Africa's proverb of the day

  • 2 February 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:

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

Monday 30 November

Pain and laughter go hand in hand. A Kalenjin proverb sent by Koech Kiprop Vincent, Kericho, Kenya

Friday 27 November

If you keep water in your mouth for too long it turns into saliva. Sent by Gyamah Samuel, Accra, Ghana, and Abraham Ekong, Ibadan, Nigeria

Thursday 26 November

Don't insult the midwife if you still intend to give birth. Sent by Colin Mwamafupa, Kyela, Tanzania, and Yochanan Zakaria, Delmas, South Africa

Wednesday 25 November

Respect is as big as a cow and a warrior. A Kalenjin proverb sent by Nicholas Bii, Nakuru, Kenya

Tuesday 24 November

What is death to a frog is fun to a child. Sent by Daniel T Williams, Maryland, Liberia, and Bill, Minneapolis, US

Monday 23 November

A child's arms cannot reach the high shelf; an adult's hand cannot enter the mouth of a gourd. A Yoruba proverb sent by Kunle Shiriki and Adigbo Babalola, from Nigeria, and Oriola Kayoed, from the US

Friday 20 November

You do not ask the frog to give you a chair when you can see that the frog is squatting. Sent by George Grandy, Tema, Ghana, and Forster Addo, New York, US

Thursday 19 November

Among a group of elders nothing goes wrong. A Swahili proverb sent by Ramzy Kasika, Dodoma, Tanzania

Wednesday 18 November

A person's life is dependent on a listening ear. A Bemba proverb sent by Haggai Mulenga Mwaba, Ndola, Zambia

Tuesday 17 November

The stubborn grasshopper ends up in the stomach of a bird. An Igbo proverb sent by Ikenna, Nigeria

Monday 16 November

Even if a rat stinks, it has a family. A Kalenjin proverb sent by Wesley Kitur, Kericho, Kenya

Friday 13 November

No person is wise at all times. A Somali proverb sent by Mohamed Hasan Daahaa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Thursday 12 November

The stranger sees only what he knows. A West African proverb sent by Joe Lurie, California, US

Wednesday 11 November

A barber does not shave himself. A Swahili proverb sent by Kevin Wanjala Wanyama, Nakuru, Kenya

Tuesday 10 November

One day the monkey will go to the market and it will not come back. A Pidgin proverb sent by Abdulfatai Abinbola, Minna, Nigeria

Monday 9 November

A powerful friend becomes a powerful enemy. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Chatim Daniel, Nasir, South Sudan

Friday 6 November

A tree that is not strong enough to lean on cannot kill you if it falls on you. A Yoruba proverb sent by Bode Kayode Ogunbode, Lagoa, Nigeria

Thursday 5 November

After distress, solace. A Swahili proverb sent by Jaina Lena Vaghela, Kent, UK

Wednesday 4 November

We speak in proverbs. The person who is intelligent will understand. A Kikuyu proverb sent by Robert Ndegwa, Nyeri, Kenya

Tuesday 3 November

Two ants do not fail to pull one grasshopper. A Tanzanian/Ugandan proverb sent by Edward, Kano, Nigeria

Monday 2 November

If a bird stays on one tree for long, it invites a stone. A Ghanaian proverb sent by Johannes Allotey, Durban, South Africa

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

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