Simple Persian Proverbs, rich with meaning, but light on complicated vocabulary!
Every language has proverbs. But Farsi, in particular, has tons of them, and they’re used often (as well as many idioms used in everyday life).
I grew up around some but rarely used them. In reviewing books and lists of proverbs I recognised a few and spoke to my teachers about others.
Here’s my list of favourite Farsi proverbs that are easy to digest and fun to use.
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|مرغ همسایه غازه||morgheh hamsayeh ghaazeh||The neighbour’s chicken is a goose.||The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence|
|ماهی را هروقت از آب بگیری تازه است||maahi raa har vaqt az aab begiri taazeh ast||Whenever you catch the fish it is fresh.||It’s never too late.|
|هم خدا را میخواهد، هم خرما را||ham khodaa raa mikhaad, ham khormaa raa||He wants both God and the date||You can’t have your cake and eat it too.|
|شتر دیدی؟ ندیدی||shotor didi? nadidi||Did you see the camel? No you did not!||You see nothing; you hear nothing.|
|با یک دست نمی توان دو هندوانه بر داشت||baa yek dast nemitunaan do henduneh bardaasht||You can’t lift two watermelons with one hand.||Get some help!|
|جوینده یابنده است.||juyandeh yaabandeh ast||The seeker is the finder||Nothing ventured, nothing gained|
|نمک خوردن و نمکدون شکستن.||namak khordan va namakdun shekastan||They ate salt, and broke the salt shaker||Don’t bite the hand that feeds you|
|هر گردی گردو نیست||har gerdi gerdu nist||Not every sphere is a walnut.||Not everything that glitters is gold|
|با حلوا حلوا گفتن دهان شیرین نمی شود.||baa halvaa halvaa goftan dahaan shirin nemishavad||Saying “Halva” doesn’t make your mouth sweet||Wishes don’t wash the dishes|
|تا تنور داغ است نان باید پخت.||taa tanur daagh ast naan bayad pokht||Bake bread while the oven is hot||Make hay while the sun shines|
|مگه پول علف خرسه||mageh pul alaf-e kherseh?||Why, is money just leaves to a bear?||Does money grow on trees?|
|توانا بود هر که دانا بود||tavaanaa bud har keh daanaa bud||Whoever is named (or “wise”) is powerful||Knowledge is power|
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مرغ همسایه غازه — “The Neighbour’s chicken is a goose”
This might be alarming to you! But it implies a goose is more valuable than a chicken. Even though I’ve never eaten goose, I can understand the allegation.
Farsi learner’s notes:
- There’s no “e” sound after the word for chicken (مرغ), but it’s pronounced, to indicate ownership. This is called “ezaafeh”.
- This proverb is colloquial. You say “it’s a goose” by saying “غازه”, rather than the formal Farsi of “غاز است”. See here for more on colloquial vs formal Farsi.
هر گردی گردو نیست — “Not everything that’s round is a walnut”
Persians love walnuts! The core of a walnut is called its “brain” (مغز), for obvious reasons. (I think this is the real reason why also a lot of people believe walnuts are good for your brain… even though research confirms that they actually are.)
Farsi learner’s note: the words for “sphere/circle” (گرد) and “walnut” (گردو) are related, though I’m not sure which comes from which.
هم خدا را میخواهد، هم خرما را — “He/She wants both God and the date”
Dates are prized in Farsi culture, just like they are in most of the Middle East.
Iranian dates are a little different. Softer, and gentler, and preferred by Iranians.
Farsi learner’s note: This is a proverb not just because the date is prized, but because the words for “God” (خدا, khodaa)and “date” (خرما, khormaa) happen to rhyme.
با یک دست نمی توان دو هندوانه بر داشت — “You can’t lift two watermelons with one hand”
Iranians love watermelons, so I’d expect to see someone trying to carry as many watermelons as possible.
This isn’t unique to Farsi, but I’ve never heard it said in any other language
Farsi learner’s note: The word for watermelon (هندوانه) is literally pronounced “hendevaaneh”, but nobody says this in Iran — you’ll only hear people saying it “henduneh”. Just another example of colloquial vs formal pronunciation.
مگه پول علف خرسه — “Why, is money just leaves to a bear?”
This proverb means “money doesn’t grow on trees”. Bears just play on piles of leaves, and you wouldn’t do the same with a pile of money, would you?
Farsi learner’s note: This saying has the word مگه (mageh) in it, which literally (and sometimes colloquially) is written مگر (magar). It’s difficult to translate, but you hear it at the beginning of sentences where the speaker is a bit surprised. Likethe word “why” in “Why, do you want us to be late?” or “Why, do you think it’s a good idea to play with fire?”
توانا بود هر که دانا بود — Power comes to those that are wise
Or literally — “knowledge is power”.
This one isn’t unique to Farsi at all. But I’m throwing it in as it has my name, “Dana” in it. Farsi learners — can you see it and see how to spell my name in Farsi?