Famous Greek proverbs and sayings

Greek Sayings and Proverbs For Unique Life Lessons

When I was a kid, I felt like everything my Yiayia said should be written down in a book. In some ways, I still do! But it turns out that many of her interesting and funny sayings are actually famous Greek proverbs.

Each of these sayings and proverbs is very different. Some you may have heard and others you may be seeing for the first time. Either way, I hope they make you smile, laugh, and perhaps even look at the world a little more strangely.

10 Greek Proverbs & Sayings

1. “Wine and children speak the truth.” ~Greek proverb

Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with a kid or tipsy/drunk person would probably agree there’s truth to this Greek proverb. I think of it like the Greek version of “drunken words are sober thoughts.”

2. “Better a drop of wisdom than an ocean of gold.” ~Greek proverb

A reminder to prioritize wisdom over financial wealth; learning over earning money. Wisdom is priceless.

3. “It is not possible to step twice into the same river.” ~Heraclitus

Change is constant. This saying, which is said to have originated from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, can be interpreted as a way of saying that while things look the same, they’re always in flux. My interpretation is also that two things can be true at once: the river looks the same and it is not the same. Both are right in a way. Nothing is ever completely fixed.

4. “It’s better to have five in your hand than ten lurking elsewhere.” ~ Greek proverb

This would not be a good slogan for Las Vegas! In all seriousness, I love this proverb. It’s grounding, reminding me to appreciate what I have rather than to always be in pursuit of something better. We can all probably benefit from a reminder to enjoy more of what we have.

5. “An open enemy is better than a false friend.” ~Greek proverb

Do you agree? The importance of honesty is at the heart of many Greek proverbs. Which makes sense as a study finds that Greeks are more honest than people from other countries. So be careful what you ask… you may get a more honest answer than you’d like. I know I have received (painfully) honest statements from my Greek relatives over the years!

6. “A heart that loves is always young.” ~Greek proverb

At first this saying made me think of romantic love as a way of channeling a sense of youth into all stages of life. Which I think it is – but it also can be interpreted as love for family, friends, hobbies, and passions. In fact, a study showed that people who dedicate more than two hours a day to a hobby were 21 percent likely to live longer. So write your novel, paint your painting, crochet your blanket! Whatever brings you joy and love – do it with pride. And hey, it might just keep you alive longer!

7. “If you cannot catch a fish, do not blame the sea.” ~Greek proverb

It’s easy to blame a circumstance and play the victim rather than look inward. I remember my Yiayia said this to me when I was in college and complained that it was hard to learn in big lecture classrooms, which was why I didn’t get better grades my first quarter. She was right – I really needed to study more! But it’s a good reminder to check oneself to see if something is really a personal problem masked as a complaint about something else.

8. “How you make your bed is how you are going to sleep.” ~Greek proverb

A way of saying, “You reap what you sow.” Actions have consequences, and so does inaction.

9. “Whatever is good to know is difficult to learn.” ~Greek proverb

Learning is a journey. And sometimes the most challenging journeys are the most fulfilling. I say this proverb to myself when I get frustrated during Modern Greek language lessons. Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it – actually, it could mean just the opposite.

10. “One swallow does not make a summer.” ~Aristotle

Have you ever started celebrating a bit prematurely? Yeah, me too. I interpret these words by Aristotle to mean: just because something looks one way – doesn’t mean that it is. Wait and see before making conclusions, whether that’s about a person or season.

What’s your favorite Greek proverb? I’d love to hear in the comments.

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