This list provides but a small sample of the rich tradition of African proverbs:
Do you have a favorite African proverb that isn't here? If so then please
us a note.
- If a donkey kicks you and you kick back, you are both donkeys. (Gambia)
- An adult squatting sees farther than a child on top of tree. (Gambia)
- A fly that has no one to advice it, follows the corpse into the grave.
- Giant silk cotton trees grow out of very tiny seeds. (Gambia)
- However black a cow is, the milk is always white. (Gambia)
- The disobedient fowl obeys in a pot of soup (Benin - Nigeria).
- The crocodile does not die under the water so that we can call the monkey
to celebrate its funeral (Akan).
- When two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers (Uganda).
- The frog does not jump in the daytime without reason (Nigeria).
- One goat cannot carry another goat's tail (Nigeria).
- The family is like the forest, if you are outside it is dense, if you are
inside you see that each tree has its own position (Akan).
- It is the woman whose child has been eaten by a witch who best knows the
evils of witchcraft (Nigeria).
- The hunter does not rub himself in oil and lie by the fire to sleep (Nigeria).
- The hunter in pursuit of an elephant does not stop to throw stones at birds
- If all seeds that fall were to grow, then no one could follow the path
under the trees (Akan).
- Even the mightest eagle comes down to the tree tops to rest (Uganda).
- A tiger does not have to proclaim its tigri-tude (Wole Soyinka - Nigeria)
- Before you ask a man for clothes, look at the clothes that he is wearing
- As long as there are lice in the seams of the garment there must be bloodstains
on the fingernails (Yoruba, Nigeria)
- If a blind man says lets throw stones, be assured that he has stepped on
one (Hausa, Nigeria)
- Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify
the hunter (Igbo, Nigeria)
- When you are eating with the devil, you must use a long spoon (Igbo, Nigeria)
- The fowl digs out the blade that kills it (Somali)
- Although the snake does not fly it has caught the bird whose home is in
the sky (Akan)
- One should never rub bottoms with a porcupine (Akan)
- Fowls will not spare a cockroach that falls in their mist (Akan)
- You do not need a big stick to break a cock's head (Akan)
- Marriage is like a groundnut, you have to crack them to see what is inside
- The rain wets the leopard's spots but does not wash them off (Akan)
- If crocodiles eat their own eggs what would they do to the flesh of a frog
- A man does not wander far from where his corn is roasting (Nigeria)
- Rat no dey born rabbit (Nigeria)
- When man pikin dey piss, him dey hold something for hand. Woman wey try-am,
go piss for her hand (Palmwine Drinkards, Nigeria)
- Those who get to the river early drink the cleanest water (Kenya)
- Hurry hurry has no blessings (Kenya)
- A person changing his clothing always hides while changing (Kenya)
- A donkey always says thank you with a kick (Kenya)
- Nobody gathers firewood to roast a thin goat (Kenya)
- Having a good discussion is like having riches (Kenya)
- Many births mean many burials (Kenya)
- The important things are left in the locker (Kenya)
- A boy isn't sent to collect the honey (Kenya)
- If you don't wish to have rags for clothes, don't play with a dog (Nigeria)
- No sane person sharpens his machete to cut a banana tree (Nigeria)
- If a monkey is amongst dogs, why won't it start barking? (Nigeria)
- An elephant's tasks are never too heavy for it (Zimbabwe)
- It is the soil that knows that the mouse's baby is ill (Zimbabwe)
- A man who doesn't know his or her family is like a lion wounded while trying
to make a kill for lunch (B. Audifferen)
- If you can walk, you can dance; If you can talk, you can sing
- Greed loses what it has gained
- The house-roof fights with the rain, but he who is sheltered ignores it.
- To love the king is not bad, but a king who loves you is better. (Wolof)
- Allah does not destroy the men whom one hates. (Wolof)
- If nothing touches the palm-leaves they do not rustle. (Oji, Ashanti)
- He is a fool whose sheep runs away twice. (Oji, Ashanti)
- The man who has bread to eat does not appreciate the severity of a famine.
- Because friendship is pleasant, we partake of our friend's entertainment;
not because we have not enough to eat in our own house. (Yoruba)
- When your neighbor's horse falls into a pit, you should not rejoice at
it, for your own child may fall into it too. (Yoruba)
- The pot-lid is always badly off: the pot gets all the sweet, the lid nothing
but steam. (Yoruba)
- His opinions are like water in the bottom of a canoe, going from side to
- You lament not the dead, but lament the trouble of making a grave; the
way of the ghost is longer than the grave. (Efik)
- For no man could be blessed without the acceptance of his own head. (Yoruba)
- If you don't sell your head, no one will buy it. (Yoruba)
- The bell rings loudest in your own home. (Yoruba)
- No one can uproot the tree which God has planted. (Yoruba)
- Where you will sit when you are old shows where you stood in youth. (Yoruba)
- Nobody knows the mysteries which lie at the bottom of the ocean. (Yoruba)
- If we stand tall it is because we stand on the backs of those who came
before us. (Yoruba)
- When you stand with the blessings of your mother and God, it matters not
who stands against you. (Yoruba)
- After we fry the fat, we see what is left. (Yoruba)
- When the door is closed, you must learn to slide across the crack of the
- You must be willing to die in order to live. (Yoruba)
- What you give you get, ten times over. (Yoruba)
- Stretch your hands as far as they reach, grab all you can grab. (Yoruba)
- If you are on a road to nowhere, find another road. (Ashanti)
- You must act as if it is impossible to fail. (Ashanti)
- Do not follow the path. Go where there is no path to begin the trail. (Ashanti)
- The ruin of a nation begins in the home of its people. (Ashanti)
- Do not let what you cannot do tear from your hands what you can. (Ashanti)
- True power comes through cooperation and silence. (Ashanti)
- Force against force equals more force. (Ashanti)
- Two men in a burning house must not stop to argue. (Ashanti)
- One falsehood spoils a thousand truths. (Ashanti)
- The one who asks questions doesn't lose his way. (Akan)
- You must eat an elephant one bite at a time. (Twi)
- It is a fool whose own tomatoes are sold to him. (Akan)
- You must live within your sacred truth. (Hausa)
- Strategy is better than strength. (Hausa)
- When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. (Kikuyu)
- A child who is to be successful is not to be reared exclusively on a bed
of down. (Akan)
- Treat your guest as a guest for two days; on the third day, give him a
- Wisdom is not like money to be tied up and hidden. (Akan)
- The friend of a fool is a fool. The friend of a wise person is another
wise person. (The Husia)
- You cannot pick up a pebble with one finger. (Malawi)
- Two hippopotamuses cannot share the same hole. (Cote d'Ivoire)
- One bean does not make a whole meal. (Morocco)
- An axe does not cut down a tree by itself. (Burkina Faso)
- The tortoise is friends with the snail: those with shells keep their shells
close together. (Benin)
- People helping one another can bring an elephant into the house. (Rwanda)
- When you wake up in the morning you see the other person’s butt.
- Nobody mourns an unnoticed death. (Burundi)
- The river may be wide, but it can be crossed. (Cote d'Ivoire).
- He who eats well speaks well or it is a question of insanity. (Yoruba)
- No matter how long a log may float in the water, it will never become a
- The blacksmith in one village becomes a blacksmith's apprentice in another
- If a child's hands are clean, he can eat with elders (Gambia)
- A child who denies their mother a night's sleep will also remain awake (Gambia)
- He who has been bitten by a snake becomes scared by the sight of a rope.
- One rotten bean is enough to spoil the entire sauce. (Dan wake daya ke
bata miya). (hausa)
- Famine strikes the adult as much as the child (Yunwa cadi yaro cadi baba).
- One hand washes the other (Isandla siya kezane) (Zulu)
- "Boto kensengo buka lo no" (Gambia - Mandinka) - An empty bag can not stand.
- Mix yourself with the grain and you will be eaten by the pigs. (South
- The same heat that melts ghee, hardens the egg.
- When you grab the head of a snake, the rest is mere rope. (Ghana - Akan)
- The wandering child does not see the corpse of his dead mother before burial. (Manden - West African)
- The rope for a long life, is pooled by oneself. (Ghana - Ewe)