Transcription: “El hábito no hace al monje.”
English Transcription: “The habit doesn’t make him a monk.”
The “habit” in the phrase does not refer to a repeated action but instead to the dress or uniform of a monk. “Monk” usually refers to an individual of high morals who took religious vows and lives in a monastery. This phrase is not always applied to a man. The proverb could be made feminine if “el monje” was changed to “la monja,” which means “nun.” However, the gender of the phrase does not change its meaning: clothing can become a form of deception.
Regardless of which religious order is used in the phrase, it refers to an individual who is not who they seem on the outside. The habit becomes a metaphor for someone who uses their clothing to disguise their true character. A person who dresses like a monk is not necessarily a good person. In more common day terms, a person who wears athletic clothing is not always an athlete, and a person who wears classes is not always intelligent. Appearances can deceive, and this proverb is used when one learns the true identity behind the disguise.
This proverb could be used casually in a conversation. For example, “I was wrong about John. He dresses nicely and seemed like a good person, but he turned out to be a jerk.” To which a friend might respond, “Well, the habit doesn’t make him a monk.” The proverb is a cautionary phrase that encourages the deceived to be more careful in the future.