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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.



大船に乗ったよう
[おおぶねにのったよう, oobune ni notta you] a feeling of safety (lit.: as if on board a large ship)

驕るもの久しからず
[おごるものひさしからず, ogoru mono hisashikarazu] proud people are soon humbled, pride goes before the fall

男心と秋の空
[おとこごころとあきのそら, otokogokoro to aki no sora] a man’s heart is as changeable as the autumn sky

男は知恵、女は情け
[おとこはちえ、おんなはなさけ, otoko wa chie, onna wa nasake] a man for his wisdom, a woman for her compassion

男は度胸、女は愛嬌
[おとこはどきょう、おんなはあいきょう, otoko wa dokyou, onna wa aikyou] a man for his courage, a woman for her appeal

一昨日おいで
[おとといおいで, ototoi oide] never come again; come when we have two Sundays in a week

尾に尾をつける
[おにおをつける, o ni o o tsukeru] an exaggerated statement

鬼に念仏
[おににねんぶつ, oni ni nenbutsu] Buddhist prayers of a demon (used when a wicked person feigns kindness or sympathy)

鬼の首でも取って気だ
[おにのくびでもとってきだ, oni no kubi demo totte ki da] feel as happy as can be to (lit.: feel as if one has beheaded a demon)

鬼の目にも涙
[おにのめにもなみだ, oni no me nimo namida] tears even in a demon’s eyes; false sympathy; crocodile tears

鬼の留守に選択
[おにのるすにせんたく, oni no rusu ni sentaku] make use of your opportunities; when the cat is away, the mice will play
鬼も角を折る
[おにもつのをおる, oni mo tsuno o oru] even a demon may break his horns (i.e.: even bad people may change)

親の心こ知らず
[おやのこころこしらず, oya no kokoro ko shirazu] children do not understand their parents (hearts or minds)

親の欲目
[おやのよくめ, oya no yokume] the partial, biased eyes of parents

親馬鹿、子利口
[おやばか、こりこう, oya baka, ko rikou] an ill cow can have a good calf (lit.: a foolish parent and a wise child)

終わり良ければ全て良し
[おわりよければすべてよし, owari yokereba subete yoshi] the ends justify the means, all’s well that ends well

女の一念岩をも通す
[おんなのいちねんいわをもとおす, onna no ichinen iwa o mo toosu] a woman’s will power will pierce even rock

女の髪の毛は大像をつながる
[おんなのかみのけはだいぞうをつながる, onna no kami no ke wa daizou o tsunagaru] the hair of a woman can tie a large elephant (refers to the fascination beautiful women can create)

女の心と春日和
[おんなのこころとはるびより, onna no kokoro to harubiyori] a woman’s heart is as changeable as spring weather

女の心は猫の目
[おんなのこころはねこのめ, onna no kokoro wa neko no me] a woman’s heart is as changeable as a cat’s eyes

女の知恵は猿知恵
[おんなのちえはさるじえ, onna no chie wa sarujie] a woman’s wisdom is monkey wisdom

女の知恵は鼻の先
[おんなのちえははなのさき, onna no chie was hana no saki] a woman is intuitive and impulse, but not wise (lit.: a woman’s wisdom is at the tip of her nose)

女は口が多い
[おんなはくちがおおい, onna wa kuchi ga ooi] women are talkative

女は口さがなし
[おんなはくちさがなし, onna wa kuchisaganashi] women are gossipy

女は壊れ物
[おんなはこわれもの, onna wa kowaremono] women are fragile; daughters are brittle ware

女は魔物
[おんなはまもの, onna wa mamono] women are bewitching creatures


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