Danish sayings and proverbs

The list below is mostly based on whim and the series by Expat in Denmark on Facebook thorugh November 2012.

"At male fanden på væggen"
Direct translation: To paint the devil on the wall
Meaning: Be overly negative or assuming the worst
Origin: Probably before year 1500, from the German proverb "Man braucht den Teufel nicht an die Wand zu malen, er kommt auch ohne das herein" –One needs not to paint the devil on the wall, he will come in anyways– where both phrasing and meaning shines through
"For mange kokke fordærver maden"
Direct translation: Too many chefs will ruin the food
Meaning: A situation with a group of people with different opinions trying to solve the same task will fail without cooperation.
"Brændt barn skyr ilden"
Direct translation: A burnt child dreads the fire
Meaning: One is cautious in the future if hurt in the past
Related: Once bitten, twice shy
"Man kan ikke både blæse og have mel I munden"
Direct translation: You can't blow with a mouth full of flour
Meaning: To seek to have two things which are mutually incompatible
Related: To have one's cake and eat it too
"Sælg ikke skindet før bjørnen er skudt"
Direct translation: Don't skin the bear before it's shot
Meaning: Don't make promises you don't know if you can keep
Related: Don't count your chicken before they're hatched
"Man skal ikke kaste med sten hvis man selv bor i et glashus"
Direct translation: Don't throw rocks if you live in a glass house
Meaning: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself
"Tyv tror hver mand stjæler"
Direct translation: Thief thinks everybody steals
Meaning: A person who does wrong himself, is more likely to believe, that others will do wrong too
"Mange bække små gør en stor å"
Direct translation: Many small streams make a big river
Meaning: A lot of small efforts can result in something big
Related: Little strokes fell great oaks
"At løbe med halv vind!"
Direct translation: To run with half a wind
Meaning: To convey information that one has poor knowledge of
"At stikke hovedet i busken"
Direct translation: To stick one's head in the bush
Meaning: To deny the truth and hide from reality
Related: To bury one's head in the sand
"Fra børn og fulde folk skal man høre sandheden"
Direct translation: From children and drunkards you will hear the truth
Meaning: Children and drunkards speak the wisest truths as they are not afraid of the repercussions or the world
Related: Out of the mouths of babes (comes truth or wisdom)
"Gå ikke over åen efter vand"
Direct translation: Don't cross the river in order to collect water
Meaning: Complete a task without unnecessary complications
"At være i kridthuset hos nogen"
Direct translation: To be in someone's chalk case
Meaning: To be popular
Related: To be in somebody's good books
Origin: A chalk case was the predecessor for a pencil case, and to be in the chalk case comes directly from actually keeping a note with name, a love letter or a small token gift in the chalk case, from one that you had particularly dear
"Man skal smede mens jernet er varmt"
Direct translation: Strike while the iron is hot
Meaning: Take the opportunity when it presents itself, it may not come again
Related: Make hay while the sun shines
"Nød lærer nøgen kvinde at spinde"
Direct translation: Need will teach a naked lady to spindle
Meaning: A person in need will find a way
Related: Necessity is the mother of invention
"Æblet falder ikke langt fra stammen"
Direct translation: The apple doesn't fall far from the trunk
Meaning: There will always be a certain degree of inheritance in the way you are as a person
Related: The acorn never falls far from the tree
Related: Like father, like son
"(Så længe bagbenene er i land er der) ingen ko på isen"
Direct translation: (As long as the hind legs are on shore) there is no cow on the ice
Meaning: There are no problems or imminent danger
"Der ugler i mosen"
Direct translation: There are owls in the marsh
Meaning: Something is wrong or danger is luring
Related: Something smells fishy
Origin: It used to be "wolves" instead of "owls", but changed over time as the two sounded alike and owls was less frightening

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