Africa's proverb of the day

  • 22 March 2016
  • From the section Africa
A woman and her child in Casamance, Senegal Photo: Manuel Toledo Image copyright Manuel Toledo
Image caption "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."

Please use the form at the end of this page to send in your wise words.

Your proverbs from the last few months:

Monday 29 February

It is easy to break a single broomstick but not a bunch. An Akan proverb sent by Jojo Quayson, Ghana

Friday 26 February

If a rat likes stealing locust bean cakes it is because of the way they smell. A Hausa proverb sent by Hassan Abubakar, Abuja, Nigeria

Thursday 25 February

Haste carries no blessing. A Swahili proverb sent by Mirja H Lappalainen, Praia, Cape Verde

Wednesday 24 February

I don't eat the carcass, but I drink the soup made from it. A Somali proverb sent by Abdiweli Hassan, Bosasso, Puntland, Somalia

Tuesday 23 February

Trying to dance like someone else can hurt your neck. An Oromo proverb sent by Shemsedin Amme, Ethiopia

Monday 22 February

A white goat gets lost as people watch. A Kikamba proverb sent by Faustine Ngila, Makueni, Kenya

Friday 19 February

The way you bring up a child is how it ends up being. A Swahili proverb sent by Henry D Gombya, London, UK

Thursday 18 February

If you know you have to carry a goat, don't wait for it to roll in the mud. A Krio proverb sent by Abdulai Kargbo, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Wednesday 17 February

If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing. A Zimbabwean proverb sent by Simon Imoro, Kumasi, Ghana

Tuesday 16 February

Only an animal that uses its teeth for climbing knows which trees are bitter. An Igbo proverb sent by Chizurumoke Michael, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and Emmanuel Eze, Houston, US

Monday 15 February

The strength of a hero is not displayed by the calves of his legs. A Meru proverb sent by Erick Kinoti Kathenya, Nairobi, Kenya

Friday 12 February

The cock belongs to one household, but when it crows it is heard in the whole village. Sent by Jacob Dior, Rumbek, South Sudan

Thursday 11 February

Baboons laugh at each other's foreheads. A Ndebele proverb sent by Dennis Sinyolo, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Wednesday 10 February

You don't put your finger in someone's mouth and hit them on the top of their head. A Twi proverb sent by Richard Odomako Opoku, Kumasi, Ghana

Tuesday 9 February

Just because you are struggling it doesn't mean you have failed; keep trying. A Chewa proverb sent by Bruce Kasoka, Lusaka, Zambia

Monday 8 February

Don't expect to find a healthy tooth in a rotten mouth. Sent by Francis Mo'money, Abuja, Nigeria

Friday 5 February

The earth is a beehive; we all enter by the same door but live in different cells. A Bantu proverb sent by Moses Sikaonga, Ndola, Zambia

Thursday 4 February

The day the billy-goat breaks its leg it will find its way home. A Dagbani proverb sent by Issahaka Zakaria and Iddrisu Tanimu, both from Ghana

Wednesday 3 February

The one who wants beauty should not complain about pain. A Kikuyu proverb sent by Annsalome Njehia, Mwanza, Tanzania

Tuesday 2 February

A male tortoise is identified when it is thrown in the fire. A Madi proverb sent by Dr Jimmy Abirigo and Morris Kulang Samuel Eresto, both from Juba, South Sudan

Monday 1 February

It's better to have an egg in the mouth than a hen in a cage. A Hausa proverb sent by Nurudeen Mohammed, Azare, Nigeria

Friday 29 January

It is only far for a jackal if there are no chocolate berries. A Shona proverb sent by Bhebhe E, Matsapha, Swaziland

Thursday 28 January

No man rules forever on the throne of time. Sent by Raymond Adjei Opoku, Accra, Ghana

Wednesday 27 January

The death of a neighbour should not scare you from living. An Ateso proverb sent by Prince Emro Matano, Nairobi, Kenya

Tuesday 26 January

A poor man's only goat runs after jackals. A Ndebele proverb from Zimbabwe sent by Francis Nyoni, Makhado, Limpopo, South Africa

Monday 25 January

The grasshopper which was killed by the locust must have been deaf. An Igbo proverb sent by Ezeorah Alphonsus Ugochukwu, Abuja, Nigeria

Friday 22 January

The oldest man in a family and a midwife do not tell everything they know. A Somali proverb sent by Abdirahman Djibouti, Cape Town, South Africa

Thursday 21 January

Do not call someone a witch before he has bewitched you. A Kalenjin proverb sent by Mercy Ayabei, Nairobi, Kenya

Wednesday 20 January

When a mighty tree falls, the birds are scattered into the bush. Sent by Vitus Mmaduabuchi Ezeokafor, Ora-eri, Anambra, Nigeria

Tuesday 19 January

By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed. An Ashanti proverb sent by Frank Osei Kwabena Asamoah, Obuasi, Ghana

Monday 18 January

Don't fear planting cassava in a field full of spear grass. A Lango proverb sent by Martin Okwir, Lira, Uganda

Friday 15 January

If you are accused of being a witch, avoid being seen with meat at night. A Manjago proverb sent by Edmond Mendy, Banjul, The Gambia

Thursday 14 January

No matter how big an eye is, two eyes are better than one. Sent by Kelvin Lumbwe, Zambia

Wednesday 13 January

Let the thief get used to eating your food and then you can catch him even by using soft banana fibres. A Luhya proverb sent by Nixon Madegwa, Kenya

Tuesday 12 January

A person once stung by a bee gets frightened at the sight of a house fly. An Igbo proverb sent by Achonu Sampson and Opara Joseph, both from Nigeria

Monday 11 January

Get to know me, before you reject me. A Somali proverb sent by Abshir Fire Cadde, Nelspruit, South Africa

Friday 8 January

The tortoise knows where he bites his brother. A Sudanese proverb sent by Hassan Ishag Ahmed, Nairobi, Kenya

Thursday 7 January

A fallen tree will be hit by many axes. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Yibekal A. Tessema, Switzerland

Wednesday 6 January

Blood doesn't quench thirst. A Hausa proverb sent by Musa Abba Yahaya and Garba Hayat, both in Nigeria

Tuesday 5 January

A bird that allows itself to be caught will find a way of escaping. A Cameroonian proverb sent by Nganje Cheryl, Mannheim, Germany

Monday 4 January

Alone a youth runs fast, with an elder he travels slowly but together they go far. A Luo proverb from Kenya sent by Edward, Kano, Nigeria

Friday 1 January

A journey is easier for two. A Shona proverb sent by Ivainesu Badza, Bristol, UK

Thursday 31 December

The forest rewards those who walk through it. A Bemba proverb sent by Misheck Musonda, Ndola, Zambia

Wednesday 30 December

A leopard gives birth to a leopard. A Madi proverb sent by Tiondi Christopher Buni, Juba, South Sudan

Tuesday 29 December

One who borrows a cloth does not dance proudly. An Igbo proverb sent by Azodo Ebuka, Anambra State, Nigeria

Monday 28 December

A puppy mimics the way its mother sits. A Luhya proverb sent by Prince Jeff Matata, Kenya

Friday 25 December

Problems are waiting for you under the high granary. A Lugbara proverb sent by Driwaru Baipha, Arua, Uganda

Thursday 24 December

Your feet will take you away from home, but your stomach will always bring you back. Sent by Lillian Kamboyi, Lusaka, Zambia

Wednesday 23 December

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito. Sent by Macduff Odoms, Lagos, Nigeria, and Boniface Bazil, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Tuesday 22 December

Don't shelter under a wild banana tree and then cut it down when it stops raining. A Kalenjin proverb sent by Cherotich Anne, Molo, Kenya, and Yohana Jamala, Kansas City, US

Monday 21 December

A chicken's prayer doesn't affect a hawk. A Swahili proverb sent by Joseph Blatz, VA, US

Friday 18 December

Wisdom is not like money to be tied up and hidden. An Akan proverb from Ghana sent by Oguntoye Stephen Babatunde, Ibadan, Nigeria

Thursday 17 December

The shade of the tree will always come back. A Kalenjin proverb sent by Kipkoech Titus Rutto, Kericho, Kenya

Wednesday 16 December

A loafer is better than an idler; usually a loafer finds something useful. A Swahili proverb sent by Joseph Mambili, Nairobi, Kenya

Tuesday 15 December

It is better to walk than to curse the road. Sent by Victor Chilufya, Solwezi, Zambia

Monday 14 December

They say that the broom is not important, but in the morning they look for it. An Igbo proverb sent by Chika Prisca Nkachukwu, Onitsha, Nigeria

Friday 11 December

If you break your cow's horn, others will poke its eyes. An Oromo proverb sent by Bekele Atoma and Kaseman, both from Oromia, Ethiopia

Thursday 10 December

An armpit cannot be above the shoulder. A Bemba proverb sent by Stewart Kabwe, Kitwe, Zambia

Wednesday 9 December

A river does not flow through the forest without knocking down trees. Sent by Sallu Kamara from Sierra Leone, and by Nana Efe and Nasiru Tijjani from Nigeria

Tuesday 8 December

An eye that you treat is the one that turns against you. A Luo proverb sent by Henry Konyango, Nairobi, Kenya

Monday 7 December

No matter how sharp your teeth, you can't bite water. Sent by Adamkolo Mohammed Ibrahim, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Friday 4 December

He who digs a well, gets himself inside. A Swahili proverb sent by Kevin Kahungu, Nairobi, Kenya

Thursday 3 December

Looking at a king's mouth, one would think he never suckled at his mother's breast. An Igbo proverb sent by Obasi Sunday, Ebonyi State, Nigeria

Wednesday 2 December

The cheetah enjoys pulling others around, but when it is being pulled around, it complains that its spots get soiled. A Shona proverb sent by Nassah Mukomberanwa, Harare, Zimbabwe

Tuesday 1 December

The antelope that grows horns is the one that jumps over the traps. A Tumbuka proverb sent by Precious Kumwenda Mtalimanja, Nchalo, Malawi

Please use the Comments section to send us your African proverb:

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