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TURKISH PROVERBS

The unpretentious and modest common sense of the Turkish people over many generations is distilled in many proverbs that are used today. When it matches the situation, a proverb is said without any other commentary because it just says it all.

Some examples are provided below with its direct translation and with its meaning:

 

(Do not search for a calf under a bull.) When someone shows unnecessary amount of suspicion for an action.

Okuz altinda buzagi aranmaz. -

(The dog that barks does not bite.) When a person talks too much, it usually does not lead to action.

Havlayan kopek isirmaz. -

(The cock that crows too early gets his head cut off.) There is proper time for every thing.

Vakitsiz oten horozun basini keserler. -

(A defeated wrestler never tires of wrestling again.) . A defeated person always asks for second chances.

Yenilen pehlivan gurese doymaz. -

(He who starts up in anger, sits down with a loss.) Used when one is trying to calm an angry person.

Ofke ile kalkan zararla oturur. -

(Sharp vinegar only damages its container.) Used to calm down or moderate a person.

Keskin sirke kupune zarar verir. -

(Heart endures when eye does not see.) One can endure being far way from loved ones by not seeing them.

Goz gormeyince gonul katlanir. -

(If one is far away, one also gets far away from the heart.) Expresses the feeling that by being far away, one risks losing the love and affection of a person.

Gozden irak, gonulden de irak olur. -

(You harvest what you sow.) Used to remind a person that one's own past actions are responsible for the present situation.

Ne ekersen, onu bicersin. -

(One who sows wind will reap hurricane.) Used to caution people to moderate their actions.

Ruzgar eken firtina bicer. -

(It is not disgraceful to ask, it is disgraceful no to know.) Used to encourage people to be inquisitive.

Sormak ayip degil, bilmemek ayip. -

(A bachelor feels like a sultan.) Used by bachelors when asked to explain why they are still single.

Bekarlik sultanliktir. -

(The fly is small, but it can upset your stomach.) Used when an event that seems insignificant to others, still bothers a person.

Sinek kucuktur, ama mide bulandirir. -

(It won't fill a fig seed.) Used to express the insignificance of someone's point in an argument.

Incir cekirdegini doldurmaz. -

(Storm in a walnut shell.) Similar to tempest in a tea cup.

Ceviz kabugunda firtina. -

(Love is daring.) Can mean that a lover can do anything without calculating the consequences or that love has a blind eye.

Askin gozu karadir. -

(To the raven's eye, its chickens look like falcons.) Used to express the feeling that any baby looks beautiful to its mother.

Kuzguna yavrusu sahin gorunur. -

(The sheep separated from the flock gets eaten by the wolf.) Used to encourage a person to stay within the group as it plans a move.

Suruden ayrilan koyunu kurt kapar. -

(An ember burns where it falls.) Used when expressing an appreciation of pain for the people who are close to the injured or hurt person.

Ates dustugu yeri yakar. -

(An over-protected eye gets the speck.) Being overly careful or overprotective invites misfortunes.

Sakinilan goze cop batar. -

(What a man is at seven is also what he is at seventy.) Used when expressing dissatisfaction in unchanged human behavior or the fact that one never learns from one's mistakes.

Insan yedisinde ne ise yetmisinde de odur. -

(The tree branch should be bent when it is young.) Used to support the need to train a person early in life.

Agac yas iken egilir. -

(It takes two hands to make a sound.) Similar to "it takes two to tango".

Bir elin nesi var, iki elin sesi var. -

(Lets water run unnoticed under straw.) Used to define a sly person or behavior.

Saman altindan su yurutur. -

(Look at the mother before marrying the daughter.) Expresses the view that a young girl (or a bride) will eventually look and behave like her mother

Anasina bak, kizini al. -

(Let the horse die from too much barley.) Used to express the feeling that the benefits over weigh the risks.

Atin olumu arpadan olsun. -

(A camel for a dime, a camel for a thousand dimes.) Used to show the irony when a person could not afford something even when it is very cheap, but can later afford it when it is thousand times more expensive.

Deve bir pula, deve bin pula. -

(One who does not slap his children, will slap his knees.) Parents that do not discipline their children early on, will beat themselves later on when they learn the bad things their grown children have done.

Cocugunu dovmeyen, dizini dover. -

(One who handles honey, licks his fingers.) Somebody in charge of handling money or resources, get to keep or enjoy some benefits for himself.

Bal tutan parmak yalar. -

(You can't run a water mill by carrying water.) It is futile to start a business if you don't have a sustainable source or you can't sustain a life style with borrowed money.

Tasima suyla degirmen donmez. -

(Drop by drop, it will make a pond.) Small savings will lead to substantial wealth. Used to encourage people to save.

Damlaya damlaya gol olur. -

(Liar's candle will last till evening.) Lies will work only for a limited time.

Yalancinin mumu yatsiya kadar yanar. -

(Burning a bedcover for a louse.) Used when an action taken does not match the unimportance of the situation.

Pire icin yorgan yakmak. -

(A boxwood comb for a bald head.) Used to make a point when a person indulges beyond his financial means.

Kel basa simsir tarak. -

(The one who asks has one side of his face dark; the one who refuses to give has both sides.) Used to put the shame or burden on the side that can give but refuses to do so.

Isteyenin bir yuzu kara, vermeyenin iki yuzu. -

(The one who burns his mouth for drinking milk too hot, eats even yogurt carefully.) Used to make the point that life's bad experiences teach people to be cautious.

Sutten agzi yanan, yogurdu ufleyerek yer. -

(Every man has his own style of eating yogurt.) Used to remind that others may have a different way of doing things and hence asking for tolerance.

Her yigitin bir yoqurt yeyisi vardir. -

(Free vinegar is sweeter than honey.) Used to make a point when someone goes after something just because it is free or very cheap even though they would not normally even want it.

Bedava sirke baldan tatlidir. -

(A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship.) Used to remind that friendships should not be taken lightly and that one should have a long term commitment.

Bir kahvenin kirk yil hatiri vardir. -

(A knife-wound heals, but a tongue wound festers.) Used to make a point that one should be careful before using hurtful language.

Bicak yarasi gecer, dil yarasi gecmez . -

(A man is as wise as his head, not his years.) Used to make a point that even an old person may not have all the wisdom.

Akil bastadir, yasta degil. -

(A tribulation is better than a hundred warnings.) Used to make a point that one learns better from their mistakes or misfortunes rather than the advice of others.

Bir musibet, yuz tembihten iyidir. -

(Beauty passes, wisdom remains.) Used to make a point that wisdom matters more than physical beauty.

Guzellik gecer, akil kalir. -

(Do not roll up your trousers before reaching the stream.) Used to make a point that one should not be overly eager and optimistic about an outcome.

Dereyi gormeden pacalari sivama. -

(Dogs bark, but the caravan goes on.) Used to put down someone's efforts or words and meaning that it won't have any effect on the outcome. It is a rude but effective expression

It urur, kervan yurur. -

(Empty words will not fill an empty stomach.) Used to make a point that one is using empty promises without any real action.

Bos laf karin doyurmaz. -

(Every “bad” has its “worse.”.) Used to make a point that things can always go even worse and one should make the best of current situation.

Beterin beteri vardir. -

(Every sheep is hung by his own leg.) Used to make a point that every one is responsible from his own actions.

Her koyun kendi bacagindan asilir. -

(If a dog’s prayers were answered, bones would rain from the sky.) Used as response against somebody with a hurtful or evil wish. It is rude and used only in a verbal fight.

Kopegin duasi kabul olsa idi, gokden kemik yagardi. -

(If you give him cloth, he’ll ask for the lining.) Used to make a point one is being greedy.

Kumasini verince, astarini ister. -

(It is more difficult than teaching a camel to jump (than to reason with fool).) Used to express frustration in discussion.

Deveye hendek atlatmaktan daha zor. -

(It is easy to say “Come,” difficult to say “Go.”.) Used to caution that it is easy to invite someone, but difficult to ask them to leave.

Gel demesi kolay, git demesi zordur. -

(Kind words will get a snake out of its hole.) Used to express the effectiveness of kind words as opposed to confrontation.

Tatli soz yilani deliginden cikarir. -

(Many will point to the right way after the wheel is broken.) Used to make a point about second guessing after the outcome is known.

Teker kirilinca yol gosteren cok olur. -

(Stretch your feet according to your blanket.) Used to make a point that one should spend according to his means.

Ayagini yorganina gore uzat. -

(The rich man’s wealth tires the poor man's jaw.) Used to make a point that poor talks too much about what the wealthy have.

Zenginin mali, fakirin cenesini yorar. -

(The real friend tells the bitter truth.) Used to soften the blow when a friend needs to give bitter advise.

Dost aci soyler. -

(One hand may be superior to another.) Used to remind that one should not assume no one else can do better.

El elden ustundur. -

(To a bachelor, divorcing a wife comes easy.) Used to point out that when one does not carry a responsibility, it is easy for them to give advice.

Bekara kari bosamak kolay gelir. -

(One does not cut cloth for a yet unborn child.) Used to remind that one should not go far ahead of events or make too many assumptions.

Dogmamis cocuga don bicilmez. -

(Bad neighbour forces one to have his own pots and pans.) Used to remind that not depending on others, makes one self reliant.

Kotu komsu insani kap kacak sahibi yapar. -

(The one that falls in to the sea grabs even a snake.) Used to point out that one may have to chose an unpleasant alternative in a dire situation.

Denize dusen yilana sarilir. -

(What is this diet, what is this pickled cabbage?) Used to point out inconsistencies in one's behaviour or words.

Bu ne perhiz, bu ne lahana tursusu?. -

(Fruit of a tree falls near its roots.) Used to point out that children usually turn out like their parents.

Meyve, agacinin dibine duser -

(The tree bearing fruit, gets stoned.) Used to point out that only a productive person trying to do new things gets to be criticized.

Meyve veren agac taslanir. -

(I tell it to my daughter, for my daughter-in-law to understand.) Used to point out that sometimes a message is intended for someone other than the actual recipient

Kizim sana soylerim, gelinim sen anla. -

(Hope is the bread of the poor.) Used to point out that hope helps sustain the poor or needy.

Umit fakirin ekmegidir. -

(Reversing losses at whatever point is a profit.) Used to point out that best action is to reverse course if one is going down the wrong path.

Zararin neresinden donulse kardir. -

(A village that you can see in a distance do not require a guide.) Used to point out that the events are heading to an obvious conclusion and hence further discussion is not warranted.

Gorunen koy kilavuz istemez. -

(The one who enters a Turkish bath sweats.) Used to point out that one's actions detemine the consequences and therefore one should not complain about them later.

Hamama giren terler. -

(Demand a task from a lazy person, and be ready to receive advise.) Used to point out that a lazy person will come out with many reasons why a task should or could not be done in order to avoid doing the task.

Tembele is buyur, sana akil ogretsin. -

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