Turkish Proverbs

  • Dilenci ekmek parçalarını, alim söz parçalarını toplar.

A beggar collects pieces of bread, and a wise man pieces of speech.

– dilenci = beggar

– dilenmek = to beg, ask for alms

– dilemek = to wish, to beseech

 – parça  = piece, part

– alim  = scholar, wise 

– from Arabic عالم  ‘ālim (same meaning)

– toplamak  = to collect, to gather; to add

  • Misalsiz söz tuzsuz aş gibidir.

Conversation without proverbs is like food without salt.

– misal = specimen, example; here: proverb (though “atasözü” is more common)

– from Arabic مثال  mithāl (example) / مثل  mathal (proverb)

– tuz = salt

– this word entered Arabic as طُز – “ṭuz” meaning “to hell with…”, “who cares!”. The story goes that in Ottoman times Turks would claim to carry salt (“tuz”) in their bags as salt was a tax-free good. This vexed the Arabs so much that they started using “tuz” as an expression of annoyance and anger. 

– aş = food, cooked food

– from Persian آش  which refers to a heavy noodle soup in Iran and Afghanistan, but to a rice pilav with carrots and lamb meet in Tajikistan where the word is also used to refer to “food” in general. 

  • Ataların bir sözü bin öğüde geçer.

One single proverb is worth a thousand pieces of advice.

– ata = ancestor, father

– öğüt = advice, tip; sermon

  • At var, meydan yok. (MY 1)

We have a horse but no parade ground. 

(We have what is necessary for success but we lack opportunities to use it.)

– meydan = square; stage, ring

– from Arabic ميدان  (same meaning)

  • Gözden ırak olan gönülden de ırak olur. (MY 1)

Away from the eyes, away from the heart.

(Out of sight, out of mind)

– ırak = remote, distant, far

  • Hasret ateşten bir gömlektir. (MY 1)

Longing is a shirt on fire.

– hasret = longing, nostalgia

– from Arabic حسرة  ḥasra meaning “grief, sorrow, distress”

– ateş = fire

– from Persian آتش  ātaš (same meaning)

– gömlek = shirt, blouse, tunic

  • Kaybolan bıçağın sapı altın olur. (MY 1)

The lost knife had a golden handle.

– kabolmak = to get lost, become lost

– from “kayıp olmak” from Arabic غايب ġāyib (missing, lost)

– bıçak = knife, machete

– sap = handle, shaft

  • Zayi olan koyunun kuyruğu büyük olur. (MY 2)

The sheep that went astray had the largest tail.

(One always pictures something that is lost as being better than it actually was.)

– zayi = lost

– from Arabic ضائع (same meaning)

– kuyruk = tail, line, queue

  • Bela “geliyorum” demez. (MY 3)

Trouble does not say “I’m coming!”

– bela = calamity, trouble

– from Arabic بلاء balā’ (same meaning)

  • Bin nasihatten bir musibet yeğdir. (MY 3)

One misfortune is better (teaches more) than one thousand pieces of advice.

– nasihat = advice, counsel

– from Arabic نصيحة  naṣīḥa (same meaning)

– musibet = misfortune, calamity, disaster

– from Arabic مصيبة  muṣība (same meaning)

  • Düşenin elinden tutan olmaz. (MY 4)

No one will hold the hand of a falling man.

– düşmek = to fall

– tutmak = to hold, to keep

  • Bir çam düşse, baltalı da seyirtir, baltasız da. (MY 4)

When a pine tree falls, men gather around both with and without axes.

– çam  = pine, pine tree

– balta = ax

  • Elle gelen düğün bayram. (MY 5)

That which befalls everyone is like a wedding feast. 

(Misfortune which affects everyone is easier to bear.) 

– düğün = wedding

– bayram = festival, feast

  • Her ziyan bir öğüttür. (MY 5)

Every loss is a piece of advice.

– ziyan = loss, damage

– from Persian زیان ziyān (same meaning)

  • Islanmışın yağmurdan korkusu olmaz. (MY 5)

A person soaked to the skin is not afraid of rain.

– ıslanmak = to get wet, soak

– korku = fear, anxiety

  • Zelzeleyi gören yangına razı olur.

He who witnesses an earthquake is willing to accept a fire.

– zelzele = earthquake

– from Arabic زلزلة  zalzala, though nowadays زلزال  zalzāl is used

– yangın = fire

– razı = content, ready

– from Arabic  راضٍ  rāḍin (same meaning)

  • Kılavuzu karga olanın burnu pislikten çıkmaz. (MY 7)

The nose of he who takes guidance from a crow will never be free from dung.

– Kılavuz = guide, lead

– karga = crow

– pislik = dirt, foulness

  • Tatsız aşa tuz neylesin, akılsız başa söz neylesin?

What use can salt be to tasteless food, what use can counsel be to a foolish head?

– tat = flavour, taste

– aş = see above

– akıl = wisdom, mind, reason

– from Arabic عقْل  ‘aql (same meaning)

  • Tereciye tere satılmaz.

One cannot sell cress to a cress seller.

– tere = cress

  • Aslan kocayınca sıçan deliği gözetir. (MY 8)

When a lion grows old, he awaits a rat hole.

– aslan = lion

– koca = husband, hear: old man

– sıçan = rat

– delik = hole 

  • Gençler bilse, yaşlılar yapabılse. (MY 8)

If the youth would know, if old age could do.

  • Gençler ümitle, ihtiyarlar hatırayla yaşarlar. (MY 8)

Youth lives by hope, and the aged by memories.

– ümit = hope

– from Persian اُمِيد  omid (same meaning)

– ihtiyar = old, old man/woman

– from Arabic إختيار  ikhtiyār which in MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) means “choice, authority”, though it has the same meaning in Levantine dialects, which, however, could be a reborrowing from Turkish.

– hatıra = memory

– from Persian خاطره  khātere (same meaning) which comes from Arabic خاطرة  khāṭira (intellect, mind, opinion)

  • Gitti gelmez gençlik, geldi gitmez ihtiyarlık. (MY 9)

Youth went away and will not come back, old age has come but will not go.

  • İhtiyar köpek boşuna havlamaz. (MY 9)

An old dog does not bark for nothing.

– boşuna = in vain, empty, for nothing

– havlamak = to bark, woof

  • Kırkında saz öğrenen kıyamette çalar. (MY 9)

He who learns to play the lute at forty plays it on doomsday.

– kırkında = lit.: “in his fourty”

– saz = bağlama (Ottoman stringed instrument)


– from Persian ساز  sāz (“instrument”)

– kıyamet = doomsday, judgement day

– from Arabic قيامة  qiyāma (resurrection; turmoil, upheaval; in Islam: return of the dead for the Day of Judgment)

  • Bir avuç altının olacağına bir avuç toprağın olsun. (MY 10)

Instead of having a handful of gold, it is better to have a handful of earth (e.g a piece of land).

– avuç = palm, handful

– altın = gold

– toprak = land, earth, soil

  • Bitmeyen yere ekilmez. (MY 10)

Barren ground should not be sown.

– bitmeyen = endless, unending; here: barren; from “bitmek” (to end)

– ekmek = to sow, to plant, to set; food

  • Ağaç ne kadar uzasa göğe ulaşmaz. (MY 13)

No matter how tall a tree grows, it never reaches the sky.

(Nobody keeps improving forever)

– uzamak = to stretch, to lengthen, to grow longer

– uzak = remote, far

– ulaşmak = to reach, to arrive

  • Akarsu çukurunu kendi kazar. (MY 13)

Flowing water cuts its own bed.

 (An ambitious and capable person creates his own opportunities)

– akmak = to leak, to flow

– akarsu = stream, running water, watercourse

– çukur = pit, hole, trench

– kazmak = to dig, to cave

  • Boynuz isterken kulaktan çıktım. (MY 14)

While striving to get horns, I lost my ears.

– boynuz = horn; antenna

– kulak = ear

  • Gökteki yıldıza kement atılmaz. (MY 14)

Do not throw a lasso at stars in the sky.

 yıldız = star

– kement = lasso

  • Keskin sirke küpüne zarar. (MY 16)

Sour vinegar harms its jar.

(A bad temper harms its possessor most.)

– keskin = sharp, piercing (from “kesmek” – “to cut”)

– sirke = vinegar

– from Persian سركه serke (same meaning)

– küp = jar; cube

– zarar = loss, damage, harm

– from Arabic ضَرر  ḍarar (same meaning)

  • Tavşan dağa küsmüş dağın haberi olmamış. (MY 17)

The hare was angry with the mountain but the mountain was unaware of it.

– tavşan = rabbit, bun, hare

– dağ = mountain

– küsmek = to be angry, cross, offended

– haberi olmak = to hear about, know about, be in on

– from Arabic خبر  khabar (news, information)

  • Ayıyı evvela öldür de sonra derisini sat. (MY 18)

First kill the bear then sell its skin.

– ayı = bear, boor

– evvela = first, firstly

– from Arabic  اولًا  awwalan (same meaning)

– deri = skin, leather, fell

  • Dağdaki tavşanın suyu ocağa vurulmaz. (MY 18)

Don’t boil water for the hare still in the mountain.

– ocak = oven, cooker

– vurmak = to hit, to strike, to beat

  • Değirmenden gelenden poğaça umarlar. (MY 18)

Pastry is expected from one who is returning from the mill.

– değirmen = mill 

– poğaça = pasty filled with meat or cheese (see picture)


– from Italian “focaccia” (Italian flat bread)

– ummak = to hope, expect

  • “Ne oldum” dememeli, “Ne olacağım” demeli. (MY 19)

Don’t say “What have I become?” ask rather “What will I become?”

  • Sakal keçide de var. (MY 24)

Even a goat has a beard. (A beard is hardly a sign of wisdom)

– sakal = beard

– keçi = goat

  • Ağlamayan çocuğa meme vermezler. (MY 25)

They will not suckle the baby unless it cries.

– ağlamak = to cry, weep, wine

– meme = breast

  • Bilmemek ayıp değil, öğrenmemek ayıp. (MY 26)

Not knowing is not shameful, but what is shameful is not asking.

– ayıp = flaw, defect, blamish, vice

– from Arabic عيب ‘aib (same meaning)

  • Bir tahta iki padişah sığışmaz.  (MY 28)

One throne will not hold two sultans.

– taht = throne

– from Persian تخت  takht (bed, couch, throne)

– padişah = monarch, sultan

– from Persian پادشاه  pādešāh (same meaning)

– sığışmak = to squeeze (in)

– sığmak = to go in, fit in

  • Su başından kesilir. (MY 29)

Water is cut off at its source.

  • Kötülük eken pişmanlık biçer. (MY 30)

He who sows evil reaps regret.

– pişmanlık = regret, remorse, rue

– pişman = regretful, rueful

– from Persian پشمان  pašimān (same meaning)

– biçmek = to cut, mow, reap

  • Ağacı güzel gösteren yapraklarıdır. (MY 32)

What makes a tree look beautiful is its leaves.

– yaprak = leaf; foil

  • Gönül kimi severse güzel odur. (MY 32)

Whoever the heart loves, she is the beauty.

  • Güzel kuş elde gezer, güzel hanım dilde gezer. (MY 32)

A beautiful bird goes from one hand to another, and a beautiful woman goes from one tongue to another.

– gezmek = to travel, tour

– hanım = lady, woman, wife, miss

– from Persian خانم  khānum (same meaning)

  • Güzel nerde, kavga orda. (MY 32)

Where there is beauty, there is trouble.

(As to who will possess the beautiful thing.)

  • Yüzü güzele kırk günde doyulur, huyu güzele kırk yılda doyulmaz. (MY 33)

One gets enough of a beautiful face in forty days, but one does not get weary of a good disposition in forty years.

– doymak = to get enough, be full, satisfied

– huy = habit, temperament

– from Persian خوی  khui (same meaning)

  • Güzele ne yakışmaz. (MY 33)

There is nothing that will not suit a beautiful woman.

– yakışmak = to suit, go together, fit

  • Güzeli güzel diye sevmeli, çirkini Allah için sevmeli. (MY 33)

One must love a beauty for her own sake, but an ugly girl for God’s sake.

  • Güzellik ekmeğe sürülüp yenilmez. (MY 33)

Beauty is not something you can spread on a slice of bread and eat.

– sürülmek = to spread

  • Her güzel güzeldir, ama canın sevdiği daha güzeldir. (MY 34)

Every beauty is beautiful but what the heart loves is more beautiful.

– can  = life, spirit, heart, soul

– from Persian جان  jān (same meaning)

  • Bir işe başlamayınca uçlanmaz. (MY 35)

Unless a job is begun, it can never be finished.

– uçlanmak = to pay out, to shell out

  • Otu çek, köküne bak. (MY 36)

Pull up the plant and look at its root. 

(If you want to learn something about a person, learn something about the family he comes from)

– ot = herb, grass, weed

– çekmek = to pull, draw

– kök = root, stem

  • Akıllı edebi edepsizden öğrenir. (MY 40)

A wise man learns politeness from the impolite.

– akıllı = wise, intelligent

– from Arabic عقل  ‘aql (reason, intelligence) + li (with)

– edep = manners, politeness, civility

– from Arabic أدب  adab (same meaning)

  • Arsızın yüzüne tükürmüşler, yağmur yağıyor demiş. (JH 40)

They spat in the face of the shameless man and he said “It’s raining.”

– ar = modesty, shame

– from Arabic عار ج أعيار  ‘ār pl. a‘yār (same meaning)

– tükürmek = to spit

– tükür = spit

  • Saygı sayana, terbiye alana göredir. (MY 41)

Respect is shown to one who recognizes it and good manners to one who appreciates it.

– saygı = respect

– saymak = to count, regard; hold esteem

– terbiye = politeness; nurture, upbringing

– from Arabic تربية  tarbiya (same meaning)

  • Çivi çıkar, ama izi kalır. (MY 43)

A nail will come out, but its hole remains.

– çivi = nail, stud

– iz = trace, mark, trail

  • Deve Kabe’ye gitmekle hacı olmaz. (MY 43)

A camel doesn’t become a pilgrim by going to Kaaba (Center of Mecca). 

(Acquaintance with nobles does not make you a noble)

– deve = camel

– hacı = hajji, pilgrim

– from Arabic حاجّ  ḥājj (same meaning)

  • Yıkmak kolay, yapmak zor. (MY 45)

It is easier to destroy than to build.

  • Altın yerde paslanmaz, taş yağmurdan ıslanmaz. (MY 46)

Gold does not rust on the ground, and rocks don’t get soaked in the rain. 

(People and things of high quality do not change with adversity)

– paslanmak = to rost, to oxidate

– taş = stone, gem

– ıslanmak = to get wet, moisten, dampen

  • Oğlumu ben doğurdum, ama gönlünü ben doğurmadım. (MY 47)

I gave birth to my son, but I did not give birth to his heart.

– doğurmak = to give birth, to breed, to deliver

– doğmak = to be born, to rise

  • Ağaç yaş iken eğilir. (MY 48)

A twig is bent while it is green.

– yaş = damp, wet; age

– eğmek = to bend, tilt

  • Çocuk ekmeği dolapta bitiyor sanır. (MY 49)

A child thinks bread grows in the cupboard.

– bitmek = to finish; come to an end; spout 

  • İki tarafa bakan şaşı kalır. (MY 52)

He who looks in two directions becomes squint-eyed.

– şaşı = squint, cross-eyed

  • Karga yavrusuna bakmış, ‘benim ak pak evladım’ demiş. (MY 50)

The crow looked at her young and said, “O my pure white young.”

– karga = crow

– yavru = baby, whelp, young animal

– ak = white

– pak = stainless, pure

– from Persian پاك  pāk (same meaning)

– evlat = child 

– from Arabic أولاد  awlād (children)

  • Vücudunu kirden, ağzını küfürden, kalbini kibirden koru. (MY 53)

Protect your body from uncleanliness, your mouth from curses and your heart from pride.

– vücut = body

– from Arabic وجود  wujūd (existence)

– kir  = dirt

– küfür = swearing, swearword

– from Arabic كُفر  kufr (blashpemy, hybris, unbelief)

– kalb = heart

– from Arabic قلب  qalb (same meaning)

– kibir = conceit, arrogance

– from Arabic كبر  kibr (same meaning)

  • Güler yüzlü sirke satıcısı, ekşi yüzlü bal satıcısından fazla kazanır. (MY 55)

A vinegar seller with a smiling face earns more money than a honey seller with a sour face.

– sirke = vinegar (see above)

– ekşi = sour

– fazla = more

– from Arabic فضلة  faḍla  (surplus, residue)

– kazanmak = to gain, win, make profit

  • Ortaklık iyi olsa iki adam bir avrat alır. (MY 56)

If partnership were something good, two men would marry one woman.

– ortaklık = partnership

– adam = man, guy; human being

– from Arabic آدم  ādam (same meaning)

– avrat = wife (archaic)

– from Arabic عورة  ‘aura (body parts that have to be covered)

  • Arı ile kalkan bal başına, sinekle kalkan leş başına. (MY 58)

He who rises with bees will turn to honey, and he who rises with flies will go to corpses.

– arı = bee, wasp

– başına = per, to

– sinek = fly, housefly

– leş = corpse

– from Persian لاش  lāsh (same meaning)

  • Göğe tükürürsen yüzüne düşer. (MY 64)

If you spit toward heaven it will fall back on your face.

– tükürmek = to spit

– tükür = spit

  • Baş eğmekle baş ağrımaz. (MY 64)

The head does not ache by bowing it.

– eğmek  = to tilt, to bend

  • Körler arasında sen de gözünü yum. (MY 65)

Among the blind close your eyes.

– kör = blind

– from Persian كور  kūr (blind)

– yummak = to shut

  • Kurtlarla bir olup ulumazsan kurtlara yem olursun. (MY 65)

If you do not howl with the wolves you become a prey to the wolves.

– kurt = wolf

– ulumak = to howl

– yem = prey

  • Rüzgara tüküren kendi yüzüne tükürür. (MY 65)

He who spits against the wind spits on his own face.

– rüzgar = wind

– from Persian روزگار  (time, age, epoch)

  • Zaman sana uymazsa sen zamana uy. (MY 65)

If the times don’t suit you, you must suit the times.

– zaman = time

– from Arabic زمان

– uymak = to fit, to suit

– uygun = suitable

  • Arık öküze bıçak olmaz. (MY 67)

A skinny ox is safe from the butcher.

  • Kanaat gibi devlet olmaz. (MY 68)

There is no wealth like contentment.

– kanaat = conviction; satisfaction

– from Arabic قناعة  qanā‘a  (same meaning)

– devlet = state, power

– from Arabic دولة  dawla (same meaning)

– I don’t know where the meaning “wealth” here comes from but interestingly enough دولت  means exactly that in Urdu

  • Ne tarlam var ne de kargadan davam. (MY 69)

I have neither fields nor trouble with the crows.

– tarla = field

– dava = case, lawsuit, dispute

– from Arabic دعواء  da‘wā (“calling”)

  • Karga ile gezen pislige konar. (MY 71)

He who roams with a crow lands on dung.

– konmak = to land on, to settle

  • Yiğitlik dokuzdur; sekizi kaçmaktır biri hiç görünmek. (MY 73)

Bravery consists of nine parts; eight of them is to escape and one, not to be seen.

– yiğitlik = bravery

– yiğit = brave

– kaçmak = to flee, to run away

  • Yumurtayı çalan öküzü de çalar. (MY 77)

He that steals an egg may steal an ox too.

– öküz = ox

  • Ağlatan gülmez. (MY 81)

He who makes others weep will not laugh himself.

– ağlatmak = to make cry

– ağlamak = to cry, wheep

  • Zor kapıdan girerse, şeriat bacadan çıkar. (MY 83)

When violence comes through the door, justice leaves through the chimney.

– zor = violence

– from Persian زور  zōr (same meaning)

– şeriat = justice, lawfulness

– from Arabic شريعة  sharī‘a (same meaning)

  • Selamet gözleyen girmez savaşa. (MY 89)

He who wishes for peace will not enter war.

– selamet = soundness, healthiness, peace

– from Arabic سلامة  salāmat (same meaning)

– gözlemek = to await, wait for, watch out for, monitor

  • Ağlama ölü için ağla diri için. (91)

Do not cry for the dead but for the living.

– diri = alive

  • Kişinin ayıbını bir avuç toprak örter. (92)

A handful of ground will cover all the faults of a man.

– avuç = handful, palm

– toprak = land, earth, soil

– örtmek = to cover, cover up

  • Ölümden korkan korkudan ölür. (MY 93)

He who fears death dies of fear.

  • Ölümü ne kadar çok düşünürsen o kadar iyi yaşarsın. (MY 93)

The more often you think of death, the better you live.

  • Yalan dinlemek yalan söylemekten güçtür. (MY 97)

Listening to a lie is more difficult than telling one.

– güç = heavy, tough, painful

  • İt işemekle deniz pis olmaz. (MY 99)

By urinating a dog cannot pollute the sea.

– it = dog, whelp

– işemek = to urinate, piss

– pis = dirty, foul

– from Persian پيس  pis (vitiligo disease, leprosy 

  • Ağır kazan geç kaynar. (MY 100)

A heavy cauldron takes long to boil. 

(Great things are done slowly)

– kazan = boiler, kettle

– kaynamak = to boil

  • Adam olmayana adamlık, köpek yüzüne gül suyu dökmek gibidir. (MY 102)

Treating one who is no man at all like a gentleman, is like pouring rose-water on a dog’s face.

– dökmek = to pour, to shed

  • Alet işler, el övünür. (MY 102)

The tool does the work but the hand is proud of it. 

(The real work is often done by people who don’t get credit for it)

– alet = instrument, tool

– from Arabic آلة  āla (same meaning)

  • Biri eker, biri biçer. (MY 103)

One sows and the other reaps.

– biçmek = to cut, mow, reap

  • Issız eve it buyruk. (MY 103)

A stray dog becomes the master of a desolate house. 

(If intelligent people don’t make something their concern, fools will)

– ıssız = deserted, desolate

– buyruk = command, order

  • Bir ağaçta gül de biter diken de. (MY 109)

Thorns and roses grow on the same tree.

– diken = thorn

  • Kar ne kadar çok yağsa yaza kalmaz. (MY 111)

However much it snows it does not last till summer.

  • Manda karadır, ama sütü beyazdır. (MY 111)

A buffalo is black, but it gives white milk.

– manda = buffalo, water buffalo

  • Terziye “Dinlen” demişler, ayağa kalkmış. (MY 112)

They asked the tailor to rest, and he jumped to his feet. 

(What is tiring to one can be restful to another.)

– terzi = tailor

  • Erkeğin kalbine giden yol, midesinden geçer. (MY 122)

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

– mide = stomach

– from Arabic معْدة  mi‘da (same meaning)

  • Dünyayı sel bassa ördeğe vız gelir. (MY 126)

Even if the whole world is flooded, the duck wouldn’t care less for it.

– dünya = world

– from Arabic دُنْياء  dunyā (same meaning)

– sel = flood, deluge

– from Arabic سيل  sayl (same meaning)

– sel basmak = to flood

– ördek = duck

– vız gelmek  = to leave cold, not care at all

  • Sen ağa, ben ağa, bu ineği kim sağa? (MY 132)

You master, I master, and who is going to milk this cow?

– ağa = landlord, master

– inek = cow

– sağmak = to milk

  • Arabanın ön tekerleği nereden geçerse, arka tekerleği de oradan geçer. (MY 133)

Where the front wheel passes, the hind wheel follows.

– teker = disk, wheel

  • Hocanın dediğini yap, yaptığinı yapma. (MY 134)

Do as the priest say, not as he does.

  • Ay görmüşün yıldıza itibarı yoktur. (MY 135)

He who has seen the moon has no regard for the stars.

– itibar = dignitiy, reputation, respect, regard

– from Arabic إعتبار  i‘tibār (same meaning)

  • Ün lazım değil, un lazım. (MY 139)

We do not need fame, it is flour we need.

– ün = fame

– ünlü = famous

– un = flour

  • Değirmende doğan sıçan gök gürültüsünden korkmaz. (MY 136)

A mouse that is born in a windmill is not afraid of thunder.

– değirmen = mill 

– sıçan = mouse, rat

– gök gürültüsü = thunder

  • Yol bilen kervana katılmaz. (MY 137)

He who knows the way does not join the caravan.

– kervan = caravan

– from Persian كاروان  kārvān (same meaning)

  • Kurttan korkan çoban olmaz. (MY 142)

He who is afraid of wolves will not become a shepherd.

– çoban = shepherd

– from Persian چوپان، شبان  šobān / čobān (same meaning)

  • Serçeden korkan darı ekmez. (MY 142)

He who is afraid of sparrows will not sow millet.

– serçe = sparrow

– darı = corn, millet

  • Akılsız başın zahmetını ayak çeker. (MY 144)

Little wit in the head makes much work for the feed.

– zahmet = bother, trouble, inconvenience 

– from Arabic زحمة  zaḥma (“crush, crows, jam”) via Persian زحمت  zahmat (same meaning as in Turkish

  • Deli ağlamaz, akıllı gülmez. (MY 144)

As a fool never weeps, a wise man never laughs.

  • Delinin yüreği ağzında, akıllının dili yüreğindedir. (MY 145)

A fool’s heart is in his mouth, a wise man’s tongue is in his heart.

– yürek = heart, stomach, audacity

  • Şaşkın ördek başını bırakır, kıçından dalar. (MY 146)

An inexperienced duck dives tail first.

– şaşkın = bewildered, confused 

– ördek = duck

– kıç = butt, ass, buttock

– dalmak = to dive, to plunge 

  • Ağır yükün altına girme belin incinir. (MY 147)

Do not take a heavy burden, otherwise you will hurt your back.

– yük = burden, load

– bel = waist, belly

  • Ağzını açacağına gözünü aç. (MY 147)

Open your eyes, not your mouth.

  • “Bilmem” demek çok türlü kaza savar. (MY 148)

To say “I don’t know” will save one many trouble.

– kaza = accident, casualty

– from Arabic قضاء  qaḍā  (settling, judgement)

– savmak = to brush off, get over, avoid

  • Bindiğin dalı kesme. (MY 148)

Do not cut the bough you stand upon.

– dal = branch, arm

  • Bir mıh bir nal kurtarır, bir nal bir at kurtarır, bir at bir er kurtarır, bir er bir memleket kurtarır. (MY 148)

A nail saves a horseshoe, a horseshoe saves a horse, a horse saves a rider and a rider saves a country.

– mıh = nail, spike 

– from Persian ميخ  mikh (same meaning)

– nal = horseshoe

– from Arabic نعل  na‘l (shoe; same meaning)

– er = man, brave man

– memleket = country

– from Arabic مملكة  mamlika (kingdom, realm)

  • Fare deliğine sığmamış, bir de kuyruğuna kabak bağlamış. (MY 148)

The mouse could not squeeze into its hole, and to make matters worse, it tied a pumpkin to its tail.

(1. He has taken on some new responsibilities even though he can’t handle what he already has. 2. He himself was unwelcome, and then he brought a friend along.)

– delik = hole

– sığma = to fit, to go into

– kuyruk = tail

– kabak = zuccini, squash, pumpkin

  • Kedi beslemeyen fareleri besler. (MY 149)

He who does not feed cats, feeds mice.

– beslemek = to feed

– fare = mouse

– from Arabic فأرة  fa’re (same meaning; collective noun)

  • Keseye daniş, pazarlığa sonra giriş. (MY 149)

Consult your purse, then start bargaining.

– kese = sac, pouch, money bag

– from Persian كيسه  kīse (bag)

  • Af husumetin kılıcıdır. (MY 151)

Forgiveness is the sword of enmity.

– af = forgiveness

– affetmek = to forgive

– from Arabic عفو ‘afw (same meaning)

– husumet = ill will, animosity

– from Arabic خصومة  khuṣūma (same meaning)

– kılıç = sword, blade 

  • Ayıpsız dost arayan dostsuz kalır. (MY 154)

He who wishes a faultless friend remains friendless.

– ayıp = flaw, defect, blamish, vice

– from Arabic عيب ‘aib (same meaning)

– dost = friend

– from Persian دوست  dust (same meaning)

  • Sel ile gelen yel ile gider.

What comes with the flood goes with the wind.

– sel = flood, deluge

– from Arabic سيل  sayl (same meaning)

– yel = wind; gas

  • Aç doyuran aç kalmaz. (MY 162)

He who feeds the hungry, remains not hungry.

– doyurmak = to saturate, to fill, to appease

– doymak = to be satiated, full

  • İyilik yap denize at, balık bilmezse Halik bilir. (MY 163)

Do goodness and throw it into the sea; if the fish know it not, God will.

– halik = creator

– from Arabic خالق khāliq (same meaning)

  • Tokken (yemek) yiyen mezarını dişiyle kazar. (MY 165)

He who eats on a full stomach digs his grave with his teeth.

– tok = full

– mazar = grave

– from Arabic مزار  mazār (shrine, sanctuary; visited place)

– kazmak = to dig

  • Elin ayıbını sana söyleyen elinkini de sana söyler. (173)

Who speaks evil to you of others will speak evil of you to others.

– el = hand; people, stranger, other person

  • Aslan ağzından şikar alınmaz. (MY 176)

A prey cannot be taken from a lion’s mouth.

(It is very hard to extract possessions from the powerful)

– şikar = ravin; game, prey

– from Persian شكار  šekār (hunt, hunting; prey)

  • Büyük başın derdi büyük olur (MY 176)

Big head, big headache.

– dert = trouble, bother

– from Persian درد  dard (pain)

  • Kartal sinek avlamaz. (MY 177)

Eagles do not hunt flies.

– kartal = eagle

– sinek = fly, housefly

– avlamak = to hunt

– av = hunt, hunting

  • Tamahkara “cehenneme gidermisin?” demişler, “Maaş ne kadar?” demiş (MY 179)

They asked the greedy if he would go to hell, he said, “What’s the salary?”

– tamahkar = greedy, stingy

– from Persian طمعکار  tamakār (same meaning) from Arabic طَمَع  ṭama’ (greed)

– cehennem  = hell 

– from Arabic جهنّم  jahannam (same meaning)

– maaş = salary

 – from Arabic مَعَاش  ma’āš (same meaning)

  • Allah eti dişsizlere verir (MY 189)

God gives meat to those who have no teeth.

  • El eli yıkar, el de döner yüzü yıkar (MY 192)

One hand washes the other and both hands the face.

  • Her sakaldan bir tel çekseler, köseye sakal olur? (MY 192)

If they pull one hair from each beard, there will be enough to make a beard for the one who has none.

– tel = string, wire, fibre

– köse = bearless

  • Karga mandayı babası hayrına bitlemez. (MY 193)

The crow doesn’t peck the lice off a buffalo’s back just to be kind.

(One will not do you a service out of kindness alone.)

– karga = crow

– manda = buffalo, water buffalo

– babası hayrına = ?

– bitlemek = delouse

– bit = louse

  • Eğride tok, doğruda aç olmaz. (MY 196)

The crooked are never full, the honest are never hungry.

– eğri = curve, crooked 

– tok = full, satisfied (food)

  • Yoldan çıkmak ayıp değil, yola girmemek ayıptır. (MY 197)

It is not shameful to have gone on a wrong road, it is shameful not to turn back.

  • Deve kadar büyümüşsün, kulağı kadar haysiyetin yok. (MY 198)

You have grown as big as a camel, but you do not have the honor of its ears.

– deve = camel

– büyümek = to grow up, to become big

– kulak = ear

– haysiyet = dignity, self-respect

– from Arabic حيثيّة  ḥaythiyya  (same meaning)

  • El beğenmezse yer beğensin. (MY 198)

If people do not like you, let the ground like you.

(Death is better than dishonour.)

– el = hand; people, stranger, other person

  • Çıkmadık candan umut kesilmez (MY 199)

Despair not while the soul is still in the body.

(Death alone can kill hope.)

– can  = life, spirit, heart, soul

– from Persian جان  jān (same meaning)

  • İnsan bir ümitle doğar, bir ümitle ölür. (MY 200)

Man is born with one hope and dies with another.

– insan = man, human

– from Arabic انسان  insān (same meaning)

– ümit = hope

– from Persian اُمِيد  omid (same meaning)

  • İş üç nalla bir ata kaldı. (MY 200)

What is still needed is three more horseshoes and a horse.

– nal = horseshoe

– from Arabic نعل  na‘l (shoe; same meaning)

– at = horse

  • Umut fakirin ekmeği (MY 200)

Hope is the bread of the poor.

– fakir = poor

– from Arabic فقير  faqīr (same meaning)

  • Umut ile yaşayan açlıktan ölür. (MY 200)

He who lives off hope will die of hunger.

– açlık = hunger

– aç = hungry

– acıkmak = to feel hungry, get hungry

  • Ağaç, meyvesi olunca başını aşağı salar. (MY 201)

When a tree bears fruit it bends over. 

(People who are really valuable are not haughty.)

– meyve = fruit

– from Persian ميوه  mive (same meaning)

– salmak = to send, to let down

  • Acıkan ne olsa yer, acıyan ne olsa söyler (MY 202)

The hungry will eat anything, the suffering will say anything.

– acımak = to hurt, to ache

– acı = pain

  • Aç ayı oynamaz (MY 203)

A hungry bear will not dance.

(A discontented man won’t work well.)

  • Aç domuz darıdan çıkmaz (MY 203)

You can’t drive a hungry pig out of the cornfield.

– domuz = pig

– darı = corn, millet

  • Aç doymam, tok acıkmam sanır. (MY 203)

A hungry person thinks he will never have enough and a satisfied person thinks that he will never be hungry.

(The hungry belly has now ears.)

– doymak = to get enough, be full, satisfied

– acıkmak = to feel hungry, get hungry

  • Aça dokuz yorgan örtmüşler, yine uyuyamamış. (MY 204)

They covered the hungry man with nine blankets and he still couldn’t sleep. 

(If a person has a specific need, he will only be comfortable if that need is met)

– yorgan = quilt, blanket

– örtmek = to cover, wrap

yine = still, afresh, yet

  • Açık ağız aç kalmaz. (MY 204)

An open mouth does not stay hungry.

(A person who can speak up will get what he wants)

  • Açlıkta darı ekmeği baldan tatlıdır (MY 204)

In hunger, millet bread tastes sweeter than honey.

  • Tok aça ufak doğrar. (MY 205)

The full slices too thin for the hungry man.

  • Cami kapısını bilmez, sofuluk taslar. (MY 206)

He doesn’t know where the entrance to the mosque is but he acts as if he were pious.

– sofuluk = religiosity, devoutness, asceticisim

– sofu = ascetic, religionist

– from Arabic صوفى  ṣūfī (Islamic mystic, Sufi)

– taslamak = masquerade as, represent, feign

  • El öpmekle dudak aşınmaz. (MY 206)

Kissing somebody’s hand does not wear out your lips.

– dudak = lips

– aşınmak = to be eroded, abraded, worn away

  • Boş durana şeytan iş bulur. (MY 208)

The devil will find work for the idle. 

(Idle brains are the devil’s workhouse.)

  • Devekuşu gibi yüke gelince kanadını, uçmaya gelince ayağını gösterir (MY 209)

Like an ostrich he shows his wings when it comes to carrying a load, and his legs when it comes to flying.

– devekuşu = ostrich

– yük = burden, load

– kanat = wing

  • Yazın gölge kovan, zemheride karnın ovar. (MY 210)

One who hunts shade in summer rubs his empty stomach in winter.

– gölge = shade

– kovmak = to fire, dismiss

– zemheri = coldest time of winter

– from Arabicزمهرير  zamharīr (bitter cold) from Persian زم  zam (winter) and Arabic هرير  = “howling”

– ovmak = to rub, to scrub

  • Meyvasız ağaca balta vururlar. (MY 209)

Men strike the ax upon a tree that bears no fruit.

– meyve/meyva = fruit

– from Persian ميوه  mive (same meaning)

– balta = ax

  • Tembel ceviz ister, kırmaya üşenir. (MY 210)

A lazy man wants to eat walnuts but he is too lazy to crack them.

– tembel = lazy

– from Persian تنبل  tambal (same meaning)

– ceviz = walnut

– from Arabic جوز  jawz (same meaning)

– kırmak = to break

– üşenmek = to be too lazy to

  • Davasını bilmeyene şahit olma. (MY 212)

Don’t be a witness for a man who does not know his case.

– dava = case, lawsuit, dispute

– from Arabic دعواء  da‘wā (“calling”)

– şahit = witness, attester

– from Arabic شاهد  šāhid (same meaning)

  • Kişi bilmediğine düşman kesilir. (MY 212)

A man hates what he does not understand.

– düşman = enemy

– from Persian دشمن  (došman); the component parts go back to Proto-Indo-European *dus- (bad) and *ménos (mind). (Wiktionary)

– kesilmek = to be cut; interrupted; pretend to be

  • Arpa samanıyla kömür dumanıyla. (MY 213)

Barley comes with its straw, and coal burns with smoke. 

(Nothing is without drawbacks)

– arpa = barley

– saman = straw

– kömür = coal

– duman = smoke

  • Eğri ağaçsız orman olmaz (MY 213)

There is no forest without crooked trees.

– eğri = curve, crooked 

  • Ağaca balta vurmular, “Sapı bedenimden” demiş (MY 216)

They struck at the tree with an axe, and the tree said: “The handle is made from my body.” 

(It is the most painful blow when it is one’s own child or someone you have protected who sets out to harm him)

– balta = ax

– sap = handle, shaft

– beden = body

– from Arabic بدن  badan (same meaning)

  • Ayı yavrusunu severken öldürürmüş. (MY 219)

While the bear embraces her young one, she kills it.

– yavru = baby, whelp, young animal

  • Bir fincan kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır. (MY 219)

One cup of coffee forty years of friendship.

– fincan = cup

– from Arabic فِنْجَان‎  from Persian پنگان‎ (pengān), from Ancient Greek πίναξ (pínax = dish, plate, board) (Wiktionary)

– hatır = sake; memory 

  • Bilen söylemez, söyleyen bilmez. (MY 222)

Those who know do not talk, those who talk do not know.

  • Kör görmez, sezer; sağır işitmez, uydurur. (MY 223)

A blind man does not see, he senses; a deaf man does not hear, he makes it up. 

(Although one may be uninformed one can still get a general idea of what is happening or being said)

– sezmek = to intuit, sense

– sağır = deaf

– işitmek = to hear

– uydurmak = to fabricate, make up

  • Zenginin sermayesi kasasında, alimin sermayesi kafasında. (MY 223)

The wealth of a wealthy man is in his safe, the wealth of a scholar is in his head.

– sermaye = capital, wealth

– from Persian سرمايه  (sarmāye) (from “sar” = “head”; “māye” = “matter, substance”)

– kasa = case, safe

–  from Italian cassa (box)

  • Çamura düşene yol gösteren çok olur. (MY 225)

There will be many to show to way to one who has fallen into the mud.

– çamur  = mud

  • Lezzetsiz çorbaya tuz kar etmez (MY 225)

Salt is of no use to tasteless soup.

– lezzet = taste, flavour

– from Arabic لَذَّة  ladhdha (same meaning)

– kar = profit, benefit

– from Persian كار  kār (work)

  • Sonradan gelen devlet devlet değildir. (MY 226)

The fortune which comes too late is no fortune at all.

– devlet = state, power

– from Arabic دولة  dawla (same meaning)

– I don’t know why it is translated “fortune” here, above it was “wealth” 

  • Yağmurlu havada su veren çok olur. (MY 226)

There will be many who will give water in rainy weather.

  • Yoğun incelene kadar ince üzülür. (MY 226)

By the time the thick get thin, the thin will have worried.

(The rich can weather a difficulty much more easily than the poor can)

– yoğun = intense, dense, heavy

– üzülmek = to be sorry, sorrow, worry

  • Atını veren yaya gidermiş. (MY 227)

He who lends his horse goes on foot.

  • Borç vermek zordur, borç istemek ondan daha zordur. (MY 227)

Lending is hard, borrowing is harder.

– zor = difficult

– from Persian زور  zor (same meaning)

  • Elinle ver, ayağınla ara. (MY 227)

You lend with your hands, but you go to collect with your feet.

  • Kele “yıkandın mı?” demişler, “Tarandım bile” demiş. (MY 234)

They asked the bald man: “Have you washed yourself?” he said “I am washed and combed as well.”

– kel = bald

– from Persian: كل  (same meaning)

– taramak = to scan, to comb

  • Öpülecek yanak dudağa yakın gelir. (MY 235)

The cheek that wants to be kissed comes close to others’ lips.

(Anyone who wants to be helped must make his needs known)

– yanak = cheek

– dudak = lip

  • Yumurtada kıl bitmez. (MY 236)

Hair will not grow on an egg.

(Don’t expect the impossible.)

– kıl = bristle, hair

– bitmek = usually “to end”, here “to grow”

  • Aşığı sevdadan geçirmeye say, deryayı kurutmaya say gibidir. (MY 237)

An effort to make a lover pass from his melancholy is like an effort to dry up the ocean.

– aşık = lover, in love

– from Arabic عاشق  ‘āšiq (same meaning)

– sevda = love, longing, passion

– from Arabic سوداء  sawdā (blackness)

– derya = ocean

– from Persian دريا  daryā (same meaning)

– kurutmak = to dry (transitive)

– kuru = dry

– kurumak = to dry (intransitive)

  • Aşk başta karar etse akıl firar eder. (MY 238)

If love settles in the head, the mind will flee.

– aşk  = love 

– from Arabic عِشْق  ‘išq (same meaning)

– karar = desicion, judgement; stability

– from Arabic قرار  qarār (same meaning)

– akıl = mind, wit, reason

– from Arabic عقل aql (same meaning)

– firar = escape, jailbreak

– from Arabic فرار  firār (same meaning)

  • Çok muhabbet tez ayrılık getirir. (MY 238)

Much love brings a speedy separation. 

(Hot love is soon cold)

– muhabbet = conversation; affection, love

– from Arabic محبّة  maḥabba (affection)

– tez = quick, swift, rapid

– from Persian تيز  tiz / tēz (quick; sharp, spicy)

  • Gülü seven dikenine katlanır. (MY 239)

He who loves the rose endures its thorns.

– diken = thorn

– katlanmak = to endure

– katlamak = to fold

  • Sev seni seveni hak ile yeksan ise, sevme sevemyeni Mısır’a sultan ise. (MY 239)

Love the person who loves you, no matter how lowly he may be, and despise the person who doesn’t love you, even if he were the king of Egypt.

– hak = right, justification

– hak ile = ?

– yeksan = on the same level

  • Balta sapını kesmez. (MY 240)

An ax does not cut its own handle.

– balta = ax

– sap = handle, shaft

  • Kurt kurdu yemez. (MY 240)

A wolf does not eat another wolf.

  • Altına yapışsa elinde bakır kesilir. (MY 241)

If he picks up gold it turns into copper.

– yapışmak = to grab; to cling (on to)

– bakır = copper

  • Talihliyi denize atsan ağzında balıkla çıkar. (MY 243)

The lucky thrown into the sea will come out with a fish in his mouth.

– talih  = luck

– from Arabic طالع  ṭāli‘ (star of destiny)

  • Deniz kadın gibidir, güvenmek olmaz ha. (MY 247)

The sea is like a woman, neither are to be trusted.

  • Etle tırnak arasına girilmez. (MY 249)

One shouldn’t get in between finger nail and finger.

(One should not interfere in the family matters of others.)

– tırnak  = nail, fingernail

  • Evlilik kumardır. (MY 250)

Marriage is gambling.

– kumar = gambling

– from Arabic قُِمَار  qimār / qumār (same meaning)

  • Akılları pazara çıkarmışlar, yine herkes kendi akılını beğenmiş. (MY 257)

Minds have been offered for sale in the market, and yet everybody preferred his own mind.

(Everyone sticks to his own opinion)

– pazar = market

– from Persian بازار  bāzār (same meaning)

– note: the word بازار  bāzār is related to بها  (= price) from which Turkish got pahalı (= expensive)

– pazartesi = Monday (Abbreviated from pazar +‎ ertesi (ultimately from Proto-Turkic *ẹ̄r (early, early in the morning) (related to “erken”) Wiktionary

– herkes = everyone

– borrowed from Persian هر کس‎ (har kas), from هر‎ (har, each, every) + کس‎ (kas, person). See Wiktionary 

  • Alçak yerde yatma sel alır, yüksek yerde yatma yel alır. (MY 260)

Don’t sleep in a low spot or you’ll be swept away by a flood, and don’t sleep on a high spot or the wind will blow you away.

– alçak = low, immoral

– sel = flood, deluge

– from Arabic سيل  sayl (same meaning)

– yel = wind

  • Buğdayı komşuna sat, varır da bazlamasını yersin. (MY 262)

Sell your wheat to your neighbor, you may visit him and eat his flatbread.

– buğday = wheat

– bazlama = flatbread

  • Yağmur yağken küpleri doldurmalı. (MY 269)

Fill your jaws while it’s raining.

– küp = jar; cube

  • Kıştan sonra bahar olur. (MY 271)

After winter comes spring.

(Every suffering has an end to it.)

– bahar = spring

– from Persian بهار‎  bahār (same meaning)

  • beşiği sallayan el, dünyaya hükmeder. (MY 274)

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

– beşik = cradle

– sallamak = to swing, shake

– dünya = world

– from Arabic دُنْياء  dunyā (same meaning)

– hükmetmek = to dominate, rule

– from Arabic حكم  ḥukm (rule, dominance)

  • Kuzguna yavrusunu anka görünür. (MY 274)

A baby raven is a phoenix in the eyes of its parents.

– anka = phoenix

– from Arabic عنقاء ‘anqā’ (same meaning)

  • Anasının karnında dokuz ay on gün nasıl durmuş? (MY 277)

How did he stay in his mother’s womb for nine months and ten days?

(He is very impatient.)

  • Almadan vermek Allah’a mahsus. (MY 279)

Giving without getting is only what God can do.

– mahsus = special, intentional

– from Arabic مخصوص  makhṣūṣ (same meaning)

  • Öteki kapıdan kovarlarsa sen bacadan düş. (MY 282)

If they throw you out of the door you drop through the chimney.

– öteki = other, alternate

– kovmak = to dismiss, get rid of, fire

– baca = chimney

– from Persian باجه  bāje (“big opening, window”)

  • Ertesi tane pirinçten bugünkü bulamaç yeğdir. (MY 283)

Today’s flour soup is better than tomorrow’s rice.

– ertesi = the following, next

– pirinç = rice

– from Persian برنج  berenj (same meaning), From Middle Persian blnc (brinj, bronze, brass). Cognate to English “rice”.

– bulamaç = slurry, gruel

– yeğ = better, preferable

  • Mal malı kazanır. (MY 284)

Wealth earns wealth.

– mal = goods, riches, wealth

– from Arabic مال  (same meaning) – “Probably a univerbation of مَا‎ (, what) + ل‎ (l-, to; belonging to), as in مَالِي‎ (mālī, what belongs to me). The root م و ل‎ (m-w-l) then developed denominally.” (Wiktionary)

  • Allah garip kulunu sevindirmek istediği zaman önce eşeğini kaybettirir sonra yine buldururmuş. (MY 285)

If God wants to make a poor man happy he makes him lose his donkey, and makes him find it again.

– kul = creature

– kullanmak = to use

  • Elinden gelmezse, bari dilinden gelsin. (MY 286)

If it (gratefulness) comes not from your hand, at least let it come from your tongue.

– bari = then, at least

  • Fukaranın cebi boş, kalbi doludur. (MY 286)

The poor have empty pockets but full hearts.

– fukara = almsman, poor person

– from Arabic فقراء  fuqarā’ (same meaning but plural)

– cep = pocket

– From Persian جیب  (jēb) from Middle Iranian *ǰēb. Relatad to the verb آجیدن‎ (âjidan, to sew, stich, baste). (Wiktionary)

  • Ne edeyim altın taşı ki, içine kan kusuyorum. (MY 267) (?)

What good is a golden cup if I vomit blood in it?

– kan = blood

– from Persian خون  khun (same meaning)

– kusmak = to puke, to vomit

  • Baş yastığı, baş derdini bilmez. (MY 291)

A pillow does not know the worries of the head that rests on it.

(A person’s friends or family don’t know his real troubles)

– yastık = pillow, cushion

  • Gök gürlemeyince “Allah, Allah” denmez. (MY 294)

Unless it thunders he wouldn’t call on God.

– gürlemek = roar, roam

  • “Cömert” demişler, maldan etmişler, “Yiğit” demişler, candan etmişler. (MY 296)

They called him generous and made him lose his property, they called him brave and made him lose his life.

– cömert = generous, bountiful

– from Persian جومرد  probably from جوان مرد  (young man)

– yiğit = brave, valiant

  • Zenginlik insana yürümeyi, züğürtlük döğüş öğretir. (MY 298)

Wealth teaches man to walk, poverty strife.

– züğürtlük = poverty

– züğürt = broke, penniless

– döğüş = nativity, birth, origin; rise

  • Balık ağa girdiktan sonra aklı başına gelir. (MY 299)

A fish gets smart after it has gotten into the net.

– ağ = net

  • Derdini saklayan derman bulmaz. (MY 306)

He who keeps his worries to himself can find no remedy.

– derman = remedy, cure; strength

– from Persian درمان  darmān (same meaning)

  • Öcün iyisi bağışlamak. (MY 307)

The best kind of revenge is to forgive.

– öç = revenge

– bağışlamak  = to forgive

– from Persian بخشیدن bakhšidan (to donate, give; forgive)

  • Özürü kabahatinden büyük. (MY 307)

His excuse is worse than his offense.

– kabaha = sin

– form Arabic قباحة  qabāḥa (ugliness, rudeness, infamy)

  • Balığın başı taşa değmezse geri dönmez. (MY 308)

Unless a fish hits his head on a rock, it does not return.

– değmek = to touch, to be worth 

  • Devletli ile deli (ikisi de) bildiğini işler. (MY 308)

Rich people and fools do whatever they want.

– devlet = state, power

– from Arabic دولة  dawla (same meaning)

  • Adam tükürdüğünü yalamaz. (MY 308)

A man does not lick up what he has spat out.

– yalamak = to lick, to lick off

  • Su aktığı yere akar. (MY 309)

Water flows to the place where it has flowed.

(If things went well once before, they’re sure to go well for you again.)

– akmak = to flow, to leak

  • Kol kırılır boyuna yük olur. (MY 312)

An arm is broken, and it becomes a burden on the neck.

– yük = burden, load, charge

  • Ateş ateşle söndürülmez. (MY 313)

Fire cannot be extinguished with fire.

– ateş = fire

– from Persian آتش  ātaš (same meaning)

– söndürmek = to quench, put out 

– sönmek = to fizzle out, to die, to dim down

  • Kanı kanla yumazlar, kanı su ile yurlar. (MY 314)

Blood will not be washed away with blood, but with water.

– yumak = to wash; ball

  • Kötü söyleme eşine, ağı katar aşına. (MY 314)

Don’t scold your wife or she’ll poison your soup.

– ağı = poison

– aş = food, cooked food

– from Persian آش  which refers to a heavy noodle soup in Iran and Afghanistan, but to a rice pilav with carrots and lamb meet in Tajikistan, where the word is also used to refer to “food” in general. 

  • “Bal bal” demekle ağız tatlı olmaz. (MY 315)

The mouth does not become sweet by saying “honey”.

(Talking is not enough.)

  • Balık avlayan elbette ıslanır. (MY 315)

The trousers of a man catching fish will get wet.

– elbette = of course, naturally

– from Arabic  البتّاً  al-battan (same meaning)

– ıslanmak = to get wet

– ıslak = wet

– ıslatmak = to make wet

  • Ekmek bile çiğnemeden yutulmaz. (MY 316)

Even bread can’t be swallowed without chewing.

(You don’t get anything without exerting some effort.)

– çiğnemek = to chew; to trample on

– yutulmak = to be swallowed

– yutmak = to swallow

  • Bir deliği olan fare çabuk tutulur. (MY 318)

The mouse that has but one hole is quickly caught.

– delik = hole

– fare = mouse

– from Arabic فأرة  fa’re (same meaning; collective noun)

  • Köprüyü geçinceye kadar ayıya dayı de. (MY 318)

One must call a bear an uncle till one is safely across the bridge.

  • Beni sokmayan yılan bin yaşasın. (MY 320)

The snake that doesn’t bite me can live a thousand years for all I care.

– sokmak = to bite, sting; to embed, tuck in

– yılan = snake

  • Benim sakalım tutuştu, sen sigaranı yakmak istersin. (MY 320)

My beard is burnt and you are trying to light your cigarette on it.

– tutuşmak = to ignite, catch fire

  • Hizmetçı kırarsa suç, hanım kırarsa kaza. (MZ 324)

When the maid breaks something, it’s a crime; when the mistress does, it’s an accident.

– hanım = madam, wife, lady

– From Turkic han (king, ruler) + ım (feminine suffix for nobility titles) (Wiktionary)

  • Aklınıla gör kalbinle işit. (MY 326)

See with your mind and hear with your heart.

– işitmek = to hear, to learn, to get

  • Bir defa görmek bin defa okumatkatn yeydir. (MY 326)

Seeing once is better than reading a thousand times.

– defa = time

– from Arabic دفعة  daf‘a (“push, impulse; batch; pay”)

  • Göz bir penceredir, gönüle bakar. (MY 326)

Eyes are the window to look into the heart.

– pencere = window

– from Persian پنجره  panjere (same meaning)

  • Derin su yavaş akar. (MY 329)

Deep waters run slowly.

– derin = deep

  • Her mevsimin bir meyvesi var. (MY 330)

Every season has its own fruits.

mevsim = season

– from Arabic وْسِم  mawsim (same meaning)

– meyve = fruit

– from Persian میوه  mive (same meaning)

  • Her şeye benzeyen, bir şeye benzemez. (MY 330)

What looks like everything looks like nothing.

  • Şahin ile deve avlanmaz. (MY 331)

You can’t hunt camels with falcons.

(The means must be appropriate to the task.)

– şahin = hawk, falcon 

– from Persian شاهين  šāhīn (same meaning; literally kingly, majestic)

– deve = camel

– avlamak = to hunt

– av = hunt, hunting

  • İnek gibi süt vermeyen, öküz gibi sapan sürer. (MY 334)

Whoever doesn’t give milk like a cow will plow like an ox.

– inek = cow

– öküz = ox (from Ottoman Turkish اۊكۏز‎ (öküz, ox), from Proto-Turkic *öküŕ (ox), which was possibly borrowed from a Tocharian language spoken nearby (compare Tocharian B okso, English ox). (Wiktionary)

  • Kabiliyet talim ile olmaz. (MY 334)

Ability has no school.

– kabiliyet = ability, talent

– from Arabic قابليّة  qābiliyya (same meaning)

– talim = drill, teaching, exercise

  • Tekeden süt çıkarır. (MY 335)

He makes milk come from a he-goat. 

(He is very cunning and clever.)

– teke = goat, he-goat

  • Yüzmek bilmezsin, deniz kenarında ne işin var? (MY 335)

If you don’t know how to swim, why are you at the seashore?

– kenar = side, border, shore

– from Persian كنار  kenār (same meaning)

  • Bekarlık sultanlıktır. (MY 341)

A bechalor’s life is a sultan’s life.

– bekâr = bachelor

– possibly from Arabic بكارت  bikāra (virginity (of a woman))

  • Demir nemden, insan gamdan çürür. (MY 342)

Iron rots by moisture, man by grief.

– demir = iron

– nem = wetness, dampness

– from Persian نم  nam (same meaning, both an adjective and a noun)

– gam = worry, grief, glood

– from Arabic غمّ  ghamm (same meaning)

  • Dert saklayanda kalır. (MY 343)

Sorrow remains with one who hides it.

– dert = trouble, bother

– from Persian درد  dard (pain)

  • Gailesiz baş yerin altında. (MY 343)

The only untroubled head is the one in a grave. 

(As long as you live you will have troubles.)

– gaile = worry, trouble, anxiety

– from Arabic غائلة  ghā’ila (“disaster, calamity”)

  • Çok karınca deveyi öldürür. (MY 347)

Many ants kill a camel.

– karınca = ant

  • Yanık yerin otu tez biter. (MY 350)

Grass grows fast in a burned land.

(Suffering can quickly give way to joy)

– yanık = burned

– ot = grass

  • Ağızından çıkanı kulağı işitmez. (MY 351)

His ears do not listen to what comes out of his mouth.

(He speaks without consideration.)

  • Baş dille tartılır. (MY 352)

The head is weighed by the tongue. 

(A person’s intelligence is weighed by what he says.)

– tartmak = to weigh

  • Dil kılıçtan keskindir. (MY 353)

The tongue is sharper than the sword.

– kılıç = sword, blade

– keskin = sharp, piercing

  • Sözünü bil, pişir; ağzını der devşir. (MY 357)

Know your word, cook it, and gather it in your mouth.

(Think before you speak)

– devşirmek = to gather, collect

  • Vakit geçer, sular durulur. (MY 363)

Time passes and waters settle.

– durulmak = to slacken, to settle down

  • Gezen ayağa taş değer. (MY 365)

A roving foot bumps a stone.

(A person who is experiencing a lot will eventually experience trouble as well.)

– değmek = to touch

  • Yaman komşu, yaman avrat, yaman at, birinden göç, birini at, birini sat. (MY 367)

If your neighbor, your wife or your horse give you nothing but trouble, move away from the neighbor, divorce the wife, and sell the horse.

– yaman = disagreeable, bad

– avrat = wife

– from Arabic عورة  ‘awra (“intimate parts; nakedness; imperfection”)

  • Doğru söyleyeni dokuz köyden kovarlar. (MY 374)

He who tells the truth is chased out of nine villages.

– kovmak = to dismiss, fire, expel

  • Arık ata kuyruğu da yüktür. (MY 376)

To the lean horse even its own tail is a burden.

(Some people can’t take care of themselves, let alone helping others)

– arık = lean, thin; channel, stream

– kuyruk = tail; line

– yük = burden, load

  • Atı suya götürürsün ama içiremezsin. (MY 388)

You can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make him drink.

– götürmek = to carry, to remove

  • Kedi cigere yetişemezse “bugün oruçtur” demiş. (MY 389)

If the cat cannot reach the liver, he would say, “Today is a fast day”.

– ciger = liver

– from Persian جگر‎  jigar (same meaning)

  • Akıl bir vezirdir, gönül bir padişah. (MY 390)

The mind is a vizier and the heart a sultan. (The heart decides, not the mind.)

  • Anlayanla taş taşı, anlamayanla bal yeme. (MY 391)

Better carry stones together with a wise person than eat honey with a fool.

  • Kafa boşsa göz işe yaramaz. (MY 392)

If the head is empty, the eyes have no use.

  • Sakal ile olaydı kişi keçiye danışırlardı. (MY 392)

Had it been with the beard that wisdom dwelt, folks would have taken counsel with the goat about all business. 

(Not all and not only old men with beards are wise.)

  • Abanın kadri yağmurda bilinir. (MY 402)

The value of a coat becomes clear when it rains.

  • Soldaki sıfır gibi zaittir. (MY 404)

It is unnecessary like the zero on the left.

  • Akıldan çıkar, defterden çıkmaz. (MY 406)

It may slip from the mind, but not from the notebook.

  • Eğri mastardan doğru çizgi çıkmaz. (MY 406)

You cannot write straight on a crooked stencil.

  • İlim satırda değil, sadırda gerek. (MY 406)

Knowledge must not be in books but in practice.

  • Gök ağlamayınca yer gülmez. (MY 385)

Unless the sky weeps, the earth will not laugh.

  • Zengine mal veren denize su götürür. (MY 384)

Giving money to the rich is like carrying water to the sea.

  • Selam para, kelam para. (MY 383)

Greeting, money; conversation, money.

(I have to pay money everytime I turn around.)

  • Devletliye “beli” derler, yokusla “deli.” (MY 380)

They say to a wealthy man, “Yes, sir!” and to a poor man, “You are mad!”

(one law for the rich, and another for the poor)

  • Kadın şeytana pabucunu ters giydirir. (MY 395)

A woman makes the devil put his shoes on the wrong feet.

(She can even put the devil into confusion.)

  • “Gökyüzünde düğün var” deseler, kadınlar merdiven kurmaya kalkar. (MY 394)

If they say there is a wedding feast in the sky, women would set a ladder to attend it.


MY = Metin YurtbaşıDictionary of Turkish Proverbs. Turkish Daily News, 1993