Reference > Quotations > W.C. Hazlitt, comp. > English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases
W.C. Hazlitt, comp.  English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases.  1907.
Men apt  to  Necessity is
Men apt to promise are apt to forget.  6194
Men are April when they woo, December when they wed.  6195
Men are never wise but returning from law. W.  6196
Men are not to be measured by inches.  6197
Men are oft merchants without money or ware. DS.  6198
Men catch not a hare with the sound of the drum. W.  6199
Men fear death as children to go in the dark.  6200
Men know how the market goeth by the market-men. HE.
  “Faith, Sir, it is a common saying in our country [Norfolk], ‘You shall know by the market-folks how the market goes.’”—Day’s Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, 1659, ed. Bullen, 98.
Men may bear till their backs break.  6202
Men may blush to hear what they were not ashamed to act.  6203
Men muse as they use.
  A man museth as he vseth.—HE.*
Men must not file iron with a file of wood. HE.*  6205
Men never think their fortune too great nor their wit too little.  6206
Men of cruelty are birds of the devil’s hatching.  6207
Men shut their doors against a setting sun.  6208
Men speak of the fair / as things went with them there. H.  6209
Men that have much business must have much pardon.  6210
Men that venture little hazard little.
  Tarleton’s Newes out of Purgatory, 1590.
Men use to worship the rising sun. CL.
  Plures adorant solem orientem quam occidentem. They that are young and rising have more followers than they that are old and decaying. This consideration, it is thought, withheld Queen Elizabeth, a prudent princess, from declaring her successor.—R.
Men work but slowly that have poor wages.  6213
Mend your clothes, and you may hold out this year. H.  6214
Mends is worth misdeeds.  6215
Men’s actions are not to be judged of at first sight.  6216
Mens sana in corpore sano.  6217
Men’s vows are women’s traitors.  6218
Men’s years and their faults are always more than they are willing to own.  6219
Merchant May’s little summer. Cornw.
  Equivalent to our St. Martin’s little summer.
Mere wishes / are silly fishes.  6221
Merely Sir Martin.
  Warburton (Divine Legation of Moses, 2nd ed. 1738, dedicated to the Freethinkers), alluding to the supposed decline of broad theological views, goes on to say: “But, happy for you gentlemen, you have outlived it: All the rest is merely Sir Martin, ’tis continuing to fumble at the Lute, though the Music has been long over.”—Mr. James Hooper in Notes and Queries.
Merry be the first,
and merry be the last,
and merry be the first of August.
Merry go down.
  This is mentioned in Heywood’s Second Part of Queen Elizabeth’s Troubles, 1606, as a proverbial expression for some cordial drink. It occurs in a similar sense in a tract of 1710.
Merry is the feastmaking till we come to the reckoning.  6225
Merry it is own thing to keep.
  How the Goode Wif, &c., in Hazlitt’s Pop. Poetry, i.
Merry meet, merry part.  6227
Merry Wakefield.
  What peculiar cause of mirth this town hath above others, I do not know, and dare not too curiously inquire. Sure it is seated in a fruitful soil, and cheap country; and where good cheer and company are the premises, mirth (in common consequence) will be the conclusion.—R. Merry = cheerful. Compare Towneley Mysteries, xvi.
Messengers should neither be headed nor hanged.  6229
Mettle is dangerous in a blind horse.  6230
Mice care not to play with kittens.  6231
Michaelmas chickens and parson’s daughters never come to good.  6232
Mickle ado and little help.  6233
Mickle it behoveth him to do that house shall hold.
  How the Goode Wif, &c., ut supra.
Middlesex clowns.
  Because gentry and nobility are respectively observed according to their degree, by people far distant from London, less regarded by these Middlesexians (frequency breeds familiarity), because abounding thereabouts. It is generally true, where the common people are richer, there are they more surly and uncivil: as also where they have less dependence on the gentry, as in places of great trade.—R.
Midsummer moon.
  i.e., Madness. This is the title of a tract attributed to Cleveland, printed in 1648, and of another printed in 1680, Midsummer Moon, or, The Liveryman’s Complaint. The phrase is used by Nash (Have with you to Saffron Walden, 1596, repr. 1869, p. 39).
Might overcometh right. C.
  “Might masters right.”—Whetstone’s Promos and Cassandra, 1578 (Hazlitt’s Shakespear’s Library, vi. 229).
Milk is white,
and lieth not in the dyke,
  but all men know it good meat:
ink is all black,
and hath an ill smack,
  no man will it drink or eat. HE.
Milk says to wine: Welcome, friend. H.  6239
Mills and wives ever want. H.  6240
Mills will not grind if you give them no water.  6241
Mint ere ye strike.  6242
Mira de lente.
  Quoth Hudibras:
        “Thou offerst much
But art not able to keep touch.
Mira di lente, as ’tis i’ th’ adage,
Id est, to make a leek a cabbage.”
Hudibras, Part 1, c. i.    
Mirth and mischief are two things.  6244
Mirth and motion prolong life.  6245
Mischief comes by pounds and goes away by ounces. B. OF M. R.
  I mali vengono à carri e fuggino à onze. Ital.—R.
Misers put their back and their belly into their pocket.  6247
Misery acquaints men with strange bed-fellows.  6248
Misery must be the mother / when one beggar begets another.  6249
Misfortunes come by forties.  6250
Misfortunes come on wings and depart on foot.  6251
Misfortunes seldom come alone [or singly]. WALKER.
  Malheur ne vient jamais seul. Apres perdre perd on bien. When one begins once to lose, one never makes an end. Un mal attire l’autre. One mischief draws on another; or, One mischief falls upon the neck of another. Fortuna nulli obesse contenta est semel.—R.
Misfortunes tell us what fortune is.  6253
Misfortunes when asleep are not to be awakened.  6254
Misreckoning is no payment. HE.  6255
Missionary, Consul, Soldier.
  A saying, which had its source in the popular belief, that the first was only sent out to prepare the way for the second, the second for the third.
Mist in May and heat in June make the harvest right soon.  6257
Misunderstanding brings lies to town.
  This is a good observation: lies and false report arise most part from mistake and misunderstanding. The first hearer mistakes the first reporter in some considerable circumstance or particular; the second him; and so at the last the truth is lost, and a lie passes current.—R.
Mitch ke ditch.
  i.e., Much good may it do you. See N. and Q., 3rd S., iv. 326 and 404; in the latter place it is said to be a Yorkshire phrase.
Mock Beggars Hall.
  See Hazlitt’s Handbook, 1867, p. 397, and the play of Nobody and Somebody, 1606, sign. H 4, verso. Robin Hood’s Stride, or Mock-Beggar’s Hall, is a curious group of rock near Birchoven, in Youlgrave, Derbyshire.
Mock no pannier men; your father was a fisher.  6261
Mock not, quoth Montford, when his wife called him cuckold. F.  6262
Mocking is catching.  6263
Moderate riches will carry you: if you have more, you must carry them.  6264
Modesty ruins all that bring it to court.  6265
Mon mam Cymbry.
  Drayton’s Polyolb., Song 9; and Selden, in his Notes, observes upon Drayton’s line—
        “Was called in former times the country Cambria’s mother”:—
“In the Welsh prouerb Mon mam Cymbry, in such sense as Sicile was stiled Italies store-house, by reason of fertile ground, and plenteous liberality of corne thence yearely supplied. And Girald tells me that this little Isle was wont to be able to furnish all Wales with such prouision, as Snowdon Hills were for Pasture.” The adage or saying is also noticed by Browne in his Pastorals (Works, Roxburghe Library edit., i. 168).
Monday is Sunday’s brother;
Tuesday is such another:
Wednesday you must go to church and pray;
Thursday is half-holiday;
on Friday it is too late to begin to spin;
the Saturday is half-holiday agin. D.
  This occurs in Taylor’s Divers Crab-Tree Lectures, 1639, as pointed out by Mr. Denham. But, of course, the idea is much older. “One asked Tarleton why Munday was called Sundaies fellow? Because he is a sausie fellow, saies Tarlton, to compare with that holy day, &c.”—Tarlton’s Jests, 1638 (Old English Jest-Books, ii. p. 243.)
Money begets money.
  Danari fanno danari. Ital.—R.
Money in purse will be always in fashion.  6269
Money is a good servant but a bad master.  6270
Money is a great traveller in the world. CL.  6271
Money is ace of trumps.  6272
Money is often lost for want of money.  6273
Money is round; it truckles. Cornw.  6274
Money is that art that hath turned up trump.  6275
Money is the best bait to fish for man with.  6276
Money is the sinew of love as well as of war.  6277
Money is welcome though it comes in a dirty clout.  6278
Money is wise, it knows its own way. Somerset.
  Says the poor man, that must pay as soon as he receives.—R.
Money, like manure, does no good till it is spread.  6280
Money makes marriage.
        Amour fait rage,
Mais argent fait mariage. Fr.
Money makes the mare to go.
  Dyke’s English Proverbs, 1709, p. 61.
Money refused loses its brightness. H.  6283
Money we want, and cannot borrow;
yet drink we must, to slacken sorrow.
Money will do more than my lord’s letter.  6285
Money will make the pot boil.  6286
’Mongst many chapmen there are few that buy.
  Heywood’s 2nd Part of Q. Eliz. Troubles, 1606, repr. 81.
Mony laddies mony lownis. Scotish.
  See Hazlitt’s Pop. Poetry of Scotland, i. 195.
Moonshine i’ th’ mustard-pot. CL.  6289
More afraid than hurt. HE.*  6290
More belongs to marriage than four bare legs in a bed.
        “Ye speak right well, guidman,
  but ye maun mend your hand,
And think o’ modesty,
  gin ye’ll no quat your land.
We are but young, ye ken,
  and now we’re gawn the gither,
A house is butt and bern,
  and crummie will want her fother
The bairns are coming on,
  and they’ll cry, O their mither!
We have nouther pat nor pan,
  but four bare legs the gither.”
Maggie’s Tocher, a Song, 1803.    
More cost than worship.  6292
More credit may be thrown down in a moment than can be built up in an age.  6293
More die by food than famine.  6294
More flies are taken with a drop of honey than a ton of vinegar.  6295
More fool than fiddler.  6296
More goes to the making of a fine gentleman than fine clothes.
  This ia exactly in accordance with the distich—
        “Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow:
The rest is all but leather and prunella.”—Pope.
More have repented of speech than of silence.  6298
More kicks than halfpence.
  Said of an unrequited service.
More knave than fool.  6300
More know Tom fool, than Tom fool knows.  6301
More like the devil than St. Lawrence. R.  6302
More lovely than Gwenhwyvar [Guenever].
  Mabinogion, i. 42; Madden’s Sir Gawayne, line 945.
More malice than matter. Somerset.  6304
More nice than wise.  6305
More of More Hall,
with nothing at all,
hath slain the dragon of Wantley.
  Higson’s MSS. Coll., No. 69. These are merely the two concluding lines of the ludicrous ballad of the Dragon of Wantley, in Percy’s Reliques (ed. 1812, iii. 356). More Hall, here referred to, is in the Hundred of West Derby, Lancashire. See Harland and Wilkinson’s Traditions of Lancashire, 1873, p. 264.
More rain, more rest:
more water will suit the ducks best. Cornw.
More sacks to the mill.
  In Love’s Labour’s Lost, written before 1598, iv. 3, this is called “an infant play.” I know nothing further of it, except that it is inserted in some of the collections of adages. At Christ’s Hospital they used to have a game called Bring the Basket, where, in case the boys broke down with the weight of their playfellows scrambling over their backs, a cry was raised of Sacks on the Mill! Perhaps this rather rough sport, which was discontinued on account of its adverse influence on the boys’ clothes, wag the same as Shakespeare’s More sacks to the mill.
More sauce than meat.  6309
More slayeth word than sword.
  Aucren Riwle, ed. Morton, p. 74.
More squeak than wool.
  North’s Life of Lord K. Guildford, 1740.
More than enough breaks the cover. B. OF M. R.  6312
More than we use is more than we want.  6313
More thanks than there are pebbles on Goodwin Sands.
  Don Quixote, by J. Philips, folio, 1687.
More the merrier.
  Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575 (Works, i. 64). Heywood has “The more the merrier,” and so the title of a rare volume of epigrams by Henry Peacham expresses it. The latter form occurs in Rowlands’ Tis merrie when gossips meete, 1602, and is there termed old. In Wit at Several Weapons (Dyce’s Beaum. and Fl., iv. 75), Sir Ruinous Gentry says: Bring all the fops you can, the more the better fare; so the proverb runs backwards.
More to do with one jackanapes than all the bears.  6316
More ways to the wood than one. WALKER.  6317
More wealth passes through Woolwich than any other town in the world.
  Rather, parish. The allusion is to the position of Woolwich by the Thames, N. Woolwich being on the Essex side.
More words than one go to a bargain.  6319
Most [are] blind in their own cause. HE.*  6320
Most men cry, Long live the conqueror.  6321
Most of our evils come from our vices.  6322
Most take all.  6323
Most things have two handles, and a wise man takes hold of the best.  6324
Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are a tempest and hailstorm.  6325
Mother Watkin’s ale.
  The title of an Elizabethan ballad and a phrase used in an obscene sense.
Mothers’ darlings make but milksop heroes.  6327
Mother’s son.
        “I have more dread he will not come,
Than I have of his mother’s son.”
Sir Eger (Hazlitt’s Pop. Scot. Poetry, ii. 171).    
Motions are not marriages.  6329
Mottled and dappled like an April trout.
  Franck’s Northern Memoirs, 1694, p. 80.
Mouse-coloured dun / is the foulest colour under the sun.  6331
Mouth civility is no great pains, but may turn to good account.  6332
Much ado about nothing.
Much better never catch a rogue than let him go again.  6334
Much bran and little meal.
  Muito fallar pouco saber. Port.—R.
Much coin, much care.
  Countryman’s New Commonw., 1647; Walker’s Parœm., 1672, p. 36. Crescentem sequitur cura pecuniam. Horat.
Much compliance, much craft.  6337
Much corn lies under the straw that is not seen.  6338
Much in my nock, Nicols.
  So in Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune, 1589 (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, vi. 242). The exact meaning is not clear; but in the passage cited the speaker seems to wish to say, “I have perhaps something in my nock, nowhere else.” Unless nock stands for notch, and the sense is connected with that part of a spindle. Compare Gascoigne:—
        “The strongest thryd yt euer yet was spoune,
Is nockthrowen yet euen with ye spindles twyst.”
—Works by Hazlitt, ii. 265.    
  It is possible that Nicols may be a misreading for Nockols, an East Anglian name and a form of expression approaching more nearly to nock.
Much is expected where much is given.  6340
Much law, but little justice.  6341
Much luck can come in short time, and we not thinking on it. W.  6342
Much matter / of a wooden platter.  6343
Much meat, much maladies.
  Surfeiting and diseases often attend full tables. Our nation in former times hath been noted for excess in eating.—R.
Much spends the traveller more than the abider. H.  6345
Much would have more. CL.
        “Multa petentibus desunt multa.—Horat.
        “Creverunt et opes et opum furiosa Cupido,
  Ut quo possideant plurima plura petant.
Sic quibus intumuit suffusâ venter ab undâ,
  Quo plus sunt potæ plus sitiuntur aquæ.”—Ovid. Fast.—R.
Sometimes we find added,—“And lost all.”
Muck and money go together.
  Those that are slovenly and dirty usually grow rich; not they that are nice and curious in their diet, houses, and clothes.—R.
Mud chokes no eels.
  See the Gothamite Tales, 1630 (Old English Jest-Books, iii. 9.).
Muddy springs will have muddy streams.  6349
  This appears to have been in Mary’s time a well-understood term for a Popish priest. In the examination of Edward Underhill, the “Hot Gospeller,” before the Council in 1553, where the prisoner is asked whom he regards as Papists, he replies, “I think if you look among the priests in Paul’s, you shall find some old Mumpsimuses there;” upon which Sir John Gage retorts: Mumpsimuses! knave, Mumpsimuses! Thou art an heretic knave, by God’s blood!” See Arber’s Garner, iv. 76. The story of the priest who refused to give up his old mumpsimus for the new sumpsimus is in one of our earliest jest-books.
Murder will out.
  Nevile’s Newes from the New Exchange, 1650, p. 7; title of a tract printed in 1689, 4to, on the death of Lord Essex.
Music helps not the toothache. H.  6352
Must I tell you a tale and find you ears too?  6353
Must is a king’s word.  6354
My belly thinks my throat cut. CL. and WALKER.  6355
My butter cake always falls the butter side down.  6356
My cap is better at ease than my head. HE.*  6357
My Candlemas bond upon you. D.
  See Hone’s Every Day Book, i. 12. The meaning is: You owe me a New Year’s gift.
My cow gave a good meal, but then she cast it. HE.*  6359
My father was born before me.
  A phrase applicable in the case of one who has inherited fortune, and no personal necessity for exertion.
My house, my house, though thou art small,
thou art to me the Escurial. H.
My kiln of malt is on fire. C.  6362
My Lord Baldwin’s dead.
  “It is used when one tells that for news which everybody knows. A Sussex proverb; but who this Lord Baldwin was, I could not learn there.”—R. Queen Anne is dead, used to be another form of this saying.
My Lord Castlecomer. WALPOLE.
  Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny. See Sussex Arch. Coll., xi. 188.
My lord is my lord for a year and a day;
but my lady’s my lady for ever and aye.
  Said of the lord mayor of York and his wife. The mayoralty being an annual office, the holder had his title only for that term; but the lady mayoress by courtesy kept hers.
My market’s made; ye may lick a whip shaft.  6366
My mind to me a kingdom is. CL.
  This saying is quoted by Jonson in The Case is Altered, 1609, supposed to have been written about 1598. See also Breton’s Court and Country, 1618, in Illustrations of Old Manners, by Hazlitt, Roxb. Lib. ed., p. 216.
My mother’s plum-tree.
        “Idlenes.  I was never stained but once,
Falling out of my mother’s plum-tree.
Marriage of Wit and Wisdom [circa 1570], Sh. Soc. ed. 16.    
My name is Twyford; I know nothing of the matter.
  The Spaniards say, No se nada, de mis vinas vengo. Span. When a man will not know or be concerned in what has happened, he pleads that he has been absent at his vineyard.—R. I find this in The New Westminster Wedding, 1693, p. 4. It is an Ipswich tract. Comp. In mine eames peason.
My old mare would have a new crupper. HE.  6370
My son, buy no stocks.
  Good counsel at Gleek.—R.
My son is my son till he have got him a wife,
but my daughter’s my daughter all the days of her life. F.
My son, put money in thy purse, and then keep it.  6373
My wife cries, Five loaves a penny.  6374
Myself can tell best where my shoe doth wring. HE.*  6375
Nab me and I’ll nab thee.
  Compare Ka me, &c., supra.
Naked as a Norfolk dumpling.
  Day’s Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, 1659, ed. Bullen, 35.
Naked as my nail.
  See Nares, edit. 1859, p. 594.
Name not a rope in his house that hanged himself.
  Il ne faut pas parler de corde dans la maison d’un pendu. Fr.—R.
Napping, as Moss caught his mare. Cheshire.
  Title of a ballad registered for publication in 1569–70; Clarke’s Parœm., 1639, p. 298; Wit Restor’d, 1658. See N. and Q., 1st S., i. 320; and 4th S., ii. 325. “Who this Moss was is not very material to know; I suppose some such man might find his mare dead, and taking her to be only asleep, might say, Have I taken you napping?”—R.
        “Now Night growes old, yet walkes here in his trappinge
Till Day come catch him, as Mosse his gray mare nappinge.”
  —The Seven Dayes of the Weeke, an interlude in The Christmas Prince, 1607.
“Euphues, perceiuing himselfe to be taken napping, answered as followeth.”—Lyly’s Euph., 1579, repr. Arber, p. 56. See the metrical moralisation of this saying in my Inedited Poetical Miscellanies, 1870.
  —“Till day come catch him, as Mosse his grey mare, napping,” quoted by Wilbraham, Ches. Glos., p. 58, H., p. 287, from the Christmas Prince, 1607, was still current in Cheshire in Wilbraham’s time. See also R., p. 187. Mosse occurs still in Cheshire as a common surname. I fancy that “finding a mare’s nest” is connected somehow.—Notes and Queries, March 2, 1878.
Narrow gathered, widely spent.  6381
Narrow house.
  The grave.
Nature draws more than ten teams. H.  6383
Nature is the true law. B. OF M. R.  6384
Nature passes nurture.  6385
Nature requires five: / custom gives seven:
laziness takes nine: / and wickedness eleven.
  Spoken, of course, of the various hours of sleep.
Nature takes as much pains in the forming of a beggar as an emperor.  6387
Nature teaches us to love our friends, but religion our enemies.  6388
Nature, time, and patience are the three great physicians.  6389
Naught are those houses where the hen crows and the cock holds his peace. B. OF M. R.  6390
Naught is never in danger.
  Dyke’s English Proverbs, &c., 1709, p. 8.
Naught is that meuse / that finds no excuse. B. OF M. R.  6392
Naughty Ashford, surly Wye, / poor Kennington hard by.
  Skeat’s ed. of Pegge’s Kenticisms, 83.
Nay, stay, quoth Stringer, when his neck was in the halter. F.  6394
Ne sutor supra crepidam. PLINY.
  “I say no more; but, if the Cobler wold look no further then the shoe-latchet, we should not haue so many corrupt translations.”—Day’s Law-Trickes, 1608, The Booke to the Reader.
Near bur, far rain.
  The bur is the halo round the moon, and the meaning of the adage is, that when it appears near the moon, there will be fine weather.—Forby’s Vocab. of E. Anglia, p. 417.
Near is my kirtle, but nearer is my smock. HE.  6397
Neat, but not gaudy, as the devil said when he painted his tail sky-blue.  6398
Necessity and opportunity may make a coward valiant.  6399
Necessity hath no law.
  Here law means rather liberty or choice of action. See Jennings’ Obs. on W. Country Dialects, in voce; and Hunter’s Hallamshire Glossary, 1829, ibid. This is the more recent form; but in the metrical Robert the Deuyll we find, Nede hath no cure; and Skelton, in his Colyn Clout (circa 1520), puts it, Nede hath no lawe. He calls it an old sawe. Heywood has the same form.
        “But (as the auncient Prouerbe goes)
  Perforce obaies no lawe;
The crabbed carters whip will cause
  A stately steed to drawe.”
Turbervlie’s Tragicall Tales, 1587, repr. 1837, p. 238.    
[Greek]. La necessita non ha legge. Ital. Ingens telum necessitas. Cic. de Amic.”—R.
Necessity is coal-black.  6401
Necessity is the mother of invention.  6402


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