Africa's proverb of the day

A woman and her child in Casamance, Senegal  Photo: Manuel Toledo "A baby on its mother's back does not know the way is long"

Proverbs are an integral part of African culture. Passed on from generation to generation for centuries, they are still in wide use today and are very much part of everyday speech.

Proverbs are used to illustrate ideas, reinforce arguments and deliver messages of inspiration, consolation, celebration and advice.

The great Nigerian author Chinua Achebe once wrote: "Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten."

Use this form to send in your wise words. Under the form you can see some of the proverbs we have published recently.

Your African proverb

If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

Terms and conditions

Your proverbs from the last few months:

Tuesday 25 March

Those who have not crossed the river yet should not laugh at those who are drowning. Sent by Baissou SB, Mali

Monday 24 March

Vultures are bald but they are not all elders. A Yoruba proverb sent by Imonitie C. Imoisili, Lagos, Nigeria

Friday 21 March

It's only on the day the frog dies that you can measure its length. A Ghanaian proverb sent by Johnny Asare, Chigasaki, Japan

Thursday 20 March

Oh, cow! You looked at the grass but you didn't see the ditch. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Melos Snetbeb, The Netherlands

Wednesday 19 March

A king is not a kin. A Wolof proverb from Senegal and The Gambia sent by M. Ndiaye, Wisconsin, US

Tuesday 18 March

A spider web that gets in the way of an elephant entering the stream will get pulled along. Sent by Niyi AB Elesin Itakun, in Lagos, Nigeria, and Ayokunle Muritala, in Dundee, Scotland

Monday 17 March

A clever bird builds its nest with other birds' feathers. A Shona proverb from Zimbabwe sent by Chenjerai Hove, Stavanger, Norway

Friday 14 March

A monkey left behind laughs at the others tail. An Acholi proverb from Uganda sent by Ebrima Jawo, Banjul, The Gambia

Thursday 13 March

Where there are trees, there are no builders. A Swahili proverb sent by Layla, South Africa

Wednesday 12 March

If the waterbuck continues returning to one place it will meet its death. A Lubgara proverb sent by Akudrabo Geoffrey, Arua, Uganda

Tuesday 11 March

Dogs do not actually prefer bones to meat; it is just that no one ever gives them meat. An Akan proverb from Ghana and Ivory Cost sent by Aminu Gamawa, Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, and Isaac Owusu, Barcelona, Spain

Monday 10 March

A hunter who has only one arrow does not shoot without aiming carefully. Sent by Ayandeji Kamoru and Davis Fuko, both in Nigeria

Friday 7 March

Living by the lake side doesn't mean plates full of fish. A Baganda proverb from Uganda sent by Jelani Michael, Nairobi, Kenya

Thursday 6 March

The very thing a goat likes to eat most will give it an upset stomach. A Krio proverb sent by Umaru Fofanah, Conakry, Guinea

Wednesday 5 March

One does not pass between an elephant's legs twice - A Chewa proverb from Malawi sent by Robert Shaba, Zurich, Switzerland

Tuesday 4 March

If there are no cracks in the wall, the lizard won't be able to get in. A Yoruba proverb sent by Bolaji, Nigeria, and Oti Oteri, Chestermere, Canada

Monday 3 March

A flea can trouble a lion more than the lion can harm a flea. A Kamba proverb sent by John Mbiti, Kenya

Friday 28 February

A baby goat's tail sweeps where it sleeps. A Swahili proverb sent by Kusiima Bagoes Julius Atenyious, Wakiso, Uganda

Thursday 27 February

He whose mother is naked is not likely to clothe his aunt. Sent by Philip Maduot, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Wednesday 26 February

The absence of knowledge is the absence of light. A Somali proverb sent by Mohamed Hussein, London, UK

Tuesday 25 February

It is he whose impotence you cured who steals your wife. A Maasai proverb sent by Ann Lemaiyan, Kenya

Monday 24 February

You see an adult chicken at the market and you eagerly go for it; if it was of any value would the owner sell it? A Yoruba proverb sent by Deji Samuel, Maryland, US

Friday 21 February

Something which stays still too long turns to stone. An Acholi proverb sent by Odong Aemmie Kilara, Uganda

Thursday 20 February

In a war sons are killed, but none are born. Sent by Sayid F AW Xaashi, Hargeisa, Somalia

Wednesday 19 February

Crooks don't shave each other. A Chewa proverb sent by Frank Mithi, Mzuzu, Malawi

Tuesday 18 February

A bird that flies away and lands on an anthill is still on the ground. A Nigerian proverb sent by Lubang Alex Charles, Wau, South Sudan

Monday 17 February

A dog keeps all his hardships to himself until he dies. A Kikongo proverb from Angola sent by Tunga Vata, London, UK

Tuesday 11 February

A mouse that wants to die goes to sniff the cat's nose. Sent by Tesfaye Fikadu, Addis Abba, Ethiopia

Monday 10 February

When the deal is too good, think twice. Sent by Chol Mapath, Eldoret, Kenya

Friday 14 February

When an animal has an itch that needs scratching, it goes to a tree. When a human being has one, he looks for a fellow human being. An Igbo proverb sent by Nwachukwu Isdore, Imo State, Nigeria

Thursday 13 February

No matter how far a man urinates, the last drop always falls at his feet. Sent by Mohammed Nabila, Ghana; Kissa Albert, Uganda; Collins Osaghamwan, Nigeria; and Belinda N. Mike, Namibia

Wednesday 12 February

What is coming does not beat a drum. A proverb from Malawi sent by Andrew Chatsika, Johannesburg, South Africa

Tuesday 4 February

A brave man is recognised in an emergency. An Igbo proverb from Nigeria sent by Chido, London, United Kingdom

Monday 3 February

Speech is like a tough bite of tendon. A Somali proverb sent by Hussein Mohamud, Nashville, US

Friday 7 February

The snake is like a rope but nobody uses it to tie a parcel. Sent by Chima C. David, Abuja, Nigeria

Thursday 6 February

A person who works in a farm eats from there. A Bemba proverb sent by Eliud Mwanja, Mufulira, Zambia

Wednesday 5 February

War has no eyes. A Swahili proverb sent by Kita Chom, Thailand

Friday 31 January

A razor may be sharper than an axe, but it cannot cut wood. Sent by Peter Goch Anyang-Majongdul, Bor, South Sudan

Thursday 30 January

The hunter who is tracking an elephant does not stop to throw stones at birds. Sent by Titus Kimutai Suter, Kenya

Wednesday 29 January

One falsehood spoils a thousand truths. An Ashanti proverb sent by Rexford Kingsley, Tema, Ghana

Tuesday 28 January

Do not kill a snake and swing it, the ones inside the holes are watching you. A Tsonga proverb sent by Rirhandzu Mlondobozi, Amanzimtoti, South Africa

Monday 27 January

Water has no enemy. A Nigerian proverb sent by John Gbozah, Charlotte, US

Tuesday 21 January

When the head gets big, it cannot avoid blows. A Chewa proverb sent by Geofrey Mustafa Taumbe, Zomba, Malawi

Monday 20 January

No matter how beautiful and well-crafted a coffin might look, it will not make anyone wish for death. Sent by Kangoma F Mansaray, Kenema, Sierra Leone

Friday 24 January

The log on the woodpile does not laugh at the log in the fire. Sent by Sir-Muel MG, Kenya; Obidi Jude, Ghana; and Kipkorir Silas Kwendet, India

Thursday 23 January

A bird that does not fly cannot know the valley where millet grows. Sent by Mwesiga Mulinda, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Wednesday 22 January

The stone that you see coming should not blind you. An Edo/Esan proverb from Nigeria sent by Samuel Okuomose Izekor, Madrid, Spain, and Jerry Onana, Yaounde, Cameroon

Friday 17 January

He who starts on a long journey does not put a banana to roast under the ashes. A Kikuyu proverb sent by Jane Mukami, Kenya

Thursday 16 January

Never fight a stranger in the dark, for he may turn out to be your brother. A Zambian proverb sent by Peter Igbonekwu Cee, Lagos, Nigeria

Wednesday 15 January

God grinds fine flour; what remains is to sift it. A Dinka proverb sent by Deng Atem Kuol, Juba, South Sudan

Tuesday 14 January

A river that forgets its source will dry. Sent by Tabayo Jude Thaddeus, Kampala, Uganda

Monday 13 January

The ash always follows the person who throws it. A Yoruba proverb sent by Sunday Theophilus Fasaanu, Owo, Nigeria

Friday 10 January

It is play to the cat, but a matter of life and death to the rat. An Oromo proverb sent by Bilelegne Gashaw, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Thursday 9 January

When a cockroach wants to die, it goes inside a palm oil bottle. A Krio proverb from Sierra Leone sent by Ethel Ross, Kent, UK

Wednesday 8 January

A child that dances the sweet song of "surugede" does not know that "surugede" is the dance of the spirits. An Igbo proverb sent by Chimezie Ojukwu, Lagos, Nigeria

Tuesday 7 January

A servant hired on Christmas day thinks every day is Christmas. An Oromo proverb sent by Hailu, Ethiopia

Monday 6 January

A stick which is far away cannot kill a snake. Sent by Karama Said, Mombasa, Kenya, and Ojara Martin Defever, Kampala, Uganda

Friday 3 January

When the lion gets old even flies attack him. A Chaga proverb sent by Tamrat Dejene, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Thursday 2 January

The name given to a child must reflect the family background. A Yoruba proverb sent by Kareem Fatai Paul, Irun Akoko, Nigeria

Wednesday 1 January

Persistent arguments made the chicken lose all its teeth. An Acholi proverb from Uganda sent by Okot Ochan Emmy, Juba, South Sudan

More Africa stories


Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • SleepSleep on it

    Is it possible to strengthen your brain's synapses while you slumber?


  • (File photo) Usain BoltClick Watch

    Challenging the world's fastest man to a virtual race over 40m – can you keep up?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.