The 22 Most Beautiful Proverbs from Around the World

No matter how far we travel, truth and wisdom always feel familiar and comforting, perhaps because the love and hope they tout truly are universal.

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French proverbs about life
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“Truth is more valuable if it takes you a few years to find it.” —French proverb

This lesson, often attributed to French author Jules Renard, speaks to the wisdom of age and experience. It’s taken from the original French: La vérité vaut bien qu’on passe quelques années sans la trouver.

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2 / 22
Russian proverb
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“There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.” —Russian proverb

Ignorance isn’t simply a lack of knowledge but a rejection of education. As long as we are open to finding out more, we will never stop learning.

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3 / 22
Ethiopian proverb
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“Coffee and love taste best when hot.” —Ethiopian proverb

So true: Passion and lattes are most delicious when piping hot!

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4 / 22
British proverb
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“The pen is mightier than the sword.” —English proverb

The power of the written word can change ideas, policies, and the world at large.

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5 / 22
Japanese proverb
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“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” —Japanese proverb

This Japanese proverb teaches us that perseverance is one of the most important virtues. There are lots of Japanese proverbs, but this one reminds us that hardly anyone succeeds on their first try or even their second—you just have to keep on keeping on!

6 / 22
Italian proverb
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“If you can’t live longer, live deeper.” —Italian proverb

None of us can predict how long we will live, which is why it is so important to live each day with intention and purpose.

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7 / 22
African proverb
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“It takes a whole village to raise a child.” —African proverb

Any parent knows there is no such thing as too much help when it comes to looking after children. And each person brings his or her own gifts and contributions to the effort.

8 / 22
Maori proverb
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“Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” —Maori proverb

This proverb promotes optimism and positive thinking. As we look forward toward brighter things, darkness literally recedes.

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9 / 22
English proverb
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“Some men go through a forest and see no firewood.” —English proverb

Success depends on our perspective and our ingenuity. If we remain open to possibilities, we can make full use of the resources at our fingertips.

10 / 22
Brazilian proverb
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“The tree with most leaves will not necessarily produce juicy fruit.” —Brazilian proverb

A tropical take on the familiar maxim “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” A showy appearance is no guarantee of a person’s ultimate worth.

11 / 22
German proverb
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“Begin to weave and God will give the thread.” —German proverb

This proverb about life reminds us to have faith in our dreams. If we don’t start the projects we care about, they’ll never happen! Active engagement, focus, and determination attract the resources we need.

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12 / 22
Chinese proverb
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“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” —Chinese proverb

Don’t overthink things. Don’t assume that everything around you has a hidden meaning. Similarly, be yourself, do what comes naturally, and you’ll be in harmony with your surroundings.

13 / 22
Turkish proverb
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“Even though you know a thousand things, ask the man who knows one.” —Turkish proverb

Don’t be a know-it-all! Regardless of how smart and well informed you are, there’s always an expert whose knowledge of a particular subject outshines yours. And even a humble person may have his or her specialty.

14 / 22
Swedish proverb
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“Those who wish to sing always find a song.” –Swedish proverb

To a very great extent, life is what we bring to it. When we’re actively seeking joyful positive experiences, we’re so much more likely to find them.

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15 / 22
Mexican proverb
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“It’s not enough to learn how to ride, you must also learn how to fall.” —Mexican proverb

This proverb about life is about acceptance, and viewing failure and success in any venture as two sides of the same coin. Being a gracious loser requires a set of skills as important as those needed for being a gracious winner—and you may wind up using them more frequently!

16 / 22
Ghanaian proverb
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“Hunger is felt by a slave and hunger is felt by a king.” —Ghanaian proverb

At our most basic, all human beings are more alike than we are different. This proverb offers a subtle reminder to practice compassion for those at both ends of the economic spectrum, regardless of our own position in society.

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17 / 22
Irish proverb
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“The work praises the man.” —Irish proverb

We put something precious of ourselves into everything that we create with conviction. If you do a good job, you don’t need to toot your own horn. Your work will speak for itself—more convincingly than any form of self promotion.

18 / 22
Yiddish proverb
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“A mother understands what a child does not say.” —Yiddish proverb

What a beautiful way to evoke the wordless intimacy of the parent-child relationship at its best! And any good pediatrician will defer to a mother who knows her infant is coming down with a bug…because she knows her baby best.

19 / 22
Zimbabwe proverb
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“If you can walk you can dance. If you can talk you can sing.” —Zimbabwe proverb

This proverb about life reminds us that we don’t have to do things perfectly in order to do them and enjoy them. So whatever it is you’re doing, don’t be afraid to do it with style… go big or go home!

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20 / 22
Cuban proverb
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“Cheese, wine, and friends must be old to be good.” —Cuban proverb

Like cheese and wine, friendship ripens and develops over time. Be careful who you trust; don’t rush into a shallow intimacy and expect it to equal the value of long-established bonds.

21 / 22
Welsh proverb
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“The best candle is understanding.” —Welsh proverb

Don’t rush off haphazardly without a plan. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s as though you’re walking blindly into the dark. Use the gift of knowledge to illuminate your path.

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Greek proverb
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“Even from a foe a man may learn wisdom.” —Greek proverb

Sometimes unpleasant or difficult situations can teach us the most important lessons about ourselves and about life. Here’s what this proverb about wisdom is telling you: Don’t close yourself off from knowledge just because you don’t appreciate the source of the information.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest