8 animal proverbs in English and Italian

Proverbs are the most interesting means of language: they represent society’s values and beliefs and they’re always true and current, no matter how old they are. Let’s have a look at 8 proverbs with names of animals in English and Italian that you must hear at least once in your life!

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

This proverb means that a benefit that is available now is more valuable than a possible later benefit. What’s the Italian corresponding saying, you may ask? Well, it’s “meglio un uovo oggi che una gallina domani”, which can be translated as “an egg today is better than a chicken tomorrow”. You get the same idea, don’t you?


The early bird catches the worm.

The meaning of this proverb is that doing something early, like waking up early (sorry night owls!), is the best way to succeed. In Italian, the idea of sleeping until late in the morning is not encouraged at all with the proverb “chi dorme non piglia pesci”, meaning “he who sleeps doesn’t catch any fish”.

Curiosity killed the cat.

This proverb means that being curious can get you into trouble. In Italian, we say “tanto va la gatta al lardo che ci lascia lo zampino”, which literally means “the cat goes to the lard so often that she forgets her pawprints”. Be careful, kitty!

When the cat’s away, the mice will play.

The meaning of this proverb is that the subordinates do whatever they want when no one in authority is around. We have the exact same expression in Italian: “quando il gatto non c’è, i topi ballano”.

A leopard can’t change its spots.

This proverb is used to say that a person’s character (especially a bad one) will never change, even if they pretend it has. The Italian corresponding proverb is “il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio”, which can be literally translated as “the wolf loses its hair, but not its vice”.


Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

That’s a weird proverb, isn’t it? It means that you should never criticise a gift you receive. We say the same in Italian: “a caval donato non si guarda in bocca”.

A barking dog never bites.

This proverb describes a person that makes threats, but never carries them out. The exact same expression is used in Italian: “can che abbaia non morde”. Woof!

Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

The advice given by this proverb is not to make plans based on future events that might not happen. To express the same idea, we Italians advise not to sell the skin of the bear before it’s killed with the proverb non vendere la pelle dell’orso prima di averlo ucciso.


These are enough proverbs for today! If you know other proverbs with animals in English and Italian, add them in the comments below.

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