Africa's proverb of the day

  • 4 August 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 July

Notwithstanding the pain, women still long to give birth. A Swahili proverb sent by Charles Tanui, Eldoret, Kenya

Thursday 28 July

The world is a bone which you can only bite and leave. A Bemba proverb sent by Kelvin Kasongo, Kitwe, Zambia

Wednesday 27 July

He who takes responsibility becomes the target of the people. A Somali proverb sent by Abdi Rahman Young, Mogadishu, Somalia

Tuesday 26 July

When a tree falls on a yam farm and kills the farm's owner, you don't waste time counting the number of ruined yams. An Igala proverb sent by Omaye Joseph Itodo, Agojeju-odoh, Kogi, Nigeria

Monday 25 July

Before it rains, the bathhouse is already wet. Sent by Pious Kofi Bentum and Kweku Efrim, both from Ghana

Friday 22 July

It by persistence that the termites build their nest. A Luo proverb sent by Michael Oduor Wod Ajuang, Siaya, Kenya

Thursday 21 July

A goat owned by two people sleeps outside. Sent by Julian Dzikunu, Ghana

Wednesday 20 July

A family is like a forest, when you are outside it is dense, when you're inside you see that each tree has its place. Sent by Joseph Macfoy, Kenema, Sierra Leone

Tuesday 19 July

If you treat your child as a king you will be the first one to pay tax. A Mandinka proverb sent by Modou ceesay, Banjul, The Gambia; Mustapha Minteh, Yaoundé, Cameroon, and Khalipha Sanneh, Madison, Wisconsin, US

Monday 18 July

You don't need a mirror to see what you are wearing on your hand. An Igbo proverb sent by Chinaecherem Kenneth Michael, Enegu, Nigeria

Friday 15 July

Best friends killed each other over a hare's head. A Tonga proverb sent by Siwoh, Choma, Zambia

Thursday 14 July

The one who knows the path is the one who has been treading it. A Shona proverb sent by Hatidani Tondoya, Cape Town, South Africa

Wednesday 13 July

A fish and bird may fall in love but they cannot build a home together. Sent by Jersy Solomon Kwsei, Koforidua, Ghana

Tuesday 12 July

A fat sheep does not worry about the drought. A Somali proverb sent by Ahmed Lag, Garissa, Kenya

Monday 11 July

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

Friday 8 July

It is because of hot food that nature gave us two cheeks instead of one. Sent by Wabwire Maron, Wobulenzi, Uganda

Thursday 7 July

It is better to get nine now, than perhaps ten later. A Swahili proverb sent by Vin, Mwanza, Tanzania

Wednesday 6 July

The load is lighter when two people carry it. An Akan proverb sent by Mercy Levin, Trelleborg, Sweden

Tuesday 5 July

By crawling, a child learns to stand. Sent by Babangida Sani, Zamfara, Nigeria

Monday 4 July

The weight of the head is only felt by its owner. A Luo proverb sent by Fred Obondo, Nairobi, Kenya

Friday 1 July

Persistence is more effective than charms. A Tiv proverb sent by Iorhen Kwange, Gboko, Benue State, Nigeria

Thursday 30 June

The old woman looks after the child to grow its teeth and the young one in turn looks after the old woman when she loses her teeth. An Akan proverb from Ghana and Ivory Coast sent by Jacob Dior Macueng, Rumbek, South Sudan

Wednesday 29 June

Don't teach the tiger cub to eat meat. Sent by Joseph Dumbula, Blantyre, Malawi

Tuesday 28 June

A white tooth has a bloody root. Sent by Waromkudu Patrick Javuru, Nebbi, Uganda

Monday 27 June

If a child that is not yet mature tries to know what killed his father, whatever killed his father might kill him too. An Igbo proverb sent by Nwogu Chukwuemeka, Imo State, Nigeria

Friday 24 June

When the bush is on fire, the antelope ceases to fear the hunter's bullet. Sent by Noel Akonor Bortey, Accra, Ghana

Thursday 23 June

A stubborn person sails in a clay boat. Sent by Ayebale David Livingstone, Hoima, Uganda

Wednesday 22 June

There is no god like one's stomach; we must sacrifice to it every day. Sent by Kingsley Oje, Benin City, Nigeria

Tuesday 21 June

The fox must be chased away first; after that the hen might be warned against wandering into the bush. Sent by Malek Kelei, Melbourne, Australia

Monday 20 June

The palm wine can never be bigger than the calabash in which it is fetched. Sent by Selikem Timothy, Ho, Ghana

Friday 17 June

Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won't eat you. A proverb from Madagascar sent by Joseph Macfoy, Kenema, Sierra Leone

Thursday 16 June

Today and tomorrow, little by little you will manage. A Hausa proverb sent by Blair Donkin, Dunedin, New Zealand

Wednesday 15 June

Lying is the thief's stronghold. A Kikuyu proverb sent by Michael Kagumu, Nairobi, Kenya

Tuesday 14 June

Too much fish does not spoil the soup. An Akan proverb sent by Edmund Ofei, Cape Coast, Ghana

Monday 13 June

A spider's cobweb isn't only its sleeping place but also its food trap. Sent by Kehinde Isaac, Lagos, Nigeria

Friday 10 June

You suffer from smoke produced by firewood you fetched yourself. A Luhya proverb sent by Harriet Aseneka, Nairobi, Kenya

Thursday 9 June

When the baobab tree has fallen, the goats start climbing on it. A Bambara proverb from Mali sent by Otovo Lucky, Benin City, Nigeria

Wednesday 8 June

It is what you have given birth to that redeems you. A Dinka proverb from South Sudan sent by Ayuel Aleer Deng, Melbourne, Australia

Tuesday 7 June

If you don't let your friend cross and reach his destination, you will not cross and reach yours. An Akan proverb sent by Opey Abednego Brandy, Kumasi, Ghana

Monday 6 June

If you neglect a small pot, it will boil and quench the fire. An Igbo proverb sent by Emeka Emmanuel, Ogidi, Nigeria

Friday 3 June

The ear cannot hold as much water as it does news. A Somali proverb sent by Ibrahim M Garon, Ifo, Dadaab, Kenya

Thursday 2 June

A chicken only pokes what it can swallow. A Runyankore proverb sent by Sawa Charity, Uganda

Wednesday 1 June

When the ear hears, the body is safe. A Hausa proverb sent by David Ojima Simeon, Bangalore, India

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

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

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