Kannada Proverbs

My daddy is really good with using Kannada proverbs right in the nick of time. I and my brother love listening to those. So I thought I’ll jot some down for your reading pleasure. These are collected from various books/sites. This is just a compilation:

    • aDDa gODeya mEle dIpa iTTa hAge
      • It is like placing a lamp atop a partitioning wall)
      • This is said of people who refuse to take sides and try to be in the middle.
    • adalla daasappaa..’ andre guDi munde Ting andidnante
      • ‘Hey beggar, thats not..’, but he went ahead and asked for alms in front of temple)
    • aDikege hOda mAna Ane koTru barolla
      • The reputation lost for a betel nut cannot be regained by donating an elephant)
    • ajjige arive chinte, magaLige Maduve chinte
      • Grandma is worried about a piece of cloth to wear; the daughter is worried about marriage.)
      • This is said of irresponsible youngsters who expect a lot from parents who struggle to make ends meet.
    • akki mEle Ase, nenTara mEle prIti
      • There is love for rice and love for relatives too.)
      • The implication is that you cannot have a cake and eat it too.
    • ambali kuDiyuvavanige mIse tikkuvanobba 
      • For one who drinks swill there is one to trim his moustache)
      • This is said of people who live beyond their means.
    • antu intu kunti makkaLige entU rajyavilla
      • After this, that and the other, the sons of Kunti did not rule).
      • This proverb is reserved for unlucky ones who never make it however they struggle.
      • The Pandavas, sons of Kunti, spent their childhood and youth in exile. After they finally won the great battle of Mahabharata there was nothing to rule but a ghost kingdom.
    • attegondu kAla; sosegondu kAla
      • There is a time for mother-in-law and a time for daughter-in-law)
      • This proverb is similar to “Every dog has his day.” However the image of the mother-in-law who ruled the roost in joint families with a vengeance to make up for the indignities suffered during her daughter-in-law days is evident here.
    • AAseye DHukaKe Mula
      • The source of Sorrow is Greed
    • bekku kaNNu muchchikonDu hAlu kuDidante
      • It is like a cat drinking milk with eyes closed).
      • Meaning that others can see though a misdeed despite pretensions.
    • bEline eddu hola mEdre hEge?
      • The fence itself grazed through the field).
      • A fence is meant to stop cattle from grazing. What if the fence itself is a culprit? This proverb comes from a skepticism of those who break laws they are supposed to uphold.
    • bhangi dEvarige henDaguDuka pUjari 
      • For the God who is on dope you need a priest who is a drunk).
      • The underlings are usually quite a match for the rogues in power whom they serve.
    • chELige pArupathya koTTa hAge 
      • It is like giving authority to a scorpion).
      • If the mean people get into positions of authority they cause a great damage like a scorpion, which needs no reason to sting, would work overtime if asked to do so.
    • chinte illadavanige santeyallU nidde 
      • One without worries can doze off in a market place).
    • dEvaru vara koTTaru pUjAri vara koDa) 
      • The God may grant the boon but the priest will not).
      • Once again this is a dig at the underlings who are worse than the bureaucrats they serve.
    • dharmakke daTTi koTTare hittalige hOgi moLa hAkidaru 
      • When a cloth is given for charity it was measured in the backyard)
      • Similar to looking a gift horse in the mouth.
    • ettu ErigeLeyitu, kONa nIrigeLeyitu. 
      • The ox pulled to the shore, the buffalo pulled to the water).
      • This is a scene of a cart pulled by an ox and a buffalo which do not co-ordinate well and do what they please leading to a disaster. Mismatched company of people could lead to a similar situation.
    • ettu Iyitu andare koTTigege kaTTu andarante 
      • “The ox has delivered”, “Tie up the calf in the pen.”)
      • Those who agree to everything without using their brains are made fun of in this way.
    • ganDa henDira jagaLa unDu malago thanaka
      • The quarrel between a husband and wife is till they eat and go to bed.
      • i.e. disagreements between people in love is forgotten easily.
    • gaNEshanannu mADalu hOgi avara appanna mADidante
      • It is like trying to make an idol of Ganesh and ending up with his father).
      • A warning for the bunglers who create more trouble than fixing them.
    • geddettina bAla hiDida hAge 
      • It is like holding the tail of the winning ox).
      • i.e. Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.
    • giDavAgi baggaddu maravAgi baggIthe?
      • If it does not bend as a sapling, will it when it is a tree?
      • Those who have trouble following rules as young will get worse when they get older.
    • gubbi mEle bramhAstravE?
      • A Brahmastra on a sparrow?)
      • This is said of actions beyond proportion taken on helpless people.
    • halliddAga kaDle illa; kaDle iddAga hallilla
      • There are no nuts when one has teeth and there are no teeth when there are nuts).
      • Munching nuts is a sign of prosperity. It is frustrating that one is poor when the youth to enjoy the riches is abundant whereas when one finally gets rich the faculties to enjoy are gone.
    • Hodhya gavaakshi amdhare bamdhe pishaachi 
      • Just when you thought a burning issue was resolved, you see the very issue appearing in another form.
    • hALUrige uLidavanE GouDa
      • One remaining in a ruined village is its chairman).
      • A dig at people in power at weak institutions.
    • hanigUDidare haLLa; tenegUDidare batha
      • Drops join to make a stream; ears combine to make a crop).
      • i.e. Little drops of water make a mighty ocean.
    • hADidde hADO kisubAyi dAsA
      • Sing the same song again, grin-mouthed beggar).
      • A rude putdown of those who keep repeating the same argument.
    • hAsige iddashTu kAlu chAchu
      • Stretch your legs as far as the bed is)
      • This is a warning to live within one’s means.
    • hettorige hegNa muddu, kUDidorige kOdaga muddu
      • A bandicoot is lovely to his parents; a mule is pretty to its mate).
      • This is a wacky statement of the somber truth: Love is blind.
    • hiriyaNNana chALi mane mandiigellA
      • The elder brother’s habits are for all in the family).
      • The underlings follow the leader, especially his bad traits.
    • hithala giDa maddalla
      • The plant in the backyard is not a medicinal herb).
      • Familiarity breeds contempt.
    • hoLe nIrige doNenAykana appaNe Eke?
      • Who needs the approval of a city official for the water from a stream?)
      • This is a rudimentary opposition to taxation and control of things taken for granted in a village life.
    • hosataralli agasa gONi etti etti ogeda. 
      • When he was new, the washerman beat the jute bag repeatedly).
      • People who are new on the job work eagerly and enthusiastically until they find their way and slack off.Clothes were washed in villages by Dhobis who took them to a lake, soaked them and bet the hell out of them on a rock to rid of the dirt. The amount of beating was inversely proportional to the value of the cloth. A jute bag hardly deserved attention except by one who was new to the job.
    • hosa vaidyanigintha haLe rOgine mElu
      • An old patient is better than a new doctor).
      • This stems from a suspicion of inexperienced and untested people with education vis a vis wise, familiar and old fellows of dubious qualifications.
    • hoTTege hiTTilladiddarU juTTige mallige hUvu
      • There is no food to eat but there is jasmine in the crown).
      • Wearing jasmine in the hair is considered elegant for women, especially on their way to a temple or a wedding party. Dressing beyond one’s means is frowned upon as a sign of false pride.
    • huTTisida dEvaru hullu mEyisuttaneye? 
      • Will the God who brought us to the world make us graze on grass).
      • This proverb mouths faith and optimism in the face of adversity.
    • huchhu munDe maduveyalli unDavanE jaaNa
      • In the wedding of the mad widow one who has a meal is the clever one).
      • This earthy saying implies that one who manages to get by in a wild and chaotic situation deserves compliments.
      • A widow’s wedding, that too if she is insane, is highly improbable. Only a smart person can manage to find such a wedding and even enjoy a meal there.
    • hUvina jote nAru svarga sErithu.
      • The string used to tie the flowers also reached heaven).
      • Those who are in the company of the noble will reap the benefits by association.
    • iddaddu idda hAge hELidre, siddappanige siDilu hoDeyitu. 
      • When facts are said as they are it was like the striking of lightning for Siddappa).
      • This is a dig on those who cannot take criticism and throw tantrums.
    • Kundi myal baDDadre bayaGin haLL bit’tu.
      • When one was hit on the bum, his teeth fell out.
      • This is a dig on those who knowingly try to relate unrelated things for their own gains.
    • kai kesarAdare bAyi mosaru.
      • If the hand gets muddied the mouth gets curds.
      •  Hard work begets rewards. Incidentally curds (yogurt) are associated with a good meal and hence prosperity.
    • kAryavAsi katte kAlu kaTTu
      • If you need a job to be done be prepared to fall at the feet of a donkey).
    • keTTa mEle buddhi bantu, aTTa mEle ole uriyitu
      • Got wisdom after being ruined, the stove caught fire after the cooking was done).
      • In olden days the earthen stove (ole) used dried cowdung cakes to burn and it was no mean task to get it going. The dawn of wisdom after it is too late is often compared to the frustration with the stove which was too slow in becoming functional.
    • konkaNa suthi mailArakke banda hAge
      • It is like circling Konkan to reach Mailar).
      •  Those who do even a simple thing in a roundabout manner deserve this proverb.
    • kOpadalli koyda mUgu shAntiyalli baruttadeye?
      • Will the nose cut in anger recover in calmness?)
      •  Rash acts done in anger lead to damages which cannot be undone.
    • kOthi kaige mANikya kotta hAge
      • It is like giving a gem to a monkey.
      • When undeserving or unqualified people are given valuable tasks such snide comments are made of them.
    • kOti tAnU keDOdalde vanAnU keDisitu
      • Not only did the monkey ruin himself, he also ruined the garden.
      •  This warns one not to meddle with those who can bring down their detractors with them.
      •  This proverb is a bit mischievous because the reference is to Hanuman who set fire to large parts of Lanka on his mission to find Sita who was under house arrest. In fact he succeeded in his mission to deliver a message of hope to her and intimidate her abductor. His tail was set on fire by Ravana to which Hanuman paid back by torching his palaces.
    • koTTaddu tanage; bachchiTTaddu pararige.
      • What is given is for you and what is hidden is for others.
      • The virtue of charity and the evil of greed are emphasized here.
    • koTTavanu kOdangi, iskondavanu Irabhadra
      • The one who gave is a mule, one who got it is a winner.
      •  This proverb is in contrast to the previous one. It suggests that it is better to get the best deal under bad circumstances than trying to be fair and patient. You may end up with nothing in the bargain.
    • kumbaLakAyi kaLLa andre hegalu muTTi nODida.
      • When the word “thief of gourd” was said, he touched his shoulder to see.
      • One with a guilty conscience needs no accuser.
    • kumbAranige varusha; doNNege nimisha.
      • It is a year for the potter and it is a minute for the stick.
      • It is easier to destroy than to build.
    • kuNiyalArada sULe nela donku andaLante
      • The harlot who could not dance said that the ground was uneven.
      • This is a dig on those who find excuses for their incompetence. This proverb comes from a time when women of ill repute, supported by the aristocracy, were expected to sing and dance to please their rich customers.
    • kUsu huttOke munche kulAvi holisidaru
      • They got a cap stitched even before the baby was born.
      •  This is a reference to things done prematurely.
      •  This proverb goes back to a time when infant mortality was very high and people postponed getting things for children until they were born and were in reasonable health. Clothes, toys etc. of children were a painful reminder to the bereaved parents. It was even considered a bad omen to prepare excessively for a child before its birth.
    • kaige banda tuttu bAyige baralilla.
      • The food which came to the hand did not come to mouth.
      • There is many a slip between the cup and the lip.
      • Here the imagery is one of a child being fed by a mother who makes balls of rice mixed with curry (tuttu). This is an intimate moment of great joy and satisfaction for the child. It could lead to great unhappiness if the ball did not reach the mouth.
    • kaiyalli sharaNarthi, kankuLalli doNNe.
      • Hands are folded but there is a stick under the arms.
      •  This is a warning about those who speak softly but carry a big stick to strike when you least expect.
    • maduve mADi nODu, mane katti nODu.
      • Perform a wedding and see, build a house and see.
      • When worthwhile but difficult acts are done, it is gratifying in the end.
    • aduveyAgO gunDa endare nInE nanna henDathi anda.
      • I said “Get married, Gunda”. He said :”then you are my wife.”
      • This is a warning about fellows who latch on to well meaning people and abuse their help.
    • mADOdu durAchAra, mane munde brindAvana.
      • What they do is evil but they have holy herbs in the front garden.
      • This is said of people whose outward behavior is impeccable but actions are despicable.
    • Having a little garden of the Tulsi plant in front of a house was considered a sign of piety and goodness.
      • manege benki biddAga bhavi tODidaru
      • When the house caught fire they began digging a well.
    •  Too little, too late.
      • mantrakkinta uguLe jasti
      • There is more spit than the chant.
    • This is said of people whose actions do not match their claims.
      • mAtu ballavanige jagaLavilla, UTa ballavanige rOgavilla
      • One who knows how to talk will have no fights, one who knows how to eat will have no sickness.
      • The meaning is obvious here.
    •  mUrthi chikkadAdru kIrthi doDDadu
      • Though the idol is small the fame is big.
      • This is a reference to self effacing people with accomplishments. Incidentally people with accomplishments are expected to be self effacing. If not, they may be termed arrogant.
    • navilannu nODi kembuta gari kedarisaitu
      • Seeing the peacock, the rooster spread his wings.
      • Those who try to imitate people of talent and beauty, not having either of them, are ridiculed like this.
    • nAyi bogaLidare dEvalOka hALe?
      • If the dog barks will it ruin the heaven?
      • This is said of spiteful people who speak ill of others.
    • nAyi bAla Donku
      • The tail of a dog is always crooked.
      • You cannot straighten some people whatever you do.
    • Odi Odi maruLAda kUchu bhaTTa
      • The fellow became stupid by reading and reading.
      •  All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
    • ollada ganDanige mosaralli kallu
      • The disagreeable husband finds stones in curds).
      • Faults are thick when the love is thin.
      •  The wife who is loved by her husband is complimented for her cooking. When faults are found which are clearly untrue the marriage is truly on the rocks.
    • pApi samudra hokkrU moLakAludda nIru
      • If a sinner enters the ocean the water only comes up to the knee.
      • This is said of those unlucky fellows for whom nothing goes well.
    • rAmeshwarakke hOdaru shanIshwarana kATa tappalilla.
      • Even after going to Rameshvaram (a holy place) the torture of Saturn did not stop.
      • This is said of people whose bad luck does not go away whatever they do.
      • Saturn is considered a bad sign in astrology bringing bad luck. A visit to holy places often counters the effect except for those unfortunate souls referred to in this proverb.
    • rOgi bayasiddu hAlu anna vaidya hELiddu hAlu anna.
      • The patient wanted rice with milk and the doctor prescribed rice with milk.
      •  This is what you say when things turn out fine under circumstances expected to be harsh.
      • A meal of rice with milk is a euphemism for getting what one wants.
    • sAvira suLLu heLi onDu maDuve mAdu
      • Utter a thousand lies and perform a wedding).
      • A little deceit in the performance of good deeds is forgivable.
      • Arranging a wedding was considered a good deed worthy of praise in India. An old maid was a source of stigma for the family and one who came to the rescue by whatever means was considered a savior.
    • samsAra guTTu; vyAdhi raTTu
      • Family matters should be kept secret; a disease should be brought to the open.
      • This is in a society where insurance companies are not watching. The reason to reveal ailments is with a hope that a cure may be found in the process. Laundering the dirty linen in public serves no purpose however.
    • sankaTa bandAga venkaTaramana
      • Seeking God only when in sorrow.
      • This is said of those who have no true faith or belief but act out for convenience and benefits.
    • shiva pUje madhye karaDi biTTa hAge
      • Like bringing a bear in the middle of a pUja.
      • This is said when bungling idiots intrude when they should not.

NOTE: It was brought to my attention that the original version of the proverb is as follows:

    • shiva pUje madhye karaDige biTTa hAge
      • Lingayats wear a string around their body that has a small Linga, called KaraDige, tied to it.
      •  The gAde says that the Shiva Puje cannot go on if you forget the karadige, notwithstanding all else you may have done in preparation.
      •  Over a period of time, the KaraDige has become KaraDi.
    • tumbida koDa tuLukuvudilla.
      • The pot which is full does not splash.
      • This is said to contrast the unassuming good guys against the shallow showoffs.
    • unDeyEnO gunDA endare munDAsu mUvattu moLa anda.
      • When asked “Did you eat, Gunda?” he said “the turban is thirty feet long).
      • This is said of people who do not get what is asked of them and go round in circles.
    • unDU hOda, konDU hOda
      • He ate and took some too.
      • This is said of a guy who snatches the hand if a finger is offered.
    • UrigobbaLu padmAvati
      • only one beauty for the village.
      • This is a putdown of leaders of mediocre groups.



25 Responses

  1. Excellent collection! please add if you can find some more

  2. kaamale kannige kaanodella haladi

  3. Huchu Munde Maduveli,Undavane Janaaa.

  4. Yogi padedidhu Yogige,Jogi Padedidhu Jogige…

  5. Uriyo benkinge Thupaa suridanthe…

  6. Can you help me with some misterious or supernatural stories of Karnataka. I am doing a research. I mean stories, Beliefs, Ghosts. Practices etc, etc.

  7. good collections. add one more ‘kasidre kailasa’


  8. Hodhya gavaakshi amdhare bamdhe pishaachi to be read as “hodya pishaachi amdhare bamde gavakshili antha”

    2. ‘undadi Gunda’
    3. ‘kaasidre kailasa’

  9. You havent included “Nona tindu jati kedisukondanga”

    A person loses his high caste by eating a fly. Meaning one loses a lot for a little. If at all you have to give up your caste and creed you might as well eat a cow or a pig. Why lose your caste for a fly?

  10. 1) Katte ge yenu gottu kasturi vasanae.

    Meaning: fools do not understand or appreciate the value of noble or good things.

    2) Noolinanthe seerae, ThAyee anthe magalu.
    Meaning: Quality of cloth depends on the quality of thread used for weaving; similarly a daughter inherits her character from her mother.

    3) Doorada betta nunnagae
    Meaning: Hills look smooth from a distance which is analogous to English saying “Grass is greener on the other side”

  11. Hi
    I tried to write in Kannada.

    ೧, ಅಡ್ಡ ಗೋಡೆಯ ಮೇಲೆ ದೀಪ ಇಟ್ಟ ಹಾಗೆ.
    ೨. ಅಡಿಕೆಗೆ ಹೋದ ಮಾನ ಅನೆ ಕೊಟ್ಟರು ಬರೋಲ್ಲ.
    ೩. ಅಜ್ಜಿಗೆ ಅರಿವೇ ಚಿಂತೆ ಮಗಳಿಗೆ ಮದುವೆ ಚಿಂತೆ.
    ೪. ಅಕ್ಕಿ ಮೇಲೆ ಅಸೆ, ನೆಂಟರ ಮೇಲೆ ಪ್ರೀತಿ.
    ೫. ಅಂಬಲಿ ಕುಡಿಯುವವನಿಗೆ ಮಿಸೆ ತಿಕ್ಕುವನೊಬ್ಬ.
    ೬. ಅಂತು ಇಂತೂ ಕುಂತಿ ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಗೆ ಎಂಟು ರಾಜ್ಯವಿಲ್ಲ.
    ೭. ಅತ್ತೆಗೊಂದು ಕಾಲ; ಸೊಸೆಗೊಂದು ಕಾಲ.
    ೮. ಆಸೆಯೇ ದುಃಖಕ್ಕೆ ಮೂಲ.
    ೯. ಬೆಕ್ಕು ಕಣ್ಣು ಮುಚ್ಚಿಕೊಂಡು ಹಾಲು ಕುಡಿದಂತೆ.
    ೧೦. ಬೇಲಿನೆ ಎದ್ದು ಹೊಲ ಮೆದರೆ ಹೇಗೆ ?
    ೧೧. ಭಂಗಿ ದೇವರಿಗೆ ಹೆಂಡಕುಡುಕ ಪೂಜಾರಿ.
    ೧೨. ಚೇಳಿಗೆ ಪಾರುಪತ್ಯ ಕೊಟ್ಟ ಹಾಗೆ.
    ೧೩. ಚಿಂತೆ ಇಲ್ಲದವನಿಗೆ ಸಂತೆಯಲ್ಲೂ ನಿದ್ದೆ.
    ೧೪. ಹುಚ್ಚುಮುಂಡೆ ಮದುವೇಲಿ ,ಉಂಡವನೇ ಜಾಣಾ .

  12. Hi Harsha,

    “Maadidavar paapa aadidavar bayagaa”

    Thanks Pachi!

  13. oota ballavanige rogavilla, mathu ballavanige jagalavilla

    If you know what to eat and what not to eat , you will keep healthy. If you know what to talk and what not to talk you will have good relations.

  14. what is mean by cooking with out fire in kannada?

  15. You you should change the blog title Kannada Proverbs North Karnataka Recipes – Ootak Enaitri? to more generic for your blog post you write. I liked the post nevertheless.

  16. can any one help me complete this proverb.

    Modhalane dina Athithi Aradane dina __________ mooraneya dina Pichachi.

    pls help me filling the above blank

  17. excellnt proverbs
    just loved it

  18. nice can u tell me the meaning of
    ‘ooru hogannatthe kadu ba annatthe’

    • Good, keep it up! And add new “gaadegalu”. I’ll contribute a couple of them here.
      Neenu moLa bittaray naanu maaru bidtini
      Translation: If you keep me at elbow’s length I will keep you at arm’s length.
      Meaning: If you don’t want to be friendly with me, I want to keep you doubly far from me.


  20. ‘Hotte halsidaga halsinhannu tinna beku, ootad mele mavinhannu tinna beku.’
    I am a Gujarati, but lived in Bangalore for an year and learnt Kannada from my colleagues. Kannada is a very sweet language.
    Any mistake pardon me as Kannada swalpa barrate.


    • It is rather like the Sanskrit saying “Janani Janma bhoomischa swargaadapi gareeyasi” or that the mother who gave birth to you and the motherland are greater than even the heaven.SIMRA

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