Reference > Quotations > W.C. Hazlitt, comp. > English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases
W.C. Hazlitt, comp.  English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases.  1907.
An early winter  to  As cold as
An early winter: / a surly winter.  1205
An easy fool / is a knave’s tool.  1206
An eel’s held by the tail surer than a woman.
  This is called “an ancient truth” in Field’s Amends for Ladies, 1618 (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, xi. 157).
An egg and to bed. Sussex.  1208
An egg at Easter.
  See Hazlitt’s Faiths and Folklore, 1905, p. 201.
An egg will be in three bellies in twenty-four hours.  1210
An eldern stake and blackthorn ether,
will make a hedge to last for ever. Wilts.
  Ether = Hedge.—Akerman’s Wilts. Gloss, p. 18. “They say,” observes Mr. A., “that an elder-stake will last in the ground longer than an iron bar of the same size.”
An emmet may work its heart out, but can never make honey.  1212
An empty bag cannot stand upright.  1213
An empty belly hears nobody.  1214
An empty purse and a new house make a wise man but too late.
  A bolza vazia, e a casa acabada faz e home sesudo, mastarde. Port.
An enemy may chance to give good counsel.  1216
An enemy to beauty is a foe to nature.  1217
An enemy’s mouth seldom speaketh well.
  “It is a comyn prouerbe, an enemyes mouth sayth seeld wel.”—Reynard the Fox, 1481, c. 4, repr. 1844, p. 5.
An Englishman’s house is his castle.
  Merry Devil of Edmonton, 1608, where mine host says: “my house my castle.”
An envious man waxeth lean.
  MS. 15th cent. ap. Retr. Rev. 3rd S., ii. 309.
An envious man waxes lean with the fatness of his neighbour.  1221
An evening red and a morning grey,
are sure signs of a fair day. CL.
        “Le rouge soir et blanc matin
Font rejouir le pelerin. Fr.
  Sera rosso et negro mattino
  Allegra il pellegrino. Ital.
  A red evening, and a white morning, rejoice the pilgrim.”—R.
        “An evening red and a morning grey
Will set the traveller on his way;
But if the evening’s grey and the morning red,
Put on your hat, or you’ll wet your head.”—D.
An evil conscience breaks many a man’s neck.  1223
An evil lesson is soon learned.  1224
An excellent soldier: he lacks nothing but a heart and a feather. CL.  1225
An excellent tale, if it were told in Greek. CL.  1226
An Henry-Sophister or Sophista.
  So they are called, who, after four years’ standing in the University, stay themselves from commencing Batchelors of Arts, to render them in some colleges more capable of preferment.
  That tradition is senseless (and inconsistent with his princely magnificence) of such who fancy that King Henry the Eighth, coming to Cambridge, stayed all the sophisters a year, who expected that a year of grace should have been given to them. More probable it is, that because that king is commonly conceived of great strength and stature, that these Sophistæ Henriciani were elder and bigger than others. The truth is this: in the reign of King Henry the Eighth, after the destruction of monasteries, learning was at a loss; and the University (thanks be unto God! more scared than hurt) stood at a gaze what would become of her. Hereupon, many students stayed themselves two, three, some four years; as who would see how their degrees (before they took them) would be rewarded and maintained.—R. Peacham, in his Compleat Gentleman, edit. 1627, p. 106, says that he could make maps by geometrical rules at thirteen or fourteen years of age adding, “as I did at Cambridge, when I was of Trinitie Colledge, and a Iunior Sophister.” The Libellus Sophistarum, by Robert Alynton, was published for the use of both Universities by Pynson and De Worde. See notices of the editions in Bibl. Coll. and Notes, 1876 and 1882. See for a different, but in my opinion, not very satisfactory explanation, N. and Q., 2nd, S., viii. 86.
An honest look covereth many faults.  1228
An honest man and a good bowler.  1229
An honest man’s word is as good as his bond.  1230
An honest miller hath a golden thumb. R.
  A C. Mery Talys, undated ed., No. 10. “The Somersetshire people reply, None but a cuckold can see it.”—R. This was presumably because through his eyes the thumb might appear yellow or golden. But in the work first cited, on the contrary, it is added, that no cuckold has the power.
An horse hired / never tired.  1232
An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening.  1233
An hour may destroy what an age was building.  1234
An hour of pain is as long as a day of pleasure.  1235
An hour’s cold will suck out seven years’ heat. D.  1236
An hungry man.
  See A hungry man.
An idle brain is the devil’s shop [or work-house].  1238
An idle head is a box for the wind. H.  1239
An idle person is the devil’s playfellow.  1240
An ill agreement is better than a good judgment. H.  1241
An ill cook cannot lick his own fingers. C.  1242
An ill cook should have a good cleaver.  1243
An ill cow may have a good calf.  1244
An ill father desireth not an ill son.  1245
An ill life, an ill end.  1246
An ill man is worst when he appeareth good.  1247
An ill marriage is a spring of ill fortune.  1248
An ill paymaster never wants an excuse.  1249
An ill plea should be well pleaded.  1250
An ill receiver makes an ill paymaster.  1251
An ill-spun weft
will out either now or eft.
  Weft, i.e., web. This is a Yorkshire proverb.—R.
An ill stake standeth longest.  1253
An ill style is better than a lewd story.  1254
An ill-timed jest hath ruined many.  1255
An ill turn is soon done.  1256
An ill workman quarrels with his tools.
  Mechant ouvrier jamais ne trouvera bons outils. Fr.—R.
An ill wound is cured, not an ill name. H.  1258
An inch breaketh no square. HE.
  Gascoigne’s Poems, by Hazlitt, i. 495. Peradventure a day or two more will break no square.—Chamberlain’s Letter to Dudley Carleton, March 5, 1600–1. Some add, in a burn of thorns. “Pour un petit ni avant ni arriére.” Fr.—R.
An inch in a man’s nose is much.  1260
An inch in a miss is as good as an ell. C.
  We now say: A miss is as good as a mile. Heywood says merely: “As good is an inche as an ell,” and the other person in the Dialogue goes on to say:
        “———— Ye can (quoth she) make it so well,
For whan I gaue you an ynche, ye tooke an ell.”
An inch in an hour is a foot in a day’s work.  1262
An injury forgiven is better than an injury revenged.  1263
An insolent lord is not a gentleman.  1264
An iron windfall. New Forest.
  Anything unfairly taken.
An oak is not felled at one chop.  1266
An obedient wife commands her husband.  1267
An occasion lost cannot be redeemed.  1268
An old ape hath an old eye. CL.
  Rowley’s Match at Midnight, 1633 (D. O. P. 1825, vii. 327).
An old child sucks hard.
  i.e., “Children, when they growe to age, proue chargeable.”—Manningham’s Diary, 1602, edit. 1868, p. 12.
An old band is a captain’s honour. B. OF M. R.  1271
An old bird is not caught with chaff.
  Timon, a play (circa 1590), iv. 2, ed. Dyce; Clarke’s Parœm. 1639, 158.
An old cart well used,
a new one abused.
An old cat laps as much as a young. CL.  1274
An old dog barks not in vain. B. OF M. R.
  Un vieil chien jamais ne jappe en vain. Fr.—R.
An old dog biteth sore. HE.  1276
An old dog will learn no new tricks.
  Walker (1672). “’Tis all one to physic the dead as to instruct old men. [Greek] Senis mutare linguam, as an absurd, impossible thing. Old age is intractable, morose, slow, and forgetful. If they have been put in a wrong way at first, no hopes then of reducing them. Senex psittacus negligit ferulam.”—R.
An old ewe dressed lamb-fashion.  1278
An old fox need learn no craft. CL.  1279
An old fox understands a trap.  1280
An old friend is a new house. H.  1281
An old goat is never the more reverend for his beard.  1282
An old knave is no babe. HE.  1283
An old man in a house is a good sign.  1284
An old man is a bed full of bones.  1285
An old man never wants a tale to tell.  1286
An old man twice a child.
  Senex bis puer. Latimer’s Sermons, 1549, edit. Arber, p. 56.
An old man who weds a buxom young maiden, bids fair to become a freeman of Buckingham [i.e., a cuckold].  1288
An old moon in a mist
is worth gold in a kist [chest]:
but a new moon’s mist
will never lack thrist [thirst]. D.
  Mr. Denham gives another version of the first part:—
        “As safe as treasure in a kist,
Is the day in an old moon’s mist.”
An old naught / will never be aught.  1290
An old ox makes a straight furrow.
  Buey viejo surco derecho. Span.
An old ox will find a shelter for himself.  1292
An old physician, a young lawyer.
  An old physician, because of his experience; a young lawyer, because he having but little practice, will have leisure enough to attend to your business; and desiring thereby to recommend himself, and get more, will be very diligent in it. The Italians say. An old physician, a young barber.—R.
An old sack asketh much patching. HE.  1294
An old thief desires a new halter.  1295
An old wise man’s shadow is better than a young buzzard’s sword. H.  1296
An old woman in a wooden ruff.
  i.e., in an antique dress.—R.
An old wrinkle never wears out.  1298
An Oliver’s knighthood.
  A contemptuous expression to signify a thing of little or no value, originating in the opponents of the Protector Cromwell.
An open door may tempt a saint.  1300
An open knave is a great fool.  1301
An ounce of fortune is worth a pound of forecast.  1302
An ounce of mother wit is worth a pound of learning.
  It is also said: An ounce of discretion is worth a pound of wit. “The French say, An ounce of good fortune, &c. Gutta fortunæ præ dolio sapientiæ.”—R. In Rivett’s Mr. Smirke or the Divine in Mode, 1676, p. 2, we have: “An ounce of mother wit is worth a pound of clergy.”
An ounce of state requires a pound of gold.
  B. of M. R. 1629, No. 26.
An ounce of wisdom is worth a pound of wit.  1305
An ounce of wit that’s bought
is worth a pound that’s taught.
An owl in an ivy-bush.
  See Nares’ Glossary, 1859, v. Ivy-Bush.
An ox, when he is loose, licks himself at pleasure.  1308
An ugly woman is a disease of the stomach, a handsome woman a disease of the head.  1309
An unbidden guest knoweth not where to sit. HE.  1310
An unchaste wife, working mischief still,
is oft compared to a foul dunghill. W.
An unhappy lad may make a good man.  1312
An unpeaceable man hath no neighbour.  1313
Anderton jewels.
  Duck-winged cocks are so called in Lancashire.
Anger and haste hinder good counsel.  1315
Anger begins with folly, and ends with repentance.  1316
Anger edgeth valour. CL.  1317
Anger is a sworn enemy.  1318
Anger makes a rich man hated, and a poor man scorned.  1319
Anger punishes itself.  1320
Anglia Mons, Pons, Fons, Ecclesia, Fæmina, Luna.
  Lupton’s London and the Countrey Carbonadoed, &c., 1632 (Books of Characters, 1857, 303).
Anglica gens,
optima flens,
pessima ridens.
  Reliquiæ Hearnianæ, ed. Bliss, 136. “Les Anglais,” according to the French critic, “s’amusent tristement.”
Angry men seldom want woe.  1323
Anoint a clown, and he’ll grip you;
grip a clown, and he’ll anoint you. W.
Another threshed what I reaped.  1325
Another’s bread costs dear. H.  1326
Antiquitas sæculi juventus mundi.  1327
Antiquity is not always a mark of verity.  1328
Any port in a storm.  1329
Anything for a quiet life.  1330
Anything may be spoke, if it be under the rose (1647).  1331
Any tooth, good barber.  1332
Apelles was not a master-painter the first day.  1333
Apes are never more beasts than when they wear men’s clothes.  1334
Apothecaries would not give pills in sugar unless they were bitter.  1335
Apples, pears, and nuts spoil the voice.  1336
Apples, pears, hawthorn, quick, oak: set them at All-hollon-tide [All-Hallow-Tide], and command them to prosper; set them at Candlemas, and intreat them to grow. R.  1337
Application makes the ass.  1338
April and May are the key of all the year.  1339
April cling, / good for nothing. Somerset.  1340
April with his back and bill
plants a flower on every hill. D.
April showers / bring summer flowers.  1342
April weather / rain and sunshine both together.  1343
Archdeacon Pratt would eat no fat. Howell.
  Comp. Jack Sprat. I suspect the archdeacon was a later improvement.
Are there traitors at the table that the loaf is turned the wrong side upwards?  1345
Are you there with your bears?
  See Davis, Suppl. Glossary, 1881, p. 45.
Argus at home, but a mole abroad.
  In casa Argo, di fuori talpa. Ital. A man should be scrupulously attentive to what is going forward in his own house, but blind to what passes in another’s.—R.
Arnoul is at dinner. Walpoliana.  1348
Arthur could not tame a woman’s tongue.  1349
Arthur himself had but his time.  1350
Arthur was not but whilst he was.  1351
Art must be deluded by art.  1352
Art thou in that lock?
  Lady Alimony, 1659, iii. 3. The meaning seems to be, is that thy cue or game?
As a cat loves mustard. CL.  1354
As a man is friended,
so the law is ended. C.
As a man lives, so shall he die;
as a tree falls, so shall it lie.
As a wolf is like a dog, so is a flatterer like a friend.  1357
As angry as a wasp. HE.
  Gascoigne’s Steel Glas, 1576 (Works, by Hazlitt, ii. 204).
As bad as Jeffreys. New Forest.  1359
As bald as a coot.  1360
As bare as a bird’s tail.
  Twelve Mery Gestys of the Widow Edyth, 1525, by Walter Smith, or Old Engl. Jest Books, iii. 102.
As bare as the back of my hand.  1362
As bare as the birch at Yule even. D.
  In allusion to the Christmas log. It is spoken of one in extreme poverty.—D.
As bashful as a Lenten lover. D.  1364
As big a liar as Tom Pepper. Leeds.
  Dialect of Leeds, 1862, 405. The devil is said to have given up Tom in despair.
As big as a Dorchester butt.
  Higson’s MSS. Coll. 206.
As big as a goose’s egg.
  Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede (1394), ed. Skeat, line 225.
As big as a parson’s barn. Dorsetshire.  1368
As big as brass.
  See Porter’s Two Angrie Women of Abington, 1599, p. 105; and Dyce’s note.
As big as bull-beef at Candlemas. D.  1370
As bitter as gall.  1371
As black as a coal.
  As a crow or raven; as the devil, as jet, as ink, as soot.—R.
As black as my hat.
  When tall black silk hats were in general use, this expression was much in the mouths of certain people in describing old port, which had kept its colour. Tawny port has lost it. Another form is: as black as my boot.
As blake [i.e., yellow] as a paigle [cowslip]. North and East.
  See Forby’s Vocabulary of East Anglia, 1830, 241–2. Other forms are pagle (used by Jonson) and peagle.
As blind as a bat or a mole.
  The velocity of a bat is a reductio ad absurdum of part of this saying.
  “Talpâ cæcior.” As blind as a mole: though, indeed, a mole is not absolutely blind; but has perfect eyes, and those not covered with any membrane, as some have reported; but open, and to be found withoutside the head, if one search diligently, otherwise they may easily escape one, being very small, and lying hid in the fur. So that it must be granted that a mole sees but obscurely, yet so much as is sufficient for her manner of living, being most part under ground. “Hypsæa cæcior.” This Hypsæa was a woman famous for her blindness. “Tiresiâ cæcior.” The fable of Tiresias, and how he came to be blind, is well known. “Leberide cæcior. Est autem Leberis exuviæ sive spolium serpentis, in quo apparent effigies duntaxat oculorum, ac membranula quædam tenuissima qua serpentum oculi præteguntur.” A beetle is thought to be blind, because in the evening it will fly with its full force against a man’s face, or anything else which happens to be in its way; which other insects, as bees, hornets, &c., will not do.—R.
As bold as Beauchamp. CL.
  “Of this surname there were many Earls of Warwick, amongst whom (saith Dr. Fuller) I conceive Thomas, the first of that name, gave chief occasion to this proverb; who in the year 1346, with one squire and six archers, fought in hostile manner with a hundred armed men, at Hogges, in Normandy, and overthrew them, slaying sixty Normans, and giving the whole fleet means to land.—R. The bold Beauchamps forms the title of a lost drama by T. Heywood, alluded to in Fletcher’s Knight of the Burning Pestle, 1613, and in Suckling’s Goblins, 1646. The latter thought that it was a play of some merit, and must have witnessed its performance. The passage runs thus:—
        “Poet.  I beseech you bring me to him….
1 Thief.  You shall, Sir.
Let me see—the author of the bold Beauchamps and Englands Joy.”
The Goblins, ed. 1646, p. 45.    
As bold as blind Bayard. R.
  “And forthwith toke penne and ynke and began boldly to renne forth as blynde bayard in thys presente werke.”—Caxton’s Prologue to the Recueyll of the Historyes of Troye (translated in or before 1471). See Blades, ii. 132, and also Appius and Virginia, 1575, apud Dodsley, xii. 348. In A Dictionarie French and English, 1570, the publisher says in the Preface: “Blinde Bayard is boldest to launch into the deepe.”
As bold as brass.  1378
As brag as a body-louse.
  Gammer Gurton’s Needle, 1575, act ii. sc. 4.
As brisk as a bee in a tar-pot.  1380
As brisk as a body-louse.
  Antidote against Melancholy, 1749, p. 139.
As broad as it is long.  1382
As broken a ship as this has come to land.  1383
As brown as a berry.
  Hazlitt’s Early Popular Poetry, iii., 243.
As busy as a good wife at an oven, and neither meal nor dough.  1385
As busy as a hen that hath but one chicken. CL.  1386
As busy as Batty. Devon.  1387
As busy as the devil in a high wind.  1388
As cap in cap-case.
        Bouzer I am not, but mild, sober Tuesday,
As catt in cap-case, if I light not on St. Hewsday.
The Christmas Prince, 1607. Compare my Gascoigne, i. 233.    
As clean as a new penny.
  “Clean as a penny.”—Antidote against Melancholy, 1749, p. 139.
As clean as a pink.
  See Notes and Queries, Jan. 27, 1883.
As clean as a whistle.
  Any one who has witnessed the manufacture of a rustic whistle can be at no loss for the origin of this saying. A piece of young ash about four inches long and the thickness of a finger is hammered all over with the handle of a knife until the bark is disengaged from the wood and capable of being drawn off. A notch and a cut or two having been made in the stick, the cuticle is replaced and the instrument complete. When stripped of its covering, the white wood with its colourless sap presents the cleanest appearance imaginable—the very acmé of cleanness.—C. P. T. in Notes and Queries.
As clear as a bell.
  Spoken principally of a voice or sound without any jarring or harshness.—R.
As clear as a pikestaff.  1394
As clear as copperplate.
  Spoken of a very legible hand, and a figure borrowed from the old copybooks, where the different characters in use are engraved on copper from originals prepared by Cocker and other masters.
As clear as crystal.  1396
As clear as the sun at noontide.  1397
As cold as a cucumber.
  Fletcher, in his Cupids Revenge, 1615, makes Nisus say, that “young maids were as cold as cucumbers.” We now express it, As cool as a cucumber,—a less meaning phrase, after all.
As cold as charity.  1399


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