Africa

Africa's proverb of the day

  • 1 July 2015
  • From the section Africa
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."

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

Your proverbs from the last few months:

Tuesday 30 June

Do not fight for a guinea fowl that has been caught in someone else's net. An Acholi proverb sent by Martin Okwir, Lira, Uganda

Monday 29 June

The stomach that contains truth cannot be pierced even with a knife. A Hausa proverb sent by Kyomson, Prague, The Czech Republic

Friday 26 June

One frog can ruin everyone's water. A Luo proverb sent by Ronald Ogwal, Uganda

Thursday 25 June

Unexpected rainfall allows goats and sheep to seek shelter under the same roof. Sent by Henson King, Monrovia, Liberia

Wednesday 24 June

Twenty friends will not continue hanging out for 20 years. A Yoruba proverb sent by Wale Adejuyigbe, Kent, The UK

Tuesday 23 June

A man's beauty is judged by the number of cows he owns. A Zulu proverb sent by Bruce Sithole, Durban, South Africa

Monday 22 June

Rushing is not the best way to start a fire. A Ugandan proverb sent by Ken, London, The UK

Friday 19 June

Do not compete with an elephant when it comes to passing stools. A Swahili proverb sent by Roland Ebole, Nairobi, Kenya

Thursday 18 June

The fork on the road made the hyena miss the party. A Lango proverb sent by Patrick Odongo, Kitgum, Uganda

Wednesday 17 June

He who burnt in a fire always fears ashes. A Somali proverb sent by Young Mohadish Salad, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Tuesday 16 June

One does not count the fingers of nine-fingered person in his or her presence. A Yoruba proverb sent by Abimbola Oladiran, Jos, Nigeria

Monday 15 June

You should not sleep outside just because someone else did it and was lucky. A Tonga proverb sent by Peter Mulekwa Gotola, Lusaka, Zambia

Friday 12 June

When they wish to eat a vulture, they call it a guinea fowl. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Yibekal Abebe Tessema, Zurich, Swizerland

Thursday 11 June

If you see someone who is afraid of being identified, he is guilty of something. A Hausa proverb sent by Safynaz Isabelle Cisse, London, The UK

Wednesday 10 June

A wise visitor leaves firewood behind. A Tonga proverb sent by Moses, Choma, Zambia

Tuesday 9 June

The forest yields when you are tired. A Shona proverb sent by Kudzai Makomva, Harare, Zimbabwe

Monday 8 June

A single palm kernel does not get lost in the fire. An Igbo proverb from Nigeria sent by Obi Ozonzeadi, London, The UK

Friday 5 June

A horse may take you to the battlefield, but it will not fight for you. An Amharic proverb from Ethiopia sent by Abebe Mekuria, Woodbridge, Canada

Thursday 4 June

A dish which is going to be tasty will smell good when it boils. A Wolof proverb sent by Coura Fall, Dakar, Senegal

Wednesday 3 June

Someone who talks about a wound talks about a wound that he has had before. A Tonga proverb sent by Peter Mulekwa Gotola, Lusaka, Zambia

Tuesday 2 June

Bad counsel may cause you to fall into an abyss. A Somali proverb sent by Abshir Fire Cadde, Nelspruit, South Africa

Monday 1 June

When a mother elephant blows its trumpet, the baby elephant stays quiet. A Yoruba proverb from Nigeria sent by Collins Fadare, London, UK

Friday 29 May

Plenty is still; hunger is a wanderer. A Zulu proverb sent by Tarikua Getachew, Ethiopia

Thursday 28 May

An elephant does not see the fleas on its body, but sees those on others. A Somali proverb sent by Abdi, Faribault, The US

Wednesday 27 May

When your grandmother tells you something, you don't run to your mother to ask if it's the truth. A Baoule proverb sent by Ameyedowo Carlos, Accra, Ghana

Tuesday 26 May

A bird hanging between two branches will get bitten on both wings. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Den, Houston, The US

Monday 25 May

A woman who began cooking before others must have more broken utensils. An Igbo proverb from Nigeria sent by Nnamdi A Udoye, London, The UK

Friday 22 May

A cockroach who dances well does not do it when the foul is present. Sent by Kojo Asare, Japan

Thursday 21 May

Life, like a wheel, turns. A Setswana proverb sent by IndomitableGg Phaladi, Gaborone, Botswana

Wednesday 20 May

The camel that burnt in the maize field knows what a fire is. A Somali proverb sent by Ali Ahmed, Kenya

Tuesday 19 May

When the black ant bites the buttocks, the buttocks learn a lesson. An Igbo proverb from Nigeria sent by Chikaodili Deng, Toulouse, France

Monday 18 May

A bone that is forced into the cooking pot breaks the pot. A Chewa proverb sent by Frank Mithi, Mzuzu, Malawi

Friday 15 May

If you see a pregnant goat in the market, it means that there are pregnant troubles at home. A Dagbani proverb sent by Abdulai Abdul Rauf, Tamale, Ghana

Thursday 14 May

Wisdom is like hair, everyone has their own. A Swahili proverb sent by Bruno Onindo, Halifax, Canada; Winnie Muthoni, Murang'a, Kenya, and Tez Lore, Nairobi, Kenya

Wednesday 13 May

The camel that likes two herds is eaten by the lion between them. Sent by Nur Aabdi, Mogadishu, Somalia

Tuesday 12 May

It is the dirty hand that produces the oily mouth. An Igbo proverb from Nigeria sent by Rev Joshua Amaezechi, Michigan, The US

Monday 11 May

It is only a foolish dog which barks at an elephant. Sent by MungĀ“omba Ngoma, Luanda, Angola

Friday 8 May

The locust flies away but leaves hardship behind. A Somali proverb sent by Ali Aman, Berbera, Somaliland

Thursday 7 May

Do not stir my stew while yours is burning. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Selam K, Minneapolis, The US

Wednesday 6 May

If you eat the fruit of a big tree, don't forget to thank the wind. A Baatonu/Bariba proverb from Benin sent by Yvon Atsiba, Quebec, Canada

Tuesday 5 May

The sleep that lasts from one market day to another becomes death. An Igbo proverb sent by Ihunegbo Oluchi, Enugu, Nigeria

Monday 4 May

It is difficult to throw a stone at a lizard that is clinging to a pot. An Ashanti proverb sent by George Cantreph, Accra, Ghana

Friday 1 May

The elephant is a big animal but it does not give birth to twins. Sent by Bartai Geoffrey, Bomet, Kenya

Thursday 30 April

If the frying pan is not heated up, the corn cannot pop. A Yoruba proverb sent by Samuel Fayiah Johnson, Ibadan, Nigeria

Wednesday 29 April

The fastest eater ends up with a burned mouth. A Luhya proverb sent by Humphrey Lumadede, Vihiga, Kenya

Tuesday 28 April

A man who hangs around a beautiful girl without saying a word ends up fetching water for guests at her wedding. An Alur proverb from Uganda sent by Nnamdi Udoye, London, UK

Monday 27 April

When you need something badly you have no choice but to follow it. Sent by Mubashir Hayow, Mogadishu, Somalia

Friday 24 April

When a hunter sets a trap using a goat as bait, he does not expect to catch a rabbit. Sent by Tolulope Fasanu, Akure, Nigeria

Thursday 23 April

You shouldn't hide something under your armpit while you are beating something else in a mortar. A Kono proverb sent by Jimissa, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Wednesday 22 April

All days are equal but not the same. A Rufumbira/Kinyarwanda proverb sent by Thomson Kwizina, Kampala, Uganda

Tuesday 21 April

Fruits in hand are not thrown away to get others from a tree. A Somali proverb sent by Mohamed Sheikh, Kenya

Monday 20 April

You may tell a little lie that seems as small as a thorn, but it will grow to the size of a spear and kill you. A Yoruba proverb sent by Akudrabo Geoffrey, Arua, Uganda

Friday 17 April

By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed. An Ashanti proverb sent by Hussein Bunyamin Djaarah, Sekondi, Ghana

Thursday 16 April

A man who does not know about war is likely to be the one who will rush to it. Sent by Mohamed Basal, Mogadishu, Somalia

Wednesday 15 April

Do not force a bangle that does not fit into your hand. A Kalenjin proverb sent by Juliet Chirie Korir, Kenya

Tuesday 14 April

The lizard that will bite behaves like a snake. Manzi Bertin, Kigali, Rwanda

Monday 13 April

You should never spit in your own well; you might come back to it for a drink. An Igbo proverb sent by Thaddaeus Obinna Nwaokeke, Karlstad, Sweden

Friday 10 April

A snakebite received at the age of six can still kill you at the age of 60. Sent by Mohamed, Somalia

Thursday 9 April

What prevents you from sleeping is of your own making. A Nuer proverb sent by Jal Gatluak Toch and Deng Nhial Chioh, both in Juba, South Sudan

Wednesday 8 April

It is easy for an elderly lady who is sitting to judge a tough wrestling game. A Somali proverb sent by Jamal Hussein Mumin, Wajir, Kenya

Tuesday 7 April

A washerman does not harbour a grudge with the river. A Yoruba proverb sent by Bosun Oshodi-Glover, London, UK

Monday 6 April

A man sent by a woman does not fear death. An Amharic proverb sent by Temesgen Workayehu Kassa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Friday 3 April

The eye crosses the river before the body. A Ndebele proverb from Zimbabwe sent by Sifiso Maposa, South Africa

Thursday 2 April

The mosquito that perches on the scrotum must be chased away with caution. Sent by Joseph Okwuokei, Nigeria; Kingsley O, US and Robel Berhanu, South Sudan

Wednesday 1 April

A fool's leg is borrowed to measure a snake hole. An Amharic proverb sent by Mikael Emiru, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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

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