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Greek Proverbs: Little Pearls of Wisdom

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Some people say that proverbs are the accumulated wisdom of a culture. Indeed, most Greek proverbs can be used in a wide variety of situations and can really make a difference when used at the right moment. Greek proverbs also incorporate many cultural elements, so studying them is a great way to dive deeper into the Greek culture and expand your vocabulary.

In this blog post, we’ll present you with the most popular Greek proverbs, along with their translations and meanings. Feel free to use them while chatting with your Greek friends—it’s sure to impress them!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Greek Table of Contents
  1. Animal-Related Greek Proverbs
  2. Greek Proverbs About Time
  3. Greek Proverbs About Education & Language
  4. Greek Proverbs About Caution
  5. Miscellaneous Greek Proverbs
  6. Conclusion

1. Animal-Related Greek Proverbs

Various Animals

Sometimes, we can see aspects of our own lives reflected in the animal world. Here are a few popular Greek proverbs featuring animals—can you relate to any of these? 

Greek ProverbΕίπε ο γάιδαρος τον πετεινό κεφάλα.
RomanizationÍpe o gáidaros ton petíno kefála.
Translation“The donkey called the rooster big-headed.”
NotesThe word πετεινός (petinós) is a synonym of κόκορας (kókoras), both meaning “rooster.” Nowadays, it’s more common to use the latter.
Context of UsageThis proverb is often said between friends in a humorous context, when the one is mocking the other about a characteristic that the two share.

Greek ProverbΌταν λείπει η γάτα, χορεύουν τα ποντίκια.
RomanizationÓtan lípi i gáta, horévun ta podíkia.
Translation“When the cat’s away, the mice dance.”
NotesIn Greek, it’s common to use the word λείπω (lípo) as an equivalent of “to be away.” Literally, in other cases, it may also be translated as “to miss” or “to be missed.”
Context of UsageImagine taking care of a younger sibling for a while when your parents are away. When the child realizes that the parents are gone, (s)he starts to do all the “forbidden” things, such as eating a lot of chocolate or being extremely loud. In cases like this, you could use the proverb.

Greek ProverbΗ καμήλα δεν βλέπει την καμπούρα της.
RomanizationI kamíla den vlépi tin kabúra tis.
Translation“The camel can’t see its own hump.”
Context of UsageYou might use this saying when someone is harshly criticizing someone else, without thinking of their own disadvantages or faults.

Greek ProverbΕγώ το είπα στον σκύλο μου και ο σκύλος στην ουρά του.
RomanizationEgó to ípa ston skílo mu ke o skílos stin urá tu.
Translation“I said this to my dog and my dog said it to its tail.”
Context of UsageSomeone could say this when your mother asks you to do something, and you then make someone else do it instead.

Greek ProverbΌσα δεν φτάνει η αλεπού, τα κάνει κρεμαστάρια.
RomanizationÓsa den ftáni i alepú, ta káni kremastária.
Translation“What the fox cannot reach, it turns them into hangers.”
Context of UsageThis proverb refers to a situation where someone tends to derogate someone else’s achievements because, deep down inside, they know they can’t achieve the same things. This phrase is most commonly used in an ironic tone.

Greek ProverbΈνας κούκος δεν φέρνει την άνοιξη.
RomanizationÉnas kúkos den férni tin ánixi.
Translation“A cuckoo bird does not bring the spring.”
Context of UsageThis proverb might be used when someone sees a positive indication of something and quickly believes that the end result will also be positive.

➤ Learn more about animals’ names in Greek by studying our relevant vocabulary list or our video on Common Animals in the Park

2. Greek Proverbs About Time

A Woman Holding and Pointing to a Clock

Our lives are encompassed by time, and this fact has drawn much speculation from great thinkers and entire societies the world over. Below are some common Greek-language proverbs on the topic of time. 

Greek ProverbΟ χρόνος είναι ο καλύτερος γιατρός.
RomanizationO hrónos íne o kalíteros yatrós.
Translation“Time is the best doctor.”
Context of UsageWhen a friend of yours gets hurt or breaks up with their partner, you could say this phrase to make him or her feel better.

Greek ProverbΤο καλό πράγμα αργεί να γίνει.
RomanizationTo kaló prágma aryí na gíni.
Translation“The good thing takes time to happen.”
Context of UsageYou might use this proverb when a friend of yours grows disappointed about the progress of his plans. It would be an encouraging way to say that everything will be great in the long run. 

Greek ProverbΚάλλιο αργά παρά ποτέ.
RomanizationKálio argá pará poté.
Translation“Better late than never.”
NotesThe word κάλλιο (kálio) is a rarely used informal version of the adverb καλύτερα (kalítera), both meaning “better.”
Context of UsageLet’s say your mother decides to go back to school in order to follow her dreams. It’s obviously better to do something later in life than to not do anything at all. 

Greek ProverbΌποιος δεν θέλει να ζυμώσει, δέκα μέρες κοσκινίζει.
RomanizationÓpios den théli na zimósi, déka méres koskinízi.
Translation“Whoever does not want to knead, sifts for ten days.”
Context of UsageYou might say this to motivate a friend of yours who’s procrastinating to take action.

Greek ProverbΑγάλι-αγάλι γίνεται η αγουρίδα μέλι.
RomanizationAgáli-agáli yínete i agourída méli.
Translation“The unripe grape becomes sweet like honey slowly-slowly.”
NotesThe phrase αγάλι-αγάλι (agáli-agáli) means “slowly-slowly.”
Context of UsageThis proverb would be encouraging to say to a friend who’s disappointed with the progress of their plans. It would reassure them that they will achieve their goals.

Greek ProverbΜάτια που δεν βλέπονται γρήγορα λησμονιούνται.
RomanizationMátia pu den vlépode grígora lismoniúde.
Translation“Eyes that don’t see each other frequently are soon forgotten.”
NotesThe verb λησμονώ (lizmonó) is not that common and we could say that it hasn’t got an exact equivalent in English. It’s something between “to forget (someone or something)” and “to fade into oblivion.”
Context of UsageImagine if you used to hang out with a friend every day, but as soon as one of you goes abroad for a long period, you don’t even text or think of each other much.

➤ Memorizing these time-related proverbs will be an impressive feat, but don’t stop there. Learn how to tell the time in Greek today!

3. Greek Proverbs About Education & Language

Some Books and a Graduation Hat on Top of Them

Education and learning have long been an integral part of Greek life, with formal schooling dating back to Ancient Greece. Here are just a few Greek proverbs and sayings on the topic! 

Greek ProverbΗ γλώσσα κόκαλα δεν έχει και κόκαλα τσακίζει.
RomanizationI glósa kókala den éhi ke kókala tsakízi.
Translation“The tongue has no bones but it crushes bones.”
NotesIn Greek, we usually say σπάω κόκαλα (spáo kókala), meaning “to break bones.” This is a special occasion where the verb τσακίζω (tsakízo) is used instead.
Context of UsageThis is often said when someone says really hurtful words to another person.

Greek ProverbΤα πολλά λόγια είναι φτώχεια.
RomanizationTa polá lógia íne ftóhia.
Translation“Many words are poverty.” (“Silence is golden.”)
NotesLiterally, the word φτώχεια (ftóhia) means “poverty.” Greeks appreciate getting the message across with as few words as possible.
Context of UsageYou might say this when someone keeps babbling without getting to the point.

Greek ProverbΆνθρωπος αγράμματος, ξύλο απελέκητο.
RomanizationÁnthropos agrámatos, xílo apelékito.
Translation“Illiterate man, row wood.”
Context of UsageThis saying is used to describe someone who is ignorant due to lack of education. It’s considered an insult, so use it carefully.

Greek ProverbΔάσκαλε που δίδασκες και νόμο δεν εκράττεις.
RomanizationDáskale pu dídaskes ke nómo den ekrátis.
Translation“Oh, teacher that you taught but you don’t implement your teachings.”
NotesThe verb εκράττεις (ekrátis) is an older form of the verb κρατώ (krató), meaning “to hold” or “to keep.”
Context of UsageYou could use this saying when a friend of yours does not implement his own advice. 

4. Greek Proverbs About Caution

A Man Who Has Slipped on a Wet Floor

While it’s good to look for the best in people and to make the most of every situation, it’s also crucial to practice caution and common sense. Below are a few common Greek proverbs used to advise caution. 

Greek ProverbΟ διάβολος έχει πολλά ποδάρια.
RomanizationO diávolos éhi polá podária.
Translation“The devil has many legs.”
NotesThis phrase aims to highlight that evil can take many forms.
Context of UsageWhen a friend of yours has just faced a difficult situation and thinks that it’s totally over, you could advise him to keep alert by using this phrase.

Greek ProverbΌπου ακούς πολλά κεράσια, κράτα μικρό καλάθι.
RomanizationÓpu akús polá kerásia, kráta mikró kaláthi.
Translation“When you hear about many cherries, hold a small basket.”
Context of UsageWhen a friend of yours gets overly excited about an event or an opportunity, you might want to tell him to be more cautious and not to expect too much. 

Greek ProverbΌποιος βιάζεται σκοντάφτει.
RomanizationÓpios viázete skondáfti.
Translation“Whoever is in a hurry stumbles.”
Context of UsageWhen a friend of yours is doing something in a hurry that requires concentration and attention to detail, you might use this proverb to warn them that the end result will not be good.

Greek ProverbΌταν καείς από τον χυλό, φυσάς και το γιαούρτι.
RomanizationÓtan kaís apó ton hiló, fysás ke to yaúrti.
Translation“When you get burned by porridge, you also blow the yogurt.”
Context of UsageThis proverb is used to describe someone who has already faced some difficult situations and gotten hurt. Now, when a seemingly good situation arises, that person will continue to act cautious to avoid being hurt again. 

5. Miscellaneous Greek Proverbs

A Traditional Greek Dance
Greek ProverbΈξω από τον χορό πολλά τραγούδια λέγονται.
RomanizationÉxo apó ton horó polá tragúdia légode.
Translation“Outside the dance-circle many songs are sung.”
NotesThis phrase is inspired by Greek celebrations, which often include group dancing in a circle.
Context of UsageYou might say this phrase after someone gives advice on a difficult situation they’ve never experienced.

➤ Interested in Greek music? Take a look at the Top 10 Greek Songs

Greek ProverbΟι πολλές γνώμες βουλιάζουν το καράβι.
RomanizationI polés gnómes vuliázun to karávi.
Translation“Too many opinions sink the boat.”
Context of UsageThis saying refers to a group of people who are trying to make a decision, but each person has a different opinion. It’s usually said by someone who undertakes to find the option that’s best for everyone.

Greek ProverbΣπίτι μου, σπιτάκι μου και σπιτοκαλυβάκι μου.
RomanizationSpíti mu, spitáki mu ke spitokaliváki mu.
Translation“My home, my sweet home, my sweet hut.”
NotesThis phrase is equivalent to the English phrase, “Home, sweet home.”
Context of UsageComing home after a long time away will definitely make you want to say this phrase. 

➤ Wondering how to describe your home’s interior in Greek? Take a look at our relevant vocabulary list for some useful words! 

Greek ProverbΑγαπά ο Θεός τον κλέφτη, αγαπά και τον νοικοκύρη.
RomanizationAgapá o Theós ton kléfti, agapá ke ton nikokíri.
Translation“God loves the thief, but He also loves the homeowner.”
NotesThis proverb aims to highlight that evil might take over temporarily, but good reigns in the end. 
Context of UsageNext time you’re referring to someone who does not act appropriately, you could use this phrase to express that he’ll get discovered or punished eventually. 

Greek ProverbΑπό αγκάθι βγαίνει ρόδο και από ρόδο αγκάθι.
RomanizationApó angáthi vyéni ródo ke apó ródo angáthi.
Translation“A rose comes out of a thorn and a thorn comes out of a rose.”
NotesThis phrase presents the general truth that a person should not be characterized as good or bad based on their parents’ character.
Context of UsageThis would be an apt phrase to use when a very talented child is born to not-so-talented parents, or vice-versa.

Greek ProverbΚράτα με να σε κρατώ να ανεβούμε το βουνό.
RomanizationKráta me na se krató na anevúme to vunó.
Translation“Hold my hand and I’ll hold yours so we can climb the mountain.”
NotesThis proverb is here to remind us that cooperation results in greater achievements.
Context of UsageYou could say this when you have a very difficult group assignment, but you want to encourage your partners.

Greek ProverbΜπρος γκρεμός και πίσω ρέμα.
RomanizationBros gremós ke píso réma.
Translation“Cliff in front and stream behind.”
NotesThe word μπρος (bros) is an informal, shortened version of the word εμπρός (embrós), meaning “in the front.”
Context of UsageYou could say this when you feel trapped in a dilemma and the choices you have available seem to be equally bad.

Greek ProverbΤο μήλο κάτω από τη μηλιά θα πέσει.
RomanizationTo mílo káto apó ti miliá tha pési.
Translation“The apple will fall right below the apple tree.”
Context of UsageWhen a child has inherited a skill or a bad habit from their parents, you could use this phrase in order to state that it was to be expected.

➤ Speaking of apples, here are the names of more Fruits and Vegetables in Greek! 

Greek ProverbΗ καλή μέρα από το πρωί φαίνεται.
RomanizationI kalí méra apó to proí fénete.
Translation“You can tell a good day from the morning.”
Context of UsagePessimists often say this phrase when something bad happens early in the morning, believing that more bad things will come later in the day. This use denotes sarcasm, but it could also be used in a non-sarcastic way when something good happens.

Greek ProverbΈγιναν από δυο χωριά χωριάτες.
RomanizationÉyinan apó dio horiá horiátes.
Translation“They became villagers from two different villages.”
Context of UsageThis saying refers to two people who have quarrelled so much that they don’t talk to each other anymore. It’s also used simply to underline the intensity of an argument.

6. Conclusion

Now you have at your fingertips some of the most popular Greek proverbs to memorize. By studying them, you’ll gain more fluency as well as a better understanding of Greek culture as a whole.

Do you know any other Greek proverbs? Which one is your favorite? 

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Until next time, happy learning! 

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