Cover image for The Concise Oxford dictionary of proverbs
The Concise Oxford dictionary of proverbs
Simpson, J. A., 1953-
Third edition.
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xii, 333 pages ; 20 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN6421 .C64 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



Now reissued and updated, this invaluable work of reference provides the reader with over 1,000 of the best-known English proverbs from around the world. For this third edition the explanatory material has been expanded and new proverbs added including Never say never, It takes one to knowone, The devil is in the details, and If you want something done, ask a busy person. Every major proverb in use in the twentieth century Quotations provide a fascinating history of each proverb Thematic index helps you find proverbs on subjects ranging from boasting to weddings 'brilliantly argued I recommend it without hesitation to all students of the English language and lovers of literature, as well as to pedants, crossword fanatics and those who like to prove people wrong in argument.' Auberon Waugh, Sunday Telegraph 'much pleasure, earthy or erudite, and sometimes both, lies here in store' Richard Holmes, The Times

Author Notes

John Simpson is Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, and a Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford. He is the editor, with John Ayto, of the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang.Jennifer Speake is a freelance writer. She is the editor of the Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases and is currently preparing a dictionary of idioms, to be published by OUP in 1999.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This dictionary was first published in 1982. Simpson, the author of both editions, is also coeditor of The Oxford English Dictionary. He notes that the proverb serves as a commentary on life and is now used to spice up ordinary discourse, especially in newspapers and magazines. Proverbs also pepper the speech of candidates for public office. Many of them in this collection seem quaint and unfamiliar, but a careful perusal reveals that they are similar to ones we know well. This volume is very similar to the first edition, which contained 1,000 proverbs known principally in the twentieth century in Great Britain and America. The second edition has 90 proverbs that did not appear in the first. The bibliography of sources consulted remains the same with the addition of one new entry that relates to research in early French proverbs. Some of the 90 additional proverbs have been spawned in the political-cultural milieu of the U.S., for example, "What goes around comes around" and "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." These additions are included because they are now common in Great Britain. The proverbs are arranged by the first significant word: "If you can't beat them, join them" is alphabetized under the word beat. The history of each proverb (its earliest known occurrence in English literature) is given followed by selected examples of usage up to the present with dates and works cited. Many proverbs in English have French, Greek, and Latin origins. If the proverb exists in other languages, that is noted before the quotations, all of which have been rechecked for this edition. There are ample cross-references to main and related entries. The most visible new feature of this edition is the "Thematic Index." Proverbs are listed under such themes as Tact ("Different strokes for different folks") or Emergency ("Any port in a storm"). This index would have been more valuable if the themes assigned to each proverb had been noted at the end of each entry, enabling the reader to select other proverbs on similar themes. Libraries owning recent larger works, such as Modern Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings (1989), with five times more entries, or The Dictionary of American Proverbs (1992), may want The Concise Oxford for portability and conciseness. At half the cost of the above works, it will also serve as a valuable reference for libraries that do not own the first edition. (Reviewed Jan. 1, 1993)

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9-12-- This new edition of the 1982 title contains over 1000 proverbs commonly used in 20th-century Britain, with 100 entries new to this edition. Arranged alphabetically by the first significant word, each one includes illustrative quotations, beginning with the earliest known use. Some entries include short explanatory notes or definitions of words as they were originally used. Cross references provide additional access as does the topical index, a new feature in this edition. The dictionary's value for American students may be limited by its scope, which requires that the proverb be used in modern Britain. American proverbs are included, however, when they have current British use, and, of course, a great many have crossed the Atlantic, if not in spoken American English then at least in literature classes. Inclusion of computer-related phrases that are not likely to be in older reference sources make this especially valuable. An effective tool for students and language lovers.-- Danita Nichols, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Approximately 100 proverbs have been added to this collection since its first edition (CH, June'83), and newly researched material about individual proverbs, including more current examples of their use, appears. Although this is a collection of "proverbs in common use in Britain in the twentieth century," a number of North American proverbs are now included. This edition retains the positive aspects of the first arrangement is alphabetical by keyword and illustrations of the use of each proverb over time are provided, as is explanatory information for some. There are abundant cross-references, and the attractive layout makes the book more enjoyable to browse than many older, standard sources. Citations to the source of each proverb are included, as is a bibliography of major proverb collections and works cited. The addition of a thematic index increases the value of this edition, which includes approximately 1,000 entries. Recommended. E. Carroll; The American University