Common proverbs in English with meaning & explanation

In day-to-day living proverbs makes expression easy to express. Their are several proverbs available in various languages. In this session let us share Common proverbs in English with explanation.

Empty vessel sounds much

An empty vessel, if striken, sounds like a drum, but when full of water or any other substance it is silent. So also is the character of human beings. A man without knowledge shows his false pedantry. A woman without beauty uses much of cosmetics and a poor man talks highly of himself very often. But persons of real wisdom, beauty and wealth are modest and considerate. They know what they are and feel no need of propaganda. It is said in Sanskrit that trees, when full of fruits, bow down their branches, and floating clouds when full of water-vapour, come down. But fruitless trees and dry clouds are always light and stiff. Tiny fishes in a pond or river very often come upwards. But big ones remain inside. A dog tries to chase an elephant which can smash it within a moment The worthier you become, the heavier you are. Thus it is justified to say that empty vessel sounds much.

Life is but an empty dream

In our day-to-day life we are closely attached to the objects of world and to our near and dear ones. We think, our life is but for our parents, wives, children and friends. At their death we feel the loss of our life and their well-being brings us the joy of heaven. We are so self-centred and in a way, blind to the nature of the world that we rarely speculate over the truth. Sometimes these make-beliefs are broken by hard stroke of profound realization through either serious suffering or sincere contemplation. Our relatives seem all selfish and the objects mundane. Sometimes the dearest beloved happens to be notoriously faithless and when we are penniless after year’s enjoyment our intimate friends leave us. All our hopes and desire seem then useless and empty like the dream. What Mecbeth realised through utter frustration, Sankara did that through constant meditation.

The proper study of mankind is man

This is the motto of the humanists that every man should consider life philosophically. They think that man is the crown of creation….., the utmost success of the divine creator. With his conscience and power of speculation he is next to the divine beings. Not only that he is the microcosm but also the macrocosm in a smaller scale. The Indian Yogis believe that whatever is found in the three worlds, is present within this human body. The soul is the principle of consciousness and the body of flesh and bones is constituted of the five gross materials… earth, water, fire, air and sky. These are the constituents of the universe too. So one can get perfect knowledge of the whole universe if he meditates upon himself. This idea awoke the Indians who gave the slogan… “atmanam viddhi” in the beginning of their ‘culture, and Socrates awoke his fellow-thinkers with his sublime realisation ‘know thyself’ which is echoed in the present title by Alexander Pope, a humanist of eighteenth century.

A child is the father of man

Aristotelian philosophy says that a child is a becoming man. The difference between childhood and manhood is not so much of quality as much of quantity. Most of the signs of a full–fledged personality are present in a child in dormant condition .But suitable environment is necessary to nourish and develop these signs as a sprout must be kept in favourable atmosphere for its growth. As a lump of clay can be moulded properly only in its moistured state so is the state of childhood. It is in this stage that all the good things must be cheered up and bad ones driven away carefully. Washington’s love for truth, the Buddha’s detachment and Sankara’s talent all were marked in their childhood and persisted throughout their life, although change may come this way or that way in accordance with the dynamic nature of man’s growth.

Too much of anything is good for nothing

Too much of anything is always bad. Food nourishes our body, but too much of it causes indigestion. Sometimes wine serves health, but too much of it damages the body. Lemon tastes sour and helps digestion, but too much squeezing tastes it bitter. Wealth brings prosperity, but too much of it brings disaster through pride and prodigality. Ambition is a must for human life, but too much of it makes one abnormal. Similarly all other human values…. charity, love and sympathy etc. are harmful if used too much. This idea is well illustrated by Chanakya…. the golden city of Ceylon was destroyed for too much pride of Ravan. The Kauravas were killed as they become too much prestige conscious and Bali, the king of giants was suppressed to the under world for his excessive charity.

Where there is a will there is a way

Will or desire is the root of all creation. It is sung by the rig Vedic sages that only desire was there before the cosmic creation, and it is thence that the whole universe has sprung forth. Without desire there is no life and no work. If human beings have advanced over the brutes it is only for their power to will. And where there is a strong will, a firm determination, success is at hand. The stories of the thirsty crow, which drank water by putting pebbles into the jug, of the old hungry tiger which deceived a greedy Brahmin passed by with a piece of golden bracelet, and of the fox which cheated a crow with a piece of meat, sufficiently prove that it is the strength of will which is more important than that of body and when even the lower animals can achieve success by such strong desire, ,what to tell of human beings? Strong will definitely finds a way.

No pains no gains

Desire is very easy, but achievement is very difficult. No pain is required to build a castle in air or to ride horses in dream. But in the real world construction of buildings and riding on horses require both money and labour. One must undergo a lot of pains before an achievement. The more valuable is one’s success the more painful is its process. Rome was not built in a day, nor did Shakespeare became so famous a dramatist overnight. Periclean art, wisdom of the Buddha and glory of the Victorian Empire were due to pains of years. Gandhi’s non-violence, Tagore’s poetic genius and Gopabandhu’s sacrifice all were not the result of only a day’s effort. It took toils of years together. It is this practice which makes a man and a nation, not dreams or imagination; and practice is always painful. A rose without thorn is an object of dream, but not of real achievement.

Slow and steady wins the race

The winner in a race starts very slowly. He almost lags behind others just at the outset. But gradually he increases his speed and with all his patients and strength he overthrows all his competitors at last. Human life is like a race where all the beings are competitors. Their failures are many, because patience and perseverance are rare. A meteor flashes all its light for a moment, and fades just after, but the sun shines gradually, rises slowly up to the apex. So does a man of genius to compete in the life-race. He does not show himself up all on a sudden, but stores his vitality and strength through constant practice, observes others power and skill, gathers experience and knowledge. Then he starts. He emits rays when others fade and wins the race when others fail. His process is slow but he steps steadily.

Failures are pillars of success

A baby just born cannot stand erect, nor does walk steadily. He takes a long period, full of failures of stand, walk and talk. He tries and tries until full success. The more he fails in his effort the more is his zeal for success. So is the path of man’s construction of personality. Psychologists assert that men learn by a trial and error method. Without erring one cannot earn knowledge and without failure one cannot enjoy the bliss of success. It is these failures that make a man perfect by cheering him up in every stage of his construction. A Sanskrit aphorism says that a coward is he who does not even start the work being afraid of failures and he belongs to the middle rank who starts the work, but leaves it before facing failures, while the ideal man never leaves the job even amidst thousands of failures until he wins full success. In fact failures pave the way for success.

Example is better than precept

To advise is very easy, but to work out the advice is very difficult. Life is full of actions, not of speeches only. Thought, speech and action…..these three are equally necessary for the construction of personality. Action is the most important of all these three. So it is our duty to think well, to speak well and to do well. Ideal personality is not a matter of ideal thought and speeches only. These must be performed in action. So before advising others one should work it out himself and in fact, the example that he sets, will influence others much better than his advice. Today our social, political and educational leaders advise giving long lectures on our duties to society, state, and academic institutions. But all their talks are futile for they themselves are involved in corruption. So it is better that before preaching they should work out their precepts. It is for this principle that all the leaders like Buddha, Christ and Gandhi are ideal today.

Prevention is better than cure

Once we diseased, it is very difficult to get cured fully. Sometimes one may not get cured, if cured, one has to undergo a lot of pains and heavy monetary loss. So it is better to take preventive measures always, which will save us from unnecessary troubles. When epidemic spreads in a locality experienced doctors give more attention to prevent the germs from entering into our organic systems than to cure the patients actually suffering. This principle is fruitful in every field of life. We may be robbed of our treasure, may be penalized for the delay in paying the government rents of may fall a prey to the government in not obeying its rules either consciously or unconsciously. On all these occasions recovery becomes difficult. If carefully we prevent the dangers by our fore-thoughts, certainly we shall be little disturbed. Thus it is justified to say that prevention is much better then cure.

Health is wealth

It is said in Sanskrit that first we should take care of body and then practice religion. This is quite true. Without body there is no consciousness, no soul, no mind and hence no life at all. Thus body must be first looked after. It must be healthy, otherwise no achievement either material or spiritual is possible. But body should not be taken here to mean simply the unity of flesh, blood and bones. It indicates the whole psycho-physical organism and health explains the soundness of both mind and body and their happy co-ordinations. Similarly, wealth does not mean merely the material affluence. It denotes all the achievements by our faculties of reason and sensibility, i.e., prosperity in general. Thus health is wealth not in the sense that a healthy person becomes wealthy automatically. Health enables him to practice his power and genius, subsequently he gains wealth.