The Top Three Japanese Proverbs

Ok, I don’t have an official list, but these three proverbs tend to be the first new learners learn. I like pushing ことわざ kotowaza proverbs and other famous sayings because you essentially kill two birds with one stone – 1) you can learn new vocabulary and 2) learn a bit of cultural Japanese.

Speaking of killing birds:

#1: 一石二鳥 isseki ni chou

MEANING: “to kill two birds with one stone” lit: “one stone; two birds”

BREAK IT DOWN:

一石 isseki
(This is ICHI with SEKI = ISSEKI (the ICHI becomes いっ, making a short skip between I and SEKI))
ichi – one; seki – stone, rock”

ni
“two”

chou
“bird”
(OTHER READINGS: tori)

NOTE: this is the same as the English, to kill 2 birds with 1 stone.


#2: 猿も木から落ちる。 saru mo ki kara ochiru.

MEANING: “Even monkeys fall from trees. (Even experts mess up once in a while.)”

BREAK IT DOWN:

saru
(Other readings: en)
“monkey”

mo = “also, too”

ki
(Other readings: MOKU, BOKU)
“tree”
(OTHER: MOKU YOU BI – Thursday)

から kara = “from”

落ちる ochiru
“to fall, drop”


#3: 十人十色 juu nin to iro

MEANING: “different strokes for different folks” lit: “10 people; 10 colors”

BREAK IT DOWN:

juu
“ten”
(OTHER READINGS: to)

nin
“people, person”
(OTHER READINGS: hito, jin)

iro
“color”
(OTHER READINGS: shoku)

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