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Japanese Proverbs





The Japanese language is filled with proverbs of all sorts, many from classical references from ancient Chinese to modern versions of English proverbs, all used in every aspect of the language. Whether you are traveling to Japan for fun or on business, or are living there, you'll find proverbs indispensible to understanding and using the daily language. Browse below to find the ones you want or simply explore the many possible ways to express yourself in Japanese.



英雄会い知る
[えいゆうあいしる, eiyuu aishiru] like knows like (lit.: heroes know each other)

英雄色を好む
[えいゆういろをこのむ, eiyuu iro o konomu] heroes and great men are fond of sensual pleasures

英雄並び立たず
[えいゆうならびたたず, eiyuu narabitatazu] a great man (or a hero) cannot brook a rival (lit.: heroes cannot side by side)

英雄の末路は時に哀れむべし
[えいゆうのまつろはときにあわれむべし, eiyuu no matsuro wa toki ni awaremubeshi] the last days of a hero are often to be pitied (i.e.: the final days of a hero are often miserable because they have lost their status and standing, and have been deserted by friends)

英雄を知る者は英雄なり
[えいゆうをしるものはえいゆうなり, eiyuu o shiro mono wa eiyuu nari] he who understands a hero is himself a hero

餌食に毒なし
[えじきにどくなし, ejiki ni doku nashi] contant works all ambrosia (lit.: there is no poison in the food one eats with relish; i.e.: a man with a good appetite has nothing to fear)

似非武士の刀いじり
[えせびしのかたないじり, esebishi no katana ijiri] an empty threat (lit.: a fake warrior or samurai playing with his sword)

枝を多面として根を殺す
[えだをためんとしてねをころす, eda o tamen to shite ne o korosu] burn not your house to frighten away the mice, to (lit.: as you try to straighten the branches you destroy the roots; i.e.: you may fail to fix a problem if you give too much attention to small matters or details)

得手の帆を揚げ
[えてのほをあげ, ete no ho o age] give sail to dexterity, to; give scope to one's skill, to (lit.: hoist the sail of one's own forte)

江戸の敵を長崎で撃つ
[えどのかたきをながさきでうつ, Edo no kataki o Nagasaki de utsu] take revenge by an indirect method upon someone who wronged you (lit.: to strike in Nagasaki an enemy from Edo [now Tokyo])

絵に描いた牡丹餅のよう
[えにかいたぼたもちのよう, e ni kaita motamochi no you] a useless item or thing (lit.: like a sweet rice cake drawn in a picture; i.e.: you cannot eat it or give it to someone who needs food)

絵に描いた餅は食われん
[えにかいたもちはくわれん, e ni kaita mochi wa kuwaren] you cannot eat a rice cake in a picture

海老踊れども川を出でず
[えびおどれどもかわをいでず, ebi odoredomo kawa o idezu] let the cobbler stick to his last; do what you know; do not exceed your level of competence (lit.: although shrimp may dance, they do not leave their river)

得やすく物は失いやすし
[えやすくものはうしないやすし, eyasuku mono wa ushinaiyasushi] easy come, easy go (lit.: things easily gotten are easily lost)

選んで粕を掴む
[えらんでかすをつかむ, erande kamo o tsumamu] go farther and fare worse (lit.: grasp the refuse after choosing [too] carefully; i.e.: take care, but not too much care, when trying to decide which option is best)

猿こう水月を取ろう
[えんこうすいげつをとろう, enkousuigetsu o torou] do something foolish and dangerous, to (lit.: a monkey trying to catch the [reflection of the] moon in the water)

縁者の証拠
[えんじゃのしょうこ, enha no shouko] relatives and friends cannot be trusted as witnesses (lit.: the evidence of relatives or people with ties to you)

遠水近火を救わず
[えんすいきんかをすくわず, ensui kinka o sukuwazu] water afar does not quench a fire at hand (i.e.: what is not right at hand is not useful in an emergency)

縁と月日は末を待て
[えんとつきひはすえをまて, en to tsukihi wa sue o mate] marry in haste, repent at leisure (lit.: wait for the last moment when it comes to marriage and time; that is to say, be cautious and careful in matters of the heart, and wait for the righ time to marry)

縁の下の掃除
[えんのしたのそいじ, en no shita no souji] a vain effort (lit.: cleaning under the veranda)

縁の下の竹の子
[えんのしたのたけのこ, en no shita no take no ko] a mediocre person who cannot become famous despite considerable effort (lit.: a bamboo shoot under a veranda)

縁の下の力持ち
[えんのしたのちからもち, en no shita no chikara-mochi] wasted effort; thankless labor (lit.: a poweful man [sitting] under a veranda; i.e.: someone who tries to help but whose effort is unappreciated)

縁の下の舞
[えんのしたのまい, en no shita no mai] a thankless task (lit.: a dance under a veranda; i.e. to do something in vain, or without being recognized or appreciated)

遠慮ひだるいし、伊達寒し
[えんりょひだるい、だてさむし, enryou hidaruishi, date samushi] a bashful dog never gets fats (lit.: being reserved makes one hungry, and being a showoff makes one cold)


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