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Scottish Proverbs
Alphabetical Listing
(A Thousand Proverbs)


Proverbs Of Scotland

There are current in society upwards of 3,000 proverbs, exclusively Scottish. The Scots are wonderfully given to this way of speaking, and as the consequence of that, abound with proverbs, many of which are very expressive, quick, and home to the purpose; and, indeed, this humour prevails universally over the whole nation..
James Kelly (1721)

A blate (timid) cat makes a fine mouse.
A bonny bride is soon buskit (dressed).
A dog winna yowl if ye strike him with a bane.
A tocherless (dowerless) dame sits long at hame.
A toom (empty) purse makes a blate merchant.
All are good lasses, but whence come the bad wives?
All Stuarts are not sib (related) to the king.

Bear wealth, poverty will bear itself.
Better bairns greet (children cry) than bearded men.
Better say Here it is than Here it was.
Better sit still than rise up and fa’.
Better wed over the mixen (dung heap) than over the
moor (marry one of your own rather than a stranger).
Biting and scratching is Scots folk’s wooing.
Boys will be men.
Bring a cow to the hail and she’ll run to the byre.

Cast not out the foul water till you bring in the clean.
Come day, go day, God sent Sunday.
Courtesy is cumbersome to them than ken it no’.
Credit keeps the crown of the causeway.

Do on the hill as ye would do in the hall.
Do well and doubt nae man, do ill and doubt a’ men.

Far fowls have fair feathers.
Fools and bairns should not see half-done work.
Fools are fain of flittin’ (fond of moving house).
Fools make feasts, and wise fowk eat them; the wise make jests, and fools repeat them.

Gentility never boiled a pot.
Get a name as an early riser and you can lie in your bed
all day.
Give a bairn his will and a whelp his fill, and none of
these two will thrive.
Give a dog a bad name and hang him.
Glasses and lasses are brittle ware,
God help the poor, for the rich can help themselves.
God sends meat, but the de’il sends cooks.
Good will should be taken for part payment.

He loves me for little that hates me for naught.
He rises over early that is hanged ere noon.
He that cannot make sport should mar none.
He that comes first to the hill may sit where he will.
He that has two hoards will get a third.
He that is ill to himself will be good to nobody.
He that talks to himself speaks to a fool.
Him that has a muckle nose thinks ilka yin speaks o’t.

If a man deceive me once, shame on him; if he deceive
me twice, shame on me.
If the doctor cures the sun sees it; but if he kills the earth hides it.
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
If ye canna bite, dinna show yer teeth.
If ye wad sup wi’ the deil, ye’ll need a lang spoon.
It is needless to pour water on a drown’d mouse.
It is no sin to sell dear, but a sin to give ill measure.
It is not lost that a friend gets.
It’s ill wark tae tak the breeks aff a Hielandman.

Kame sindle, kame sair (comb seldom, comb sore).

Likely lies in the mire when Unlikely gets over.

Maidens must be mild and meek, swift to hear and slow to speak.
Maidens should be mim (quiet) till they’re married, and
then they may burn kirks.
Many a man speirs the gate (asks the way) he knows full
well.
Mickle (much) spoken, part spilt.

Naething to be done in haste but gripping of fleas.

Out of debt, out of danger.

Put your hand twice to your bonnet for once to your
pouch.

Quick at meat, quick at work.

Right wrangs nae man.
Rue and thyme grow both in one garden.
Rule youth well, fbr age will rule itsel!

Scotsmen aye reckon frae an ill hour.
Set a stout heart to a stey brae (steep hill).
Show me the man, and I’ll show you the law.

The day has eyes and the night has ears.
The deaf man aye hears the clink o’ money.
The more mischief, the better sport.
The mother of mischief is no bigger than a midge’s wing.
There is little for the rake after the besom (broom).
There is nane sac blind as them that winna see.
There is no medicine for fear.
There’s no’ much guile in a heart that’s aye singing.
They are far behind that may not follow.
Trust not a new friend nor an old enemy.

Unseen, unrued.

Want of wit is worse than want of wealth.
We can drink of the burn when we cannot bite of the
brae.
We can live without our friends, but not without our
neighbours.
We can shape coat and sark (shirt) for them, but we
cannot shape their weird (fate).

We never miss the water till the well runs dry.
Wha teaches himself has a fool for a master.
What may be done at any time will be done at no time.
When all men speak, no man hears.
When I did well, I heard it never;
When I did ill, I heard it ever.
When wine sinks, words swim.
When you are well hold yourself so.
When you christen the bairn you should know what to call it.

Whoredom and grace dwelt ne’er in one place.
Wilful waste makes woeful want.
Wink at wee faults, your am are muckle.
Women and wine, game and deceit,
Make the wealth small and the wants great.
Wood in a wilderness, moss in a mountain, and wit in a
poor man’s breast, are little thought of.

Ye never heard a fisher cry stinking fish.
You may ding the deil (beat the devil) into a wife, but
you’ll never ding him out of her.
You would do little for God if the devil were dead.

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