French Proverbs & International Proverbs in French

French proverbs are rich in wisdom and cultural insight. In this article we will look into some of these timeless sayings, along with their translations. The article is divided into two main sections:

  • Proverbs of French Origin: These proverbs has their origin in France or in the Francophonie (ie. French speaking countries).
  • International Proverbs in French: These proverbs has their origin in various countries. Here you will find their French versions along with the translations of the French versions.


Proverbs of French Origin

French proverbs are rich in cultural history and provide valuable insights into the French way of thinking. These expressions offer wisdom and advice, often encapsulated in a few memorable words. Let’s look into some notable proverbs of French origin, exploring their meanings and usage.


Common French Proverbs and Their Meanings

Many French proverbs are used widely in both French-speaking and non-French-speaking cultures. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • “C’est la vie”

    • Meaning: “That’s life”
    • Usage: Used to express acceptance of a difficult or unpleasant situation.
  • “Mieux vaut tard que jamais”

    • Meaning: “Better late than never”
    • Usage: Encourages completing a task even if it’s late.
  • “L’habit ne fait pas le moine”

    • Meaning: “The habit doesn’t make the monk”
    • Usage: Highlights that appearances can be deceiving.


Proverbs Reflecting French Values

French proverbs often reflect the values and principles held dear by French culture. Here are a few examples:

  • “Qui vivra verra”

    • Meaning: “Who will live will see”
    • Usage: Suggests that time will reveal what will happen.
  • “Il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu”

    • Meaning: “There’s no smoke without fire”
    • Usage: Indicates that rumors often have some basis in fact.
  • “Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid”

    • Meaning: “Little by little, the bird makes its nest”
    • Usage: Emphasizes the importance of patience and perseverance.


Proverbs Related to Nature

Nature is a common theme in French proverbs, often used to convey deeper meanings about life and human behavior. Here are a few notable ones:

  • “Après la pluie, le beau temps”

    • Meaning: “After the rain, the good weather”
    • Usage: Used to express hope that good times will follow bad times.
  • “Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué”

    • Meaning: “One shouldn’t sell the bear’s skin before killing it”
    • Usage: Warns against assuming victory before it is certain.
  • “Quand le chat n’est pas là, les souris dansent”

    • Meaning: “When the cat’s away, the mice will play”
    • Usage: Describes how people behave when authority is absent.


Proverbs About Wisdom and Learning

French proverbs often impart wisdom and emphasize the importance of learning. Here are some classic examples:

  • “L’erreur est humaine”

    • Meaning: “To err is human”
    • Usage: Acknowledges that making mistakes is a natural part of being human.
  • “Il n’est jamais trop tard pour bien faire”

    • Meaning: “It’s never too late to do well”
    • Usage: Encourages taking positive actions regardless of past mistakes.
  • “Apprendre à ses dépens”

    • Meaning: “To learn at one’s own expense”
    • Usage: Suggests that people learn from their mistakes.


Proverbs Reflecting Relationships

Relationships and social interactions are a significant theme in French proverbs. Here are a few examples that highlight this:

  • “Les amis de nos amis sont nos amis”

    • Meaning: “The friends of our friends are our friends”
    • Usage: Suggests that mutual friends can help expand social networks.
  • Loin des yeux, loin du cœur

    • Meaning: “Far from the eyes, far from the heart”
    • Usage: Indicates that distance can weaken relationships.
  • “Tel père, tel fils”

    • Meaning: “Like father, like son”
    • Usage: Highlights the similarities between parents and their children.

French proverbs offer a unique glimpse into the collective wisdom and cultural nuances of the French-speaking world. These timeless expressions continue to resonate, providing guidance and reflection in various aspects of life.


International Proverbs in French

In the following we will look into some international proverbs in French.

A penny saved is a penny earned

  • Original: Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid
  • Translation: Little by little, the bird makes its nest


Actions speak louder than words

  • Original: Les actes valent mieux que les mots
  • Translation: Actions are worth more than words


When in Rome, do as the Romans do

  • Original: À Rome, fais comme les Romains
  • Translation: In Rome, do as the Romans do


Out of sight out of mind

  • Original: Loin des yeux, loin du cœur
  • Translation: Far from the eyes, far from the heart


A friend in need is a friend indeed

  • Original: C’est dans le besoin qu’on reconnaît ses vrais amis
  • Translation: It’s in need that one recognizes their true friends


All that glitters is not gold

  • Original: Tout ce qui brille n’est pas or
  • Translation: All that shines is not gold


An apple a day keeps the doctor away

  • Original: Une pomme par jour éloigne le médecin pour toujours
  • Translation: An apple a day keeps the doctor away


Better late than never

  • Original: Mieux vaut tard que jamais
  • Translation: Better late than never


Birds of a feather flock together

  • Original: Qui se ressemble s’assemble
  • Translation: Those who are alike come together


Still waters run deep

  • Original: Il n’est pire eau que l’eau qui dort
  • Translation: There is no worse water than still water


Do not count your chickens before they hatch

  • Original: Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué
  • Translation: Don’t sell the bear’s skin before you’ve killed it


Every cloud has a silver lining

  • Original: À quelque chose malheur est bon
  • Translation: To something, misfortune is good


Fortune favors the bold

  • Original: La fortune sourit aux audacieux
  • Translation: Fortune smiles on the bold


The early bird catches the worm

  • Original: L’avenir appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt
  • Translation: The future belongs to those who wake up early


You reap what you sow

  • Original: On récolte ce qu’on sème
  • Translation: You reap what you sow