one for sorrow, two for mirth; three for a wedding, four for a birth

one for sorrow, two for mirth; three for a wedding, four for a birth
A traditional country proverb found in a variety of forms, which refers to the number of magpies seen on a particular occasion.

a 1846 B. HAYDON Autobiography (1853) I. V. During the journey four magpies rose..and flew away... I repeated..the old saw, ‘one for sorrow, two for mirth, three for a wedding, and four for death.’

1846 M. A. DENHAM Proverbs relating to Seasons, etc. 35 One for sorrow: two for mirth: three for a wedding: four for a birth: five for silver: six for gold: seven for a secret, not to be told: eight for heaven: nine for hell: and ten for the devil’s own sel [self].

1913 A. C. BENSON Along Road 162 I never see magpies myself without relating the old rhyme: ‘One for sorrow, Two for mirth, Three for a death, Four for a birth; Five, you will shortly be In a great company.’

1999 A. L. BARKER Haunt (2000) 53 A magpie flew up from the road, almost under his wheels. ‘One for sorrow,’ said the girl. ‘But there’s another in the hedge—two for joy.’


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Look at other dictionaries:

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