Iranian Proverbs

  • آب از دستش نمى چكد (SH 1)

Water will not drip from his hand.

(He is close-fisted; He won’t give away the droppings of his nose)

– چکيدن  = to fall in drops, to trickle 

– چکه  = drop, dripping


  • آب از غربال پيمودن (SH 2)

To carry water in a sieve.

– غربال  = sieve (from Arabic)

– پيمودن = to travel, to measure


  • آب به آب ميخورد زور برميدارد (SH 2)

Water meets water and gathers strength.

(Union is strength)


  •  آب را آب كشيدن (SH 3)

To rinse water.

(To be over-fastidious or too careful in observing hygienic rules)

–  آب كشيدن  = to rinse


  • آب كه يك جا بماند مى گندد (SH 4)

Water staying (long) in one place becomes putrid.

– (گندیدن (گند  = to rot, decay, go bad

– گند  = stench, stink, foul smell


  • آزمند پيوسته نيازمند بود (SH 9)

The greedy are always needy.

– آزمند  = greedy 

– آز  = greed


  • آنچه در دل است بزبان در مى آيد (SH 13)

What is in the heart comes to the tongue. 


  • آن دفتر را گاو خورد وگاو را قصاب برد (SH 14)

Those records have been eaten by the cow and the cow has been taken away by the butcher.

(That is all past and done with; let bygones be bygones)

– دفتر = notebook; office (from Ancient Greek diphthérā “piece of leather” cognate with English diphtheria)

– قصاب  = butcher (from Arabic)


  • آنقدر بار كن كه بِكشد نه آنقدر كه بُكشد (SH 15)

Pile up a load which can be drawn, not one which will kill. 

(The beauty of the Persian, which is lost in the English translation, lies mainly in the assimilated words بِكشد  bekeshad and بُكشد  bokoshad.)


  • آنقدر بپز كه بتونى بخوري  (SH 15)

Cook as much as you can eat.


  • آنقدر چريدى كو دنبه ات  (SH 15)

Thou hast been grazing so much, where is thy fat tail?

(Said to one who has struggled in vain through greed or other motives)

– چريدن  = to graze 


  • آنکه در بحر قلزم است غریق چه تفاوت کند ز بارانش  (SH 16) (سعدی)

What difference does the rain make to him who is drowning in the Red Sea?

– بحر قلزم  = Red Sea, literally: the Sea of Clysma (an ancient Egyptian town) 

– ز  = from از


  • آه مظلوم دردنبال ظالم است (SH 17)

The sighs of the oppressed pursue the oppressor.


  • آينه دارى در مجلس كوران نارگيل بدست بوزينه است

Holding up a mirror to an assembly of blind men is like giving a cocoa-nut to the monkey. 

– بوزينه = monkey, ape


  • ابروگشاده باش چو دستت گشاده نيست (SH 18)

If thou canst not be open-handed (i.e. generous), be open-browed (i.e. cheerful).

– گشاد  = open, wide

– چو = rumor; because, since, when


  • ابلهى گفت وديوانه اى بوار كرد (SH 19)

The fool said something and the madman believed it.


  • ارزان يافته خوار باشد  (SH 20)

That is despised which is cheaply obtained.


  • از بيخ عرب شدن (SH 21)

To become a pure Arab.

(i.e. to pretend not to understand the claimant’s language in order to evade payment; also, to make a flat denial)

– بيخ = root, origin (Dari بيخي = “a lot, very”)


  • از بيم مار در دهن اژدها رفتن (SH 22)

To go into the mouth of the dragon from fear of the serpent. 

– بيم = fear


  • از چاله در أمدن وتوى چاه اقتادن  (SH 23)

To come out of the ditch and fall into the pit.

– چاله = pit, hole

– چاه = well, hole 


  • از حق تا ناحق چهار انگشت است (SH 23)

Between the truth and untruth is four fingers’ width.


  • از خرس موئى (SH 23)

(To pluck even) a hair from a bear (is a success). 

(From a bad paymaster get what you can.)

– خرس = bear (cognate to Latin urus (“bear”) and arcturus (from Ancient Greek Ἀρκτοῦρος (Arktoûros), from ἄρκτος – Wiktionary


  • از دروازه بيرون نرفتن و ازچشمه سوزن بيرون رفتن (SH 24)

To pass through a needle’s eye and not through a town gate.

– سوزن  = needle


  • از ضرر هرچه بر گردد نفع است (SH 25)

Whatever is recovered from a loss is a profit.


  • از قفس مرغ بهر جا كه رود بستان است (SH 25)

A bird once liberated from its cage finds a garden everywhere.


  • از هضم رابع هم گذشت (SH 27)

It has already passed the fourth stomach. 

(i.e. by this time it has been consumed and finished with)


  • اگر را با مگر تزويج كردند، از آنان بچه اى شد كاشكه نام (SH 33)

“If” married “perhaps”, and the offspring was “Would I have not”.


  • اگر شبها همه شب قدر بودى شب قدر بي قدر بودى (SH 33)

If every night were the Precious Night, the Precious Night would be no longer precious.

– شب قدر  = night in which the Koran was given (but a few other nights were also given that name)


  • اگر نشاشيدى شب دراز است (SH 35)

If you have not pissed, the night is still young.

From the following anecdote: A child was in the habit of wetting his bed during the night. One night before this had happened, he awakened his mother and said to her boastingly, “Mummy, I have not wet my bed”. “Don’t you worry”, said the mother, “the night is still young” (meaning thereby that there was still time to see whether he would wet his bed or not). 

This is said to one who is cocksure that something will not happen because it has not yet happened. 


  • القاص لا يحب القاص (Arabic) (SH 39)

Story-tellers dislike each other.


  • الهزل في الكلام كالملح في الطعام (Arabic) (SH 40)

Wit in speech is like salt in food.


  •  الناس على دين ملوكهم (Arabic) (SH 40)

People follow the religions of their kings. 


  • (انديشه كردن كه چه گويم به از پشيمانى خوردن كه چرا گفتم (سعدى (SH 42)

Better to reflect and say, “What shall I say?” than to regret and say “Why did I speak?”

– انديشه  = reflection, meditation

– به  = good, excellent


  • اول طعام أخر كلام (SH 45)

First food, then talk.


  • با بال ديگران پرواز كردن (SH 49)

To fly with another person’s wings.


  • باشد كه بپاشد (SH 53)

To give, one must have.

– پاشيدن  = to scatter, to defuse, to sprinkle


  • با گرگ دنبه خوردن وبا چوپان گريستن (SH 54)

To share the fat of the sheep with the wolf, and then to weep with the shepherd.

– دنبه = fat; (tail of an Asiatic sheep)


  • بلاتر از سياهى رنگى نيست (SH 54)

There is no color beyond black.


  • ببال ديگران پرواز نميتوان كرد (SH 56)

One cannot fly with other people’s wings.


  • بپاى خود بسلاخ خانه رفتن (SH 56)

To go to the slaughter-house with one’s own feet.


  • بجرم عيسى موسى را مگير (SH 57)

Do not blame Moses for the sin of Jesus.


  • بتازى ميگويد بگير به اهو ميگويد بدو (SH 57)

He says to the hound “Seize!” and to the gazelle “Run!”.

– تازى  = hound, hunting dog


  • بچه خود را ميزند كه چشم همسايه بترسد (SH 57)

He beats his own child to frighten his neighbour.


  • بچه ريشدار (SH 58)

A bearded child (i.e. a man of childish brains).


  • بدريا برود خشك ميشود (SH 61)

Should he go to the sea, he will find it dry. (Said of an unlucky person)


  • بدعاى كسى نيامده ايم كه به نفرين كسى برويم (SH 61)

No one’s prayer has brought us here; and hence no one’s curse shall carry us away.

– نفرين  = curse, damnation


  • (بر لب آب حيات تشنگيم كشت (صبوحي (SH 66)

I was killed by thirst at the brink of the Fountain of Life.


  • بر مال و جمال خويش مغرور مشو كانرا بشبى برند و اينرا به تبى (SH 66)

Boast not of thy wealth and beauty, for the one may be lost in a single night, and the other by a single fit of fever.

–  خويش  = self, own

– مشو  = older version of نشو


  • بروباه گفتند شاهدت كيست گفت دُمم (SH 66)

The fox, bein asked who his witness was, said, “My tail”. 

(The idea is that close connections make bad witnesses)

– روباه  = fox


  • بزاهد فربه و پزشك نزارمگرويد  (SH 67)

Have no faith on (or follow not) a fat hermit or a thin doctor. 

(The one shows no signs of abstemiousness, and the other knows no health rules)

– زاهد  = devout or ascetic person

– فربه  = fat, obese, chubby 

– نزار  = thin, lean, miserable

– گرويدن  = to follow, to adhere to


  • بز را غم جان است و قصاب را غم پيه (SH 67)

The goat worries about his life, the butcher about his tallow.

– پيه  = fat, suet

– note how the accusative را here is used to denote possession as in “the goat’s worry is…”


  • (بزرگ آنكه او را بسى دشمن است (فردوسى (SH 67)

He is a great man who has many enemies.

– بسي  = many (compare to بسيار)


  • بزمين سفت (يا سخت) نشاشيده است (SH 68)

He has not (yet) pissed on solid ground (i.e. he has not yet encountered resistance on the part of those stronger than himself, or he has not experienced hard times).


  • بسكه خاموش نشستم سخن اذ يادم رفت، بسكه ماندم به غريبى وطن از يادم رفت (SH 69)

I remained so long in silence that the faculty of speech was lost to me, and so long in exile that the idea of home escaped my mind.


  • بسيار خوار لاغر باشد (SH 69)

Gluttonous people are (often) thin.


  • (بسيار سفر بايد تا پخته شود خامى (سعدى (SH 69)

Much travel is needed to ripen (lit.: cook) the raw man.


  • بسيار گفتن دوم بى خردى است (SH 69)

Too much talking is next to lack of wisdom.

– خرد = small, little; intellect


  • بشتر مرغ گفتند بار ببر گفت مرغم گفتند پرواز كن گفت شترم (SH 70)

When told to carry a load, the ostrich was a bird; when told to fly, he was a camel.

Note: The Persian word for ostrich (شتر مرغ) literally means “camel-bird”.


  • بطبيب لاغر و سلمانى كچل اعتماد نبايد كرد (SH 70)

A sickly (lit.: thin) physician and a bald barber should not be trusted.


  • بعد از هفت كرّه ادعاى بكارت (SH 71)

Claiming to be a maiden after having given birth to seven children (lit.: foals)!


  • بكچل گفتند چرا مو نميگذارى (يا ندارى) گفت دوست نميدارم (SH 72)

On being asked, “Why don’t you grow hair?” the bald man said, “I don’t like it”.


  • بكلافى داخل خريدادان يوسف شدن (SH 72)

To enlist oneself among the purchasers of Joseph with a mere skein. 

From the following Islamic tradition:

When Joseph was brought to Egypt, the Pharaoh ordered him to be sold by auction. While the rich merchants present were outbidding one another, a poor old woman appeared among the crowd, and held up a skein of silk, which was her only possession, and with which she offered to purchase Joseph. 

On being laughed at by the present bidders whose exorbitant bids had proved of no avail, the old woman said, “I know too well that my insignificant offer could not fetch the handsome slave, but I wish to have my name put down in history among the adorers of his beauty” – one who is ready to offer her all in order to obtain him.


  • ياسين بگوش خر خواندن (SH 74)

To read the chapter of Yassin in an ass’s ear.

Note: Yassin is the name of a certain surah of the Quran.


  • بلعنت خدا نمى ارزد (SH 76)

It is not worth a corse from God.


  • بلكه را كاشتند سبز نشد (SH 77)

They sowed “perhaps” (or “if”), but it didn’t grow.

– بلكه  = perhaps, maybe; but, rather, on the contrary


SH = Solayman Haïm. Haim’s Persian-English Proverbs. 1956. Tehran: B. & D. Beroukhim Booksellers