African Proverbs

160+ African Proverbs & Sayings About Life, Love, Family

– African Proverbs –

Are you looking for the greatest African proverbs? Here are a few of the greatest African proverbs to keep in mind in every scenario!

African Proverbs

Many African youngsters as young as six years old are taught proverbs to assist them to navigate through life’s problems.

To express everyday life lessons and practices, many African proverbs about life and wisdom are linked to the Earth and the creatures that inhabit it. Some proverbs are romantic, while others are humorous or thought-provoking.

From all around Africa, here is a collection of proverbs on life, love, and family. Some have been identified as belonging to certain tribes, ethnic groupings, or nations.

African Proverbs About Life

1. “Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.”- Akan Proverb.

2. “Let your love be like the misty rain, coming softly but flooding the river.”- Liberian Proverb.

3. “To love someone who does not love you is like shaking a tree to make the dew drops fall.”- Congolese Proverb.

4. “Don’t try to make someone hate the person he loves. For he will go on loving but he will hate you.”- Senegalese Proverb.

5. “If love is a sickness, patience is the remedy.”- African Proverb.

6. “Love, like rain, does not choose the grass on which it falls.”- South African Proverb.

7. “What you help a child to love can be more important than what you help him to learn.”- African Proverb.

8. “One does not love if one does not accept from others.”- Nigerian Proverb.

9. “If there is cause to someone, the cause to love has just begun.”- Senegalese Proverb.

10. “Do not call to a dog with a whip in your hand.”- Zulu Proverb.

African Proverbs On Life

11. “Love is like a baby: it needs to be treated tenderly.”- African Proverb.

12. “Judge not your beauty by the number of people who look at you, but rather by the number of people who smile at you.”- African Proverb.

13. “It is only a stupid cow that rejoices at the prospect of being taken to a beautiful abattoir.”- Zambian Proverb.

14. “Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.”- African Proverb.

15. “Beautiful discourse is rarer than emerald, yet it can be found among the servant girls at the grindstones.”- Egyptian Proverb.

16. “Despite the beauty of the moon, sun, and the stars, the sky also has a threatening thunder and striking lightning.”- African Proverb.

17. “Try this bracelet: if it fits you wear it; but if it hurts you, throw it away no matter how much it sparkles.”- Kenyan Proverb.

18. “It’s those ugly caterpillars that turn into beautiful butterflies after seasons.”- African Proverb.

19. “If there is character, ugliness becomes beauty; if there is none, beauty becomes ugliness.”- Nigerian Proverb.

20. “Although the snake does not fly it has caught the bird whose home is in the sky.”- African Proverb.

African Proverbs

Spirituality African Proverbs

21. “It is the duty of children to wait on elders and not the elders on children.”- Kenyan Proverb.

22. “Birds sing not because they have answers but because they have songs.”- African Proverb.

23. “Anyone who sees beauty and does not look at it will soon be poor.”- Yoruba Proverb.

24. “There are many colorful flowers on the path of life, but the prettiest have the sharpest thorns.”- African Proverb.

25. “The one who loves an unsightly person is the one who makes him beautiful.”- African Proverb.

26. “The skin of the leopard is beautiful, but not his heart.”- Baluba (Congolese) Proverb.

27. “There is no beauty but the beauty of action.”- Moroccan Proverb.

28. “There is always a winner, even in a monkey’s beauty contest.”- West African Proverb.

29. “Instruction in youth is like engraving in stone.”- Moroccan Proverb.

30. “The most beautiful fig may contain a worm.”- Zulu Proverb.

African Proverbs Quotes

31. “A debt between children born by the same mother is paid in a clever way.”- Kenyan Proverb.

32. “Three things cause sorrow to flee; water, green trees, and a beautiful face.”- Moroccan Proverb.

33. “If a child washes his hands, he could eat with Kings!”- African Proverb.

34. “Children are the reward of life.”- Congolese Proverb.

35. “The worlds of the elders do not lock all the doors; they leave the right door open.”- Zambian Proverb.

36. “Everybody loves a fool, but nobody wants him for a son.”- Ivorian Proverb.

37. “Ugliness with a good character is better than beauty.”- Nigerian Proverb.

38. “It takes a village to raise a child.”- African Proverb

39. “The laughter of a child lights up the house.”- African Proverb.

40. “A child is like an axe; even if it hurts you, you still carry it on your shoulder.”- Bemba Proverb.

African Proverbs

African Proverbs About Love

41. “No matter how beautiful and well-crafted a coffin might look, it will not make anyone wish for  death.”- African Proverb.

42. “Counsel and advice him, if he refuses to listen, then let adversity teach him.”- Ethiopian Proverb.

43. “Parents give birth to the body of their children, but not always to their characters.”- African Proverb.

44. “When you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him.”- Ashanti Proverb.

45. “Knowledge is like a garden. If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.”- African Proverb.

46. “The young bird does not crow until it hears the old ones.”  – Tswana Proverb.

47. “When you show the moon to a child, it sees only your finger.”- Zambian Proverb.

48. “A leader in the community without a pot belly is a stingy man.”- Nigerian Proverb.

49. “By crawling a child learns to stand.”- West African Proverb.

50. “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.”- Ethiopian Proverb.


Funny African Proverbs

51. “We desire to bequeath two things to our children; the first one is roots, the other one is wings.”– Sudanese Proverb.

52. “No matter how tall your grandfather was, you have to do your own growing.”- Kenyan Proverb.

53. “A baby cannot be heard crying in his mother’s womb.”- African Proverb.

54. “The rainmaker who doesn’t know what he’s doing will be found out by the lack of clouds.”- Ugandan Proverb.

55. “Even the best dancer on the stage must retire sometime.”- African Proverb.

56. “Other people’s wisdom prevents the king from being called a fool.”- Nigerian Proverb.

57. “To agree to have dialogue is the beginning of a peaceful resolution.”- Somali Proverb.

58. “A quarrelsome chief does not hold a village together.”- Malawi Proverb.

59. “Wood already touched by fire is not hard to set alight.”- Akan (Ghanaian) Proverb.

60. “You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla.”  – Congolese Proverb.

Positive Words

African Proverbs About Family

61. “The king who shuts his eyes during famine in the land will soon see ancestors.”- Nigerian Proverb.

62. “He who beats the drum for the mad man to dance is no better than the mad man himself.”- African Proverb.

63. “When the right-hand washes the left-hand and the left-hand washes the right-hand, both hands become clean.”- Kenyan Proverb.

64. “Slander by the stream will be heard by the frogs.”- Mozambican Proverb.

65. “If two wise men always agree, then there is no need for one of them.”- Zambian Proverb.

66.”The big game often appears when the hunter has given up the hunt for the day.”- African Proverb.

67. “A low-class man will just talk; deeds are the hallmark of a gentleman.”- Swahili Proverb.

68. “Knowledge without wisdom is just like water in the sand.”- Guinean Proverb.

69. “He who knows not one thing knows another.”- African Proverb.

70. “A hyena does not change its spots even if it moves to a different forest.”- Malawian Proverb.

African Proverbs About Friendship

71. “Teeth do not see poverty.”- Kenyan Proverb.

72. “God has created lands with lakes and bountiful rivers for man to live. And the wide deserts so that he can find his soul.”- Tuareg Proverb.

73. “Do not blame God for creating the tiger, just thank Him for not giving it wings.”- Ethiopian Proverb.

74. “Advice is like a stranger; if he’s welcome he stays for the night; if not, he leaves the same day.”- Malagasy Proverb.

75. “Crawling on your hands and knees has never prevented any person from walking upright.”- Kenyan Proverb.

76. “One who is willing to bathe with cold water doesn’t feel the cold.”- Fipa Proverb.

77. “It is the crooked wood that can show the best sculptor.”- African Proverb.

78. “In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and foolish build dams.”- Nigerian Proverb.

79. “A great leader is an ordinary person with extraordinary wisdom.”- Malawian Proverb.

80. “One may have two legs, but that does not mean one can climb two trees at the same time.”- Ethiopian Proverb.

Awesome Words

African Proverbs About Children

81. “A wise man who knows the proverbs of the land reconciles difficulties.”- Ashanti Proverb.

82. “The chicken that can dig for food will not sleep hungry.”- Congolese Proverb.

83. “During times of peace in the country, the chief does not carry a shield.”- Ugandan Proverb.

84. “A bird does not change its feathers because the weather is bad.”- Kenyan Proverb.

85. “No person is born great; great people become great when others are sleeping.”- African Proverb.

86. “One who possesses much wisdom has it in the heart, not on the lips.”- Ugandan Proverb.

87. “It is better to be poor when one is young, rather than becoming poor at old age.”- Kenyan Proverb.

88. “When a needle falls into a well, many people will look into the well, but only a few will be ready to go down after it.”- African Proverb.

89. “Even the king of the forest, the lion, protects himself against flies.”- Ghanaian Proverb.

90. “A roaring lion kills no game.”- Ugandan Proverb.

Awesome Sayings

91. “A man who pays respect to the great paves his own way for greatness.”- African Proverb.

92. “There are no shortcuts to the top of the palm tree.“- Cameroonian Proverb.

93. “One who has to yet learn to walk cannot climb a ladder.”- Ethiopian Proverb.

94. “By the time a fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed.”- Ashanti Proverb.

95. “Those who end up accomplishing great things pay attention to little ones.”- Mali Proverb.

96. “Don’t procrastinate or you will be left in between doing something, having something and being nothing”- Ethiopian Proverb.

97. “No matter how hot your anger is it cannot cook yams.”- Nigerian Proverb.

98. “There is no elephant that complains about the weight of its trunk. No elephant is burdened by the weight of its tusks.”- Kenyan Proverb.

99. “If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.”- African Proverb.

100. “The water of the river flows on without waiting for the thirsty man.”- Kenyan Proverb.


Wise Sayings

101. “A chattering bird builds no nest.”- Cameroonian Proverb.

102. “Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.”- African Proverb.

103. “If you marry a monkey for his money, the money will go away and the monkey will stay the same.”- Egyptian Proverb.

104. “He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk.”- Malawi Proverb.

105. “No one became wealthy because they broke a holiday and no one who gained weight because they broke a fast.”- Ethiopian Proverb.

106. “If you close your eyes to facts, you will learn through accidents.”- African Proverb.

107. “Once you have been tossed by a buffalo, a black ox looks like a buffalo.”- Kenyan Proverb.

108. “Ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off.”- African Proverb.

109. “Do not spend the evening in a house where you cannot spend the night.”- Ethiopian Proverb.

110. “Though the lion and the antelope happen to live in the same forest, the antelope still has time to grow up.”- Ghanaian Proverb.Wise Words

Quotes of Wisdom

111. “Where you sit when you are old shows where you stood when you were a youth.”- African Proverb.

112. “Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.”- African Proverb.

113. “You must attend to your business with the vendor in the market, and not to the noise of the market.”- Beninese Proverb.

114. “When the rhythm of the drumbeat changes, the dance steps must adapt.”- Namibian Proverb.

115. “The best way to eat an elephant in your path is to cut him up into little pieces.”- African Proverb.

116. “A cutting word is worse than a bowstring, a cut may heal, but the cut of the tongue does not.”-African Proverb.

117. “A bird that flies off the earth and lands on an anthill is still on the ground.”- Igbo (Nigerian) Proverb.

118. “Wisdom does not come overnight.”- Somali Proverb.

119. “Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it chased it.”- South African Proverb.

120. “When sleeping women wake, they move mountains!”- African Proverb.

Famous Proverbs

121. “How easy it is to defeat people who do not kindle fire for themselves!”- Kenyan Proverb.

122. “The old woman looks after the child to grow its teeth and the young one, in turn, looks after the old woman when she loses her teeth.”- Akan Proverb.

123. “She is beautiful; she has love, understands; she respects herself and others; everyone likes loves, and honors her; she is a goddess.”- African Proverb.

124. “A spider’s cobweb isn’t only its sleeping spring but also its food trap.”- African Proverb.

125. “Rain does not fall on one roof alone.”- Cameroonian Proverb.

126. “He that has never traveled thinks that his mother is the only good cook in the world.”- Kenyan Proverb.

127. “If you are filled with pride, then you will have no room for wisdom.”- African Proverb.

128. “A women’s beauty is not hidden in her face.”- African Proverb.

129. “A home without a woman is like a barn without cattle.”- African Proverb.

130. “If men swear that they want to harm you when you are asleep, you can go to sleep. If women say so, stay awake.”- African Proverb.

Famous Words

Short Quotes

131. “If you educate a man, you educate one person. If you educate a woman, you educate a whole family.”- African Proverb.

132. “When a bitter woman takes over the house, the family she rules is doomed.”- African Proverb.

133. “A diamond does not lose its value due to lack of admiration.”- African Proverb.

134. “An old woman  is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.”- African Proverb.

135. “Rain beats the leopard’s skin but it does not wash out the spots.”- African Proverb.

136. “A woman’s polite devotion is her greatest beauty.”- African Proverb.

137. “How gently glides the married life away, When she who rules still seems but to obey.”- Kenyan Proverb.

138. “A mother cannot give birth to something bigger than herself.”- African Proverb.

139. “Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.”- Kenyan Proverb.

140. “Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won’t eat you.”- African proverb.

Intriguing Sayings

141. “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 Proverb.

142. “However far the stream flows, it never forgets its source.”- Nigerian Proverb.

143. “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.”- African Proverb.

144. “Show me your friend and I will show you your character.”- African Proverb.

145. “We have not inherited this land from our ancestors; rather we have borrowed it from our children.”- Kenyan Proverb.

146. “A doctor who invoked a storm on his people cannot prevent his own house from destruction.”- Nigerian Proverb.

147. “If you heal the leg of a person, do not be surprised if they use it to run away.”- African Proverb.

148. “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.”- African Proverb.

149. “When brothers fight to the death, a stranger inherits their father’s estate.”- Igbo Proverb.

150. “When the shepherd comes home in peace, the milk is sweet.”- Ethiopian Proverb.


Positive Proverbs

151. “Dine with a stranger but save your love for your family.”- African Proverb.

152. “Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you.”- African Proverb.

153. “An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.”- Ghanaian Proverb.

154. “In a family, if you have somebody who is troublesome it is the family members who are more worried than the troublesome member.”- African Proverb.

155. “Telling a secret to an unworthy person is like carrying grain in a bag with a hole in it.”- Ethiopian Proverb.

156. “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”- Kenyan Proverb.

157. “Unity is strength, division is weakness.”- Swahili Proverb.

158. “Between true friends, even water drunk together is sweet enough. ( ”- African Proverb.

159. “If relatives help each other, what evil can hurt them?”- African Proverb.

160. “Milk and honey have different colors, but they share the same house peacefully.”- African Proverb.

Motivational Sayings

Motivational Sayings

161. “Affairs of the home should not be discussed in the public square.”- Kenyan Proverb.

162. “To be without a friend is to be poor indeed.”- Tanzanian proverb.

163. “If you see that a town respects a calf, then cut the grass and feed it.”- Ethiopian Proverb.

164. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”- African Proverb.

165. “If your only tool is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail.”- Gambian Proverb.

166. “It is better to walk than curse the road.”- Senegalese Proverb.

167. “Madness does not govern a country; discussion does.”- African Proverb.

168. “The pillar of the world is hope.”- Nigerian Proverb.

169. “If you are building a house and a nail breaks, do you stop building or do you change the nail?”- Rwandan Proverb.

170. “Where there are experts there will be no lack of learners.”- Swahili Proverb.

FAQs about African Proverbs

Below are frequently asked questions about African proverbs

1. What are the best African proverbs?

▸ Teeth do not see poverty.

▸ Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.

▸ Do not look where you feel, but where you slipped.

▸ The best way to eat an elephant in your path is to cut him up into little pieces.

2. What are some Nigerian proverbs?

▸ The child of an elephant will not be a dwarf.

▸ What an old man sees while lying down, a young man can never see even when he climbs up in a tree.

▸ Only the thing for which you have struggled will last.

▸ Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse.

3. What is African proverbs and give 5 examples of it?

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.

▸ Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.

▸ Knowledge is like a garden: If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.

▸ Sugarcane is sweetest at its joint.

▸ If you offend, ask for a pardon; if offended forgive.

▸ Don’t set sail using someone else’s star.

4. What are traditional proverbs?

▸ A bad workman always blames his tools.

▸ A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

▸ Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

▸ A cat has nine lives.

▸ A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

▸ Actions speak louder than words.

▸ A drowning man will clutch at a straw.

▸ Adversity and loss make a man wise.

5. What is a good proverb?

▸ The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

▸ Don’t judge a book by its cover.

▸ Strike while the iron is hot.

▸ Too many cooks spoil the broth.

▸ You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

▸ Many hands make light work.

▸ When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

6. What are African sayings called?

Some are known to come from specific ethnic groups, or countries while others have an unknown source and are listed simply as “African proverbs.”

Have a read and pluck out some ancestral insight from the motherland to carry with you today (and remember if you ever visit Africa).

7. What are some ancient proverbs?

▸ All that glitters is not gold.

▸ A picture is worth a thousand words.

▸ All good things come to an end.

▸ Beggars can’t be choosers.

▸ A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

▸ A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

▸ Actions speak louder than words

8. What are good short quotes?

▸ Love For All, Hatred For None.

▸ Change the world by being yourself.

▸ Every moment is a fresh beginning.

▸ Never regret anything that made you smile.

▸ Die with memories, not dreams.

▸ Aspire to inspire before we expire.

9. What are 5 positive quotes?

▸ Love For All, Hatred For None.

▸ Change the world by being yourself.

▸ Every moment is a fresh beginning.

▸ Never regret anything that made you smile.

▸ Die with memories, not dreams.

10. What is the best motto in life?

▸ “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”

▸ “Be yourself.

▸ “One person can make a difference.”

▸ “Keep your eyes on the prize.”

▸ “Every day is a second chance.”

▸ “Tomorrow is another day.”

We hope this article on African proverbs has been enlightening as well as motivating and inspiring. Please endeavor to share this article with friends, family, and colleagues. Cheers.

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