Africa's proverb of the day

  • 5 August 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 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

Tuesday 30 June

Do not fight for a guinea fowl that has been caught in someone else's net. An Acholi proverb sent by Martin Okwir, Lira, Uganda

Monday 29 June

The stomach that contains truth cannot be pierced even with a knife. A Hausa proverb sent by Kyomson, Prague, The Czech Republic

Friday 26 June

One frog can ruin everyone's water. A Luo proverb sent by Ronald Ogwal, Uganda

Thursday 25 June

Unexpected rainfall allows goats and sheep to seek shelter under the same roof. Sent by Henson King, Monrovia, Liberia

Wednesday 24 June

Twenty friends will not continue hanging out for 20 years. A Yoruba proverb sent by Wale Adejuyigbe, Kent, The UK

Tuesday 23 June

A man's beauty is judged by the number of cows he owns. A Zulu proverb sent by Bruce Sithole, Durban, South Africa

Monday 22 June

Rushing is not the best way to start a fire. A Ugandan proverb sent by Ken, London, The UK

Friday 19 June

Do not compete with an elephant when it comes to passing stools. A Swahili proverb sent by Roland Ebole, Nairobi, Kenya

Thursday 18 June

The fork on the road made the hyena miss the party. A Lango proverb sent by Patrick Odongo, Kitgum, Uganda

Wednesday 17 June

He who burnt in a fire always fears ashes. A Somali proverb sent by Young Mohadish Salad, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Tuesday 16 June

One does not count the fingers of nine-fingered person in his or her presence. A Yoruba proverb sent by Abimbola Oladiran, Jos, Nigeria

Monday 15 June

You should not sleep outside just because someone else did it and was lucky. A Tonga proverb sent by Peter Mulekwa Gotola, Lusaka, Zambia

Friday 12 June

When they wish to eat a vulture, they call it a guinea fowl. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Yibekal Abebe Tessema, Zurich, Swizerland

Thursday 11 June

If you see someone who is afraid of being identified, he is guilty of something. A Hausa proverb sent by Safynaz Isabelle Cisse, London, The UK

Wednesday 10 June

A wise visitor leaves firewood behind. A Tonga proverb sent by Moses, Choma, Zambia

Tuesday 9 June

The forest yields when you are tired. A Shona proverb sent by Kudzai Makomva, Harare, Zimbabwe

Monday 8 June

A single palm kernel does not get lost in the fire. An Igbo proverb from Nigeria sent by Obi Ozonzeadi, London, The UK

Friday 5 June

A horse may take you to the battlefield, but it will not fight for you. An Amharic proverb from Ethiopia sent by Abebe Mekuria, Woodbridge, Canada

Thursday 4 June

A dish which is going to be tasty will smell good when it boils. A Wolof proverb sent by Coura Fall, Dakar, Senegal

Wednesday 3 June

Someone who talks about a wound talks about a wound that he has had before. A Tonga proverb sent by Peter Mulekwa Gotola, Lusaka, Zambia

Tuesday 2 June

Bad counsel may cause you to fall into an abyss. A Somali proverb sent by Abshir Fire Cadde, Nelspruit, South Africa

Monday 1 June

When a mother elephant blows its trumpet, the baby elephant stays quiet. A Yoruba proverb from Nigeria sent by Collins Fadare, London, UK

Friday 29 May

Plenty is still; hunger is a wanderer. A Zulu proverb sent by Tarikua Getachew, Ethiopia

Thursday 28 May

An elephant does not see the fleas on its body, but sees those on others. A Somali proverb sent by Abdi, Faribault, The US

Wednesday 27 May

When your grandmother tells you something, you don't run to your mother to ask if it's the truth. A Baoule proverb sent by Ameyedowo Carlos, Accra, Ghana

Tuesday 26 May

A bird hanging between two branches will get bitten on both wings. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Den, Houston, The US

Monday 25 May

A woman who began cooking before others must have more broken utensils. An Igbo proverb from Nigeria sent by Nnamdi A Udoye, London, The UK

Friday 22 May

A cockroach who dances well does not do it when the foul is present. Sent by Kojo Asare, Japan

Thursday 21 May

Life, like a wheel, turns. A Setswana proverb sent by IndomitableGg Phaladi, Gaborone, Botswana

Wednesday 20 May

The camel that burnt in the maize field knows what a fire is. A Somali proverb sent by Ali Ahmed, Kenya

Tuesday 19 May

When the black ant bites the buttocks, the buttocks learn a lesson. An Igbo proverb from Nigeria sent by Chikaodili Deng, Toulouse, France

Monday 18 May

A bone that is forced into the cooking pot breaks the pot. A Chewa proverb sent by Frank Mithi, Mzuzu, Malawi

Friday 15 May

If you see a pregnant goat in the market, it means that there are pregnant troubles at home. A Dagbani proverb sent by Abdulai Abdul Rauf, Tamale, Ghana

Thursday 14 May

Wisdom is like hair, everyone has their own. A Swahili proverb sent by Bruno Onindo, Halifax, Canada; Winnie Muthoni, Murang'a, Kenya, and Tez Lore, Nairobi, Kenya

Wednesday 13 May

The camel that likes two herds is eaten by the lion between them. Sent by Nur Aabdi, Mogadishu, Somalia

Tuesday 12 May

It is the dirty hand that produces the oily mouth. An Igbo proverb from Nigeria sent by Rev Joshua Amaezechi, Michigan, The US

Monday 11 May

It is only a foolish dog which barks at an elephant. Sent by Mung´omba Ngoma, Luanda, Angola

Friday 8 May

The locust flies away but leaves hardship behind. A Somali proverb sent by Ali Aman, Berbera, Somaliland

Thursday 7 May

Do not stir my stew while yours is burning. An Ethiopian proverb sent by Selam K, Minneapolis, The US

Wednesday 6 May

If you eat the fruit of a big tree, don't forget to thank the wind. A Baatonu/Bariba proverb from Benin sent by Yvon Atsiba, Quebec, Canada

Tuesday 5 May

The sleep that lasts from one market day to another becomes death. An Igbo proverb sent by Ihunegbo Oluchi, Enugu, Nigeria

Monday 4 May

It is difficult to throw a stone at a lizard that is clinging to a pot. An Ashanti proverb sent by George Cantreph, Accra, Ghana

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

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