There's a famous saying that goes something like this:

Nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

In these days of quarantine and other “temporary” solutions that may not only have very long lasting effects, but may as well become permanent themselves, I've been trying to look for its source (for these kind of proverbs, possibly a hopeless task; but still) to quip and play around with it.

From ancient Greek?

An interesting hint comes from a poem by A. E. Stallings, titled After a Greek Proverb, that references the Greek:

Ουδέν μονιμότερον του προσωρινού

Now, this is modern Greek, as hinted by the monotonic ortography, but I wanted to go further back in time, rather than shifting regions.

I've thus spent some time trying to deconstruct the (modern) Greek proverb and “rebuild” a hypothetical Ancient Greek version.

The beginning is easy: Ουδέν didn't change much from Ancient Greek οὐδέν (neuter nominative signular of οὐδείς, and thus “nothing” as subject of the sentence).

Μονιμότερον is the (declensed) comparative of μόνιμος (steady, stable, fixed), just as in Ancient Greek. So far, so good.

The verb is missing, but that's acceptable in Ancient Greek as well, so the only remaining part is the comparative term, (declensed) προσωρινός, modern Greek for temporary, provisional.

Now, this is problematic because I can't find this term in any Ancient Greek dictionary, which leads me to suspect that they used a different term to express the concept. So I've asked this site to lend me a hand in the (reverse) search, that has led me to words such as πρόσκαιρος and ὑπόχρονος.

So I'm guessing the Ancient Greek version would be something like:

Οὐδέν μονιμότερον του ὑπόχρονου.

But does it even make sense to do it this way? Was it even a proverb in ancient times yet?


I've seen similar proverbs attributed to the Russian culture. I've read variants in the words of American economists talking about government action, and in the aphorisms of Italian journalists talking about social customs. Is it just a universal constant?