Reference > Quotations > James Wood, comp. > Dictionary of Quotations
James Wood, comp.  Dictionary of Quotations.  1899.
Scotch Proverbs
  A cock aye craws crousest (boldest) on his ain midden-head.  1
  A craw’s nae whiter for being washed.  2
  A dog winna yowl if you fell him wi’ a bane.  3
  A fool may speer (ask) mair questions than a wise man can answer.  4
  A ganging fit (foot) is aye getting.  5
  A little spark maks muckle wark.  6
  A man canna wive and thrive the same year.  7
  A man may be proud of his house, and not ride on the rigging (ridge) of it.  8
  A man may spit in his nieve and do little.  9
  A man’s aye crousest in his ain cause.  10
  A penny hained (saved) is a penny gained.  11
  A scalded cat dreads cauld water.  12
  A sicht (sight) o’ you is guid for sair een.  13
  A sillerless (moneyless) man gangs fast through the market.  14
  A thread will tie an honest man better than a rope will do a rogue.  15
  A tocherless dame sits lang at hame.  16
  A toom (empty) pantry maks a thriftless guidwife.  17
  A wee bush is better than nae bield (shelter).  18
  A weel-bred dog gaes oot when he sees them preparing to kick him oot.  19
  A wise man gets learning frae them that hae nane.  20
  A witless heed (head) mak’s weary feet.  21
  A’ are guid lasses, but where do a’ the ill wives come frae?  22
  A’ are no freens that speak us fair.  23
  A’ complain o’ want o’ siller; nane o’ want o’ sense.  24
  A’ Stuarts are no sib (related) to the king (the family name of the Scotch kings being Stuart).  25
  A’s guid that God sends.  26
  Ae half o’ the world doesna ken how the other half lives.  27
  Ae man may tak’ a horse to the water, but twenty winna gar (make) him drink.  28
  Ae man’s meat is anither man’s poison.  29
  An ill-willie (ill-natured) cow should have short horns.  30
  An ounce o’ mother-wit is worth a pound o’ clergy.  31
  Any port in a storm.  32
  As guid fish i’ the sea as e’er came oot o’t.  33
  As guid may haud (hold) the stirrup as he that loups on.  34
  As weel be oot o’ the world as oot o’ the fashion.  35
  Auld folk are twice bairns.  36
  Aye in a hurry, and aye ahint.  37
  Be slow in choosing a friend, but slower in changing him.  38
  Better a fremit freend than a freend fremit—i.e., a stranger for a friend than a friend turned stranger.  39
  Better a toom (empty) house than an ill tenant.  40
  Better bairns greet (weep) than bearded men.  41
  Better be at the end o’ a feast than the beginning o’ a fray.  42
  Better be idle than ill employed.  43
  Better go to bed supperless than rise in debt.  44
  Better haud (hold on) wi’ the hound than rin wi’ the hare.  45
  Better keep the deil oot than hae to turn him oot.  46
  Better keep weel than mak’ weel.  47
  Better my freen’s think me fremit as fasheous—i.e., strange rather than troublesome.  48
  Better rue sit than rue flit—i.e., regret remaining than regret removing.  49
  Better sit still than rise and fa’.  50
  Better sma’ fish than nane.  51
  Better the ill ken’d than the ill unken’d—i.e., the ill we know than the ill we don’t know.  52
  Better wear shoon (shoes) than sheets.  53
  Between the deil and the deep sea.  54
  Bitin’ and scartin’ ’s Scotch folk’s wooing.  55
  Bonnie feathers mak’ bonnie fowls.  56
  Broken friendships may be sowthered (soldered), but never sound.  57
  Burnt bairns dread the fire.  58
  Buy what ye dinna want, an’ ye’ll sell what ye canna spare.  59
  Ca’ (drive) a cow to the ha’ (hall), and she’ll rin to the byre.  60
  “Can do” is easy (easily) carried aboot.  61
  Care will kill a cat, but ye canna live without it.  62
  Changes are lightsome, an’ fules are fond o’ them.  63
  Charity begins at hame, but shouldna end there.  64
  Confessed faults are half mended.  65
  Corbies (crows) and clergy are kittle shot (hard to hit).  66
  Corbies dinna pick oot corbies’ een, i.e., harm each other.  67
  Courtesy is cumbersome to him that kens it not.  68
  Covetousness often starves other vices.  69
  Craft maun hae claes (clothes), but truth gaes naked.  70
  Credit keeps the crown o’ the causey—i.e., is not afraid to show its face.  71
  Creep before you gang (walk).  72
  Cripples are aye better schemers than walkers.  73
  Dawted dochters mak’ dawly wives—i.e., petted daughters make slovenly wives.  74
  Deil stick pride, for my dog deed o’d.  75
  Ding (knock) down the nests, and the rooks will flee awa.    Used to justify the demolition of the religious houses at the Reformation.  76
  Dinna gut your fish till you get them.  77
  Dinna lift me before I fa’.  78
  Dinna scald your ain mou’ wi ither folk’s kail (broth).  79
  Do as the lassies do; say “No” and tak’ it.  80
  Do on the hill as ye do in the ha’.  81
  Do weel and doubt nae man; do ill and doubt a’ men.  82
  Dogs that bark at a distance ne’er bite at hand.  83
  Drive a cow to the ha’, and she’ll run to the byre.  84
  Dumbie winna lee.  85
  Early birds catch the worms.  86
  Early master soon knave (servant).  87
  Ease and honour are seldom bed-fellows.  88
  Eat in measure and defy the doctor.  89
  Eat-weel’s drink-weel’s brither.  90
  Eident (diligent) youth makes easy age.  91
  Eild and poortith are ill to thole—i.e., age and poverty are hard to bear.  92
  Eild should hae honour—i.e., old people should.  93
  Eith (quickly) learned, soon forgotten.  94
  Ell and tell is gude merchandise—i.e., ready money is.  95
  Envy ne’er does a gude turn but when it means an ill ane.  96
  Every craw thinks her ain bird whitest.  97
  Every inch of joy has an ell of annoy.  98
  Every man can guide an ill wife but him that has her.  99
  Every man’s blind in his ain cause.  100
  Every man’s man has a man, and that gar’d the Tarve (a Douglas Castle) fa’.  101
  Every one bows to the bush that bields (protects) him, i.e., pays court to him that does so.  102
  Every soo (sow) to its ain trough.  103
  Fair fa’ guid drink, for it gars (makes) folk speak as they think.  104
  Fair folk are aye fusionless (pithless).  105
  Fair maidens wear nae purses—(the lads always paying their share).  106
  False folk should hae mony witnesses.  107
  False freends are waur than bitter enemies.  108
  Fancy kills and fancy cures.  109
  Fanned fires and forced love ne’er did weel.  110
  Far ahint maun follow the faster.  111
  Far frae court, far frae care.  112
  Far-awa fowls hae aye fair feathers.  113
  Fat hens are aye ill layers.  114
  Favours unused are favours abused.  115
  Fire maks an auld wife nimble.  116
  First deserve and then desire.  117
  Flee you ne’er so fast, your fortune will be at your tail.  118
  Fleying (frightening) a bird is no the way to catch it.  119
  Folk canna help a’ their kin (relatives).  120
  Folk wi’ lang noses aye tak’ till themsels.  121
  Fools and bairns shouldna see things half done.  122
  Fools are aye fond o’ flittin’, and wise men o’ sittin’.  123
  Fools are aye seeing ferlies (wonderful things).  124
  Fools mak’ feasts, and wise men eat them. / Wise men mak’ jests, and fools repeat them.  125
  Fools ravel and wise men redd (unravel).  126
  For a tint (lost) thing carena.  127
  For fault o’ wise men fools sit on binks (seats, benches).  128
  Forbid a fool do a thing, and that he will do.  129
  Forced prayers are no gude for the soul.  130
  Forgotten pains, when follow gains.  131
  Forsake not God till you find a better maister.  132
  Fou (full) o’ courtesy, fou o’ craft.  133
  Frae saving comes having.  134
  Freends are like fiddle-strings; they maunna be screwed ower tight.  135
  Freits (prognostications) follow those who look to them.  136
  Friendship canna stand a’ on ae side.  137
  Fules are aye fond o’ flittin’.  138
  Gang to bed wi’ the lamb and rise wi’ the laverock (lark).  139
  Gathering gear (wealth) is pleasant pain.  140
  Gentility without ability is waur (worse) than plain begging.  141
  Get what ye can and keep what ye bae.  142
  Gie a bairn his will and a whelp his fill, an’ neither will do well.  143
  Gie a beggar a bed, and he’ll pay you with a louse.  144
  Gie him tow enough and he’ll hang himsel’—i.e., give him enough of his own way.  145
  Gie the deil his due, an’ ye’ll gang till him.  146
  Gie the greedy dog a muckle bane.  147
  Gie your heart to God and your awms (alms) to the poor.  148
  Gie your tongue mair holidays than your head.  149
  Giff-gaff maks gude friends, i.e., mutual giving.  150
  Gin (if) ye hadna been among the craws, ye wadna hae been shot.  151
  Giving to the poor increaseth a man’s store.  152
  Glasses and lasses are brittle ware.  153
  God does not measure men by inches.  154
  God help the poor, for the rich can help themselves.  155
  God help the rich folk, for the poor can beg.  156
  God is kind to fou (drunk) folk and bairns.  157
  God send us some siller, for they’re little thought o’ that want it.  158
  God send you mair sense and me mair siller.  159
  God trusts every one with the care of his own soul.  160
  Good ale needs no wisp (of hay for advertisement).  161
  Good gear goes in sma’ book (bulk).  162
  Gowd (gold) gets in at ilka (every) gate except heaven.  163
  Gowd is gude only in the hand o’ virtue.  164
  Great barkers are nae biters.  165
  Greedy folk hae lang airms.  166
  Grudge not another what you canna get yoursel’.  167
  Gude advice is ne’er out o’ season.  168
  Gude bairns are eith to lear—i.e., easy to teach.  169
  Gude breeding and siller mak’ our sons gentlemen.  170
  Gude claes (clothes) open a’ doors.  171
  Gude folk are scarce, tak’ care o’ ane.  172
  Gude foresight furthers the wark.  173
  Gude wares mak’ a quick market.  174
  Hae you gear (goods), or hae you nane, / Tine (lose) heart, and a’s gane.  175
  Hang a thief when he’s young, and he’ll no steal when he’s auld.  176
  Haste makes waste, and waste makes want, and want makes strife between the gudeman and the gudewife.  177
  He behoves to have meat enou’ that sal stop ilka man’s mou’.  178
  He can ill run that canna gang (walk).  179
  He doesna aye flee when he claps his wings.  180
  He has a bee in his bonnet—i.e., is hare-brained.  181
  He has faut (need) o’ a wife wha marries mam’s pet.  182
  He has wit at will that, when angry, can sit him still.  183
  He kens muckle wha kens when to speak, but far mair wha kens when to haud (hold) his tongue.  184
  He maun lout (stoop) that has a laigh (low) door.  185
  He ne’er made a gude darg (day’s work) wha gaed (went) grumbling about it.  186
  He never lees (lies) but when the holland’s (holly’s) green—i.e., always.  187
  He paidles a guid deal in the water, but he tak’s care no to wet his feet.  188
  He sleeps as dogs do when wives bake—i.e., is wide awake, though pretending not to see.  189
  He that comes unca’d (uninvited) sits unsair’d (unserved).  190
  He that gets gear (wealth) before he gets wit, is but a short time master o’ it.  191
  He that has a wife has a master.  192
  He that has ae sheep in a flock will like a’ the lave (rest) better for ’t.  193
  He that has an ill wife likes to eat butter (but her, i.e., without her).  194
  He that has muckle would aye hae mair.  195
  He that has siller in his purse canna want (do without) a head on his shoulders.  196
  He that invented the Maiden, first hanselled it, i.e., first put it to the proof. (The Maiden was a kind of guillotine).  197
  He that keeks (pries) through a keyhole may see what will vex him.  198
  He that marries before he is wise will die before he thrive.  199
  He that pities another minds himsel’.  200
  He that spends his gear (property) before he gets it will hae little gude o’t.  201
  He that steals a preen (pin) will steal a better thing.  202
  He that tholes (bears up) o’ercomes.  203
  He that will to Cupar, maun to Cupar—i.e., he that will to jail, must to jail.  204
  He that winna be counselled canna be helped.  205
  He that winna save a penny will ne’er hae ony.  206
  He was scant o’ news that told that his father was hanged.  207
  He wha eats but (only) ae dish seldom needs the doctor.  208
  He who has a bonnie wife needs mair than twa een.  209
  He’s a silly body that’s never missed.  210
  He’s a wise man wha can take care o’ himsel’.  211
  He’s idle that may be better employed.  212
  He’s well worth (deserving of) sorrow that buys it with his ain siller.  213
  He’s wise that’s wise in time.  214
  Hearts may agree though heads differ.  215
  His bark is waur nor (worse than) his bite.  216
  Honest men marry soon, wise men never.  217
  Honesty may be dear bought, but can ne’er be an ill pennyworth.  218
  If a man’s gaun doun the brae, ilka ane gi’es him a jundie (push).  219
  If ae sheep loup (jump) the dike, a the lave (rest) will follow.  220
  If that God give, the deil daurna reave (bereave).  221
  If the deil were dead, folk would do little for God’s sake.  222
  If the doctor cures, the sun sees it; if he kills, the earth hides it.  223
  If ye believe a’ ye hear, ye may eat a’ ye see.  224
  If you dinna see the bottom, don’t wade—i.e., don’t venture, if you can’t see your way.  225
  Ilka (every) blade o’ grass keps (catches) it ain drap o’ dew.  226
  Ilka dog has his day.  227
  Ill bairns are best heard at hame.  228
  Ill hearing mak’s ill rehearsing.  229
  It is better to be the head o’ the commonalty than the tail o’ the gentry.  230
  It’s a gude heart that says nae ill, but a better that thinks nane.  231
  It’s a sair field where a’s slain.  232
  It’s an ill wind that blaws naebody gude.  233
  It’s ill talking between a full man and a fasting.  234
  It’s lang ere the devil dee by the dyke-side.  235
  It’s no tint (lost) that a friend gets.  236
  It’s sin, and no poverty, that maks a man miserable.  237
  Jeddart justice: First hang a man, and syne (then) try him.  238
  Joke at your leisure; ye kenna wha may jibe yoursel’.  239
  Jouk and let the jaw (or jaup) gae by—i.e., duck and let the dash of dirty water pass over you.  240
  Just enou’, and nae mair, like Janet Howie’s shearers’ meat.  241
  Keep a thing seven years, and you find a use for it.  242
  Keep oot o’ his company wha cracks o’ his cheatery—i.e., boasts of cunning.  243
  Keep your ain fish guts for your ain seamaws—i.e., what you don’t need yourselves for your own friends.  244
  Keep your breath to cool your own crowdie (cold stirabout)—i.e., till you can use it to some purpose.  245
  Keep your gab steeket (mouth shut) when ye kenna (know not) your company.  246
  Keep your mouth shut and your een open.  247
  Ken when to spend, and when to spare, and when to buy, and you’ll ne’er be bare.  248
  Ken yoursel’, and your neebours winna mistak’ you.  249
  Kindness canna aye lie on ae side o’ the hoose.  250
  Kindness comes o’ will; it canna be coft (bought).  251
  Kindness overcomes a’ dislike.  252
  Kindness will creep whaur it canna gang.  253
  Kings and bears aft worry their keepers.  254
  Kings hae long lugs (ears).  255
  Kings’ caff (chaff) is better than ither folk’s corn—i.e., perquisites in his service are better than the wages others give.  256
  Kings’ cheese gangs half awa’ in parings—i.e., in the expense of collecting it.  257
  Kythe (appear) in your ain colours, that folk may ken ye.  258
  Lang ill, soon weel.  259
  Lasses and glasses are brittle wares.  260
  Laugh at leisure; ye may greet (weep) ere nicht.  261
  Law licks up a’.  262
  Law’s costly; tak’ a pint and ’gree.  263
  Leal heart leed never.  264
  Learn you a bad habit, an’ ye’ll ca’d a custom.  265
  Learn young, learn fair; / Learn auld, learn mair.  266
  Leave Ben Lomond where it stands.  267
  Leave the court ere the court leave you.  268
  Let ae deil ding (beat) anither.  269
  Let him tak’ his fling, and find oot his ain wecht (weight).  270
  Let ilka ane soop (sweep) before his ain door.  271
  Let May be oot (out) before you cast a cloot (a piece of clothing).  272
  Let sleeping dogs lie.  273
  Let the tow (rope) gang wi’ the bucket.  274
  Leuk twice or ye loup ance—i.e., look twice before you leap once.  275
  Life without a freend is death wi’ a witness.  276
  Light suppers mak’ lang life.  277
  Like blude, like gude, like age, mak’ the happy marriage.  278
  Lippen to (trust) me, but look to yoursel’.  279
  Listen at a hole, and ye’ll hear news o’ yoursel’.  280
  Little gear, less care.  281
  Little odds between a feast and a fu’ wame (stomach).  282
  Love and light winna hide.  283
  Love is as warm among cottars as courtiers.  284
  Love ower het (hot) soon cools.  285
  Love thinks nae ill, envy speaks nae gude.  286
  Maidens’ bairns and bachelors’ wives are aye weel bred.  287
  Mair by luck than gude guiding (management).  288
  Marry for love and work for siller.  289
  Meikle crack fills nae sack.  290
  Mony an honest man needs that hasna the face to seek it.  291
  Mony ane speirs the gate (inquires the way) they ken fu’ weel.  292
  Mony kinsfolk, but few freends.  293
  Nae butter ’ll stick to my bread, i.e., no good fortune ever comes my way.  294
  Nae freen’ like the penny.  295
  Nae fules like auld fules.  296
  Nae man can be happy without a friend, nor be sure of him till he’s unhappy.  297
  Nae man can live at peace unless his neighbours let him.  298
  Nae man can mak’ his ain hap (destiny).  299
  Nae man can thrive unless his wife will let him.  300
  Nae man has a tack (lease) o’ his life.  301
  Nae man is wise at a’ times, nor wise on a’ things.  302
  Nae wonder ye’re auld like; ilka thing fashes (bothers) ye.  303
  Naething is a man’s truly but what he cometh by duly.  304
  Naething is got without pains but an ill name.  305
  Naething is got without pains except dirt and long nails.  306
  Naething is ill said if it’s no ill ta’en.  307
  Nane are so weel but they hope to be better.  308
  Ne’er let your gear owergang ye—i.e., never let your wealth get the better of you.  309
  Ne’er put a sword in a wud man’s (a madman’s) hand.  310
  Ne’er tak’ a wife till ye ken what to do wi’ her.  311
  Ne’er trust muckle to an auld enemy or a new freend.  312
  Nearer the kirk the farther frae grace.  313
  Need mak’s an auld wife trot.  314
  Needs must when the devil drives.  315
  Never is a lang term.  316
  Next to nae wife, a gude wife is the best.  317
  Night is the mither (mother) of thoughts.  318
  Now is now, and Yule’s in winter.  319
  Nowadays truth is news.  320
  Patience wi’ poverty is a man’s best remedy.  321
  Perfect love canna be without equality.  322
  Pith’s gude at a’ play but threadin’ o’ needles.  323
  Plenty makes dainty.  324
  Poets and painters ha’e leave to lee.  325
  Poor folk hae neither ony kindred nor ony freends.  326
  Poor folk seek meat for their stomachs, and rich folks stomachs for their meat.  327
  Poor folks are glad of porridge.  328
  Poortith (poverty) is better than pride.  329
  Poverty is the mither (mother) o’ a’ arts.  330
  Prayer and practice is good rhyme.  331
  Pride and grace ne’er dwell in ae place.  332
  Pride never leaves its master till he gets a fa’.  333
  Put a stout heart to a stey (steep) brae.  334
  Put not all your crocks on one shelf.  335
  Quey (female) calfs are dear veal.  336
  Quick at meat, quick at work—i.e., at that kind of work.  337
  Quietness is best.  338
  Raise nae mair deils than ye’re able to lay.  339
  Reckless youth maks ruefu’ age.  340
  Riches are got wi’ pain, kept wi’ care, and tint (lost) wi’ grief.  341
  Riches have made mair men covetous than covetousness has made men rich.  342
  Richt wrangs nae man.  343
  Rule youth weel and age will rule itsel’.  344
  Seein’s believin’, but feelin’s the naked truth.  345
  Send a fool to France, and he’ll come a fool back.  346
  Send your son to Ayr; if he did weel here, he’ll do weel there.  347
  Set a stout heart to a stey (steep) brae.  348
  Sins and debts are aye mair than we think them.  349
  Sma’ fish are better than nane.  350
  Speak o’ the deil and he’ll appear.  351
  Take time in time, ere time be tint (lost).  352
  The buke o’ May-bees is very braid.  353
  The evening brings a’ hame.  354
  The king may gang the cadger’s gate—i.e., may one day need his help.  355
  There are nae fules like auld fules.  356
  Thou wouldst do little for God if the devil were dead.  357
  Want o’ wit is waur than want o’ siller.  358
  Wealth makes wit waver.  359
  Weel is that weel does.  360
  Were it no for hope the heart wad break.  361
  What may be dune at ony time will be dune at nae time.  362
  What’s nane o’ my profit will be nane o’ my peril.  363
  What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine’s my ain.  364
  When bairns are young they gar their parents’ heads ache; when they are auld they make their hearts break.  365
  When friends meet hearts warm.  366
  When ilka ane gets his ain, the thief will get the widdie (gallows).  367
  When love cools our fauts are seen.  368
  When the man’s fire and the wife’s tow, in comes the deil and blaws it in a lowe (flame).  369
  When the will’s ready the feet’s licht.  370
  When you see a woman paint, your heart needna faint.  371
  Where there’s muckle courtesy there’s little kindness.  372
  Where vice is, vengeance follows.  373
  Who never climbs will never fa’.  374
  Words are but wind, but seein’s believin’.  375
  Ye hae a stalk o’ carl-hemp in you.  376

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