Malay proverbs

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The Malay archipelago consists of several groups of different Malays, therefore proverbs will differ from place to place (Indonesian proverbs may be slightly, or variedly different from Malaysian proverbs).

  • (Setinggi-tinggi tupai melompat, akhirnya jatuh ke tanah juga) No matter how high the squirrel jumps, it will eventually fall onto the ground.
  • (Jangan disangka air yang tenang tiada buaya) Do not think that placid water is without crocodiles.
  • (Sudahlah jatuh, ditimpa tangga pula) - After Falling, The ladder falls on you. Meaning after one bad things another follows.
  • (Harimau mati meninggalkan belang, manusia mati meninggalkan nama) - Tigers die and leave their stripes (on their fur), but humans die leaving their names (reputation).
  • (Sesal dahulu pendapatan, Sesal kemudian tiada gunanya) - literally, being regretful early will be advantageous, being regretful later is of no use. Compare: Think before you leap
  • (Sedikit-sedikit,lama-lama menjadi bukit) - Bit by bit, in the end it becomes a hill. Meaning, to do something big, you start with something small.
  • (Bagaikan kacang lupakan kulit) - Like the peanut, who forgets its shell. i.e. man who forgets his roots
  • (Lembu punya susu, sapi dapat nama) - Milk belongs to the cow, but the bull cow gets the publicity.
  • (Diam-diam ubi berisi, diam-diam besi berkarat) - The Potato grows in silence, The iron (Fe) corrodes in silence. I.e some quiet persons have internal quality some dont.
  • ( Alang-alang menyeluk pekasam, biar sampai ke pangkal lengan) - As long as you happen to put your hand in a container full of pickles, might as well dip your whole arm in the container. i.e. If you are going to do something, you might as well go all the way. This come from the fact that the ripest pickles sink to the bottom, thus if a person is putting their hand in the jar, they might as well go all the way and take the best from the bottom of the jar.
  • (Bagai beruk kena belacan) - Like a monkey who eats belacaan (a Malay traditional foodstuff; chilli paste which is pungent and spicy ala chili con carne). This means that a person is in a state of panic or hyperactivity, as a monkey would be shouting and screaming after eating said food.
  • (Berat sama dipikul, ringan sama dijinjing) - A heavy load should be borne together as well as a light load.
  • (Sediakan payung sebelum hujan) - Prepare the umbrella before it rains.
  • (Marahkan nyamuk, kelambu dibakar) - Just because you are irritated by a mosquito, you burn the mosquito curtain.
  • (Tak tahu menari, salahkan lantai) - Because of lack of talent in dancing, the floor is blamed. (i.e. uneven, bumpy etc.etc.) i.e A bad workman often blames his tools.
  • (Hendak seribu daya,tak hendak seribu dalih) - If you want something, you'll do a thousand things to obtain it.But if you don't want something, you'll give a thousand excuses to refrain from it"
  • (Bersatu kita teguh, bercerai kita roboh) - United we stand, divided we fall"
  • (Sebab nila setitik,rosak susu sebelanga) - Because of a drop of blue dye,a whole pot of milk is contaminated . i.e. just because of a person's fault,the whole community/group related to the person gets a bad reputation.
  • ("Hujan emas di negeri orang,hujan batu di negeri sendiri,lebih baik negeri sendiri") - Gold rain drops on a foreign country,wherelse rain of stones drops on our country,but our country is better.
  • (Seperti Belanda meminta tanah) - Like the Dutch claiming land (note:the Dutch used to colonise Indonesia and Malacca , now a state in west Malaysia) and (Beri betis,hendak paha) - calf is given,but then thigh is requested . i.e. a greedy person,when a little is given,he/she will ask for more.
  • (Seperti bumi dengan langit) - The earth compared to the sky . i.e. very distinctive.
  • (Melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya) - To bend a bamboo, start when it's a shoot. An English equivalent is "Strike the iron while it's hot."
  • (Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung) - On which soil we stand on, that is where we carry the weight of the sky. Meaning that we should follow the local customs and way of life, or respect it. Also, we should be loyal to the land in whose soil we gain profit. Somewhat similar to 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do'.
  • (Dimana ada kemahuan, disitu ada jalan) - When there's a will, there's a way.
  • (Nasi sudah menjadi bubur) - Rice had become porridge. The meaning is the situation happend cannot be change as well as porridge cannot becoming back to rice again.
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