Famous Proverbs (and Their Opposites)

Clothes make the man.

Clothes don’t make the man.

Everyone loves proverbs. We use them often. We also use their opposites, often without realizing it. The most risible is above. The difference is a single word. I could have also used: don’t judge a book by its cover. You’ve heard of that proverb?

Stick around until the end when I throw a wrench into the mix..

Without further ado, let’s jump in.

Curiosity killed the cat.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Fortune favors the bold.

Opposites attract.

Birds of a feather, flock together.

Bigger is better.

Great things come in small packages.

Patience is a virtue (or) better late than never (or) good things come to those who wait.

The early bird gets the worm (or) time waits for no man.

Early mover versus fast follower.

A penny saved is a penny earned.

The love of money is the root of all evil.

Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Something is better than nothing.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

This flies in the face of all improvement and technological advances. For example, the telegraph was never broken.

Silence is golden.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Too many cooks in the kitchen.

Many hands make light work.

Practice makes perfect.

All work no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Better safe than sorry.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Test: when you go on an extended time away from your partner, do you forget about them totally, remember the good times, or remember the bad times? This will tell you a lot about the current state of your relationship.

Actions speak louder than words (or) talk is cheap.

Pen is mightier than the sword.

I’m actually of the opinion that words are, without a doubt, our most powerful weapons. Words start and end wars, start movements, they motivate into action.

Wise men thin alike.

Fools seldom differ.

Look before you leap.

Strike while the iron is hot.

Age is just a number (or) You’re never too old to learn.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Best things in life are free.

No such thing as a free lunch.

It’s not over ’till it’s over (or) a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Great starts make great finishes.


No point in beating a dead horse.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

This one speaks to me with today’s internet guru’s giving the following advice: do X every day for a year and you will have success! Nah. I’m not about this advice. Do something you’re good at. Do you know how you’ll know if you’re good at whatever it is you’re doing? You’ll get quick wins and success. I’m not trying to waste a year trying something out when I know I can find success in a month doing the right thing.

Nice guys finish last.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

One man’s junk is another’s treasure.

Fake it ’till you make it.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Help me?

I need your help with the following proverbs and their opposites. Comment below if you have an opposite for me.

What goes around, comes around.

Two birds with one stone.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.

Grass is greener on the other side.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Hindsight is 20/20.

Money talks.

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

Safety in numbers.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. (sorry, vegans!)

The proof is in the pudding.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The show must go on.

No pain, no gain.

Blood is thicker than water.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Don’t cry over spilled milk.

Among the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

And, finally: all good things come to end.

Complementary Conclusion

Antinomy: an apparent contradiction that is actually reasonable. The ‘both/and’ness of a proverb.

Now that we’ve been through that fun exercise, now I’ll tell you that both seemingly contradictory proverbs can both be reasonable at the same time. That is, as long as you don’t translate many of them literally.

For example, ‘he who hesitates is lost’, cautions against cowardice or analysis paralysis that leads to inaction, something we are all guilty of. On the other hand, ‘look before you leap’, commends, not hesitation, but of evaluating before action. Can you see how these two proverbs can be complementary (not, complimentary!)? Let me know if the comments.

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