Africa's proverb of the day

  • 4 November 2015
  • 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 30 October

No matter how high the bird flies, a hunter sets the trap on the ground. Sent by Kinene Vincent, Mubende, Uganda

Thursday 29 October

If sin persists for a year it becomes tradition. An Igbo proverb sent by Ike Emeka, Lagos, Nigeria

Wednesday 28 October

An advisor is not a witch. A witch is the one who wants to be equal to you. A Tumbuka proverb sent by Paul Chagwa, Chipata, Zambia

Tuesday 27 October

Wisdom does not come overnight. A Somali proverb sent by Abdifatah Muse Gas, Galkaio, Puntland, Somalia

Monday 26 October

The noise of the frogs does not stop the elephant from drinking water. Sent by Dengdit, Juba, South Sudan, and Lamayang Jowang, Nakuru, Kenya

Friday 23 October

The goat thought it was dirtying its owner's wall until it realised it was tearing off its own skin. An Akan proverb from Ghana sent by Michael Damanka, Ontario, Canada

Thursday 22 October

A child who fears beating would never admit that he played with a missing knife. Sent by Fayinka Abel, Ibadan, Nigeria

Wednesday 21 October

You can't rescue a feather from the fireplace when it is already burning. Sent by Cheryot Mng'etich, Chepkirui Sangutet Irine and Kipkoech Geoffrey, all from Kenya

Tuesday 20 October

Whoever is inquisitive will not be poisoned by mushrooms. A Tonga proverb sent by Erick Malambo and Michael Mweemba, both form Zambia

Monday 19 October

When an enemy digs a grave for you, God gives you an emergency exit. A Kirundi proverb from Burundi sent by Julian Dzikunu, Accra, Ghana

Friday 16 October

Don't make a goat your friend if your skirt is made of leaves. Sent by Robert O Eghagha, Agbor, Nigeria

Thursday 15 October

One who hides sickness will not be cured. Sent by Marcus Mlenga, Blantyre, Malawi

Wednesday 14 October

A road cannot tell you that there is a misfortune ahead. A Luhya proverb sent by Musonge Mutoro Godfrey, Bungoma, Kenya

Tuesday 13 October

Even the ostrich, with its long neck and sharp eyes, cannot see what will happen in the future. A Maasai proverb sent by Phelicks Hustleton, Accra, Ghana

Monday 12 October

The mind is like a bag, everyone carries their own. An Igbo proverb sent by Uchenna U. Akaigwe, Bissau, Guinea-Bissau

Friday 9 October

Even if the rabbit is your enemy, admit that he can run fast. Sent by Robert, London, UK

Thursday 8 October

An intelligent enemy is better than a stupid friend. A Senegalese proverb sent by Ibrahim Muhammad Nasir, Jos, Nigeria

Wednesday 7 October

He who wants to be famous will have many sleepless nights. A Tunisian proverb sent by Gavin Zimba, Kitwe, Zambia

Tuesday 6 October

Even the lion, who is the king of the forest, protects himself against flies. Sent by Akua Annor, Accra, Ghana

Monday 5 October

Inside a black pot white pap is made. A Yoruba proverb sent by Aina Ayodeji Kazeem, Ibadan, Nigeria

Friday 2 October

A man swept away by a flood clings to the foam. A Somali proverb sent by Ali Aman, Berbera, Somaliland

Thursday 1 October

A cow can fall even though it has four legs. A Kalenjin proverb sent by Bartai Geoffrey, Bomet, Kenya

Wednesday 30 September

One does not tie a goat to another goat for one to butt the other to death. A Yoruba proverb sent by Prince Kola A Israel, Lagos, Nigeria

Tuesday 29 September

Marriage is like a groundnut; you have to crack it to see what is inside. An Akan proverb sent by Christopher Baggu, Juba, South Sudan

Monday 28 September

The evil spirit of a man is a man. A Swahili proverb sent by Laban Rotich, Eldoret, Kenya

Friday 25 September

An elephant which kills a rat is not a hero. Sent by Deng Bol Deng Longar, Juba, South Sudan

Thursday 24 September

The heart of a fool is in his mouth and the mouth of the wise man is in his heart. Sent by Nati Kele, Ethiopia

Wednesday 23 September

If someone called "Nakedness" promises you a piece of cloth, you should listen to his name. Sent by Prince Baffour Awuah, Accra, Ghana

Tuesday 22 September

A newly arrived chicken stands on one leg in their new home. An Igbo proverb sent by Nate, Cologne, Germany

Monday 21 September

Only an experienced person climbs a slippery tree. A Luhya proverb sent by Richard Muhambe, Kitale, Kenya

Friday 18 September

A cow is a god with a wet nose. Sent by Thaela Lefu, Maseru, Lesotho

Thursday 17 September

Even if a hen is very poor, it will not lay black eggs. Sent by Anhiem Mayhan Makeer, Juba, South Sudan

Wednesday 16 September

Old and new millet seeds end up in the same mill. An Acholi proverb sent by Okello Samuel, Gulu, Uganda

Tuesday 15 September

When the blanket is short you sleep with bended legs. Sent by Akenji Gibbons, Bamenda, Cameroon

Monday 14 September

Use your tongue to count your teeth before you speak. An Igbo proverb sent by Uche Duru, London, UK

Friday 11 September

Don't let others prepare for you the camel needed to fetch water if they will not take that camel to the well. A Somali proverb sent by Ali Ahmed, Kenya

Thursday 10 September

If you look at your child, you will see his questions before you hear them. Sent by Yvon Atsiba, Quebec, Canada

Wednesday 9 September

If you can bring yourself to eat a person's head, you don't have to be afraid to eat the dirt in the eyes. A Kono proverb sent by Jimissa, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Tuesday 8 September

Killing a rat that is holed up inside an earthen pot requires wisdom. An Esan proverb from Nigeria sent by Eugene Ogbomon, Lovejoy, US

Monday 7 September

A bad wound heals, but a bad word doesn't. An Oromo proverb sent by Samuel Fekadu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Friday 4 September

A deceiver never prospers. A Somali proverb sent by Hussein Mohamud, Nashville, US

Thursday 3 September

If you sell your father's land to buy a trumpet where will you stand to blow it? Sent by Moussa Kourouma, N'zerekore, Guinea, and Anye Anye, Bamenda, Cameroon

Wednesday 2 September

It is trouble that makes a monkey eat pepper. A Krio proverb from Sierra Leone sent by Sigismond Wilson, Oklahoma, US

Tuesday 1 September

Though the bat may hang its head downwards, it is fully aware of the way the birds fly. A Yoruba proverb sent by Aremo Chris, Abule Egba, Ogun, Nigeria

Monday 31 August

Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together. An Ashanti proverb sent by Frank Osei Kwabena Asamoah, Obuasi, Ghana

Friday 28 August

Restless feet may walk into a snake pit. Sent by Nganje Cheryl, Mannheim, Germany

Thursday 27 August

A united family eats from the same plate. Sent by Kasozi George, Kampala, Uganda

Wednesday 26 August

The winged termite can only fly for a while; it will eventually become food for the frog. Sent by Wise-Williams, Nigeria

Tuesday 25 August

He who earns calamity eats it with his family. A Swahili proverb sent by Martin Manyiel Wugol, Aweil, South Sudan

Monday 24 August

The hare is small but it begets twins. A Luo proverb sent by Owino Onyango Mak'Oburu, Kenya

Friday 21 August

If the hunter comes back with mushrooms, don't ask him how his hunt was. A Ghanaian proverb sent by Okwir Daniel, Lira, Uganda

Thursday 20 August

Never praise a person for their beauty but rather for their actions. A Kisii proverb sent by Daniel Osiemo Ondiere, Kisumu, Kenya

Wednesday 19 August

He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk. A Malawian proverb sent by Souplex, Buea, Cameroon

Tuesday 18 August

The inquisitive monkey gets a bullet in the face. An Igbo proverb sent by Afam Ejidike, Aberdeen, UK

Monday 17 August

Only the knife knows what is in the heart of the coco-yam. A proverb from Cameroon sent by Fwangwe Wubai Ndula

Friday 14 August

A container is filled little by little. A Swahili proverb sent by Sameer Yusuf, Wembley, London

Thursday 13 August

If you give bad food to your stomach, it drums for you to dance. Sent by Usman Al-Amin, Nguru, Nigeria

Wednesday 12 August

You cannot hide the smoke when a house is burning. A Kirundi proverb sent by Jean Baptiste Niyongabo, Bujumbura, Burundi

Tuesday 11 August

A millipede will not limp because of one missing leg. A Somali proverb sent by Abdishukri Mohamed, Wajir, Kenya

Monday 10 August

He who wants to taste the honey in a rock should not worry about the edge of his axe. A Yoruba proverb sent by Aderopo Adesola, Saskatoon, Canada

Friday 7 August

A bull that's already pinned to the ground does not resist the branding iron. A Meru proverb sent by Paul Kinoti, Mombasa, Kenya

Thursday 6 August

If you see a person in a gown eating with a person in rags, the food belongs to the latter. Sent by Weluzani Banda, Zambia

Wednesday 5 August

It is the calm and silent water that drowns a man. Sent by Raymond Adjei Opoku, Accra, Ghana

Tuesday 4 August

The forest that does not like baskets should not grow mushrooms. An Igbo proverb sent by Ibru Ibeabuchi, Umuahia Ibeku, Nigeria

Monday 3 August

Too many whistles confuse the dog. A Swahili proverb sent by Mudenda Sipho Bulando, Livingstone, Zambia

Friday 31 July

A bird that chooses to perch on a rope should be ready to dance with the rope. Sent by Emmanuel Ukaegbu, Chester, UK

Thursday 30 July

When a leopard is chasing you, do not ask if it is male or female. A Temne proverb from Sierra Leone sent by Ibn Jamel, London, UK

Wednesday 29 July

The papaya tree which bears sweet fruit always has a stick under it. An Akan proverb sent by Kwabens Kankam Boakye, Kumasi, Ghana

Tuesday 28 July

Whatever the type of firewood found in a place, it is usually good enough for the people of that place to cook with. An Igbo proverb sent by Chukwuemeka Ekere, Calabar, Nigeria

Monday 27 July

Hands wash each other. A Zulu and Swahili proverb sent by Steve Mazinga, St Francis Bay, South Africa

Friday 24 July

The earliest cow to the creek drinks clean water. A Luyana/Lozi proverb sent by Mulako Sianga, Kitwe, Zambia

Thursday 23 July

If one fish in the basket rots, they all rot. Sent by Deus Zakalia Mahlati Gondwe, Mzuzu, Malawi

Wednesday 22 July

The person whose father received a bullet in the head uses an iron pot as a helmet. An Igbo proverb sent by Chukwuebuka Bigseed Okafor, Awka, Nigeria

Tuesday 21 July

The family's oil is not for rubbing into the skin of strangers. A Kikuyu proverb sent by Paul Mbugua, Nairobi, Kenya

Monday 20 July

A frog does not jump backwards. Sent by Sunday Nyeleti, Lusaka, Zambia, and Idua Olunwa, Dallas, US

Friday 17 July

No matter how skilfully the chick dances, it will never please the hawk. Sent by Nyaku Selom & Julian Dzikunu from Ghana, and Albert Damptey-Boakye, Norway

Thursday 16 July

The skin of the leopard is beautiful, but not its heart. A Baluba proverb sent by Sydney K Mmanga, Blantyre, Malawi

Wednesday 15 July

Ears are beggars; they gather all they get hold of. A Bemba proverb sent by Kalunga Yoshua, Zambia

Tuesday 14 July

You do not look for a person wearing white cloth where the palm-oil maker works. A Yoruba proverb sent by Mohammed Hammed Olanrewaju, Abeokuta, Nigeria

Monday 13 July

Where a horse is absent, a donkey appears. An Oromo proverb sent by Chala Dejenu, Finfine, Oromia, Ethiopia

Friday 10 July

If you carry a hyena on your back, dogs will bark at you. A Wolof proverb sent by Pa Sallah Drammeh, Banjul, The Gambia

Thursday 9 July

An ox hide must be folded to a shape one wants while it is still fresh. An Ndebele proverb from Zimbabwe sent by Thoman Sikowelo, Johannesburg, South Africa

Wednesday 8 July

Mine is different from ours. An Igala proverb sent by Sani Adamu, Jos, Nigeria, and Christy Etim Esin, Atlanta, US

Tuesday 7 July

It's preferable to fight with a friend than to cheat him. An Oromo proverb sent by Berhanmeskel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Monday 6 July

Good news is the ears' favourite dish. An Ewe proverb sent by James Agblevor, Accra, Ghana

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