Best Benjamin Franklin Proverbs, Adages, Aphorisms

Introducing ListCaboodle’s list of the best Benjamin Franklin proverbs.


    Benjamin Franklin proverbs

    Before his life as a diplomat, statesman, scientist, inventor, philosopher, and Founding Father of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was a printer and publisher as a young man in Philadelphia.

    Franklin published his almanac, Poor Richard’s Almanack, from 1732 to 1758. (Within each issue, he used the pseudonym “Richard Saunders” — thus the name “Poor Richard.”)

    Bite-sized wit and wisdom

    Along with practical information like weather forecasts, household tips, and amusing stories, Franklin included occasional witty phrases and wordplay in the almanac that have remained popular and useful to this day.

    Franklin served these short quotes, proverbs, and adages in his publication as a way of expressing truisms and sharing practical wisdom about life.

    In some, he delivers a biting political and social commentary, but mostly his folksy wisdom serves as a useful tool for the betterment of society focusing on themes like thrift and hard work.

    See Benjamin Franklin’s List of 13 Virtues.


    The short quotes and words of wisdom in this list can each be defined as a proverb, an adage, or an aphorism. In fact, the three terms are synonyms and often used interchangeably.

    Let’s take a look at definitions for each:

    • What is a proverb? A proverb is a short bit of advice given in a creative and poetic way to make you think.
    • What is an adage? An adage is a statement of accepted truth.
    • What are aphorisms? An aphorism is good advice delivered in a concise and straightforward way. (From the Greek word “aphorismos” meaning “definition.”)

    For this article, we will refer to these phrases as “proverbs” and leave to you the challenge of determining which is which. (Don’t even get us started on maxims!)

    Benjamin Franklin proverbs image

    1. Famous Benjamin Franklin proverbs

    You’ll recognize these famous lines as many of them have become part of everyday language.

    “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

    “Early to bed and early to rise Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

    “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

    “Haste makes waste.”

    “Never leave till tomorrow that which you can do today.”

    “God helps those that help themselves.”

    “Eat to live, and not live to eat.”

    “Have you somewhat to do tomorrow, do it today.” (Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.)

    “No gains without pains.” (No pain, no gain.)

    “Tart words make no friends; a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar.”

    2. Funny sayings – Benjamin Franklin proverbs

    “Beware of the young doctor and the old barber.”

    “If your head is wax, don’t walk in the sun.”

    “What maintains one vice would bring up two children.”

    “He that speaks much is much mistaken.”

    “A plowman on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his knees.”

    “To err is human, to repent divine; to persist devilish.”

    “Men and melons are hard to know.”

    “Clean your Finger, before you point at my Spots.”

    Witty quotes

    “Love, cough, and a smoke can’t well be hid.”

    “There are three things extremely hard, steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”

    “If you will not hear and obey reason she will surely rap your knuckles.”

    “A mob’s a monster; heads enough but no brains.”

    “An ounce of wit that is bought, is worth a pound that is taught.”

    “Hunger is the best pickle.”

    “Glass, China, and Reputation, are easily crack’d, and never well mended.”

    “For want of a nail the shoe is lost, for want of a shoe the horse is lost, for want of a horse the rider is lost.”

    3. Benjamin Franklin proverbs about life

    “Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none.”

    “Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.”

    “Fear not death for the sooner we die, the longer we shall be immortal.”

    “When you are finished changing, you’re finished.”

    “A long life may not be good enough, but a good life is long enough.”

    “Wish not so much to live long as to live well.”

    About aging

    “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!”

    “Life’s biggest tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”

    About time

    “You may delay, but time will not.”

    “He that can have patience can have what he will.”

    “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

    “Lost Time is never found again.”

    Famous Benjamin Franklin proverbs image

    4. Benjamin Franklin proverbs about love

    “He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.”

    “Love, and be loved.”

    “Women are books, and men the readers be.”


    “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.”

    “Where there’s marriage without love, there will be love without marriage.”


    “A friend in need is a friend indeed!”

    “A true Friend is the best Possession.”

    “Tis a great confidence in a friend to tell him your faults; greater to tell him his.”

    “A Brother may not be a Friend, but a Friend will always be a Brother.”

    “Hear no ill of a friend, nor speak any of an enemy.”

    “An open foe may prove a curse; but a pretend friend is worse.”

    “Fish and Visitors stink in 3 days.”

    “Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing.”

    5. Freedom and liberty quotes

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    “Security without liberty is called prison.”


    “The way to be safe is never to be secure.”

    6. Wisdom and knowledge – Benjamin Franklin proverbs

    “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

    “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

    “The doors of wisdom are never shut.”

    Education and learning

    “The only thing that is more expensive than education is ignorance.”

    “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

    “Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”

    “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

    “Those things that hurt, instruct.”

    “A good example is the best sermon.”

    “Genius without education is like silver in the mine.”

    Wise sayings

    “A truly great man will neither trample on a worm nor sneak to an emperor.”

    “Little strokes fell great oaks.”

    “Fools multiply folly.”

    “The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise.” (Franklin’s take on the old proverb “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”)

    “He that blows the coals in quarrels that he has nothing to do with has no right to complain if the sparks fly in his face.”

    “E’er you remark another’s sin,
    Bid your conscience look within.”

    “Fools need advice most, but wise men only are the better for it.”

    “Tis easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.”

    7. Motivational Benjamin Franklin proverbs

    “They who have nothing to trouble them will be troubled at nothing.”

    About hope

    “Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.”

    “He that lives upon hope will die fasting.”


    “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

    “Hide not your talents, they for use were made, What’s a sundial in the shade?”

    “Never confuse Motion with Action.”

    “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

    “Success has ruined many a man.”


    “Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.”

    “If a man could have half of his wishes, he would double his troubles.”

    “Contentment makes poor men rich,
    Discontent makes rich men poor.”

    “The rotten apple spoils his companions.”

    “Write injuries in the dust, benefits in marble.”


    “Keep thy shop and thy shop will keep thee.”

    “Love your neighbor; yet don’t pull down your hedge.”

    “Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

    8. Hard work – Benjamin Franklin proverbs

    “Well done is better than well said.”

    “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”

    “At the working man’s house hunger looks in but dares not enter.”

    Thrift and frugality

    “Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.”

    “Fools make feasts and wise men eat them.”

    “Necessity never made a good bargain.”

    9. Virtue – Benjamin Franklin proverbs

    “Words may show a man’s wit, actions his meaning.”

    “Search others for their virtues, thy self for thy vices.”

    “After crosses and losses Men grow humbler and wiser.”

    “A good conscience is a continual Christmas.”

    “He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.”

    “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.”

    “Pride dines on Vanity and sups on Contempt.”

    “He that is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else.”

    “An empty bag will not stand upright.”


    “Great talkers, little doers.”

    “To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.”


    “When you’re testing to see how deep water is, never use two feet.”

    “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.”

    “He is a governor that governs his passions, and he a servant that serves them.”

    “He that sows thorns, should not go barefoot.”


    “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

    “Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.”


    “A lie stands on one leg, truth on two.”

    “When reason preaches, if you don’t hear her she’ll box your ears.”


    “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”


    “When you’re good to others, you’re best to yourself.”

    10. Faith and religion quotes

    “How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!”

    “Many have quarreled about religion that never practiced it.”

    “Work as if you were to live 100 years, Pray as if you were to die To-morrow.”

    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

    “In the affairs of this world, men are saved not by faith but by the want of it.”

    11. Justice proverbs

    “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

    “The strictest law sometimes becomes the severest injustice.”


    “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”

    “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

    “There never was a good war or a bad peace.”

    “War brings scars.”

    12. Benjamin Franklin toasts

    “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”

    “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

    “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.”

    “There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.”

    More famous toasts in history.

    Thanks for reading these Benjamin Franklin proverbs, adages, and aphorisms. Check out these other quote lists:

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    By Greg Johnson | Published 12/28/2021

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