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Some African Proverbs And Their meaning

Updated on August 30, 2013

African Proverbs are rich and are used mainly by elders to communicate thoughts in a witty way. Sometimes you can decipher their meanings by mere logic, at other times you need a guide. Below are some of the most popular African proverbs. Enjoy it!


Send a boy where he wants to go and you’ll see his best pace. - Nigerian Proverb.

Interpreted Meaning: Passion is the greatest motivator.

A toad does not run in the day for nothing, there must be a green snake in the grass. -Nigerian Proverb


Interpreted Meaning:
An unusual cause is usually responsible for an unusual incidence. Something must have threatened a toad for it to run in the day. Normally, Toads do not like to run in the daytime because it is hot, and they tend to be lazy.


No matter how long a log stays in the water, it doesn’t become a crocodile. - Bambara Proverb


Interpreted Meaning: You will always be who you are no matter how hard you try to fake your personality.

Water that has been begged for does not quench the thirst. - Soga People of Uganda

Interpreted Meaning: Since you do not have control over the help someone is rendering to you it may (the help) my not turn out exactly as you expected. Don’t be baffled if assistance is not satisfactory.

Every Misfortune is a blessing. -African Proverb

Interpreted Meaning: Inside every disappointment there is a positive to take away.

We will water the thorn for the sake of the rose. - African Proverb

Interpreted Meaning: You can't have a beautiful flower like the rose withoutdealingwith some thorns along the way.

If you think you have someone eating your hands, it is a good idea to count your fingers. - Nigerian Proverb

Interpreted Meaning: When in doubt always make sure.

Interpreted Meaning: Do not repair another man’s fence until you have seen your own. –African Proverb

Deal with your own real issues before you start poke-nosing into someone else’s.

Much talking does not make you a leader.-African Proverb

Interpreted Meaning: Talk is cheap; the real mar coy is in acting.


A hippopotamus can be made invisible in dark water. –African Proverb

Interpreted Meaning: Ignorance can lead to potential danger. It is important to be informed and alert.

When one is in love, a cliff becomes a meadow. -Ethiopian Proverb

Interpreted Meaning: When people are in love, they don't see things realistically.


A single bracelet does not jingle.

Interpreted Meaning: There is strength in numbers.


Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.

Interpreted Meaning: We learn and grow when times are tough. The lessons learned can then be applied to make things smoother and easier. If you never have opposition, how can you begin to understand what works and what doesn't?

Unless you call out, who will open the door?

Interpreted Meaning: If you don’t ask for assistance, you may never get one. People around you are there to help, if only you will help.

Do not respond to a mosquito with a hammer because you will miss and hurt yourself. ~Kenyan Proverb

interpreted Meaning: Don't take decisions that would hurt you.

Give advice; if people don’t listen, let adversity teach them. - Ethiopian proverb

Interpreted Meaning: Try to warn people of impending danger. if they refuse to listen let experience teach them (the hard way).

When capture a snake’s head, the rest of the body becomes a rope. - Nigerian Proverb

Interpreted Meaning: Getting the fundamentals done makes it easy to deal with other things.


Read more African proverbs with photo description here.

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    • profile image

      MMMMMMMMMM 

      8 months ago

      "In the absence of water, lizards can claim to be crocodiles."

      What exactly does this mean?? It's for a homework task.

    • profile image

      Md. Saifullah 

      2 years ago

      The African Proverbs and their meticulous interpretations by the sage author set me thoughtful and reset my idea about a lack luster clime of our time.

    • profile image

      VivianneB 

      3 years ago

      please help me!!!

      "Every Misfortune is a blessing. -African Proverb

      Interpreted Meaning: Inside every disappointment there is a positive to take away."

      -----FROM WHICH COUNTRY exactly is this proverb?... i really have to know that... :(

    • profile image

      Sonto 

      5 years ago

      I feel proud to be African

    • elechifrank profile imageAUTHOR

      elechifrank 

      5 years ago from Canada

      @vishvender13..Thanks! I am glad you liked it

    • vishvender13 profile image

      vishvender13 

      5 years ago from Chandigarh , India

      Good one bro , feeling better after reading your piece :)

    • elechifrank profile imageAUTHOR

      elechifrank 

      5 years ago from Canada

      @Kena...Thanks for the encouragement!!

    • elechifrank profile imageAUTHOR

      elechifrank 

      5 years ago from Canada

      @vibesite...Thanks for stopping by and commenting!! I think that proverb is used more frequently than others on the list. It is so brain warming

    • profile image

      Kena Bladel 

      5 years ago

      This is hub is awesome. Simple, elucidating, nice work!

    • vibesites profile image

      vibesites 

      5 years ago from United States

      I think this is a good start to learn about African culture. I like all the proverbs, but the one that stands out for me is: "A toad does not run in the day for nothing, there must be a green snake in the grass." Really good, thanks for sharing. :)

    • elechifrank profile imageAUTHOR

      elechifrank 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Yes there is! That one stood out for me too! Thanks for the read and comment!

    • elechifrank profile imageAUTHOR

      elechifrank 

      5 years ago from Canada

      @Kathleenkat....it baffles me how much wisdom there is in all these sayings! Thanks for the read and comment.

    • kathleenkat profile image

      kathleenkat 

      5 years ago from Bellingham, WA

      I have never heard of African proverbs. I never really thought about it, but seeing as I am American, Africa tends to be glanced over in our schools (at least when I was in school). There is never African art history, or history, for that matter. All of the great thinkers we learn of are Asian and European. Hmm. Glad you shared this; hopefully the word on African culture can be spread around to more Americans :)

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      There is so much wisdom in these African proverbs and I especially relate to the one that says: "No matter how long a log stays in the water, it doesn’t become a crocodile." Welcome to Hubpages. You will not be a "single bracelet" here!

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