A man is known by the company he keeps is a proverb. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that may be a famous quote, an inspirational quote, an epigram, or the topic of a parable. These common sayings are language tools or figures of speech that particularly give advice or share a universal truth, or impart wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, sayings, and byword, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the written or spoken proverb himself because these common phrases and popular sayings are so well known. Certain phrases may be a metaphor or a quotation; but if it is a proverb, it is often-used and has a figurative meaning. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these pithy sayings as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are the wise sayings better late than never; early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise; an apple a day keeps the doctor away; don’t cry over spilt milk; actions speak louder than words; haste makes waste, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
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One of the books of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs, which contains words and phrases that are still often quoted in the English language because they are wise. Many current proverbs are quotations taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the proverb a man is known by the company he keeps, where the expression came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.
A man is known by the company he keeps means that a person is similar to the people he chooses to spend time with; he will have the same character and moral standards as those he chooses to surround himself. A person usually associates with those he feels comfortable with and who are like him. The expression a man is known any the company he keeps is derived from a fable written by Aesop in the 500s B.C called The Ass and his Purchaser.
In the story, a man takes an ass to his farm on a trial basis to see how the ass will fit in to his herd of asses. When the ass enters the pasture, he seeks out the laziest and greediest ass that the man owns to keep company. The man returns the ass because he knows it too will be lazy and greedy, based on the animal the ass chose to spend time with. The moral of the story is that a man is known by the company he keeps.
A man is known by the company he keeps, and what stellar company Stephen Sondheim will be keeping at “Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration.” (Los Angeles Times)
A man is known by the company he keeps, but also by the company that bids him farewell. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Jackson told the gathering that “a man is known by the company he keeps,” going on to praise those connected with city government. (Leader-Herald)