African culture is deeply rooted in its people through music, quotes, and sayings. Songs, for instance, have a way of sending a particular message. They could be used to educate, warn, or praise an action. In the same way, wise African proverbs are used to pass a hidden message and influence good morals.
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What are African proverbs? They are a set of figurative words that have a hidden meaning. They can be used to educate, inform, warn, or console. Some can even be used to reinforce arguments. Apart from building a sense of humour in a conversation, they are used in most cases to build morals. It is, therefore, wise to understand their meanings and the contexts in which they are used.
African proverbs about wisdom
These sayings are used to pass wisdom to a particular group of people. They include:
- Knowledge is like a garden. If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.
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Meaning: If one does not strive to gain knowledge, they cannot have it, and if they do not put it into use, it becomes useless.
- The best way to eat an elephant in your path is to cut him into little pieces.
Meaning: To solve a big issue, you have to do it in bits.
- A chick that will grow into a c*ck can be spotted every day when it hatches.
Meaning: The end result of something can be foreseen by the signs that it exhibits at the moment.
- If a child washes his hands, he could eat with kings.
Meaning: Prepare for something perfect, and you will receive the best results.
- Life is like a shadow and a mist; it passes quickly and is no more.
Meaning: Live your best life.
- Rain does not fall on one roof alone.
Meaning: Everyone has their difficult moments.
- Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him.
Meaning: A man is described by his character, regardless of his location.
- Sugarcane is the sweetest at its joints.
Meaning: The best things are difficult to achieve, but the fruits that they bring forth are worth it.
- Anger against a brother is felt in the flesh, not in the bone.
Meaning: You should learn to forgive at all costs.
- The lizard that jumped from the high Iroko tree to the ground said it would praise itself if no one else did.
Meaning: Clap for yourself whenever you achieve something.
- When a handshake passes the elbow, it becomes another thing.
Meaning: One should be watchful of the people they call friends.
- He likes burial ram's meat but recovers when sickness visits him.
Meaning: Do good unto those you wish to do good to you.
- If white anti chews' Igbegulu' (palm stem) is lying on the ground, let it climb the palm tree and eat it.
Meaning: People will look down upon you, especially when they do not know you.
- If that rat cannot flee enough, let it make way for the tortoise.
Meaning: If you cannot do something, pave the way for other people.
- He who is bitten by the snake fears the earthworm.
Meaning: It is okay to be extra careful, especially after you have had a series of disappointments.
Warning life lesson African proverbs
These proverbs warn about impending danger or consequences if a certain instruction or address is not followed. These are some of the warning proverbs.
- Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.
Meaning: Before getting into situations, it is wise to think of the consequences.
- Don't sail using someone else's star.
Meaning: Do not try to be like someone else because you do not know their journey.
- Restless feet may walk into a snake pit.
Meaning: If someone is busy doing nothing, they are likely to get into trouble.
- After a foolish deed comes remorse.
Meaning: A stupid deed is always followed by consequences.
- A roaring lion kills no game.
Meaning: It takes action and not words to achieve something.
- A man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness.
Meaning: What you give is what you will get in return.
- Do not look at where you fell, but where you slipped.
Meaning: Do not focus on the fault, but rather on the cause of the fault.
- Do not call the forest that shelters you a jungle.
Meaning: Do not despise something or someone that was once beneficial to you.
- Maize bears fruits once and dies because it is not rooted in the ground.
Meaning: Having a good foundation is all that it takes to get to the top.
- He who sees an old hag squatting should leave her alone; who knows how she breathes?
Meaning: Do not meddle with people's business if you do not know what they are going through.
- Lizard that ruined its mother's burial, what did it expect others to do?
Meaning: You will be punished for all your wrong deeds.
- He who will swallow the "udala" seed must consider the size of his stomach.
Meaning: One should think of the consequences before doing anything.
- The fly that has no one to advise him follows a corpse into the grave.
Meaning: You will fall into a trap if you fail to take of advice.
- When a mighty tree falls, the birds are scattered into the bush.
Meaning: When a good leader passes on, his subjects lose direction if they do not choose another able leader.
- No matter how long a log stays in the water, it does not become a crocodile.
Meaning: You will always be described by your character, regardless of what you become.
- The very thing that killed a mother rat is always there to make sure that its young ones never open their eyes.
Meaning: You must always be on the watch for evil people.
- The little bird that hops off the ground and lands on the anti-hill may not know that it is still on the ground.
Meaning: You should not be proud of greatness until you fully achieve it.
- A boy who perseveres in asking what killed his father before he has enough strength to avenge may be asking for his father's fate.
Meaning: Do not get into a battle that you are not sure you will win.
- A man who sees a hen scattering excrement should stop it. Who knows who will eat the leg?
Meaning: Do not watch a young girl misbehave because you do not know who is going to marry her.
- A boy who perseveres in asking what killed his father before he has enough strength to avenge may be asking for his father's fate.
Meaning: It warns against getting into a battle in that you are not sure you will come out unsuccessful.
Spirituality African proverbs to build your morals
Below are more proverbs you can learn from.
- The man who belittled the sickness a monkey suffered must ask to see the eyes which his nurse got from blowing his sick fire.
Meaning: Be considerate before you think of disrespecting other people's problems.
- A common snake, which a man sees all alone, may become a python in his eyes.
Meaning: Do not rely on your impression of people alone. That does not define them.
- However long the night, the dawn will break.
Meaning: Amid a difficult situation, there is a need to be hopeful.
- It takes a village to raise a child.
Meaning: Everyone should play their part in something for good results.
- You cannot shave someone in his absence.
Meaning: You cannot correct a bad habit that someone has when they are not present.
- A tree is known by its fruits.
Meaning: Someone's deeds greatly contribute to their personalities and how they carry themselves around.
- There would be no gunshots in the forest if the tortoise and the snail were the only animals in the forest.
Meaning: It is good manners to mind your business and embrace the quietness of the snail and tortoise.
- Two heads are better than one.
Meaning: Better results are achieved when you choose to do things as a group instead of doing them individually.
- You don't pick up birds' nests on the way when going to a city full of birds.
Meaning: Good things take time, and it is okay to wait patiently and not fall for everything that comes your way.
- You may not like the taste in your tongue, but that is where you always lick.
Meaning: Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations that we can do nothing about.
- You learn how to cut down trees by cutting them down.
Meaning: No one is ever born an expert in doing anything. It takes consistent practice to be good at doing something.
- A horse has four legs, yet it falls often.
Meaning: Do not be afraid of doing something because you feel that you are not good at it, because even those that are good at something often fail.
- One should stab a hyena and then aim for a lion.
Meaning: It is good to have goals in life.
- It is not necessary to blow out the other person's lantern to let yours shine.
Meaning: Growth involves tagging your fellows along.
- A home without a woman is like a barn without cattle.
Meaning: A family cannot stand without the direction and guidance of a woman.
These are some of the South African sayings from the Xhosa community that are commonly used.
- Akuko mpukane inqakulela enye.
Translation: One fly does not provide for another.
Meaning: This is a line that the hardworking tell the lazy ones to get up and work.
- Akuko ranincwa lingagqimiyo kowalo umxuma.
Translation: There is no beast that does not roar in its den.
Meaning: Every man associates themselves with their achievements.
- Lunyawo lwemfene.
Translation: It is the foot of a baboon.
Meaning: It is used to refer to someone who exhibits a perfidious character.
- Ishwa lomhluzi wamanqina.
Translation: The misfortune of soup is made of shanks and feet
Meaning: It refers to someone who is always working hard but does not do well.
- Kude e-Bakuba, akuyiwanga mntu.
Translation: Bakuba is far away; no person has ever reached it.
Meaning: It is used to warn against ambitions that do not sound realistic
Popular South African quotes
Besides the proverbs, quotes are also considered to be words of wisdom. These are words of wisdom that will guide you every day. Here are some Africa quotes you can relate to.
- You cannot be lost on a road that is straight.
- Don't do what you'll have to find an excuse for.
- One meets his destiny often in the road he takes to avoid it.
- He that will cheat at play will cheat you anyway.
- Every beetle is beautiful in the eyes of their beholder.
- If you see a friend without a smile, give him one of yours.
- Better a thousand times careful than once dead.
- No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning.
- A real cousin or friend is someone who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
- Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something.
- To attract good fortune, spend a new penny on an old friend, share an old pleasure with a new friend, and lift up the heart of a true friend by writing his name on the wings of a dragon.
Proud African quotes
Africa, in particular, is brimming with inspirational sayings and quotes, many of which offer a fascinating glimpse into the rich and vibrant cultures that created them. Check out some of these ancestors quotes about Africa.
- There is always something new out of Africa.
- Africans must change their mind and actions.
- Africa for the Africans at home and abroad! - Marcus Garvey
- Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is the worst of all.
- If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa. - John Hemingway
- Being from Africa is the best thing that has ever, ever happened to me.
- You cannot leave Africa. It is always with you, there inside your head.
- For I am my mother's daughter, and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart.
- I am an African, not because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me.
- I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy. - Ernest Hemingway
- I am a N*gro: Black as the night is black, Black like the depths of my Africa. - Langston Hughes
- I'm proud to be an African. I've had some interesting experiences: some great, some not so great, but I love it here.
- Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew, and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water. - W. C. Fields
- If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness. - Nelson Mandela
- We all belong to South Africa, and South Africa belongs to us all. - Oliver Tambo
- Africa has her mysteries, and even a wise man cannot understand them. But a wise man respects them.
- God bless Africa, Guard her people, Guide her leaders, And give her peace. - Trevor Huddleston
- If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work, then every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.
- Mostly I'm proud to be an African woman, but I'm glad I have a universal look as well.
- Nothing but breathing the air of Africa and actually walking through it can communicate indescribable sensations.
- The keys to building your continent depend on your willpower, persistent effort and action towards self-liberation.
- Africa is not a country, but it is a continent like none other. It has that which is elegantly vast or awfully little.
- We are all children of Africa, and none of us is better or more important than the other.
- You either get the point of Africa, or you don't. What draws me back year after year is that it's like seeing the world with the lid off.
- We see a new Africa, stretching her hands of influence throughout the world, teaching man the way of life and peace.
African love proverbs
Here are a few wonderful love African proverbs that should get you thinking.
- Truth should be in love and love in truth.
- Where there is love, there is no darkness.
- It is better to be loved than to be feared.
- Love is like a baby; it needs to be treated tenderly.
- He who loves the vase also loves what is inside.
- The quarrel of lovers is the renewal of love.
- Brothers love each other when they are equally rich.
- When one is in love, a cliff becomes a meadow.
- When one is in love, a mountain top becomes a flat field.
- Love, like rain, doesn't choose the grass on which it falls.
- He may say that he loves you, wait and see what he does for you.
- Every kind of love is love, but self-love is supreme among them.
- If the full moon loves you, why worry about the stars?
- Let your love be like the misty rain, coming softly but flooding the river.
- Pretend you are dead, and you will see who really loves you.
- A fish and bird may fall in love, but the two cannot build a home together.
- Marriage is like a groundnut: you must crack them to see what is inside.
- When you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes, but the monkey remains.
- A happy man marries the girl he loves, but a more fortunate man loves the girl he marries.
- Do not treat your loved one like a swinging door: you are fond of it, but you push it back and forth.
Funny African proverbs
Check out the examples below if you are looking for funny African proverbs to spice up your day.
- Respect the fools to avoid noise.
- It is not work that kills but worries.
- Don't mistake a short man for a boy.
- An erected p*nis has no conscience.
- When God cooks, you don't see smoke.
- Without fools, there would be no wisdom.
- He is a fool whose sheep runs away twice.
- Even the best cooking pot will not produce food.
- If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.
- A goat’s frown cannot stop it from being taken to the market.
- A flea can trouble a lion more than a lion can trouble a flea.
- No matter how the buttock hurries, she will always remain behind.
- When a girl has beauty without brains, the private parts suffer the most.
- He who sleeps with itchy an*s must wake up with smelly fingers.
- If the sun claims superiority over the moon, let it shine at night
- You cannot convince a monkey that honey is sweeter than a banana.
- Swallowing a knife may be hard, but once you do, the a*us always finds a way to expel it.
- No matter how far an eagle flies up the sky, it will definitely come down to looking for food.
- When you see a woman sitting with her legs open, never tell her to close them because you do not know her source of fresh air.
- The day a mosquito lands on your testicles, you will know there is a better way of resolving issues without using violence.
African proverbs have been in existence for ages. They are the most interesting and sophisticated forms of literature. They have been passed from one generation to the other and are best used to teach morals.
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