Reference > Quotations > W.C. Hazlitt, comp. > English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases
W.C. Hazlitt, comp.  English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases.  1907.
The devil  to  The greatest wealth
The devil always leaves a stink behind him.  8014
The devil and his dam.
  See Henslowe’s Diary, ed. Collier, p. 169.
The devil and John A’ Cumber.
  See Nares, 1859, v. Cumber. The personage here alluded to is probably identical with one of the characters in Munday’s play of John A’ Kent and John A’ Cumber.
The devil gets up to the belfry by the vicar’s skirts.  8017
The devil goes shares in gaming.  8018
The devil hath cast a bone to set strife. HE.*  8019
The devil helps his friends.
  Civil War Tract of 1641.
The devil is a busy bishop in his own diocese.
  Henry VIII. was of opinion that he was a better man of business than the Bishops, whom he advised to take him as a pattern.
The devil is busy in a high wind.  8022
The devil is dead.
  A proverbial expression, by which it is intended to say (satirically or ironically) that people have ceased to do wrong. Thus, in Davenport’s City Night-Cap, written in 1624, the Clown says: “Methinks the devil’s dead too” (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, xiii. 141). Dr. Mead in the fourth part of his Diatribæ devotes some space to a theory, that in the time of the Commonwealth England was growing so good, that the Devil went over to America to see what he could do there.
The devil is good to some.
  The Irish say, The wicked one is aye kind to his ain.
The devil is good when he is pleased.
  Canta Marta despues de harta. Span.—R. In Grim, the Collier of Croydon, 1662, ii. 1, it runs: The devil is mild, &c. This play was written about 1600.
The devil is in the dice.  8026
The devil is never nearer than when we are talking of him.  8027
The devil is not always at one door. H.  8028
The devil is the father of lies.
  Breton’s Court and Country, 1618 (Roxb. Libr., repr. 195).
The devil lies brooding in the miser’s chest.  8030
The devil makes his Christmas-pie of lawyers’ tongues and clerks’ fingers. CL.  8031
The devil of Dowgate.
  See Davis, Suppl. Glossary, 1881, p. 200.
The devil on Dun’s back. CL.  8033
The devil owed him a shame.  8034
The devil pay the maltman.
  Copland’s Hye Way to the Spyttel Hous (circa 1532), in Hazlitt’s Pop. Poetry, iv. 55, and Note.
The devil rebukes sin.
  Clodius accusat mœchos. Aliorum medicus ipse ulceribus scates.—R.
The devil run through thee booted and spurred with a scythe on his back!
  This is Sedgely curse. Mr. Howell.—R.
The devil seemeth to be God to somebody.
  “For he hath two wings to fly withall, the one having an internall strength from the minde, and the other an externall from the bodie: that of the mind is (as it were) couered with a vaile: but the other is plaine and naked: howbeit both of them are indented with seuerall braunches, wherewith, according to the Adage, the Diuell seemeth to be God to some bodie.”—Saint George for England, by Gerrard de Malynes, 1601, p. 58.
The devil sh—s upon a great heap.
  See Mery Tales and Quicke Answeres, ed. Berthelet, No. 28 (Old English Jest-Books, i.)
The devil take the hindmost.
  Tuke’s Adventures of Five Hours, 1671, in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, xv. 302. This play is taken in great measure from the Spanish of Calderon.
The devil was sick, the devil a monk would be;
The devil was well, the devil a monk was he.
        Ægrotat Dæmon, monachus tunc esse volebat:
Dæmon convaluit, Dæmon ut ante fuit.
  This saying concludes “A Modest Vindication of the Petition for the calling of a Free Parliament,” a broadsheet printed (perhaps at Exeter), in 1688. But the same idea occurs in Gesta Romanorum, ed. 1838, p. 224:—
        Heú! cum languebat lupus, agnus esse volebat,
Postquam convaluit, talis ut ante fuit.
The devil will not come into Cornwall, for fear of being put into a pie.
  A sneer at Cousin Jockey for his love of pasties, which are usually compounded of any material which comes cheapest or handiest.
The devil will take his own.
  De debles vint, a debbles irra. Old Fr.
The devil wipes his tail with the poor man’s pride.  8044
The devil would have been a weaver but for the Temples.  8045
The devil’s behind the glass.  8046
The devil’s children have the devil’s luck.  8047
The devil’s coach-horse.
  The cock-tailed beetle.
The devil’s guts.
  i.e., The surveyor’s chain.
The devil’s meal is half bran.
  La farine du diable n’est que bran, or, s’en va moitie en bran. Fr.—R.
The Devil’s Own.
  The jocular designation for the Inns of Court Volunteers.
The difference is wide / that the sheets will not decide.  8052
The diligent spinner has a large shift.  8053
The dirt bird [or dirt owl] sings: We shall have rain.
  When melancholy persons are very merry, it is observed that there usually follows an extraordinary fit of sadness, they doing all things commonly in extremes.
The disobedience of the patient makes the physician seem cruel.  8055
The dog that fetches will carry. E. Anglia.
  “A tale-bearer will tell tales of you as well as to you.”—Forby.
The dog that licks ashes, trust not with meal. H.
  The Italians says this of a cat: Gatto che lecca cenere non fidar farina.—R.
The dog wags his tail not for love of you, but of your bread. CL.  8058
The dog who hunts foulest, hits at most faults.  8059
The drunkard continually assaults his own life.  8060
The dunder clo gally [affright] the beans. Somerset.
  Beans shoot up fast after thunderstorms.—R.
The dust raised by the sheep does not choke the wolf.  8062
The Dutchman saith that sedging is good cope. HE.  8063
The Dutchman’s headache.
  i.e., Drunkenness.
The early bird catcheth the worm.  8065
The early sower never borrows of the late.  8066
The earth produces all things, and receives all again.  8067
The earthen pot must keep clear of the brass kettle.  8068
The ebb will fetch off what the tide brings in.  8069
The empty leech sucks sore. WALKER.  8070
The end crowns all.  8071
The end makes all equal. C.  8072
The end of fishing is catching.  8073
The Englishman weeps, / the Irishman sleeps;
but the Scotchman goes while he gets it.
The envious man shall never want woe. C.  8075
The epicure puts his purse into his belly; the miser his belly into his purse.  8076
The escaped mouse ever feels the taste of the bait. H.  8077
The evening crowns the day.
  Un bel morire tutta la vita honora.
                                “Dicique beatus
Ante obitum nemo supremaque funera debet.”—Ovid.
Exitus acta probat. Al finir del gioco, si vede che ha guadagnato. Ital.—R.
The evil that cometh out of thy mouth flieth into thy bosom.  8079
The evil wound is cured, but not the evil name.  8080
The ewe that doth bleat / doth lose the most of her meat. W.  8081
The example of good men is visible philosophy.  8082
The eye is a shrew.  8083
The eye is the pearl of the face.  8084
The eye of the master does more than both his hands.  8085
The eye that sees all things else sees not itself.  8086
The eye will have his part. H.  8087
The fair lasts all the year. DS.  8088
The fair maid who, the first of May,
goes to the fields at break of day,
and washes in dew from the hawthorn tree,
will ever after handsome be.
The fairer the hostess, the fouler the reckoning.
  Belle hostesse c’est un mal pour la bourse. Fr. El huespeda hermosa, mal para la bolsa. Span.
The fairer the paper, the fouler the blot.  8091
The fairest-looking shoe may pinch the foot.  8092
The fairest rose is soonest withered. C.
  Or, in the end, he elsewhere says.
The fairest silk is soonest stained.
  This may be applied to women. The handsomest women are soonest corrupted, because they are most tempted. It may also be applied to good natures, which are most easily drawn away by evil company.—R.
The falsehood of Ferrara.
  Gascoigne’s Supposes, 1566 (Works, by Hazlitt, i. 238–9, 250).
The farmer should have, on Candlemas Day,
half his stover and half his hay.
  Winter forage.
The farmer’s foot is the best manure.
  Rider Haggard, Winter Pilgrimage, 1901, p. 145. He calls it “an old agricultural saw”—perhaps in his county, Norfolk.
The farther from the sun, the duller wit.  8098
The farther in, the deeper.  8099
The farther you go, the farther behind. HE.*  8100
The farthest way about is the nearest way home.
  What is gained in the shortness may be lost in the goodness of the way. Compendia plerumque sunt dispendia.—R. “For let the proverb say what it will, the farthest way about is not the nearest way home.”—Stevenson’s Florus Britannicus, 1662, dedic., or my Book of Prefaces, 1874, p. 398.
The farthing is good that maketh the penny bud. W.  8102
The fat is in the fire. HE.*  8103
The fat man knoweth not what the lean thinketh. H.  8104
The father sighs more at the death of one son than he smiles at the birth of many.  8105
The father to the bough, and the son to the plough. CL.
  This saying I look upon as too narrow to be placed in the family of proverbs; it is rather to be deemed a rule or maxim in the tenure of Gavel-kind, where, though the father had judgment to be hanged, yet there followed no forfeiture of his estate, but his son might (a happy man, according to Horace’s description) paterna rura bobus exercere suis.—R. Or, according to the terms of an old charter cited by Lambarde (apud Pegge’s Kenticisms, by Skeat, 99), “Les tiendra par mesmes les seruices et customes sicome ses auncestres les tyndrent.”
The fault of the horse is put on the saddle. H.  8107
The faulty stands on his guard.  8108
The fewer his years / the fewer his tears.  8109
The fewer the better fare. C.  8110
The filth under the white snow the sun discovers. H.  8111
The finest flower will soonest fade.
  Ballad printed about 1570 in Ancient Ballads, &c., 1867, 374.
The finger next thy thumb.
  “In yt thou crauest my aide, assure thy selfe I will be the finger next thy thombe.”—Lyly’s Euphues, 1579, repr. Arber, 68.
The fire in the flint shows not till it’s struck.  8114
The fire is never without heat. DS.  8115
The fire of London was a punishment for gluttony.  8116
The fire that burneth taketh the heat out of a burn.  8117
The fire that does not warm me shall never scorch me.  8118
The fire which lighteth us at a distance will burn us when near.  8119
The first breath / is the beginning of death.  8120
The first cock of hay / frights the cuckoo away. D.  8121
The first cut and all the loaf besides.  8122
The first dish pleaseth all. H.  8123
The first faults are theirs that commit them:
the second are theirs that permit them.
The first men in the world were a gardener, a ploughman, and a grazier.  8125
The first of May / is Robin Hood’s Day. D.
  Mr. Denham refers to Hone’s ed. of Strutt.
The first of the nine orders of knaves is he that tells his errand before he goes it.  8127
The first pig, but the last whelp of the litter, is the best.  8128
The first point of hawking is Hold fast. HE.  8129
The first step is the only difficulty.
  Il n’y a que le premier pas qui coute. Fr. Voltaire quoted this saying in reference to the alleged miracle of St. Denis walking with his head under his arm.
The first year let your house to your enemy; the second, to your friend; the third, live in it yourself.  8131
The fish adores the bait. H.  8132
The fish may be caught in a net that will not come to a hook.  8133
The fishmonger’s fair.
  A period of fasting, such as Lent.
The flower of the frying-pan.
  Marriage of Wit and Wisdom (circa 1570). This appears to be a sort of different reading of our saying—The flower of the flock.
The fly that playeth too long in the candle singeth her wings.  8136
The folly of one man is the fortune of another.  8137
The fool asks much, but he is more fool that grants it. H.  8138
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
  As you Like it, v. i. This is rather a maxim.
The fool is busy in every one’s business but his own.  8140
The fool runs away while his house is burning.  8141
The fool saith, Who would have thought it?  8142
The fool wanders; the wise man travels.  8143
The fool will not part with his bauble for the Tower of London. R. 1670.  8144
The foot of the owner is the best manure for his land.  8145
The foot on the cradle and the hand on the distaff.
  The sign of a good housewife.
The foremost dog catcheth the hare.  8147
The fork is commonly the rake’s heir.  8148
The Four Eights. New Zealand.
        Eight hours for sleep,
Eight hours for play,
Eight hours for work,
And eight shillings a day.
The fowler’s pipe sounds sweet till the bird is caught.  8150
The fox knows much, but more he that catcheth him. H.
  Muito sabe a zaposa, mas mais quem a toma. Port. Mucho sabia el cornudo pero mas quien se los puso. Span. This applies to a man who has a great conceit of himself, but is overreached by another.
The fox may grow grey, but never good.
  Vulpes pilos mutat, mores n mutat.—Polydore Vergil (Prov. Libellus, 1498, edit. 1503, sign. E verso).
The fox never fares better than when he is banned.
  “But I pereciue you fare as the fox, the more band the better hap.”—Chettle’s Kind Harts Dreame (1592), repr. 46.
        “Populus me sibilat; at mihi plaudo
        Ipse domi, simul ac nummos contemplor in arca.”
Horat. (Satir. I. i. 66).    
The fox praiseth the meat out of the crow’s mouth.  8154
The fox was sick and he knew not where:
he clapped his hand on his tail, and swore it was there.
The friar preached against stealing when he had a pudding in his sleeve.
  This proverb is formed out of A C. Mery Talys, No. 66 of ed. without date (1525), Old English Jest-Books, i. 97. Il frate predicava, che non si dovesse robbare, e l’ ui haveva l’ occha nel scapulario. Ital. Herbert has it, but differently; he puts a goose in the place of the pudding, like the Italian version.
The frog / cannot out of her bog.  8157
The frost hurts not weeds.  8158
The frying-pan says to the kettle, Avaunt, Blackbrows!  8159
The full moon brings fair weather.  8160
The Gallants of Fowey. Cornw.
  This expression arose from the conspicuous part taken by the mariners and inhabitants of Fowey, on the south coast of Cornwall, in the foreign wars of the Plantagenets, to which they were among the largest contributors of ships and men.
The gallows groans for you. WALKER.  8162
The gallows will have its own at last.  8163
The game is not worth the candle.
  Le ieu ne vaut pas la chandelle.—Montaigne, Essais, livre ii. c. 17.
The Gentle Craft.
  Shoemakers are so called. Compare A shoemaker’s son, &c.
The gentle hawk half-mans herself. H.  8166
The German’s wit is in his fingers. H.  8167
The glue did not hold.
  i.e., You were baulked in your wishes; you missed your aim.—R.
The goat must browse where he is tied. H.  8169
The golden age was never the present age.  8170
The golden mean.
  [Greek].—Cleobulos of Lindos. [char.]e middel weie of mesure is euer guldene.—Ancren Riwle, ed. Morton, p. 336.
The good fellowship of Padstow. Cornw.
  Notes and Queries, 3rd S., v. 275.
The good horse must carry drink. S. Devon.  8173
The good horse must not cocky to a gally-whacker. S. Devon.
  i.e., not start at a scarecrow.—Shelly.
The good horse must smell to a pixy. S. Devon.
  i.e., must know by smelling where the pixy (ignis fatuus), and therefore, the bog, is.—Shelly.
The good-man is the last who knows what’s amiss at home.  8176
The good mother saith not, Will you? but gives.  8177
The good wife would not seek her daughter in the oven, unless she had been there herself. C.
  “See him and see him not I will, about that his meazild invention of the good wife my mothers finding her daughter in the oven, where she would never have sought her, if she had not been there first her selfe; a hackney proverb in mens mouths ever since K. Lud was a little boy, or Belinus, Brennus’ brother, for the love hee bare to oysters, built Billingsgate.”—Nash’s Have with you to Saffron Walden, 1596, repr. 1869, p. 143.
The gown is hers that wears it, and the world is his who enjoys it.  8179
The grace of God is enough.
  “Lanc.  The old proverb is very well parted between my master Shylock and you, Sir; you have the grace of God, Sir, and he hath enough.”—Merchant of Venice, 1600, ii. 2.
The grapes are sour.
  Said of anything we fail to obtain. De ere sure, sagde Ræven, da han ikke kunde naae Rönnebœrrene.—Dan.
The grave is the general meeting-place.  8182
The grave’s good rest, when women go first to bed.
  Rowley’s Woman Never Vext, 1632 (Dilke, v. 347).
The great and the little have need of one another.  8184
The great cab and the little cab go down to the grave.  8185
The great pond.
  The Channel, or perhaps the British sea. The phrase occurs in the Lamentable Complaints of Hop the Brewer and Kilcalfe the Butcher, &c., 1641. We call the Channel the Silver Streak.
The great thieves punish the little ones.  8187
The greater the right the greater the wrong.
  Summum ius summa iniuria.—Polydore Vergil (Proverbiorum Libellus, 1498, edit. 1503, sign. D iii).
The greatest barkers bite not sorest. CL.
  Or, Dogs that bark at a distance bite not at hand. Cane chi abbaia non morde. Ital. Chien qui aboye ne mord pas. Fr. Canes timidi vehementiùs latrant. Ca que muito ladra nunca bom pera caça. Port.—R.
The greatest boasters are not the greatest doers.
  Interlude of Thersites, about 1550 (part of title).
The greatest burdens are not the gainfullest.  8191
The greatest calf is not the sweetest veal. C.  8192
The greatest clerks be not the wisest men. HE. AND DS.
  Return from Parnassus, 1606 (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, ix.); Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale (ed. Wright, roy. 8vo, p. 48). See Reynard the Fox, Thoms’ repr. of Caxton’s ed. p. 184. Our universities swarm with learned individuals, who have all the narrowness and self-complacency of poor Dominie Sampson without his bonhomie. Unlike Chaucer’s scholar who loved to teach, and eke to learn, your Academic issues from his Alma Mater armed cap-à-pie in his own conceit. It is a comfort to know where even more ignorant than oneself may be had for the seeking; and these are the seminaries, to which certain wonder that one does not commit one’s child, when parcel-man, to complete his education!—and whence emerge the governors and legislators of this great nation—are to emerge for all time, unless reform intervenes to destroy the execrable system of government by my friend and my friend’s friend. At present we seem to be culminating toward the great calamity anciently predicted for 1884.
The greatest crabs be not all the best meat. HE.
  Great and good are not always the same thing; though our language often makes them synonymous terms, as when we call a great way a good way, and a great deal a good deal, &c., in which, and the like phrases, good signifies somewhat less than great, viz., of a middle size or indifferent. Bonus, also, in Latin, is sometimes used in the same sense as in that of Persius, Sat. 2. Bona pars procerum. Les grands bœufs no font pas les grandes journées. Fr.—R.
The greatest expense we can be at is that of our time.  8195
The greatest favourites are in the most danger of falling.  8196
The greatest hate springs from the greatest love.  8197
The greatest learning is to be seen in the greatest plainness.  8198
The greatest mischief you can do the envious is to do well.  8199
The greatest oaks have been little acorns.  8200
The greatest step is that out of doors. H.  8201
The greatest talkers are the least doers. C.  8202
The greatest things are done by the help of small ones.  8203
The greatest vessel hath but its measure.  8204
The greatest wealth is contentment with a little.  8205
The greatest wonder ever was seen,
is Stumbland Church on Parsonby Green.
  Higson’s MSS. Coll., No. 29, where Whellan’s Westm. and Cumb., p. 366, is referred to.


Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.