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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.



糠に釘
[ぬかにくぎ, nuka ni kugi] do something useless or futile, to; carry coals to Newcastle, to; water on a duck's back (lit.: [drive a] nail into rice brain)

抜かぬ太刀の巧妙
[ぬかぬたちのこうみょう, nukaknu tachi no koumyou] perform a glorious deed with an undrawn sword; this refers originally to samurai on the battlefield but nowadays can be applied to anyone who reaches a goal without going to extremes.

糠をねぶりて米に及ぶ
[ぬかをねぶりてこめにおよぶ, nuka o neburite kome ni oyobu] a small sin or bad habit can develop into something very serious (lit.: licking up the bran they work their way up to rice).

抜け駆けの巧妙
[ぬけがけのこうみょう, nukegake no koumyou] a splendid effort performed by getting one step ahead of someone (lit.: ingenious(ly) ahead of someone else). Similar to the idea of getting a "scoop" but involving some form of cleverness.

盗人猛々しい
[ぬすびとたけだけしい, nusubito takedakeshii] the brazen behavior of a thief; this describes the impudence and audacity of an evil man who is trying to pass off his deeds as good.

盗人に追い銭
[ぬすびとにおいせん, nusubito ni oisen] throwing away good money after bad (lit.: to give money to a robber)

盗人に金の番
[ぬすびとにかねのばん, nusubito ni kane no ban] set a wolf to guard sheep (lit.: have a robber guard money)

盗人にも三文の理あり
[ぬすびとにもさんぶんのりあり, nusubito nimo sanbun no ri ari] give the devil his due (lit.: even a thief has a 30 percent justification or reason for his actions; that is to say that thieves and criminals in general have reasons for what they do)

盗人の番に盗人が良し
[ぬすびとのばんにぬすびとがよし, nusubito no ban ni nusubito ga yoshi] set a thief to catch a thief (lit.: a thief makes a good watchman for thieves)

盗人の昼寝もあてがある
[ぬすびとのひるねもあてがある, nusubito no hirune mo ate ga aru] make plans carefully, then rest; rest is a weapon (lit.: even in a thief's midday nap there is a purpose)

盗み食いはうまい
[ぬすみぐいはうまい, nusumigui wa umai] stolen fruit tastes sweet (lit.: stolen food tastes good)

濡れぬ先の傘
[ぬれぬさきのかさ, nurenu saki no kasa] be prepared for anything; prevention is better than cure (lit.: an umbrella before you get wet)


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