Reference > Quotations > W.C. Hazlitt, comp. > English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases
W.C. Hazlitt, comp.  English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases.  1907.
One and none  to  Pigeons’ milk
One and none is all one.  6799
One beats the bush and another catcheth the bird.
  Paston Letters, iii. 44.
        “And while I at length debate, and beate the bushe,
There shall steppe in other men, and catche the burdes.”—Heywood.
  Il bat le buisson sans prendre l’oisillon. Fr. Uno levanta la caza, y otro la mata. Span. The Italians say, I picciol cani trovano, mà i grandi hanno la lepore. This proverb was used by the Regent Bedford at the siege of Orleans in 1428. When the citizens, besieged by the English, would have yielded up the town to the Duke of Burgundy, who was in the English camp, and not to the Regent, he said, “Shall I beat the bush, and another take the bird? No such matter.” Which words did so offend the Duke, that he made peace with the French, and withdrew from the English.—R.
One beggar is woe / that another by the door should go.
  Armin’s Nest of Ninnies, 1698.
One beggar’s enough at a door. CL.  6802
One body is no body. CL.  6803
One came in with his five eggs. HE.*
  Another version is: You come in with your five eggs a penny, and four of them are rotten. It seems to be said of an exaggerator.
One cannot be in two places at once.  6805
One cannot live by selling ware for words.  6806
One cherry-tree sufficeth not two jays.  6807
One cloud is enough to eclipse all the sun.  6808
One crow never pulls out another’s eyes. B. OF M. R.  6809
One day is better than sometimes a whole year. D.  6810
One day of pleasure is worth two of sorrow.  6811
One devil is like another.  6812
One doth the scath, and another hath the scorn.  6813
One enemy is too much. H.  6814
One enemy is too much for a man in a great post, and a hundred friends are too few.  6815
One eye of the master sees more than ten of the servant’s. H.  6816
One eye-witness is better than two hear-sos. CL.  6817
One father is better than a hundred schoolmasters. H.  6818
One favour qualifies for another.  6819
One flower makes no garland. H.  6820
One fool can ask more than ten wise men can answer.
  En Tosse kan spörge mere end ti Vise kan besvare.—Dan.
One fool makes a hundred. H.
  The Spaniards say the same.
One foot is better than two crutches. H.  6823
One gained as much as the other.  6824
One gave as much as the other.  6825
One spent as much as the other.
  See Black’s Guide to Devon, p. 233.
One gift well given recovereth many losses.  6827
One God, no more, / but friends good store. CL.  6828
One good head is better than a hundred strong hands.  6829
One good [or bad] turn asketh another. HE.
  Rowlands’ Paire of Spy-Knares (1610), sign. C 4 verso. “Qui plaisir fait plaisir requiert. Fr. Hazme la barba, y harete el copete. Span. Gratia gratiam parit. [Greek]. Sophocl. He that would have friends, must show himself friendly. Chi servigio fà servigio as petta. Ital. Fricantem refrica, [Greek]—R.
One grain fills not a sack, but helps his fellows. H.  6831
One grain of pepper is worth a basketful of gourds.  6832
One grain of pepper is worth a cartload of hail.  6833
One had as good be nibbled to death by ducks, or pecked to death by hens.  6834
One had as good eat the devil as the broth he is boiled in. CL.  6835
One hair of a woman draws more than a team of oxen.  6836
One half the world knows not how the other half lives.
  “Le Prouerbe est tres-veritable, qui dit que l’vne des parties du monde no sçait comme l’autre vit.”—Le Miroir du temps passé, 1625, p. 3.
One hand in a purse, and two in a dish. CL.  6838
One hand washeth the other, and both the face. H.
  Booke of Meery Riddles, 1629, No. 132. Manus manum lavat. Petronius.
One hour’s sleep before midnight is worth three after. H.
  For the sun being the life of this sublunary world, whose heat causes and continues the motion of all terrestrial animals, when he is farthest off, that is about midnight, the spirits of themselves are aptest to rest and compose, so that the middle of the night must needs be the most proper time to sleep in, especially if we consider the great expense of spirits in the day time, partly by the heat of the afternoon, and partly by labour, and the constant exercise of all the senses: wherefore then to wake is to put the spirits in motion, when there are fewest of them, and they naturally most sluggish and unfit for it.—R.
One ill weed mars a whole pot of pottage. C.  6841
One ill word asketh another. HE.  6842
One is a play, / and two is a gay [a toy]. Cornw.  6843
One is not so soon healed as hurt.  6844
One jeer seldom goeth forth but it bringeth back its equal.  6845
One kindness is the price of another.  6846
One leg of a lark’s worth the whole body of a kite.  6847
One lie makes many.  6848
One lordship is worth all his manners.
  A play on the word manners, which may be read two ways, with a slight violence to orthography.
One love drives out another.  6850
One mad action is not enough to prove a man mad.  6851
One [magpie] for sorrow: / two for mirth:
three for a wedding: / four for [a] birth:
five for silver: / six for gold:
seven for a secret, / not to be told:
eight for heaven: / nine for hell:
and ten for the devil’s own sel. D.*
  The four opening lines sometimes run:
        “One magpie for sorrow,
Two for joy:
Three for a wedding:
Four for a boy.”
  In the Teesdale Glossary, 1849, p. 95, is a different and briefer version:
        “One’s sorrow:
Two’s good luck:
Three’s a wedding:
Four’s death.”
And Mr. Couch, in his Folk-lore of a Cornish Village, also substitutes death for birth in the fourth line. It is a common superstition that to spit three times averts the ill-luck attendant on the sight of a single bird.
One man is better than another. Draxe.  6853
One man is nobody. Draxe.  6854
One man is worth a hundred, and a hundred are not worth one. B. OF M. R.  6855
One man may better steal a horse than another look on [or over the hedge]. HE.
  “Tophas.  Good Epi let mee take a nap: for as some man may better steale a horse, then another looke over the hedge; so divers shall be sleepie when they would fainest take rest.”—Lyly’s Endimion, 1591 (Works, 1858, i. 37).
One man’s breath another man’s death.
  Lo que es bueno para el higado es malo para el bazo. Span.—R.
One man’s company is no company.
  Compagnia d’uno, compagnia di niuno. Ital.—R.
One man’s fault is another man’s lesson.  6859
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. WALKER (1672).  6860
One may as much miss the mark by aiming too high as too low.  6861
One may as soon break his neck as his fast there.  6862
One may be confuted and yet not convinced.  6863
One may buy gold too dear.  6864
One may know by your nose what pottage you love.  6865
One may know your meaning by your gaping.  6866
One may live and learn.
  Non si finisce mai d’imparare. Ital. [Greek]. A famous saying of Solon: Discenti assidue multa senecta venit. And well might he say so; for, Ars longa, vita brevis, as Hippocrates begins his Aphorisms.—R.
One may point at a star, but not pull at it.  6868
One may say too much even upon the best subject.  6869
One may see day at a little hole. C.  6870
One may surfeit with too much, as well as starve with too little.  6871
One may think that dares not speak.
  And it as usual a saying, Thoughts are free. Human laws can take no cognisance of thoughts, unless they discover themselves by some overt actions.—R.
One may understand like an angel, and yet be a devil.  6873
One may wink and choose.  6874
One might have filled them with a fillip. WALKER (1672).  6875
One mule doth scrub another.
  Randolph’s Muses Looking-Glass, 1638, act iii. sc. 4. Mulus mulum scabit. One mule scratcheth another. Coryat, Travailer for the English Wits, 1616, p. 27.
One nail drives out another.  6877
One of his hands is unwilling to wash the other for nothing.  6878
One of the court, but none of the counsel. CL.  6879
One of these days is none of these days.  6880
One of those gentle ones, that will use the devil himself with courtesy.  6881
One outward civility is current pay for another.  6882
One pair of ears draws dry a hundred tongues. H.  6883
One pair of heels is worth two pair of hands. CL.
        “Your legs did better seruice than your hands.”
True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, 1595 (Hazlitt’s Shakespear’s Library, vi. 42). Always for cowards. Mas vale una traspuesta que dos assomados. Span. Qui n’a cœur ait jambes. Fr. In the same words, Chi non ha cuore habbi gambe. Ital. He that hath no heart, let him have heels.—R.
One pirate gets nothing of another but his cask.  6885
One saddle is enough for one horse.  6886
One scabbed sheep’s enough to spoil a flock.
  Taylor’s Pastorall, 1624. “Una pecora infetta n’ ammorba una setta. Ital. Il ne faut qu’ une brebis rogneuse pour gâter tout le troupeau. Fr. The Spaniards say, El puerco sarnaso revuelve la pocilga.
                        Grex totus in agris
Unius scabie cadit et porrigine porei. Juvenal.”—R.
  “One tainted sheep mars a whole flock.”—The Rebellion, 1640, by T. Rawlins (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, xiv. 77).
One sheep follows another.  6888
One shoulder of mutton drives down another.
  L’Appetit vient en mangeant. Fr.—R.
One shrew is worth two sheep.
  Gascoigne’s Works, by Hazlitt, ii. 42.
One shrewd turn followeth another. C.  6891
One slumber finds another. H.  6892
One sound blow will serve to undo us all. H.  6893
One stroke fells not an oak. H.  6894
One swallow makes not summer. HE.
  Una hirundo non facit ver.—Polyd. Vergil (Prov. Libellus, 1498, edit. 1503, sign. G ii. verso). One swallowe proueth not that summer is neare.—Northbrooke’s Treatise against Dauncing, &c. (1577), ed. 1843, p. 158. In the verses by F. C. before Swallow’s Cinthia’s Revenge, 1613, we have:
        “One swallow makes no summer, most men say,
But who disproues that prouerbe, made this play.”
“This is an ancient Greek proverb. Arist. Ethic. Nicom. lib. i. [Greek]. Una golondrina no hace verano. Span.”—R. “Een svale gjör ingen Sommer.”—Dan.
One sword keeps another in the sheath. H.  6896
One tale is good till another is told.
  Therefore a good judge ought to hear both parties. Qui statuit aliquid parte inauditâ alterâ, æquum licet statuerit, haud æquus est. Sen.—R.
  This makes part of the title to a tract by W. Waterhouse, 4o, 1662.
One thing thinketh the horse, and another he that saddles him.  6898
One to-day is worth two to-morrows.  6899
One tongue is enough for a woman.
  This reason they give who would not have women learn languages.—R.
One tongue is enough for two women.  6901
One too many maketh some to seek,
when two be met that banquet on a leek.
  Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575 (Works, edit. Hazlitt, i. 64).
One trick needs a great many more to make it good.  6903
One, two, three:
what a lot of fisher nannies I see!
  Allusive to the fisherwomen of Aberdeen. See Penny Magazine, 1840, p. 370.
One white foot—buy him.
Two white feet—try him.
Three white feet—look well about him.
Four white feet—go without him.
  —Notes and Queries, June 3, 1882.
One wit, and bought, is worth two for nought.  6906
One wrong step may give you a great fall.  6907
One yate for another, good fellow.
  They father the original of this upon a passage between one of the Earls of Rutland and a country fellow. The Earl, riding by himself one day, overtook a countryman, who very civilly opened him the first gate they came to, not knowing who the Earl was. When they came to the next gate, the Earl, expecting he should have done the same again, Nay, soft, saith the countryman; one yate for another, good fellow.—R.
One year a nurse, / and seven years the worse.
  Because feeding well and doing little, she becomes liquorish, and gets a habit of idleness.—R.
One year of joy, another of comfort, and all the rest of content.
  A marriage wish.—R.
One’s too few, three too many.  6911
Open not your door when the devil knocks.  6912
Open thy purse, and then open thy sack.
  i.e., Receive thy money, and then deliver thy goods.—R.
Opportunity is the cream of time.  6914
Opportunity is whoredom’s bawd. C.  6915
Opportunity makes the thief. HE.*
  Occasio facit furem. The Italians say, Ad arca aperta il giusto pecca. Where a chest lieth open, a righteous man may sin. The Spaniards say, Puerta abierta, al santa tienta. The open door tempts a saint.—R.
Ore rotundo.
  With a loud voice or confidently.
Orlando Furioso.
  A cant term in Charles I.’s time for a boisterous, blustering blade. See the Brothers of the Blade, 1641, p. 3.
Otium cum dignitate.  6919
Our ancestors grew not great by hawking and hunting.  6920
Our cake’s dough on both sides.  6921
Our fathers, who were wondrous wise,
did wash their throats before they washed their eyes.
Our spit is not yet at the fire, and you are basting already.  6923
Out at heels and elbows.
  Fraunce’s Lawyer’s Logick, 1588.
Out of debt, out of danger.
  “But they [the Utopians] muche more maruell at and detest the madnes of them, whyche to those riche men, in whose debte and daunger they be not, do giue almost diuine honoures, for none other consideration, but bicause they be riche.”—More’s Utopia (1516), transl. by Robinson, 1551, ed. Arber, p. 104.
Out of door, out of debt. Somerset.
  Spoken of one that pays not when once gone.—R.
Out of God’s blessing into the warm sun. HE.
  The meaning of this expression, which is used by Shakespeare, has been much disputed. The passage in Heywood stands thus:
        In your rennyng from him to me, ye renne
Out of gods blessing into the warme sunne.
Where the blynd leadth the blynd, both fall in the dyke,
And blynd be we both, if we thinke vs lyke.
The sense here, as in two or three passages of Lyly’s Euphues, 1579 (cited in Notes and Queries, 4th S., ii. 459–60), seems to be out of an austere goodness of life into luxurious and less exemplary ways. Comp. Nares’ Glossary, 1859, p. 375, and Hunter’s New Illustr. of Shakespeare, i. 251, where the phrase is supposed, for a reason there given, to imply the inability to get a husband.
Out of gunshot.  6928
Out of sight out of mind. HE.
  I suspect that this should properly form a couplet with a second adage already given:
        Owt of sight, owt of mynde;
Fast bynde, fast fynde;
and in the MSS. additions to a copy of Heywood, 1576, the two sentences follow each other.
        “Men seyn right thus alway the nye slye
Maketh the ferre lefe to be lothe.”
Compare Far from eye, &c. “I do perceive that the olde proverbis be not alwaies trew, for I do finde that the absence of my Nath. doth breede in me the more continuall remembrance of hym.”—Anne, Lady Bacon, to Jane, Lady Cornwallis, 1613. Again, at p. 19 of The Private Correspondence of Lady C., edited by Lord Braybrooke, Sir N. Bacon speaks of the owlde prouerbe, Out of sighte, out of mynde. The modern line, Though lost to sight, to memory still dear, is traceable to the old adage. “This is, I suppose, also a Dutch proverb: for Erasmus saith, Jam omnibus in ore est, qui semotus sit ab oculis eundem quoque ab animo semotum esse. Absens hæres non erit. The Spaniards say, Quan lexos de ojos, tan lexos coraçon.”—R.
Out of the danger of one.
  Or beyond his danger, i.e., out of his power or jurisdiction. So, in the tragic-comedy of Calisto and Melibœa (about 1520), in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, i. 54:
        “Out of his danger will I be at liberty.”
And again in the Summoning of Every Man (ibid., i. 132):
        “This I do in despite of the fiend of hell,
To go quit out of his peril.”
In A C. Mery Talys, 1526, repr. Hazlitt, 1887, fol. ix. recto, a woman, who has been told, how she may save her newly farrowed pigs by putting them in a cuckold’s hat, observes to her female neighbours: “I haue gone round aboute to borrow a cockoldys hat and I can get none wherefore yf I lyue another yere I wyll haue one of myne own and be out of my neyghbours daunger.”
  In the same sense, in Ralph Roister Doister (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, iii. 62), Merrygreeks asks Roister Doister:
        “Are ye in danger of debt to any man?”
Compare Within the danger, infra, and Out of debt, &c., above.
Out of the frying-pan into the fire.
  “Cader dalla padella nelle bragie. Ital. Saulter de la poile et se jetter dans les braises. Fr. De fumo in flammam (which Ammianus Marcellinus cites as an ancient proverb) hath the same sense. Nè cinerem vitans in prunas incidas. [Greek]. Lucian.—R. Fogir do fumo, e cair no fogo. Port. The Spaniards say, Andar de coços en colódros.
Out of the North / all ill comes forth.
  A Winter Dreame, 1649, p. 13. Compare Omne malum, &c.
Out of the world and into Bodmin.
  The situation of the present town of Bodmin, in a valley where it is hidden from the surrounding country, may explain this; or perhaps it refers to the dulness of the town. See Bodmin Register, p. 335. The proverb, however, is applied to other places, mutatis mutandis. In the Laird of Logan, we find, Out of the world and into Kippen. My friend Mr. H. Pyne, a Somersetshire man, told me that it is also said of Stogursey (properly Stoke-Courcy).
Out of time, / out of tune. HERRICK.  6934
Over-done pride / maketh naked side.
  How the Goode Wif, &c., in Hazlitt’s Pop. Poetry, i.
Over-much pity / spoileth a city. WHETSTONE.  6936
Over shoes, over boots. CL.
  This hath almost the same sense with that, Ad perditam securim manubrium adjicere.—R.
Over the fire-stones. S. Devon.
  i.e., to prison.
Over the greatest beauty hangs the greatest ruin.  6939
Over the left shoulder.
  Part of the title of a satirical tract published in 1660. The saying is still in occasional vogue.
Overdoing is doing nothing to the purpose.  6941
Own is own, and other men’s edneth [reneweth], quoth Hendyng.
  Reliq. Antiq., i. 114. Heywood (Woorkes, 1562, part ii. c. 4) and Clarke (Parœm., 1639, p. 182) have it: Owne is owne at reckoning’s end.
Oxford for learning, / London for wit,
Hull for women, / And York for a tit.
  Higson’s MSS. Coll., 209.
Oxford knives, / London wives.  6944
Oysters are not good in the month that hath not an R in it.
  Buttes’ Dyets Dry Dinner, 1599.
Pain is forgotten where gain follows. C.  6946
Pain past is pleasure.  6947
Pain are the wages of ill pleasures.  6948
Painted pictures are dead speakers.  6949
Painters and poets may lie by authority.
  Mentiri Astronomis, pictoribus atque Poetis. See Harington’s Apologie of English Poetrie (prefixed to his translation of Ariosto, 1591), repr. 1813, princip. Compare A traveller, &c.
Pale moon doth rain, red moon doth blow:
white moon doth neither rain nor snow. CL.
Pap with a hatchet.
  Allusive to a person saying something kind or gentle in a rough, brusque way. The title of a Marprelate tract ascribed to Lyly.
Pardon all men, but never thyself.  6953
Pardon this, and the next time powder me in salt.
  Udall’s Ralph Roister Doister (1566), ed. 1847, p. 33.
Parnassus has no gold mines in it.  6955
Parshur where d’ye think?  6956
Parshur God help me!
  Here said of the character of the pear and apple harvest, but common to many places in an analogous sense. Parshur is Pershore in Worcestershire.
Parsley fried will bring a man to his saddle, and a woman to her grave.
  I know not the reason of this proverb. Parsley was wont to be esteemed a very wholesome herb, however prepared; only by the ancients it was forbidden them that had the falling sickness; and modern experience hath found it to be bad for the eyes.—R. The seeds of the parsley are poisonous in some cases, and there is a poisonous herb known as Fool’s Parsley. But we are still no nearer.
Passionate men, like fleet hounds, are apt to overrun the scent.  6959
Past cure is still past care.
  Loves Labours Lost, 1598.
Past labour is pleasant.  6961
Patch and long sit: / build and soon flit.  6962
Patch by patch is good housewifery, but patch upon patch is plain beggary.  6963
Pater-noster built churches, and Our Father pulls them down.
  I do not look upon the building of churches as an argument of the goodness of the Roman religion; for when men have once entertained an opinion of expiating sin and meriting heaven by such works, they will be forward enough to give not only the fruit of their land, but even of their body, for the sin of their soul: and it is easier to part with one’s goods than one’s sins.—R.
Patience and pusillanimity are two things.  6965
Patience is a flower that grows not in every garden.
  Epistolæ Ho-elianæ, under date 1644 (but the chronology of this volume is not very trustworthy). Herein, adds Ray, is an allusion to the name of a plant so called, i.e., Rhabarbarum monachorum.
Patience is a plaister for all sores.
  Sale della patienza condisce al tutto. The salt of patience seasons everything.—R.
Patience, time and money accommodate all things. H.  6968
Patience upon force is a medicine for a mad dog.  6969
Patience with poverty is all a poor man’s remedy.  6970
Paul’s will not always stand.  6971
  An expression employed by boys at play.
Pay what you owe, / and what you’re worth you’ll know.  6973
Peel a fig for your friend and a peach for your enemy.
  To peel a fig, so far as we are concerned, can have no significance, except that we should not regard it as a friendly service; but in fact the proverb is merely a translation from the Spanish, and in that language and country the phrase carries a very full meaning, as no one would like probably to eat a fig without being sure that the fruit had not been tampered with. The whole saying, however, is rather unintelligible. “Peeling a peach” would be treated anywhere as a dubious attention.
Peep! I see a knave. CL.  6975
Peevish pity mars a city. C.  6976
Pen and ink is wit’s plough. CL.  6977
Pendle, Ingleborough, and Penigent,
are the three highest hills between Scotland and Trent.
  There is another and truer version:
        Pendle, Penigent, and Ingleborough,
Are the three highest hills all England thorough.
“These three hills are in sight of each other: Pendle, on the edge of Lancashire; Penigent and Ingleborough, near Settle, in Yorkshire, and not far from Westmoreland. In Wales, I think Snowdon, Caderidris, and Plimlimmon are higher.”—R. Pendle Hill is the Alpes Penini montes of Richard of Cirencester. See Archæologia, i. 64. Grey Friar, in the N. of Lancashire, and Whernside in Yorkshire, are loftier than Pendle Hill. But in such cases as this the country folks are sure to maintain the honour of their own, in spite of facts and Ordnance Surveys.
Penniless Bench.
  A metonym for poverty, used by Randolph in his Hey for Honesty, 1651, or rather perhaps by F. J., the editor of that posthumous publication in the “Argument of the Comedy.” It occurs also in Massinger’s City Madam, 1658, iv. 2.
Penny and penny / laid up will be many.  6980
Penny in pocket is a good companion.  6981
Penny in purse will make me drink, when all the friends I have will not.  6982
Penny-wise and pound-foolish.
  Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621; title of a tract by Decker, printed in 1631. [Greek], i.e., Ad mensuram aquam bibunt, sine mensura offam comedentes. He spares at the spigot, and lets it out at the bung-hole.—R.
Pennyless souls may pine in purgatory.  6984
Pension never enriched young man. H.  6985
Pepper is black, / yet it hath a good smack:
snow is white, / yet it lies in the dyke.
  Walker’s Parœm., 1672, p. 56. Pepper it black was a popular tune in Q. Elizabeth’s time, and is the one to which one of Elderton’s ballads (Handb. of E. E. L., art. Elderton, No. 12) was appointed to be sung.
Perfect love never settled in a light head.  6987
Perseverance kills the game.  6988
Pershore. See Parshur.  6989
Perverseness makes one squint-eyed. H.  6990
Peter in, Paul’s out.  6991
Peter is so godly, that God don’t make him thrive.  6992
Peter of Wood, church and mills are all his. Cheshire.  6993
Pheasants are fools if they invite the hawk to dinner.  6994
Physicians’ faults are covered with earth, and rich men’s with money.  6995
Pickpockets are sure traders, for they take ready money.  6996
Pie-lid makes people wise.
  Because no one can tell what is in a pie till the lid be taken up—R.
Piers Ploughman.
  This expression is used by Gascoigne to personify a husbandman generally.
Pigeons are taken when crows fly at pleasure.  6999
Pigeons and priests make foul houses.
  Rich’s New Description of Ireland, 1610, ch. xiii. This saying is allusive to the notorious immorality of the popish priests, who visited their parishioners, and entered into improper relations with the female members of establishments, especially among the Irish Kearne. But it was a common incident in all early communities. The priest was the bane of society.
Pigeons’ milk.
  An ironical saying; but in fact pigeons have milk. See Jesse’s Scenes in Country Life, edit. 1853, p. 317.


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