200+ Famous African Proverbs about Life, Love, and Wisdom

Powerful beautiful African Proverbs about life love wisdom

African proverbs offer deep insight into the ancient culture and traditions of the land while at the same time providing wisdom on life and truth based on common sense or experience. Many wise African sayings – while short and simple – hold deep messages and hidden meanings to teach, inspire, warn, and entertain. Continue reading to discover a list of powerful African proverbs about life, love, family, friendship, women, beauty, and knowledge from all over the continent to get your own apprehension and appreciation for this ancient African wisdom.

These traditional African words of wisdom cover a wide range of themes, dealing with thought-provoking topics that include family, marriage, relationships, life, death, hope, love, and everything in-between. You will even find a list of funny African proverbs and wise sayings from Africa that poke fun at some serious issues.

Be sure to commit some of these African idioms to heart or bookmark this post of inspirational African proverbs and meanings to help you deal with the struggle that is life.

Enjoy these amazing African phrases!

Click on the link below to go the section that most interests you right now, or continue scrolling for a whole lot of inspiration:

>> If you’re as fascinated with Africa as much as I am…
be sure to check out some of these other posts:

African Proverbs About Life

Ok, let’s get into some great African sayings and words of wisdom. These famous African proverbs about life are both profound and inspiring.

Love African Proverbs about love darkness

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

This is my favourite African proverb about togetherness

“To get lost is to learn the way.” — African saying

“Where there are many, nothing goes wrong.”

“No medicine exists that can cure hatred.”

“However long the night, the dawn will break.”

“The eye never forgets what the heart has seen.” Famous African proverb

Many hands make light work.” — Tanzanian proverb

“Once you carry your own water, you’ll remember every drop.”
Meaning: we never truly realise the value of something unless we have to work hard for it it by ourselves

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

“Birds sing not because they have answers but because they have songs.”

“There can be no peace without understanding.” — Senegalese proverb

“Traveling is learning.”
— Kenyan Proverb from Africa

“To try and to fail is not laziness.”

“Don’t think there are no crocodiles just because the water’s calm.”
— Malawian proverb

“No person is born great. Great people become great when others are sleeping.”

“When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.”

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

Nelson Mandela

“A leader who does not take advice is not a leader.” — Kenyan proverb

“When the shepherd comes home in peace, the milk is sweet.” — Ethiopian proverb 

“No shortcuts exist to the top of a palm tree.”

“The death of an elderly man is like a burning library.” — Ivorian proverb about death

“Milk and honey have different colors, but they share the same house peacefully.” — African proverb

“If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do no harm.”

“The axe forgets but the tree remembers.” — Wise African phrase

“An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.” — Ghanaian proverb

“Tomorrow belongs to people who prepare for it today.” 

“Even the lion protects himself against flies.” 

“However far a stream flows, it doesn’t forget its origin.”

“Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it, chased it.”

“The earth is a beehive, we all enter by the same door.”

“Seeing is different than being told.”

“Don’t set sail on someone else’s star.”

“Having a good discussion is like having riches.” 

“When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.” — Swahili saying from Africa

“If you close your eyes to facts, you will learn through accidents.” — African proverb

“Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.”
Meaning: It is not wise to jump into a situation before thinking about it.

“He who digs a grave for his enemy might as well be digging one for himself.” 

“Peace is costly but it is worth the expense.” — Kenyan proverb

>> Find even more cool African phrases below ⬇⬇

African Proverb about life

“Two ants do not fail to pull one grasshopper.” — Tanzanian proverb

“Do a good deed and throw it into the sea.” — Egyptian saying

“A roaring lion kills no game.”
Meaning: You cannot achieve anything of substance by just talking and not doing anything about it.

“You always learn a lot more when you lose than when you win.” — Truthful African proverb

“All monkeys cannot hang from the same branch.”

“If a bird does not fly, it goes to bed hungry.” — Akan proverb

“He who fears the sun will not become chief.” — Ugandan proverb

“A flea can trouble a lion more than a lion can trouble a flea.” — Kenyan proverb

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

“A feeble effort will not fulfil the self.”

“Where a woman rules, streams run uphill.” — Ethiopian proverb

“Do not look where you feel. Look where you slipped.”
Meaning: Don’t look at your mistakes, but rather look at what caused you to make the mistakes in the first place

“Don’t think there are no crocodiles just because the water is calm.”

“Do not call a dog with a whip in your hand.”

“He who is destined for power does not have to fight for it.” — Ugandan proverb

“Rain does not fall on one roof alone.”

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

“If money were to be found up in the trees, most people would be married to monkeys.” 

“It is better to live as a lion for one day rather than 100 years as a sheep.” 

“Just because the lizard nods his head, doesn’t mean he’s in agreement.”

“A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning.” — Kenyan proverb

A single bracelet does not jingle.”

— Congolese proverb

“A fight between grasshoppers is a joy to the crow.” — Lesotho proverb

“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” — West African proverb

“When a king has good counsellors, his reign is peaceful.” — Ashanti proverb

“War has no eyes.”
— One of the most popular Swahili sayings from Africa

“Your body is a temple of knowledge.” 

“Without a leader, black ants are confused.” — Ugandan proverb from Africa

“Do not mistake a short man for a boy.” — Great African proverb

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

“When the music changes, so does the dance.”

>> Are you enjoying these proverbs from Africa? I bet you’re learning something new too

African proverbs about life

“Restless feet might walk you into a snake pit.”

“He who refuses to obey cannot command.” — Kenyan proverb

“Ashes fly back into the face of him who throws them.” — Nigerian proverb

“A bird that flies off the Earth and lands on an anthill is still on the ground.”

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

“A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning.”

“Do not forget what it is to be a sailor because of being a captain yourself.” — Tanzanian proverb

“Unity is strength, division is weakness.” — Swahili proverb about strength

“He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk.” — Malawian proverb

“A man’s ruin lies in his tongue.” 

“When there is peace in the country, the chief does not carry a shield.” — Ugandan proverb

“If the cockroach wants to rule over the chicken, then it must hire the fox as a body-guard.” — Sierra Leone proverb

“Because he lost his reputation, he lost a kingdom.”

— Ethiopian proverb

“By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed.” — Ashanti proverb

“If you can’t resolve your problems in peace, you can’t solve war.” — Somalian proverb

“If you want to know the end, look at the beginning.”

“Where water is the boss there the land must obey.” — Old African proverb

“By trying often, the monkey learns to jump from the tree.” — Buganda proverb

“The earth moves at different speeds depending on who you are.” — Nigerian Proverb

“One who waits for chance may wait a year.” — Yoruba Proverb

A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred.

South African Proverb

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

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

“A person with too much ambition cannot sleep in peace.”

Laughter does wonders for the heart.

“Trouble does not discriminate. It comes to everyone at some point.”

“There is no day that goes without the moon and no day that goes without sunrise and sunset.” — African Proverb

>> Related reading:
The best words for the travel lover in you

African Proverbs About Love

>> Here are some ancient African proverbs about love, beauty, faith, and hope.

Funny African Proverbs about love

“Where there is love, there is no darkness.” — African adage

“Love, like rain, does not choose the grass on which it falls.”

“If the full moon loves you, why worry about the stars?”

“It is better to be loved than to be feared.”

“When one is in love, a cliff becomes a meadow.”

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

“You know who you love but you can’t know who loves you.”

“He may say that he loves you, wait and see what he does for you.”

“Every kind of love is love, but self-love is supreme among them.”

“Brothers love each other when they are equally rich.”

“Love is a painkiller.” — popular African phrase

“He who loves, loves you with your dirt.”

“One who marries for love alone will have bad days but good nights.”

“Love for something makes a man blind and deaf.” 

“Truth should be in love and love in truth.”

“True love means what’s mine is yours.” — Traditional African Proverb

“Love doesn’t listen to rumours.”

“If love is a sickness, patience is the remedy.”

“The quarrel of lovers is the renewal of love.”

“It is difficult for two long-nosed lovers to kiss.”

“Love doesn’t rely on physical features.” 

>> Keep scrolling for even more African love proverbs

Love African proverbs about love

“A fish and bird may fall in love but the two cannot build a home together.” 

“When one is in love, a mountain top becomes a flat field.”

“When you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes but the monkey remains.” 

“If love is a sickness, patience is the remedy.” 

“A happy man marries the girl he loves; a happier man loves the girl he married.”

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

“If anyone makes you laugh, it is not always because they love you.”

“One who loves the vase, loves also what is inside.”

“To love someone who doesn’t love you is like shaking a tree to make the dew drops fall.”

“Lovers do not hide their nakedness.”

“Love is a despot who spares no one.”

“If a woman doesn’t love you, she calls you “brother.” 

“Do not treat your loved one like a swinging door: you are fond of it but you push it back and forth.”

“Don’t be so in love that you can’t tell when it’s raining.”

Love has to be shown by deeds not words. — Swahili Proverb

“Examine what is said, not who is speaking.” 

“Truth should be in love and love in truth.” — African proverb about self-love

“Even as the archer loves the arrow that flies, so too he loves the bow that remains constant in his hands.”

“A happy man marries the girl he loves; a happier man loves the girl he married.”

Marriage is like a groundnut – you have to crack them to see what is inside.

“It’s better to fall from a tree and break your back than to fall in love and break your heart.”

>> Read next:
100 of the most special love smile quotes

African Wisdom Proverbs

>> Continue reading to discover ancient African wisdom proverbs and find a list of the best wise African proverbs about knowledge.

African Proverbs

“The wise create proverbs for fools to learn, not to repeat.” — African proverb

“Nobody is born wise.”

“Knowledge is a garden. If it isn’t cultivated, you can’t harvest it.” 

“Wisdom is wealth.” — Swahili

“Wisdom does not come overnight.” 

“If you educate a man, you educate one person. If you educate a woman, you educate a whole family.”

— One of my favorite African proverbs about women

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

— Wise African proverb

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

“The fool speaks, the wise man listens.” — Ethiopian 

“Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand.” — Guinean

“He who learns, teaches.” — Ethiopian proverb

“A wise man fills his head before emptying his mouth.” 

“When an old man dies, a library is burned with him.”

“Wealth, if you use it, comes to an end; learning, if you use it, increases.” — Swahili proverb

“One day in the life of a wise man is worth a fool’s entire life.” 

“A wise person will always find a way.” — Tanzanian

“A chattering bird builds no nest.”

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

Worry is like a rocking chair. It rocks you back-and-forth, but gets you nowhere.

“A fool has to say something. A wise person has something to say.”

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

“The heart of the wise man lies quiet like limpid water.” — proverb from Cameroon

“One who causes others misfortune also teaches them wisdom.” — African saying

“Only a wise person can solve a difficult problem.” — Akan saying

>> Find more awesome African sayings below

Powerful African Proverbs lion sheep

“Learning expands great souls.” — Namibian proverb 

“A wise person doesn’t fall down the same hill twice.”

“Wisdom is like fire. People take it from others.” — Congolese

“A fool cannot untie the knot tied by a wise man.” 

“What you learn is what you die with.” — African adages

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try spending the night with a mosquito.”

“One who plants grapes by the roadside, and one who marries a pretty woman, share the same problem.”

“Rain may clean the leopards skin but it does not wash out the spots.”

“A single stick may smoke, but it will not burn.” — Old African proverb

“Give advice, if people don’t listen let adversity teach them.”

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

“Wisdom is not like money to be tied up and hidden.” — Akan proverb

“In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams.” — Nigerian proverb

“The wise man never takes a step too long for his leg.”

“When deed speaks, words are nothing.” 

“Wood already touched by fire is not hard to set alight.”

“God has created lands with lakes and rivers for man to live. And the desert so that he can find his soul.”

“Peace does not make a good ruler.” — Botswana proverb

“You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla.” — Congolese proverb

“A large chair does not make a king.” — Sudanese proverb

 “If you do not have patience you cannot make beer.”

“Confiding a secret to an unworthy person is like carrying grain in a bag with a hole.” 

“Where there are experts there will be no lack of learners.”

— Swahili Proverb

“One falsehood spoils a thousand truths.” — African proverb

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

“He that beats the drum for the mad man to dance is no better than the mad man himself.”

“In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges, and the foolish build dams.”

“He who does not know one thing knows another.”

>> Read next:
The most weird food eaten in African and around the world

Ancient African Proverbs on Family

>> Here are a list of inspirational African phrases related to the family unit and why unity and togetherness is so valued.

Wisdom African Proverbs wise family

“If I am in harmony with my family, that’s success.” — Great African proverbs about success

“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.”

“Dine with a stranger but save your love for your family.” — Ethiopian proverb

“If you educate a man, you educate one person. If you educate a woman, you educate a whole family.”

“There is no fool who is disowned by his family.” — Old African proverbs wisdom

“A united family eats from the same plate.” — Baganda proverb

He who earns calamity, eats it with his family.”

“Family must look out for family.” 

“If relatives help each other, what evil can hurt them?” 

“A family tie is like a tree, it can bend but it cannot break.”

“When brothers fight to the death, a stranger inherits their father’s estate.” — Igbo proverb

“A home without a woman is like a barn without cattle.”

“Home affairs are not talked about on the public square.” 

“It is hard to cure madness that originates in the family.”

“A mother cannot give birth to something bigger than herself.” 

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

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

The laughter of a child is the light of a house

Funny African Proverb

“A woman is a flower in a garden; her husband is the fence around it.”

If one didn’t laugh, one would have to cry

“A husband with a good wife will never be on the road without supplies.”

“A real family eats from the same cornmeal.”

“In a family, if you have somebody who is troublesome, it’s the family members who are more worried than the troublesome member.”

“Even the maid has a family.”

“Where there are many, nothing goes wrong.” — Swahili proverb

“Every beetle is a gazelle in the eyes of its mother.”

“No man can outwit their ancestors.” 

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” — Bondei proverb

Those who respect the elderly pave their own road toward success.

“Don’t meddle with a family feud.”

“The mother hen does not break its own eggs.”

>> Read next:
The best family island vacations

African Proverbs About Friendship

>> Here you will find inspirational African proverbs for friendship and the important relationships in life.

African Proverbs family light

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

“A small house will hold a hundred friends.”

“Show me your friend and I will show you your character.”

“An intelligent enemy is better than a stupid friend.” — Senegalese proverb

“Hold a true friend with both hands.”

“A friend is someone you share the path with.”

“The friends of our friends are our friends.” — Congolese proverb

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

“Bad friends will prevent you from having good friends.” — Gabon proverb

“Between true friends even water drunk together is sweet enough.”

One shares food not words” – Somali Proverb

“One falsehood spoils a thousand truths.”

“A close friend can become a close enemy.”

>> Read next:
How to say friend in different languages around the world
and family in different languages

African Proverb Children

>> These African wise sayings share more about children and the importance of raising them the right way.

African Proverbs about life

“It takes a village to raise a child.”
— famous African saying meaning that children are affected by a wide variety of influences and that it takes many people, not just the parents, to provide a good upbringing and to raise a child well.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

— Haida Proverb

“Children are the reward of life.”

“By crawling a child learns to stand.”

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

“A child is a child of everyone.”

— Sudanese saying

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

“No one has to point God out to a child.” – Ghanaian proverb

“A child is what you put into him.”

“When you show the child the moon, it sees only your finger.”

“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

“Parents give birth to the body of their children, but not always to their characters.” — African proverb children

At a bottom of patience, one finds heaven

Wise proverb from Africa

“A child does not laugh at the ugliness of his mother.”

Funny African Proverbs and Phrases

>> These funny African proverbs are not meant to just make you laugh, but also provide life advice through African idioms.

African Wisdom Proverbs Knowledge

“A person who sells eggs should not start a fight in the market.”

— Traditional African Proverb

“The man who marries a beautiful woman and the farmer who grows corn by the road side have the same problem.” — Ghanaian Proverb

“Knowledge is like underwear. It is useful to have it, but not necessary to show it off.”

“However much the buttocks are in a hurry, they will always remain behind.” — Funny African saying 

“The major reason why a tortoise will carry the weight of its house forever is fear.” — Nigerian Proverb

“The only woman who knows where her man is every night is a widow.” — Togolese Proverb

“A monkey that eats grass instead of banana is a goat.”

“Before you go out with a widow, you must first ask her what killed the husband.” — Traditional African Proverb

“The buttocks are like a married couple though there is constant friction between them; they will still love and live together.”

“Without fools there would be no wisdom.” — Traditional African idioms 

“The frowning face of a goat cannot stop its owner to take it to the market.”

“A man who hangs around a beautiful girl without saying a word ends up fetching water at her wedding.”

If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.

“When a fly perches on a man’s scrotum, he immediately learns humility.” — Ghanaian Proverb.

“There’s no virgin in a maternity ward.” — Cameroonian Proverb

“Hot temper will never cook yams.”

— Nigerian Proverb

“Wealth is like hair in the nose: it hurts to be separated whether from a little or a lot.”

“If the sun claims superiority over the moon, let it shine at night.”

“Men would not tell lies if women asked fewer questions.”

“Teeth do not see poverty.”
Meaning: people still smile despite problems

“A man with diarrhoea will not require any one to give them the direction to the door.” — Ugandan Proverb

“A truthful man will soon find himself expelled from 9 villages.” — Kenyan Proverb

“When the mouse laughs at the cat, there is a hole nearby.”

“Girls are like mangoes, while you are waiting for them to be ripe, others are eating them raw.”

“No matter how far a man can urinate, the last drop will always fall between his feet.” — Kenyan Proverb

He who is being carried does not realize how far the town is.

“Swallowing a knife may be hard but once you do, the butt always finds a way to expel it.” — Seychellois Proverb

“When a girl has beauty without brains, the private parts suffer the most.”

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.”

“Even the best cooking pot will not produce food.”

“When God cooks, you don’t see smoke.”

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

“The day a mosquito lands on your testicles is the day you will know there is a better way of resolving issues without using violence.” — Senegalese Proverb

>> Speaking of funny African sayings, continue to laugh with these:
funny smile quotes and funny travel quotes

African Proverbs

Aaaah, that was a whole lot of African wise words. I hope you’ve enjoyed (and learnt something from) these beautiful African proverbs and meanings.

>> Read next:

Hamba kahle,


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