November 7, 2022

塵も積もれば山となる Even Dust When Piled Up Becomes a Mountain – Japanese Proverb


dust | also | piled up | if | mountain | to become

Even dust when piled up becomes a mountain.

ちり も つもれば、 やま となる

Even dust when piled up becomes a mountain.

  • Many a little makes a mickle. [“Mickle” means “a large amount”]
  • Every little bit helps
  • Even small efforts in time lead to great things

なる and なる...What's the difference?

Both ~なる and ~なる mean "to come to" or "to become." They both show a change of state.

The difference is in usage. になる is used to show a natural change, something anyone would expect. It is also most likely to be used in conversation.


He became an adult.

(Something kids tend to become in time)


となる, however, often describes a change that isn't as natural. It also tends to sound more formal.


The bullet train service was stopped.

(Something that almost never happens)

In the case of today's proverb, one would not expect even a lot of dust to become a mountain, but the proverb expresses that artificial change. Thus となる is used instead of になる.


English & Vocabulary


Is 「(ちり)()もれば(やま)となる」 for you? Don't worry! The Japanese love to abbreviate longish words and phrases, and this oft-used proverb is no exception.

It takes the first two mora from the first two words in the phrase:

  • (ちり)→ちり (happens to be the entire two-mora word)
  • ()もれば→つも

And becomes 「ちりつも」 or in katakana as 「チリツモ」.


You can use 「ちりつも」 in ways such as:


save money a little bit at a time; add to your savings a little every day to eventually become a large amount


I'm studying Japanese everyday. Eventually, It'll pay off.

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