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The best collection of English proverbs and idioms

Explore our A to Z list of explained and easy-to-understand English proverbs, idioms and quotes.

Cat got your tongue proverb

Cat got your tongue

"Has the cat got your tongue?" is an expression in the form of a question that originated in the mid-nineteenth century and was used when addressing a child who refused to answer a parent's questions after some mischief. It is often shortened to "cat got your tongue?". It means... Read more →

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Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

In achieving your aim (of pouring away the bath water), make sure you don’t do something else (pouring away the baby) that more than cancels out your... more →

When the cat is away, the mice will play

This is a very old proverb, dating back to the sixteenth century. It means that when the person in authority is away, those under him will take advantage of... more →

He that cannot obey cannot command

We must learn to obey orders before we are qualified to give them. The experience gained in a subordinate position is invaluable when we have to take charge.

Self-praise is no recommendation

You may be proud of your achievements; you may have a very high opinion of yourself; you may thing that others should be made to realize what a fine fellow... more →

The early bird catches the worm

A person who gets up early in the morning has the best chance of success. Good advice to those who get up late in the morning, or miss opportunities by not... more →

Don’t wash your dirty linen in public

Another way to say this is: ‘Dirty linen should be washed at home.’ The meaning is that we should not discuss intimate family matters in public,... more →

Qui s’excuse, s’accuse

This French proverb that means the same as: He who excuses himself accuses himself. In other words, the more excuses you make for yourself, the guiltier you... more →

Excusatio non petita accusatio manifesta

The word-for-word translation is: An excuse that has not been sought [is] an obvious accusation. It’s English equivalent is: ‘He who excuses... more →

He who excuses himself accuses himself

We suspect that the person who makes too many excuses because he is probably covering up his ill actions. It is better to admit a thing frankly than to make... more →