringing: tailors = tellers = strokes, the number of strokes on the passing bell indicating the sex of the deceased

-early 17th

No news is good news.
-early 17th

None but the brave deserve the fair.
-late 17th

Nothing should be done in haste but gripping a flea.
-mid 17th

Nothing so bold as a blind mare.
-early 17th

Nothing venture, nothing gain.
-early 17th

Offenders never pardon.
-mid 17th

Once a—, always a—
-the formula is found from the early 17th century

Once a whore, always a whore.
-early 17th

One half of the world does not know how the other half lives.
-early 17th

One hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two after.
-mid 17th

One might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.
-late 17th

One wedding brings another.
-mid 17th

Out of debt, out of danger.
-mid 17th

Parsley seed goes nine times to the Devil.
-mid 17th

A penny saved is a penny earned.
-mid 17th

Penny wise and pound foolish.
-early 17th

Pity is akin to love.
-early 17th

A place for everything, and everything in its place.
-mid 17th; often associated with Samuel Smiles and Mrs Beeton

Please your eye and plague your heart.
-early 17th

Possession is nine points of the law.
-early 17th

Prevention is better than cure.
-early 17th

Pride feels no pain.
-early 17th

Promises, like pie-crust, are made to be broken.
-late 17th

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.
-early 17th

Saint Swithun’s day, if thou be fair, for forty days it will remain; Saint Swithun’s day, if thou bring rain, for forty days it will remain
Saint Swithun’s day is 15 July
-early 17th

The sea refuses no river.
-early 17th

Seeing is believing.
-early 17th

Self-preservation is the first law of nature.
-early 17th

Set a thief to catch a thief.
-mid 17th

Sing before breakfast, cry before night.
-early 17th

Six hours sleep for a man, seven for a woman, and eight for a fool.
-early 17th

Slow but sure.
-late 17th

So many mists in March, so many frosts in May.
-early 17th

Sow dry and set wet.
-mid 17th

Spare at the spigot, and let out the bung-hole.
-mid 17th

Speak not of my debts unless you mean to pay them.
-mid 17th

Stolen fruit is sweet.
-early 17th

Stone-dead hath no fellow.
-mid 17th

Straws tell which way the wind blows.
-mid 17th

A stream cannot rise above its source.
-mid 17th

Sue a beggar and catch a louse.
-mid 17th

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly.
beekeepers’ saying

-mid 17th

Take the goods the gods provide.
-late 17th

Talk of the Devil, and he is bound to appear.
-mid 17th

There are more ways of killing a dog than hanging it.
-late 17th

There are no birds in last year’s nest.
-early 17th

There are tricks in every trade.
-early 17th

There is luck in leisure.
-late 17th

There is no little enemy.
-mid 17th

There is nothing like leather.
-late 17th

There is reason in the roasting of eggs.
-mid 17th

There is safety in numbers.
-late 17th

There’s no great loss without some gain.
-mid 17th

They that dance must pay the fiddler.
-mid 17th

They that live longest, see most.
-early 17th

Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
-mid 17th

Thrift is a great revenue.
-mid 17th

Throw dirt enough, and some will stick.
-mid 17th

Today you; tomorrow me.
-early 17th

Two of a trade never agree.
-early 17th

Union is strength.
-mid 17th

Walnuts and pears you plant for your heirs.
-mid 17th

Wedlock is a padlock.
-late 17th

What is new cannot be true.
-mid 17th

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
-late 17th

When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war.
-late 17th

When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out of the window.
-early 17th

When the cat’s away, the mice will play.
-early 17th

When the wind is in the east, ‘tis neither good for man nor beast.
-early 17th

Where bees are, there is honey.
-early 17th

Where there’s a will there’s a way.
-mid 17th

Where there’s muck there’s brass.
-late 17th

Who won’t be ruled by the rudder must be ruled by the rock.
-mid 17th

Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad.
-early 17th, earlier in Greek

Whosoever draws his sword against the prince must throw the scabbard away.
-early 17th

Why buy a cow when milk is so cheap?
-mid 17th

Winter never rots in the sky.
-early 17th

You buy land, you buy stones; you buy meat, you buy bones.
-late 17th

You cannot get blood from a stone.
-mid 17th

You cannot make bricks without straw.
-mid 17th

You never miss the water till the well runs dry.
-early 17th

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

 

 



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