Canadian Proverbs

Canada is the world’s second largest country in land area (after Russia), although it has a medium sized population of 32 million people. The country has a wide variety of geographical features, including mountains, rivers, lakes, islands, plains, lowlands, and continental shields. Canadians have a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, although more than half of its people have British or French ancestry.

Canadian folklore is the traditional material that Canadians pass down from generation to generation, either as oral literature or “by custom or practice”. It includes songs, legends, jokes, rhymes, proverbs, weather lore, superstitions, and practices such as traditional food-making and craft-making. The largest bodies of folklore in Canada belong to the aboriginal and French-Canadian cultures. English-Canadian folklore and the folklore of recent immigrant groups have added to the country’s folk.

We have collected most popular Canadian proverbs and sayings.

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Canada Flag and Map

A friend in need is a friend indeed. – Canadian Proverbs

A penny saved is a penny gained. – Canadian Proverbs

A picture of Justin Trudeau protesting is worth a thousand policies. – Canadian Proverbs

All Hallows moon, witches soon. – Canadian Proverbs

All that glitters is not gold. – Canadian Proverbs

Brute force and ignorance always prevails. – Canadian Proverbs

Challenge your preconceptions, or they will challenge you. – Canadian Proverbs

Do not put all your eggs in one basket. – Canadian Proverbs

Do not yell “dinner” until your knife is in the loaf. – Canadian Proverbs

Don’t eat yellow snow. – Canadian Proverbs

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. – Canadian Proverbs

Don’t beat about the bush. – Canadian Proverbs

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. – Canadian Proverbs

Don’t judge a book by its cover. – Canadian Proverbs

Don’t judge the book by the cover. – Canadian Proverbs

Easier said than done. – Canadian Proverbs

Easier said than done. All Hallows moon, witches soon. – Canadian Proverbs

Every cook praises his own broth. – Canadian Proverbs

God Bless America, but God help Canada to put up with them!- Canadian Proverbs

Good things come to those who wait and never rebel against the British Empire. – Canadian Proverbs

His bark is worse than his bite. – Canadian Proverbs

If at first you don’t succeed, try again in French. – Canadian Proverbs

If you don’t have anything nice to say, say “sorey.” – Canadian Proverbs

It’s better to have loved and lost Kawhi Leonard than to never have won the NBA championship at all. – Canadian Proverbs

It’s no use crying over a spilt bag of milk. – Canadian Proverbs

Keep your friends close and the Quebecois closer. – Canadian Proverbs

Laugh all the way to the bank. – Canadian Proverbs

Lightning never strikes twice except the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series wins in 1992 and 1993. – Canadian Proverbs

Live long and prosper. – Canadian Proverbs

Look before you leap. – Canadian Proverbs

No man is an island, except Prince Edward. – Canadian Proverbs

Once bitten. Twice shy. – Canadian Proverbs

Once the last tree is cut and the last river poisoned, you will find you cannot eat your money. – Canadian Proverbs

Patience is a tree whose root is bitter, but its fruit is very sweet. – Canadian Proverbs

People who live in glass houses should mention that the United States is even more racist. – Canadian Proverbs

Pot calling the kettle black. – Canadian Proverbs

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in morning, sailors take warning. – Canadian Proverbs

Some pursue happiness, others create it. – Canadian Proverbs

The best things in life are free, like healthcare. – Canadian Proverbs

The devil places a pillow for a drunken man to fall upon. – Canadian Proverbs

The early bird catches the worm. – Canadian Proverbs

The grass is always greener on the other side of the Keystone Pipeline. – Canadian Proverbs

The journey of a thousand kilometres begins with a single step. – Canadian Proverbs

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. – Canadian Proverbs

There is no place like home. – Canadian Proverbs

There’s no trailer hitch on a hearse. – Canadian Proverbs

Think before you speak. – Canadian Proverbs

Through other people’s faults, wise men correct their own. – Canadian Proverbs

Throw the baby out with the bath water. – Canadian Proverbs

Time and tide wait for no man. – Canadian Proverbs

Turn the other cheek. – Canadian Proverbs

Two heads are better than one. – Canadian Proverbs

Walk a mile in my moccasins to learn where they pinch. – Canadian Proverbs

Waste not want not. – Canadian Proverbs

We never know the value of water till the well is dry. – Canadian Proverbs

We will cross that bridge when we get to it. – Canadian Proverbs

When you talk about the sun, you will see her beams. – Canadian Proverbs

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. – Canadian Proverbs

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink Molson Canadian. – Canadian Proverbs

You can’t catch skunks with mice. – Canadian Proverbs

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. – Canadian Proverbs

You can’t make a hockey team without breaking a few legs. – Canadian Proverbs

A penny saved is a penny earned. – Canadian Proverbs

A stitch in time saves nine. – Canadian Proverbs

A watched pot never boils. – Canadian Proverbs

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. – Canadian Proverbs

Actions speak louder than words. – Canadian Proverbs

Bad news travels fast. – Canadian Proverbs

Better late than never. – Canadian Proverbs

Better safe than sorry. – Canadian Proverbs

Curiosity killed the cat. – Canadian Proverbs

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. – Canadian Proverbs

Easy come, easy go. – Canadian Proverbs

Every cloud has a silver lining. – Canadian Proverbs

Give someone an inch, he/she will take a mile. – Canadian Proverbs

Honesty is the best policy. – Canadian Proverbs

Keep your fingers crossed! – Canadian Proverbs

Look before you leap. – Canadian Proverbs

Money is the root of all evil. – Canadian Proverbs

Never to old too learn. – Canadian Proverbs

No news is good news. – Canadian Proverbs

Practice makes perfect. – Canadian Proverbs

Practice what you preach. – Canadian Proverbs

Still waters run deep. – Canadian Proverbs

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. – Canadian Proverbs

The early bird gets the worm. – Canadian Proverbs

There are plenty of other fishes in the sea. – Canadian Proverbs

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. – Canadian Proverbs

To kill two birds with one stone. – Canadian Proverbs

Too many cooks spoil the broth. – Canadian Proverbs

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. – Canadian Proverbs

When it rains, it pours. – Canadian Proverbs

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. – Canadian Proverbs

Depiction of La chasse-galerie (The Flying Canoe), a popular French-Canadian folktale. The coureur des bois/voyageurs were featured in the folklore of Quebec.

Depiction of La chasse-galerie (The Flying Canoe), a popular French-Canadian folktale. The coureur des bois/voyageurs were featured in the folklore of Quebec.

French Canadian Expressions and Sayings

“J’ai mon voyage!”
“I’ve got my trip, I have traveled.” – French Canadian Expression

“Il se prend pour le boss des bécosses.”
“He thinks he is the toilets boss.” – French Canadian Expression

“Il est riche en titi.”
“He is very rich.” – French Canadian Expression

“Bédaine de bière.”
“Beer belly.” – French Canadian Expression

“Être en mosus”
“To be furious.” – French Canadian Expression


7 proverbs and expressions that Granny used to use

Languages are rich because they carry within them the culture and history of the people who speak them. They are kept alive when expressions are passed on from one generation to the next, and they have the power to rekindle memories. I was fortunate enough to know my great-grandmother, who never said much but often spoke in proverbs and expressions. Here are some of her sayings, along with their meanings:

1. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

If someone refuses to listen, it’s pointless to hope for a solution to the problem. This is the proverb that I quote most often, especially in interviews when I’m asked situational questions involving a difficult employee or manager. In Quebec, there’s a similar proverb: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

2. Better take him to the movies instead of a restaurant.

This saying refers to someone with a big appetite. Granny would use it when she watched my brother eat. Given the food available in movie theatres today, this proverb is debatable, but we still use it jokingly in my family.

3. It’s better when it’s not weighed.

We appreciate something more when we haven’t paid for it. We think that Granny was referring to something stolen and not just given. She wasn’t a thief, but she experienced deprivation under Nazi occupation, and she probably had to steal food to feed her husband and two children.

4. She doesn’t have both feet in the same clog.

This expression refers to someone who is very resourceful. In Brittany, where I come from, people wore wooden clogs until the middle of the 20th century, which explains the choice of words. Quebeckers use the same expression, but they say “boot” instead of “clog.”

5. It’s better for them to be together than to spoil things for two other people.

Granny avoided speaking ill of people directly and preferred to use euphemisms, like this expression. Referring to a mean or unpleasant couple, she meant that at least they weren’t ruining the lives of two good people.

6. Does a sick person want to be well?

When Granny was offered something she particularly liked, this was her way of saying “Yes, of course!” For example:

My uncle: “Want a chocolate cookie, Granny?”
Granny: “Dear, does a sick person want to be well?”

7. The dead are dead only when people stop talking about them.

This is the proverb that Granny would use with a lump in her throat, because she lost her husband and son very young. In his book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, author David Eagleman says something similar: it’s only when your name is spoken for the last time that you truly die. I quoted this proverb at my grandfather’s funeral and made the congregation laugh by telling an anecdote about him. I then asked my family and friends to keep talking about him so that he could go on living in another way. It’s a practice that I follow on a daily basis and a proverb that’s close to my heart.

Translated by Josephine Versace, Language Portal of Canada

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