Yiddish 241 (Autumn 2011)

Yiddish Proverbs

  1. A beyze tsung iz erger vi a shlekhter hant.
    A nasty tongue is worse than a wicked hand.
  2. A falshe matbeye farlirt men nisht.
    A bad penny never gets lost.
  3. A fremder bisn shmekt zis.
    Another man's morsel tastes sweet.
  4. A gantser nar iz a halber novi.
    A whole fool is half a prophet.
  5. A gast iz vi a regn: az er doyert tsu lang, vert er a last.
    A guest is like the rain: when he persists, he is a nuisance.
  6. A guter yid darf nit keyn briv; a shlekhtn yidn helft nit keyn briv.
    A good person needs no recommendation; no recommendation can help a bad person.
  7. A gutn vet der sheynk nit kalye makhn un a shlekhtn vet der besmedresh nit farikhtn.
    The tavern can't corrupt a good man, the synagogue can't reform a bad one.
  8. A halber emes iz a gantser lign.
    A half truth is a whole lie.
  9. A patsh fargeyt, a vort bashteyt.
    A blow subsides, a word abides.
  10. A shlekhter sholem iz beser vi a guter krig.
    Better a bad peace than a good war.
  11. Eyn sho gan-eydn iz oykh gut.
    Even one hour of heaven is worthwhile.
  12. Ale vayber hobn yerushe fun zeyer muter Khaye.
    All women are heirs to Mother Eve.
  13. An alter fraynd iz beser vi naye tsvey.
    Better one old friend than two new.
  14. An opgesheylte ey falt oykh nit aleyn in moyl arayn.
    Even a shelled egg won't leap into your mouth.
  15. Az a yid ken nit vern keyn shuster, troymt er fun vern a profesor.
    When a Jew can't be a cobbler, he dreams of becoming a professor.
    (or: Those who can do, do; those who can't, teach.)
  16. Az der soyne falt, tor men zikh nit freyen (ober men heybt im nit oyf).
    "Rejoice not at thine enemy's fall"—but don't pick him up either.
  17. Az es iz bashert eynem dertrunken tsu vern, vert er dertrunken in a left vaser.
    The person who's fated to drown will drown—in a spoonful of water.
  18. Az men git nit Yankeven, git men Eysevn.
    If you fail your own cause you support the other's.
  19. Az men hot gelt, iz men i klug, i sheyn, i men ken gut zingen.
    With money in your pocket, you are wise and you are handsome and you sing well, too.
  20. Der mentsh trakht un got lakht.
    Man proposes, God disposes.

Adapted from Yiddish Proverbs, edited by Hanan J. Ayalti
New York: Schocken Books, 1949.