Proverbs are one of the best ways to understand different cultures around the world. This time we are bringing you 15 Proverb origins and meanings in English. These proverbs origin stories and their moral meanings will be provided in a single page with no hassle.
We have only listed our favorite 15 Proverbs’ origins and meanings. So, in case there is a proverb that you want us to do an origin story, let us know. Also, read our top 10 Proverbs Origin Stories in English from here. Also, you can read our top 10 Indian proverbs about love from here.
These Proverbs origin stories have no particular author, hence we could not credit the authors. Most of the stories below are from Indian proverbs and African proverbs. These Indian Proverbs origins and meanings in English are sent to us from our friend from Boredbat.
So, let’s get into the list of Proverbs origins and meanings in English. We have broken the web pages into three pages, when you scroll down to the bottom, you can find pages 1.2 & 3.
25 Proverbs Origins Stories and Meanings
1. “A bad workman always blames his tools” Proverb origin and meaning.
A bad workman always blames his tools proverb meaning: our success does not depend on what Kind of tools we have but how we use them.
A person may have all the equipment in the world but if he does not know how to use them he can never complete a job successfully. Whereas a person who can make effective use of what is available to him can make a success of any work given to him.
The same can be said of real-life situations too. We must learn to hone our talents and tabs maximum benefit out of them and not blame destiny or fate when something goes wrong.
A bad workman always blames his tools, Origin Story
Kumar and Ravi were two farmers who were neighbors. Both owned a pair of oxen each with which they plowed their land. Kumar worked hard all day long in order to get a good yield and looked after his oxen very well since he knew that they were very important for his farming activity
Ravi on the other hand was a very lazy and a miser who never fed his oxen properly but extracted maximum work from them and kept complaining that they were not doing a good job.
As a true friend Kumar advised and pointed out to Ravi that it was cruel to ill-treat the animals which were helping him make a living. Ravi paid little heed to Kumar’s words. He soon bought a tractor to plow his land and chased the oxen away since he no longer needed them. Taking pity on the poor animals Kumar took them under his wing although he could ill afford to maintain them.
The monsoon soon arrived and it was time for cultivation. Kumar’s land was well plowed and ready for cultivation – thanks to his oxen. Ravi in his miserly fashion had not maintained his tractor well and it kept giving him trouble. As the result, he could not get his land ready for cultivation on time.
He lamented and blamed it all on bad luck not realizing that it was he who was responsible for his miserable state. Ravi not only lost out on a good yield by his laziness but also spent more money than required to repair his tractor due to poor maintenance.
Despite having better equipment Ravi was unable to get the best results, whereas Kumar was a good workman and hence was able to succeed with the limited resources that he had.
2. “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Proverb origin and meaning.
Too many cooks spoil the broth Proverb meaning: If too many people are invoked in cooking a particular dish each might add a different ingredient which, in the end, spoils the entire dish.
Likewise, when too many people take up a job or project, they are likely to make a mess of it due to a lack of coordination. Unless there is proper planning and demarcation of responsibility, the job will not be done.
Too many cooks spoil the broth, Origin Story
The annual day function of any school is an event that everyone looks forward to since it’s a time to celebrate the achievement of the school in various fields of activities. It was the same at Aravind’s school too, where he worked as the Maths teacher.
It was going to be different this time since the entertainment part of the function was to be organized by the students themselves. The Principal had asked the teachers to coordinate with the students and had appointed a representative each, for the teachers and for the students.
Mr. Mathew was the teacher-representative, a man who did not believe in giving students so much responsibility. The students on their part had agreed to organize everything in their enthusiasm but had no idea how to go about it in an organized way.
The day of the function arrived. The students in their enthusiasm had concentrated on the costumes and music but had completely forgotten every aspect of stage management. Each group thought that the other was looking after those details.
There were not enough mikes and they had not checked to see if the audio system was working effectively with the result that the audiences were unable to hear them properly. Similarly, they had not checked if the curtains were working properly.
The result that the curtains got stuck midway through gave rise to some hilarious moments as the audience could clearly see all that was going on backstage. Fear and tension confused the students further messing up the program.
But luckily the Chief Guest for the evening was a very nice person who understood the situation clearly.
He encouraged the students and told them not to get depressed by the turn of events and told them to learn valuable lessons which would help them do better next time.
Things would have worked out well if everyone had been assigned specific jobs instead of the entire student lot getting involved. It was clearly a case of Too Many Cooks Spoil the broth.
3. “Half a loaf is Better than None.” Proverb origin and meaning.
Half a loaf is Better than None proverb Meaning: Contentment is the essence of harmonious life. When you are greedy we wish to possess more things. In the process of acquiring it, we tend to lose what little we have with us and end up with nothing. When we have a bird in hand it is better to be happy with it. There is no point in aiming for two birds in the bush that you may not be able to capture.
Half a loaf is Better than None, Origin Story
Once upon a time, there was a hunter who was very fond of hunting birds. He was very skillful in using his bow and arrow. He would often go into the forest and hunt down birds by the dozen and sell them all in the town market for a huge price.
One day on one of his hunting expeditions the hunter found a deer roaming around and wanted to hunt it down since it would fetch him a good price. So he came back the next day and set a trap for the deer. The unsuspecting deer got caught in the trap.
Meanwhile, the hunter saw a few birds up in a nearby tree and went about hunting them. The deer knew that it had to do something before the hunter returned.
Unfortunately, the hunter was not able to hunt even a single bird that day and was disappointed. He was however elated on seeing the deer caught in the trap and jumped with joy.
The deer lay very still and pretended to be dead. The hunter came close to the deer and when it did not move he assumed that it had died. He wanted to carry the deer as soon as possible to the market so that he could sell its meat and make a lot of money.
He decided to fetch some logs to tie up the deer and carry it home. The deer lay very still waiting for the opportune moment to escape.
The hunter released the trap from the deer’s legs and was beginning to tie the deer onto the logs when he heard a rustling sound.
He looked up and found a beautiful bird sitting atop a tree branch. The greedy hunter immediately wanted to shoot the bird down. Thinking that the deer was dead he quietly stood up and took aim at the bird with his bow and arrow.
The deer realized that the hunter’s concentration was now on the bird. So it leaped up and ran away into the forest at full speed. Hearing the noise the hunter turned around and was shocked to find the deer disappearing into the forest.
He missed his aim and the bird too flew away when it heard all the commotion. It was then that the hunter realized that his greed had made him lose both the deer and the bird and he had to return empty-handed that day.
4. “Despair gives Courage to a Coward.” Proverb origin and meaning.
Despair gives Courage to a Coward Proverb meaning; Most of the time, we do not realize the talent that is within us. Certain situations help to bring out these special qualities to the fore.
Just as a drowning man tries to hold on to anything that comes his way to save his life, we too come up with remedies beyond our imagination in desperate situations.
We find the courage to do extraordinary things when we are in despair. Even a coward can be turned into a brave warrior in a life-threatening situation.
Despair gives Courage to a Coward, proverb origin story
Once there was an ant that lived in a tree by the side of a pond. He was very timid and was scared of even the slightest disturbance in the tree.
One day a heavy wind blew across the tree and the ant fell into the pond and was struggling to swim and stay afloat.
A pigeon that lived in the same tree broke a twig of the tree and threw it to the ant. The ant got on to the twig and the pigeon swooped down picked up the twig and placed it back on the tree. The ant thanked the pigeon profusely for saving his life.
As the days went by the ant and the pigeon became good friends. The pigeon always told the ant that he should learn to be a bit braver and face life boldly. But the ant remained the same.
One day a hunter came to the pond to quench his thirst. As he was drinking water from the pond he noticed the pigeon sitting on the tree.
The hunter wanted to shoot the pigeon and got his bow and arrow ready. The ant noticed this and wanted to desperately save his friend.
The pigeon was fast asleep and there was no way to warn him since he was sitting a long way from the ant. The ant knew that it did not have much time and it had to act fast.
In desperation, the ant jumped down from the tree and crawled as fast as he could and bit the toe of the hunter hard as he could. The hunter cried out in pain and missed his aim.
The pigeon woke up hearing the noise and noticed the hunter with his bow and arrow. It flew away to safety. The ant was very happy that it could save his friend and felt elated for having acted bravely for once in his life.
The story clearly illustrates that when placed in a desperate situation the ant could rise above its limitations and act bravely in order to save the pigeon’s life.
So when the situation demands even a coward can turn into a courageous person.
5. “Experience is the best teacher” Proverb origin and meaning.
Experience is the best teacher meaning: This proverb reiterates the fact that we can learn a lot of useful lessons from our own experiences.
The wise advise us on a number of things. We also come to know about other people’s experiences through magazines and television.
We seldom take this advice seriously. But it is only when we face difficult situations in life, we realize the truth and the wisdom behind the words of the learned and the elderly.
Experience is the best teacher, the origin story
Once there was a farmer who had four sons. They were very lazy. They were not interested in doing any work and only wanted to enjoy life. The farmer tried his best to advise them but they paid no heed.
So he decided to teach them a lesson. One day he called them and informed them that a huge amount of treasure was hidden in their farmland and that he wanted them to find out where it was.
All the four sons were too excited to wait and started digging the farmland straight away. By the end of the week, they had dug up the entire field but did not find any treasure.
They were angry and tired. The farmer consoled his sons and gently told them, “Since the field is so well dug why don’t you sow some corn in it?” The lazy sons agreed to this and did as they were told.
A few weeks later it rained heavily and soon the farmland was filled with fully grown corn. The farmer called his sons and told them that they will find the treasure once they harvested the corn and sold it in the market.
The sons sold the corn and came back with a bag full of money. They asked their father where they could find the treasure.
The farmer pointed out to the money and told them. “This is the treasure that I was talking to you about. It was all along there in the soil. It just needed a bit of your hard work to bring it out. If you continue with your efforts this treasure will be forever yours.”
The sons then realized their folly and understood the truth. Their own experience was their best teacher. They have learned from their experiences.
Thereafter they continuously worked on their lands and harvested a lot of grains and sold them in the market to make big money year after year.