Africa's proverb of the day

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."

Use the Have Your Say link below to send in your wise words.

Your African proverb

Have your say

Your proverbs from the last few months:

Friday 31 October

Hold a true friend with both hands. A Nigerian proverb sent by J. Savage, US

Thursday 30 October

If members of your household do not sell you, people on the streets will not buy you. A Krio proverb from Sierra Leone sent by Ann Marie Dawson, Madison, Wisconsin, US

Wednesday 29 October

Old sheep's eyes see the sky only after it is slaughtered. A Somali proverb sent by Hashi Y Osman, Dallikon, Switzerland

Tuesday 28 October

One should punish a child the first time he comes home with a stolen egg, otherwise the day he returns home with a stolen ox, it will be too late. Sent by Nigusie Y, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Monday 27 October

Monkey no fine but im mama like am. (The monkey might be ugly but his mother loves him.) A West-African pidgin English proverb sent by Olu, Washington DC, US

Friday 24 October

A monkey that eats with both hands will sooner or later fall from the tree. Sent by Isaac T Payedoe, Gbarnga, Liberia, and Bartholomew Bropleh, Providence, Rhode Island, US

Thursday 23 October

When a tortoise embarks on a journey he does not ask for directions, because he does not want his enemies to know where he is going. Sent by Sylvester, Nigeria

Wednesday 22 October

A stone under water will never know when it is raining. Sent by Credo Mwila Ng'uni, Kalulushi, Zambia

Tuesday 21 October

He who sets mouse traps in burnt grass should not expect to walk away with a clean bottom. A Shona proverb sent by Sam Pachawo Dhlamini, Mutare, Zimbabwe

Monday 20 October

What cannot be swallowed by a duck cannot be swallowed by a chicken. Sent by Michael Annel Phiri, Lusaka, Zambia, and Joster Jumbe, Zomba, Malawi

Friday 17 October

You may be clever but you can never lose your shadow. An Igbo proverb sent by Orazulike Chinelo Mmesoma, Lagos, Nigeria

Thursday 16 October

You will never be successful without going through troubles. A Chagga proverb sent by Felician, Moshi, Tanzania

Wednesday 15 October

It is only fair to compare two ewes' tails if they are of twins. A Luo proverb sent by Robert, Kenya

Tuesday 14 October

To ensure a lasting relationship, do not offer a goat to your in-law for safe-keeping. An Esan proverb from Nigeria sent by Gabriel Osemudiamen Okodoa, Newcastle, UK

Monday 13 October

The horns cannot be too heavy for the head of the cow that must bear them. Sent by Mercy, Hamilton, New York, US

Friday 10 October

Only a fool carrying an elephant on his head joins people hunting crickets. Sent by David Adeshiyan, from Ibadan, Nigeria, living in the US, and Barka Mamman, from Kaduna, Nigeria

Thursday 9 October

He who looks for honey must have the courage to face the bees. A Congolese proverb sent by Henri Kyalu, Cape Town, South Africa

Wednesday 8 October

A person without a culture is a slave. A Swahili proverb sent by Siegbert "Ziggy" Otto, Eldoret, Kenya

Tuesday 7 October

To give a monkey a cup of water is easy but it's difficult to get the cup back. Sent by Christian Nnodebe Okeke and Joseph Obuseri, both in Nigeria, and Sam Obi, in The Gambia

Monday 6 October

The crab does not bite but it is its greeting that hurts. A Ghanaian proverb sent by Daniel Yeboah, Chelmsford, UK

Friday 3 October

If you fear a potential thief then entrust him with your property. Sent by Omar Samba Bah, Banjul, The Gambia, and Ayuba Buba Mindala, Yola, Nigeria

Thursday 2 October

The child of the Blue Nile River went thirsty. An Amharic proverb sent by Fikre Gebrekidan, Mekele, Ethiopia

Wednesday 1 October

A wise person adapts to his surroundings but a fool expects his surroundings to adapt to him. A South African proverb sent by Melissa Wood, Bridgetown, Barbados

Tuesday 30 September

Before leaving home a child must be taught how to behave. A Bemba proverb sent by Chile B Bloomberg, Lusaka, Zambia

Monday 29 September

Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says no to the other, let his wing break. An Igbo proverb sent by Charles Udoji Egwuatu, Lagos, Nigeria

Friday 26 September

What is in the heart is in a cave. A Shona proverb sent by Nigel Tapiwa Mabvuure, Glasgow, UK

Thursday 25 September

Tears are best dried with your own hand. Sent by James Owich, Gulu, Uganda

Wednesday 24 September

A fighting bull is recognized by the scars on its body. A Shona proverb from Zimbabwe sent by Chenjerai Hove, Stavanger, Norway

Tuesday 23 September

When the frog in front falls in a pit, others behind take caution. A Nigerian proverb sent by Sablah Laud, Accra, Ghana

Monday 22 September

When a hyena wants to eat its offspring it says they smell like a goat. Sent by Misheck Muchatuta, Harare, Zimbabwe

Friday 19 September

A monkey cannot judge a case involving a forest. Sent by Kinalwa Michael and Kayongo Daniel, both in Kampala, Uganda

Thursday 18 September

A speech without a proverb is like a stew without salt. An Oromo proverb sent by Dula, Hawassa, Ethiopia, and Habtamu S Tolla, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Wednesday 17 September

When a ripe fruit sees an honest man, it drops. Sent by Sphazze Machinne, Nigeria

Tuesday 16 September

Respect cannot be built with a stick. A Xhosa proverb sent by Henry, Nelspruit, South Africa

Monday 15 September

Termites are far from the moon. A Mossi proverb from Burkina Faso sent by Bill, Limoux, France

Friday 12 September

He who flees from the roaring lion runs to the crouching lion. A South African proverb sent by Ahmad Ibrahima Umar, Kaduna State, Nigeria

Thursday 11 September

The fool speaks; the wise man listens. Sent by Elias Hajj Raw Bahh, Moyale, Ethiopia

Wednesday 10 September

Patience is the mother of a beautiful child. A Bantu proverb sent by Armel Kom, New York, US

Tuesday 9 September

A bad dancer blames the drummer. A Swahili proverb sent by Yvon Atsiba, Quebec, Canada, and Bill Rambo, Winnipeg, Canada

Monday 8 September

There are no shortcuts to the top of a palm tree. Sent by Popoola Bolaji Ismail, Lagos, Nigeria

Friday 5 September

Look at your hands when you are eating a monkey's hand. An Akan proverb sent by Kai Musa, Houston, US

Thursday 4 September

The horns of the snail are not enough for it to challenge the bull for a fight. Sent by Emeka Amadi, Sydney, Australia, and Charles Akunnor, Granada, Spain

Wednesday 3 September

The one who walks alone by the stream can easily be swept away. A Tonga proverb sent by Peter Mulekwa Gotola, Lusaka, Zambia

Tuesday 2 September

Problems have no manners. A Swahili proverb sent by Rosemina, London, UK

Monday 1 September

No matter how small an idol is, it is carried with two hands. An Igbo proverb sent by Matthew Chibuike, Kaduna, Nigeria

Friday 29 August

If you are patient, you can dissect an ant and see its intestines. A Twi proverb from Ghana sent by Rosemond Offei-Awuku, Tunis, Tunisia

Thursday 28 August

The cow does not know the value of its tail until it cuts it off. An Igbo proverb sent by Musa Camara, The Gambia, and Smoden Chimbau, Lilongwe, Malawi

Wednesday 27 August

A healthy person who begs for food is an insult to a generous farmer. Sent by Kenneth Opare-Obuobi, Nyankpala, Ghana

Tuesday 26 August

Fight the elephant and not his shadow. Sent by Mohamed Ibrahim, Khartoum, Sudan

Monday 25 August

Don't expect a dove from a snake's egg. Sent by Molla Ejigu, Assosa, Ethiopia

Friday 22 August

A baby who does not cry dies on its mother's back. Sent by Tsitsi Muza, Harare, Zimbabwe

Thursday 21 August

What you recognize as deadly will not kill you. Sent by Elijah Doro, Kampala, Uganda

Wednesday 20 August

Travelling slowly doesn't stop one from arriving, says the tortoise. A Hausa proverb sent by Randy, Fremont, Michigan, US

Tuesday 19 August

Even our tongues and our teeth sometimes clash. A Somali proverb sent by Zakariya Adam Mahat, Cape Town, South Africa

Monday 18 August

Every vessel has its own waves. A Swahili proverb sent by Innocent Munyuku, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Friday 15 August

A cow gave birth to a fire; she wanted to lick it, but it burned; she wanted to leave it, but she could not because it was her own child. Sent by Dawit Hailu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Thursday 14 August

If a dog cannot crack a bone there is no need to give it to a chicken to crack. Sent by Matthew Amoah, Accra, Ghana, and Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, Madrid, Spain

Wednesday 13 August

He who chases a fowl should expect to fall down. An Igbo proverb sent by Obioma Achara, Isuochi, Nigeria

Tuesday 12 August

Even the lion will eat grass if he is starving. A Ndebele Proverb from Zimbabwe sent by Mercy Changwesha, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Monday 11 August

You learn a lot about a man by his behaviour when hungry. A Zambian proverb sent by Jonas Mumba, Nanchang, China

Friday 8 August

If you follow a dog, it will lead you to the rubbish heap. A Krio proverb sent by Alhasan Wandunni Bangura, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Thursday 7 August

The hyena does not eat its baby, and you know how insatiable it is. A Kikuyu proverb sent by Jesuis John, Kenya

Wednesday 6 August

Things that you don't know are like a dark night. A Swahili proverb sent by Eshe, Birmingham, UK

Tuesday 5 August

The people who steal your millet at night are often the same people who help you look for it the next morning. Sent by Estar Nalwanga, Entebbe, Uganda

Monday 4 August

It's only when a lion is sick that the antelope visits him to reclaim an old debt. An Igbo proverb sent by David Heart, Orlu, Imo state, Nigeria

Friday 1 August

If a dog bites you and you don't bite him back, it will say you have no teeth. A Sudanese proverb sent by Tut John Nyuon in Wollo, Ethiopia

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