Top 20 Best African Proverbs And Their Meanings

Last Updated on February 9, 2023

African proverbs have always been used to convey important messages during conversations.  African children are taught proverbs to help them navigate through many of life’s challenges.

Best African Proverbs

Some of the best African Proverbs are known to come from specific tribes, ethnic groups or countries. We have decided to share with you 20 African proverbs and their meanings. Choose your favorites as a monthly mantra, an inspirational quote for your vision board, or just some ancestral insight to get you through the rest of your week!

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

Meaning: You don’t jump straight into a situation without thinking about it first.

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

Meaning: If you don’t make efforts to acquire knowledge then you would not expect to have it and if you do not put the knowledge you have to use, you cannot expect to gain anything from it.

3) Sugarcane is sweetest at its joint.

Meaning: Good and sweet things of life may appear difficult to achieve but in the end, it is worth it.

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

Meaning: This is as simple as it sounds: If you upset someone, apologise to him or her. If someone upsets you, forgive him or her because what goes around, comes around.

5) Don’t set sail using someone else’s star.

Meaning: Avoid copying someone else. Just because someone has been successful in what he/she does should not be what will make you to do the same thing and expect to be successful.

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

Meaning: The best approach to solving a problem is to take it bit by bit; one at a time.

7) A restless feet may walk into a snake pit.

Meaning: If someone is busy doing nothing or is involved in what he does not know about, it is easy for him/her to get into trouble.

8) A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches.

Meaning: You can easily foresee the future of something through the character and tell-tale signs it exhibits today.

9) After a foolish deed comes remorse.

Meaning: Feeling sorry always follows a foolish act.

10) A man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness.

Meaning: What goes around, comes around so whatever you sow, you shall reap.

11) He who does not know one thing knows another.

Meaning: No one knows everything, but everyone knows something.

12) A roaring lion kills no one.

Meaning: You cannot achieve or gain anything by mere sitting around and just talking about it.

13) Do not call the forest that shelters you a jungle.

Meaning: Do not insult someone who is taking care of your responsibility or taking care of you.

14) When a king has good counsellors, his reign is peaceful.

Meaning: What defines a man is the circumstances and people around him and if they are good, he turns out good.

15) It takes a whole village to raise a child.

Meaning: The society is responsible for the moral characters it creates and everyone in a community should be responsible for helping to train a child irrespective of who the parents are; offering correction where they are needed.

16) If a child washes his hands he could eat with kings.

Meaning: If you prepare and allow yourself to be well trained when you have the opportunity, you will achieve a lot and be favoured in due course.

17) The Rain does not fall on one roof.

Meaning: Trouble comes to everyone at one time or another.

18) Life is like a mist or a shadow; it quickly passes by.

Meaning: Life is too short, and you only live it once.

19) Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him.

Meaning: What defines a man is his character which is, inseparable from him and follows him everywhere he goes.

20) Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.

Meaning: Don’t look at your mistakes; look at what caused your mistakes, otherwise you may repeat the same mistake again.

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