Stemming from Modern Hebrew as well as Biblical Hebrew, this list of Hebraic proverbs will provide you with a unique glimpse into the Judaic world and the millenary wisdom of the Sages. All Hebrew proverbs listed are ordered according to the Hebrew alphabet letters and are accompanied by their respective English translations and explanations for in-depth understanding.
אבן נגולה מעל לבי
- Translation: a stone was removed off my heart.
- Meaning: I was relieved from a mental burden.
אדם לאדם זאב
- Translation: a human is a wolf to a human
- Meaning: people treat each other cruelly.
- Latin Equivalent: "Homo homini lupus est."
- English equivalent: It's a dog-eat-dog world.
אותה גברת בשינוי אדרת
- Translation: the same madame with another coat.
- Meaning: the same thing with a small difference.
אחרי מות, קדושים אמור
- Translation: After death, say holy.
- Meaning: Say only good things about people after they die.
- Origin: The Hebrew names of the Leviticus "portions" 16-18,19-20,21-24 are "After death", "Holy" and "Say" respectively, so the table of contents spells the Hebrew phrase (which is grammatical in Hebrew).
איך נפלו גיבורים
- Translation: how the mighty have fallen.
- Meaning: how the competent (or otherwise those that were heavily anticipated to succeed) have failed.
- Origin: the Bible - 2 Samuel 1 19
אין ארוחת חינם
- Translation: there isn't a free meal.
- Meaning: someone has to pay for a man to support himself.
- English Equivalent: there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
אין הנחתום מעיד על עיסתו
- Translation: The baker shouldn't comment on his dough.
- Meaning: A person who makes something should not speak its praises.
- English equivalent: Don't blow your own horn.
אין עשן בלי אש
- Translation: There is no smoke without fire.
- Meaning: a side-effect has a cause.
- English equivalent: "No smoke without fire", or "Where there's smoke, there's fire".
אליה וקוץ בה
- Translation: a fat tail (of the sheep) with a thorn in it.
- Meaning: a mixed blessing.
- English equivalent: there's a fly in the ointment.
אל יתהלל חוגר כמפתח
- Translation: he who buckles [his armor] should not boast as the one who opens it.
- Meaning: he who goes into battle should not boast as much as the one who has won it.
- Origin: The Bible - Kings 20, 11
אל תסתכל בקנקן, אלא במה שבתוכו
- Translation: Don't look at the jar, but at what's inside it.
- Meaning: don't be fooled by external appearances - find the real value.
- English equivalent: Don't judge a book by its cover.
אל תקנה חתול בשק
- Translation: Don't buy a cat in the sack.
- Meaning: Don't buy an uncertain good.
- English equivalent: Don't buy a pig in a poke.
אל תתן לחתול לשמור על השמנת
- Translation: Don't let the cat guard the cream
- Meaning: Don't give something to someone who is likely to take it for himself.
- English equivalent: Don't let the fox guard the hen-house.
אם ההר לא יבוא אל מוחמד, מוחמד ילך אל ההר.
- Translation: "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, Muhammad will go to the mountain."
- Meaning: if reality does not adapt itself to one's personal whims, one must adapt himself to reality.
אמר את המילה האחרונה
- Translation: (he) said the last word
- Meaning: He had the last laugh, his was the final word
בין הפטיש לסדן
- Translation: between the hammer and the anvil
- Meaning: between two evils
- English Equivalent: Between a rock and a hard place
בכל רמ"ח איבריו
- Translation: in all 248 of his bones.
- Meaning: (said of a person) fully, completely.
- Origin: from the Halakha, after the 248 "Do commands" in the Bible, which Hazal believed to be the number of bones in the human body.
ברומא התנהג כרומאי
- Translation: in Rome act like a Roman
- Meaning: one has to adapt oneself to his environment
ברחל בתך הקטנה
- Translation: by Rachel your younger daughter
- Meaning: spell out every detail
- Origin: from the Bible (Genesis 29, 18).
- Translation: cannon fodder
- Meaning: a live wall.
דומים כמו שתי טיפות מים
- Translation: similar like two drops of water.
- Translation: his blood is in his head.
- Meaning: his problems are his own fault.
היהפוך כושי עורו ונמר חברבורותיו?
- Translation: can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?
- Meaning: certain things cannot be changed, because it is against their nature.
- Origin: Jeremiah 13/23 from the Hebrew Bible
היופי הוא בעיני המתבונן
- Translation: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
הבדל של שמיים וארץ
- Translation: a difference of Sky and Earth.
- Meaning: a very significant difference.
הפוסל במומו פוסל
- Translation: the one who disqualifies, disqualifies based on his own fault.
- English Equivalent: Pot calling the kettle black
המטרה מקדשת את האמצעים
- Translation: the cause makes the means holy. (i.e: in place).
- Meaning: the ends justify the means.
הניח כספו על קרן הצבי
- Translation: placed his money on the gazzele's horns
- Meaning: risked his money
הסנדלר הולך יחף
- Translation: the cobbler walks barefoot.
- Meaning: a professional does not apply his profession upon himself.
- English equivalent: the shoe-maker has no shoes.
השמיים הם הגבול
- Meaning: said on something that if performed, there will be very vast possibilities.
התפוח לא נופל רחוק מהעץ
- Translation: the apple does not fall far from the tree.
- Meaning: children resemble their parents.
- English Equivalent: Chip off the old block
ובא לציון גואל
- Translation: and a savior came for Zion.
- Meaning: and the salvation/solution for a problem will come (and everyone will be happy).
חיים ומוות ביד הלשון
- Translation: life and death in the hands of the tongue
- Meaning: what you say can have a large effect on your future.
חיפש את האתונות ומצא את המלוכה
- Translation: looked for the female donkeys and found the kingship.
- Meaning: looked for something minor and found something much greater.
- Origin: from the Bible, in regards to the story about Saul that was anointed as a king after looking for his father's donkeys.
טוב להיות זנב לאריות מאשר ראש לשועלים
- Translation: Better be a tail for the lions than the head of the foxes
- Meaning: It is better to be a minor member of a good group, than a prominent leader of a bad group.
טובה ציפור אחת ביד משתיים על העץ
- Translation: "One bird in the hand is better than two on the tree".
טלית שכולה תכלת
- Translation: a Tallit which is entirely azure.
- Meaning: someone who is a purely benevolent person. Usually said negatively: "he isn't a Tallit which is entirely azure".
- Translation: went to the government's treasury
- Meaning: to get lost; to go down the drain.
יש גבול לכל תעלול
- Translation: there's a limit to every act of mischief
- Meaning: enough is enough.
כורת את הענף שעליו הוא יושב
- Translation: He cuts the branch that he is sitting on.
- Meaning: he is hurting something that he depends on.
כי בתחבולות תעשה לך מלחמה
- Translation: because with tricks you should do a war
- Origin: The Bible - Pslams 24, 6
כל שני וחמישי
- Translation: every Monday and Thursday
- Meaning: often and continuously (every few days).
- Origin: from the days of the Torah reading, besides Saturday, which in turn originated from Market days in Judea during the Second Temple.
כמו כוסות רוח למת
- Translation: like fire cups for the dead.
- Meaning: like something useless.
לא דובים ולא יער
- Translation: No bears and no forest.
- Meaning: Never happened.
לא היו דברים מעולם
- Translation: (these) things never happened.
להכות בברזל בעודו חם
- Translation: hit the iron while it's hot.
- Meaning: exploit the opportunity while it still exists.
- Translation: to search using candles.
- Meaning: to search thoroughly (in obscure places, etc.).
מהר יצא עכבר
- Translation: a mountain ended up as a mouse
- Meaning: something that was hyped to be very significant, turned out to be much less so.
- English Equivalent: Made a mountain of a mole hill
מחט בערמת שחת
- Translation: a needle in a pile of hay.
- Meaning: "a needle in a haystack", trying to find something specific in a big surrounding of no interest to the person who looks for it.
מי שאוכל לבד - מת לבד
- Translation: he who eats by himself, dies by himself.
מי שטרח בערב שבת, יאכל בשבת
- Translation: "He who labored on Shabbath' Eve, will eat on Shabbath".
- Meaning: he who labored in preparance, will enjoy the fruit of his labor.
מי שנכווה ברותחין יזהר בפושרין
- Translation: He who got burnt in boiling water, will be careful in mildly warm water.
מכל טוב הארץ
- Translation: from all the good things of the land.
- Meaning: "from all the riches of the land" - a lot of good things.
מן הפח אל הפחת
- Trasnlation: from the trap to the pit.
- Meaning: from the frying pan into the fire.
- English Equivalent: From bad to worse
מרבה נכסים - מרבה דאגות
- Translation: (he who) proliferates possessions - proliferates worries
- English Equivealent: more money - more problems.
מרוב עצים לא רואים את היער
- Translation: Can't see the forest for the trees.
- Meaning: the subject is obscured by the details.
נאה דורש - נאה מקיים
- Translation: he who demands well, should fullfill his demands well.
- English equivalent: "You've got to practice what you preach".
סנונית אחת אינה מבשרת את בוא האביב
- Translation: one swallow does not herald the coming of spring.
- Meaning: one occurrence does not indicate a general pattern.
- Origin: Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics".
סערה בכוס מים
- Translation: a storm in a glass of water.
- Meaning: a large fuss with little effect on the outside.
- English equivalent: "Tempest in a teacup/teapot".
עבר זמנו - בטל קורבנו
- Translation: Its time passed - its sacrifice is cancelled
- Meaning: it's no longer relevant to take the necessary measure, because it's long past when it would have helped.
עוד הזרוע נטויה
- Translation: And the arm is still erect.
- Meaning: It is still going strong.
- Origin: probably from the Bible, where in a battle with the Amaleq, the Israelites were winning when Moses' arm was erect and losing when his arm was down.
על ראש הגנב בוער הכובע
- Translation: The hat burns on the head of the thief.
- Origin: reportedly from a folk tale in which a community leader found the identity of a thief by gathering the town and saying that he sees the thief's hat burning, and then observing the real thief feeling his hat with his hands.
עם האוכל בא התאבון
- "Im Ha'okhel Ba' Hate'avon"
- Translation: "the appetite comes with the food."
- Meaning: once you start something, you feel like doing it.
עם יד על הלב
- Translation: with a hand on the heart.
- Meaning: sincerely.
פה קבור הכלב
- Translation: "The dog is buried here."
- Meaning: this is the main issue.
פוסח על שני הסעיפים
- Translation: "skips on two branches"
- Meaning: "cannot decide between two options and does a little of both".
- Origin: Bible, prophet Eliyahu's quote.
פעם שלישית גלידה
- Translation: third time icecream.
- Meaning: said when two people accidentally meet twice during a short period, saying that the next time, the other person should buy some icecream to the speaker.
- English Equivalent: Third time's the charm.
צדק - צדק תרדוף
- Translation: Justice, Justice you shall pursue.
- Origin: from the Bible - Deuteronomy 16, 20
צוחק מי שצוחק אחרון
- Translation: laughs he who laughs last.
- Meaning: the winner is the one who won at the end.
צרת רבים - חצי נחמה
צרת רבים - נחמת טיפשים
- Translation: The trouble of many - the consolation of fools.
קרח מכאן ומכאן
- Translation: "Bald from here and from here"
- Meaning: deprived in both senses.
- Story behind: a man who has two wives: one young and one old. The young one removes his old hair, and the old one removes his young hair, and thus he becomes "bald from here and from here".
רוקד בשתי חתונות
- Translation: "Dancing in Two Weddings".
- Meaning: "Does two different things (or is committed to two different entities) at once."
רחוק מהעין - רחוק מהלב
- Translation: "Far from the eye - far from the heart".
- English equivalent: "out of sight - out of mind"
שושנה בין החוחים
- Translation: a lily (or incorrectly a rose) between the thorns
- Meaning: an excpetionally good woman within a bad society.
שניים רבים - השלישי זוכה
- Translation: two are fighting - the third wins.
תפסת מרובה - לא תפסת
- Translation: (tried to) caught a lot - didn't catch.
- Meaning: if one tries to achieve too many goals at once, he'll achieve none or few of them.