List of Proverbs, Idioms, and Sayings

222 Proverbs, Idioms, and Sayings

Native English speakers use a lot of proverbs, idioms, and sayings that are difficult for non-native speakers to understand because many of the terms do not use words in their literal sense. Here is a list of 222 common proverbs, idioms, and sayings commonly used in English-speaking countries:

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What Is the Difference between a Proverb and an Idiom?

proverbs and idioms in English
A proverb is a short, popular piece of advice or an observation that is generally held to be true. For example:

Examples of Proverbs That Give Advice:

  • Don't count your chickens before they've hatched.
  • Never bite the hand that feeds you.

Examples of Proverbs That Are Observations:

  • Rome was not built in a day.
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
Often, these popular observations are also intended as advice. For example, "Rome was not built in a day" means "be patient," and "a penny saved is a penny earned" means "save your money."

An idiom is a popular saying whose meaning is not apparent from its words. In other words, the literal words of an idiom do not help with understanding the meaning. For example:
  • "the apple of my eye" (meaning: someone cherished above all others)
  • "the bee's knees" (meaning: something excellent)
  • "to buy a lemon" (meaning: to buy something worth far less than you paid)
Therefore, proverbs that do not employ literal words are also idioms.

Not every entry on this list is an idiom or a proverb. Some are just "sayings." We have used the term "saying" for a non-idiomatic group of words that are commonly used together (for example "cross your fingers").

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See Also

What are idioms? What is collocation? What is figurative language? Common Errors Grammar Glossary Easily Confused Words Punctuation Lessons Grammar Tests Tattoo Fails

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