Quiz: Can you define these well-known proverbs?

Proverbs — they’re phrases and sayings we’ve heard for most of our lives. They use analogy to express a long-held truth or to give advice based on common sense or experience.

But sometimes, if you try to define the proverb in your own words, you can’t quite figure it out. The analogy may be too obscure or the comparisons may be too abstract.

According to psychology and marketing professor Dr. Art Markman — author of the book Smart Thinking and co-host of the NPR show Two Guys on Your Head — thinking about the meanings of proverbs and re-defining them is a great problem-solving strategy. It helps us find clever ways to re-describe the problems we are trying to solve, which can lead to new ideas and novel solutions.

Practice with the proverbs below. Match the definition to each proverb. Check your answers at the end.



  1. It is a silly fish that is caught twice with the same bait.


  1. Never choose bed linens or a wife by candlelight.


  1. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.


  1. Sweep the snow off your own porch before you brush the frost from mine.


  1. The sweetest grapes hang highest.


  1. Still waters run deep.


  1. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.


  1. Let’s call a spade a spade.


  1. Empty barrels make the most noise.


  1. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet.


  1. A stitch in time saves nine.



  1. Call something by its right name; to speak frankly, even if it’s unpleasant.
  2. Take care of your own affairs before you meddle in someone else’s.
  3. Quiet people are often interesting and complex.
  4. If you solve the problem immediately, it may save extra work later.
  5. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
  6. Things liked by one person may be distasteful to another.
  7. The things we most want are often the most difficult to attain.
  8. Foolish and unwise people are often the most talkative.
  9. Don’t make decisions blindly.
  10. Don’t delay. Act now.
  11. Don’t criticize people for their faults if you have the same faults yourself.



  1. E
  2. I
  3. K
  4. B
  5. G
  6. C
  7. F
  8. A
  9. H
  10. J
  11. D


How did you do PR Daily readers? What other proverbs would you add to the list? Keep practicing with proverbs you find.

This post was also published on Ragan Communication’s PR Daily.



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