Japanese proverbs

Japanese proverbs

= "Kotowaza" =

A nihongo|Japanese proverb|, ことわざ|kotowaza may take the form of:

*a short saying (言い習わし "iinarawashi"),
*an idiomatic phrase (慣用句 "kan'yōku"), or
*a four-character idiom (四字熟語 "yojijukugo").

Although "proverb" and "saying" are practically synonymous, the same cannot be said about "idiomatic phrase" and "four-character idiom". Not all "kan'yōku" and "yojijukugo" are proverbial. For instance, the "kan'yōku" 狐の嫁入り "kitsune no yomeiri" (Literally: a fox's wedding. Meaning: a sun-shower) and the "yojijukugo" 小春日和 "koharubiyori" (Literally: small spring weather. Meaning: warm spring-like weather in early winter) are "not" proverbs. To be considered a proverb, a word or phrase must express a common truth or wisdom; it cannot be a mere noun.

The Japanese love proverbs and use them frequently in their everyday life, often citing just the first part of a well-known phrase in an effort to be brief. For example, one might say "I no naka no kawazu" 井の中の蛙 to refer to the proverb "I no naka no kawazu, taikai o shirazu" 井の中の蛙、大海を知らず.

Because traditional Japanese culture was tied to agriculture, many Japanese proverbs are derived from agricultural customs and practices. Some are from the Go game (e.g., "fuseki o utsu" 布石を打つ) and Buddhism and many four-character idioms are from Chinese philosophy, in particular "The Analects" by Confucius.

The heavy employment of proverbs enables Japanese language to be compact, quick and simple. Evidence might be found in Japanese animation and manga, but also appears in news and cultural programs, and in much fiction.

A list of Japanese proverbs can be found at .

Examples of Japanese proverbs

Sayings

*案ずるより産むが易し。
** "Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi."
**Literally: Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it.
**Meaning: Fear is greater than the danger. / An attempt is sometimes easier than expected.

*出る杭は打たれる。
** "Deru kui wa utareru."
** Literally: The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.
** Meaning: The nonconformist will be pounded down. / Don't make waves.

*知らぬが仏
** "Shiranu ga hotoke."
** Literally: Not knowing is Buddha.
** Meaning: Ignorance is bliss. / It's better to not know the truth.

*見ぬが花
** "Minu ga hana."
** Literally: Not seeing is a flower.
** Meaning: Not what I expected. / Reality can't compete with imagination.

Idiomatic phrases

* "neko ni koban"
** Literally: gold coins to a cat
** Meaning: casting pearls before swine / Giving something of value to a recipient that does not value it

*七転び八起き "nanakorobi yaoki"
** Literally: stumbling seven times but recovering eight
** Meaning: Bouncing back up as often as Fortune knocks one down

*猿も木から落ちる "Saru mo ki kara ochiru"
** Literally: Even monkeys fall from trees
** Meaning: Anyone can make a mistake. Also used to warn pride comes before a fall.

Four-character idioms

* 十人十色 " jūnin toiro"
** Literally: ten persons, ten colors
** Meaning: To each his/her own. / Different strokes for different folks.
* 悪因悪果 "akuin akka"
** Literally: evil cause, evil effect
** Meaning: Sow evil and reap evil. / The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. / You reap what you sow
* 弱肉強食 "jaku niku kyō shoku"
** Literally: weak, meat; strong, eat
** Meaning: Survival of the fittest.

See also

*Japanese culture
*Japanese language

External links

* [http://www.thejapanesepage.com/kotowaza.htm Japanese Language Kotowaza - proverbs & sayings]
* [http://www.ok312.com/ Words of Wisdom OK312 「英⇔日」対照・名言ことわざ辞典]
* [http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/5623/kotowjis.html Nihon no Kotowaza]
* [http://www.nihongoweb.com/kotowaza/ Kotowaza On-Line]
* [http://www4.airnet.ne.jp/swata/swkoto_a.html ことわざ辞典] (in Japanese)
* [http://www.languagerealm.com/japanese/japaneseproverbs.php Japanese Kotowaza] (in Japanese and English)
* [http://www.kotowaza.org Japanese / English / Dutch v.v. Proverb dictionary]


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