Home  »  Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations  »  Proverbs and Popular Phrases (Alphabetically Arranged)

Hoyt & Roberts, comps. Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations. 1922.

Proverbs and Popular Phrases (Alphabetically Arranged)

A baker’s dozen.
Rabelais—Works. Bk. V. Ch. XXII.

Add to golden numbers golden numbers.
Thos. Dekker—Patient Grissell. Act I. Sc. 1.

A flea in his ear.
R. Armin—Nest of Ninnies. (1608). T. Nash—Pierce Penniless. (1592). R. Greene—Quip for an upstart Courier. (1592). Teuton—Tragicall Discourses. (1579). Francis de l’Isle—Legendarie Life and Behavior of Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine. (1577).

After supper walk a mile.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Philaster. II. 4.

A new broome sweepeth cleane.
Lyly—Euphues. Arber’s Reprint. P. 89.

An inch in a miss is as good as an ell.
Camden’s Remains. (1614).

An inch in missing is as bad as an ell.
Fuller—Gnomologia. (1732).

As clear as a whistle.
John Byrom—Epistle to Lloyd. I.

As cold as cucumbers.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Cupid’s Revenge. Act I. Sc. 1.

As high as Heaven, as deep as Hell.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Honest Man’s Fortune. Act IV. Sc. 1.

A thorn in the flesh.
II Corinthians. XII. 7.

Bag and baggage.
Richard Huloet—Abecedarium Anglico-Latinum pro Tyrunculas. (1552). As You Like It. III. 2. How erst wee did them thence, sans bag and baggage, tosse. Burdet—Mirror for Magistrates. St. 75. “With bag and baggage, selye wretch, / I yelded into Beautie’s hand.” Tottel’s Miscellany. Arber’s Reprint. P. 173. Appears in trans. of Polydore Vergil’s English History, edited by Sir Henry Ellis, Camden Society (1844). MS., in the handwriting of the reign of Henry VIII. (About 1540–50). Also in Camden Society Reprint, No. 53. P. 47. (1500). In Life of Lord Grey, Camden Society MS. P. 37. (About 1570). Credited to Froissart, in Lord Berner’s trans. Vol. I. Ch. CCCXX. P. 497. (Ed. 1523).

Barkis is willin’.
Dickens—David Copperfield. Ch. I.

Beat all your feathers as flat as pancakes.
Middleton—Roaring Girl. Act II. Sc. 1.

Better a bad excuse, than none at all.
Camden—Remaines. Proverbs. P. 293.

Big-endians and small-endians.
Swift—Gulliver’s Travels. Pt. I. Ch. IV. Voyage to Lilliput.

But me no buts.
Henry Fielding—Rape upon Rape. Act II. Sc. 2. Aaron Hill—Snake in the Grass. Sc. 1.

By all that’s good and glorious.
Byron—Sardanapalus. Act I. Sc. 2.

By hooke or crooke.
Heywood—Proverbs. Pt. I. Ch. XI. In a letter of Sir Richard Morysin to the Privy Council in Lodge’s Illustrations &c. I. 154. Holland’s Suetonius. P. 169. John Wyclif—Works. Ed. by Arnold. III. 331. Rabelais—Bk. V. Ch. XIII. Du Bartas—The Map of Man. Spenser—Faerie Queene. Bk. III. Canto I. St. 17. Beaumont and Fletcher—Women Pleased. Act I. Sc. 3. Shelton—Duke of Clout. See also “Which he by hook or crook.”

Curses are like young chickens,
And still come home to roost!
Arabian Proverb quoted by Bulwer-Lytton—The Lady of Lyons. Act V. Sc. 2. Chaucer—Persones Tale. Sec. 41.

Cut and come again.
Crabbe—Tales VII. L. 26.

Se couper le nez pour faire dépit à son visage.
Cut off your nose to spite your face.
Tallement des Réaux—Historiettes. Vol. I. Ch. I. (About 1657–1659).

Diamonds cut diamonds.
John Ford—The Lover’s Melancholy. Act I. Sc. 3.

Every fat (vat) must stand upon his bottom.
Bunyan—Pilgrim’s Progress. Pt. I.

Every one stretcheth his legs according to his coverlet.
Herbert—Jacula Prudentum.

Every why hath a wherefore.
Comedy of Errors. Act II. Sc. 2. L. 44.

Facts are stubborn things.
Le Sage—Gil Blas. Bk. X. Ch. I. Smollet’s trans.

Every tub must stand upon its bottom.
Macklin—Man of the World. Act I. Sc. 2.

Fast bind, fast find;
A proverb never stale in thrifty mind.
Merchant of Venice. Act II. Sc. 5. L. 54.

First come, first served.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Little French Lawyer. II. 1.

Fitted him to a T.
Samuel Johnson—Boswell’s Life of Johnson. (1784).

From the crown of our head to the sole of our foot.
Beaumont and Fletcher—The Honest Man’s Fortune. Act II. Sc. 2. Thos. Middleton—A Mad World, My Masters. Act I. Sc. 3. Pliny—Natural History. Bk. VII. Ch. XVII. Much Ado About Nothing. Act III. Sc. 2.

Glass, China, and Reputation, are easily crack’d and never well mended.
Benj. Franklin—Poor Richard. (1750).

God save the mark!
Henry IV. Pt. I. Act I. Sc. 3. L. 57.

Going as if he trod upon eggs.
Burton—Anatomy of Melancholy. Pt. III. Sect. II. Memb. 3.

Go to Jericho.
Let them all go to Jericho,
And ne’er be seen againe.
Mercurius Aulicus. (1648). Quoted in the Athenæum, Nov. 14, 1874.

Go West, young man! Go West.
John L. B. Soule—In the Terre Haute Express. (1851).

Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.
Horace Greeley—Hints toward Reform. In an editorial in the Tribune.

Hail, fellow, well met.
Swift—My Lady’s Lamentation.

Harp not on that string.
Richard III. Act IV. Sc. 4. L. 366.

He can give little to his servant that licks his knife.
Herbert—Jacula Prudentum.

He comes not in my books.
Beaumont and Fletcher—The Widow.

He did not care a button for it.
Rabelais—Works. Bk. II. Ch. XVI.

Here’s metal more attractive.
Hamlet. Act III. Sc. 2. L. 115.

Hide their diminished heads.
Milton—Paradise Lost. Bk. IV. L. 35.

Hier lies that should fetch a perfect woman over the coles.
Sir Gyles Goosecappe. (1606).

His bark is worse than his bite.
Herbert—Country Parson. Ch. XXIX.

Hit the nail on the head.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Love’s Cure. Act II. Sc. 1.

Hold one another’s noses to the grindstone hard.
Burton—Anatomy of Melancholy. Pt. III. Sec. I. Memb. 3.

Hold their noses to the grindstone.
Thos. Middleton—Blurt, Master Constable. Act III. Sc. 3.

Honey of Hybla.
Henry IV. Pt. I. Act I. Sc. 2. L. 47.

How well I feathered my nest.
Rabelais—Works. Bk. II. Ch. XVII.

I have other fish to fry.
Cervantes—Don Quixote. Pt. II. Ch. XXXV.

I have you on the hip.
Merchant of Venice. Act IV. Sc. 1. L. 334.

I’ll have a fling.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Rule a Wife and Have a Wife. III. 5.

I’ll make the fur
Fly ’bout the ears of the old cur.
Butler—Hudibras. Pt. I. Canto III. L. 278.

I’ll put a spoke among your wheels.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Mad Lover. III. 5.

In the name of the Prophet—figs.
Horace and James Smith—Rejected Addresses. Johnson’s Ghost.

Leap out of the frying pan into the fire.
Cervantes—Don Quixote. Pt. I. Bk. III. Ch. IV.

Let the worst come to the worst.
Cervantes—Don Quixote. Bk. III. Ch. V. Marston—Dutch Courtesan. Act III. Sc. 1.

Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none.
All’s Well That Ends Well. Act I. Sc. 1. L. 73.

Love, and a Cough, cannot be hid.
Herbert—Jacula Prudentum.

Made no more bones.
Du Bartas—The Maiden Blush.

Make ducks and drakes with shillings.
George Chapman—Eastward Ho. Act I. Sc. 1.

Make three bites of a cherry.
Rabelais—Works. Bk. V. Ch. XXVIII.

Many a smale maketh a grate.
Chaucer—Persones Tale.

Many go out for wool, and come home shorn themselves.
Cervantes—Don Quixote. Pt. II. Ch. XXXVII.

Mariana in the moated grange.
Tennyson. Motto for Mariana. Taken from “There, at the moated grange, resides this dejected Mariana.” Comedy of Errors. Act II. Sc. 1.

Mind your P’s and Q’s.
Said to be due to the old custom of hanging up a slate in the tavern with P. and Q. (for pints and quarts), under which were written the names of customers and ticks for the number of “P’s and Q’s.” Another explanation is that the expression referred to “toupées” (artificial locks of hair) and “queues” (tails).

Moche Crye and no Wull.
Fortescue—De Laudibus Leg. Angliæ. Ch. X.

Much of a muchness.
Vanbrugh—The Provoked Husband. Act I. Sc. 1.

Needle in a bottle of hay.
Field—A Woman’s a Weathercock. Reprint 1612. P. 20.

Neither fish, flesh nor good red herring.
Tom Browne—Æneus. Sylvius. Letter. Dryden—Epilogue to Duke of Guise. Marsden—History of Christian Churches. Vol. I. P. 267. In Sir John Mennes’ (Mennis) Musarum Deliciæ. (1651). Thos. Nash—Lenten Stuff. (1599). Reprinted in Harleian Miscellany. Sir H. Sheres—Satyr on the sea officers. Rede me and be nott wrothe. I. III. (1528).

No better than you should be.
Beaumont and Fletcher—The Coxcomb. Act IV. Sc. 3.

No rule is so general, which admits not some exception.
Burton—Anatomy of Melancholy. Pt. I. Sec. II. Memb. 2. Subsect. 3.

Nought venter nought have.
Heywood—Proverbs. Pt. I. Ch. XI. Thos. Tusser—Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry. October’s Extract.

Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.
William Cobbett. Also Gilray Caricature. May 22. 1797, after the bank stopped cash payments, Feb. 26, 1797. Sheridan—Life by Walter Sichel. P. 16. Refers to the bank as an elderly lady in the city, of great credit and long standing, who had recently made a faux pas which was not altogether inexcusable.

On his last legs.
Thos. Middleton—The Old Law. Act V. Sc. 1.

One good turn deserves another.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Little French Lawyer. III. 2.

Originality provokes originality.

Passing the Rubicon.
When he arrived at the banks of the Rubicon, which divides Cisalpine Gaul from the rest of Italy … he stopped to deliberate…. At last he cried out: “The die is cast” and immediately passed the river.
Plutarch—Life of Julius Cæsar.

Performed to a T.
Rabelais—Works. Bk. IV. Ch. LI.

Pons Asinorum.
The asses’ bridge.
Applied to Proposition 5 of the first book of Euclid.

Present company excepted.
O’Keefe—London Hermit. (1793).

Push on—keep moving.
Thos. Morton—A Cure for the Heartache. Act III. Sc. 1.

Put himself upon his good behaviour.
Byron—Don Juan. Canto V. St. 47.

Put your toong in your purse.
Heywood—Dialogue of Wit and Folly. Pt. II. L. 263.

Quo vadis?
Whither goest thou?
From The Vulgate. John. XIII. 36. Domine, quo vadis? [St. Peter’s question.] St. Thomas asks a similar question in John. XIV. 5. The traditional story is told by St. Ambrose—Contra Auxentium. (Ed. Paris, 1690). II. 867.

Safe bind, safe find.
Tusser—Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry. Washing.

Scared out of his seven senses.
Scott—Rob Roy. Ch. XXIV.

Set all at sixe and seven.
Heywood—Proverbs. Pt. I. Ch. XI. Chaucer—Troilus and Cresseide. L. 623. Also Towneley Mysteries. 143. Morte Arture. MS. at Lincoln. Degrevant. (1279). Richard II. Act II. Sc. 2. L. 122.

Smell a rat.
Butler—Hudibras. Pt. I. Canto I. L. 821. Cervantes—Don Quixote. Pt. I. Bk. IV. Ch. X. Ben Jonson—Tale of a Tub. Act IV. Sc. 3. Thos. Middleton—Blurt, Master Constable. Act III. Sc. 3.

Snug as a bug in a rug.
The Stratford Jubilee. II. 1. 1779. Letter to Miss Georgiana Shipley. September, 1772.

Something given that way.
Beaumont and Fletcher—The Lovers’ Progress. Act I. Sc. 1.

So obliging that he ne’er oblig’d.
Pope—Prologue to Satires. L. 207.

Sop to Cerebus.
If I can find that Cerebus a sop, I shall be at rest for one day.
Congreve—Love for Love. Act I. Sc. 1.

So was hir jolly whistel wel y-wette.
Chaucer—Canterbury Tales. The Reeve’s Tale. L. 4,155.

Spare your breath to cool your porridge.
Cervantes—Don Quixote. Pt. II. Ch. V. Rabelais—Works. Bk. V. Ch. XXVIII.

Strike the iron whilst it is hot.
Rabelais—Works. Bk. II. Ch. XXXI.

Strike while the iron is hot.
Farquhar—The Beaux’ Stratagem. Act IV. Sc. 2. Scott—The Fair Maid of Perth. Ch. V. Webster—Westward Ho. III. 2. Chaucer—Troylus and Cresseyde. Bk. II. St. 178.

That was laid on with a trowel.
As You Like It. Act I. Sc. 2. L. 112.

The coast was clear.
Michael Drayton—Nymphidia.

The fat’s all in the fire.
Cobbe—Prophecies. Bullen’s reprint. (1614). Marston—What You Will. (1607). The Balancing Captain. Whole poem quoted by Walpole in a letter to Mann, Nov. 2, 1741.

The finest edge is made with the blunt whetstone.
Lyly—Euphues. Arber’s Reprint. (1579). P. 47.

The foule Toade hath a faire stone in his head.
Lyly—Euphues. Arber’s Reprint. (1579). P. 53.

The man that heweth over high,
Some chip falleth in his eye.
Story of Sir Eglamour of Artoys. MSS. in Garrick Collection.

The more thou stir it the worse it will be.
Cervantes—Don Quixote. Bk. III. Ch. VIII.

The next way home’s the farthest way about.
Quarles—Emblems. Bk. IV. Em. 2. Ep. 2.

The point is plain as a pike staff.
John Byrom—Epistle to a Friend.

The short and the long of it.
Merry Wives of Windsor. Act II. Sc. 2. L. 60.

The total depravity of inanimate things.
Katherine K. C. Walker—Title of an Essay in the Atlantic Monthly. Sept., 1864. Mary Abigail Dodge—Epigram.

This is a pretty flimflam.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Little French Lawyer. III. 3.

Though this may be play to you,
’Tis death to us.
Roger L’Estrange—Fables. 398.

Thou will scarce be a man before thy mother.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Love’s Cure. Act II. Sc. 2.

Three things are men most likely to be cheated in, a horse, a wig, and a wife.
Benj. Franklin—Poor Richard. 1736.

Through thick and thin, both over bank and bush.
Spenser—Faerie Queene. Bk. III. Canto I. St. 17.

Through thick and thin, both over Hill and Plain.
Du Bartas—Divine Weekes and Workes. Second Week. Fourth Day. Bk. IV.

Through thick and thin.
Butler—Hudibras. Pt. I. Canto II. L. 370. Cowper—John Gilpin. Drayton—Nymphidia. Dryden—Absalom and Achitophel. Pt. II. L. 414. Kemp—Nine Days’ Wonder. Middleton—The Roaring Girl. Act IV. Sc. 2. Pope—Dunciad. Bk. II.

Though last, not least in love.
Julius Cæsar. Act III. Sc. 1. L. 189. “Although the last, not least.” King Lear. Act I. Sc. 1. L. 85. Spenser—Colin Clout. L. 444.

Thursday come, and the week is gone.
Herbert—Jacula Prudentum.

’Tis as cheap sitting as standing.
Swift—Polite Conversation. Dialogue I.

’Tis a stinger.
Thos. Middleton—More Dissemblers Besides Women. Act III. Sc. 2.

’Tis in grain, sir, ’twill endure wind and weather.
Twelfth Night. Act I. Sc. 5. L. 253.

’Tis neither here nor there.
Othello. Act IV. Sc. 3. L. 58.

To rise with the lark, and go to bed with the lamb.
Breton—Court and Country. (1618).

To take the nuts from the fire with the dog’s foot.
Herbert—Jacula Prudentum. “Tirer les marrons de la patte du chat. To pull the chestnuts from the fire with the cat’s paw.” Molière—L’Étourdi. Act III. 6.

Turn over a new leaf.
Burke—Letter to Miss Haviland. Thos. Dekker—The Honest Whore. Pt. II. Act II. Sc. 1. Also A Health to the Gentlemanly Profession of Serving-Men. (1598). Middleton—Anything for a Quiet Life. Act III. Sc. 3.

Two heads are better than one.
Heywood—Proverbs. Pt. I. Ch. IX.

Walls have tongues, and hedges ears.
Swift—Pastoral Dialogue. L. 7. Hazlitt—English Proverbs, etc. (Ed. 1869). P. 446. “Wode has erys, felde has sigt.” King Edward and the Shepherd, MS. (Circa 1300). “Felde hath eyen, and wode hath eres.” Chaucer—Canterbury Tales. The Knight’s Tale. L. 1,522. “Fieldes have eies and woodes have eares.” Heywood—Proverbes. Pt. II. Ch. V.

Twelfth Night. Act III. Sc. 1. L. 146.

What is bred in the bone will never come out of the flesh.
Pilpay—The Two Fishermen. Fable XIV. “It will never come out of the flesh that’s bred in the bone.” Jonson—Every Man in his Humour. Act I. Sc. 1.

What is not in a man cannot come out of him surely.
Goethe—Herman and Dorothea. Canto III. L. 3.

What is sauce for the goose is sauce for a gander.
Tom Brown—New Maxims. P. 123.

What is the matter with Kansas?
W. A. White. Title of an editorial in the Emporia Gazette, August 15, 1896.

What mare’s nest hast thou found?
Beaumont and Fletcher—Bonduca. IV. 2.

What you would not have done to yourselves, never do unto others.
Alexander Severus. See also “Golden Rule.” Matthew. VII. 12.

When a dog is drowning, every one offers him drink.
Herbert—Jacula Prudentum.

Where McGregor sits, there is the head of the table.
Quoted in American Scholar by Emerson. Attributed to The McGregor, a Highland Chief.

Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it goes ill with the pitcher.
Cervantes—Don Quixote. Vol. II. Ch. XLIII.

Which he by hook or crook has gather’d
And by his own inventions father’d.
Butler—Hudibras. Pt. III. Canto I. L. 109.

Whistle, and I’ll come to you, my lad.
Burns—Whistle, and I’ll Come to You.

Whistle, and she’ll come to you.
Beaumont and Fletcher—Wit Without Money. Act IV. Sc. 4.

Wind puffs up empty bladders; opinion, fools.

With tooth and nail.
Du Bartas—Divine Weekes and Workes. First Week. Second Day.

Within a stone’s throw of it.
Cervantes—Don Quixote. Pt. I. Bk. III. Ch. IX.

Whose house is of glass, must not throw stones at another.
Herbert—Jacula Prudentum.

Why, then, do you walk as if you had swallowed a ramrod?
Epictetus—Discourses. Ch. XXI.

You shall never want rope enough.
Rabelais—Works. Prologue to the Fifth Book.

You whirled them to the back of beyont.