Bulgarian Proverbs


The proverbs and sayings are an unalterable part of the Bulgarian folk art. They pursue Bulgarian people during his centuries old history; they have been passed from one generation to another and contribute to keeping and developing the national identity. In some way, they represent the people’s wisdom and life experience gathered during the centuries.
Some of the proverbs exist in many different varieties; for others is't hard to find the source.
The translation doesn’t give the whole idea and surely leaves a lot of questions due to misunderstanding, but these are proverbs not mathematical equations:) The point here is not to interprete the proverbs and give them English equivalents but to show the proverbs as close as possible to the Bulgarian original. Some of the proverbs have different meanings that could change depending on the situation. And, in the end, sometimes it is difficult to understand why the people has chosen to put a meaning to an expression, sometimes, it just looks senseless. Yes, but nevertheless such proverbs have won the race of time.

Hitar Petar - an imaginery
folk character - popular for his wisdom and wit.

  • The early awaken chicken sings early.
  • You count the chicks in the autumn. (Look at the results at the end of the term, not in the middle.)
  • You can guess the day by the evening. (That is, for example, that you may understand what kind of a person the child would be when it grows, just by looking at it when it is young. )
  • Either the camel, or the cameleer.
  • Two rabbits with one bullet. (When you save some trouble arranging to do several things at one place or with one person.)
  • A hungry bear cannot dance. (First I have to eat, then I can do everything else.)
  • A word said is a thrown rock. (If you are a man of word you should always stick to it.)
  • The small stones turn the carriage. (People usually go round big problems, but forget to think of the small things that could cause bigger troubles.)
  • The awl can’t stay in the bag (You can’t keep somebody down.)
  • He hasn’t eaten onions, he hasn’t smelt onions. (When somebody pretends to be innocent)
  • A sweet word can open even the iron door. (If you are kind you'll probably get what you want.)
  • The poor man is a living devil. (Poor people are not easy to live with, because they are fighting for their survival, and very hard in compromising.)
  • You can’t put out this that can’t go out. (Some  things cannot be changed, some people cannot be crashed by anything.)
  • There is no hungry blonde one. (Usually the blonde girls don't have to bother for their survival because there are a lot of doors opened in front of them.)
  • The other’s grape is always bitter. (When you can't have what your neighbour or friend has, you usually tell yourself and the others, that this thing is bitter, ugly, not important.)
  • Even the mad runs away from the drunk.
  • The appetite comes with the eating. (Sometimes you don't want to do something but the more you do it, the more you begin to like it and in the end its difficult to stop.)
  • The king allows, the field keeper doesn’t. (When the higher authorities have given you permission to do sth., but the lower one prohibit you because of bureaucracy or sth. else.)
  • You don't look at the teeth of a horse given as a present. (You must not complain of a present, because it's a present and you haven't paid anything for it.)
  • Hundred sticks are not enough when they are at smb.’s else back.(You only complain when sth. bad happens to you, and don't mind if this happens to smb. else. You are even ready to push him even harder.)
  • Beat, so that you will be respected. (When you show others that you are strong they start to fear from you and hence - to respect you.)
  • Throw a big stone, don’t say a big word.(Draw it mild! Don't overreach yourself! )
  • I speak to you, my daughter, but you, my daughter-in-law think of it. (When you pretend to speak to smb. but want smb. else to hear you; not to tell sth. directly to smb.)
  • You can't sell cucumbers to the cucumbers’ seller. (When you try to cheat the cheater, or tell sth. to smb. that already knows it very well.)
  • What has knocked, the same has answered. ( If you do sth. you'll usually get the same in response - for good or bad. )
  • United band lifts up a mountain. ( The strength is in alliance.)
  • The pot tumbled over and found its lid.
  • The stone weighs at its place.
  • Measure width and length seven times, cut only once!
  • You can understand somebody is your friend when you are in need. (= A friend in need is a friend indeed.)
  • Don’t ask the old but the one that has endured bad times. (Usually old people can give you good advise, but young people who have experienced the same difficulties as you may help better.)
  • The legs of the lie are short. (Sooner or later the liar is exposed and the lie - revealed.)
  • If you have been sitting peacefully, you wouldn’t have seen such a disaster. (This is when sth. bad has happened to you because of your misbehavior.)
  • You can’t make a pipe from each tree.
  • Here you are, bride, a Spas’s day. (When sth. has happened very unexpectedly.)
  • A lot of grandmothers – a feeble baby. (You shouldn't listen to all the advices that people around you give.)
  • Well, there is no such an animal. ( I don't believe this; there is nothing like this - both with bad meaning.)
  • The mind reigns, the mind is a slave, the mind pastures the ducks.
  • While the smart are hesitating, the mad are romping. (Because the smart people are thinking too much and not doing anything, the not so smart hurry to do it and usually make stupid mistakes.)
  • He who pays the bill orders the music.
  • You become just like those you gather with.
  • White money for black days. (When you collect money for hard times.)
  • By asking you can reach Istanbul. (So you'd better ask someone instead of loosing yourself!)
  • There are a lot of roads when the car turns over. (When sth. bad happens, you start to thing of the reasons, but you'd better be prudent and prevent them.)
  • The pack of the insulted Petko is always empty. (That nobody likes the angry people and escape from them.)
  • The horse went into the river. (When something bad has suddenly happened .)
  • The ill one carries the healthy one. (When, for example the poor pays more then the rich.)
  • Give him a finger and he will bite your hand. (When someone is always ready to ask for more.)
  • Feed the dog so that he can bark at you later. (When you have done a lot for someone and he has turned out to be not very thankful afterwards.)
  • Save God! – A blind man to become able to see. (When someone forgets where he is from, and becomes arrogant towards his family and former friends.)
  • Union makes strength.
  • He who sings doesn’t mean any harm. (Because who sings can't have bad thoughts in his mind)
  • A dog that barks doesn’t bite. (Who talks a lot will never have enough bravery to do something)
  • Every frog should know its place. (You should know what is your place and not try to mass with other people's affairs.)
  • He who digs someone else’s grave, fells in it by himself. (If you plan to do bad things to someone you'll probably get hurt in the end.)
  • A bird cannot bring out the spring. (When we want to tell that noone can do everything alone, everybody needs some help.)
  • The wrong Grandmother admits her fault. (When somebody has lied but in the end this turns against him.)
  • He who pulls out a knife, dies through knife.
  • At naked pot-belly - a pair of pistols! (When you don't have almost anything, but pretend to be a big fish.)
  • The dogs are barking, the caravan is going on. (When things are going all right despite the critics.)
  • Better to do something later than never.
  • Never leave the today's work for tomorrow. (And the lazy dodger adds: ... "when you can do it the day after tomorrow!" :)
  • Five guys don't wait for Petka. (When there is someone late, the whole group is not obliged to wait for him.)
  • A herp to every dish! (= Have a finger in every pie!)
  • To pull a knife at the face of a dead dog. (When you see someone is weaker than you but still you want to make him suffer.)
  • Don't say "Hop!" before you have jumped! (Don't celebrate before you have finished the work you have to do!)
  • The vineyard doesn’t require a prayer, but a hoe. (You must do sth. by yourself and not only to expect God helping you.)
  • God helps, but doesn’t put smb. in a sheep hen. (Almost the same as previous.)
  • The fast job - a shame for the master. (It says that usually if a work is done fast it's not done well.)
  • To pull out the eyes instead of writing out the eyebrows. (When you do sth. bad even though your intentions were initially good.)
  • The crazy doesn’t get tired – he only sweats. (Don't expect the crazy people to stop doing crazy things.)
  • Mummy, bear me with luck, and throw me into the garbage! (If you're born with luck, you'll always find a way through.)
  • Bad weather can get better, bad person – never.
  • Each bad thing comes out to be for good. (We don't know if sth. that looks bad to us today cannot change into sth. good tomorrow.)
  • Every miracle lasts for three days.
  • The wolf may change his fur, but his nature – never. (Always have in mind, that smb. may pretend to be changed for good, but in fact, he is still the same.)
  • Hungry chicken dreams of millet. (People are usually dreaming for impossible things.)
  • You are welcomed by your clothes, you are seen off by your brain. (People's first impression of you is how you are dressed, when they get to know you better, they may change their opinion.)
  • Endure, grandmother, for beauty. (Sometimes you have to feel some pain for the sake of better future.)
  • When you have left the tame to escape, you’ll have to go after the wild. (Never loose what you have.)
  • There is no smoke without fire. (There is a little truth in every rumor.)
  • The fast bitch bears blind dogs. (= Haste makes waste.)
  • A day feeds the year. (Sometimes it is enough to experience one good thing once in a while.)
  • The guilty runs even without being chased. (A guilty mind is never at ease.)
  • The morning is smarter than the evening. (Have a sleep, and then make the decisions!)
  • The old love doesn’t rust. (It's very difficult to forget and leave old habits, lovers, places.)
  • He who laughs in the end, laughs the best. (Keep your emotions till the end, because when everything ends, you may come out to be the unlucky one.)
  • The pear doesn’t fall far away from the tree. (Usually children are like their parents.)
  • The blood doesn’t turn into water. (Almost the same meaning.)
  • I’ve just taught my monkey not to eat and he died.
  • A wedge drives out a wedge. (One nail drives out another.)
  • The grandmother knows a thing and she is always mumbling this thing. (Some people never change neither their opinions, nor themselves.)
  • For some people – a wedding, and for others – an axe. (Sometimes good things happen to smb. and in the same time - bad to others.)
  • Friendship is friendship, but the cheese costs money. (The friend is not obliged to give you everything free only because he's your friend.)
  • The brother doesn’t feed his brother but bad for him, who doesn’t have one!
  • You are going to there where I am coming from.
  • If it's going to be a crow let it be disheveled.
  • A black copper coin cannot get lost. (Bad people and things never disapear.)
  • If there is a mistake, there should also be forgiveness.
  • Tittle-tattle ruins the house. (Rumors and chit-chats can destroy even the best friendships.)
  • He is wading into water and he is walking thirsty. (He can't use, or doesn't know how to use all his abilities or possessions.)
  • If the hand lets, but the heart doesn’t, nothing will happen.
  • The mind is a sea, the head is buoy. (He is so stupid!)
  • The swine eats the nice apples.