African Proverbs

Ancient wisdom translated from Swahili, Zulu, and Yoruba

Girl With Africa Cut-Out

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When you think of Africa, do you think of dense forests and colorful costumes? A continent as culturally vibrant as Africa would also abound in age-old wisdom, don't you think? Many African countries rely on nature for livelihood; they have developed a unique insight into nature's laws. Read African proverbs to understand the profundities of nature. These African proverbs have been translated from various African languages: Swahili, Zulu, and Yoruba.

African Proverbs Translated From Swahili to English

  • A chicken's prayer doesn't affect a hawk.
  • The way a donkey expresses gratitude is by giving someone a bunch of kicks.
  • An envious person requires no reason to practice envy.
  • It's always good to save or invest for the future.
  • Hurry—haste has no blessing.
  • The water pot presses upon the small circular pad.
  • Effort will not counter faith.
  • The hen with baby chicks doesn't swallow the worm.
  • When elephants fight, the grass gets hurt.
  • I pointed out to you the stars and all you saw was the tip of my finger.
  • It is only a male elephant that can save another one from a pit.
  • A deaf ear is followed by death and an ear that listens is followed by blessings.

African Proverbs Translated From Yoruba to English

  • He who throws a stone in the market will hit his relative.
  • A person who stammers would eventually say "father".
  • One takes care of one's own: when a bachelor roasts yam, he shares it with his sheep.
  • When a king's palace burns down, the re-built palace is more beautiful.
  • A child lacks wisdom, and some say that what is important is that the child does not die; what kills more surely than lack of wisdom?
  • You are given some stew and you add water, you must be wiser than the cook.
  • One does not enter into the water and then run from the cold.
  • One does not fight to save another person's head only to have a kite carry one's own away.
  • One does not use a sword to kill a snail.
  • One gets bitten by a snake only once.
  • Whoever sees mucus in the nose of the king is the one who cleans it.

African Proverbs Translated From Zulu to English

  • No sun sets without its histories.
  • A tree is known by its fruit.
  • The groin pains in sympathy with the sore.
  • You are sharp on one side like a knife.
  • The wrong-headed fool, who refuses counsel, will come to grief.
  • The lead cow (the one in front) gets whipped the most.
  • Go and you will find a stone in the road that you can't get over or pass.
  • Hope does not kill; I shall live and get what I want one day.