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11 Greek Proverbs in 1 Song

proverbs


Proverbs help you understand how Greeks think. The song we present you today is called “Proverbs”. It was written in 1987 by Melina Tanagri. It contains 11 well known Greek proverbs. By listening to Greek songs you not only enjoy the music but also learn a lot about Greek language and culture. So with this song, you will have “killed two birds with one stone” (m’ énan sbáro dyó trigónia), as Greeks say.

(Note: Of course, if you just started to learn Greek, proverbs are not the easiest thing to learn or use. Therefore we also wrote for the Beginners level, the free eBook with easy Everyday Greek wishes and Audio, which you can download here.)

Proverbs are short stereotypical phrases expressing a truth about life. With few words they can teach, advise, guide us and make us think. In proverbs we can find vivid images and great imagination. They are orally transmitted across generations, but there are proverbs with similar meaning in many languages expressed in different words.

Below you can find the 11 proverbs and their meaning. It is not always easy to translate proverbs into another language, but we tried to give you “more or less literal translations” of each Greek proverb into English.
1. Των φρονίμων τα παιδιά πριν πεινάσουν μαγειρεύουν. [lit. Wise people’s children cook before they get hungry.] “The early bird catches the worm”: Wise people take precautions. Farseeing and prudent people have the advantage.

2. Φύλαγε τα ρούχα σου, να ‘χεις τα μισά. [lit. Mind your clothes so that you can keep half of them] “Safety first”: You should take care of your belongings but, even if you are very careful, still expect some losses.

3. Όσα δεν φτάνει η αλεπού τα κάνει κρεμαστάρια. [lit. The fox contemns what it cannot reach.] “It’s sour grapes”: Someone pretends to disdain something one does not have or cannot achieve.

4. Όπου ακούς πολλά κεράσια, κράτα και μικρό καλάθι. [lit. When you hear of many cherries, hold a small basket.]: Be cautious about rhetoric and great expectations. Don’t get overwhelmed by hollow promises.

5. Μπρος γκρεμός και πίσω ρέμα. [lit. Ahead a cliff, behind a creek.] “Between a rock and a hard place” “a catch-22”: Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. For a no-win situation.

6. Η καλή μέρα από το πρωί φαίνεται. [lit. A good day shows itself from the morning.] “It’s been that kind of day!” “Bad hairday!”: A good beginning makes a good ending. No wonder this is a bad day considering how it began.

7. Και ο άγιος φοβέρα θέλει. [lit. Even a saint needs to be threatened.]: Creating fear is sometimes needed to achieve results. You cannot meet your goal if the person who can help you is not afraid of the consequences that will follow from his refusal to assist you.

8. Ή στραβός είναι ο γιαλός ή στραβά αρμενίζουμε. [lit. Either the seashore is crooked or we sail unevenly.] “It’s like going around in circles”: We must be doing something wrong or God is punishing us. We don’t want to blame someone or we don’t know whom to blame for that.

9. Όποιος βιάζεται σκοντάφτει. [lit. whoever is in a hurry stumbles]. “Haste makes waste” “Haste trips up its own heels”: If you try to do things too quickly you will face obstacles resulting in delays and failure.

10. Το γοργόν και χάριν έχει. [lit. Being fast is graceful.] “There is no time like the present” “time is of the essence”: You’d better do something quickly and immediately.

11. Όπου λαλούν πολλοί κοκόροι αργεί να ξημερώσει. [lit. Where many roosters crow, it dawns late] “Too many cooks spoil the broth”: If too many people try to take charge at a task, the end result might be delayed or ruined.

Now listen to the song and read along:

Πριν πεινάσουν μαγειρεύουν των φρονίμων τα παιδιά Children of wise parents cook before they get hungry
και τα ρούχα τους φυλάνε για να έχουν τα μισά. and take care of their clothes so that they can keep half of them.
Αλλά εγώ που δεν τους μοιάζω όλα τα ’παιξα στα ζάρια, But I don’t look like them, I gambled everything.
τώρα σαν την αλεπού τα κάνω κρεμαστάρια. Now like a fox I consider them unworthy
Μου ’πες για πολλά κεράσια κι έχω φτάσει μέχρι εδώ, You promised me many cherries and I have arrived here,
μπρος γκρεμός και πίσω ρέμα, το καλάθι μου αδειανό. ahead a cliff, behind a creek, my basket is still empty.
Μια καλή κι ωραία μέρα θα φανεί απ’ το πρωί, A good and nice day will show itself from the morning onwards
ο άγιος ήθελε φοβέρα κι εγώ του ’πα προσευχή. The saint wanted to be threatened but I prayed to him.
Ή στραβός είν’ ο γιαλός ή στραβά αρμενίζουμε, Either the seashore is crooked or we sail unevenly
κάποιο λάκκο έχει η φάβα, πέφτω και τσακίζομαι. There is a pit in the fava bean dip[1], I fall in and crash down.

 

Μα αν δεν πάθεις πώς θα μάθεις μέσ’ σε τούτη τη ζωή, If you didn’t suffer, how would you learn in this life,
αν ο σκύλος είν’ χορτάτος τότε η πίτα είναι μισή. If the dog is full, then the pie is half eaten.[2]
Όποιος βιάζεται σκοντάφτει, το γοργόν και χάριν έχει, Who hurries tackles, being fast is graceful
λάλησαν πολλά κοκόρια κι έτσι άργησε να φέξει. many cocks crowed, so dawn arrived late
Μα το ένα φέρνει τ’ άλλο και οι Χιώτες παν δυο δυο, But one thing leads to another and people from Chios walk two by two[3]
εσύ τράβα με κι ας κλαίω, έχω κι άλλα να σου πω. play hard to get, Ι have more to tell you
Που λες την είχα από μικρή μια έμφυτη αντιπάθεια well, since I was little I have had an innate aversion
για παροιμίες και ρητά και τη δασκαλοπάθεια. to proverbs and sayings and moralism.
Μα με το διάβα του ο καιρός και τα γυρίσματά του But over the years and with its twists and turns
μ’ αφήνει έκθαμβη μπροστά στα αποφθέγματά του. time leaves me stunned over its wise sayings.
Γράφει σενάρια τολμηρά στη μέση του κυκλώνα, It writes bold scenarios in the middle of the cyclone
σκαρώνει μπέρδεμα σωστό και να ’μαι στον αγώνα. It is up to a real mess and here I am struggling
Με τ’ άγριο μάτι του κοιτά αν έπεσα ακόμα With its wild eye its looks whether I have already fallen down
να δικαιώσει το ρητό και να με κάνει λιώμα. to justify the saying and to wipe me out.
Και δε μου μένει πια παρά υποταγή κι ελπίδα And I have no option but to obey and hope
αφού γι’ ακόμα μια φορά την προκοπή μου δεν είδα. since once again I had no success.

Would you like to learn more proverbs? Then also click here to read our other article: “10 important Greek proverbs”

[1] “There is a catch in it” “There is a fly in the ointment”.
[2] You can’t have one’s cake and eat it too. It is said about two mutually incompatible things.
[3] It is said about two persons going everywhere together.