Symbol Sage Sale Banner

Scottish Proverbs to Make You Think

Table of Contents

The Scottish people are not only jovial but are also wise and witty with their words. The Scots are known to have a way with their words, which may be funny at times but is sure to strike a chord with you. Here are a few proverbs from the land of the Scots that are sure to make you think.

Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye – If it’s meant to be, then it will happen for you.

If you believe in yourself, everything that you deserve will be yours for the taking. All you need to do is put your best efforts into everything you do and if it’s meant to be for you, it will happen effortlessly.

Symbol Sage Sale Banner

Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time deid – Seize the day and live life to the fullest, you never know what might happen.

Don’t take life too seriously, you’ve got plenty of time to be miserable after you die. This Scottish proverb has the same essence as ‘Carpe Diem’ which means to seize the moment when the chance arises. You do not know what the future holds, what you have is only today and this very moment.

Mony a mickle maks a muckle – Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.

The proverb ‘a penny saved in a penny earned’ comes from this Scottish proverb. This is the wisdom of the Scots when it comes to saving. Even small things accumulated slowly makes a larger whole. So instead of spending that penny, watch it grow to be a pound.

Dinnae teach yer Granny tae suck eggs! – Don’t tell experts what they should do.

This is the Scottish way of saying don’t be condescending with your limited knowledge towards those who are far more experienced than you in that matter and don’t try to teach others, give advice or explain to them about things they already know.

Keep the Heid an’ cairry oan – Keep calm, and carry on, everything will be ok.

The Scots use this proverb to ensure they keep their heads and don’t lose it in any situation they encounter. This is especially so for those who have issues keeping their anger under control.

Symbol Sage Quiz Banner
keep calm Scottish

A bird in the hand’s worth twa fleeing by – A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

This Proverb teaches us the importance of appreciating what we have with us. Though we may be tempted with things around us, letting go of something you already have in order to chase something uncertain you only may get is foolish. So, hold onto what you have rather than risking losing it, since you may end up having nothing at all.

Failin means yer playin – It’s better to be doing badly than not taking part at all.

It is okay to fail because it means you are trying to strive for your dreams. Failing while you are trying your best is always better than just sitting idle or being too afraid to take the first step. Don’t just be in your comfort zone, make sure to venture out and even failures have rewards that you never even realize.

A’ yer eggs are double-yoakit – You’re always embellishing your stories.

This is a proverb that is used on people who love to exaggerate their stories so much that you never know what is real and what is made up. The Scots consider such people to be charlatans or scammers and advise not to trust people who like to embellish their stories.

A blind man needs nae looking-glass – A mirror is useless to a blind man.

This is a Scottish proverb with a deep meaning. While literally it means that a mirror cannot be used by a blind man, it also means that knowledge is useless to those who cannot appreciate it or do not have the ability to put it to use.

Guid gear comes in sma’ bulk – Good things come in small packages.

This is a cute proverb of the Scots that means that you must never underestimate someone or something just because of their small size or stature. It also means that just because something is big doesn’t ensure its bound to be good.

A nod’s as guid as a wink tae a blind horse.

Just as how a blind horse cannot understand any signal made to it, let alone a wink or a nod, this is a reminder that no matter how many times you explain to some people, they will not understand the message you are trying to convey.

blind horse

Ye look like something the cat dragged in – You look like a disheveled mess.

This proverb or saying of the Scots is a funny way of letting someone know that they are untidy or shabby.

Time and tide for nae man bide – Time and tide waits for no man.

The Scots emphasize on the importance of time and time management. This proverb is a harsh reminder that time flows on at its own pace waiting for no one and doing no one’s bidding.

A lie is halfway aroon Scotland afore the truth has even goat its boots oan – News travels fast, so be careful what you are saying.

The Scots always knew that rumors and fake news have the tendency to travel at an alarming rate even more so than the actual truth. So, they warn against believing everything and spread without any thoughts. Truth always takes much more time than a lie to catch up, but the damage is always already done.

He that keeks through a keyhole may see what will vex him.

This is an old Scottish proverb that warns people that those who eavesdrop will usually hear what they expect to hear and mostly unfavorable comments about themselves. As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss and if you go looking for trouble, it will find you.

Yer heid’s fu’ o’ mince – Your head is in the clouds.

The Scots used this proverb to describe those who are always dreaming without being practical and always unaware of the situation and ignoring the problems. These people seem to be out of touch with everyday life and living in a fantasy world. They also have impractical ideas.

Bannoks is better nor nae breid – Half a loaf is better than none.

Coined in the 17th century, Bannock was bread made from barley which were inferior to wheat bread. This proverb emphasizes that it is always better to have something than end up with nothing at all. Better to eat something rather than starve.

bannock Scottish

If ye like the nut, crack it.

This is a form of Scottish encouragement that if you like the reward for something, you must accept the effort involved in order to achieve it. There will be no reward for those who are not willing to put in the required work. It is similar to the no pain no gain philosophy.

Be sure to taste your words afore you spit them.

It is always important to think before you speak. Pause before actually saying something to someone else. Our words are powerful medium that impacts the world and the people in it. It is easy to be misunderstood if you do not communicate your thoughts well.

We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns – We’re all created equal.

This is a great reminder by the Scots to the world that although we may all seem superficially different due to our appearances, cultures, habits and so on, we are still all the same under the skin, we need to understand that we are all human.

Proverbs of Scottish Origin


A fool may earn money, but it takes a wise man to keep it.

The Scots have many proverbs related to money and this one is about saving it. Although money may be earned by anyone, only those who save it for the future are the wise ones.

Get what you can and keep what you have; that’s the way to get rich.

Another proverb on the importance of saving money, it is not only by earning money that you’ll get rich but also by saving what you earn.

What may be done at any time will be done at no time.

Another popular theme for proverbs for the Scots is time. This means that procrastination is a devil that haunts everyone, and it is especially true that when something doesn’t have a deadline, we tend to keep it for later. This is similar to the saying that tomorrow never comes for a procrastinator. So, do it now!

Fools look to tomorrow. Wise men use tonight.

The Scots were very passionate about their proverbs on time management and procrastination. This proverb also teaches that the best thing to do is to make the best of your time right now than delay to later. Only by taking action will you succeed in your endeavors.

Confessed faults are half mended.

The first step towards making amends when you make a mistake is to confess the fault. We all make mistakes knowingly or unknowingly, so to redress it we must always be aware of our faults and acknowledge them to begin reconciliation.

Better bend than break.

This proverb is the Scottish wisdom on maintaining relationships. It means that sometimes you need to be flexible in your thoughts rather than abandon something altogether.

Understand the boat and the boat will understand you.

This is a Gaelic proverb that is based off a story about sailing. It advises on building a relationship between a person and their surrounding situations. It also means to understand the situation you are in for a better understanding of what you need to do.

Scottish proverbs

Never marry for money. You can borrow it cheaper.

This is a funny Scottish Proverb that originated as a joke at the dinner party. Although it has its literal meaning, it also signifies that you should always explore all your choices before making decisions. Oftentimes, an alternative may be easier than your solution.

They that will not be counselled cannot be helped.

It is better to avoid advising those who are skeptical about your advice and refuse to heed the advice of someone much more experienced than them. Those who refuse to learn from the mistakes of others are beyond help.

A liar should have a good memory.

This is quite a logical proverb since if you need to lie successfully, you need the ability to remember and keep track of all the lies otherwise you will be in trouble.

Learn young, learn fair; learn old, learn more.

When you learn something at a young age, you need to study properly since you may not know how things work, but when you study when you are older, you will learn much more. This is Scottish encouragement that you must never stop learning no matter how old you are.

Better be ill spoken of by one before all than by all before one.

This is a reminder by the Scots that not everyone in the world will like you. There will be times when someone will speak ill of you behind your back. But remember it is better for one person to be your enemy rather than everyone. So don’t worry about that one person who is gossiping about you.

He goes long barefoot that waits for dead men’s shoes.

This proverb is for those people who are waiting or anticipating inheriting another’s fortune or position when they die and in turn do not even attempt to make their own. This reminds us that those who do this will have to spend a long time waiting and it is better to make your own efforts in acquiring a fortune.

Wink at small faults, for you have great ones yourself.

We are always better at finding faults with others than with ourselves. What this proverb teaches us is that we need to introspect within ourselves of our own faults before finding them with others and learn to forgive small faults within others as well as ourselves.

Self-assurance is two-thirds of success.

A last piece of Scottish wisdom to motivate you is to believe in yourself because when you do you have taken a big leap in the journey towards success. What success means is to do everything you can with what you have. So be assured in your worth to attain success.

Wrapping Up

These Scottish proverbs are now used in daily life around the world providing wisdom to the people about life, love, time, and success among other things. These proverbs are snippets of advice that will stay with you for the rest of your life and motivate you when you need it the most.

Affiliate Disclosures

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.