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Such a wife as I want... must be young, handsome I lay most stress upon a good shape, sensible a little learning will do, well-bread, chaste, and tender. As to religion, a moderate stock will satisfy me. She must believe in God and hate a saint.
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De Proverbio - Electronic Journal of International Proverb Studies. Proverbs, Quotations, Sayings, Wellerisms.



Another year has passed, and once again paremiologists have been very active throughout the world. It is always amazing to see how many important publications do appear during the short period of one year. This time I can report a total of 175 titles that have come to my attention. Included are books, dissertations, articles and shorter notes from international paremiologists who continue to make great progress in studying many aspects of proverbs on a regional, national or international basis. It certainly is my hope that these annual bibliographies will help everybody keep up with the newest developments in the fascinating field of paremiology.

As has always been the case, I have received much appreciated help in collecting these new references from many friends and colleagues, especially from Franz Eppert (Fredericton/New Brunswick), Katharine Luomala (Honolulu), Sergei D. Mastepanov (Malokurgannyi), Damian Opata (Nsukka), Gyula Paczolay (Veszprém), Robert Rothstein (Amherst/Massachussetts), and Helmut Walther (Wiesbaden). Will you all please be so kind as to send me your newest publications as soon as possible. Especially in the case of articles, it would be most helpful if you were to include precise bibliographical information, i.e. complete journal titles, editors, names of publishers, etc. I very much need exact bibliographical information so that these annual bibliographies can be as reliable as possible. You may also send me advertising leaflets that I will include with the Proverbium volumes (I would need about 300 copies for an annual mailing). While this service is free, there will be a charge of $100 per advertising page that is printed in Proverbium itself. Please encourage your publishers to place such advertisements. It certainly helps with the production cost of Proverbium.

By the time this ninth volume of Proverbium will reach you in October of 1992, I will be close to finishing my second supplement volume of International Proverb Scholarship: An Annotated Bibliography. Supplement II (1982-1991). The book should appear in the Spring of 1993 with about 1700 annotated references to international paremiological publications of the past ten years. Please make sure that you inform me of all the newest publications as soon as possible so that I can still include them in this book. Thank you for your help in sharing bibliographical information with the paremiologists throughout the world.

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Proverbs, Sayings and Popular Wisdom - Audio Proverbs in English and Romance Languages, Proverb Studies, Proverb Collections, International Proverb Bibliographies


De Proverbio – Latin for ‘About the Proverb’ – is a website devoted to proverbs in several languages. It was founded in January 1995 at the University of Tasmania, Australia. De Proverbio was the world’s first refereed electronic journal of international proverb studies. It’s inspiration was Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship edited by Prof. Wolfgang Mieder at the University of Vermont. The Yearbook continued the tradition of Proverbium: Bulletin d’Information sur les Recherches Parémiologiques, published occasionally from 1965 to 1975 by the Society for Finnish Literature, Helsinki.

Recently, the website has added audio proverbs in six languages, read by native speakers.  Also available for the lovers of languages and their proverbial richess is a page of multilingual proverb crosswords.

Proverbs and Their Definition

From time immemorial proverbs have fascinated people of all ages and from all walks of life. As it happened throughout centuries, common people today still avail themselves of the proverb’s rich oral tradition to convey their culture and values, while scholars collect and study them from a wide range of angles: linguistic, social, psychological, political, historical and so on.

Proverbs by James Chapman - cat
A cat in mittens won’t catch mice

The problem of proverb definition is still open. However, it is broadly accepted that proverbs were born from man’s experience. And that they generally express, in a very succinct way, common-sense truths. They give sound advice and reflect the human condition. But, as we know, human nature is both good and bad and the latter is often mirrored by discriminatory proverbs, be they against women, different nationalities or particular social groups. For a thorough discussion of proverb definition, see Popular Views of the Proverb by Prof. Wolfgang Mieder. Another article which sheds some light on the proverb definition is The Wisdom of Many and the Wit of One by Archer Taylor.

Proverbs and Their Origin

As to the origin of proverbs we tend to assume that they were born in times when human society began to self-impose rules and embrace principles necessary for communal living. Research can trace them back only to the time when language was recorded by means of some type of writing. The Sumerian civilisation of more than five thousand years ago is the oldest known civilisation to have made use of proverbs, some of which have been passed on through its cuneiform inscriptions.

One such proverb, in its Latin version, is Canis festinans caecos parit catulos. It spread to other languages. The English translation is The hasty bitch brings forth blind whelps. In French, it became La chienne dans sa hâte a mis bas des chiots aveugles. In the Italian La gatta frettolosa fece i gattini ciechi, the bitch has been replaced by the cat. The Portuguese version is Cadelas apressadas parem cães tortos, and the Romanian, Căţeaua de pripă îşi naşte căţeii fără ochi.

Proverbs and Their Use

Apart from use on a wide scale in day-to-day speech, there is ample evidence that proverbs were essential tools in teaching and learning. The pedagogical use of proverbs was encountered first in Sumerian society and subsequently this use became widespread throughout Medieval Europe.

Proverbs by James Chapman - book
A book is like a garden carried in the pocket

Proverbs and proverbial expressions are found in religious manuscripts of the first half of the eighth century. The aim of introducing proverbs into religious texts was to help novices to learn Latin, and this practice became widespread by the tenth century.

The use of proverbs in teaching and learning was not circumscribed to England. Relatively new research attests to the use of proverbs in teaching in the eleventh century in Liège, France. In Italy the famous medical School of Salerno of the eleventh century formulated medical precepts which later became proverbs adopted by different cultures. Post prandium stabis, post coenam ambulabis was translated After dinner sit awhile, after supper walk a mile in English. In French became Après dîner repose un peu, après souper promène une mille, while in Italian Dopo pranzo riposar un poco, dopo cena passeggiar un miglio. The Spanish version is Después de yantar reposad un poco, después de cenar pasead una milla and the Portuguese Depois de jantar, dormir; depois de cear, passos mil.

Proverbs and Their Abuse

But from use comes abuse, as a Spanish proverb says.  There is no doubt that the capacity of the proverb to convey universal truths concisely led to their abuse and manipulation.

Hitler and his Nazi regime employed proverbs as emotional slogans for propaganda purposes and encouraged the publication of anti-semitic proverb collections. For a thorough analysis of this phenomenon, please read the fascinating article “ … as if I were the master of situation.” Proverbial Manipulation in Adolf Hitler by Prof. Wolfgang Mieder.

At the opposite end of the political spectrum, communist regimes of the past have not only manipulated proverbs, but also purged popular collections of features which did not reflect their political ends. The former Soviet regime is at the forefront of such actions. One type of manipulation described by Jean Breuillard in Proverbes et pouvoir politique: Le cas de l’U.R.S.S.  (published in “Richesse du proverbe”, Eds. François Suard and Claude Buridant. Lille: Université de Lille, 1984. II, 155-166). It consisted in modifying ancient proverbs like La vérité parcourt le monde (Truth spreads all over the world) into La vérité de Lénine parcourt le monde (Lenin’s truth spreads all over the world). As a result the new creation is unequivocably charged with a specific ideological message.

Manipulation did not stop at individual proverbs, it extended to entire collections. Vladimir Dal’s mid-nineteen century collection of Russian proverbs is such an example. Its first Soviet edition (1957) reduces the proverbs containing the word God from 283 to 7 only. Instead, those which express compassion for human weaknesses, such as alcoholism, disappear altogether. In more recent years, in Ceauşescu’s Romania, Proverbele românilor (published in 1877 by I. C. Hinţescu) suffered the same treatment. More than 150 proverbs were eliminated or changed in order to respond rigidly to the communist ideology.

Proverbs Across Time and Space

The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs states that foreign proverbs’ contribution to the English proverbial stock has enriched our language. Many proverbs of foreign origin were quickly absorbed into English life and have a rightful place in an English dictionary. Indeed, a close scrutiny of that dictionary reveals that more than two hundred and fifty proverbs are listed as first existing in Italian.

This is also true for other modern languages, particularly French and Spanish. The translation is not always literal. At times it is adapted to the new language and the resulting proverb is often enriched in its expression. For instance the Latin Homo sine pecunia est imago mortis (A man without money is the image of death) is rather closely translated in Italian as Uomo senza quattrini è un morto che cammina (A man without money is a dead man walking).

However, in other languages the metaphor changes, but not the meaning. In English the proverb becomes A man without money is a bow without an arrow, while in French Un homme sans argent / Est un loup sans dents (A man without money is a wolf without teeth) and an element of rhyme is introduced. The Romanian adaptation is a real poetic gem Omul fără bani e ca pasărea fără aripi; Când dă să zboare / Cade jos şi moare (A man without money is like a bird without wings; When he tries to fly / He falls down and dies). The concept is essentially the same: the man without money lacks something important…

Proverbs Today

Proverbs by James Chapman - egg and hen
The egg thinks it’s smarter than the hen

While proverbs are still used today in a traditional way, that is in speech, literature and teaching, they have found a new ever expanding use in the advertising industry and in the mass media. One example is Here today, gone tomorrow, which became Hair today, gone tomorrow in the hair-removal industry. In the mass media it has a variety of paraphrases such as Hear today, gone tomorrow or Heir today, gone tomorrow. Before the Barcelona Olympic Games the old proverb All roads lead to Rome became All roads lead to… Barcelona in many English language newspapers and magazines. A new phenomenon encountered in many languages nowadays and is undoubtedly a sign of the proverb’s resilience and vitality.

Important writers of the past, among them Goethe and Voltaire, have questioned the traditional wisdom of proverbs. That led to some proverb transformations. Prof. Wolfgang Mieder coined the term anti-proverb for all forms of creative proverb changes. They can be deliberate innovations, alterations, variations, parodies. Anti-proverbs are widely spread today, some living a short time, some even making their way into recent proverb collections. A new broom sweeps clean, but the old one knows the corners and Absence makes the heart grow fonder – for somebody else are considered anti-proverbs.

Proverbs and Their Collection

Apart from studies on individual and multilingual proverbs and proverbial expressions, you will find a few e-books on our website. I will mention a Brazilian collection and a dictionary of equivalent English and Romanian proverbs. Prof. Wolfgang Mieder’s yearly bibliographies are an invaluable tool for students and researchers. Given their widespread use over the millennia, it is no wonder that scholars of the past started assembling proverbs in collections. Aristotle is believed to be among the first paremiographers (collectors of proverbs), but, unfortunately, his collection was lost. In more recent times a great impetus to the collection of proverbs was given by Erasmus. His fame spread from Venice throughout Europe after the publication in 1508 of his Adagiorum Chiliades. This collection contained 3,260 proverbs drawn from classical authors.

The success of the book led to several augmented editions culminating with that of 1536, which contains 4,151 proverbs. Erasmus’ work was translated into several European languages. While it became the model for future proverb collections in those languages, they were widely copied and translated.

One good example of such a practice is the 1591 Italian collection Giardino di Ricreatione, nel quale crescono fronde, fiori e frutti, vaghe, leggiadri e soavi, sotto nome di sei miglia proverbii, e piacevoli riboboli Italiani, colti e scelti da Giovanni Florio. And two decades later appeared in French as Le Jardin de Récréation, au quel croissent rameaux, fleurs et fruits très-beaux, gentils et souefs, soubz le nom de Six mille proverbes et plaisantes rencontres françoises, recueillis et triéez par GOMÈS DE TRIER, non seulement utiles mais délectables pour tous espritz désireux de la très-noble et copieuse langue françoise, nouvellement mis en lumière, à Amsterdam, par PAUL DE RAVESTEYN.

Proverbs and Fun

Proverbs by James Chapman - duck
If the world flooded, it wouldn’t matter to the duck

On the less academic side, you can test your knowledge of languages by solving our bilingual or multilingual crosswords. Or, you can listen to our featured proverbs in 6 languages – English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish. Also, enjoy sharing them with your friends. Some were posted on Twitter as comments to political events of the day.

Painters in Renaissance time, from Hieronymus Bosch to Pieter Bruegel, with his famous Netherlandish Proverbs, were attracted by the subject.

Modern artists like James Chapman illustrated recently proverbs from other world languages with hilarious cartoons. See some of his images on this page.

The full text of this bibliography is published in De Proverbio - Issue 1:1995, an electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.


  1. Akimova, T.M., V.K. Arkhangel'skaia, and V.A. Bakhtina. "Poslovitsy i pogovorki." In T.M. Akimova, V.K. Arkhangel'skaia, and V.A. Bakhtina. Russkoe narodne poeticheskoe tvorchestvo. Moskva: Vysshaia shkola, 1983. 125-136.

  2. Alster, Bendt. "Paradoxical Proverbs and Satire in Sumerican Literature." Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 27 (1975), 201-230.

  3. Alster, Bendt. "Sumerian Proverb Collection Seven." Revue d'assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale, 72 (1978), 97-112.

  4. Alster, Bendt. "An Akkadian and a Greek Proverb. A Comparative Study." Die Welt des Orients, 10 (1979), 1-5.

  5. Alster, Bendt. "Sumerian Proverb Collection XXIV." Assyriological Miscellanies, 1 (1980), 33-50.

  6. Alster, Bendt. "Sumerian Literary Texts in the National Museum, Copenhagen." Acta Sumerologica, 10 (1988), 1-15 (pp. 4-15: Sumerian Proverb Collection XXIII).

  7. Alster, Bendt. "An Akkadian Animal Proverb and The Assyrian Letter ABL 555." Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 41 (1989), 187-193.

  8. Alster, Bendt. "Väterliche Weisheit in Mesopotamien." Weisheit: Archäologie der literarischen Kommunikation. Ed. A. Assmann. München: Wilhelm Fink, 1991. 103-115.

  9. Anikin, V.P., and Iu.G. Kruglov. "Poslovitsy i pogovorki." In V.P. Anikin and Iu.G. Kruglov. Russkoe narodnoe poeticheskoe tvorchestvo. Leningrad: Prosveshchenie, 1983. 116-134 and 339-340.

  10. Arora, Shirley L. "Weather Proverbs: Some "Folk" Views." Proverbium, 8 (1991), 1-17.

  11. Avishur, Y. "Additional Parallels of an Akkadian Proverb Found in the Iraqi Vernacular Arabic." Die Welt des Orients, 12 (1981), 37-38.

  12. Bakladzhiev, Samuil. "Xiperbola - litota v bulgarskite poslovici i pogovorki." Problemi na bulgarskija folklor, 7 (1987), 194-197.

  13. Balemans, Will, and Caspar van de Ven. "Automatisering binnen het project 'De Brabantse Spreekwoorden' van de Hein Mandosstichting te Waalre." Mededelingen van de Nijmeegse Centrale voor Dialect- en Naamkunde, 21 (1987-1988), 69-79.

  14. Balint, Sandor. "Szeged müvelödéstörténete a varos szolashagyomanyaiban." Magyar Nyelvör, 83 (1959), 471-479.

  15. Bardakhanova, S.S. "Khudozhestvennye osobennosti buriatskikh poslovits." Traditsionny i fol'klor buriat. Eds. E.N. Kuz'mina and A.I. Ulanov. Ulan-Ude: Buriatskii Filial, 1980. 110-126.

  16. Bardakhanova, S.S. "Poslovitsy - on'hon ugenuud." In S.S. Bardakhanova. Malye zhanry buriatskogo fol'klora. Ulan-Ude: Buriatskoe knizhnoe izdatel'stvo, 1982. 21-76.

  17. Baur, Rupprecht S., and Peter Grzybek. "Untersuchungen zu einem parömiologischen Minimum im Deutschen." Interkulturelle Kommunikation. Kongreßbeiträge zur 20. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Angewandte Linguistik. Ed. Bernd Spillner. Bern: Peter Lang, 1990. 220-223.

  18. Bluhm, Lothar. "Sprichwörter und Redensarten bei den Brüdern Grimm." Sprichwörter und Redensarten im interkulturellen Vergleich. Eds. Annette Sabban and Jan Wirrer. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1991. 206-224.

  19. Boeder, Winfried. "Struktur und Interpretation georgischer Sprichwörter aus Chewßuretien." Sprichwörter und Redensarten im interkulturellen Vergleich. Eds. Annette Sabban and Jan Wirrer. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1991. 139-161.

  20. Bornstein, Valerie. "A Case Study and Analysis of Family Proverb Use." Proverbium, 8 (1991), 19-28.

  21. Braun, Peter, and Dieter Krallmann. "Inter-Phraseologismen in europäischen Sprachen." Internationalismen. Studien zur interlingualen Lexikologie und Lexikographie. Eds. Peter Braun, Burkhard Schaeder, and Johannes Volmert. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1990. 74-86.

  22. Broek, Marinus A. van den. "Sprachliche Vergleiche in der frühreformatorischen Flugschriftenliteratur." Proverbium, 8 (1991), 29-53.

  23. Burton, John D. An Information Processing Analysis of the Interpretation of Proverbs by Grade Nine Students: An Exploratory Study. Diss. University of Ottawa, 1989. 195 pp.

  24. Bushui, A.M., and A.N. Lies. Bibliograficheskii ukazatel' po paremiologii: Paremiologiia Kirgizii. Samarkand: Samarkandskii gosudarstvennyi pedagogicheskii institut, 1987. 85 pp.


The full text of this bibliography is published in De Proverbio - Issue 1:1995, an electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.


  1. Vranska, Isvetana. "Bulgarskite narodni poslovitsi s istoricheska tematika v sravnenie s poslovitsite na ostanalite slavianski narodi." Slavianskaia filologiia. Sbornik statei. Ed. V.I. Borkovsky. Moskva: Nauka, 1958. III, 334-356.

  2. Waterhouse, William C. "The Case of the Persian Proverb ['There is Danger for Him who Taketh the Tiger Cub, and Danger also for whoso Snatches a Delusion from a Woman']." The Baker Street Journal: An Irregular Quarterly of Sherlockiana, 40, no. 3 (1990), 135-136.

  3. Wenliang, Yang. "Chinesische und deutsche idiomatische Redewendungen. Kontrastive Betrachtungen." Muttersprache, 101 (1991), 106-115.

  4. Wienker-Piepho, Sabine. "Sozialisation durch Sprichwörter: Am Beispiel eines anglo-amerikanischen Bestsellers." Proverbium, 8 (1991), 179-189.

  5. Williams. Fionnuala. "Irish Versions of Some Proverbs Found in Scots." Review of Scotiish Culture, no. 6 (1990), 53-60.

  6. Williams, Fionnuala. "Survey of 'It's All Double Dutch to Me'." Proverbium, 8 (1991), 203.

  7. Williams, Fionnuala. "'To Kill Two Birds with One Stone': Variants in a War of Words." Proverbium, 8 (1991), 199-201.

  8. Winton, Alan P. The Proverbs of Jesus. Issues of History and Rhetoric. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990. 236 pp.

  9. Wirrer, Jan. "Anmerkungen zur Sprichwortkultur Madagaskars." Sprichwörter und Redensarten im interkulturellen Vergleich. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1991. 175-186.

  10. Zimin, V.I., and M.S. Kharlitskii. "Etimologicheskii aspekt v opisanii frazeologii i paremii." Bulgarskaia rusistika, no. 2 (1990), 55-61.


Wolfgang Mieder
Department of German and Russian
Waterman Building
University of Vermont
Burlington, Vermont 05405


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The banner illustration is a fragment of Pieter Bruegel's painting "The Netherlandish Proverbs", 1559