Italian proverbs, part 3

Hi my lovely dears!

Today, it’s time for the third post on Italian proverbs! If you enjoyed the first and the second posts, you’ll surely enjoy this too.

Letter A: A caval donato non si guarda in bocca.

The English equivalent is “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. It has its origins in the habit of determining the health and age of a horse by looking at its teeth. The meaning of the proverb is that you shouldn’t calculate the value of a gift, but just accept it as an act of kindness.

Letter B: Bacco, Tabacco e Venere, riducon l’uomo in cenere.

Its literal translation is “Bacchus, tobacco and Venus reduce a man to ashes”. Its meaning is that drinking (represented by Bacchus, the Roman god of wine), smoking, and lust (represented by Venus, the Roman goddess of love) make your life unhealthy.

Letter C: Campa cavallo che l’erba cresce.

It literally translates “Keep on living, horse, the grass is growing”, while its English equivalent is “While the grass grows the steed starves”. It means that if you just keep waiting for things to happen without doing anything, nothing with actually happen.

Letter D: Da cosa nasce cosa.

The literal translation is “From one thing another thing is born”, i.e. one thing leads to another.

Letter E: Errare è umano, perseverare è diabolico.

In English it is literally, “Making a mistake is human, persevering is diabolic”. The meaning is that while it is unavoidable and natural to make mistakes, doing the same mistakes over and over again is not normal.

Letter F: Fra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare.

Its literal translation is “The sea is between what is said and what is done”, while its English equivalent is “Easier said than done”. It means that sometimes it is not easy at all to put into practice what is said or promised.

Letter G: Gente allegra il ciel l’aiuta

It literally translates “Heaven helps happy people”. It means that keeping a good mood in your life helps your luck and eventually makes things go well.

Letter I: Il buon giorno si vede dal mattino.

The literal translation is “The good day you see it from the morning”. It means that when you start something you can see from the beginning if it is going to end well or not. Sometimes it is also used ironically, for things whose start is characterized by bad events.

Letter L: L’abito non fa il monaco.

In English it is literally “The dress doesn’t make the monk”, while its English equivalent is “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. It means that appearances can be deceiving and you should not judge somebody only on the base of that.

Letter M: Meglio tardi che mai.

It has its almost literal English equivalent in “Better late than never”. It means that even if something that is ought to happen arrives late, it is preferable to it never happening at all.

Letter N: Nella botte piccola c’è vino buono.

Its literal translation is “In the small barrel there is good wine”. It means that small things sometimes are more precious than bigger things because their content is more valuable.

Letter O: Ogni promessa è debito.

It literally translates “Every promise is a debt”. It means that promises should be kept, so you should hold onto promises you make and expect the same from other people.

Letter P: (Non) parlare di corda in casa dell’impiccato.

The literal translation is “(Do not) speak of a rope in the house of a hanged person”. It means to (or not to) mention to somebody the object/person that caused him/her much suffering.

Letter Q: Quando la nave affonda, i topi scappano.

In English it is literally “When the ship sinks, the mice flee”, i.e. rats leaving the sinking ship. It means that everybody thinks about rescuing him/herself when there are problems and are ready to abandon you.

Letter S: Se son rose fioriranno, se son spine pungeranno.

Its literal translation is “If they are roses they will bloom, if they are spikes they will sting”. It means that when you start something it will go as it is destined, and end in either a success or a failure.

Letter T: Tanto la va la gatta al lardo che ci lascia lo zampino.

It literally translates “So much goes the cat to the lard, that she leaves the paw”. It means that if you do something prohibited many times you will end up paying the consequences. It probably derives from the fact that, in the past, lard, which was very often used back then, was worked with the mincing knife, so that if a cat repeatedly tried to steal some of it, it risked to have its paw cut off.

Letter U: Un po’ per uno non fa male a nessuno.

The literal translation is “A little for everybody is no harm to anybody”. It means that sharing something makes actually everybody happy.

Letter V: Va con chi è meglio di te e pagagli le spese.

In English it is literally “Go with who is better than you and pay for his/her expenses”. It means that you should follow the example of whoever is better than you and try to emulate him/her, even if there are (material or immaterial) costs involved.

We have reached the end of this blog post. Do you like Italian proverbs? Which ones do you already know? I hope to hear from you and to see you again soon on this blog. Ciao ciao!

Leave a Reply