Naija proverbs

Proverb are meant for gaining wisdom and instruction;     for understanding words of insight;  for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,     doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple,     knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning,     and let the discerning get guidance—  for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.


A baby on its mother’s back doesn’t know the journey is long.

A bad habit that lasts more than a year may turn into a custom.

A bird that flies off the earth and lands on an anthill is still on the ground.

A calm spirit will enable a man to survive even a six-month jail sentence.

A debt may get moldy, but it never decays.

A guest mourner does not wail as though his heart is broken.

A guest should not cause his host’s demise. When the guest is ready to leave, his host should not have given him a hunch-back.

A man has the same last name as his brother.

A man who believes that he can do everything, let him dig a grave and bury himself.

A man who lives on the banks of the Niger should not wash his hands with spittle.

A man who rushes into battle does not realize that battle entails death.

A man who shoots his arrows as he makes them does not realize when he has shot a whole sheaf.

A man with a missing tooth does not eat ugiri with relish.

A palm tree climber is not expected to tell everything he sees from up above.

A person can never run as fast as to run away from his backside.

A person who arrives at a feast when the cooked meat is being pulled out of the pot does not know what was endured by others to catch and cook it.

A person who chases a chicken is due a fall. The chicken is a master of the dodged escaped.

A person who stumbles by a neighbour’s house at dinner time, and is invited to join the meal, does not swallow such large morsels as to break the string of pearls around his neck.

A person who is being carried to the market does not realize that the way is long.

A person who is underneath the tall palm tree is best positioned to tell on which side the ripe head is.

A person who uses the world as his carrying pad will find himself carrying his load on his bare head.

A pot trader whose fortunes are all invested in her clay pots isn’t much of a merchant.

A servant serves a king, he serves the king well; a servant serves two kings, he is true to one.

A slave boy is blamed no matter what he does: If he does not wash his hands, he is accused of being dirty. If he washes his hands, he is accused of wasting water.

A snake that swallows his friend will have a tail sticking out of his mouth.

A snake that swallows its neighbor will have a tail sticking out of its mouth.

A travelled child knows better than the old man who sits at home.

A wayward woman is like the weaver bird. She uses her perch on one tree to scout other trees.

A woman who needs to borrow a calabash cannot count on going early to the stream.

All you can tell about a big belly is that the owner has had a lot to eat, not what he had to eat.

Always being in a hurry does not prevent death, neither does going slowly prevent living.

An udara fruit that falls by the roadside must want to be picked up and eaten.

An udara fruit that falls on the side of the road is asking to be eaten.

Anger against a brother is felt in the flesh, not in the bone.

At whatever age a child gets a problem, at the same age she has to shoulder the responsibility.

Book stands by itself and experience stands by itself.

Bump-thump-scratch. It’s all on a big man’s skin.

Criticism of the brave is behind his back.

Dancing the drum will be done where the drum is.

Do not argue with a fool, for people will not be able to tell between the two of you.

Dog eats excreta, but goat gets rotten teeth.

Everyone cut the grass. Cut the grass. Let no one call the others ‘Prisoners’.
God swats flies for an animal that has no tail.

He who spits towards the sky is spitting on his face.

If a baby crawls up to me and pinches me, I will get on my knees and pinch him back.

If a young man is not prudent in seeking what killed his father, what killed his father may also kill him.

If the kernels are not finished, the jaw will not rest.

If you decide to eat a toad, you should at least select one that is big.

If you want to eat a toad, you should look for a fat and juicy one.

If you wish to eat a mushroom, you cannot consider what the mushroom fed on.

In the daytime do we chase the black goat.

It takes a whole village to raise a child.

Knowing but not telling it is what kills old men. Hearing but not heeding it is what kills young men.

Let the kite hawk have a perch, and let the eagle also have a perch. Whichever begrudges the other the right to perch, may he break a wing.

Never kill a man who says nothing.

Never let any mechanical device know that you are in a hurry.

No one gets a mouthful of food by picking between another person’s teeth.

One first drives off the fox, before taking the chickens home and blaming them for straying.

One who knows everything at times draws water with a basket.

Ours is ours, but mine is mine.

Shall we kill a snake and carry it in our hand when we have a bag for putting long things in?

Stream said that it is because it has nobody to direct it that… it goes in a zigzag way.

Swearing in the name of one god while at the shrine of another god is wrong.

The best way to eat hot soup is little by little.

The big game often appears when the hunter has given up the hunt for the day.

The dog said that it is better to walk behind those who have had a lot to eat, because if something doesn’t come out of them one way, it is bound to come out of them another way.

The eye is not harmed by sleep.

The little puppy said: “If I fall down and roll over for you, and you fall down and roll over for me, then we are playing. However, if I fall down and roll over for you, but you do not fall down and roll over for me, then that’s a fight.”

The lizard says that he knows the condition of his underbelly;The reason he has it pressed against the ground.

The lizard would like to stand erect, but his tail will not permit him.

The mind is like a bag; everyone has one.

The piglet has the same type of snout as her mother.

The prince is never guilty in his father’s court.

The rain does not recognize anyone as a friend; it drenches all equally.

The riverside monkey is apt to be blamed for every twig found in the river.

The same rain that drenches the slave also drenches the slave driver.

The skunk rat can get as fat and plump as he pleases. If his whole hind leg costs one anini, I still will not buy it.

The world is like a goat’s udder. It does not give any milk, unless you punch and squeeze at it.

Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.

What an elder sees sitting; the young can’t see standing.

What gives the child the itch has already given him the fingernails for scratching it.

Whatever the type of firewood found in a place, it is usually good enough for the people of that place to cook with.

When a drunk meets a mad man, he learns the difference between being merely drunk and truly mad.

When a drunken man meets a mad man, he learns the difference between being merely drunk and being truly mad.

When a new saying gets to the land of empty men they lose their heads over it.

When a once-beautiful piece of cloth has turned into rags, no one remembers that it was woven by Ukwa master weavers.

When a person is not as she used to be, she does not behave as she used to behave.

When a poor man gets a little money, his thoughts go off in ten different directions.

When a very short man causes the market to break up in a big fight, bystanders ask him to stand up so that they can see how short he really is.

When the brothers fight to the death, a stranger inherits their father’s estate.

When the leopard has a broken paw, the antelope comes to collect an old debt.

When the mother goat breaks into the yam store her kid watches her.

When the music stops, a deaf person continues to dance.

Wherever something stands, another thing stands beside it.

Whether it was the tenant who seduced the landlord’s wife, or the landlord who seduced the tenant’s wife, it is the tenant who would leave the house.

Whichever son is able should bury his father. The first son did not kill him.

While the wooden idols are tormenting me, the termites are tormenting them.

Words are sweet, but they never take the place of food.

You may be clever but you can never lose your shadow.



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Umogbai Kenneth studied Urban & Regional Planning. Fell in Love with blogging while still in school and has been a blogger for many years now. He intends to touch and change lives through this.

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