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30 Popular Italian Proverbs To Live Your Life By

Sound like a native with 30 of the most popular Italian proverbs about life, love, success and other aspects of living life.

by Michele
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30 Popular Italian Proverbs To Live Your Life By
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Nothing reveals Italian culture quite like Italian proverbs. These nuggets of wisdom have stood the test of time, encapsulating the essence of what Italians value and believe.

Italians use many timeless expressions in their everyday conversations, condensing profound ideas into just a few words. Alongside learning Italian sayings about life, common Italian idioms, and popular everyday phrases, picking up a few Italian proverbs is a smart way to elevate your Italian skills to the next level. Nothing says, “I’m practically fluent” more than quoting centuries-old wisdom to a local!

In this guide, I share 30 of the most popular Italian proverbs that still resonate today. I’ve organized them by topic, and included some wonderful Latin proverbs that are sure to impress. Cominciamo! Let’s begin!

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Table of contents

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:

5 Italian Proverbs About Life

Italian Proverbs - Le bugie hanno le gambe corte Here are some fantastic Italian proverbs offering a never-ending well of wisdom to help you tackle each day and its challenges.

1. Le bugie hanno le gambe corte

Literal meaning: Lies have short legs

This is the most famous Italian proverb when it comes to lying, meaning that lies won’t endure or take us very far because they have “short legs.” In English, we’d say “lying will get you nowhere.”

2. Fidarsi è bene ma non fidarsi è meglio

Literal meaning: Trusting is good, but not trusting is better.

“Fidarsi è bene ma non fidarsi è meglio” is one of those pieces of wisdom Italians like to share with each other. Simply put, it suggests that while trusting is great, it’s also wise to be cautious and keep you guard up to avoid possible heartbreaks and disappointments. It’s like saying, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

3. Mal comune mezzo gaudio

Literal meaning: Shared trouble, shared joy

“Mal comune mezzo gaudio” is a popular Italian proverb revealing a deep truth about handling life’s ups and downs: when life throws problems our way, it’s often easier to cope if we open up to others. In English, we’d say that “a problem shared is a problem halved.”

4. La notte porta consiglio

Literal meaning: The night brings advice

As wise Italian nonnas often say, “la notte porta consiglio,” meaning that, when we’re facing a big decision, it’s a good idea to “sleep on it.” The idea behind this proverb is that a solid night’s sleep acts like a reset button for our mind, so we can tackle the problem with a fresh perspective.

5. Chi si fa i fatti suoi campa cent’anni

Literal meaning: He who minds his own business lives a hundred years

Embracing the wisdom of the Italian proverb “Chi si fa i fatti suoi campa cent’anni” means finding the elixir of life by steering clear of unnecessary meddling in other people’s affairs. So, let’s focus on our own path, and get set for a century of joyful living!

5 Italian Proverbs About Success

Italian Proverbs - Chi ha tempo non aspetti tempoSuccess doesn’t come easy and these Italian proverbs offer some valuable wisdom to give you a boost when you’re seeking inspiration.

6. Ogni lasciata è persa

Literal meaning: Everything left is lost

Every chance that comes our way is a valuable, one-of-a-kind moment—irreplaceable and fleeting. That’s the idea behind “Ogni lasciata è persa,” which translates to “Any chance you don’t take is lost forever” in English. This enduring Italian proverb is a strong reminder to seize every opportunity without overthinking or procrastinating.

7. A chi sa non manca nulla

Literal meaning: For those who know, nothing is missing

“A chi sa non manca nulla” is a beautiful Italian proverb that has its English equivalent in the expressions “Knowledge is power” or “The more you know, the less you need.” It suggests that when we are armed with knowledge, we are in charge of our destiny, and we don’t need any extra help to achieve our goals.

8. La gatta frettolosa ha fatto i figli ciechi

Literal meaning: The hasty cat has birthed blind kittens

The idea behind the proverb “La gatta frettolosa ha fatto i figli ciechi” is that when we hurry or act impulsively, we might not get the best outcome. As the English saying goes, “Haste makes waste.” This is a friendly reminder to slow down, take your time, and think things through.

9. Chi ha tempo non aspetti tempo

Literal meaning: Who has time, should not wait for time

“Chi ha tempo non aspetti tempo” is said as a friendly nudge to not procrastinate. It suggests that time keeps moving forward and doesn’t wait for anyone. Therefore, it’s best to go ahead and make the most of it. In English, a similar idea can be conveyed with the phrase “Time waits for no one.”

10. Chi non risica non rosica

Literal meaning: He who doesn’t take risks doesn’t gnaw

“Chi non risica non rosica” is a proverb of Tuscan origin that’s all about taking risks and chasing our dreams. Similar to the English adage, “No pain, no gain,” the underlying idea is that if we’re not willing to take a chance, we might miss out on some incredible rewards.

5 Italian Proverbs About Food

Italian Proverbs - Gallina vecchia fa buon brodoThe Italian proverbs below beautifully express deep truths about life by cleverly using the symbolism of different foods.

11. Buon vino fa buon sangue

Literal meaning: Good wine makes good blood

“Buon vino fa buon sangue,” often humorously uttered by nonnos as they hand you a glass, suggests that enjoying good wine is good for our heart and blood flow. In English, it’s similar to the saying, “A glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away.” So, here’s to good health and that deserved sip! Salute! (Cheers!)

12. Tutto fa brodo

Literal meaning: Everything makes broth

The Italian proverb “Tutto fa brodo” recognizes the importance of every small effort when working towards a bigger goal. Imagine asking what to bring to a party, and the host says “Tutto fa brodo.” Translation: just bring anything, it’ll be great. A similar proverb in English is “Every little helps.”

13. Meglio un uovo oggi che una gallina domani

Literal meaning: Better an egg today than a chicken tomorrow

Why wait for uncertain success in the future when we can enjoy a small but guaranteed win right now? That’s exactly what “meglio un uovo oggi che una gallina domani” suggests – let’s be practical and appreciate what we have right now. In English, we say, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

14. Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo

Literal meaning: Old hen makes good broth

“Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo” is like saying that, just as an old hen is believed to make a more flavorful broth, women get better with age. In English, we have a similar saying, “there’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle.” So, just like fine wine, both hens and women get better with time and bring more to the table!

15. Chi ha i denti non ha il pane e chi ha il pane non ha i denti

Literal meaning: Who has teeth has no bread, and who has bread has no teeth

Imagine someone inherits a huge sum of money but doesn’t have a clue about how to make the most of it. You could jokingly remark, it’s like that Italian proverb: ‘Chi ha i denti non ha il pane e chi ha il pane non ha i denti.” This saying points out the irony of some people having impressive skills and big dreams but lacking the necessary resources, while others have wealth and opportunities but lack ambitious goals. In English, we’d say, “To have the means but not the know-how.”

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Italian Proverbs Cheat-Sheet! (Free PDF Download)

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5 Italian Proverbs About Love and Relationships

Italian Proverbs - Tra moglie e marito non mettere il ditoHere are some intriguing Italian sayings that offer helpful advice for navigating the ups and downs of love and relationships:

16. Meglio soli che mal accompagnati

Literal meaning: Better alone than in bad company

“Meglio soli che mal accompagnati” is a proverb Italians often use to explain why they prefer being single. The whole idea is that it’s better to fly solo than spend time with someone who’s not a good match and could make you suffer.

17. Tra moglie e marito non mettere il dito

Literal meaning: Between husband and wife, don’t put your finger

“Tra moglie e marito non mettere il dito” is a popular Italian proverb that wisely suggests not getting involved in the personal matters of a married couple. This advice comes in handy, especially for mothers-in-law, who might have a tendency to interfere where they shouldn’t. In English, you might say, “Never come between a husband and his wife.”

18. Amore e gelosia, nascono in compagnia

Literal meaning: Love and jealousy, they arise in company

“Non c’è amore senza gelosia” means there is no love without jealousy. In English, it’s like saying “Love and jealousy go hand in hand” or “Where there is love, there is also jealousy.” Even if we don’t fully buy into the concept, it does make you think.

19. In amore vince chi fugge

Literal meaning: In love, the winner is the one who flees

Italian moms love sharing this nugget of wisdom with their daughters: “In amore vince chi fugge,” which translates to “In love, he/she who flees wins.” It’s like a secret weapon, especially during the early stages of dating. Because acting a bit elusive isn’t just about adding a touch of mystery; it’s a way of figuring out if the other person is genuinely interested.

20. Amore non è senza amaro

Literal meaning: Love is not love without bitterness

“Amore non è senza amaro” – “there is no love without suffering” as we say in English – is an Italian proverb which tells us that love isn’t always smooth sailing but rather a bit like a rollercoaster, full of ups and downs.

5 Italian Proverbs About Friendship

Italian Proverbs - Amicizia stretta dal vino non dura da sera a mattinoThese Italian sayings wonderfully capture the essence of friendships, highlighting what makes a good friend and how to cultivate genuine companionship.

21. Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro

Literal meaning: Whoever finds a friend finds a treasure

I’m sure we can nod in agreement that friendship is like the ultimate treasure in life, right? That’s exactly what the Italian proverb “Chi trova un amico trova un tesoro” is all about, highlighting how rare and valuable true friendship is.

22. Val più un amico che cento parenti

Literal meaning: A friend is worth more than a hundred relatives

Expanding on the wisdom of the previous proverb, “Val più un amico che cento parenti” teaches us that a real friend can be more precious than family ties. While family dynamics often get all complicated with jealousy and drama, friends stand out as the real gems in life, sometimes even more valuable than family.

23. Amicizia stretta dal vino non dura da sera a mattino

Literal meaning: A friendship built on wine doesn’t last from evening to morning

The proverb “Amicizia stretta dal vino non dura da sera a mattino” encapsulates the idea that friendships formed over wine don’t endure the night and often fade as quickly as the sound of clinking prosecco glasses.

24. Amico di tutti, amico di nessuno

Literal meaning: Friend of everyone, friend of no one

Commonly used with a negative connotation, the Italian proverb “Amico di tutti, amico di nessuno” suggests that those who try to be friends with everyone (the ultimate social butterflies) might lack genuine intentions beyond their own interests. As a result, it’s best not to place too much trust in them.

25. Non c’è migliore specchio dell’amico vecchio

Literal meaning: There is no better mirror than an old friend

Among the Italian proverbs about friendship, “Non c’è miglior specchio dell’amico vecchio” emphasizes that old friends are the ones who know us inside and out. Just like a mirror, they reflect our true selves, helping us see who we really are.

5 Latin Proverbs

 Italian Proverbs - Repetita iuvantAh, the language of the ancient Romans! It’s unbelievable how many proverbs from Ancient Rome are still meaningful today. Here are some timeless pieces of wisdom to live by.

26. In vino veritas

Literal meaning: In wine there is truth

The old Latin saying “In vino veritas” means that when you’re sipping on some wine, the real truth comes out. It’s like, when you’re a bit tipsy, you feel more open and say what’s really on your mind. Ah, those drunken texts we’ve all sent!

27. Verba volant, scripta manent

Literal meaning: Spoken words fly away, written words remain

“Verba volant, scripta manent” is a fancy Latin proverb that suggests it’s a good idea to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) when sealing a deal. Think of it as a friendly reminder for making sure everyone’s on the same page and there are no surprises down the line.

28. Repetita iuvant

Literal meaning: Repeating does good

The Latin proverb “Repetita iuvant” is often used to affirm that hearing things repeatedly helps them stick in our mind. You know when your mum keeps telling you to answer the phone when she calls? That’s repetita iuvant in action!

29. Mens sana in corpore sano

Literal meaning: A sound mind in a sound body

Embodying ageless wisdom, the Latin proverb “Mens sana in corpore sano” highlights the clear link between a healthy body and a well-balanced mind. In simpler terms, it’s like saying that when your body feels good, your mind feels good too.

30. Tempus fugit

Literal meaning: Time flees

“Tempus fugit,” which translates to “time flies” in English, is a reminder to seize every moment, as time slips away quickly. So, let’s say goodbye to procrastination and embrace the opportunity to make the most of the present!

Want more? Don’t miss my guides where I share everyday phrases used by Italians, popular Italian expressions, and some hilarious Italian sayings. With these, you’ll sound like a true Italian in no time!

Keep practising!
Italian Proverbs Cheat-Sheet! (Free PDF Download)

Don't let the learning stop here. Download your free PDF guide to common Italian Proverbs.Includes the literal translation and English equivalent. Impariamo insieme! (Let's learn together!)

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30 Popular Italian Proverbs To Live By

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