buber.net > Basque > Euskara > Esaera Zaharrak
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by Jon Aske
This collection of Basque proverbs was selected, standardized, translated,
and commentary was added by Jon Aske. Thanks are due to Inaki Heras
Saizarbitoria and friends from the Basque Culture List, Basque-L, for
The published sources are cited at the end of the list. The proverbs were
posted to Basque-L during the months of July-November 1994 at the rate of
about 2 a day.
Feel free to reproduce this collection for your personal use or to give to
friends. Please include this note with it. Please do not use for
publication or for profit without first consulting with me.
A, zer parea! Karakola eta barea!
"Oh, what a pair, a snail and a slug."
[oh what pair/couple, snail and slug]
Azkue, p. 51, #290; B-derio. FRIENDS, RELATIONSHIPS, MISCHIEF, CHARACTER,
BEHAVIOR. Said of people who share similar defects or habits, and spend time
together. (Cf. Intza #242) (Rhyme)
Abadearen lapikoa, txikia baina gozoa
"The priest's pot is small but his supper is tasty."
[the priest's pot, small but tasty]
Azkue, p. 38, #121; B-lek, from Moguel, Peru Abarca, p. 122 CLERGY, FOOD.
Priests are said to eat well. (Cf. Azkue #1225) (Rhyme)
Aberats izatea baino, izen ona hobe
"It's better to have a good reputation (lit. name)than to be rich."
[rather than being rich, a good name is better]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 239. WEALTH, REPUTATION
Adiskide onekin, orduak labur.
"Time flies when you are among friends."
[with a good friend, the hours short]
Ormazabal, p. 41. FRIENDSHIP, TIME
Adiskidegabeko bizitza, auzogabeko heriotza.
"A life without friends, means death without company."
[life without friends, death without neighbors]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 239. FRIENDSHIP, DEATH, LIFE, LONELINESS. (Rhyme)
Aditu nahi ez duenak, ez du esan behar
"He who doesn't want to hear unpleasant things, shouldn't say
[he who doesn't want to hear (it), must not say (it)]
Azkue, p. 168, #1856; Duvoisin, #3 TALKING. Or: If you don't want to hear
it, don't say it.
Aditzaile onari, hitz gutxi
"A good listener needs few words."
[to a good listener, few words]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 239. TALKING, CONVERSATION. cf. Spanish: "A buen
entendedor pocas palabras bastan." Said to indicate that one should be able
to figure out the message, and that things shouldn't need to be spelled out
Agindua zorra, esan ohi da
"A promise is a debt, it's always been said."
[a promise a debt, it is usually said]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 239. DEBT, PROMISES. What you promise you must give.
If you promise someone something, you cannot go back on your word.
Aita biltzaileari, seme hondatzaile
"A thrifty father begets a squandering son."
[to gathering/collecting father, squandering son]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 239. FAMILY, DIFFERENCES, FATHERS, SONS. Pretty
self-explanatory. One expects a person's children to resemble that person.
Sometimes, however, just the opposite is found. Both expectations are perhaps
reasonable. (Cf. Intza #303)
Aldi luzeak, guztia ahaztu
"With the passing of time, all things are forgotten."
[the long time, everything forget]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 239. TIME, FORGIVENESS; FORGETTING
Alfer egon eta alfer-lana egin, biak berdin
"To do nothing or to do useless work is the same thing."
[to be lazy and to do lazy/useless work, both same]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 240. LAZINESS, WORK. (Rhyme)
Alferkeria, askoren ondamendia
"Laziness leads many people astray."
[laziness, the perdition of many]
Azkue, p. 170, #1896; B-i-l, Ms. Otx., p. 351, Dic. LAZINESS. (Rhyme)
Alferrak, beti lanez beterik
"Lazy people are always busy."
[lazy person, always full of work]
Azkue, p. 177, #1998; R-uzt LAZINESS. Or so they seem, anyway.
Alferrarendako lanik ez, eta astirik ez
"The lazy person has no work, but has no time for anything else either."
[for the lazy person work not, and time not]
Azkue, p. 170, #1891; Lope de Isasti, p. 171. LAZINESS, TIME. (Rhyme) Cf.
"Alferrak, beti lanez beterik."
Alferrarentzat jana eta langilearentzat lana, ez da inoiz faltako
"There is never a lack of food for the lazy person, nor of work for the
[for the lazy person food and for the working.person work, will never lack]
Ormazabal, p. 50. LAZINESS, WORK, FOOD. Somehow lazy people always manage to
get enough to eat (from others, etc.) and industrious people always manage to
find things to do.
Alferrik da, ura joan eta gero, presa egitea
"It is useless to hurry, once the water has already gone by."
[it is useless, after the water is gone, to hurry]
Ormazabal, p. 33. OPORTUNITIES; TIMING. Cf. "It's not use closing the barn
door after the horse has been stolen." (Cf. Intza #1830)
Amari egindako zorrak ez dira inoiz ordaintzen
"What one owes to one's mother is never repaid."
[the debts made to one's mother are never paid]
Ormazabal, p. 48. MOTHERS, DEBT. In other words, one can never do enough to
repay one's mother for what she has done.
Amen: Zu hor eta ni hemen
"Let s agree to disagree"
[amen: you there and me here]
Azkue, p. 78, #697; AN-b, B-der, BN-gar, G-ar. ARGUMENT; DISAGREEMENT. Said
when one doesn't want to argue and agrees to disagree. Word play: amen-hemen
(amen-here). (Cf. Intza #693)
Apaizaren eltzea, txikia baina betea
"The priest's pot is small, but always full."
[the priest's pot, small but full]
Azkue, p. 39, #130; G. CLERGY, FOOD. Priests don't go hungry. (Rhyme)
Ardi galdua atzeman daiteke, aldi galdua berriz ez
"One may recover a lost sheep, but not lost/wasted time."
[the lost sheep may be recovered, the lost time on the other hand not]
Ormazabal, p. 43. TIME. Word play: ardi - aldi (sheep-time).
Ardi txikia, beti bildots
"The small sheep, always a lamb."
[sheep small, always lamb]
Azkue, p. 54, #336; B, G, L. REPUTATION?; CATEGORIZATION. Naturally, a small
sheep is not always a lamb, but people are likely to categorize them that way.
They say that small people seem younger than they are. (Cf. Intza #1469,
#1725, #2365; Urquijo p. 53)
Ardiak beeka egonik, ez du jaten belarrik
"A bleating sheep eats no grass."
[the sheep being bleating, it doesn't eat grass]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 240. ACTING, TALKING. You can't act and talk at the
same time. Don't just complain, take action. (Rhyme)
Arian, arian, zehetzen da burnia
"Working and working at it, iron can be pulverized."
[doing, doing, one pulverizes (turns to bits) iron]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 241. INDUSTRY; PERSISTENCE, PERSEVERATION.
Arranoak lumak behar, txepetxak ere bai
"The eagle needs feathers, and the wren does too."
Azkue, p. 53, #331; B-izpazter, Ms. Otx., p. 351. SIMILARITIES. Despite the
differences, all people (or animals) have similar needs.
"A foreign land is a land of wolves."
Azkue, p. 103, #986; Darthayet, 39. DISTRUST, STRANGERS; FOREIGNERS. This
expresses distrust of foreigners and foreign places. (Cf. Azkue #1518, #1985)
Aseak gosea ezin ikus
"The satiated cannot stand to see the hungry."
[satiety cannot see hunger]
Azkue, p. 175, #1967; BN-s, Dic. HUNGER, INEQUALITY, SELFISHNESS. Perhaps
because they feel guilty, or for some other reason, those who have enough
don't thing very highly of those who don't have enough, or don't want to have
them around. Word play: asea-gosea (sate-hungry). Variant from Bela: Aseak
Aski ez duena, deusik ez duena
"Not having enought is like not having anything"
[one who doesn't have enough, one who doesn't have anything]
Azkue, p. 175, #1969. L, Elissamburu. DISSATISFACTION; PRIVATION. Just as
unhappy. Feels that way.
Asko baduk/n, asko beharko duk/n
"The more you have, the more you'll need."
[if you have much, your will need much]
Urquijo, p. 34. SIMPICITY, AMBITION, WEALTH. The verbal form duk (the ba
part means `if') is used when talking to men. The corresponding form for
talking to women would be dun. The neutral form would be duzu. Many
traditional Basque sayings have the "masculine" verb form. (Cf. Azkue #1970)
Asko daki zaharrak, erakutsi beharrak
"Old people know much, they were taught by necessity."
[the old knows a lot, necessity show]
Azkue, p. 175, #1971; Lope de Isasti, p. 172. NECESSITY, OLD AGE, KNOWLEDGE,
EXPERIENCE. (Cf. Intza #2163) Cf. Spanish: "Ma's sabe el diablo por viejo que
por diablo." (Rhyme)
Asko dakin/k//zu, bizitzen baldin badakin/k//zu
"If you know how to live, you already know a lot."
[you know much, if you know how to live]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 241. WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE. (Cf. Intza #2121) (Rhyme)
Askoren mina, tontoen atsegina
"Only the stupid find consolation for their suffering in the suffering of
[the pain of many, the pleasure of the dumb]
Ormazabal, p. 51. CONSOLATION, CONTENTMENT. Some people who suffer feel
better about their suffering because they are others undergoing the same
thing. cf. Spanish: "Mal de muchos, consuelo de tontos." (Rhyme)
Asto askok, lasto asko
"A lot of donkeys means/need a lot of hay."
[a lot of donkeys, a lot of straw]
Azkue, p. 54, #350; B-1-mond. FAMILY; EXPENSES. Said of families with many
children, referring to the large expenses involved. (Cf. Intza #202, #325)
Astoari ezin mendeka, mendeka albardari
"Not able to take take it out on the donkey, take it out on the saddle."
[impossible to take revenge on the donkey, take revenge on the (pack)saddle]
Azkue, p. 56, #374; Duvoisin, 32. REVENGE. Said for instance of someone who
does not dare take revenge directly on someone and instead takes it out on
that person's things, relatives, or servants for instance.
Aukera maukera, azkenik trankera
"All that being so picky, and then to end up with something ordinary."
[choice moice, in the end ordinary]
Azkue, p. 80, #717; AN. CHOICES, RELATIONSHIPS, HUSBANDS, COURTSHIP?. Said
for instance of a person who changes boy/girlfriends a lot. It's common for
reduplications of this kind to add an m- to the second mention of the word.
(Cf. Intza, p. #110, #151, #1580) (Rhyme)
Aurrera begiratzen ez duena, atzean dago
"Those who don't look forward, stay behind."
[the one who doesn't look forward, is behind]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 242. EXCELLENCE, INDUSTRY. (Cf. Azkue #1870).
Azeri zaharrak ile zaharra uzten du, aztura zaharrik ez
"The old fox sheds its old hair, but not its old habits."
Azkue, p. 57, #391; AN-b. HABITS, OLD AGE. (Cf. Lopez Mendizabal, p. 242;
Intza #1993; Urquijo p. 65). Self-explanatory.
Azeria solas ematen zaukanean ari, gogo emak heure oiloari
"When the fox is engaging you in conversation, keep an eye on your chicken."
Azkue, p. 56, #378; Inchauspe. MISCHIEF, DISTRUST; VIGILANCE. 'Oilo' really
means "hen", but, like 'oilo' in Basque, 'chicken' is the basic level word for
referring to this species of animal (e.g. we say: I'm going to feed the
Azken gaizto egingo duk/n//zu, txoria, gazterik egiten ez baduk/n//zu habia
"You will have a sad end, bird, if you don't make your nest while you're still
Azkue, p. 58, #396; Axular and Ms. Otx., Dic. OLD AGE, YOUTH, WORK?. (Rhyme)
Bakoitzari berea, eta beti adiskide
"To each their own, and always be friends."
[to each own, and always friend]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 242. FRIENDSHIP, JUSTICE. What's yours is yours, what's
mine is mine, and if we keep things that way we won't risk damaging our
friendship. (Cf. Azkue #1526)
Balantza duen aldera erortzen da arbola
"The tree falls towards the side it's leaning."
Intza, p. 83, #1299. PREDISPOSITION, INCLINATIONS. Things and people have
certain predispositions, and when the time to act comes, that's the way they
Balizko errotak, irinik ez
"An imaginary/hypothetical mill produces no flour."
[the mill of if-it-was, no flour]
Azkue, p. 180, #2054. ILLUSIONS. Said of people who have too much
imagination and talk about things which are impossible or don't exist as if
they were real and had consequences.
Bat eman eta bi hartu, gure etxean ez berriz sartu
"Giving one and taking two, don't come back into our house."
Intza, p. 38, #347. SELFISHNESS, DECEIT, DISHONESTY; SNEAKINESS. Said of
someone who might do something nice, such as give a gift, but whose real
purpose is to get even more in return, to take advantage of one. Often the
first part of this saying is used alone. (Rhyme)
Bat izatea hobe, bi itxo egitea baino
"It's better to have one than be waiting for two."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 243. SECURITY; CERTAINTY. Same meaning as "Hobe da
txori ..." and "Nahiago det ..."
Begi bat aski du saldunak, ehun ez ditu sobera erostunak
"The seller needs but one eye, whereas for the buyer a hundred eyes are never
[one eye is enough for the seller, one hundred not too many for the buyer]
Intza, p. 136, #2139 . BUSINESS AND COMMERCE; BUYING, SELLING. The seller
may overlook defects in the merchandise, but the buyer can't afford to.
Begiak noraino, nahia haraino
"As far as the eyes can see, that's how far one's derires go."
[to where the eyes, that far the desire]
Azkue, p. 103, #1000; R-bid, Dic. DESIRE, GREED. One cannot desire more than
what one knows (has seen), but one often desires as much as one knows. (Cf.
Intza #2128) (Rhyme)
Begietatik urruti, bihotzetik urruti
"Far from the eyes, far from the heart."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 243. FEELINGS?. Cf. "Out of sight, out of mind." Cf.
Spanish: "Ojos que no ven coraz"n que no sienty." (Cf. Azkue #1010, #2150)
Beltz guztiak ez dira ikatz
"Not everything that's black is coal."
[all things black are not coal]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 243. DECEPTION?; APPEARANCES, COMPARISONS. Cf. Spanish:
"No es oro todo lo que reluce." Cf. "All that glitters is not gold" or "You
can't judge a book by its cover." Cf. "Zuri guztia..."
Berbak handiak, ezkurrak txikiak
"The words are big but the acorns are small."
[big words, small acorns]
Azkue, p. 184, #2115; B-der-mu, Dic. TALKING, ACTIONS. Big words but small
actions. It may be influenced by Spanish sayings such as "Muchas nueces,
pocos ruidos." (Rhyme)
Bere etxe pobrea, erregearena baino hobea
"Even poor people prefers their own home to a palace."
[her/his poor house, better than that of the king]
Intza, p. 15. POVERTY, SIMPLICY, HAPPINESS; HOME. cf. "There is no place like
Berri gaiztoa bera zaldi
"Bad news spread all by themselves."
[the bad news, itself (is) a horse]
Azkue, p. 184, #2120; BN-s. NEWS. Bad news travel quickly.
Beste lekutan ere, zakurrak oinutsik ibiltzen dira
"In other places dogs go barefoot too."
Ormazabal, p. 35. COMPARISONS, SIMILARITIES. Many things are pretty much the
same in other places too. Spanish version: "En todas partes cuecen habas"
("People everywhere cook beans"). (Cf. Azkue, #475, #1574; Intza #2207)
Besteen faltak aurreko aldean, geureak bizkarrean
"Other's people carry their faults up front. We carry ours behind our backs."
[faults of others in front, our own in the back]
Ormazabal, p. 37. FAULTS, DIFFERENCES. In other words, other people's faults
are easy to see/recognize, our own aren't. We are constantly aware of and
notice other's peoples faults, but we tend to forget about or not be very
quick to see our own. It's easy to criticize others, harder to recognize
one's own faults. (Cf. Intza, p. 23, #161, the other way around: "Gure faltak
bizkarrean, besteen faltak aurreko aldean.")
Besteren ama ona, norberea askoz hobea
"Other people's mothers may be good, but never as good as our own."
[another's mother good, one's own much better]
Ormazabal, p. 51. MOTHERS. (Cf. Azkue #505bis) See #162. In the Alegiak
(fables, allegories) section of Luis Barandiaran eta Irizar-tar (1985) (Euskal
Herriko alegia, ipuin eta kondairen bilduma. Donostia: Txertoa) there is a
fable called "Azeriaren egiak" ("the fox's truths") told by Matias Aranaz of
Kortezubi to Joxemiel Barandiaran in 1923 in which the fox repays the boatman
who carries it across the river with three truths: (1) 'Ilargia argia da,
baina eguna bezain argi ez', "The moon gives light, but not as bright as the
day"; (2) 'Inoren ama ona da baina norberarena bezalakorik ez', "Anybody's
mother is a good mother, but not like one's own"; and (3) "Txalupari,
txalupari, praka zaharrak dauzkazu, ni bezalako asko pasatzen baduzu, berriz
ere ukanen dituzu', "Boatman, boatman, you have old trousers; if you help many
like me across, you will never have new ones."
Beti on nahi duena, maiz gaizki
"The one who wants everything to be just right, often gets just the opposite."
[one who always wants good, often badly]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 243. AMBITION, PERFECTION. Things often don't turn out
they way they want for those who always want/insist on things being
good/perfect. Don't be a perfectionist, don't have expectations which are too
Beti ordu duena, beti berandu heldu dena
"The one who has a lot of time to spare, is the one who always arrives late."
Azkue, p. 185, #2136; S, Dic. HABITS; TARDINESS, CONTRAST. (Rhyme)
Bi etxetako txakurra, goseak jan
"A dog which belongs to two homes dies of hunger."
[dog of two houses, hunger kills (it)]
Azkue, p. 59, #421; BN, S, Dic. RESPONSIBILITY. If nobody takes full
responsibility for something, each assumes the other will take care of it.
(Cf. Intza #131, #201, #1543, #1683, #1736)
Bihotzean dagoena, mihira irten
"What is in one's heart, comes out of one's mouth."
[what is in the heart, comes out to the tongue]
Azkue, p. 104, #1006; B, Ms. Otx., Dic. TALKING, FEELINGS, EMOTIONS. People
cannot help expressing their feelings/emotions, they cannot keep them inside,
though some people do seem to come pretty close to suceeding. Cf. Latin: "Ex
abundantia cordis os loquitur."
Bost sosen pupua, eta hamar sosen trapua
"A ten cent bandage for a five cent booboo."
[five cent booboo and ten cent cloth/rag]
Intza #1603. EXAGGERATION; COMPLAINING. Said of people whose complaining is
not conmesurate with the reason for complaining (Cf. Azkue #2624, #2930;
Ormazabal, p. 19.)
Burdina berotan jo behar da
"Iron must be hammered when it's hot."
Azkue, p. 186, #2160; Darthayet, #123. OPORTUNITIES, COURAGE, INDECISION,
PROCRASTINATION. You should not be indecisive when an opportunity arises,
etc. English: "Strike while the iron is hot."
Burla minena, egia dioena
"The most painful mockery/derision/insult is the one that's true."
[the most painful mockery, the one that's true]
Azkue, p. 186, #2161; S, Dic.. INSULTS; MOCKERY.
Bururik ez duenak, hankak ibili behar
"If you don't have a good head, then you better have good legs."
[one who doesn't have a head, must have legs]
Intza, p. 38, #367. INCOMPETENCE. People who aren't very smart take a lot of
false steps and must walk (work) a lot harder to accomplish the same. (Cf.
Intza #869, #2136)
Bururik ez duenak, txapel-beharrik ez
"Those who don't have heads don't need hats."
[one who doesn't have a head, no need for hat]
Azkue, p. 105, #1020; AN-b, Dic. INCOMPETENCE. Said of people who aspire to
more than they can do or get or of people who try to get involved with things
they don't know anything about, meaning that they shouldn't. (Cf. Intza #365,
#366, #805, #1737, #1884)
Buztana lastozkoa duena, suaren beldur
"Those who have their tail made of straw are afraid of fire."
[the one who has the tail of straw, afraid of the fire (is)]
Azkue, p. 105, #1022; G-errezil, Lope de Isasti, p. 172. WEAKNESS, FEAR.
(Cf. Intza #1773)
Dagonean bonbon, ez dagonean egon
"When there is, enjoy, and when there isn't, resign yourself."
[when there is, spend lavishly; when there isn't, wait/put up]
Azkue, p. 187, #2169; B, G, R, Dic. ADVERSITY; CIRCUMSTANCES. Sometimes you
have things like food or money (or children, candy), so enjoy them then.
Other times you won't have these things, but there is no sense complaning too
much about it. You can't always have what you want. Another version has
on-on (very good) instead of bonbon. (Cf. Azkue #783; Intza #870, #1687,
Dakien guztia ez derrala, ahala oro jan ez dezala
"Don't say as much as you know and don't eat as much as you can."
[let one not say all they know, let one not eat as much as it is possible]
Azkue, p. 187, #2170; S, Dic. TALKING, EATING
Dakienak, dakien adina esaten du
"One who knows, tells everything one knows."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 244. TALKING. Therefore if someone does not give enough
information, probably he doesn't know as much as they claim to. This can be
taken as contradicting #65: "Dakien guztia ez derrala ..."
Dakizunaz gutxi mintza zaitez, ez dakizunaz bat ere
"Say little about what you know something about, and don't say anything about
what you don't know anything about."
[about what you know speak little, about what you don't know not at all]
Azkue, p. 187, #2174; AN, Irigaray. TALKING, IGNORANCE
Danbolin ordainduak soinu txarra jotzen du
"A drummer paid in advance doesn't play good music."
[a paid drum plays bad music]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 244. BUSINESS & COMMERCE. In other words: Don't pay the
musicians beforehand if you want to hear good music. (Cf. Intza #730, #1146,
Dantzatu nahi ez dana, ez doala dantzara
"If you don't want to dance you shouldn't go to a dance."
[the one who doesn't want to dance, let him/her not go to dance]
Azkue, p. 187, #2177; Salguis, number 109. CHOICES, DECISIONS
Denbora badoa eta gu harekin
"Time goes by, and we go with it."
Ormazabal, p. 50. TIME
Dezagun gutxi, dezagun beti
"Let us have little, but let us always have enough."
[let us have little, let us have always]
Intza, p. 39, #372. WEALTH, SIMPLICITY, CONTENTMENT, SECURITY. (Cf. Intza
Dirua, mutilik hoberena eta nagusirik txarrena
"Money is the best of servants, but the worst of bosses."
Intza, p. 112, #1739 MONEY. Although money is a good thing, one should never
be its servant, but, rather, the other way around. (Cf. Ormazabal, p. 43)
Diruak malkarrak zelaitzen
"Money can turn rough, hilly terrain into flat fields."
[money flattens hilly terrain]
Azkue, p. 189, #2198; Duvoisin, #96. MONEY
Edozein txoriri, eder bere habia
"Each bird thinks its own nest is beautiful."
[to any bird, beautiful its nest]
Azkue, p. 60, #429; B. HOME. (Cf. Azkue #617)
Edozeinek, edanondoan, dio bere iritzia
"After drinking everyone says what they really think."
[anybody after drinking says their opinion]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 244. DRINKING, TALKING, OPINIONS
Egarri dagoenarentzat, ur loirik ez
"There is no muddy water for one who is thirsty."
[for one who is thirsty, muddy water not]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 244. CONTENTMENT, ADVERSITY. When you really need
something, you will not be too picky.
Egi guztiak ez dira on esateko
"Some truths are better left unsaid."
[not all truths are good to say]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 244. TRUTH, TALKING
Egia, askoren erregarria
"The truth can be painful."
[truth, ardent/burning stuff for many]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 244. TRUTH, PAIN. The truth can hurt; the truth is not
always pleasant. (Rhyme)
Egia da latz eta garratz
"The truth is bitter and unpleasant."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 244. TRUTH, PAIN. The truth can hurt; the truth is not
always pleasant. Cf. "Egia, askoren erregarria." Word play: latz-garratz
Egiak esan eta adiskideak gal
"If you always tell the truth you may lose your friends."
[telling the truth and losing your friends]
Azkue, p. 191, #2224; BN-s, Dic. TRUTHS, FRIENDS
Egizu beti on, ez jakinarren non
"Do always the right thing, even if you don't know who benefits."
[do always good, despite not knowing where]
Azkue, p. 191, #2237; B-mu, Dic. GOODNESS, ACTION, GENEROSITY. Do what is
right/good for its own sake, even if you don't get to see the results of your
good actions. Cf. Spanish: "Haz bien y no mires a quie'n." (Cf. Intza #2371)
Eguzki bera, on ala gaiztoentzat
"The sun shines equally on the good and the bad."
[the same sun, for the good or the bad]
Ormazabal, p. 49. EQUALITY
Eguzkia nora, zapiak hara
"Where the sun is, that's where you should hang your clothes."
[to where the sun, (to) there the cloths]
Azkue, p. 115, #1153; Bc. FREEDOM?, OPORTUNITIES; ADAPTATION, CIRCUMSTANCES.
You can't do much about where the sun is going to hit at any one time, but you
can adapt to this contingency easily for the purpose of drying your clothes.
In other words, adapt to circumstances. In a more negative sense, it is used
to refer to people who get close to influential people to get ahead. (Cf.
Azkue #1788; Urquijo p. 68) (Word play: nora-hara)
Ekark idia, edo begia
"Bring the ox or bring the eye."
[bring the ox, or the eye]
Urquijo, p. 56 DEBTS. Said of people who are too strict or severe when it
comes to collect their debts. (Rhyme)
Elizatik hurreanena, paradisutik urrunena.
"Those who are closest to the church are those who are farthest away from
[the closest to the church, the farthest from paradise]
Intza, p. 137, #2144 CHURCHES, RELIGION PARADISE. Those who are the most
religious are often the least saintly.
Entzun eta isil, baiezko borobil
"If you hear something and you don't object, people will assume that you
[hear and be quiet, total agreement/consent]
Azkue, p. 194, #2287; B-o$, F, Segura, Dic. AGREEMENT, TALKING. Cf. Latin:
"Qui tacet consentire videtur." Cf. Spanish: "Quien calla otorga."
Eroriz, eroriz, oinez ikasten da
"The way one learns to walk is by falling."
[falling and falling, one learns to walk]
Azkue, p. 106, #1030; G-errezil. WALKING, OBSTINACY?; PERSISTENCE,
PERSEVERANCE. "You can't learn to walk without falling."
Esaera zaharrak, gezurrik ez
"The old saying tells no lies."
[old sayings, lies not]
Azkue, p. 61, #447; G-errezil. PROVERBS, NATURE. Azkue's version adds
another saying to this one: "Otsoak otsakiri, horzkadarik ez": "A wolf won't
bite another wolf." This second saying, I think, warns one not to expect
one's enemies to fight one another. (Rhyme)
Esana da erraz eta egina garratz
"Talking is easy, but acting upon it is hard."
[saying is easy and doing is hard/bitter.]
Azkue, p. 196, #2319; B, Ms. de Londres, Dic., AN-larr; oderitz. TALKING,
ACTION. Cf. "Talk is cheap." Cf. "Some things are easier said than done."
Esana esan, emana eman
"What's said is said, what's given is given."
Azkue, p. 194, #2294; S, Dic. TALKING, GIFTS. In other words, you can't take
back your words or your gifts. (Rhyme)
Esaten baduk nahi duana, entzungo duk nahi ez duana
"If you say anything you want, you will hear things you don't want (to hear)."
Azkue, p. 196, #2321; B, Ms. Otx., p. 354, Dic. TALKING, INSULUTS; OFFENDING.
(Cf. Azkue #2670) (Rhyme)
Eskola-mutilak sasiz sasi, asko jan eta gutxi ikasi
"School children from bush to bush, they eat a lot, but learn little."
Azkue*, p. 42, #167; B-a-der-l-lem. STUDENTS, SCHOOLS, LEARNING. Said of
children (here boys, though the version in Ormazabal uses umeak, `children',
instead of mutilak, `boys') who spend their time outdoors instead of in
school. They can find fruit to pick (asko jan), but don't learn much (gutxi
Eskuko behatzak ere, ez zituen Jainkoak berdinak egin
"Even the fingers on a hand weren t made all identical."
[the fingers too, God didn't make them all the same]
Intza, p. 16. DIFFERENCES. Everybody's different, special in some way or
Etxe hutsa, haserre hutsa
"When there's nothing in the house, there's nothing but anger."
[empty house, mere anger]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 246. FAMILY, HOME, ANGER; PRIVATION, SCARCITY. Where
there is privation, people will not live harmoniously either. A play with the
senses of hutsa: empty, nothing/mere. (Cf. Intza #740, #940, #1523,
Etxean gatza ugari dagoela eta, ez dezazula bazkaria gehiegi gazitu
"Just because there is a lot of salt in the house, you shouldn't make your
food too salty."
[because in the house there is abundant salt, don't put too much salt in your
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 246. EXCESS; MODERATION. Just because you have a lot of
something, do not use it when it's not called for, just because it's there.
Many things are good in moderation.
Etxean ikusia, umeak ikasia
"What the child sees at home, that's what the child learns."
[what seen in house, by the child learned]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 246. CHILDREN, HOME, GROWING UP, LEARNING; NURTURE. Cf.
"Children learn what they live." (Cf. Azkue #1479, #1480) Word play:
ikusia-ikasia (seen-learned). A similar saying is "Umeak zer ikusi, hura
ikasi.", "Children learn what they see." (Jonmikel Insausti) (cf. also #254:
Umearen zentzuna, etxean entzuna). (Rhyme)
Etxeko sua etxeko hautsez estali behar da
"The home's fire must be put out with the home's ashes."
[the fire of the house by the ash of the house must be covered]
Azkue, p. 196, #2331; B. FAMILY, HOME, PROBLEMS. To put out the home fire
one pours ashes over it, the ashes from what the fire has burned. It means,
metaphorically, that family issues must be resolved at home, without bringing
in outsiders. It s a good idea, though sometimes it may not be the best
course of action. (Cf. Intza #879, #984, #1522, #1667, #2025, #2293)
Ez ardo bizidunik, ez andre bizardunik
"Two things to avoid: sparkling wine and bearded women."
[not wine with life (i.e. sparkling wine), nor woman with beard]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 246. WINE, WOMEN. Two things to stay away from,
presumably by people who don't like champagne. The idea is that these two
things are unnatural, aberrations. Wine should not be sparkling, just like
women do (?should) not have beards. Cf. sparkling = lit. life-having, bearded
= beard-having. (Rhyme)
Ez da horixe atzo goizekoa
"That wasn't invented yesterday."
[that's not from yesterday morning]
Ormazabal, p. 44. HISTORY?, INVENTIONS?. To say that something has been
around or been known for a long time, nothing new.
Ez da ogirik neke gaberik
"There is no gain without pain."
[there is no bread without pain/suffering/effort/difficulty]
Azkue, p. 198, #2358; S, Dic. WORK, SUFFERING; DIFFICULTIES. Cf. English "No
pain, no gain" or "Money doesn't grow on trees." (Rhyme)
Ez dakusan begik, ez nigarrik
"Eyes that don't see don't cry."
Azkue, p. 107, #1044; Salguis, number 57. KNOWLEDGE, EMOTIONS; OBLIVIOUSNESS,
AWARENESS. In other words, you can't be affected by what you don't know. Cf.
Spanish: "Ojos que no ven, coraz"n que no siente." Cf. "Out of sight, out of
Ez egin gaitzik eta ez izan beldurrik
"If you do no wrong, you need not be afraid."
[do no wrong and don't be afraid]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 246. GOODNESS, EVIL, FEAR. In other words, if your
conscience is clear, you need not worry about anything. (Rhyme)
Ez egin oihanean, eder ez denik kalean
"Don't do in the forest what you souldn't do in the street."
[don't do in the forest what is not nice in the street]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 246. ACTION; RIGHT AND
WRONG. Don't do something you're not supposed to do just because there is
nobody watching you. (Rhyme)
Ez gehiegi hitz egin, ez ba da nahi huts egin
"Don't speak too much if you do not want to make mistakes."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 247. TALKING, ERROR. Cf. Ormazabal, p. 30: "Ez gehiegi
hitz egin, nahi ez bada huts egin" `Don't speak too much if you don't want to
Ez naiz joaten elizara, maingu naizelako; joaten naiz tabernara, ardoa on
"I don't go to church, because I'm lame; but I do go to the bar, because I
like the wine."
Azkue, p. 85, #772, BN-s, Dic. CHURCHES, DRINKING, EXCUSES. It's always easy
to find reasons or excuses to do something you want to do or not to do
something that you don't want to do.
Ezer ez duena, emateko prest
"One who has nothing is always willing to give."
[who has nothing, ready to give]
Intza, p. 48, #560 GIFTS; GIVING. But he or she doesn't get a lot of credit
Ezina, ekinez egina
"Through effort and sacrifice, the impossible can be made possible."
[the impossible, through sacrifice/effort (can be) done]
Found on a wall at the University of Deusto, Donostia Campus. SACRIFICE,
DETERMINATION, INDUSTRY, STRUGGLE. (Rhyme and word play)
Ezkondu baino lehen, ezagutzea lehenago
"Before getting married, get to know your partner."
[before marrying, (get to)know more before (= first)]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 247. MARRIAGE, RELATIONSHIPS
Ezkondu baino lehen, kontu zer egiten den
"Before you get married, make sure you know what you're doing."
[before marrying, watch out what you're is doing]
Azkue, p. 130, #1361; Ms. Bonaparte. MARRIAGE, RELATIONSHIPS. (Cf. Lopez
Mendizabal, p. 247) (Rhyme)
Gaitz guztiak, bere gaitzagoa
"For anything that's bad, there is always something worse."
[all evils, (have) their worse]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 247. EVIL; COMPARISONS, RELATIVITY. No matter how bad
things seem, they could always be worse.
Gaitza, gaitzagoak derahatza
"The worse makes you forget about the bad."
[the bad, the worse makes one forget]
Azkue, p. 171, #1911; Oihenart, number 174. COMMENTS: RELATIVITY. (Rhyme)
Gaitza, ongi hator, baldin bakar bahator
"Be welcome, misfortune, as long as you come alone."
[misfortune, welcome, if you come alone]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 247. EVIL, DISEASE. I'm willing to put up with some
suffering, as long as it is not the first in a long chain of sufferings. (As
a noun, GAITZ can mean: damage, injury, harm; misfortune; sickness, disease;
fault, lack, imperfection) (Rhyme)
Gaizki esanak barkatu, ondo esanak ondo hartu
"Sorry if I said anything untrue or offensive; but try remember what I said
that was true and pleasing."
[forgive the badly said, take well the well said]
Intza, p. 103, #1631 TALKING, CONVERSATION. Said sometimes by people when
they part, meaning something like: "If I said something offensive or untrue,
please don't take it too seriously. Put more weight on the nice and true
things I said." Nowadays perhaps mostly heard from popular bards
(bertsolariak) at the end of their publicly recited improvised poems, here
perhaps taking a more literal interpretation too. (Cf. Intza #39, #1359)
Garaipena, neke askoren ondorena
"Success is the result of a lot of hard work."
Found on a wall at the University of Deusto, Donostia Campus. SUCCESS,
SACRIFICE, SUFFERING. The word ONDOREN translates as either result,
consequence or conclusion (what comes next, what comes after). NEKE also
doesn't have a plain equivalent in suffering, efforts, tiredness, etc.
Gaua, gogapenen ama
"The night is the mother of thought."
[the night, mother of thought/idea/reflection]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 247. NIGHT, THOUGHT. People are, supposedly, more
thoughtful at night. Or something like that.
Gaur hitza eman, bihar haizeak eraman
"Today's promise is tomorrow but empty words."
[today word give, tomorrow the air carry (it)]
Ormazabal, p. 19. PROMISES. Also "a promise given today is but broken
tomorrow". It is easy to promise something today, but to carry it out the
next day is another story. Cf. English (similar): "Talk is cheap." (thanks
to Jon Patrick for help with the translation). (Rhyme)
Gaurko izerdia, biharko ogia
"Today's sweat is tomorrow's bread."
Found (nor surprisingly) on a wall at the University of Deusto, Donostia
Campus. EFFORT, SACRIFICE; CONSEQUENCES, RESULTS. (Rhyme)
Gaztean alfer, zaharrean lander
"If you are lazy in your youth, you will be destitute in your old age."
[in youth lazy, in old age destitute/miserable]
Azkue, p. 156, #1698; S, Dic. LAZINESS, YOUTH, OLD AGE. (Cf. Azkue #1691)
Gehiago edukiago eta nahiago
"The more one has the more one wants."
[more having more, and (wanting) more]
Azkue, p. 201, #2422; B, Dic., Ms. Otx. p. 354. AMBITION, CONTENTMENT,
DISSATISFACTION, WEALTH. Azkue's version actually has the word `gehiago',
"more", added at the beginning (= "the more having more"). (Rhyme)
Gehiegi baino, aski hobe
"Having just enough is better than having too much."
[rather than too much, enough (is) better]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 248. AMBITION, WEALTH, CONTENTMENT
Geroa, alferraren leloa
"'Later': The lazy person's motto."
[later, refrain of the lazy person]
Azkue, p. 157, #1705; L. LAZINESS, PROCRASTINATION. (Cf. Intza #282). I
think the Spanish say "man~ana" (Rhyme)
Gezurra esan nuen etxean: ni baino lehenago kalean
"I told a lie at home and everybody knew about before I was out the door."
[I said a lie at home: before me (it was) in the street]
Intza, p. 33, #286 LIES. The lie was in the street, i.e. everybody knew
about my lying, before I even got there. Liers get caught sooner than later;
you cannot get away with telling lies. (Cf. Azkue #1572, #1578) (Rhyme)
Gezurra esan nuen Getarian, eta ni baino lehenago zen atarian
"I told a lie in Getaria and by the time I got home my family already knew
[I said a lie in Getaria, and before I it was in the door]
Azkue, p. 145, #1572; G. LIES. It means that liers get caught sooner than
later; you cannot get away with telling lies. (Cf. Azkue #1578, Intza #419,
Gezurrak hankak motzak ditu
"Lies have short legs."
[the lie has short legs]
Intza, p. 51, #706. LIES. It means that one doesn't get very far with a lie,
and one gets caught sooner than later. Cf. Spanish: "Antes se coge al
mentiroso que al cojo." Another version: "Gezurrak, oinik ez," `The lie has
no feet.' (Cf. Urquijo p. 46)
Gezurtiak zer duen merezi? Egia esatean ez sinetsi
"Liars deserves not to be believed when they're telling the truth."
[what does a liar deserve? when saying the truth, not believe]
Ormazabal, p. 27. LIES. Like the boy who cried "wolf". (Cf. Intza #815)
Gilen, bihar hilen, etzi ehortziren, etzidamu ahantziren
"One day you die, the next day they bury you, and two days later everyone's
forgotten all about you."
[William: tomorrow will die, the day after will bury you, and the day after
that will forget]
Azkue, p. 31, #27; BN, Landerretche. DEATH. (Four rhyming phrases)
Gogoa den tokian, aldaparik ez
"In a place of one's liking, there are no hills."
Azkue, p. 202, #2439; G-at-erren-urn, Dic. HAPPINESS, CONTENTMENT, OPTIMISM.
If one is happy with one's situation, one is willing to overlook minor
problems. (Cf. Intza #48, #883, #1483, #2157)
Goiz jagia, ez da egunsentia
"Just cause you get up doesn't mean it's dawn already."
[early getting up, it is not morning/dawn/daybreak]
Azkue, p. 157, #1710; B, Ms. Zar., Dic. MORNING, WAKING. No matter how early
you get up, you can't make dawn break any earlier; cf. Spanish: "No por mucho
madrugar amanece ma's temprano." (Rhyme)
Gorostian gorosti, eta Donostian Donosti
"Wherever you may be, adopt the local ways"
[in the holly tree, holly; and in Donostia, Donosti]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 248. CUSTOMS. Things are different in different places,
and you should act accordingly. Cf. Spanish: "Donde fueres, haz lo que
vieres." Cf. "When in Rome, do like the Romans." Cf. Latin: "Dum Romae
fueris, romano vivito more. (Cf. Azkue, #1545, who has the two parts of the
proverb reversed.) (Thanks to Jon Andoni (Suekoa) Miami'tik for a nice
Gure beiak erro handiago eta zuenak esne gehiago
"Our cow has a larger teat, but yours actually gives more milk."
[our cow bigger teat and yours more milk]
Azkue, p. 63, #486; BN-s. ENVY, DECEPTION; COMPARISONS, APPEARANCES. It may
appear that we are luckier, better off, but, actually, you are. cf. Spanish:
"Nosotros la fama, vosotros la lana." (Rhyme)
Gutxi edatea eta gutxi sinistea, zintzoaren egitea
"A wise person drinks little and believes little."
[drinking little and believing little, the honest/reliable person's (way of)
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 248. DRINKING, TRUST; CREDULITY. (Rhyme)
Gutxiegia eta larregia, beti kaltegarria
"Too little or too much, both are harmful."
[too little and too much always harmful]
Azkue, p. 202, #2436; B-m, Dic. EXCESS. (Rhyme)
Gutxika gutxika, asko egiten da
"Little by little one can accomplish a great deal."
[little by little, much is done]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 248. INDUSTRY; PERSISTENCE, PERSEVERANCE. Cf. "Slow but
steady wins the race."
Guztia gura izatea, guztia galtzea
"If you want too much, you will lose everything."
[wanting everything, losing everything]
Azkue, p. 204, #2470; B, Peru Abarca, p. 122. AMBITION, EXCESS. (Cf. Azkue
#2471) Cf. Spanish: "La ambicio'n rompe el saco." (Rhyme)
Guztien adiskide dena, ez da inorena
"One who is everybody's friend, is not anybody's friend."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 248. FRIENDSHIP. (Cf. Azkue #1851) (Rhyme)
Guztien gogora egitea, da gauza nekea
"It is hard to try to please everyone."
[doing to the liking of everyone is a tiresome thing]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 249. ACTION, TASTE?; PLEASING. (Rhyme)
Haitzean jaioak, haitzera nahi
"What's born on rocks, to the rocks wants to return."
[what's born in the rock, (go) to the rock wants]
Ormazabal, p. 30. HOME, PEOPLE AND PLACES. One leans towards the familiar.
(Cf. Azkue #542; Intza #788, #1531)
Handiak, txikia ahantzarazten
"The big things make you forget about the little things."
Azkue, p. 171, #1911; BN-s. FORGETTING. In the face of big issues, problems,
the little ones become insignificant.
Haria meheenean eten ohi da
"A thread usually breaks from where it's thinnest."
Azkue, p. 173, #1942; B-izp: Uriarte; Ms. Otx., p. 351. WEAKNESS. Cf. "A
chain is only as strong as its weakest link."
Harri ibiliak goroldiorik ez, erle uxatuak aberaskarik ez
"A rolling stone gathers no moss; and a bee that scares easily builds no
[rolling stone, moss not; shooed away bee honeycomb not]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 241. ACTION; ACTIVITY, BUSY-NESS. Sometimes it's good
to be constantly in motion, and sometimes it's not. (Rhyme)
Hartuak, emana zor
"If you take something, you owe something."
[that which is taken, the gift/giving (is) owe]
Azkue, p. 174, #1961; AN-b. GRATITUDE, DEBT, GIFTS; RECEIVING, GIVING. If
you take/accept something, you contract a debt.
Hartzen dena, zortzen dena
"When you take something, you owe something."
[what you receive, what you owe]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 241. DEBT, GIFTS; GRATITUDE, RECEIVING. (Cf. Azkue
#1961; Intza #2119) (Rhyme)
Haurrak hazi, nekeak hasi
"One's troubles really begin when one begins to raise children."
[raise children, difficulties/suffering begin]
Azkue, p. 125, #1278; Salguis, #104. CHILDREN, FAMILY; TROUBLES,
DIFFICULTIES. Word play: hazi-hasi (raise-begin). (Cf. Azkue #1478; Intza
#850, #863, #1924)
Hauxe da lorra! Goian zerua eta behean lurra
"What a life! Below the earth and above the sky."
[that is a suffering/annoyance! above the sky and below the earth]
Azkue, p. 177, #2007; B-der-mu, G-errezil. POVERTY. Said of someone who is
destitute. Word play: lorra-lurra (problem-earth).
Hazi gaiztoa, bera sortzen
"The bad seed grows by itself."
[the bad seed it(self) grow]
Azkue, p. 178, #2022; AN-b, S, Dic. EVIL?, NATURE?.
Hegaztia airerako, gizona lanerako
"Birds are meant to fly, like people are meant to work."
[fowl for the air, man [sic] for work]
Ormazabal, p. 48. WORK. Just like birds are made/meant to fly, so men
(people) are meant/made to work. That's just the way it is.
Hil arteraino bizi, han arte ez izi
"Live until you die, and until then not panic."
[live until dying, until there don't panic]
Azkue, p. 158, #1724; AN-b. LIFE, ADVERSITY; CALMNESS. Take it easy, don't
take things too hard (until you're dying), look at things in perspective.
"It's not the end of the world." (Rhyme)
Hilak lurpera, biziak mahaira
"May the dead go under the ground and the living to the table."
[the dead to under the ground, the living to the table]
Azkue, p. 87, #805; B-mu. DEATH, BURIAL, FEASTS?, MOURNING?. Said before
starting the banquet to commemorate someone's death. (Rhyme)
Hiru belarritan igaren hitz isila, orotan lasterka dabila
"A secret that has been through three ears, won't remain a secret much
[a secret that has been in three ears, is soon running everywhere]
Azkue, p. 108, #1067; S, Dic. SECRETS, GOSSIP. (Rhyme: The standard form of
the last verb is `dabil', which, of course, doesn't rhyme with isila.)
"Lots of talk, lots of mistakes."
[word-box (chatterbox), mistake-box]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 250. TALKING, ERROR. Word (compound) play.
Hobe da ezer, ezer ez baino
"Something's always better than nothing."
[better is something, than nothing]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 253. PROPERTY, SECURITY. "Even a little is better than
none at all." "Half a loaf is better than none." Word play: ezer-ezer ez
Hobe da gorde eta ez eske
"You should save, so you won't have to beg."
[it is better to save/keep/store [i.e. to have saved] and not begging]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 253. THRIFT, SECURITY, BEGGING; LOOKING AHEAD, SAVING.
Hobe da oinez eta segurora, eta ez zaldiz eta zulora
"It's better to go by foot and arrive safely than to go on horseback and fall
into a hole."
[it's better on foot and safely, and not on horse and to the hole]
Ormazabal, p. 32. SAFETY, SECURITY; CERTAINTY, CONTRASTS. In other words,
it's better to do things calmly, not in a hurry. Like the moral of the story
of the tortoise and the hare: "Slow but steady wins the race." (Rhyme)
Hobe da txori bat eskuan, eta ez bost ezkurrean
"One bird in the hand is better than five in the tree."
[it is better one bird in the hand, and not five in the tree]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 253. SAFETY, SECURITY; CERTAINTY. cf. Spanish "M s vale
p jaro en mano, que ciento volando." "A bird in the hand is worth two in the
bush." The word `ezkur' in modern Basque means acorn". In Old Bizkaian,
however, it could also mean tree, which is the way it's translated here.
Hordikeria, gizatasunaren lotsaria
"The abuse of alcohol is a human tragedy."
[drunkenness/alcoholism/inebriation is a disgrace/shame to humanity]
Azkue, p. 221, #2756; B-mund, Dic. DRINKING
Ibiltari gauean, logura goizean
"Late night walkers are sleepy in the morning."
[walker at night, sleepy in the morning]
Azkue, p. 133, #1410; B, Peru Abarca, p. 123. MORNING, NIGHT, SLEEP. (Rhyme)
Idia adarretik eta gizona hitzetik
"You should hold oxen by their horns and people by/to their word."
[the ox from/by the horn and man from/by the word]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 249. PROMISES, TALKING, RESPONSIBILITY. You must hold
people to their word (promises or statements). (Cf. Azkue #1404)
Igaitea gorago, eroria dorpeago
"The higher the climb, the harder the fall."
Azkue, p. 206, #2500; S, Dic. FAILURE?; CONSEQUENCES. (Rhyme)
"The past is past."
[what has passed, passed]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 249. TIME
Ihaurk egin dezakeana ez utzi besteri egiten
"Don't let anyone else do what you can do yourself."
[what you can do yourself, don't let another do]
Azkue, p. 206, #2490; Inchauspe. RESPONSIBILITY, DISTRUST?
Inoren oiloak, gureak baino arraultz gehiago
"Everybody else's hens lay more eggs than ours."
[anyone's hen, more eggs than ours]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 249. ENVY. English: "The grass is always greener on the
other side of the fence."
Iretargia argi da, baina eguna baizen argi ez. Inoren ama ona da, baina
norberena baizen ona ez.
"The moon is bright, but not as bright as the sun (lit. day). Anybody else's
mother may certainly be a good mother, but not as good as one's own."
Azkue, p. 64, #505bis; B-mund. MOTHERS. Two sayings in one. Two parallel
comparisons, the first of which is meant as a metaphor of the second (or of a
variety of other things). 'Iretargia' is a little used word for "moon" in the
Bizkaian dialect. The more common form, with seemingly the same etymology, is
'ilargia'. (Cf. Azkue #1195) See #62. In the Alegiak (fables, allegories)
section of Luis Barandiaran eta Irizar-tar (1985) (Euskal Herriko alegia,
ipuin eta kondairen bilduma. Donostia: Txertoa) there is a fable called
"Azeriaren egiak" ("the fox's truths") told by Matias Aranaz of Kortezubi to
Joxemiel Barandiaran in 1923 in which the fox repays the boatman who carries
it across the river with three truths: (1) 'Ilargia argia da, baina eguna
bezain argi ez', "The moon gives light, but not as bright as the day"; (2)
'Inoren ama ona da baina norberarena bezalakorik ez', "Anybody's mother is a
good mother, but not like one's own"; and (3) "Txalupari, txalupari, praka
zaharrak dauzkazu, ni bezalako asko pasatzen baduzu, berriz ere ukanen
dituzu', "Boatman, boatman, you have old trousers; if you help many like me
across, you will never have new ones."
Iturri txikiak, handiak adina egarria kendu
"A small fountain quenches your thirst as well as a big one."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 250. SIMPLICITY
Izena duen guztiak izatea ere badauke
"Everything with a name exists."
[everything that has a name also has existence]
Azkue, p. 211, #2581; B-maguna. NAMES, EXISTENCE. This saying refers to the
"folk theory" that every name has a referent, i.e. refers to something that
exists. Word play: izena-izatea (name-being). Cf. "Izenak ez du egiten
Izenak ez du egiten izana
"A name doesn't make something true."
[the name/fame/title/label doesn't make the being/reality]
Azkue, p. 211, #2582; S-barkoxe. NAMES, EXISTENCE. This saying refers to the
fact that labels are often misapplied or inappropriate. Similar in one sense
to Spanish: "El ha'bito no hace al monje." Word play: izena-izana
(word-being/reality/deed). (Cf. Intza #401, #1864; Urquijo p. 46)
Jaio zara, hilko zara
"You were born, you will die."
[you are born, you are to die]
Azkue, p. 204, #2475; B-izp, Uriarte. LIFE, DEATH; CERTAINTY. What's born
must die. (Rhyme)
Jakindunen artean dabilena, jakindun
"One who spends his time among wise people is wise too."
[the one who goes among wise people, wise person]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 250. WISDOM
Jakiteak ez du ogirik jaten
"Knowledge (lit. knowing) doesn't eat bread."
Azkue, p. 205, #2476; B-l-mu, Dic. KNOWLEDGE. There is no excuse for not
taking advantage of situations to learn new things. Knowlege is good.
Knowledge doesn't hurt (just the opposite). Cf. Spanish: "El saber no ocupa
lugar." (Cf. Intza #1755)
Jakiteko hartzen, ikas ezazu ematen
"To know how to receive, you must first learn how to give."
[to know how to take, learn to give]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 250. GIFTS; GIVING, TAKING. (Rhyme)
Jan behar ba duk/n//zu, lan egin beharko duk/n//zu
"If you must eat, then you must work."
Azkue, p. 205, #2483; G-arr. WORK, EATING, SURVIVAL. (Rhyme)
Jan eta edan, eta pakea eman
"Eat and drink and be quiet."
[eat and drink and give peace]
Ormazabal, p. 51. EATING. Said at the table to people who are not letting
others eat in peace. (All three phrases rhyme). Cf. with the auxiliary in
place "Jan ezak/n//zu, edan ezak/n//zu, eta pakea eman ezak/n//zu."
Jan-edanaren gozoa! Kontu-emanaren gaiztoa!
"How sweet it is to eat and drink! How terrible to have to pay the bill!"
[the pleasure of eating and drinking! the evilness of paying the bill!]
Azkue, p. 87, #798; B, Dic.; p. 205, #2481. EATING, DRINKING, PAYING. (Rhyme)
Jaten duten santuekin, ez dago fidatzerik
"Don't trust those who eat with saints."
[those who eat with saints cannot be trusted]
Ormazabal, p. 31. RELIGION, TRUST, DECEPTION; APPEARANCES, SAINTLINESS. In
other words, those who seem very saintly or religious outwardly, are not
necessarily very trustworthy. They're likely to be hiding a darker side.
Very strange syntax. There must be another version. (Cf. Intza #2307)
Jende ederra, jende alferra
"Beautiful people, lazy people."
Azkue, p. 206, #2494; L, Landerretche, number 305. LAZINESS; BEAUTY.
Beautiful people may be tempted to get by on their good looks rather than on
their work and merits. Other people may have a different interpretation of
Kanpoan uso, etxean otso
"Dove to the world, but a wolf at home."
[dove outside, wolf in the house]
Azkue, p. 65, #509bis; B, Dic. HOME, RELATIONSHIPS. Said of people, who seem
to have a very attractive and friendly personality when dealing with
outsiders, but who can be quite different at home. That is, people who act
very friendly towards outsiders but show their worst side with those close to
them. Word play: uso-otso (dove-wolf). (Cf. Azkue #1272, #1350, #1422; Intza
#451, #1608, #1767, #2050, #2051, #2170, #2463)
Katurik ez dagoen etxean, saguak dantzan
"Where there is no cat, the mice are happy."
[in a house without a cat, the mice dancing]
Ormazabal, p. 50. FREEDOM, MISCHIEF. English: "When the cat is away, the
mice will play." (Cf. Intza #680, #1769)
"The future is still to be told."
[the future (lit. things to come), a story/narration (lit. things to tell)]
Urquijo, p. 25. FUTURE. Beautiful word play using two words using the suffix
-kizun: "Verbal suffix which indicates possible acion in the future" (Aulestia
and White, Basque-English, English-Basque Dictionary, Reno: University of
Nevada Press, 1992). This suffix with the root `etorri' "to come" means "the
future" and with the root `konta(tu)' "to tell" in means "story, narration."
Said of people who make great promises or predictions about the future.
Kontuak garbi, eta adiskide zahar
"If your accounts with your friends are settled, your friendships will last."
[accounts settled and old friends]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 250. DEBTS, FRIENDS. (Cf. Azkue #1852; he has it the
other way around, which lacks the cause-result reading.)
Lagun onak, ondu; gaiztoak, gaiztotu
"A good friend makes one a better person, a bad one a worse one."
[good friend makes good, bad one makes bad]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 251. FRIENDS. (Cf. Azkue #2600; he uses "... deungeak
deungetu" (Bizkaian dialect) (Rhyme)
Lan baratza, lan aratza
"A job done slowly, is a job well done."
[a slow job is a clean job]
Azkue, p. 212, #2603; Salguis, number 162. WORK. Complement of 181: "Lan
lasterra, lan alferra."
Lan lasterra, lan alferra
"Hasty work is useless work."
[fast/hasty work is lazy/idle/useless work]
Azkue, p. 212, #2605. RUSHING. A job done fast is a waste of time, because
it's never done right. Complement of 180: "Lan baratza, lan aratza." A
variant of 181: "Laster-lana, alfer-lana" (Azkue #2617)
Lanik errazena, agintzea
"The easiest of jobs is giving orders."
Ormazabal, p. 50. WORK; HIERARCHY
Lapiko txikiak, laster gainez
"A small pot overflows quickly."
[small pot, soon overflowing]
Azkue, p. 134, #1430; B, Dic. NATURE?; CONSEQUENCES?, LIMITATIONS?. Is this
because eople often tend to overfill small pots. Or because the contents of
small pots reach the boiling point faster than those of larger pots, and thus
perhaps sooner than we think. We all know how true this sounds, and it s easy
to think of the metaphorical senses that can be deduced from it.
Lastoaren sua, ez da luzaroko sua
"Fire from straw is not long-lasting."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 251. DECEPTION, LAZINESS?; APPEARANCES?. Starting a
fire with straw is easy, and very impressive, but there is one major drawback:
it doesn't last. It's taking the easy way out but without accomplishing much
in the end. Also, this can be interpreted as advice not to be overtly
impressed by someone else's actions right away, they may be like straw fire
and die out quickly. (Rhyme)
Lastozko isatsa duenak, atzera begira
"Those who have tails made of straw are always watching their backs."
[those with tails of straw, look back/behind]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 251. FEAR, WEAKNESS. If you have some weakness or
vulnerability, you're always aware and self-conscious about it. (Cf. Azkue
Lehen hala, orain hola, gero ez jakin nola
"Things used to be that way, now they're this way, and later, who knows what
they will be like."
[earlier/before, that way, now this way, later not know how]
Azkue, p. 159, #1744; BN, L, Landerretche, #318. CHANGE, FUTURE. (Cf. Intza
Lehenean barka, bigarrenean urka
"The first time, forgive; the second time, hang."
Azkue, p. 159, #1747; BN, Landerretche, 256. FORGIVENESS, PUNISHMENT, CRIMES,
FAULTS, CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. In other words, always give someone a second
chance, but never a third chance. The second time, give the severest
punishment. Word play: barka-urka.
Lehenik jan, gero lan
"First eat, then work."
Azkue, p. 159, #1751; AN-ulz. EATING, WORK. You cannot work on an empty
stomach. First things first. (Rhyme)
Lekuan lekuan ardiak, beltzen artean zuriak
"Everywhere you will find white sheep among the black ones"
[from place to place the sheep, among the black ones white ones]
Azkue, p. 66, #525; B, G, Dic. DIVERSITY?. One always finds different types
of things and people, e.g. good and bad. It is interesting that it says that
there are white sheep among the black sheep and not the other way around. Of
course, otherwise it wouldn't rhyme. But could there be another reason? ;-)
Lur bigunean, zulo handia
"In soft ground, big hole."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 251. ; CIRCUMSTANCES, RELATIVITY?. The softer the
ground the larger one is bound to make a hole in it, since it takes relatively
less effort. You don't get as much credit though. Are there other
metaphorical meanings? (Cf. Azkue #2637)
Lurra bigunago, harra barrenago
"The softer the ground, the deeper the worm goes."
Azkue, p. 66, #529; Bc, Dic. DECEIT. Azkue says that it is used to say that
nice people are easily taken advantage of, that is, that if people allow it
(by being soft hearted), others will take advantage of them. Does 190 have
this meaning too? (Cf. Azkue #2640) (Rhyme)
Lurrak hazi, lurrak jan behar
"The earth makes us grow and the earth makes us disappear."
[the earth/soil makes us grow, the earth/soil must eat (us)]
Azkue, p. 214, #2642; BN-gerezieta. DEATH, BIRTH, GROWING UP. Cf. English
(similar): "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." (Cf. Intza #2352)
Mando merkea, nagusiaren nekea
"A cheap mule brings more work for the owner."
[cheap mule, problem/work for the owner]
Azkue, p. 66, #532; Landerretche, 306. BUSINESS AND COMMERCE; QUALITY. A
cheap mule (or anything else) is not likely to be a good mule. You always
sacrifice quality when you pay less. English (similar): "You get what you pay
Mendiak mendia behar ez du, baina gizonak gizona bai
"Mountains don't need other mountains, but people do need other people."
Urquijo, p. 32. SOCIETY. Actually _gizona_ doesn't mean "people/person".
The Basque word for the concept or category "human being" is _gizaki_ "human"
(not as common as the Romance borrowing _jende_). However, _gizaki_ seems to
be related to _gizon_ "man" (+male). Of course, it could be that _giz-_
originally meant "person", just like English "man/men" did until a few hundred
years ago, and that--just like in the English case--only later was its meaning
narrowed to mean just "male person" (surprise-surprise). This is likely since
I think _andre_ and _emakume_ are fairly recent words (borrowed and
compounded, respectively). Can anyone out there enlighten me? Basque
diachronic linguistics is not my forte. (Cf. Azkue #2651; Intza #2172)
Mihiak ez du hezurrik hausten, baina bai hautsarazten
"The tongue cant' break bones, but it can cause them to be broken."
Azkue, p. 109, #1077; Landerretche #252. TALKING, PAIN. Words can be
responsible for the breaking of bones. Verbal violence can cause physical
violence. A more realistic proverb than the English one: "Sticks and stones
can break my bones, but words can never hurt me" (cf. also #196). (Rhyme)
Mihiaz egiten den mina, da azken sendatzen dena
"The pain caused by the tongue is the hardest one to cure."
[the pain made by means of the tongue is the last one to cure]
Azkue, p. 108, #1075; R, Dic. TALKING, PAIN. Words can hurt more deeply than
deeds. A more realistic proverb than the English one: "Sticks and stones can
break my bones, but words can never hurt me" (cf. also #195).
Munduan nahi duenak luzaroan bizi, oiloekin ohera eta txoriekin jagi
"If you want to live long, go to bed with the chickens and get up with the
[those who want to live long in the world, to bed with the chickens and get up
with the birds]
Azkue, p. 67, #548; B-mu?. LIFE, WAKING, SLEEP. English: "Early to bed,
early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." I expect to get a lot
of people to disagree with this, but just think how much electricity we would
save. Think of it as an alternative to _daylight saving_ (that's the term
for the changing of the clock in the fall and in the spring done in many
countries to gain an hour of daylight: "spring forward, fall back", the most
useful saying in the English language).
Nagi: utz nazak jaikitzen, has nadin lan egiten
"Laziness: let me get up so that I may begin to work."
Azkue, p. 215, #2661; R, Dic. LAZINESS, WAKING, WORK
Nagia, beti lantsu
"Lazy people are always busy."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 252. LAZINESS, WORK. Or at least so it seems, even if
they are not very productive, just pretending, or doing things aimlessly.
(Cf. Azkue #1885, #1998) cf. from the description of the "Sergeant of the
Lawe" in the General Prologue of THE CANTERBURY TALES (by William
Shakespeare): Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas; And yit he seemed bisier
than he was" (from Norm Carlson).
Nagusi eroa baino, gogorra hobe
"It's better to have a harsh boss than a crazy one."
[rather than crazy boss, a harsh/severe one (is) better]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 252. MENTAL HEALTH, WORK; BOSSES
Nahi bada jan, egin behar da lan
"If one wants to eat, then one must work."
Ormazabal, p. 46. WORK, eating, survival. Cf. "Jan behar ba duk..." (Rhyme)
Nahi dukana hiretzat, besterentzat
"What you want for yourself, want also for others."
[what you want for yourself, for the others]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 252. SOCIETY?; GOLDEN-RULE. This is one of the versions
that I have seen of the Golden Rule, "a rule of ethical conduct, usually
phrased [in English] as "Do unto others as you would have others do unto
you," found in various wordings in most major religions." (Random House
Electronic Dictionary). (Rhyme)
Nahi izatea da ahal izatea
"Where there is a will there is a way."
[wanting is being able]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 254. DESIRE; ABILITY. English: "Where there is a will
there is a way." (Rhyme)
Nahiago dut behin _to_, eta ez hamabi _emango_
"I prefer one `take this', than twelve `I-will-give-you'-s'"
[I prefer once "take", and not twelve "will give"]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 252. SAFETY, SECURITY; CONTRAST, GIVING. This is a tad
too similar to the Spanish saying: "Ma's vale un <> que dos <>."
Spanish may have borrowed it from Basque (or viceversa). (Cf. Azkue
Nahigabeko ezkontzea, neke eta kaltea
"An unwanted marriage brings nothing but troubles and tribulations."
[involuntary marriage, tiredness/problems/suffering and harm]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 252. MARRIAGE. If Charles had only known this before he
married Diana! Mikel Susperregi rejoins: `Dianaren ezkongai hobeto gai'
(change Diana for whichever name applies) (Rhyme)
Nekatzen da emailea, baina ez hartzailea
"The giver tires before the taker."
[the giver gets tired, but not the taker]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 252. GIFTS; RECEIVING, GIVING. (Rhyme)
Neke gaberik ez da bizitzerik
"There is no life without suffering."
[without suffering/difficulties there is no life]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 252. LIFE, SUFFERING. (Rhyme)
Neke ondoren, poza
"When the troubles are over comes joy."
[after suffering/pain/labor, joy/happiness]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 252. SUFFERING, HAPPINESS, JOY, CONSOLATION
Nekez hartutako gauza, nekez utzi
"One doesn't give up easily what one has worked hard to obtain."
[what's obtained with suffering/difficulty, with suffering/difficulty
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 252. SUFFERING. Play with senses of the adverb nekez,
Nere etxeko kea, auzoko sua baino hobea
"The smoke in one's house is better than the fire in the neighbor's."
[the smoke of my house, better than the fire of the neighbor]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 253. DIFFERENCES; COMPARISONS. Even if things our own
are not as good as other people's we still enjoy a sense of attachment and
identification with them, and so we wouldn't trade them. English (similar):
"Better a loaf of bread at home than a fine meal with strangers." (Rhyme)
Nerea neretzat, zurea biontzat
"What's mine is mine, and what's yours is ours."
[mine for me, yours for the two of us]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 253. PROPERTY, SELFISHNESS; SHARING. Said
disapprovingly to describe the perspective of people who are slow to share
their things but quick to take things from others. Another version: "Nerea
nere eta zurea gure." (Cf. Azkue #2539, #2575; Intza #477, #1806, #2005,
#2288, #2428) (Rhyme)
Nola bizi, hala hil
"The way you live, that's the way you'll die."
[how live, thus die]
Azkue, p. 217, #2685; Landerretche, #325. LIFE, DEATH. One's death is often
a reflection of one's life.
Nola soinu, hala dantza
"Each kind of music calls for its own kind of dance."
[how the sound/music, that way the dance]
Azkue, p. 217, #2688; G, Dic; AN-b, Lope de Isasti. ADAPTATION, CONSEQUENCES,
RESULTS. I think this saying can mean either (1) that certain kinds of
actions have certain kinds of results or consequences, and (2) that people
adapt to the circumstances and the environment. (Cf. Azkue #2688; Intza #563,
Nolako egurra, halako sua
"Such as is the wood, thus will be the fire."
[how the wood, thus the fire]
Azkue, p. 135, #1445; R, Dic. CONSEQUENCES, RESULTS. The quality of the wood
(or anything else) determines the quality of the fire (in other words, what's
made out of that thing). English (more limited in scope): "Like father, like
Non gogoa, han zangoa
"Wherever the mind goes, the legs will soon follow."
[where the mind/thought/desire, there the leg]
Azkue, p. 109, #1091; B-zean. AMBITION, WILL, HEDONISM. Said of people who
follow their whims, one day here, the next day there. (Cf. Azkue #862, #1091;
Intza #484, #684, #1824, #2279) (Rhyme)
Non hilgo zara, haraxe joango zara
"You'll end up going to the place where you're going to die."
[where you'll die, right there you'll go]
Azkue, p. 217, #2696; B-mur, Dic. DEATH. Somehow, you'll end up going to the
place where you'll die. In other words, "you can't escape death." (Rhyme)
Nori berea, da zuzenbidea
"To each their own, that is justice."
[to whom theirs, is justice]
Azkue, p. 218, #2703; AN-b, BN, L. JUSTICE. (Rhyme)
Nork bere opilari ikatza
"People always put the coals next to their own bread."
[who to his/her bread the coal]
Azkue, ?(p. 136, #1450), ?(#397). SELFISHNESS?; EGOCENTRICITY. "Each one
takes care of their own affairs." It refers to people who look out for
themselves ("number one") first and foremost and perhap neglecting to consider
the repercussions of their actions on others. The word `opila', now often
used to mean bun (of bread), used to be a type of bread which was cooked over
coals. Some think this saying may have been borrowed. (Cf. Azkue #2042)
Nork dabilen bideak harrapatu ohi du
"The path you follow is bound to catch up with you."
[the road which each walks will usually catch him/her]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 253; CONSEQUENCES. Sooner or later you will have to face
the consequences of your actions.
Nork nori, zartagina zaharrak pertzari: "Utikan, beltz hori!"
"Look who's talking! The old frying pan said to the pot: `Move out, you dark
[Who to whom, the old frying pan to the pot: Get out of there, you black one]
Azkue, p. 136, #1452; G. DIFFERENCES; SIMILARITIES. In "It's the pot calling
the kettle black." (Cf. Azkue #2792) (All three phrases rhyme)
Odolak, su gabe diraki
"Blood boils without fire."
[the blood, without fire boils]
Azkue, p. 219, #2722; Lope de Isasti, p. 174. EMOTIONS; BLOOD. In other
words, emotions can make the blood boil. (Cf. Intza #1334)
Ogi gogorrari, hortzak zorrotz
"If the bread is hard, give it a sharp tooth."
[to hard bread, the teeth sharp]
Azkue, p. 110, #1095; BN-s, R: Dic. PROBLEMS, ADVERSITY, NECESSITY;
ADAPTATION?. Make the best out of a bad situation. You must adapt to cope
Ohakoan dena ikasten, ez da jagoiti ahazten
"What's learned in the cradle is never forgotten."
Azkue, p. 218, #2711; Inchauspe. HOME; NURTURE. The word order of the
subject headless relative clause seems to me to be even beyond what poetic
licence would allow. Any feelings about this out there? Is it a dialectal
Ohitura gaiztoa, berandu ahaztua
"Bad habits are not easily forgotten."
[bad custum/habit, late forgotten]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 254. HABITS. Bad habits tend to persist once they have
Ohiturak lege ohi dakar
"Customs carry the weight of laws."
[custom usually brings law]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 254. CUSTOMS. Custom carries the weight of law, and
often turn into law.
Ohoin handiak urkarazten txikiak
"Big thieves execute little ones."
Azkue, p. 46, #239; Inchauspe. POWER, CRIMES; THIEVES. The ones who executre
petty criminals are often bigger criminals themselves. At least, that is what
history shows. And, of course, big thieves are rarely punished. They have
too much power and influence. (Rhyme)
Oihal txarra, merke dalarik, garesti da
"Bad cloth, even if it's cheap, turns out to be expensive."
[bad cloth, being cheap, is expensive]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 255. BUSINESS AND COMMERCE. It is not worth trying to
save money by sacrificing quality. All the work you then put into turning the
cloth into clothing is mostly wasted. A modern day example that I am fond of
is when people by cheap cameras, for the price of a camera is such a small
proportion of what you you spend on pictures during the life of a camera. And
the developing is not any cheaper. A related saying in English is: "You get
what you pay for."
Oilo ibiltari, azerien janari
"The hen that strays away will be eaten by the fox."
[walker hen, meal/food for the foxes]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 254. NATURE?, CHOICES?, ADVERSITY?; CONSEQUENCES?. If
you take unnecessary risks, you will suffer the consequences. Other
interpretations are also possible. (Cf. Azkue #565) (Rhyme)
Oiloari, oloa; astoari, lastoa
"Give oats to the hen and hay to the donkey."
[to the hen, oats; to the donkey, straw]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 254. JUSTICE, NATURE. There is a right kind of thing
for everyone, and you shouldn't get them mixed. Cf. "To each his or her own."
On egin dizuela janak eta kalterik ez edanak
"May the food do you good and the drink do you no harm."
Ormazabal, p. 47. EATING, DRINKING. Typical well-wishing said when somebody
is about to begin a meal. `Dizuela' is the verbal form used when speaking to
more than one person ("to you-all"). For one person only `dizula' would be
used. Of course, the whole thing can be abbreviated as "On egin". By the
way, are there any other toasting words besides "Osasuna!"? (Cf. Azkue #1458)
Onak on direla, hobeak hobe
"As good as the good ones are, the better ones are even better."
[the good ones being good, the better ones (are) better]
Urquijo, p. 33. DIFFERENCES; COMPARISONS. No matter how good some things are
there are always things that are better. In our consumer society this could
be interpreted as: Leave what's good for what's better. (Cf. Azkue #2741)
Onegi dena beretzat ez da aski besterentzat
"If you love yourself too much you won't love others enough."
[one who is too good to oneself is not good enough to others]
Azkue, p. 220, #2744; S, Dic.; AN-b. SELFISHNESS; EGOCENTRISM, SOCIETY. Yet
another headless relative clause with a postposed element (for rhyming
Ongi nahi hauenak//zaituenak negar eginaraziko dik/din//dizu,
gaizki nahi hauenak//zaituenak barre eginaraziko dik/din//dizu
"The one who loves you will make you cry, the one who hates you will make you
Azkue, p. 220, #2747; BN-s, Dic. LOVE, HATE. DIK (nor-nori-nork): when
speaking to a male (dialectal); DIN (nor-nori-nork): when speaking to a female
(dialectal); DIZU: neutral (standard) (the "allocutive" forms of verb
conjugations, that is, those in which the sex of the addressee is marked on
the finite verb, have only recently been standardized. Spanish: "Quien bien te
quiere te hara' llorar" (thanks to Jonmikel Insausti). (Rhyme)
Orain oraingo eta gero geroko
"The present for the present and the future for the future."
[now (what is/belongs to) the present and later (what belongs to) the future]
Azkue, p. 162, #1792. THE PRESENT, THE FUTURE. Let us not worry too much
about the future when we have plenty to deal with right now. Cf. English
(similar): "Let's drink and be merry." (Cf. Intza #2185)
Ordu batean ezin dana, bitan egiten da
"What can't be done in one hour, can be done in two."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 254. TIME, PATIENCE; PERSISTENCE. (Rhyme)
Orratzak baino hariak luzeago izan behar du
"The thread must always be longer than the needle."
Azkue, p. 221, #2753; B-l-mu. TOLERANCE, PATIENCE. Used according to Azkue
to urge people, such as mothers and teachers, to be tolerant and patient with
others. Any other interpretations? (Cf. Intza #892, #2080)
Osasuna, paregabeko ondasuna
"One's health is one's best possession."
[health, asset/resource/possession without equal (unique)]
Intza, p. 149, #2328 HEALTH. (Cf. Azkue #2770, #875bis; Intza #1190)
Otso gosea, ibiltari
"A hungry wolf won't stay put in one place."
[hungry wolf, walker]
Azkue, p. 70, #585; B-bergara. HUNGER, NEEDS, RESTLESSNESS. Or: "A hungry
wolf is a restless wolf." In other words, a hungry wolf needs to go out and
look for food. Some things have to be done out of necessity.
Otsoak otsoari gaitzik ez, eta lapurrak lapurrari laztan
"Wolves don't harm other wolves, and thieves look out for each other."
[the wolf to the wolf no harm, and the thief to the thief kiss/affection]
Azkue, p. 70, #595; B, Peru Abarca, 121. ENEMIES; THIEVES; THREATS. Enemies,
malefactors aren't just not to be trusted, they can also be counted on to help
each other, rather than fight each other, much to one's detriment.
Sabelak egitean gur-gur, barteko afariak agur
"When the stomach begins to growl, the previous night's dinner is saying
[when the stomach doing gur-gur (gurgling sound), the previous night's dinner
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 255. FOOD, EATING; SIGNS. Said when someone's stomach
growls. You should be able to interpret the signs. I remember hearing this
in a song of Iparragirre's.
Sasian jaioak, sasian nahi; gure mandoak ez du etxera nahi
"What's born in the bush, in the bush wants to be; our mule doesn't want to
[what's born in the bush, in the bush wants (to be); our mule doesn't want to
Intza, p. 96, #1531 HOME, PEOPLE AND PLACES. I think this means that you must
recognize natural predispositions in things. The second part of this saying is
not always added to the first. (Cf. Azkue #542; Intza #788; Ormazabal, p.30)
Senide urruna baino, auzo hurra hobe
"A nearby neighbor is preferable to a faraway relative."
Azkue, p. 223, #2793; B-mond. NEIGHBORS, RELATIVES. What good are blood
relations if they're nowhere to be found? I guess you could take this
metaphorically as well.
Su gaberik, ez da kerik
"Without fire, there is no smoke."
Azkue, p. 137, #1469; Salguis, #153. FIRE; SMOKE, SIGNS. Cf. "Where there's
smoke, there is fire." (Cf. Azkue #2359; Intza #1072) (Rhyme)
Sua eta ura, belaunetik behera
"Fire and water, from the knee down."
Ormazabal, p. 12. FIRE, DANGER; WATER. Both of these things are good, but in
the right quantities and in the right places. (Cf. Azkue #2803)
Sugabeko etxea, gorputza odolgabea
"A house without a fire is like a body without blood."
[house without fire, body without blood]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 255. HOME, FIRE
Tantaka-tantaka upela bete
"Drop by drop the barrel fills up."
[drop by drop, the (small)cask/barrel fill]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 255. TIME, PATIENCE; PERSISTENCE
Tresnak jabea dirudi
"The tool resembles its owner."
[the tool/instrument/implement resembles the owner]
Urquijo, p. 36. ; APPEARANCES. You can tell what kind of a person someone is
just by looking at their things, how they are kept, etc. Paraphrasing another
saying: "By (the condition of) their tools you shall know them."
Txakur zaunkaria, gutxitan ozkaria
"A dog who barks rarely bites."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 255. ANIMALS, BEHAVIOR, CHARACTER, AGGRESION, DECEPTION;
APPEARANCES. Applied to people, this means that people who yell or scream a
lot are usually rather harmless. Cf. Spanish: "Perro ladrador, poco
mordedor." (Cf. Azkue #626; Intza #917) (Rhyme)
Txalupan nagusi asko daudenean, arrantza gutxi
"When there are many captains in the boat, the catch is always small."
[when there are many bosses in the boat, little fishing]
Azkue, p. 48, #262; B, Ms. Otx., p. 358. FISHING, WORK, SOCIETY. This, of
course, is not just about fishing. In the US some people say: "Too many
chiefs (and not enough Indians)." In other words, too many people directing
an activity (or giving orders) and not enough people working to get things
done. Also: "Too many cooks spoil the broth" (thanks to Jon D. Patrick).
Txapel batekin bi buru ezin estali
"You can't cover two heads with one hat."
Intza, p. 45, #524 ?; OVEREXTENDEDNESS. That is, you can't do two things at
once. Said of people who want to do the impossible. (Cf. Azkue #1107; Intza
Txintxarri mihigabea, sasian usteldu
"A bell without a clapper will rot in the bush."
[without (cow/sheep)bell tongue, rot in bush]
Azkue, p. 225, #2820; B, Ms. Otx., p. 253. FUTILITY?. If a bell lacks its
clapper, it is useless. This little part is essental to its working, no
matter how impressive the rest of the bell is. (Does anyone know if there is
any more to it than this?)
Txori ttattarra, abesti ttattarra
"A insignificant little bird sings an insignificant little song."
[tiny/insignificant/puny bird, tiny/insignificant/puny song]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 256. INEVITABILITY, ANIMALS, BEHAVIOR; CONSEQUENCES,
EXPECTATIONS. Metaphorically this can be extended to people or almost
anything else. (The double t is a palatalized t, something like _ty_;
palatalized consonants often denote smallness as well as affective speech).
The word 'abesti' is not a common one, 'kanta' being much more popular: "Uste
det Lopez Mendizabal garbizale samarra zalarik, herritarren ahotan jaso baldin
bazuen, 'kantu' izango zala ziur asko. 'Abesti' hitzak entzute txikia du Ehan;
horretitxek eratorritakoren batek (adibidez: abesbatza) ba du bere erabilera,
oso hitz teknikoa dalako" (Francisco Javier Herrera Lotero). (Rhyme)
Umeak! Isilik oiloak pixa egin arte
"Children! Be quiet until the chickens pee."
Ormazabal, p. 17. CHILDHOOD. A way of telling children to be, and stay,
quiet. Of course, it is a well-known fact ;-) that chicken don't urinate.
Cf. "Children should be seen and not heard." Francisco Javier Herrera Lotero
adds the following: "Enuke bere jatortasunaren alde aurpegia emango. Hogei-ta
urte zituela Gaztelatik etorritako aitak askotan esaten zigun horrelakorik,
'cuando meen las gallinas' "ad calendas graecas" adierazteko. Badakit olloak
nunahi hazitzen dituztela, ta oiloen nabarmengarri hori hizkuntz askotan
horren antzera erabili omen dutela. Auskalo." He also mentions the tendency
to translate "oilo" as pollo/chicken, though it actually means "hen". I have
used 'chicken' here because it is the basic, popular English word to refer to
Umearen zentzuna, etxean entzuna
"What children learn is what they hear at home."
[the sense/judgement of the child, what's heard at home]
Azkue, p. 137, #1480; B-der-l, Dic. CHILDHOOD, EDUCATION. A child's sense of
what's right and wrong is learned from what they see at home. Word play:
zentzuna-entzuna (common sense-what's heard) (Cf. Azkue #1479)
Ur beroaz erre txakurra, epelaren beldur da
"A dog who got burned with hot water is afraid of warm water."
Azkue, p. 73, #643; S, Dic. FEAR. Another, more drastic, version in Azkue,
p. 73, #643: Ur beroz errea otzaren lotsa: "He who got burned with hot water
is afraid of cold water." In other words, people tend to overreact in some
Ur handietan, arrain handiak
"In big waters there is big fish."
[in big waters, big fishes]
Azkue, p. 73, #641; Inchauspe. DIFFERENCES?; RELATIVITY. Used
metaphorically, e.g. in important circles, important people are found; in big
business deals, big people and big amounts of money are involved. (Cf. Intza
Urak dakarrena, urak darama
"What water brings, water takes away."
[what's brought by water, water carries]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 256. DESTINY, CHANGE, LUCK?. The same way things come,
that's the way they leave, e.g. luck gives us something and then luck takes it
away. Things, or people, they come and they go. Cf. "What God giveth, God
taketh away." (Cf. Intza #2482: "Urak emana, urak eraman" "Brought by the
water, taken/carried by the water"; and "Urak dakarrena, urak daroa")
Urde goseak, ezkurra amets
"A hungry pig dreams about acorns."
Azkue, p. 74, #646; Salguis, 51. NEED, NECESSITY. (cf. Azkue #627; Intza
Urri, baina ongi
"Little, but good."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 256. SIMPLICITY. You don't need to have much, but what
you have should be good, of good quality.
Urrun helduko da, baratz doalarik, geratu gabe doana
"If you go slowly you will go far, if you never stop."
[far will reach, going slowly, one who goes without stopping]
Azkue, p. 226, #2848; Landerretche, #337. PATIENCE; PERSISTENCE. Even if you
have a handicap, you can find ways of overcoming it. You will just have to
work harder than if you didn't have the handicap.
Urrunago, gezurrak handiago
"The farther away, the bigger the lies."
Azkue, p. 226, #2850; B, BN-s: Dic. LIES. Lies tend to get bigger the
farther they travel. In other words, exaggeration will embelish a lie at each
stage. Or is it because you cannot check the facts for yourself? Does anyone
Urruneko eltzea urrez, hara orduko lurrez
"That distant golden pot, when you get closer, turns out to be made of clay."
[distant golden pot, when there earthen]
Azkue, p. 226, #2851; L, Dic. (SELF-)DECEPTION, ILLUSIONS?; APPEARANCES. Cf.
"Urrutiko intxaurrak ..." (Cf. Azkue #1523, #2067; Intza #1652, #1768, #2094,
Urrutiago, berriak handiago
"The farther away, the bigger the news."
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 257. NEWS. News from faraway places tend to be blown
out of proportion or enlarged by the time they get to us. Thus people tend to
have the impression that life is more interesting or more filled with
excitement elsewhere. (Rhyme)
Urrutiko intxaurrak, hamalau; alderantzean, lau
"The fourteen walnuts you see from afar turn out to be only four when get up
[the distant walnuts, fourteen; when getting closer four]
Azkue, p. 227, #2855; G-amezk. (SELF-)DECEPTION; APPEARANCES. Cf. "Urruneko
eltzea..." Don't let yourself be deceived by superficial appearances or big
promises. cf. "There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow." (Cf. Azkue
#2852, Intza #273, #851)
Urte askotan, txapela kaskoan
"May you wear your hat for many years."
[for many a year, the hat on the head]
Azkue, p. 111, #1112; G. BIRTHDAYS. Said to people on their birthday. (Cf.
Intza #294). KASKO is a colloquial word for head (cf. "buru"), borrowed
probably a long time ago, originally meaning "helmet", "earthen pot" (cf.
Mod.Sp. casco "helmet").
Urte euritsu, urte ogitsu
"A year with a lot of rain is a year with a lot of bread."
[year full of rain, year full of bread/wheat]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 256. WEATHER, BREAD. `Ogi' can nowadays mean either
"bread" or "wheat". The former is the most common meaning of this word today,
though the latter was the original meaning of this word.
Ustea ez da jakitea
"Believing something is not the same thing as knowing it."
[to believe/opine is not to know]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 257. BELIEF, OPINIONS. When factual information is
crucial, opinions are not good enough. Beliefs should not carry the weight if
knowledge. The line between belief and knowledge is not always had to draw,
though. I believe. (Cf. Intza #1217)
Usteak, alde erdia ustel
"Opinions are half rotten."
[opinions, the half side (is) rotten]
Urquijo, p. 19. OPINIONS. Opinions, suppositions, beliefs are not to be
confused with facts and truth. They are like an apple which is half rotten
(the half that you can't see.) (Cf. slightly different versions: Azkue #2857;
Intza #542; Lopez Mendizabal p. 257) Word play: USTE "belief"/ USTEL "rotten".
Utseginaz, utsegiteak zuzentzen dira
"By making mistakes one learns to correct one's mistakes."
[making mistakes mistakes are corrected/rectified]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 257. ERROR; MISTAKES. Cf. English: "We all learn from
Utzi ezan/k//zu ona hobeagatik
"Let go of something good to take something that's even better."
[leave the good for the better]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 257. DESIRE; AMBITION, ASPIRATION. You need not be
satisfied with what you have, even if it's good, if the chance comes up to get
something better. It sounds pretty consumistic to me. (Cf. Azkue #2859)
Zahar eroa, gazte zoroa baino txarrago
"A crazy old person is worse than a crazy/foolish young person."
Azkue, p. 228, #2876; B-tx. YOUTH, OLD AGE, STUPIDITY, MENTAL ILLNESS;
INSANITY. The words `eroa' and `zoroa' correspond pretty much to the two
senses of English "crazy" and they're both usually translated as such: (1)
EROA: the `mental illness' sense; and (2) the `irresponsible, wild' sense. It
is sort of expected that young people will be crazy (wild, irresponsible; do
crazy things), but if old people do the same kind of things, then supposedly
there is something wrong, and they must be insane.
"The old person's words are wise words."
[old person's word/conversation, wise/shrewd word/conversation]
Azkue, p. 227, #2860; S, Dic. TALKING, OLD AGE. Word play: zahar/zuhur (old,
wise). (Cf. Intza #2199)
Zaharrari azkar joateko eta haurrari geldi egoteko esatea, berdin da
"It's just as useless to tell an old person to hurry as it is to tell a child
to be still."
[telling the old person to hurry and the child to be still, is the same thing]
Ormazabal, p. 46. OLD AGE, CHILDHOOD. (Cf. Intza #780)
Zakur handiak, zaunka handia
"A big dog has a loud bark."
[big dogk big bark]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 257. NATURE?; CORRELATIONS. Play with the two senses of
`handi': "big" and "loud". Cf. Intza, p. 95, #1504: "Txakur txikiak, zaunka
handia": "Little dog, big bark."
Zapatak zapata jagoten du, abarkak abarka ez
"Shoes (i.e. the rich) look out for other shoes, but sandals (i.e. the poor)
don't look out for other sandals."
[the shoe takes care of (looks out/cares for) the shoe, the sandal/clog for
the sandal/clog not]
Azkue, p. 228, #2874; B-l. This means that the rich help out and protect each
other, but poor people, on the other hand, don't. In older days only the
wealthy had (leather) shoes, whereas peasants had wooden, and later rubber,
sandals or clogs. It is a well known fact that the wealthy are the most class
conscious of all people. In the US, however, to mention the word "class", as
in "social class", is often thought of as being in bad taste and promoting
Zeinek bera nolako, besteak uste halako
"Everyone believes that everyone else is like them."
[each s/he how, the others believe that way]
Azkue, p. 229, #2901; BN-am. BELIEF. That is, that they share likes,
dislikes, and opinions, and thus should be judged by the same rules. A form
of psychological uniformitarianism, I guess. Not a very safe belief, I don't
Zenbat buru, hainbat aburu
"There are as many opinions as there are heads."
[how many heads, that many opinions]
Azkue, p. 111, #1118; R, Dic. OPINIONS. Azkue actually has "Zeinbat (sic)
buru, kainbat (sic) gisa", which means the same thing but doesn't sound as
good as this other version which rhymes. I think this is the more popular
version too, but I don't have a published source for it. (Cf. Azkue #2886)
Zer egingo dugu? Hil arte bizi
"What can you do, but go on living until you die?"
[what will we do? Live until death]
Intza, p. 20 ; ACQUIESCENCE, SELF-RESIGNATION. Said by/to those who are tired
of suffering as a sign of resignation.
Zer ikusi, hura ikasi
"What one sees is what one learns."
[what see, that learn]
Azkue, p. 229, #2895; ANc, Gc... LEARNING. Word play: ikusi-ikasi
Zeuen izenean eta neure gizenean
"To your name and to my health."
[in your name and in my fattening]
Azkue, p. 138, #1491; B-mu. DRINKING. Formula used before drinking. `Zeuen'
means "you all" ("intensive"). When the addressee is a single person, `zeuen'
is replaced by `zeure' "you" ("intensive"). (Rhyme)
Zeuen osasunerako eta neure onerako
"To your health, and for my good."
Azkue, p. 138, #1492; B-mu. DRINKING. Formulua used before drinking.
`Zeuen' means "you all." When the addressee is a single person, `zeuen' is
replaced by `zeure'. A typical, short drinking formula is `osasuna' "health".
Zor zaharra, izen txarra
"Old debts give you a bad name."
[old debt, bad name]
Azkue, p. 230, #2907; BN-ae. DEBT, REPUTATION. (Rhyme)
Zor zaharra, zor txarra
"An old debt is a bad debt."
[old debt, bad debt]
Azkue, p. 230, #2907; Bc., Dic. DEBT. (Rhyme)
"A debt is something painful"
Azkue, p. 230, #2908; B-otx, Dic. DEBT. (Rhyme)
Zozoak beleari ipurbeltz
"That's like the blackbird calling the crow black."
[the blackbird to the crow: black ass]
Intza, p. 65, #915. INSULTS; COMPLAINTS. In other words: "Look who's
talking!" Also, don't complain about someone doing something to you that
you're always doing to others. Ormazabal, p. 62, offers this saying with an
additional reinforcement: "... , astoak mandoari belarri luze": "... the
donkey to the mule: long ears." (Cf. Azkue #2815)
Zuharrari ez eska gari
"Don't expect wheat from the elm tree."
[from the elm tree don't ask wheat]
Azkue, p. 231, #2925; S, Dic. NATURE; EXPECTATIONS. Cf. Spanish: "No hay que
pedirle peras al olmo." (Rhyme)
Zura berago, harra barrenago
"The softer the wood, the deeper the worm goes."
Azkue, p. 231, #2927; Oihenart, #442. TOLERANCE, PATIENCE; INDULGENCE. Said
of people who are too indulgent or tolerant, since they will be taken
Zuri guztiak ez dira irin
"Not everything that's white is flour."
[everything white is not flour]
Lopez Mendizabal, p. 258. REALITY; APPEARANCES. Don't let yourself be
deceived by appearences. Don't rush to conclusions. Cf. English: "All that
glitters is not gold." Spanish: "No es oro todo lo que reluce." Cf. "Beltz
SOURCES USED FOR THIS COLLECTION
Source #1 (= Azkue)
Azkue Aberasturi, Resurrecci"n M. de. 1945. Euskalerriaren Yakintza.
Literatura Popular del Pa!s Vasco. Vol. 3: Proverbios, modismos, lenguaje
infantil, trabalenguas, sobrenombres, acertijos. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.
The different volumes of this collection were published in different
years: v. 1: 1935, v. 2: 1942, v. 3: 1945, v. 4: 1947; Written in
Basque and Spanish. Many of the sayings were collected from informants
by Azkue and his collaborators. Many others come from published and
unpublished written sources, which he mentions, though not always very
explicity (Inchauspe; Duvoisin; Axular; Ms. Otx.; Darthayet; Lope de
Isasti; Irigaray; Salguis; Ms. de Londres; Ms. Bonaparte; Oihenart;
Landerretche; Uriarte; Peru Abarca (Moguel); Uruarte). Some were
published earlier by him in his famous dictionary (Dic.):
Azkue Aberasturi, Resurrecci"n M. de. 1905-6. Diccionario vasco-
espa$ol-franc s. Dictionnaire basque-espagnol-fran ais. Bilbao [Tours:
M me]. 1905-1906 (2 vols.; vol. 1 published in 1905, vol. 2 in 1906).
Source #2 (= Lopez Mendizabal)
Lopez Mendizabal, Isaac. 1962. Manual de conversaci"n castellano-euskera.
(Fourth edition). Donostia/San Sebasti n: Au$amendi.
First edition: Tolosa: E. L"pez, 1908; Second edition: Tolosa: E. L"pez,
1918; Third edition: Tolosa: Lopez Mendizabal, 1932; I wasn't able to
have access to the earlier editions, which are probably not very
different. Lopez Mendizabal does not provide any sources or dialectal
information. There is good indication that he tampered with the
Source #3 (= Intza)
Intza, Damaso. 1974. Naparroa-ko euskal-esaera zarrak (= Old Basque sayings
from Navarre). Pamplona: Instituci"n Pr!ncipe de Viana.
From Nafarroa (Navarre); no further information given.
Source #4 (= Ormazabal)
Ormazabal, Joxantonio. 1981. Esaera zaharrak eta txiste berriak (= Old sayings
and new jokes). Donostia/San Sebasti n: Elkar
No source or dialect information given.
Source #5 (= Urquijo)
Urquijo e Ibarra, Julio de. 1919. El refranero vasco. Tomo I: Los refranes de
Garibay. Donostia/San Sebasti n: Mart!n, Mena & Co.
This is an annotated version of Esteban de Garibay y Zamalloa's 16th
century manuscripts which contained Basque proverbs.
Mocoroa, Justo Ma. 1990. "Ortik Eta Emendik - Repertorio de Locuciones del
Habla Popular Vasca" Labayru-Eusko Jaurlaritza-Etor. (from Francisco Javier
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