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20 Profound Greek Proverbs and What They Mean

A lot of the greatest thinkers in history came from ancient Greece. They were exceptional minds who gave a wealth of information on practically every subject.

That’s why the Greeks appear to have always had a profound awareness of the human being and the language to describe it. In this article, we’ve compiled a collection of some interesting Greek proverbs, along with their meanings to serve as a source of wisdom and inspiration for you.

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A proverb reflects a truth based on human experience or common sense. It also teaches a lesson and realization of what life really means.

Here are some Greek proverbs you may relate to.

For a Sprinkle of Positivity:

Woman With Arms Raised at Beach during Sunset

Hold my hand and I will hold yours, so we could climb the mountain.

This proverb means that by working together and supporting each other, we can achieve more than we can alone. The image of holding hands and climbing a mountain together suggests that by being united, we can overcome obstacles and reach greater heights. It also implies that the support and help of others are important to achieve goals and overcoming challenges.

By holding each other’s hands, we can provide a sense of safety, reassurance, and companionship. The proverb encourages mutual support and teamwork to achieve a common goal.

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The unripe grape becomes sweet like honey, at a slow pace.

This proverb means that things that take time to develop and mature will ultimately be more valuable and rewarding. The image of an unripe grape becoming sweet like honey suggests that patience and persistence can lead to a positive outcome. It also implies that good things come to those who wait and that taking the time to develop oneself will lead to a better end result.

The slow pace of the process of the grape becoming sweet like honey, highlights the idea that growth and change take time, and that it’s important to be patient and not rush things. The proverb encourages patience and perseverance in the face of challenges or obstacles and also highlights that the end result is worth the wait.

It’s sweet to look at the sea when standing on the shore.

Sometimes, it’s best to admire something from a distance rather than being too close. The image of looking at the sea while standing on the shore suggests that taking a step back and observing something from a different perspective can provide a better understanding and appreciation of it.

It also suggests that things that are too close can be overwhelming, so it’s better to take a step back and appreciate them from a distance. The proverb highlights that it’s often better to have a more detached perspective to better understand and appreciate something.

It is hard to argue with the belly, as it has no ears.

This proverb means that it is difficult to reason with someone who is not willing to listen or hear another’s points of view. The belly has no ears, it only wants to be fed, so it’s impossible to reason with it.

Similarly, people who are not open to hearing others’ opinions or perspectives can be difficult to reason with. The proverb encourages the listener to be open-minded and willing to hear others, and not to be stubborn or closed-minded.

To Gain Wisdom and Knowledge:

Woman Practicing Yoga

Win by persuasion, not by force.

According to this proverb, it’s better to convince someone by reasoning and persuasion rather than by using force or coercion. It encourages the use of logic, facts, and arguments to make a point rather than using power or aggression. The proverb promotes the peaceful resolution of conflicts and encourages the use of dialogue and compromise to achieve a common goal.

A Society flourishes when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

It’s important to think about the long-term good of society, even if you won’t be around to see the benefits. The image of old men planting trees whose shade they will never sit in, suggests that people should make contributions to society that will benefit future generations, even if they will not be around to see the results.

The proverb implies that people should think beyond their own self-interests and about the well-being of future generations. It encourages the idea of leaving a legacy, and that the actions we take today will have an impact on the future.

Wine and children speak the truth.

When people are under the influence of alcohol or are young, they tend to speak their minds more candidly and honestly, without fear of judgment or consequences. The proverb implies that wine and children tend to say what they truly feel and that it’s often through their words that the truth is revealed.

It highlights that sometimes, it’s through the words of those who are not held back by social norms or conventions that we can get a glimpse of the truth.

A rose flower comes out of a thorn, and a thorn comes out of a rose.

This proverb means that things that may seem good or bad at first glance can have opposite results. The image of a rose flower coming out of a thorn and a thorn coming out of a rose suggest that there are two sides to every situation. It implies that sometimes things we think are negative can lead to positive outcomes and vice versa.

People should be open-minded and not judge too quickly. It also highlights that things are not always as they seem and that every situation has its own unique set of circumstances.

For a Glimpse of Reality in Life:

Man looking at the sky

You cannot step twice into the same river.

The image of stepping twice into the same river implies that time is always moving forward, and the river is always changing, so you can’t have the same experience twice. This proverb encourages people to embrace change and to understand that the present moment is unique and cannot be replicated. It also highlights that time is constantly moving forward and that we should make the most of the present and not dwell on the past.

When you get burned by porridge, you will also blow the yogurt.

This proverb means that if you have had a bad experience with one thing, you will be cautious and careful with similar things in the future. The image of getting burned by porridge and then blowing the yogurt implies that when you have been hurt or disappointed once, you will be more careful and cautious in the future.

According to this proverb, it’s important that people learn from their mistakes and be more mindful in the future. It also highlights that one bad experience can make you more cautious in the future.

Too many opinions sink the boat.

When there are too many people giving opinions or trying to lead, it can be detrimental and cause confusion or failure. The image of a boat sinking when there are too many opinions suggests that when there are too many voices, it becomes difficult to make a decision or move forward.

The proverb encourages people to work together, listen to each other, and make decisions collectively.

Eyes that do not frequently see each other are soon forgotten.

This proverb means that when people don’t see each other often, their relationship tends to weaken. The image of eyes that do not frequently see each other is soon forgotten, implying that when there is a lack of contact, the relationship fades away and can be forgotten.

The proverb also means that people should maintain relationships and make an effort to stay in touch. It also highlights that absence can make the heart grow fonder, but it also can make people forgetful of each other.

For a Timely Warning:

Hourglass on the ground

An open enemy is better than a deceptive friend.

This means that it’s better to know who your enemies are than to have a friend who is not trustworthy or deceptive. The image of an open enemy being better than a deceptive friend implies that a person who is openly against you is easier to defend against than someone who pretends to be your friend but is secretly working against you.

The devil has many legs.

This proverb means that evil or mischief can take many forms and come from many sources. The image of the devil having many legs implies that evil can manifest in many ways and come from unexpected places.

The proverb encourages people to be vigilant and aware of the potential dangers that can come from multiple sources. It also highlights that evil can come in many forms and that one should be wary of all possible threats.

The tongue may have no bones, but it crushes bones.

Words can be powerful and can cause harm. The image of the tongue having no bones but crushing bones implies that words can cause damage, even though they are not physical. This proverb suggests that people should be mindful of the words they use and be aware of the power of their words. It also indicates that words can be more powerful than physical actions and that it is important to use them carefully.

To Become a Better Person:

Person meditating

From outside the dance circle, you can sing a lot of songs.

People who are not directly involved in a situation are more likely to have a more detached perspective and be able to criticize or make suggestions easily. The image of singing a lot of songs from outside the dance circle implies that people who are not part of a situation can have a more detached perspective and can make suggestions or criticize more easily.

According to this proverb, people should be mindful of the fact that it’s easy to criticize when one is not directly involved and to be aware of the potential biases and limitations of their perspective.

The camel doesn’t see its own hump.

Another way of referring to a hypocrite in Greece, this alludes people are usually quick to criticize others when they possess similar shortcomings themselves. They are blinded by criticizing others when they aren’t even perfect themselves.

This proverb encourages us to live more consciously and to think first about our own actions and flaws before passing judgment on others.

The donkey called the rooster big-headed.

This proverb means that people who have their own flaws tend to criticize others for similar faults. The image of a donkey calling a rooster big-headed implies that people who have their own shortcomings tend to be critical of others for similar faults. The proverb suggests that you need be aware of your own flaws and not to be overly critical of others.

It also highlights that it’s human nature to be critical of others, but it’s important to be mindful of one’s own faults and to focus on improving oneself instead of criticizing others.

What the fox can’t reach, it turns them into hangers.

The meaning of this proverb is that when people can’t get what they want, they’ll find a way to make use of it in other ways. The image of a fox turning things it can’t reach into hangers suggests that when people are unable to achieve their goals, they’ll find other ways to make use of the situation.

This proverb says that people should be resourceful and to think creatively when faced with obstacles.

When the cat is away, the mice will dance and play.

This proverb means that when authority or supervision is absent, people will take advantage of the opportunity and act recklessly or irresponsibly. The image of mice dancing and playing when the cat away implies that when people are not being watched or controlled, they will engage in behavior that would otherwise be unacceptable.

The proverb encourages everyone to be mindful of the consequences of their actions, even when they think they’re not being watched. It also suggests that it’s important to have oversight and accountability to keep people in check and to prevent reckless or irresponsible behavior.

Wrapping Up

Greek proverbs offer a glimpse into the wisdom and culture of ancient Greece. These short, pithy sayings convey powerful messages about life, love, and human nature. They can be both humorous and profound, and they continue to be relevant in today’s world.

Whether you’re looking for inspiration or just a good laugh, Greek proverbs are a rich source of wisdom and insight. It’s important to note that proverbs are the embodiment of the culture and lifestyle of the people who use them. Understanding their meanings will give you a deeper insight into Greek culture and ways of thinking.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.