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Look before you leap

  • Look before you leap is a proverb with roots in ancient times. 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. 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 look before you leap, where the expression came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

     

    Look before you leap is a proverb that means one should consider all the consequences or all the dangers involved in a course of action before one acts or commits to something. The expression look before you leap is based on a fable written by Aesop in the 500s B.C called The Fox and the Goat. In the fable, a fox falls into a well and cannot get out. A thirsty goat happens by and the fox talks the goat into leaping into the well to get a drink. The goat jumps in without assessing the situation; the fox climbs upon the goat’s back and out of the well and the goat is left, unable to emerge from the well, himself. When the goat asks the fox for help, the fox replies that the goat has only himself to blame for his predicament, because he should have looked before he leaped.

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    Examples

    Look before you leap into online-only banking (The Times)

    Look before you leap: Why you should not go off the power grid (Daily Maverick)

    If single, you’re attracted to a challenge, but it might be better to look before you leap. (Toronto Star)


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