Japanese Proverbs: Translated to English

Japanese Sayings and Wisdom Words


虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず。 (Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu) Literally: If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.

Meaning: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. / You can’t do anything without risking something.

残り物には福がある。 (Nokorimono ni wa fuku ga aru) Literally: Luck exists in the leftovers.

Meaning: There is luck in the last helping.

夏炉冬扇 (karo tōsen) Literally: Summer heater winter fan
Meaning: Something which is out of season and therefore rendered useless.

花鳥風月 (Kachou Fuugetsu) Literally: Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon

Meaning: Experience the beauties of nature, and in doing so learn about yourself.

起死回生 (kishi kaisei) Literally: Wake from death and return to life

Meaning: To come out of a desperate situation and make a complete return in one sudden burst.

自業自得 (Jigou Jitoku) Literally: One’s Act, One’s profit/Advantage.

Meaning: That’s what you get, Just desserts, You reap what you sow.

瓜田李下 (kaden rika) Literally: Melon field, under a plum tree

Meaning: Stepping into a melon field, standing under a plum tree (, such behavior causes misunderstanding that you want to steal those fruits); implying that you must avoid actions which could be taken on a bad faith.

晴天の霹靂 (Seiten no heki-reki) Literally: Thunderclap from a clear sky.

Meaning: A bolt from the blue. / A complete surprise.

猿も木から落ちる。 (Saru mo ki kara ochiru) Literally: Even monkeys fall from trees.

Meaning: Everyone makes mistakes. / Nobody’s perfect.

蓼食う虫も好き好き (Tade kuu mushi mo sukizuki) Literally: There are even bugs that eat knotweed.

Meaning: There’s no accounting for taste. / To each his own.

井の中の蛙大海を知らず。 (I no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu) Literally: A frog in a well does not know the great sea.

Meaning: People are satisfied to judge things by their own narrow experience, never knowing of the wide world outside.

蛙の子は蛙。 (Kaeru no ko wa kaeru) Literally: Child of a frog is a frog.

Meaning: Like father, like son.

鳶が鷹を産む。 (Tonbi (or Tobi) ga taka wo umu) Literally: A kite breeding a hawk.

Meaning: A splendid child born from common parents.

覆水盆に帰らず。 (Fukusui bon ni kaerazu) Literally: Spilt water will not return to the tray.

Meaning: It’s no use crying over spilt milk. / A separated couple can never go back to as it was.

二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず。 (Ni usagi wo ou mono wa ichi usagi wo mo ezu) Literally: One who chases after two hares won’t catch even one.

Meaning: Trying to do two things at once will make you fail in both.

継続は力なり。 (Keizoku wa chikara nari) Literally: Continuance (also) is power/strength.

Meaning: Don’t give up. Just continuing to hold on will yield/reveal strength and power. Continuing on after a setback is its own kind of strength. Perseverance is power.

門前の小僧習わぬ経を読む。 (Mon zen no kozō narawanu kyō wo yomu) Literally: An apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures untaught.

Meaning: The environment makes our characters.

知らぬが仏 (Shiranu ga hotoke) Literally: Not knowing is Buddha.

Meaning: Ignorance is bliss. / It’s better to not know the truth.

見ぬが花 (Minu ga hana) Literally: Not seeing is a flower.

Meaning: Things will never be as you imagine, so you’re better off not seeing them. / Reality can’t compete with imagination.

猫に小判 (neko ni koban) Literally: gold coins to a cat.

Meaning: Giving a gift to someone who can’t appreciate it; A useless gesture; “Pearls before swine.”

猫に鰹節 (neko ni katsuobushi) Literally: fish to a cat.

Meaning: A situation where one can not let their guard down (because the cat can’t resist stealing your fish).

七転び八起き (nanakorobi yaoki) Literally: stumbling seven times but recovering eight.

Meaning: perseverance is better than defeat.

三日坊主 (mikka bōzu) Literally: a monk for (just) three days.

Meaning: Giving up at the first sign of difficulty.

案ずるより産むが易し。 (Anzuru yori umu ga yasashi) Literally: Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it.

Meaning: Fear is greater than the danger. / An attempt is sometimes easier than expected.

馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない。 (Baka wa shinanakya naoranai) Literally: Unless an idiot dies, he won’t be cured.

Meaning: Only death will cure a fool. / You can’t fix stupid.

出る杭は打たれる。 (Deru kui wa utareru) Literally: The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.

Meaning: Don’t make waves / Apply your effort where it will do the most good / Excellence breeds envy and/or enmity / It’s better to conform than to stick out.

挨拶は時の氏神。 (Aisatsu wa toki no ujigami) Literally: A greeting is the local deity who turns up providentially.

Meaning: Arbitration in a quarrel is a godsend.

秋茄子は嫁に食わすな。 (Akinasu wa yome ni kuwasuna) Literally: Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants.

Meaning: Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of.

花よりだんご (hana yori dango) Literally: dumplings over flowers

Meaning: The person to whom it is directed prefers practical gain to aesthetics.

水に流す (mizu ni nagasu) Literally: let flow in the water

Meaning: Forgive and forget; water under the bridge

雨降って地固まる (ame futte chi katamaru) Literally: after the rain, earth hardens

Meaning: Adversity builds character./After a storm, things will stand on more solid ground than they did before.

油を売る (abura o uru) Literally: to sell oil

Meaning: to spend time chitchatting or to waste time in the middle of a task.

竜頭蛇尾 (ryuutou dabi) Literally: dragon, head, snake, tail

Meaning: Anticlimax, the beginning is like a dragons head, great and majestic and the ending is like a snakes tail, tiny and pathetic.

晴耕雨読 (seiko udoku) Literally: clear sky, cultivate, rainy, reading

Meaning: Farm when it’s sunny, read when it rains.

四面楚歌 (Shimen soka) Literally: Chu songs on all sides

Meaning: Defeat is clear; Situation is desperate beyond hope.

十人十色 (jūnin toiro) Literally: ten men, ten colors

Meaning: To each his/her own. / Different strokes for different folks.

三日坊主 (mikka bouzu) Literally: 3 day monk.

Meaning: Someone who gives up easily or is adverse to work.

大同小異 (daidō shōi) Literally: big similarity, small difference

Meaning: Similarities outweigh the differences.

一石二鳥 (isseki nichō) Literally: one stone, two birds

Meaning: Killing two birds with one stone; Doing 2 things with one action.

雲散霧消 (unsan mushō) Literally: scattered clouds, disappearing mist

Meaning: Disappear without a trace.

我田引水 (gaden insui) Literally: pulling water to my own rice paddy

Meaning: Doing/speaking about things in a way to benefit yourself.
The above information originally published at: http://www.linguanaut.com

16 thoughts on “Japanese Proverbs: Translated to English

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s