Scottish Proverbs

By | July 7, 2016

Sayings of Scottish origin

A man is a lion in his own cause.

Little wit o’ the head gives the feet much to do.

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

Every man to his taste, as the man said when he kissed his cow.

A table without bread is not a table but bread is a table on its own.

It ill becomes a carpenter to be heavy-handed, a smith to be shake-handed, or a physician to be tenderhearted.

The medicine that hurts the most is generally the best healer.

A house without a dog, a cat, or a little child is a house without joy or laughter.

Be a friend to yourself and others will.

One for sorrow, two for joy.

A cock is valiant on his own dunghill.

He goes long barefoot that waits for dead men’s shoes.

It is better to have broken Gaelic than dead Gaelic.

Forbid a fool a thing and that he will do.

A wise lawyer never goes to law himself.

Friends are lost by calling often and calling seldom.

Willful waste makes woeful want.

When it comes on one it comes on all.

They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.

A good tale never tires in the telling.

Never draw your dirk when a blow will do it.

If ye had as little money as ye have manners, ye would be the poorest man of all your kin.

Diet cures more than doctors.

A dry lent, a fertile year.

You will never know a man till you do business with him.


Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It shares a border with England to the south, and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the south-west. In addition to the mainland, the country is made up of more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 local government council areas. Located in Lothian on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, it is the second most populous city in Scotland and the seventh most populous in the United Kingdom.

The main language spoken in Scotland is English, while Scots and Scottish Gaelic are minority languages. The dialect of English spoken in Scotland is referred to as Scottish English. (An excerpt from Wikipedia)

More Scots Proverbs & Sayings

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

A bad wound may heal, but a bad name will kill.

Give you an inch and you’ll take a yard .

Pay him in his own coin.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

Plenty makes dainty!

Do as the lassies do – say “no” and take it.

A black hen lays a white egg…

A child may have too much of his mother’s blessing.

He has licked the butter off my bread.

A new walk in an old field.

Of two ills, choose the least.

Fools look to tomorrow; wise men use tonight.

The day has eyes, the night has ears.

They that dance must pay the fiddler.

Such mother, such daughter.

It’s sin and not poverty that makes men miserable.

A plump widow needs no advertisement.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

He that lives upon hope has a slim diet.

A hungry stomach is aye craving.

That put the red kite among the hens.

Choose your wife with her nightcap on.

Self-assurance is two thirds of success.

Never marry for money. You can borrow it cheaper.

Ye may not sit in Rome and strive with the Pope.

The cure may be worse than the disease.

In this context, “May” is the Mayflower or Hawthorn, which blooms well before the end of May.

He that loves law will soon get his fill of it.

Three things come without being wanted, age, love, and rheumatism.

A nod of an honest man is good enough.

From saving comes having.

They are good that are away.

They that live longest, see most.

Listen to the wind upon the hill till the waters abate.

Better the day, the better deed.

Egotism is an alphabet of one letter.

One glass, not the better and not the worse my body or my soul of it. Two glasses, the better my body of it and not the worse my soul of it. Three glasses, the worse my soul of it and not the better my body of it.

False friends are worst than bitter enemies.

A gloved cat was never a good hunter.

He’s as welcome as water in a holed ship.

We’ll never know the worth of water till the well go dry.

Understand the boat and the boat will understand you.

When wine sinks words swim.

Twelve highlanders and a bagpipe make a rebellion.

If the Devil were dead, folk would do little for God’s sake.

Better be ill spoken of by one before all than by all before one.

If the cat is away, the mice play.

With violets and goats’ milk anoint your face, and every king’s son in the world will be after you.

The best mirror is a friend’s eye.

Laws catch flies, but let hornets go free.

Money is better than my lord’s letter.

A man’s best fortune or his worst is a wife.

A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse.

The people meet each other but the hills do not.

They that smell least smell best.

A cold needs the cook as much as the doctor.

Slippery is the flagstone at the mansion-house door.

May God bless you to live as long as you want to; and want to as long as you live!

You may as well keep your breath to cool your porridge.

None but a dog eats his fill.

There never came ill of good advisement.

Nobody can serve two masters.

Good company on a journey is worth a coach.

Time and tide will tarry on no man.

A muffled cat was ne’er a good hunter…

It is an ill cause that the lawyers think shame of.

Penny wise and pound foolish.

Confession is good for the soul.

A begun turn is half ended.

Never show your teeth unless you can bite.

Law’s costly — take a pint and agree.

Better half hanged than ill married.

A day to come seems longer than a year that’s gone.

It’s an ill cause that a lawyer thinks shame of.

And seven for a secret that must never be told.

A dry simmer ne’er made a dear peck.

Perfect love cannot be without equality.

Better to be off with the old love before we be on with the new.

Three for a girl, four for a boy.

Who wants to lick honey must not shy away from the bees.

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

Learn young, learn fair; learn old, learn more.

Praise the fine day in the evening.

What we first learn we best know.

Ye can’t make a silk purse of a pig’s ear.

Either a man or a mouse.

While a person gets they can never lose.

When the cup is full, carry it even.

A friend by thee is better than a brother far off.

The Devil’s a busy bishop in his own diocese.

Take care of your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves.

Better to be a cuckold and not know it than to not be one and everybody say so.

Three that come unbidden – love, jealousy and fear.

If I had a dog as daft, I would shoot him.

Repentance won’t cure mischief.

A slothful man is a beggar’s brother.

A light purse makes a heavy heart.

A turn well done is soon done.

A great boaster is rarely a great performer.

When one door sticks, another one opens.

Forsake not God till you find a better master.

Confessed faults are half-mended.

A proud mind and an empty purse grow ill together.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

The geese will tell it in autumn.

All that’s said in the kitchen should not be told in the hall.

It is the milk of the goat foaming and warm, that gave the strength to the past generations of people.

A bold foe is better than a cowardly friend.

War makes thieves, and peace hangs them.

To heal all disease, take garlic and May butter; drink along with that white goats’ milk.

One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Waves will rise on silent water.

Prayer and practice is good rhyme.

He can make a church or a mill of it.

A shored tree stands long.

Whisky may not cure the common cold, but it fails more agreeably than most other things.

A crook in the forth is worth an earldom in the north.

A liar should have a good memory.

When the heart is full the tongue will speak.

Better bend than break.

A fu’ purse never lacks friends.

It’s sin and not poverty that makes men miserable.

Better keep the devil at the door than have to turn him out of the house.

A tale never loses in the telling.

A rich man’s wooing need seldom be a long one.

A pound of care will not pay an ounce of debt.

Get what you can and keep what you have; that’s the way to get rich.

Never take a wife till you know what to do with her.

Big fish eat little fish.

Many a good tale is spoiled in the telling.

If the doctor cures, the sun sees it; if he kills, the earth hides it.

A close mouth catches no fleas.

A man of words, but no deeds, is like a garden full of weeds.

A thread will tie an honest man better than a chain a rogue.

One whisky is all right; two is too much; three is too few.

Carelessness is worse than a thieve.

Five for silver, six for gold,

A new besom sweeps clean.

It’s a sad house where the hen crows louder than the cock.

He that teaches himself has a fool for a master.

One may survive distress, but not disgrace.

What cannot be cured must be endured.

There’s no medicine for fear.

If you don’t see the bottom, don’t wade.

Often has a shoemaker’s wife had bad shoes.

No fool like an auld fool.

A blate cat makes a proud mouse.

Monday is the key day of the week.

Hours are time’s shafts, and one comes winged with death.

He’s the slave of all slaves who serve’s none but himself.

Where vice is vengeance follows.

Wink at small faults, for you have great ones yourself.

The Devil’s boots don’t creak.

Better wear out shoes than sheets.

Money is flat and was meant to be piled up.

There isn’t a flood which will not subside.

A penny saved is a penny gained.

Double drinks are good for thirst.

Open confession is good for the soul.

Birds of a feather flock together.

Luck never gives; it only lends.

They that will not be counseled cannot be helped.

A bad reaper never gets a good sickle.

A hungry man smells meat far.

If you want to live a life that is long, don’t get between she who is red haired and a rock.

To marry is to halve your rights and double your duties.

A misty morning may become a clear day.

A man at forty is either a fool or a physician.

Modesty is the beauty of women.

A good word is as soon said as an ill one.

Danger and delight grow on one stalk.

A taking hand will never want…

A fair exchange is no robbery.

I would as soon see your nose be cheese, and the cat get the first bite of it.

Such father, such son.

The wise make jests and fools repeat them.

Never let your feet run faster than your shoes.

Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead.

Married folk are like rats in a trap — fain to get others in, but fain to be out themselves.

Bad shoes on a shoemaker’s wife, bad horseshoes on a smithy’s horse, bad trousers on a tailor’s son, a bad cart at a jointer.

Better to be alone than in bad company.

A blind man needs no looking glass.

A bird in the hand’s worth two fleeing by.

Every man’s tale is good till another’s be told.

Glasses and lasses are fragile ware!

Any port in a storm.

Fools make feasts and wise men eat them,

Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.

They talk of my drinking but never my thirst.

In at one ear and out at the other.

Peace is the well from which the stream of joy runs.

It’s an ill cause that a lawyer thinks shame of.

Were it not for hope the heart would break.

There never was a five-pound note but there was a ten-pound road for it.

Enough’s as good as a feast.

He that peeks through a keyhole may see what will vex him.

What may be done at any time will be done at no time.

There is no official national anthem of Scotland. However, a number of songs are used as unofficial Scottish anthems, most notably “Scotland the Brave”, “Flower of Scotland”, and “Scots Wha Hae”.

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