Africa has a wealth of sayings from proverbs to idioms. This article will list some interesting and funny African proverbs with meaningful meanings or advice.
1. There is no virgin in a maternity ward.
Implication: Any pregnant woman admitted in a maternity ward can't convince anybody she is virgin. The pregnancy is proof she's no longer a virgin. Everything that happens in the world or in a person's life has a cause.
2. Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.
Implication: If you want to know why something is not always working out, investigate the source of the problem.
3. Anger and madness are brothers.
Implication: A person who has been overpowered by anger might do something foolish. This is because this emotion can impair his logical reasoning. He is no better off than a madman who can carry out an act without engaging his reasoning capabilities.
4. A man who hangs around a beautiful girl without saying a word end up fetching water on her wedding.
Implication: If you love a girl let her know. She cannot know you love her until you tell her. If you don't, in time, you might lose her in your grasp because another man told her and they’re now married.
5. It takes a whole village to raise a child.
Implication: The society in which a child grows up determines to some extent how the child will be. If the child is raised up in a peace-loving society, he will be a person who prefers peace to violence and love to hatred.
6. He who does not know one thing knows another.
Implication: If an individual doesn't know one thing, it doesn't mean he is not acquainted with everything else. Lack in knowledge in one thing doesn't translate to being ignorant in everything else. You might not know how to cook food but you know how to wash the dishes.
7. A close friend can become an enemy.
Implication: Sometimes, a friend can betray your trust on him. He can turn against you. You need to be cautious because a man can become as unstable, in trusting, as a drunkard.
8. Every woman is beautiful until she speaks.
Implication: A woman's beauty is destroyed by the words that come out of her mouth. The words she utters can either magnify her beauty or damage it. You'll identify a person by the words he/she utters.
9. You are beautiful, but learn to work, for you cannot eat your beauty.
Implication: You won't become rich overnight by sitting on the sofa waiting for it because you're beautiful than many women. Work to meet your basic needs and to improve your standard of living. Don't wait for beauty to do it on your behalf.
10. The day a mosquito lands on your testicles is the day you'll know there is a better way of resolving issues without using violence.
Implication: When a mosquito lands on a man's testicles, he won't hit it to kill it without feeling an intense pain as a consequence. He'll find a better means of ensuring the mosquito doesn't stay on his testicles for another minute. Violence isn’t always the preferred method of resolving issues. There are better techniques to apply e.g. dialogue.
11. No one tests the depth of a river with both feet.
Implication: Before you embark on something, first of all, assess it. Don't jump on doing something without having thought about it. You will be glad you did so. If not, you’ll regret or have yourself to blame.
12. A child is a child to everyone.
Implication: In African society, a child doesn't belong to his biological parents. He belongs to the society. It's the responsibility of the society to raise a child as a parent e.g. assisting the child if he has any need, teaching the child how to behave properly and so on.
13. The anger of penis cannot destroy vagina.
Implication: No matter how forceful a man penetrates his penis on a woman's vagina, it can never destroy it. This proverb is used to advise people to control their anger. Using your anger to justify or punish someone won't solve the issue. You'll be the loser not the person you've directed your anger at.
14. Where you will sit when you're old shows where you stood in your youth.
Implication: What you do or the decisions you make will shape or determine how your future life will be. A lazy person will not succeed in life. He will grow an old poor-miserable man.
15. If you offend, ask for a pardon; if offended, forgive.
Implication: If someone wrongs or hurts you, forgive that person. It's for your own benefit. If you have hurt or wronged someone, ask that person to forgive you. Again, it's for your own benefit.
16. Love is like a baby: it needs to be treated tenderly.
Implication: You cannot force someone to love you. It has to spring from the person’s heart. You cannot quicken the love to grow. You have to be patient by letting it grow through nourishing (feeding) it by doing things that will enable it to grow.
17. He who does not feel jealousy is not in love.
Implication: Jealousy is not a negative emotion. It is a sign that you love someone. Without jealousy how will you know you love someone? A small dose of jealousy is good; too much of it is harmful.
18. Do not respond to a mosquito with a hammer because you will miss and hurt yourself.
Implication: When solving an issue, don't resort to anger. If you do so, you might feel the effect of it. It will turn against you. You should not let anger control your mind to the point you cannot think clearly because you’ve thrown your reasoning capacity out of the window.
19. The waterfalls do not hear each other.
Implication: You cannot come into an agreement or try to solve an issue or problem if both of you are angry. If the two of you are shouting at each other or talking on top of your voices, none of you will hear each other. Without engaging listening skills, taking time to listen, nothing will ever be solved. You cannot talk and not listen and expect to solve a problem.
20. It is better to refuse than to accept and not go.
Implication: Do not make any empty promises. It is better not to promise something if you won't carry it through.
21. It requires a lot of carefulness to kill the fly that perches on the scrotum.
Implication: Think carefully before you do something.
22. The pillow is the best advisor.
Implication: If something is troubling you, don’t go for a bottle of beer. The best technique of dealing with whatever is troubling you is to take a rest. You cannot think in a clear perspective if your mind, and body, is not at rest.
23. Before you go out with a widow, you must first ask her what killed the husband.
Implication: If you want to fulfill your goal(s) or realize a dream, you need to seek counsel from the wise or experts on your field. They will advise you on what works or doesn’t because they’ve gone through what you might undergo. It will help you not to make the mistakes they made.
24. To be able to love other people you must be able to love yourself.
Implication: You cannot be able to love others if you don’t love yourself. You cannot say you value or respect other people if you don’t value or respect yourself. You’ve to appreciate so that you can be able to appreciate others. It starts with you.
25. No matter how angry you are, it can never boil yams in a pot.
Implication: Anger that has gone overboard can never solve anything. The problem or troubling issue will still remain there. Never resort to anger to solve something.
Next, we'll go over several extra English proverbs.
26. Romantic love is a lightning bolt. Married life is an electric current.
Implication: When a woman falls in love with a man, she feels a sudden rush of the feeling of love passing through her body. It does not stay or long. However, once she gets married she has to maintain the love as is the case with the electric current. Couples have to maintain it in order to live together.
27. At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.
Implication: When a person falls in love, the words that come out of his mouth are flavored with a variety of spices. "When I gaze at your eyes, I feel immersed in them. Forever wishing to swim in them."
28. You cannot get to the top by sitting on your bottom.
Implication: If you want to achieve something, you have to do what it takes to get it. You cannot expect to become wealthy or successful if you don’t apply whatever needs to be applied in order to realize your dream or fulfill your goal(s).