Home  »  English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases  »  Men apt to Necessity is

W.C. Hazlitt, comp. English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases. 1907.

Men apt to Necessity is

Men apt to promise are apt to forget.

Men are April when they woo, December when they wed.

Men are never wise but returning from law. W.

Men are not to be measured by inches.

Men are oft merchants without money or ware. DS.

Men catch not a hare with the sound of the drum. W.

Men fear death as children to go in the dark.

Men know how the market goeth by the market-men. HE.
“Faith, Sir, it is a common saying in our country [Norfolk], ‘You shall know by the market-folks how the market goes.’”—Day’s Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, 1659, ed. Bullen, 98.

Men may bear till their backs break.

Men may blush to hear what they were not ashamed to act.

Men muse as they use.
A man museth as he vseth.—HE.*

Men must not file iron with a file of wood. HE.*

Men never think their fortune too great nor their wit too little.

Men of cruelty are birds of the devil’s hatching.

Men shut their doors against a setting sun.

Men speak of the fair / as things went with them there. H.

Men that have much business must have much pardon.

Men that venture little hazard little.
Tarleton’s Newes out of Purgatory, 1590.

Men use to worship the rising sun. CL.
Plures adorant solem orientem quam occidentem. They that are young and rising have more followers than they that are old and decaying. This consideration, it is thought, withheld Queen Elizabeth, a prudent princess, from declaring her successor.—R.

Men work but slowly that have poor wages.

Mend your clothes, and you may hold out this year. H.

Mends is worth misdeeds.

Men’s actions are not to be judged of at first sight.

Mens sana in corpore sano.

Men’s vows are women’s traitors.

Men’s years and their faults are always more than they are willing to own.

Merchant May’s little summer. Cornw.
Equivalent to our St. Martin’s little summer.

Mere wishes / are silly fishes.

Merely Sir Martin.
Warburton (Divine Legation of Moses, 2nd ed. 1738, dedicated to the Freethinkers), alluding to the supposed decline of broad theological views, goes on to say: “But, happy for you gentlemen, you have outlived it: All the rest is merely Sir Martin, ’tis continuing to fumble at the Lute, though the Music has been long over.”—Mr. James Hooper in Notes and Queries.

  • Merry be the first,
  • and merry be the last,
  • and merry be the first of August.
  • Merry go down.
    This is mentioned in Heywood’s Second Part of Queen Elizabeth’s Troubles, 1606, as a proverbial expression for some cordial drink. It occurs in a similar sense in a tract of 1710.

    Merry is the feastmaking till we come to the reckoning.

    Merry it is own thing to keep.
    How the Goode Wif, &c., in Hazlitt’s Pop. Poetry, i.

    Merry meet, merry part.

    Merry Wakefield.
    What peculiar cause of mirth this town hath above others, I do not know, and dare not too curiously inquire. Sure it is seated in a fruitful soil, and cheap country; and where good cheer and company are the premises, mirth (in common consequence) will be the conclusion.—R. Merry = cheerful. Compare Towneley Mysteries, xvi.

    Messengers should neither be headed nor hanged.

    Mettle is dangerous in a blind horse.

    Mice care not to play with kittens.

    Michaelmas chickens and parson’s daughters never come to good.

    Mickle ado and little help.

    Mickle it behoveth him to do that house shall hold.
    How the Goode Wif, &c., ut supra.

    Middlesex clowns.
    Because gentry and nobility are respectively observed according to their degree, by people far distant from London, less regarded by these Middlesexians (frequency breeds familiarity), because abounding thereabouts. It is generally true, where the common people are richer, there are they more surly and uncivil: as also where they have less dependence on the gentry, as in places of great trade.—R.

    Midsummer moon.
    i.e., Madness. This is the title of a tract attributed to Cleveland, printed in 1648, and of another printed in 1680, Midsummer Moon, or, The Liveryman’s Complaint. The phrase is used by Nash (Have with you to Saffron Walden, 1596, repr. 1869, p. 39).

    Might overcometh right. C.
    “Might masters right.”—Whetstone’s Promos and Cassandra, 1578 (Hazlitt’s Shakespear’s Library, vi. 229).

  • Milk is white,
  • and lieth not in the dyke,
  • but all men know it good meat:
  • ink is all black,
  • and hath an ill smack,
  • no man will it drink or eat. HE.
  • Milk says to wine: Welcome, friend. H.

    Mills and wives ever want. H.

    Mills will not grind if you give them no water.

    Mint ere ye strike.

    Mira de lente.
    Quoth Hudibras:

  • “Thou offerst much
  • But art not able to keep touch.
  • Mira di lente, as ’tis i’ th’ adage,
  • Id est, to make a leek a cabbage.”
  • Hudibras, Part 1, c. i.
  • Mirth and mischief are two things.

    Mirth and motion prolong life.

    Mischief comes by pounds and goes away by ounces. B. OF M. R.
    I mali vengono à carri e fuggino à onze. Ital.—R.

    Misers put their back and their belly into their pocket.

    Misery acquaints men with strange bed-fellows.

    Misery must be the mother / when one beggar begets another.

    Misfortunes come by forties.

    Misfortunes come on wings and depart on foot.

    Misfortunes seldom come alone [or singly]. WALKER.
    Malheur ne vient jamais seul. Apres perdre perd on bien. When one begins once to lose, one never makes an end. Un mal attire l’autre. One mischief draws on another; or, One mischief falls upon the neck of another. Fortuna nulli obesse contenta est semel.—R.

    Misfortunes tell us what fortune is.

    Misfortunes when asleep are not to be awakened.

    Misreckoning is no payment. HE.

    Missionary, Consul, Soldier.
    A saying, which had its source in the popular belief, that the first was only sent out to prepare the way for the second, the second for the third.

    Mist in May and heat in June make the harvest right soon.

    Misunderstanding brings lies to town.
    This is a good observation: lies and false report arise most part from mistake and misunderstanding. The first hearer mistakes the first reporter in some considerable circumstance or particular; the second him; and so at the last the truth is lost, and a lie passes current.—R.

    Mitch ke ditch.
    i.e., Much good may it do you. See N. and Q., 3rd S., iv. 326 and 404; in the latter place it is said to be a Yorkshire phrase.

    Mock Beggars Hall.
    See Hazlitt’s Handbook, 1867, p. 397, and the play of Nobody and Somebody, 1606, sign. H 4, verso. Robin Hood’s Stride, or Mock-Beggar’s Hall, is a curious group of rock near Birchoven, in Youlgrave, Derbyshire.

    Mock no pannier men; your father was a fisher.

    Mock not, quoth Montford, when his wife called him cuckold. F.

    Mocking is catching.

    Moderate riches will carry you: if you have more, you must carry them.

    Modesty ruins all that bring it to court.

    Mon mam Cymbry.
    Drayton’s Polyolb., Song 9; and Selden, in his Notes, observes upon Drayton’s line—

  • “Was called in former times the country Cambria’s mother”:—
  • “In the Welsh prouerb Mon mam Cymbry, in such sense as Sicile was stiled Italies store-house, by reason of fertile ground, and plenteous liberality of corne thence yearely supplied. And Girald tells me that this little Isle was wont to be able to furnish all Wales with such prouision, as Snowdon Hills were for Pasture.” The adage or saying is also noticed by Browne in his Pastorals (Works, Roxburghe Library edit., i. 168).

  • Monday is Sunday’s brother;
  • Tuesday is such another:
  • Wednesday you must go to church and pray;
  • Thursday is half-holiday;
  • on Friday it is too late to begin to spin;
  • the Saturday is half-holiday agin. D.
  • This occurs in Taylor’s Divers Crab-Tree Lectures, 1639, as pointed out by Mr. Denham. But, of course, the idea is much older. “One asked Tarleton why Munday was called Sundaies fellow? Because he is a sausie fellow, saies Tarlton, to compare with that holy day, &c.”—Tarlton’s Jests, 1638 (Old English Jest-Books, ii. p. 243.)

    Money begets money.
    Danari fanno danari. Ital.—R.

    Money in purse will be always in fashion.

    Money is a good servant but a bad master.

    Money is a great traveller in the world. CL.

    Money is ace of trumps.

    Money is often lost for want of money.

    Money is round; it truckles. Cornw.

    Money is that art that hath turned up trump.

    Money is the best bait to fish for man with.

    Money is the sinew of love as well as of war.

    Money is welcome though it comes in a dirty clout.

    Money is wise, it knows its own way. Somerset.
    Says the poor man, that must pay as soon as he receives.—R.

    Money, like manure, does no good till it is spread.

    Money makes marriage.

  • Amour fait rage,
  • Mais argent fait mariage. Fr.
  • Money makes the mare to go.
    Dyke’s English Proverbs, 1709, p. 61.

    Money refused loses its brightness. H.

  • Money we want, and cannot borrow;
  • yet drink we must, to slacken sorrow.
  • Money will do more than my lord’s letter.

    Money will make the pot boil.

    ’Mongst many chapmen there are few that buy.
    Heywood’s 2nd Part of Q. Eliz. Troubles, 1606, repr. 81.

    Mony laddies mony lownis. Scotish.
    See Hazlitt’s Pop. Poetry of Scotland, i. 195.

    Moonshine i’ th’ mustard-pot. CL.

    More afraid than hurt. HE.*

    More belongs to marriage than four bare legs in a bed.

  • “Ye speak right well, guidman,
  • but ye maun mend your hand,
  • And think o’ modesty,
  • gin ye’ll no quat your land.
  • We are but young, ye ken,
  • and now we’re gawn the gither,
  • A house is butt and bern,
  • and crummie will want her fother
  • The bairns are coming on,
  • and they’ll cry, O their mither!
  • We have nouther pat nor pan,
  • but four bare legs the gither.”
  • Maggie’s Tocher, a Song, 1803.
  • More cost than worship.

    More credit may be thrown down in a moment than can be built up in an age.

    More die by food than famine.

    More flies are taken with a drop of honey than a ton of vinegar.

    More fool than fiddler.

    More goes to the making of a fine gentleman than fine clothes.
    This ia exactly in accordance with the distich—

  • “Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow:
  • The rest is all but leather and prunella.”—Pope.
  • More have repented of speech than of silence.

    More kicks than halfpence.
    Said of an unrequited service.

    More knave than fool.

    More know Tom fool, than Tom fool knows.

    More like the devil than St. Lawrence. R.

    More lovely than Gwenhwyvar [Guenever].
    Mabinogion, i. 42; Madden’s Sir Gawayne, line 945.

    More malice than matter. Somerset.

    More nice than wise.

  • More of More Hall,
  • with nothing at all,
  • hath slain the dragon of Wantley.
  • Higson’s MSS. Coll., No. 69. These are merely the two concluding lines of the ludicrous ballad of the Dragon of Wantley, in Percy’s Reliques (ed. 1812, iii. 356). More Hall, here referred to, is in the Hundred of West Derby, Lancashire. See Harland and Wilkinson’s Traditions of Lancashire, 1873, p. 264.

  • More rain, more rest:
  • more water will suit the ducks best. Cornw.
  • More sacks to the mill.
    In Love’s Labour’s Lost, written before 1598, iv. 3, this is called “an infant play.” I know nothing further of it, except that it is inserted in some of the collections of adages. At Christ’s Hospital they used to have a game called Bring the Basket, where, in case the boys broke down with the weight of their playfellows scrambling over their backs, a cry was raised of Sacks on the Mill! Perhaps this rather rough sport, which was discontinued on account of its adverse influence on the boys’ clothes, wag the same as Shakespeare’s More sacks to the mill.

    More sauce than meat.

    More slayeth word than sword.
    Aucren Riwle, ed. Morton, p. 74.

    More squeak than wool.
    North’s Life of Lord K. Guildford, 1740.

    More than enough breaks the cover. B. OF M. R.

    More than we use is more than we want.

    More thanks than there are pebbles on Goodwin Sands.
    Don Quixote, by J. Philips, folio, 1687.

    More the merrier.
    Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575 (Works, i. 64). Heywood has “The more the merrier,” and so the title of a rare volume of epigrams by Henry Peacham expresses it. The latter form occurs in Rowlands’ Tis merrie when gossips meete, 1602, and is there termed old. In Wit at Several Weapons (Dyce’s Beaum. and Fl., iv. 75), Sir Ruinous Gentry says: Bring all the fops you can, the more the better fare; so the proverb runs backwards.

    More to do with one jackanapes than all the bears.

    More ways to the wood than one. WALKER.

    More wealth passes through Woolwich than any other town in the world.
    Rather, parish. The allusion is to the position of Woolwich by the Thames, N. Woolwich being on the Essex side.

    More words than one go to a bargain.

    Most [are] blind in their own cause. HE.*

    Most men cry, Long live the conqueror.

    Most of our evils come from our vices.

    Most take all.

    Most things have two handles, and a wise man takes hold of the best.

    Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are a tempest and hailstorm.

    Mother Watkin’s ale.
    The title of an Elizabethan ballad and a phrase used in an obscene sense.

    Mothers’ darlings make but milksop heroes.

    Mother’s son.

  • “I have more dread he will not come,
  • Than I have of his mother’s son.”
  • Sir Eger (Hazlitt’s Pop. Scot. Poetry, ii. 171).
  • Motions are not marriages.

    Mottled and dappled like an April trout.
    Franck’s Northern Memoirs, 1694, p. 80.

    Mouse-coloured dun / is the foulest colour under the sun.

    Mouth civility is no great pains, but may turn to good account.

    Much ado about nothing.

    Much better never catch a rogue than let him go again.

    Much bran and little meal.
    Muito fallar pouco saber. Port.—R.

    Much coin, much care.
    Countryman’s New Commonw., 1647; Walker’s Parœm., 1672, p. 36. Crescentem sequitur cura pecuniam. Horat.

    Much compliance, much craft.

    Much corn lies under the straw that is not seen.

    Much in my nock, Nicols.
    So in Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune, 1589 (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, vi. 242). The exact meaning is not clear; but in the passage cited the speaker seems to wish to say, “I have perhaps something in my nock, nowhere else.” Unless nock stands for notch, and the sense is connected with that part of a spindle. Compare Gascoigne:—

  • “The strongest thryd yt euer yet was spoune,
  • Is nockthrowen yet euen with ye spindles twyst.”
  • —Works by Hazlitt, ii. 265.
  • It is possible that Nicols may be a misreading for Nockols, an East Anglian name and a form of expression approaching more nearly to nock.

    Much is expected where much is given.

    Much law, but little justice.

    Much luck can come in short time, and we not thinking on it. W.

    Much matter / of a wooden platter.

    Much meat, much maladies.
    Surfeiting and diseases often attend full tables. Our nation in former times hath been noted for excess in eating.—R.

    Much spends the traveller more than the abider. H.

    Much would have more. CL.

  • “Multa petentibus desunt multa.—Horat.
  • “Creverunt et opes et opum furiosa Cupido,
  • Ut quo possideant plurima plura petant.
  • Sic quibus intumuit suffusâ venter ab undâ,
  • Quo plus sunt potæ plus sitiuntur aquæ.”—Ovid. Fast.—R.
  • Sometimes we find added,—“And lost all.”

    Muck and money go together.
    Those that are slovenly and dirty usually grow rich; not they that are nice and curious in their diet, houses, and clothes.—R.

    Mud chokes no eels.
    See the Gothamite Tales, 1630 (Old English Jest-Books, iii. 9.).

    Muddy springs will have muddy streams.

    This appears to have been in Mary’s time a well-understood term for a Popish priest. In the examination of Edward Underhill, the “Hot Gospeller,” before the Council in 1553, where the prisoner is asked whom he regards as Papists, he replies, “I think if you look among the priests in Paul’s, you shall find some old Mumpsimuses there;” upon which Sir John Gage retorts: Mumpsimuses! knave, Mumpsimuses! Thou art an heretic knave, by God’s blood!” See Arber’s Garner, iv. 76. The story of the priest who refused to give up his old mumpsimus for the new sumpsimus is in one of our earliest jest-books.

    Murder will out.
    Nevile’s Newes from the New Exchange, 1650, p. 7; title of a tract printed in 1689, 4to, on the death of Lord Essex.

    Music helps not the toothache. H.

    Must I tell you a tale and find you ears too?

    Must is a king’s word.

    My belly thinks my throat cut. CL. and WALKER.

    My butter cake always falls the butter side down.

    My cap is better at ease than my head. HE.*

    My Candlemas bond upon you. D.
    See Hone’s Every Day Book, i. 12. The meaning is: You owe me a New Year’s gift.

    My cow gave a good meal, but then she cast it. HE.*

    My father was born before me.
    A phrase applicable in the case of one who has inherited fortune, and no personal necessity for exertion.

  • My house, my house, though thou art small,
  • thou art to me the Escurial. H.
  • My kiln of malt is on fire. C.

    My Lord Baldwin’s dead.
    “It is used when one tells that for news which everybody knows. A Sussex proverb; but who this Lord Baldwin was, I could not learn there.”—R. Queen Anne is dead, used to be another form of this saying.

    My Lord Castlecomer. WALPOLE.
    Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny. See Sussex Arch. Coll., xi. 188.

  • My lord is my lord for a year and a day;
  • but my lady’s my lady for ever and aye.
  • Said of the lord mayor of York and his wife. The mayoralty being an annual office, the holder had his title only for that term; but the lady mayoress by courtesy kept hers.

    My market’s made; ye may lick a whip shaft.

    My mind to me a kingdom is. CL.
    This saying is quoted by Jonson in The Case is Altered, 1609, supposed to have been written about 1598. See also Breton’s Court and Country, 1618, in Illustrations of Old Manners, by Hazlitt, Roxb. Lib. ed., p. 216.

    My mother’s plum-tree.

  • “Idlenes.I was never stained but once,
  • Falling out of my mother’s plum-tree.
  • Marriage of Wit and Wisdom [circa 1570], Sh. Soc. ed. 16.
  • My name is Twyford; I know nothing of the matter.
    The Spaniards say, No se nada, de mis vinas vengo. Span. When a man will not know or be concerned in what has happened, he pleads that he has been absent at his vineyard.—R. I find this in The New Westminster Wedding, 1693, p. 4. It is an Ipswich tract. Comp. In mine eames peason.

    My old mare would have a new crupper. HE.

    My son, buy no stocks.
    Good counsel at Gleek.—R.

  • My son is my son till he have got him a wife,
  • but my daughter’s my daughter all the days of her life. F.
  • My son, put money in thy purse, and then keep it.

    My wife cries, Five loaves a penny.

    Myself can tell best where my shoe doth wring. HE.*

    Nab me and I’ll nab thee.
    Compare Ka me, &c., supra.

    Naked as a Norfolk dumpling.
    Day’s Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, 1659, ed. Bullen, 35.

    Naked as my nail.
    See Nares, edit. 1859, p. 594.

    Name not a rope in his house that hanged himself.
    Il ne faut pas parler de corde dans la maison d’un pendu. Fr.—R.

    Napping, as Moss caught his mare. Cheshire.
    Title of a ballad registered for publication in 1569–70; Clarke’s Parœm., 1639, p. 298; Wit Restor’d, 1658. See N. and Q., 1st S., i. 320; and 4th S., ii. 325. “Who this Moss was is not very material to know; I suppose some such man might find his mare dead, and taking her to be only asleep, might say, Have I taken you napping?”—R.

  • “Now Night growes old, yet walkes here in his trappinge
  • Till Day come catch him, as Mosse his gray mare nappinge.”
  • The Seven Dayes of the Weeke, an interlude in The Christmas Prince, 1607.
    “Euphues, perceiuing himselfe to be taken napping, answered as followeth.”—Lyly’s Euph., 1579, repr. Arber, p. 56. See the metrical moralisation of this saying in my Inedited Poetical Miscellanies, 1870.
    —“Till day come catch him, as Mosse his grey mare, napping,” quoted by Wilbraham, Ches. Glos., p. 58, H., p. 287, from the Christmas Prince, 1607, was still current in Cheshire in Wilbraham’s time. See also R., p. 187. Mosse occurs still in Cheshire as a common surname. I fancy that “finding a mare’s nest” is connected somehow.—Notes and Queries, March 2, 1878.

    Narrow gathered, widely spent.

    Narrow house.
    The grave.

    Nature draws more than ten teams. H.

    Nature is the true law. B. OF M. R.

    Nature passes nurture.

  • Nature requires five: / custom gives seven:
  • laziness takes nine: / and wickedness eleven.
  • Spoken, of course, of the various hours of sleep.

    Nature takes as much pains in the forming of a beggar as an emperor.

    Nature teaches us to love our friends, but religion our enemies.

    Nature, time, and patience are the three great physicians.

    Naught are those houses where the hen crows and the cock holds his peace. B. OF M. R.

    Naught is never in danger.
    Dyke’s English Proverbs, &c., 1709, p. 8.

    Naught is that meuse / that finds no excuse. B. OF M. R.

    Naughty Ashford, surly Wye, / poor Kennington hard by.
    Skeat’s ed. of Pegge’s Kenticisms, 83.

    Nay, stay, quoth Stringer, when his neck was in the halter. F.

    Ne sutor supra crepidam. PLINY.
    “I say no more; but, if the Cobler wold look no further then the shoe-latchet, we should not haue so many corrupt translations.”—Day’s Law-Trickes, 1608, The Booke to the Reader.

    Near bur, far rain.
    The bur is the halo round the moon, and the meaning of the adage is, that when it appears near the moon, there will be fine weather.—Forby’s Vocab. of E. Anglia, p. 417.

    Near is my kirtle, but nearer is my smock. HE.

    Neat, but not gaudy, as the devil said when he painted his tail sky-blue.

    Necessity and opportunity may make a coward valiant.

    Necessity hath no law.
    Here law means rather liberty or choice of action. See Jennings’ Obs. on W. Country Dialects, in voce; and Hunter’s Hallamshire Glossary, 1829, ibid. This is the more recent form; but in the metrical Robert the Deuyll we find, Nede hath no cure; and Skelton, in his Colyn Clout (circa 1520), puts it, Nede hath no lawe. He calls it an old sawe. Heywood has the same form.

  • “But (as the auncient Prouerbe goes)
  • Perforce obaies no lawe;
  • The crabbed carters whip will cause
  • A stately steed to drawe.”
  • Turbervlie’s Tragicall Tales, 1587, repr. 1837, p. 238.
  • [Greek]. La necessita non ha legge. Ital. Ingens telum necessitas. Cic. de Amic.”—R.

    Necessity is coal-black.

    Necessity is the mother of invention.