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Japanese proverbs and idiomatic phrases

icon 案ずるより産むが易し。
Anzuru yori umu ga yasashi.
Literally: Attempt is sometimes easier than expected.

icon 馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない。
Baka wa shinanakya naoranai.
Literally: Unless an idiot dies, he won't be cured.

icon 悪妻は百年の不作。
Akusai wa hyaku-nen no fusaku.
Literally: A bad wife spells a hundred years of bad harvest.

icon 残り物には福がある。
Nokorimono ni wa fuku ga aru.
Literally: Luck exists in the leftovers.

icon 猿も木から落ちる。
Saru mo ki kara ochiru.
Literally: Even monkeys fall from trees.

icon 井の中の蛙大海を知らず。
I no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu.
Literally: A frog in a well does not know the great sea.

icon 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず。
Nito wo ou mono wa itto wo mo ezu.
Literally: One who chases after two hares won't catch even one.

icon 継続は力なり。
Keizoku wa chikara nari.
Literally: Perseverance is strength.

icon 能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
Nō aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.
Literally: The talented hawk hides its claws (A wise man keeps some of his talents in reserve)

icon 猫に小判
Neko ni koban
Literally: gold coins to a cat.
Meaning: Giving a gift to someone who can't appreciate it; A useless gesture; "Pearls before swine."
Background: According to superstition, cats love round, shiny objects like coins even though they're ignorant of their true use, so this proverb also carries the connotation of an objective pursued without completely comprehending it.

icon 三日坊主
Mikka bōzu
Literally: a monk for (just) three days.
Meaning: Giving up at the first sign of difficulty.

icon 花よりだんご
Hana yori dango
Literally: dumplings over flowers
Meaning: The person to whom it is directed prefers practical gain to aesthetics.

icon 水に流す
Mizu ni nagasu
Literally: let flow in the water
Meaning: Forgive and forget; water under the bridge

icon 雨降って地固まる
Ame futte ji katamaru
Literally: after the rain, earth hardens
Meaning: Adversity builds character./After a storm, things will stand on more solid ground than they did before.

icon 石の上に三年
Ishi no ue ni san nen
Literally: Three years on the rock.
Meaning: It takes a long time sitting on a stone before it becomes warm. Expect to work at something for three years before you see results.