100 Popular African Proverbs and Their Meanings

If you are looking for African proverbs and their meaning, this article is written for you. As a continent endowed with natural resources, talent and creativity, Africa is also blessed with thousands of ancient wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Proverbs are idiomatic expressions used in conveying message or advice in a different manner.

In this article, we will reveal popular ancient wisdoms that are worth mentioning. We hope that some of them will help you in your daily life.

These proverbs were kept by our ancestors and are very useful today. From Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to the Okavango Delta in Botswana and many other great natural wonders in Africa, African proverbs combine yesterday’s history, today’s struggle and tomorrow’s glory. Here are the list of popular African proverbs we are used to hearing and their meanings.

100 Popular African Proverbs and Their Meanings 1


  1. Only a fool with both feet can feel the depth of the river.

Meaning: Do not enter a situation without prior thought.

  1. The power of the crocodile is in the water

Meaning: You are stronger in your environment than anywhere else

  1. Knowledge is like a garden: if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.

Meaning: If you want to be well informed, you have to learn and seek knowledge.

  1. The best way to eat an elephant along the way is to cut it into small pieces

Meaning: You can solve each problem step by step

  1. When the hand passes over the elbow, it becomes something else

Meaning: Be careful when strangers are too liberated

  1. Whoever wants to eat from the stone must not look at the tips of the ax.

Meaning: If you want to be successful, be prepared to sacrifice

  1. The farmer does not clean the weeds and expects the grass to dry immediately

Meaning: Patience is necessary in everything you do in life.

  1. The insect that eats the cola nut is right on the list

Meaning: Your enemy is always closer to you than you think.

  1. When your jam burns, you will not lend your knife to anyone else

Meaning: Be content before you think of others

  1. You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets

Meaning: You have to work hard to be successful.

  1. A child who says his mother will not sleep will stay awake

Meaning: Your actions and inactions always affect you.

  1. A restless leg can enter a snake pit

Meaning: Those who are engaged in doing nothing can easily get into trouble.

  1. A roaring lion will not kill anyone.

Meaning: You will not achieve anything just by talking about it.

  1. Whoever draws a goat to the market is also at the market
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Meaning: Anyone who tries to blur someone else’s image will blur his own image.

  1. The rain falls on the leopard skin, but does not wash the spots

Meaning: You cannot change the real character of a person, no matter how hard you try.

  1. You can’t teach an old gorilla forest trails

Meaning: Respect and listen to your elders

  1. When the snake bites, the lizard is afraid.

Meaning: You must be very careful in any situation that has hurt you before

  1. The Battle of the Grasshoppers is a feast for the hawks

Meaning: If you are not united, open the door to attack

  1. Do not call your host in the rainforest

Meaning: It is foolish to insult someone on whom survival depends

  1. No matter how angry he is, he doesn’t know how to cook sweet potatoes

Meaning: Anger is not always the solution

  1. The lizard, which jumped from Iroko’s tall tree to the ground, said she would brag if no one else did.

Meaning: This is one of the most famous African proverbs about leadership. This means that one should always remain satisfied with one’s results, even if no one cares.

  1. The lizard that ruined her mother’s funeral, what did she expect the others to do?

Meaning: This is a famous African proverb about life and death. In African culture, a mother’s burial is an individual matter. Nobody cares how you plan it. This saying means that if you stop an activity that worries you, don’t believe that others are doing it differently. Nigerians use this proverb if they want to warn someone of their approach to planning.

  1. Who sees the old witch squatting, has to leave her alone, who knows how to breathe?

Meaning: You should never interfere in other people’s problems, especially if you know nothing about them.

  1. Brother’s anger is felt in the body, not the bones.

Meaning: You must forget and forgive everything your relatives have done for you.

  1. Corn gives birth and dies once because it is not rooted in the soil.

Meaning: Without good foundations, you will never reach the top and remain prosperous.

  1. Whoever swallows seeds ‘married’ must reckon with the size of his stomach

Meaning: The seed of “Udala” is the seed of an apple. He never digests his stomach. This proverb means that one should always think of all the possible consequences of one’s actions.

  1. A fly that has no one to advise goes to the grave behind the corpse.

Meaning: You will fall into the trap if you do not have good advice or refuse to follow it.

  1. When the handshake passes over the elbow, it becomes something else.

Meaning: It is one of the most common African proverbs about friendship. This means that you should always be careful if someone else knows or makes fun of you.

  1. She loves the meat of a hearse, but she recovers when she falls ill.
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Meaning: one who wants others to spend money for him but is unable to do so.

  1. White against chewing ‘Igbegul’ (palm trunk), when left on the ground, let it rise in the palm of your hand and eat.

Meaning: ‘Igbegulu’ is the trunk of a palm tree. The proverb is about a situation where people bully you if they don’t realize who you are and find themselves in the fog of everyone else.

  1. When a large tree falls, the birds scatter across the bushes.

Meaning: This is another famous African proverb about leadership. When a great leader dies, many people lose their way if they do not find a successor.

  1. No matter how long the trunk stays in the water, it will not become a crocodile.

Meaning: You will always be who you are, no matter how long you pretend to be.

  1. A bird that jumps off the ground and lands on a hill may not know it, but it is still on the ground.

Meaning: You may think that you have attained greatness, but you have not begun. Wise people in Africa use this proverb to warn an arrogant man.

  1. An ordinary snake, when it sees a man alone, can turn into a python in his eyes.

Meaning: It is never enough to judge something by the male version.

  1. The same thing that killed the mother mouse is always there to make sure the puppies never open their eyes.

Meaning: Bad people are always at work.

  1. A boy who insists on asking what killed his father before he regained his strength for revenge may ask about his father’s fate.

Meaning: You should never start fighting unless you are ready or old enough to win.

  1. A man who despises monkey disease should ask to see what his nanny’s eyes are when extinguishing a sick fire.

Meaning: Before ignoring the difficulties of others, you should always consider the effects it has on you and your family.

  1. When death wants to take the dog, it even prevents him from noticing the smell of feces.

Meaning: This is another great African proverb about life and death. You will never hear the advice of the sages if you are doomed.

  1. A man who sees a chicken throwing manure must stop. Who knows who will eat the leg?

Meaning: It is one of the most famous African proverbs about marriage.

  1. Whenever you see that a girl is behaving badly, take advantage of it, because you never know who will marry her.

Meaning: You can always be you or a family member.

  1. If this mouse can’t run fast enough, give the turtles room.
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Meaning: If you cannot do something, let others try it. No one has complete knowledge or power.

  1. Black grouse with beautiful feathers.

Meaning: This proverb is about a thing or a person who is useless. UselessĀ  person or thing. It is often used when people talk about a beautiful woman in a bad mood.

  1. Look for the dark goat during the day at the earliest, because you may not find it at night.

Meaning: You should always organize and pursue your goals before it is too late to achieve them.

  1. What the old man saw sitting down could not be seen by the young man standing

Meaning: Older people always have more knowledge and wisdom than younger people.

  1. The day I need a wife is a market full of lunatics

Meaning: If you want something, you will never get it. It is a commonly used saying about bad luck.

  1. When a man builds a fence, you know the level of his wisdom.

Meaning: Your knowledge is always revealed in your activities.

  1. The bird does not forget those who cut their feathers during the rainy season.

Meaning: A man will never forget the help given to him in difficult times.

  1. The gentle stride of a Triger is not a symbol of cowardice

Meaning: It simply means do not take me for a coward simply because I look calm and easy

  1. Break the nut for chicken.

Meaning: This proverb is used when one is crying in vain for something.

  1. Send your child where he wants and you will see his rhythm.

Meaning: Passion must always guide our actions.

  1. The baby’s fingers do not burn a piece of hot sweet potato, which his mother puts in his hand.

Meaning: Whatever it is, your inheritance will never kill you.

  1. The old woman is always embarrassed when the proverb says dry bones.

Meaning: This proverb means that your mind will judge whether you are guilty of a crime, and now it has been said.

  1. The chicken that grows into a rooster can be seen on the day it hatches.

Meaning: There is a sign for every situation to which you are prone in the early stages if you seem critical. Of course, there are hundreds of African proverbs.

These African proverbs are wisdom filled, anytime you need meanings of popular African proverbs, you can always check the list above for their meanings.

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