Africa

Africa's proverb of the day

  • 1 June 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:

Tuesday 31 May

He who eats last is king. A Ndebele/Tswana proverb sent by Timothy Nyathi, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Monday 30 May

When you take a knife away from a child, give him a piece of wood to play with. A Swahili proverb sent by Musa Muhammad El Nafaty, Yobe State, Nigeria

Friday 27 May

The death that kills one's contemporary is a proverbial warning. A Yoruba proverb sent by Enochseun, Ekiti, Nigeria

Thursday 26 May

The antelope says that if you stay at one spot in the forest for far too long, you will become thirsty. An Ewe proverb sent by Gideon Gadri, Accra, Ghana

Wednesday 25 May

However full the house, the hen finds a corner to lay in. A proverb from Sierra Leone sent by Diing Anyang Diing, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tuesday 24 May

One who is big is big. A guinea fowl does not perch on a sorghum plant. A Shona proverb sent by Emmanuel Sithole, Chipinge, Zimbabwe

Monday 23 May

The humility of a rabbit does not spare him from the hunter's arrow. Sent by Dokduna Manpan, Jos, Nigeria

Friday 20 May

Birds agree when flying down but they do not agree when flying up. A Kikuyu proverb sent by Kamau Wachira, Kiambu, Kenya

Thursday 19 May

He who knows much speaks with silence. An Amharic proverb sent by Solomon Bizuneh, Gambella, Ethiopia

Wednesday 18 May

If a poor person has nothing else, he has at least a sweet tongue with which to defer the payments of his debts. An Akan proverb sent by Emmanuel Donkor, Accra, Ghana

Tuesday 17 May

If you break a coconut on a man's head, he will not enjoy eating it. Sent by David, Abuja, Nigeria

Monday 16 May

The only grass a buffalo can boast about is that which is in its stomach as it may die with grass still in its mouth. A Shona proverb sent by Peter Chongore, Gweru, Zimbabwe

Friday 13 May

It is with a light basket that one escapes the rain. A Luo proverb sent by Owino Onyango Mak'Oburu, Kenya

Thursday 12 May

A child that laughs at his father's rotten yams is laughing at the hunger that will strike him in due course. An Igbo proverb sent by Ajility Miracle C, Owerri, Nigeria

Wednesday 11 May

The village which is not discussed is not built. A Maasai proverb from Kenya/Tanzania sent by Fred Hoekstra, Oldeberkoop, The Netherlands

Tuesday 10 May

Hot water does not burn a house. A Swahili proverb sent by Geoffrey Okoth Yoga, Tororo, Uganda

Monday 9 May

A female dog can also catch an animal. An Acholi proverb sent by Jon Mwangi, Kenya

Friday 6 May

Because the fire has a pot as a shield, it wants to quarrel with the water. A Nupe proverb sent by Uthman Salihu Ndagi, Mokwa, Niger state, Nigeria

Thursday 5 May

If you shut your mouth tightly so as not to speak the truth, your nose will speak it. An Oromo proverb sent by Adamu Tesfaye, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Wednesday 4 May

A hungry man should never be left alone in the granary. A Luo proverb sent by Odhiambo Okoth, Nairobi, Kenya

Tuesday 3 May

A monkey will never be rid of its black hands. A Krio proverb from Sierra Leone sent by Alhaja Sahid-Bangura, UK

Monday 2 May

Don't expect to ambush an expert ambusher. A Somali proverb sent by Mohamed Abdirisak, Kampala, Uganda

Friday 29 April

Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand. Sent by Martin Manyiel Wugol, Juba, South Sudan

Thursday 28 April

When the monkey can't reach the ripe banana with his hand, he says it is not sweet. Sent by Okello Brian, Dokolo, Uganda

Wednesday 27 April

Brew beer and you will hear what killed your mother. A Chewa proverb sent by Eugeanea Francisca, Blantyre, Malawi

Tuesday 26 April

The sun may be hot but that does not mean that the fowl will lay a boiled egg. A Pidgin proverb sent by Emmanuel Chukwuma Akpanta, Abia, Nigeria

Monday 25 April

A good conversation is better than a good bed. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Chatim Daniel, Nasir, South Sudan

Friday 22 April

Don't set sail using someone else's star. Sent by Tiondi Christopher Buni, Juba, South Sudan

Thursday 21 April

Talk to a person who can understand and cook for a person who can be satisfied. A Luvale proverb sent from Zambia by Erick Malambo and Evergreen Sazeka

Wednesday 20 April

A rat which has two holes lives long. An Oromo proverb sent by Samuel Fekadu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tuesday 19 April

The monkey does not forget how to jump around. A Kalenjin proverb sent by Chepkirui Irine Sangutet, Kenya

Monday 18 April

You can wash the basket in the stream but you can't carry water home with it. Sent by Michael Dikibugerere Sisejubomiema Orupabo and Francis Obiorah, both from Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Friday 15 April

He who has not travelled has no understanding. A Somali proverb sent by Hussein Mohamud, Nashville, US

Thursday 14 April

One sees all sorts of knives on the day an elephant dies. A Yoruba proverb sent by Sammy-King Bass, Calabar, Nigeria

Wednesday 13 April

Today's African proverb: No matter how tight a monkey's trousers are, he has to leave space for his tail. A Krio proverb from Sierra Leone sent by Sigismond Wilson, Oklahoma, US

Tuesday 12 April

Hunger in your brother's house does not prevent you from sleeping. A Luo proverb sent by Mercy Opar, Nairobi, Kenya, and Maryano Otto, Kampala, Uganda

Monday 11 April

When you follow the path of your father, you learnt to walk like him. Sent by Mule Evance, Juba, South Sudan

Friday 8 April

A frog likes water but not when it is boiling. Sent by Bright Wanger and Gabriel John, both from Nigeria, Evangelist Quofi from Ghana, and Omonigho from the UK

Thursday 7 April

You won't live forever so leave a legacy. A Somali proverb sent by Fatima-Rasmi Ahmed Ainte, Mogadishu, Somalia

Wednesday 6 April

Wisdom is like a lost needle: a child could find it just as easily as an adult. A Wolof proverb sent by Sarata Ngack Sowe, Bakau, The Gambia

Tuesday 5 April

Talking doesn't fill the basket in the farm. Sent by Chimezie Bright Enwerem, Lagos, Nigeria

Monday 4 April

Do not leave the fruit which is on the ground and choose the one up on the tree. A Kalenjin proverb sent by Jonathan Kipng'eno, Bomet, Kenya

Friday 1 April

The day you go naked is the day you meet your in-laws. A Swahili proverb sent by Kamzee Awuol De-yen Arokdit, Juba, South Sudan

Thursday 31 March

Lightening does not strike the same tree twice. A Luhya proverb sent by Ahnez Ruud Okubasu, Nairobi, Kenya

Wednesday 30 March

One scabbed sheep infects the whole flock. A Somali proverb sent by Bashiir Mohamed Abdi, Somalia

Tuesday 29 March

Stealing a drum is easy, but finding a place to beat it is not. Sent by Chukwuzo N, Onitsha, Nigeria

Monday 28 March

When a leaf falls to the ground, the tree gets the blame. Sent by Martin Banda, Lilongwe, Malawi

Friday 25 March

As the wound inflames the finger, so thought inflames the mind. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Misgina Tilahun, Mekelle, Ethiopia

Thursday 24 March

A skunk does not smell itself. A Xhosa/Ndebele proverb sent by Diamond Zulu, Plumtree, Zimbabwe

Wednesday 23 March

If an arrow hit a tortoise, it was his close friend who shot it. A Dagbani proverb sent by Mohammed Awwal, Tamale, Ghana

Tuesday 22 March

Disease and disasters come and go like rain, but health is like the sun that illuminates the entire village. A Luo proverb sent by Henry Onyango, Nairobi, Kenya

Monday 21 March

The dog eats faeces but it is the goat that gets rotten teeth. An Igbo proverb sent by Victor Chioma Onunka, Dallas, US

Friday 18 March

Keep a stick behind your door in case your neighbour's dog runs mad. A Krio proverb sent by Ibrahim Kabba, Bo, Sierra Leone

Thursday 17 March

If you lift yourself up, that's better than if others lift you up. A Batonu proverb sent by Ryan Smith, Pèrèrè-Gourou, Borgou, Benin

Wednesday 16 March

When you wake up and see a chicken chasing you, run - for you do not know if it has grown teeth overnight. A Nigerian proverb sent by Uche Duru, London, UK

Tuesday 15 March

He who refuses to carry a head ends up doing it anyway. A Luhya proverb sent by Moss Paul, Nairobi, Kenya

Monday 14 March

A wealthy person can buy salt but cannot buy life. An Ewe proverb sent by Bright Nukafu, Xevi, Ghana

Friday 11 March

If an idol begins to weld excessive powers, you show it the wood it was carved from. An Igbo proverb sent from Nigeria by Matthew Chibuike, from Kaduna, and Chigozie Okereke, from Lagos

Thursday 10 March

Someone with more firewood than you also has more ash than you. Sent by Boni Manyala, Nairobi, Kenya

Wednesday 9 March

Somalis may tell lies, but they don't say false proverbs. Sent by Mohamoud Omar Bile, Garowe, Puntland, Somalia

Tuesday 8 March

Chameleons change colour to match the earth. Earth doesn't change colour to match the chameleon. A Senegalese proverb sent by Julian Dzikunu, Accra, Ghana

Monday 7 March

Mother, carry me, and I will carry you. A Bemba proverb sent by Clinton Mweemba, Lusaka, Zambia

Friday 4 March

Sheep wander together but have different prices. Sent by Issiaka Konate, Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Thursday 3 March

The monkey said she can't guarantee that the baby on her back won't pluck a leaf as she goes from tree to tree. Sent from Nigeria by Vincent Metseagharun, Ben Neriz and Maurice Edem

Wednesday 2 March

Because of shyness the tortoise died in the boat. A Lugbara proverb sent by Martin Ajobe, Arua, Uganda

Tuesday 1 March

Do not slaughter a calf before its mother's eyes. Sent by Roy Kiprop, Nakuru, Kenya


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