It takes a long time to build up a good reputation, but this reputation is quickly lost by just one crime or piece of bad behaviour. It often takes years to build a strong reputation, but just one misstep can lead to it being destroyed.
This proverb reminds us to be mindful of our actions, as they can have long-lasting consequences.
The origin of the proverb is uncertain, but it is likely to have originated in ancient Greek or Roman times. It was first recorded in English in the 16th century, but may have been in use in other languages for much longer.