African Proverbs You Didn’t Know You Needed: 60 Insightful African Proverbs

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Growing up African, you may have had an African proverb thrown your way once or twice from either your parents, aunts, cousins, uncle or grandparents.

Truth is, sometimes, they are endearing, fun and insightful. Other times, not so much. So here are a few African proverbs you weren’t aware you needed to hear at least once in your life…the good and the bad, in all their glory

1. He that beats the drum for the mad man to dance is no better than the mad man himself.

2. A hunter who has only one arrow does not shoot with careless aim.

3. He who goes to sleep with an itching anus wakes up with smelly fingers.

4. It is not hunger that makes a cat to be smaller than a tiger: It is its nature.

5. The frown on the face of the goat will not stop it from being taken to the market.

6. Birds sing not because they have answers but because they have songs.

7. No matter how beautiful and well crafted a coffin might look, it will not make anyone wish for death.

8. A person who sells eggs should not start a fight in the market.

African Proverbs

9. When you climb the mountain and reach the top, do not forget the branches shrubs that helped your footing.

10. The child of a rat is a rat.

11. The girl with stars in her eyes will shine like the moonlight.

12. A flea can trouble a lion more than a lion can trouble a flea.

13. Where there is honey, there are bound to be ants.

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14. The death of an elderly man is like a burning library.

15. An intelligent enemy is better than a stupid friend.

16. The night has ears.

17. Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching.

18. It is the fear of what tomorrow may bring that makes the tortoise carry his house along with him wherever he goes.

19.  A doctor who invoked a storm on his people cannot prevent his house from destruction.

20. Be a mountain or lean on one.

21. Do not follow a person who is running away.

22. If your only tool is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail.

African Proverbs

23. Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.

24. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the next best time is now.

25. Even as the archer loves the arrow that flies, so he too loves the bow that remains constant in his hands.

26. He who burns down his house knows why ashes cost a fortune.

27. Until the lions have their historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter.

28. The fool speaks, the wise man listens.

29. Peace is costly but it is worth the expense.

30. A naked man will often laugh at someone with torn clothes



31. We desire to bequeath two things to our children; the first one is ‘roots’, the other one is ‘wings’.

32. Once you have found your first diamond, you will never give up looking.

33. The wise create proverbs for fools to learn, not to repeat.

34. By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed.

35. In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams.

36. If you are building a house and a nail breaks, do you stop building or do you change the nail?

37. He who learns, teaches.

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38. If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.

39. Do a good deed and throw it into the sea.

40. A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning.

African Proverbs

41. Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.

42. You can’t feed your donkey only when you need to ride it.

43. Milk and honey have different colors, but they share the same house peacefully.

44. It is crooked wood that shows the best sculptor.

45. Before you throw a stone at a bird, you should put yourself in its position.

46. By crawling a child learns to stand.

47. Knowledge is like a lion; it cannot be gently embraced.

48. He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk.

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49. If you are looking for a fly in your food it means that you are full.

50. A family is like a forest, when you are outside it is dense, when you are inside you see that each tree has its place.

African Proverbs

51. When the monkey can’t reach the ripe banana with his hand, he says it is not sweet.

52. An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.

53. If you close your eyes to facts, you will learn through accidents.

54. To be without a friend is to be poor indeed.

55. He who is destined for power does not have to fight for it.

56. If you can’t resolve your problems in peace, you can’t solve war.

57. He who refuses to obey cannot command.

58. It takes a village to raise a child.

59. If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

60. A healthy person who begs for food is an insult to a generous farmer

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