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  1. The monkey said that she would not deny that her child whom she carried on her back ate up fruit, because she did not know whether he stretched out his hand and plucked fruit: A person should speak about what he knows. (One can speak only about things of which he is certain.)
  2. Laughter does not show friendship [love]: The behavior or the face of a person can conceal what is in his heart. (All that glitters is not gold.)
  3. The word which is spoken is agreed to by a nod of the head. [Something already discussed and agreed to requires only a nod of the head for confirmation.] What has been mutually agreed upon is not difficult of performance. (Mutual agreement is key to success.)
  4. It is he who owns the corpse who carries it at the head. [The load is heavier at the head end of the coffin.] Everyone must do the work which falls to him. (One must bear one's responsibility.)
  5. What are we going to do with a child who puts on a loincloth and drinks from his mother's breast? [A very young child would not wear clothes. If he is old enough to wear a loincloth he would be too old to be breastfeeding.] What shall we do to one who deliberately commits an abomination or something the land abhors? (Abomination committed by full grown up people is difficult to cleanse.)
  6. One who does things when he can afford to do them [one who does when he has] is better than a thief. One who spends lavishly is better than one who steals. (Spendthrift is better than roguery.)
  7. If you finish defecating but it does not cover the opening, it is dysentery. To get something done to completion is important. [Work to a good conclusion.] (Well accomplished work should be always commended.)
  8. He who bathes in tears knows himself. One who hides the bad thing he is doing knows that the bad thing is not good. (Doing evil secretly is very bad.)
  9. If a person makes a will but does not die, he will be embarrassed. It is good that a person should keep his promises. (People should keep their words.)
  10. If the hen stops clucking, what will she use to train her children? If one abandons his talents or his livelihood, he will be powerless. (We must always care for our talent.)
  11. After the slave has served the chief, the rewards of the chieftaincy will reach him. The right hand washes the left hand, and the left hand washes the right hand. (Mutual respect leads to over-all understanding.)
  12. If we tell a thief to catch a chicken, he says that it will bite him. A petty thief hides his bad deeds from people. (Pretending to be innocent when one as a matter of practice commits such an offence or crime.)
  13. One does not tell a deaf person that war has broken out. If a thing is drastic enough it affects everyone. (A really strong event produces action.)
  14. A dog may refuse food but he does not refuse to answer a call. No one should refuse to find out why he is being called. (We must respond to calls.)
  15. If a deceitful person buries himself, one of his arms will stick out. There are things one person will not be able to do; one who does bad things must be found out. (Doing evil is not good.) [Truth will out.]
  16. All trees grow in the forest but the ora singled itself out. The thing which identifies a person is what he is known by. (Everything has its own identity or special quality of which it is proud.)

Kindness and Wickedness

  1. Regardless of how dysentery affects the cow, she will still fill the basket [after butchering]. A person is too big for a thing, which is to say that nothing can harm him. (There is a limit to possibilities.)
  2. When the snake bites the tortoise he cuts his mouth: To draw a line on the ground; that is, there is a place where a person's strength stops. (There is a limit to effort.)
  3. When a son of the land does something bad, he is forcibly dragged through his father's courtyard: The relatives of an evildoer do not rescue him when evil befalls him. (People do not defend evils or evildoers.)
  4. If one rejoices when someone dies, the pain of death awaits him: It is fitting that a person's companions should grieve when misfortune befalls him, because not every day is a happy one. (It is bad to rejoice in the calamity of others.
  5. Greet the deaf person--if the sky does not hear, the earth will hear: When you do a good deed, if man does not repay you, God will. (Do good always.)
  6. Good salt returns from the market. (A good thing sells itself.) (Good wine needs no bush.) [A good product does not need to be checked out--it speaks for itself.
  7. A soft word causes anger to turn back: A humble heart helps settle quarrels. (Humble words soften anger.)
  8. The grub [insect living in palm tree close to where wine is tapped] falls from above to the earth and the chicken goes to peck it up; the grub then asks it, "Since when have we had any quarrel with each other?": To hate a person who has not done anything. (Quarreling or
  9. The works that we do are the things by which we are remembered: Good deeds are better than all else. (People are remembered by their good turns.)
  10. It is not the [same] mouth used to borrow palm kernels that is used to repay them: When a person needs something he uses soft words, but when he gets what he is seeking, he speaks harshly. (People are humble when they are in difficulties.)

Obedience and Disobedience

  1. When a woman scorns her husband, her rear end dries up [she loses moral support]: A person should not despise the source of his strength. (People should respect those to whom respect is due.)
  2. A stubborn [strong-eared] chicken hears things in the stew pot: One who is disobedient takes the consequences of what he does. (It does not pay to be disobedient or obstinate.) [Note: /nti ike/, "strong-
    eared," can also mean "partially deaf," usually referring to humans.]
  3. If an old woman stubbornly builds herself a spacious compound, her dead body is carried to her own soup: A thing ought to be fitting. (People should not attempt what is beyond their reach.)
  4. Seeing but not speaking is characteristic of eelders; speaking but not listening is characteristic of younger people: Everyone should speak the truth, that is, give advice; it is then the listener's responsibility to accept it. (People must give advice whether it is accepted or not.)
  5. If advice is given to a head but it does not hear, when it enters the bag, it hears [after being cut off]: One who does not agree agrees when he is on the death-mat. (People must give advice whether it is accepted or not.)
  6. The child who washes his body [only] on his stomach [being too young to know how to bathe properly] knows nothing about evil: To be pure in heart; not doing any wrong. (Innocence. Literally: A child is innocent.)
  7. Rat, do not chew the doctor's bag on purpose, and doctor, do not starve the rat on purpose. Do not purposely do bad things. (Live and let live.)
  8. One who does not agree agrees on the death mat: Disobedience ought to have a limit. (People cannot always escape punishment for their evil deeds.)
  9. One who serves benefits by the service: Good behavior brings love. (By serving others we ourselves gain.
  10. Obedience is better than making sacrifices to the gods: To do what one is told to do is better than any other thing he does, no matter how great it is. (To obey is better than sacrifice.)
  11. The grasshopper which was killed by the okpoko was deaf. Failure to listen causes waste. (Obstinacy leads to ruin.)
  12. The old woman who provokes a fight and is not pushed to the ground, another day will provoke again: A person who has not seen a thing says that he wants to see it. (We learn by experience.)

Wisdom and Foolishness

  1. One does not tell a deaf person that war has broken out: An important or powerful thing demonstrates itself. (Seeing is believing; an effect manifests itself.)
  2. The ant said that he knew what it would be like for him in the rainy season, then used the dry season to gather his food: It is best to be prepared for things. (Forewarned is forearmed. Make hay while the sun shines. Being prepared for difficult times.)
  3. It is not by staring hard that one sees the road [or understands what is going on]: A noisy show does not imply knowledge. (Empty vessels make a great deal of noise. Bold looks do not mean courage.)
  4. A wise man in Aba is a fool in Abba: There is no one who knows everything. (A wise man can be outpointed by a fool.)
  5. A planned war does not affect a lame person [he has time to escape]: A thing which is known about does not make a person feel nervous. (Forewarned is forearmed.)
  6. Bad deeds affect the doer, good deeds affect the doer: It is not good to do bad deeds. (The evil that men do lives after them. We are affected by the evils we do.)
  7. Those who rush toward a fight do not know that fighting means death: Doing things thoughtlessly brings destruction. (Fools rush in where the angels fear to tread.)
  8. While applying eye-clearing medicine, someone comes and says to put some pepper in: Spoiling something that is being done while one is trying to improve it. (Worsening a situation by trying to improve it.)
  9. The general public does not know who is being weighed down by his problems: It is difficult to know what people's problem's are. (It is not easy to know the downtrodden.)
  10. The poor person's goat is his cow: We are proud of our possessions no matter how small they are. (We are proud of our belongings however unimportant.)
  11. The newborn child does not throw its father up: Everything has its limit. You have to crook your elbows in order to dance the ufio [funeral dance]. (First thing first; Respect to whom respect is due.)
  12. When the black ant bites the buttocks it [the buttocks] learns some sense: When a person experiences a difficulty, he learns something. (We learn through difficulties or experience.)
  13. The titled man, not knowing what to say, says that his companions have already said what he would have said: Giving an excuse for something. (Giving lame excuse for not doing a thing.)
  14. The young man, when his girl friend is eating seed yam, says that he feels like planting it in the ground: To waste a person's strength.
  15. He who kills his plantain tree with his own gun does not know that it is his own property being lost: One who negligently throws away or spoils things he himself owns. (Allowing one's things to spoil through negligence.)
  16. To say, "Lead me home," indicates fear, as there is no one who does not know the way to his own house: Using sense in doing something. (Being courteous and sympathetic.)
  17. The big-eyed chief is not necessarily the "first-eyed": Staring does not signify wisdom. (Being over active does not necessarily signify wisdom.)
  18. Hot soup should be eaten slowly: Patience is involved in progress. (Slow and steady win the race.)
  19. Giving birth to a retarded child [lit., one who does not know anything] and the frequent loss of newborn babies are brothers [two similar things]: There is nothing worse than stupidity or ignorance. (Ignorance is a dreadful disease.)
  20. One who keeps on storing up yams should take time to visit his mother's home quarter because it is not the yam barn he will run to when he is in trouble: A person should put his trust in a reliable place, or a place where he can receive assistance. (First things first. Good appraisal of a situation.)
  21. The eye is used to tell whether the corn is ripe: It is not hard to know when something is good. (We can easily know what is good. Good wine needs no bush.)
  22. The toad said that he stooped down while waiting for the one he had sent to buy him a chair: Being prepared for things. (Being prepared for a situation or event. Preparedness.)
  23. The eye is used to tell whether the corn is ripe: A good thing sells itself. (Good wine needs no bush.)
  24. If you carry out the desires of a prisoner you will be setting him free [lit., telling him to come out and go home]: To ignore something. (Not being very scrupulous or meticulous.)
  25. The chicken scratches ahead and scratches behind and asks her children which is better: Things to come are greater than those in the past. (The future is more important than the past.)
  26. The mushroom that knows what it is doing says that its waist does not reach the ground: Ifie amanü n'ihe. (Being careful and cautious.)
  27. The proverb that is applied to the bird is applied as well to the nza [a bird that is small even when fully grown, and considered wiser than other birds]: What is good for a person is going to be good for his companions. (What is good for the goose is good for the gander.)
  28. Missing.
  29. When a child is given too much, he asks whether he really owns all of this: Things satisfying a person. (Being satisfied.)
  30. If dog meat is prepared carefully, even rice-lovers will eat it: Doing something good makes things look attractive. (Carefulness and devotion improves a situation or a thing.
  31. A well-traveled child exceeds a gray-haired person in knowledge. Knowledge does not come from age: One who travels is very knowledgeable. (Travelling makes one wise; wisdom is not synonymous with old age.)
  32. While attempting to satisfy his curiosity, the bullet struck the monkey in the head: Stubbornness or meticulousness brings destruction or trouble. (Over simplicity is not good.)
  33. The child's cry yields no good results from the confirmed bachelor: The thing we know nothing about is not pleasing to us. (We do not care for what we do not like.)
  34. The slave who laughs when he sees his companion's grave being dug [with an mbazu, a long stick with flattened end] should remember that his day is coming. A person finds out that what happens to his companions happens to him. (We learn from experience.)
  35. If you speak proverbs to a wise person, he will understand; if you speak them to a fool, he will head straight for the bush. A small word is enough for a wise man. (A word is enough for the wise.)
  36. One speaks in proverbs to a fool in order to confuse him: One does not expect an ignorant person to show wisdom. (We do not expect wisdom from a fool.)
  37. One moves in an age group or in a group of those who are his equal in knowledge: Every person knows the one who is his equal. (Being of the same age does not mean being equally wise.)
  38. You should not, until it is night time, speak badly of one who worships his personal god. You should give a person a chance before talking against him. (Don't draw conclusion until the end.)
  39. You should not go past your farm with a thief. You should not give a dog meat to keep: You should not deliberately spoil things. (People do not deliberately pave way for destruction or a loss.)
  40. The small yam is used to recognize fertile soil: The thing which will be profitable demonstrates itself. (Good signs augur well.)
  41. Scoop up water while it is shallow: A person should do his work when it is possible to do it. (Make hay while the sun shines.)
  42. One who goes to a land where they cut off ears should cut off his own and contribute it: Doing things which the times require. (When you are at Rome do like the Romans.)
  43. The wise child is an honor to his father: The good child brings his father joy. (Wise child is an honor to his parents.
  44. When showing and knowing live together, harmony will not be absent. (Refers to one person showing bad behavior and the other knowing but not making an issue ofit): One who seeks peace should not provoke his companions to anger. (Kindness begets kindness; love brings about love and devotion.
  45. Adults use their eyes to divide the food in the pot: The wise man is a leader of his own people. (Wise people settle their own problems.)
  46. If one tears his mat he sleeps on the ground: If one kills his mother he makes himself an orphan. (If one throws away or wastes his assets, he suffers the consequences of his action.)
  47. One whose house is burning does not catch rats (they scurry around, brought out by the fire): A man should not play games while he is working at things which are important to him. (First things first.)
  48. One who throws away the seed pod does not realize that he has thrown away a basket of vegetables: A person ought to take good care of the small things he has. (Penny wise, pound foolish.)
  49. An effective word is not long. One word said to a smart person is enough for him. (A word to the wise is sufficient.)
  50. A foolish person runs from the rain when the rain has already soaked him through: One should do things at the right time. (Make hay while the sun shines.)
  51. The talk of a previous day comes as a surprise to a guest: One who was not at home is unable to explain things that happened while he was out. (Difficulty is not understanding a situation.)
  52. A fly who does not have an advisor follows the corpse into the grave, the spirit-land: A man should not always do what he thinks in his heart. (Foolishness or ignorance leads to destruction.)
  53. The thing that a child does is in his thoughts: The child knows what he wants to say but fear of his elders prevents him from speaking. (Lack of wisdom is responsible for misfortunes.)
  54. When there seems to be no way to do a thing, the way to do it will show itself. What a small person cannot do, a big person can do. (There is a way for doing everything: Where there is a will there is a way.)
  55. A person should not, because of famine, sell the mother who bore him. Everyone should be patient during difficulties. (Being prepared to face difficulties or temptations.
  56. A person should not express his dislikes when there is no famine: A person eats what he does not really like when famine prevails. (A man should not expose his weakness.) [During famine you will be forced to eat what you earlier said you disliked.]
  57. Use the afternoon to hunt the black goat: People do not hunt black goats at night. (Make hay while the sun shines. Do things at the right time when you have the chance.)
  58. The wise child kills the one who killed his father, but if he is foolish, the one who killed his father kills him: Wisdom should be applied to difficult work. (Wisdom helps in overcoming difficulties.)
  59. It is not necessary to tell a wise person to get out of the sun: A wise person uses his head in working. (A wise man makes use of his senses.)
  60. The hot-tempered man dies before the one who has committed a crime: A hot temper is bad. (Hot temper leads to destruction.)
  61. A wise woman is her husband's crown: A true woman brings her husband a good reputation. (Good behavior brings blessing.)
  62. Hunger goes also to the place of the wealthy: Let everyone stay on his own. (People should find their equals.)
  63. Pot carriers are not reliable traders (like market people)--if they stub their toes on thorns, they pick up empty baskets. (Things should follow their normal course.)
  64. The foolish person does not know that his brother is a guest: Treat people well when you have the opportunity. (Do good when you have the time.)
  65. The child who asks questions does not go astray: Questions help us to know things. (By asking we learn.)
  66. One who was not there when a corpse was buried is apt to start with the leg in exhuming it: The thing that a person is familiar with he knows the details of. (If we don't know a thing, we cannot do it well.)
  67. If a woman is persuasive (has a sweet tongue), her husband does not refuse to eat her food: A good character brings blessings. (Good behavior brings blessing.)
  68. One who has traveled has more knowledge than an elder: Traveling helps in knowing things. (Traveling makes one wise.)
  69. When a child speaks, we know how mature he is (what his years are equal to). A man's words are used to judge his mind. (We know the depth of a man's mind through his words.)
  70. One who does not know anyone superior to himself is foolish: Let the deeds of every person be equal to his strength. (Respect to everybody [to whom] respect is due. Acknowledging our superiors.)
  71. One should notjoin a madman in mad practices: It is not good to follow an evildoer in the bad things he does. (We shall not copy the evil doer.)
  72. Instead of becoming blind, let me be a hunchback: It is better to do good things. (It is better to do good.)
  73. When sickness is cured, the foolish man forgets the doctor who cured him. Forgetting things quickly. (We forget too soon.)
  74. It is better to give than to receive: There is more praise for the giver. (Giving is better than receiving.)
  75. If one breaks the palm nut shell and throws away the stone, does he think that famine will not return? Forgetting something quickly is not good. (Forgetting too easily.)
  76. A fool does not know when they are sharing the scoop of breadfruit: A stupid person does not understand what is being said. (The fool is always at sea.)
  77. If the chicken stops clucking, what shall it use to train its young? Something that becomes habitual. (We cannot do away with habit already formed.)


  1. Too much thought caused the sheep not to have horns. Too much over-confidence [knowing too much] spoils things. (Over- scrupulousness spoils an affair or a thing.)
  2. He-goat told his father that he (child) had had a son first: Not knowing anything. Boasting out of ignorance. (Boasting without background or foundation.)
  3. "Mr. Know-it-all" says that he preceded his father in having a son. (See above.)
  4. One who laughs at _____, knows that it comes from her own daughter: We should respect our mothers. (We must respect others as we respect our parents.)


  1. The muskrat prepares her nest when labor begins: A person being unprepared. (Making bows and arrows in the battlefield; unpreparedness.)
  2. All lizards lie on their stomachs, but we cannot tell which has a stomach-ache: To be difficult to know which is which. (An outlook that hides the truth.) [Children with stomach-aches were often told to lie on their stomachs.]
  3. When a child is tired from working, he prefers fighting: Having strength or opportunity to do trivial things. (Doing the trivial things and leaving the important thing undone.)

Taking Advantage; Unscrupulous

  1. If someone you hate has a rash, you call it leprosy: If one cannot obtain something he says that he does not want it. (cf. All grapes are sour.)
  2. Woodpecker says that after his parents die he will break off the trunk of the apü tree, but after they have died, a boil grows in his mouth: When a person wants to do something difficult, he may not have the strength to do it. (Inconvenience.)
  3. When a dispute escalates, a tricky person gets the benefit: Bad people profit when there is no peace. (cf. To fish in a troubled water.)
  4. If one keeps on constantly refusing, one will refuse a person who is already filled up [that would be embarrassing]: It is bad to continually do things to excess. (Too much of everything is bad.)
  5. If the ear says that it does not hear, cut it off from the head: No one wants something bad to come to him. (Nobody likes misfortune.)
  6. If a bad woman lacks firewood, she pulls down [breaks off] the uko [wooden recess over fireplace. She uses it for firewood]. (cf. If one cannot find a place to rest his hands, he rests them on his knees.) (A person in a state of abject want cannot spare anything.)
  7. After the earth has finished nourishing breadfruit, it starts to grow øoføøo : Many people use evil to repay the good that was done for them. (Repaying good with evil.)
  8. If the two-tailed lizard is not killed, one with three tails will come: One should stop something bad at the time it first starts. (Nipping evil at the bud is the best policy.)
  9. If the leopard breaks a leg, the antelope comes to take repayment of his debt: When a person becomes old he no longer has much strength. (People take undue advantage of other people's weak points.)
  10. If a person is like a toad [in looks or behavior], let her cry for a husband: What a person brings on himself let him carry on his own head [take the consequences of] .
  11. The sharp-tongued child tells the spirits that there is no oil bean flavoring in the soup: Over-talkativeness spoils things. [The child has let out a secret.]
  12. In the land where there are no human beings, the tortoise answers to "daughter." A person assumes a position of greatness where there is no one of his own caliber [no one to rival him]. (In the country of the blind, one-eyed man is the king.)
  13. The old woman says that if she had revealed the details about how she trampled the chick to death, its mother would also be caught and given to her [out of misplaced pity]: A person should not talk too much about the things he sees or the troubles he suffers. (It is better to bear our troubles in silence.)
  14. One who has crossed the bridge says that the bridge has broken: One who has a good thing tells others not to get it, or that the way to get it is closed. (Selfish people think of themselves alone.)
  15. A snake seen by one person becomes a python: People examine carefully the testimony of one person alone. (It is difficult to believe a sole witness.)
  16. The monkey said that his eyebrows almost spoiled his beauty: A small thing spoils a big thing. (Saved by just a little luck. Somebody's fortune nearly ruined by a trivial thing.)
  17. Two kitchen knives are at the house of the poor person, the one which is sharp has no handle, the one which has a handle is not sharp: Among all the things a person owns there is nothing which is useful. (Having things or possessions that are useless.)
  18. If one traces the path of the lizard [in shooting] as he climbs up [a zigzag path], his supply of gunpowder will be exhausted: Too much attention to detail spoils things. (Being meticulous or revengeful leads to destruction or failure.)

Excuse and Complaint

  1. One should not use the fact that crawcraw itches to scratch himself into blindness: To spoil a big thing on account of a small thing. (Overdoing a thing; excess.)
  2. The water left over in a broken pot settles there for the dog: A person's work is always there for him. (One's responsibility remains for him.)
  3. One whose house is burning does not hunt rats: One does not leave something important to follow something unimportant. (People pay attention to important things rather than trivial ones.)
    4. Tortoise says that things are not the way they used to be for him, when he answered to the name of cow-killer: When things change, take whatever happens as it is. (People should be ready to accept change in circumstance.)
  4. If a thief is told to catch a chicken, he says he is afraid: To give an excuse not having validity: To pretend that something does not please a person when it actually does please him. (Vain excuse; insincerity.)
  5. The old person sees the one who looks after her in her old age and says that people in her lineage do not become old: One who has a way of taking care of his needs does not pay attention to anything. (Unworried because one has been provided for.)
  6. When a wealthy man laughs, poor people completely break up laughing: People trying to see that their superiors are pleased. (Gentleman's gentleman. Excess)
  7. If a woman cooks bad food, she says that that was the thing she wanted to eat: Excuse not carrying any weight. (Exculpating oneself.)
  8. In the age group of one who takes øozøo title, the members start to be selective in their choice of foods: One who accomplishes what is suitable for him to accomplish. (Cf. If a child washes his hands, he and an older person may eat together.) (Achievements determine rank and honour.)
  9. If the pestle misses the mortar, it pounds the ground: If one departs from the truth, he meets with misfortune. (Leaving what one ought to do what he ought not.)
  10. Eruru [larva of a certain insect found in palm-wine tree] says that he does not have enough of a waistline to wear $13 worth of cloth: One who cannot do something should admit that he is unable to do it. Cf. Hang your cloth where you can reach it. (Cf. Cut your coat according to your size.)
  11. The reason one chews a chewing stick is so that the ear can begin to dance: The reason one does certain things is that one is expected to do them or for the sake of what people will say. (We do things worth doing for the sake of doing them.)
  12. The old woman ate two pieces of yam, then said [by way of excuse] that she had no teeth--how many did those who have teeth eat?: cf. The old woman given a child to look after. Giving an excuse not carrying any weight. (Vain excuse.)
  13. If you give me a message to deliver to the chief, I will deliver it; but if you tell me to prepare a head pad and carry him, I will refuse: I will accomplish things as I am able. (I shall work according to my ability.)
  14. It is said that there are not enough diseases, one who has a hydrocele is told to get a swollen stomach as well: A condition becoming worse; if you ignore what is being talked about, something worse comes out. (From the fry pan to the fire. To get worse.)
  15. The corpse in the ground told the flute player that he heard him, but the clay soil would not let him get up. Being unable to remove something troublesome. A person could have done something if he had been able. (Being prevented from doing what ought to have been done.)
  16. When one is burning with fever and is crying, does he think that those who died are fools?: [He should recognize that death is far worse than his complaint.] People should endure trouble courageously because there has not been anything that has not been experienced before. (One must face difficulties boldly.)
  17. The anus is available for blowing the flute, but who can blow it? It is not everything one is able to do that one does do. (There are things which lie in our power to do but we cannot just do them.)
  18. The dog does not eat a bone which is suspended from his neck: A person should not leave something given to him to guard and let it go to waste. (cf. Giving a thief a thing to watch. Being careful and devoted to our assigned duties.)
  19. When there is a disturbance in the market, the old woman runs to the stall of someone she knows she can beat: cf. When one sees someone he can vanquish, he becomes anxious for a fight. A person is strong in the things he is able to do. (Being anxious to assert ourselves because we know we shall win.)
  20. If the bachelor runs from his duties, the morning's ashes [from last night's fire] still await him: If one first runs away, his work waits for him. (Shirking one's responsibility.)
  21. The head may be wrapped as a parcel, but the neck may not permit it: Everything has something that gives it trouble or something that causes it to be difficult. (Nothing is completely perfect.)
  22. He who sits on the sidelines does not know what the wrestler sees: One who is not personally touched by a thing does not know the pain of it. (People do not appreciate other people's difficulties or sufferings.)
  23. The pear says that he caused the rich man to eat ashes [pears are baked in ashes]: Something like causing a man to do something he does not want to do or something he ought not to do. (Certain desires make people do what they would never dream or wish to do.)
  24. He who drives himself away from a vehicle says that the vehicle did not reach him: One who acts against himself says that it is others who did it to him. (A person who acts against his interest shifts the blame on others.)

Life and Death

  1. When a puppy is approached too closely he starts to chew one's clothing: To be familiar or playful causes lack of respect. (Familiarity breeds contempt.)
  2. To shake hands with a leper causes him to be overcome with excessive affection: When you give a person respect or something he had never thought of getting, he starts to desire even more of it. (Abuse of privilege. Insatiable and lustful desire.)
  3. The small bird who eats until his stomach is full tells his god to come and take him: One who is very fortunate in life does not believe that any harm will befall him. To have a big mouth [boast]. (A fortunate or lucky person does not care.)
  4. If one expects a dead tree to fall, a living one uproots itself: It is not the thing people think will happen that does happen. (What people think will not happen may happen, instead of what they expected.)
  5. If the chicken's egg cracks the palm kernel, the grinding stone is put to shame: When something small conquers something big, the big thing feels ashamed. (There is shame for the weak to conquer the strong.)
  6. A child who seeks to quarrel with his father's wife tells her to give him oil so that he can eat palm fruit [palm fruit is oily in itself and is not eaten with oil]: A person looking for something which will cause quarrels between him and his companions. (Deliberate courting of quarrel or trouble.)
  7. One who is stubborn should lick his elbow: No matter how a person shows off, there is something he will not be able to do. (There is a limit to what man can do.)
  8. If a child wants to divulge a secret, he says that his mother is struggling with the door: A person using tricky means to say something he ought not to say. (Excusing oneself in revealing a secret or in condemning another.)
  9. If a person has nothing to say, he says that the young tortoises have grown a lot [i.e., something meaningless]: Speaking against or slandering something when it is not fitting to do so.
  10. A penalty for not dancing well is not applied to the person who has legs: Anyone who is alive has something he can do. (A person fortified for a situation has nothing to fear.)
  11. While the old woman still lives, the old man will kindle the fire for her: One who is still alive will accomplish the thing he wants. (While there is life there is hope. As long as we live we can accomplish our desires.)
  12. The sheep heard that her friend had given birth to a child; she then delivered a premature child: A person imitating another person in doing what the person did. (Wrongful imitation which leads to failure. A person should act according to his ability.)
  13. A big man does not mean big words: Greatness of size or abundance does not mean wisdom or power. One's excessive size does not mean that he exceeds in mental powers. (Size does not determine the amount of wisdom or ability.)

Resignation to Fate

  1. Why should one hunt a tortoise diligently--is it going to fly away?: One causing disturbance or trouble for himself where there is none. [Much ado about nothing.] (Making fuss about things; unnecessary effort.)
  2. Chicken says that he doesn't cry out so that the thing holding him will release him, but rather so that people may hear his voice: Not being able to contain misfortune with which a one meets; asserting innocence; respecting traditions of the land. Doing what one ought to do, even when in trouble. (Observing the rules, conduct and traditions.)
  3. Where the fire goes out is where one throws away the torches [stripped branches of a special kind of oily wood (raffia palm) which burns very easily]: Where a person dies, there his journey ends. When a man tires in the work he is doing, that is when he stops. (There is an end to all difficulties or sufferings.)
  4. No matter how large the elephant is, he will still go into the bush: Everything goes according to its own order or arrangement. (Things follow their kind or species.
  5. The apple [fruit that is opened by pressure at the stem end] says that it is not only she who bears a child whose mouth needs to be broken open: It is not only one person who has bad luck. (Misfortune or ill luck is not limited to one person or a few. Others are also unfortunate.)
  6. When a woman grows old it is as if there is no bride price for her: What is no longer used seems as though it has never been useful. (What has outlived its usefulness always seems as if it has never been useful.)
  7. Chicken says that after someone sweeps him he can still excrete, but if someone beats him, bam! he dies. (Cf. The strength of one's mouth [boasting].) Deliberately doing something bad that will bring a one suffering or distress. A person, regardless of his inability, goes ahead and does something. (Deliberate misconduct or behavior; being delicate and yet exposing oneself.)
  8. The black chicken lays a white egg: What one person can do, another will be able to do. One does not set a boundary beyond which he cannot perform. (What A can do, B can do also.)
  9. If the hand holds the spoon, the mouth is overjoyed: When a person does something that one superior to him cannot do, the superior one is ashamed. One who is lucky will be happy. (Being fortunate.)
  10. One who has died will get very tired of sleeping: Everyone will have something which will be enough for him. (A person will be more than satisfied. There is enough.)
  11. When he gets stuck [in his healing work] the herbalist uses the fees he has collected [up to then]: (cf. Where the millipede dies, there is his burial.) A person cannot always be lucky. Wherever one is met with suffering, he endures it there. (We meet difficulties, dangers or problems as they arise.)

Favorable Situation

  1. When the moon comes out, the old woman longs to travel: When one is fortunate he yearns for many things. (Suitable conditions are responsible for certain desires. cf. A bright day brings forth the adder.)
  2. The young woman does not know that death exists: One who has enough of everything is not too depressed by misfortunes. (People with hope are not badly hit by misfortunes.)
  3. The dance that falls to the lot of the younger generation is the one that they perform: Whatever occurs during people's lifetimes is what they know how to deal with. cf. When a word comes out, its answer comes out. (Every generation is equipped against eventualities or problems of their time.) cf. If something stands, something else stands near it.


  1. The day I go hunting is the day the deer climbs up: When a person seeks something, that thing is scarce. (Unfortunate or ill-luck.)
  2. Tortoise says that his brothers did something good when they sewed him a coat of iron: One is proud when he has something that satisfies his needs. (We are happy and proud over advantage or good luck.)
  3. On hunting day, we should hunt porcupines on their habitual paths: When the time is ripe for something, it should be done. Having good luck; the day or time which is suitable for a thing. (A convenient time or condition; till a suitable time.)

Experience and Inexperience

  1. Retaliation does not cause quarrels: Revenge is not bad. (Revenge or retaliation is not bad.)
  2. If a child sneaks up and burns me, I sneak up and burn him: If one purposely does something bad and one retaliates against him, there should be no quarrel resulting from it. (Retaliation against a deliberate action is not bad.)
  3. A child's strength is like foam: Children do things impulsively. The strength of a child is less than that of an adult. ( A child is inexperienced.)
  4. If the hand opens the door, the mouth will claim responsibility: Whatever has happened has happened.
  5. The hen says that she gathers plenty of wealth, but the problem is that she has no hand to amass it: Something that prevents a person from doing a thing to completion or that causes a person to regress. (Certain things generally stand in people's way; incomplete or deficiency.)


  1. If a woman is polite, her husband does not refuse to take her food: A glad heart or a smiling face eliminates quarrels. (Kindness begets kindness.)
  2. Akîdî [cover crop, like beans] says that it does not know the boundary of the land: A person not setting limits in doing something. Without discrimination or boundary. (Not discriminating.)
  3. The place where one was born is where he is known: One knows a man's limits or his strength in the land of his birth. (A man is better known in his own country.)
  4. One takes good care of the place where he lives: A person puts more of his strength in the work of his dwelling place or the place where he makes his living. (Where a person gets his fortune or wealth, there he is more concerned or careful. One minds the source of his income or means of livelihood.)

Wealth and Poverty

  1. If the talk is of money, the poor person is silent: One who has no money cannot say very much. (Poor people can't do much in situations requiring money.)
  2. If one gathers wealth without eating, has he not seen how it is with the dead man? One who gathers wealth and does not use it to do things does not have the profit from it. (A miser is useless. Living a miser is bad.)
  3. The cocoanut says that the wealthy man eats in little tidbits: Going slowly or a little at a time causes things to turn out successfully. (Little by little leads to success.)
  4. The beautiful tree that I saw on the road, there was no knife I could use to cut it down: Good fortune confronted me but I was unable to get it. (Being unable to accomplish one's desire (bride).)
  5. One who borrows a cloth does not dance proudly: A man's hand is not strong in things he does not own. A man stands firmer where things that he owns are concerned. (cf. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. People are more at home with their own things.)
  6. A good thing for a house to lack is sickness [Sickness is the only thing it is good not to have]: Having nothing is not good. (Poverty is bad.)
  7. One who has no food cuts it from the basket [which hangs above the fire to dry foods]: (We are not free with what we have not.)
  8. The chicken says that by pecking at small bits here and there his stomach is filled: Cf. Hot soup should be sipped gradually.
  9. The gas [bad-smelling] passed by one who is at the top of the oil palm surprises the king-fly: Something of which we do not know the meaning we will not understand. (What we are not privy of surprises us.)
  10. A poor person does not eat the cow's eye [it is expensive]: A person does not get something which is beyond his means. (cf. Cut your coat according to your size.)
  11. Anything denied to a poor person (such as ogeri [a flavoring derived from fermented egusi]) can be bought at the market: Something scarce being plentiful. (A precious thing becoming available to all.)
  12. Something sufficient for the entire body that is good is camwood [a small amount of it can be rubbed on the entire body]: Something both plentiful and good is scarce. (What is plentiful and precious is rare.)
  13. If money were plentiful enough to be burned, the voices of many people would be sounded louder than thunder: If money were like sand, a crippled person would not be poor. (If goods and services are unlimited, there will be no poverty.)
  14. Having no alternatives makes cocoyam taste like yam: What is good is good. (Cf. Not seeing what to do, do what is available; not seeing where to rest the hands, rest them on the knees.) (We have to manage with what we have.)
  15. The one-eyed person owes a debt to blindness [is close to blindness, might as well be blind]: When there remains only one of something, it seems as though all of it is gone. (What is on the verge of exhausting is gone. There is very little consolation in a little thing that remains.)

Cause and Effect

  1. One who invites a child to play causes him to look down on him: If one belittles [lit. carries down] himself, he is belittled. (If one belittles himself, he is belittled.)
  2. The chicken says that as one scratches, one eats: A person must work before he eats. One does not get anything without working. (Effort must be made to accomplish any good.)
  3. The cow says to the hill that she is climbing it, the hill says to her that it is taking her strength: Strong things match each other. Everyone is in suffering or hard work; there is no one who has enough [of what he wants]. (Everybody has his own task or problems.)
  4. If the hill learns to break one's waist, the old woman learns to pause in her travels: Things go together. Cf. If a man learns to steal, his wife learns [to say] that he is not at home.
  5. What the hawk gives birth to will not fail to carry chickens [the offspring of a hawk is bound to be a chicken-stealer]: Everything runs in its own path; everything follows its own lineage. (People follow the pattern of their parents.)
  6. The toad does not run in the afternoon in vain [toads are night creatures]: One thing causes another to happen. (There is no smoke without fire.)
  7. If the rat outruns the child, he says that it is a rat that eats feces: What one cannot afford, he downgrades (calls it unprofitable). (The grapes are sour.)
  8. Wherever a crying child points his finger, if his mother is not there, his father is: Wherever one has trust, there his strength is. (We rely where we get help.)
  9. Short hands keep the tortoise from catching the rabbit: Lack of strength keeps a person from doing what he wants to do. (Were it not for our limitations we could have accomplished more.)
  10. It is through demonstration that one knows the wrestler: Through action one knows who is strong. (Cf. Action speaks better than words. We know the strong man from difficult tasks.)
  11. If one kills a goat, one finds out who owns him: Every person has someone who will inquire about him if something happens to him. (People, however low, have people who are for them.)
  12. When the child eats the food which caused him to stay awake, then he goes to sleep: If we obtain what is important to us, we are satisfied. (Attaining our desire gives us satisfaction.)
  13. If you throw the bird up, you have shown him the way to his mother's home. One who takes something out where it will get lost or where it will get spoiled is seeking to destroy it. (Being careless.)
  14. Mgbanelu, who knew what he had done, said [by way of excuse] that his legs did not touch the ground.
  15. The dog eats dung and the goat's teeth rot: A thing should take its own consequences. (There is a natural order of things.)
  16. The old woman who is given a child to hold and says that she has bad teeth, is she given the child in order to eat it? Excuses will not deliver a person from things he ought to do. (Excuse is no plea.)
  17. The arrow the child uses to kill the vulture was carved for him by an adult: There are things which are too difficult for a person to do. (There is a limit to a feat that a man is capable of achieving.)
  18. If a woman is pleasant [sweet-voiced], her husband does not refuse her food: Good behavior brings good things. (Good behavior brings good things.)
  19. No matter how large the fingers are [the fingers may be large above and below], they will not be bigger than the nostril. Cf. One does not fail to use the thumb to snap the fingers. (There is a natural order of things.)
  20. What water does to the anthill is wash its body.
  21. If one finger is stuck into the oil, it spreads to all the others: One person causing suffering affects everyone. (An individual can bring about evil for the whole nation or others.)
  22. The food the hawk ate went to the eagle's body [the hawk is ugly, the eagle beautiful]: Everything has something which affects it. (Vanity is vanity.)
  23. If one comes to my place, let him not come to kill me, so that when he returns home he will not sprout a hump on his back: Cf. The dog should not purposely eat the doctor's bag. Let the hawk perch, let the eagle perch. Let each person carry his own load. (Live and let live.)
  24. If one does not know the place where a corpse was buried, he digs it up at the feet: One who does not know the meaning of something cannot explain it. (People make mistakes in what they do not know.)
  25. If the chicken soils the earth with its excretions, it perches above: Doing something to the earth which is an abomination. One who does something bad is overcome by shame. (Wicked people run when nobody is pursuing them.)
  26. The place where a child has picked up a snail shell is where his eye is always returning: Where someone gets a good thing is where he can be seen. (People are always found where they derive benefits.)
  27. The chicken does not forget the one who plucked its tail feathers during rainy season: A person remembers one who did him a good turn and forgets one who did him harm. (Good turns are never forgotten. Kindness begets kindness.)
  28. It is through discussion that the mind is revealed: No one knows the thoughts of another person. (Cf. Even the devil knoweth not the thought of man.)
  29. The child who has been stung by a bee is afraid of a giant fly: One who has been injured is extremely fearful. (Unfortunate people are always very timid.)
  30. One whose father was killed by a bushcow does not use a bushcow horn for drinking oil palm wine.
  31. If the small bird starts developing his chest, it seems as though he will surpass his father: When a person is growing it seems that he will surpass everyone. (People initially seem to do what others are unable.)
  32. If one performs a sacrifice without seeing the vulture, it should be known that something happened in spirit land: There are things whose absence indicates that something serious has happened. (Certain things indicate gravity of events.)
  33. One who rushes into a fight does not know that fighting means death: Being impelled by something harmful. (Cf. Fools rush where the angels fear to tread.)
  34. When the chicken perches on the fence, if the chicken fears, the fence fears: Something that results from something else; one who does something to a person does it also to himself. (Cause and effect.)
  35. When a snail crawls, it pulls its shell along with it. Something that results from something else. (Cause and effect.)
  36. "Later, later" prevented the toad from growing a tail. A person leaving something to do later. (Procrastination is thief of time.)
  37. If death does not destroy a man's private parts, he will enjoy a woman's private parts: Something that something else follows. (There is a natural law of events.) [Refers to having patience.]
  38. When someone tells his child to catch a muskrat, will he also fetch water for him to wash his hands? One who sends a person to do something should see to the consequences.

Skill and Expertise

  1. Those who use their teeth for climbing know which trees are bitter: A person can talk about the things he knows how to do. (We are the best judge in what we are specialists.)
  2. If the female sheep is going to grow horns, the back of her head ought to be strong: One who is going to do difficult work must prepare well for it. (To accomplish a feat, one must equip oneself well.)
  3. One who makes soup does not know what is experienced by one who pounds yam: Each person knows the most about his own skills. A person knows the troubles and difficulties involved in the things he does. (We know the difficulties in what we are specialists.)
  4. The chicken with one leg knows how to limp about gathering food.
  5. When the chicken treads on its child it does not kill it: What is done for a person's welfare will not pain him. (We do not feel pains arising from unintentional injury.)
  6. If a chicken stops clucking, how will she train her child? A person should not forsake his own talents. (We cannot do without what are indispensable to us.)
  7. One does not refuse food while it is covered: A person should know what he is talking about before he speaks. (We have to understand a thing before we give our opinion.)
  8. The load should not cover the head: Everything has its place. (There is normal or natural order of things.)
  9. A worker on the smallest job not worrying that he owes a debt and is not going to pay it: Small things show how one behaves in big things. (cf. Keep care of the pennies.) (If one is unworried by a small thing, he will be unworried by a big thing.)
  10. The bow that shoots the øoba [tiny bird] is entitled to twenty arrows: One who is able to accomplish sometrbalist what he gained in the foreign place, but rather what he brought back with him. What one has in hand is better than something he cannot see. (A bird in hand is better than two in the bush.)
  11. Missing.
  12. The old woman who cooks a meal (cooks ükpaka) knows the blind fly. [ükpaka is allowed to ferment and has a strong odor which attracts flies.] A person knows the heart of his specialty. (People know more about their special work than the ordinary man.)
  13. It is not always the one who calls the police who wins the case: Truth does not necessarily lie in eloquence.
  14. When the mother goat chews her cud her child watches her mouth: People learn things by imitating others. (People learn things by imitation.)
  15. One who has been bitten by a snake runs away when he sees the head of a lizard: If a bee stings a big dog he begins to fear bluebottle flies. (Unlucky people fear almost everything.)
  16. The target of a plot [one against whom medicine is being made] knows better than the plotter: Being an expert, or exceeding someone in knowledge. (Being very wise; being cleverer than one's teacher.)
  17. An apparently small stream covers the bridge. (The stream appears to be small.) Something strong does strong work. (Strong events lead to strong results).

Orderliness and Fitness

  1. The millipede says that he did not cry when someone stepped on him, but the one who stepped on his foot did the crying: One who harms another person cries, but the one he harms does not. (Persecutor often cries more.)
  2. When a man stays at home waiting for someone, his feet do not kill him: One who is in an advantageous position does not complain. (A man's house is his castle. A man having advantage over another does not worry.)
  3. When a good spot is prepared for a woman to bathe in, the water will splash vigorously: One who is in a good situation has no cares. (Fortunate people do not care.)
  4. When a young man lacks money, he complains that his wife's manners are not good: Hardship brings a cessation of ________. (Hardship brings misery and complaint.)
  5. If you tell a knife to be a knife, it says that it will be a kitchen knife: To have pride. (Arrogance and pride.)
  6. One who rejoices in eating a small part of a goat, what if he finds out that his friends ate the goat's entire carcass: cf. A little learning is a dangerous thing. (Being very proud of little achievement.)
  7. If swelling of the testes were not something between the legs, it would not be as heavy as what the head carries: A thing is what it is.
  8. When the dog looks for a fight, let the civet cat bite him: One finds what one seeks.
  9. If one has no salt and no pepper, will a guest who brings two pots of wine have nothing to eat? If a one owes money, it does not follow that if the creditor dies the person will not have to repay the debt.
  10. The back does not know when someone is mocking it: One does not know the bad words spoken about him when he is not at home. (A person's presence matters a great deal.)
  11. The heart is a shoulder bag--each person wears his own. One does not know what his companion thinks about him until he speaks out and reveals it to him. (Everybody has his own problems.)
  12. The thief's brother feels more shame than does the thief himself: One who has a good conscience is disgusted by sin. (Good people hate evil.)
  13. The parrot flies upward because of too much talking; when he arrives he is surrounded by talking: What people try to avoid is what they are constantly confronted with. (Our problems confront us always.)
  14. Sleep still comes to a troubled person [he is not exempted from sleep]: Hunger does not abandon a poor person. (A person in difficulties does not care for pleasure.)
  15. The tongue uses skill to reside in the mouth. Wisdom is exceedingly profitable. (Wisdom is a strong instrument.)
  16. When one who is informed hears, does he know the mind of the alleged thief? What one holds in the hand is best. (Making sure before taking resolution.)
  17. øOgazî says that the reason that two people should go to the farm together is that what one eye does not see the other eye sees: One person's strength is smaller than that of two people. (Two heads are better than one.)
  18. When a strong man is constantly praised, he fights emptyhanded and is carried away in a worn-out basket: Overpraising a person causes him to make an error. (Flattering and overconfidence lead to destruction.)
  19. If a child hungers for a palm nut it does not upset his stomach: What a person wants does not kill him. (We bear troubles we bring on ourselves.)
  20. If a child witnesses a fight in which the opponents are separated, he will want to fight in the future: One who has not experienced a thing does not know what it is. (cf. The child who is carried on the back has a stomach full of feces.)
  21. When a child swells his chest with confidence, he thinks he can carry the whole earth on his head: When one has a small thing, it causes him to be swell-headed. (Growing pompous because of a little achievement.)
  22. If the bird who has not perched gives off 20 excretions, when he finally perches on a tree, how many excretions will he give off?: Doing something unexpected (bad) with a small opportunity given a person. (Misuse of a little opportunity given.)
  23. The tree which spreads across the road must be the victim of the pear knife: (Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.)

Carefulness and Respect

  1. Postponement deprived the toad of growing a tail: To postpone something causes one to fail to do it. (Procrastination is the thief of time.)
  2. Not speaking works against elders, but not doing goes against children. It is better for a person to tell what is on his mind than to swallow it. (Speaking out one's mind is better.)
  3. One does not poke the eye with the same thing one uses to poke the ear: It is not good to use something serious to provoke laughter. (Do not play with fire or sacred things.)
  4. One who wants something big will find the jaw of an elephant: What one seeks he finds. (What a person wants, he gets.)
  5. One will not contribute his opinion to revile me because his mother is not a native of Awka: People do things according to the level of their maturity. (Water finds its own level.)
  6. If the rat falls into the water with the lizard, the lizard will get dry but the rat will not [the lizard is smooth and the rat is hairy]: Everyone should behave according to the way his god created him. (Limitation is not good.)
  7. The tortoise is strong only in cunning: One not being strong. (Being weak.)
  8. One does not use someone else's eyes to see the road. Let a person behave according to the way his god created him. (A person's own is his own.)
  9. If a wealthy man behaves like a poor man, he is laughed at: Things being as they ought to be. (People should maintain their dignity.)
  10. The child does not defecate in a spot where the grass is taller than he is: cf. A child should speak according to his age.
  11. If the lizard does not follow lizard behavior, children will play tricks on him during dry and rainy seasons. A person ought to be doing what he is well known for.
  12. The stick that is compared to the snake is not the same as the snake itself: The way a thing is described is not always the way a thing really is. (People often exaggerate.)
  13. The animal who leads the way drinks good water: One who is first to do a thing has good luck. (First person is always lucky.)
  14. One hand does not tie a package: There is a point where one person's ability comes to an end. (One man's endeavor has a limitation.)
  15. Only those who are well off [can afford to] fight with their walking-sticks: (People who have can afford waste or surplus.)
  16. The dog says let a ball of fufu be thrown to him in the compound, but let him be left to fight his own fight with the spirits. [He prefers to protect himself.]
  17. A person grimacing in contemptuous avoidance at someone stronger than he is "looking down" at him [in the sense of glaring at him resentfully and harboring thoughts of overcoming him]. (A weak person is at the mercy of the strong.)
  18. One does not stay on the ground and know which bat is pregnant. ( A difficult condition is a set back.)
  19. If a child who is not mature enough tries to find out what happened to his father,the same thing that happened to his father will happen to him: A person should be well prepared for a thing before he attempts it. (We should be prepared before attempting a thing.)
  20. The reason we pound food is to eat the soup: The mortar cannot pound food better than the teeth: Doing a thing in the traditional way is best. (Respect to whom respect is due.)
  21. If two hands meet together on the plate, there follows a scramble for food. (Disorderliness is disorderliness.)
  22. Although there may not be enough bags to go around for the doctors, a fool carries two: Collecting several things while others do not have any at all. (Fair distribution is the goal.)

Deceit and Truth

  1. If one uses his gun to shoot his plantain, it is his own gun and his own plantain: One who cuts up his own things acts against himself. (Cf. The chicken that sells its tail; the mole-cricket that licks [his own body] oil; the snail that locks himself inside his own shell.) (A person who acts against his own interest harms himself.)
  2. Gradual but continuous expenditure brings an end to wealth; A person expends his wealth slowly. (Gradual but continuous expenditure liquidates wealth.)
  3. Not having anything in the hand caused the thing in the mouth to be used up: It is important to find out the cause of an event. (The true cause of thing or event shall be found.)
  4. Eating and denying having eaten is the reason that women do not grow mustaches: Denying the way things happen [refusing to face reality] brings on an unsettled condition. (Complaint mania leads to unhealthy condition or want.)
  5. Excessive sympathy begins to look like mockery: One does not take excessive sympathy seriously. (People do not value excessive sympathy.)
  6. One who dances to get people to praise him does not fail to break his waist: One who does things for show harms himself. (He who pleases others generally loses.)
  7. One who talks continually about his illnesses is avoided by his friends: A person should not talk publicly about everything he lacks. (A person who exposes his wants to the public loses his respect.)
  8. When the hand handles the spoon, the stomach is killed by pride: One who has good fortune befall him, afterwards treats others harshly. (Pride leads to fall.)
  9. If another person [other than the one normally obligated to do so] conducts funeral rites, he is entitled to eat whatever is tied up on the ledge [a special place often built for the preparation of ceremonial foods--it was believed that certain foods should not be prepared in the wives' kitchens]: One who works hard at things should reap the benefits of them. (A laborer is worthy of his hire.)
  10. One who has only one thing left has nothing: Cf. A one-eyed person owes a debt to blindness. When there is only a small amount of something remaining, it is as good as gone. (What remains only one is almost finished.)
  11. The firewood that the old woman gathered when she was young is what will warm her when she becomes old. What a person earns [from his labor] when he is young and strong is what he will eat. (Make hay while the sun shines.)
  12. After the flying termite finishes flying about, it falls to the toad: A thing follows its own destiny (or the way its God created it). (Vanity is vanity. Things follow their normal course.)
  13. The sheep who has a male offspring has no children: One who has something useless has nothing. [Male sheep wander about and do not stay with the mothers.] (A useless thing or possession is useless.)
  14. When one sees something that is better than the farm, he sells his yam barn: Everyone wants a good thing. (Cf. Good wine needs no bush. We do not mind what price we pay for a priceless thing.)
  15. The herbalist who charges too much money does not cure the stomach: One who charges too big a price for his work will not get jobs. (Excessive charges are a hindrance to getting jobs.)
  16. If one kills a cow to give to a hawk, he [the hawk] will still have his eye on something small [like a chicken] to eat: Leaving something profitable to keep on looking at something unprofitable. (Penny wise, pound foolish; meticulous.)
  17. The child who learns playful bluffing with his father learns that hunger will kill him. Taking something lightly which should not be taken lightly. (Playing with important or sacred things.)
  18. One who takes the oath on behalf of the chief brings down the consequences upon himself. (Uneasy lies the head.)
  19. If the blind person eats up the apple which he steps on, who will give him another? (Make use of opportunity when you find it.)
  20. If an adult eats most of the soup, children start to scramble for food. Cf. If an adult starts a commotion, the children grab the nuts, go home and eat. (If elders cause trouble others will take advantage.)
  21. It is said that an illness is not a good thing, yet someone says that the one who has a hydrocele [testical swelling] should also have a distended stomach. (Things should have their limits.)

Preparedness and Precaution

  1. The chicken advises her children to look up because that is the place from which comes the death that kills them: Being careful about the things which give a person trouble. (Being careful and cautious over one's enemies.)
  2. If an old woman falls twice, the third time the number of things she is carrying will be counted: If something happens repeatedly, there can be no more excuses given. (There is no excuse for repeated failure.)
  3. One does not lead a goat into the barn: One does not entrust a person with something he will destroy. (Man is not entrusted with what he will obviously spoil.)
  4. One uses the feet to look for something which has fallen into the water. (Carefulness is a method of success.)
  5. One should not use an ear-probe to probe the eye. (Serious things must be considered as such.)
  6. One whose father was struck in the head by a bullet uses an iron pot to make himself a helmet: One who has had something happen to him becomes cautious. (Cf. The bee stings the dog.)
  7. Baldheadedness no longer causes shame to Onitsha people. (People do not care [about] their weakness.)
  8. While you are giving advice to a yam thief, his mind is on carving a tool for digging yams. (Being unrepentant.)
  9. If a lizard runs away from the tree trunk, the dog will catch him. (If one leaves the source of his strength, he is finished.)
  10. The leopard is never asleep. (From their seeds you will know them.)
  11. When the hen walks, her babies must run a bit: A person is equal to his difficulties. (Our problems and difficulties are according to our strength.)
  12. If one shows respect to the head of the cocoyam, the indigo vine on the cocoyam says that he has been respected too much. (Mistaken kindness or weakness.)
  13. One whose father was killed by a bushcow does not use a bushcow's horn for drinking wine. Cf. The bee stings the dog. (A person fears what he has suffered.)
  14. If one eats another person's coconut, let him also cultivate his own for others to eat. (A person who enjoys the fruit of other people's labor should labor.)
  15. One who seeks things which are invisible [blind to the eye]: Cf. The hawk can not carry what is on its own shoulders. (It is not easy to solve one's own problems.)
  16. The sheep thinks about horns [only] when the goat butts it: The foolish person runs from the rain only after it starts to drench him. (Not providing for bad weather when there is the opportunity.)
  17. Whoever starts his gathering in the early morning will have a full basket: One should start early to do anything he wants to do. (Make hay while the sun shines. Early to bed and early to rise. Well begun is half-done.)
  18. Doing bad things may be easy, but looking the evildoer in the eye makes one ashamed: A person ought to give some thought to the results of what he is doing. (Evil doing is easy but not good.)
  19. Wisdom [intelligence] comes as time goes by. (Wisdom comes at its own time.)
  20. A goat owned by two people sleeps in the compound [rather than in the proper goat-enclosure]. (Lack of proper care owing to two men being responsible.)
  21. One must sip hot soup slowly and steadily. (Slow and steady win the race.)
  22. You have to keep your ear close to the ground to hear the sound of the black ant. (Be careful and learn.)
  23. If a child does not do a task well he will have to do it twice. (Carelessness must lead to doing a thing all over again.)
  24. The chicken says that it pecks [something] to death before eating it. (Being cautious and calculating.)
  25. The message sent indirectly [through others] becomes gossip. (Reported speech or message generally differs from the original.)
  26. It is said that in gathering breadfruit one finds out who scrambles for food. (From one's action we learn his character.)
  27. The bat says that he knows he is ugly, therefore he flies at night. (Minding one's business. Taking precaution to avoid clash with others.)
  28. If an older person does not hold back, he lets out secrets. (Elders should not be flippant.)
  29. One who has never had anything happen to his throat does not know that one uses saliva to eat a meal. (We learn from experience.)

Taking Advantage

  1. When an old woman reaches a place where fire has burned the earth [for land-clearing] she wishes she could move her bowels. (Being happy or being in an advantage, or position and being ready to exploit it.)
  2. One whose house is on fire should not go rat-hunting. (First things first.)
  3. The desire to eat is what causes people to beat a path to the king's door. (People follow the easy path.)
  4. What person, on having salt [something good] put into his mouth, would say he does not like it? (Everybody likes something good or valuable.)
  5. One says that the bottom of his covered basket that was filled with locusts does not know when the locusts inside of it are all gone. (Gradual consumption leads to total exhaustion.)
  6. One should not blink the eye [as a signal] while it is dark. (There is a time for everything. Difficult situation is unfit for playing.)
  7. There is no road close at hand that leads to Onitsha. (There is no easy road to geometry. Every achievement requires effort.)

Deliberate Misdeeds

  1. Medicine which is impossible to prepare requires the heart of an ant. (Impossible demand before the fulfillment of a thing or promise.) [Refers to native doctor being unable to make the required medicine so he asks the patient to bring something impossible to get.]
  2. The dog says he should be praised for having good teeth because he does not use a chewing-stick. (Being abler or better than those who are more privileged.)
  3. The tears a woman sheds for her co-wife [or other female relative] are like saying, "Quickly come out so you and I can vie for the husband." (Leave off the important thing and pursue the trivial.)
  4. An isikara [type of stick easy to break] is not suitable for use as ube onya [strong, flexible stick used to make trap]. (Being unsuitable for the occasion or condition.)
  5. One should not look for something in the bag of a person who himself is needy. (Asking a person who has not to give what he has not.)

Certainty and Uncertainty

  1. If the gong sounds too much, it will be told where it was carved. One who talks too much will be told what is his worth. A thing has limits. (Too much of everything is bad. Manifestation of pride would lead to revelation of one's pride.)
  2. A one-legged cricket goes to market ahead of his companions. Each person knows his own strength. (A person who knows his weakness or handicap makes allowance for them by vigilance.)
  3. If the leopard eats too much, he seems to be sick: If a person sits quietly, it looks as though he were weak. Cf. If the leopard calms himself down, he and the goat sit down together. (Abusing another's kindness, mistaken kindness.)
  4. One has not even seen a hawk, yet says that a woman does not eat it: One should have a thing in hand before he boasts of it. (One must be certain of a thing before he boasts of it. Being prepared before an event really comes.)
  5. No one knows which stomach [womb] will give birth to a chief: Everything is in God's hands. There is a place where the wisdom of man comes to a halt. No one knows tomorrow. (Nobody knows tomorrow, i.e., what will happen in future.)
  6. A pregnant woman does not know which way the child inside her womb is smiling at her. It is difficult to know everything completely. It is difficult to know who is against a person and who is for him. (It is difficult to know true friends or well-wishers.)
  7. One cannot cover up a pregnancy: Some things cannot be hidden. A thing that will eventually come out does not permit of secrecy. (Certain things cannot be hidden.)
  8. A journey should be slow and steady: Patience and perseverance are needed to accomplish difficult things. (Patience conquers everything. Carefulness leads to success.)
  9. One who is preoccupied [has two thoughts] forgets to say "good morning." A person who is very worried about something carries it in his mind. A person's concerns do not allow him to do other things. Cf. One whose house is burning does not hunt rats. (One's difficulties or problems do not allow him to think of other things.)
  10. Let the toad's brother tread on his stomach [to take out excess water], and the muskrat's brother pinch his mouth [in reproval]. Everyone should advise his friend. (We must curb our evil tendency. Advise your friend to stop his evil ways.)

Patience and Evil Disposition

  1. When the mortar carries food it turns its back on the earth: When a person is getting along well he says that as he has experienced things, so let it be for others. Cf. If a woman is getting along well in her husband's house, she forgets her father's house. What a person has eaten is what he has in his stomach. [What a person experiences is what belongs to him.] (Everybody to himself and let the devil take the hind part. Selfishness. Self first.)
  2. His father is not the type of person who embraces, but embracing embraces his legs: Things do not turn out as planned. (Things cannot always happen as we wished them. Deviation from normal.)
  3. The chicken says that by the time he finishes gathering food for his god and presenting it to him, then goes to gather some for himself, night has fallen: Not having a chance to do something for one's own benefit. Being in a situation of working only for other people. (Being too much devoted to other people's good. Being unfortunate.)
  4. One goes running to carry out the errand that is profitable. A person does not regret running a profitable errand quickly. (We are more prepared to labor for our own good.)

    5. If a woman sees me and remembers what happened to her child, let the thing that happened to her child befall her also: If one has a wicked heart toward a person, let evil befall him. Cf. What one seeks is what he will find. (He who does evil let evil befall him.)
  5. The broom that sweeps the compound sweeps the house: Doing evil that is not forgotten. (An evil deed that cannot be erased. Evil that will last from generation to generation. Everlasting damnation.)
  6. Bad excrement smells bad: An ugly person seeks attention. (Evil deed throws itself open from secrecy. Evil is followed by bad results.)

Avoidance And Patience

  1. The crab said that he had two heads so that death could not kill him, but death came between them and killed him: No matter how a person tries to avoid a thing or takes great care, what is going to happen will still happen. (There is no armor against fate.)
  2. When you see an old woman eating chicken excrement [because of senility], take it away from her, because when she gets a cough it will spread to everyone: It is not good to wink at evil. Hate evil. (Do not connive at evils.)
  3. The toad tells his companion "wøokøom" ["Shame on you.]: One who scolds his companion [for not doing something] yet is unable to do it himself. (Being conceited. Self flattery.)
  4. If a man is tapping the palm tree and cooking food at the same time, if his wine falls short [from improper tapping method] his food will fall short. A person should not do two things at once. Cf. Two hands collecting palmnuts while climbing down from the storage shelf [no hand left for holding on] . (One thing at a time. Doing many things at a time leads to failure.)
  5. If a child holds both fire and a knife, if the fire does not burn him the knife will cut him. (Doing many things at a time leads to failure.)
  6. Hot soup should be sipped slowly: Doing a thing in its turn (or very slowly) so one will be able to accomplish it. (Slow and steady wins the race.)


  1. One who lives in a land does not steal its sand: What one has in abundance he does not long for. (There is a limit to human insatiability.)
  2. Shame is not felt by a madman the same as it is felt by his brothers: It is not only the one who does something bad who feels shame, it is felt even more by his friends and relatives. (Bad conduct is even more disgraceful to relatives and friends, than the culprit.)
  3. The chicken says that the reason he knows he is a king is that he is carried to town on the head: If you give someone the honor of which he is worthy, he will not hold a grudge. Everyone eats his own food [gets what is due him]. (Honor to whom honor is due. Every little respect is an honor itself.)
  4. The chicken one carries on the head does not know that the road is long. One who has someone to do things for him does not know the pains involved in it. (A person who has one to do his work does not care.)
  5. The chicken is king in his nest: Everyone is important in his own place. (An Englishman's house is his castle.)
  6. The eye that is looking at meat does not see anything else: A person puts all of his energy into the thing that he strongly desires. (People put their energy wholly in what they desire to accomplish.)
  7. The vulture says that one who is invited feels confident: Cf. If one is invited and he treads on a chicken, he will name the one who invited him. (A person to whom honor is done is happy.)

Possibilities and Impossibilities

  1. A fighter will not punch a head of palmnuts: There is a limit to human potential. Cf. A feather-wearer can not wear a feather from a fly. A basket does not hold water. (There is a limit to human possibility.)
  2. If you praise a goat it will break its waist: Cf. One who is praised too much preens himself [scratches his neck--gesture of pride]. (Overdoing a thing. Too much praise is disastrous.)
  3. The only thing that fills a bag is a head of palm nuts fills quickly because of so many nuts]. (There is a limit to human possibilities.)
  4. A wrestling expert can not throw down the ground: There is a limit to man's powers. Cf. A fighter will not punch a head of palm nuts: One does not stuff a head of palm nuts into his armpit [it is too large and full of thorns]. (There is a limit to human possibilities.)
  5. Night is stronger than a strong man: Cf. The night is fearsome. Anything (bad things) can happen at night. (Many things (usually bad) can happen at night.)
  6. No matter how beautiful a daughter is, her father can not marry her himself: Something unacceptable is not good for a person to seek. (There is a limit to what one can do.)
  7. Slandering an outstanding citizen is worse than killing him: Slandering a person is very bad. There is nothing to compare with slander. (Libeling or slandering a person is bad.)
  8. If the head is missed, the shoulder receives: If something is passed over, something else receives it. If something is too much for a person, a helper comes. Cf. If one finds no place to put the hands, one puts them on the knees. (Alternative; a helper. Assisting another in difficulty.)
  9. The vulture bathed and asked his children if he had become beautiful; they told him that today he was uglier than ever: A person may try every possible way but he will not be able to change from the way his god created him. (No amount of effort can change natural laws.)
  10. The "noise-hearer" does not hear the noise of his mother at the market: There is a limit to human power. Cf. One who is very smart does not know that the chicken's egg will be male. (Being unable to do a thing however efficient.)
  11. The stone is good in ËUzüakøolî but there is no one to carry it home: Good things are hard to learn. (Good things are difficult to get.)
  12. When the leopard's legs are broken, the deer comes to collect its debt: When one is having difficulties, his enemies come to harass him. (People worry their enemies when they are in difficulties.)
  13. At the age where death stopped killing is where one starts being the eldest [in the family]: The limit of the type of people available [to assist you] is the limit of your ability to speak or give advice. (We have to accept what we can accomplish as the best.)
  14. A man does not go home with the same amount of strength with which he began work: Something that saps the strength brings on total fatigue. A difficult task depletes one's energy. (A difficult task saps one's energy.)
  15. When a woman has ten children, there is nothing that happens during the night that she does not know about: A big job requires much thought. (To accomplish a difficult task requires a great effort.)
  16. There is no one who does not groan: There is no one who escapes suffering. (Suffering is universal.)

Pretence and Patience

  1. The cow said that God did her a favor in giving her iron legs: One who sees what will help him meet his needs; having something that fills a need. (Being talented; being specially equipped.)
  2. The black ant has no gun but it still can hunt: Everyone has something he can use to empower himself. (No man is completely left without any provision or endowment by nature.)
  3. The dog by stealth eats up all the hen's eggs: One who does not break the block of salt does worse than the one who is known for bad deeds. (A green snake in a green grass; "slow poison.") [Salt was put in square tin molds and had to be removed carefully. One who did not break the salt block might be considered outwardly as a good person.]
  4. Pretending to be good in front, being very bad in back: One behaving so that he appears very refined but when the back is turned he does something unheard of [bad]. (Pretension; insincerity.)
  5. The sheep says that looking at something is work: Anything one does takes something out of him. (We spend energy in whatever we do.)
  6. All lizards lie on their stomachs, so we cannot tell which one has a stomach ache: Not having the facts; not being indicative of a person's condition [situation].
  7. The bedbug tells his children to take things slowly, that what is hot will eventually be cold. (Slow and steady; patience leads to success.)
  8. Hot soup should be eaten very slowly. (Slow and steady; patience leads to success.)
  9. When a corpse [of an unrelated person] is carried it is like carrying firewood: People do not take any interest in things that do not affect them. Cf. If something happens to another person's body it is as though it happened to a tree. (People do not care for other people's suffering.)
  10. One who sits down eats kola nut: Patience. Cf. Hot soup should be eaten very slowly.
  11. No matter how the rain beats the guinea fowl, its color remains the same: What God gave to a person another person will not be able to take away. (No amount of persecution can thwart destiny.)
  12. Another is another, different is different: Everything stands in its own place. (What is, is. Everything has its own natural law.)
  13. What possesses the vulture [being bald] to plait its hair--is it going to the ofala festival? Doing things according to one's rank. What is out of one's reach or not appropriate for him is not good for him to strive for. (People should strive after what is within their reach. People do not strive after what is of no use to them.)


  1. The chicken pecks at the bag and it says to him, "Brother, when did we begin to quarrel?" One seeking to quarrel with another for nothing. (Deliberate persecutions or maltreatment without provocation.)
  2. The quarrelsome person says that the chameleon stepped on his plate: Cf. One who tells his father's wife to give him oil to eat palmfruit: Picking a quarrel. (Deliberate courting for quarrel. Provocating a person.) [Palmfruit already contains oil so no further oil is needed.]
  3. Bushfowl told his child, who was pecking at yam, to peck about the roots, so that when the yam farmer dug yams he [the child] could start to eat roots: Being prepared for the time when things are not going to be as they are now. Being prepared. (Being prepared for all eventualities. Being equipped.)
  4. The toad says that the reason he runs when he sees human beings is that there are too many things in their mouths [such as meat] that they use salt and pepper to eat: A person being careful. To be watching out. (Being always cautious. Taking precaution even where it is not necessary.)


  1. The palm kernel the child longs for does not irritate his stomach: A person bearing patiently things he has brought on himself. (A man faces the achievement of his desire with fortitude.)
  2. If a child is treated the same as his peers are treated, he is happy: To deal with everyone the same way is best. (Fair deal to all is satisfactory to all.)
  3. The place a runner reaches will be reached by a walker: What one person does another person can do. (The end attained justifies the effort.)
  4. If the gun kills unimportant people, it will kill important ones: Death does not recognize a chief. (Death is a common leveller.)
  5. Money is a guest--it can go out the same way it came in: One should not boast about anything. (Boastfulness about riches is foolish.)
  6. Wherever the millipede dies is its grave: It is a bad thing not to have any guardian. (Vanity is vanity.)
  7. The chief has the gun, the poor person has the gunpowder: There is no one for whom only his own things are enough. (Life is symbolic existence. We live on mutual help.)
  8. Not buying woolen [material]--it is because of lack of money. Lack of money preventing a person from obtaining what he wants. (Money determines what a person can purchase.)
  9. If you dance and your hand touches the ground [excessive action], was your mother's skin used to tie on the drumhead [making the sound more attractive to you]? One who goes too far in doing a thing. (There is a limit to activity or behavior.)
  10. The dog that scolds does not bite: Making noise is not the strong point in carrying a load. (He can only bark but cannot bite. Empty vessels make a great noise.)
  11. ËUwa-ezu-oke [the world is not enough], an Ngwa person, says that the best you can do for one who has died is to bury him in time: Something which is of no value. Death is the end of everything. (Vanity is vanity.)
  12. The chicken said that she was pregnant before she reached the cock: Being prepared for a thing. (Being prepared for all eventualities.)
  13. If a child is always seen where meat is cut, he will be subject to restriction: Everyone should behave according to his own life-style. (Cf. Cut your coat according to your size. Pride leads to a fall.)
  14. If the cow tells the mountain that he is climbing it, the mountain says to him, "How is your waist?" (To every action there must be a reaction.) Certain things result from other things.
    15. If the goat lies down, he lies on his skin. Not having any change in a person's condition. (Being where one started.)
  15. When the old woman buys a new cloth, she goes to a feast uninvited: A person being proud of something new or some unexpected good thing that happens to him. (People are happy when they meet good fortune.)
  16. Even if the male dog steps on the uli paint, he still must go to Isu market: Obstinacy leads to suffering. (Obstinacy leads to destruction.)
  17. The toad calls his companion "wøokøom " [pejorative word, similar to the "pot calling the kettle black]: Someone who is in the same condition as oneself. (Folly; self-deceit or conceit.)
  18. If one looks a beautiful person over and can't find anything for which to criticize her, one tells her that she is knock-kneed: One must find something for which to criticize a person or to speak against him. (Everybody must have a blemish, setback or weak point.)
  19. Eating and then denying it causes women not to have beards. Too much complaining causes a person not to benefit from what he has: (Complaints are not good.)
  20. The short person who fell down said that what happened to him happened to the ground. One who is on the ground does not fear a fall. (He that is low needs fear no fall.)
  21. Tortoise says, let runners to continue to run and deceivers to continue to deceive: Everyone has something to boast of. (People have their own talents or individual qualities.)
  22. When a certain woman was gathering øokazî [a green vegetable], the øokazî told her to gather it carefully today, because another day she would need to come to gather again [don't destroy the root--leave some to sprout]: When a person does something, he should do it well, because of the possibility that he might not have a chance to do it again. (Do things thoroughly when you have the chance.)
  23. When an old woman begins to age, it is as though no money was spent in marrying her. When things get old, it is as if they are no longer useful. (When things get old, it seems as if they had never been useful.)
  24. Whether the soap foams or whether it does not foam, I go to wash clothes: Nothing can prevent me from doing what I plan to do. (Nothing can prevent me from doing what I have contemplated.)
  25. One does not use pumpkin seeds to commission a rat to buy something at the market: (There is a limit to what a person can do.)
  26. When a falling palmnut lands in a pot of oil, it says that it has reached its house: A poor person need not feel ashamed. (He that is low needs fear no fall.) [The pot of oil provides the same environment for the oily palm nut.]

Good and Evil

  1. Let the hawk perch, let the eagle perch, and if one tells the other not to perch, may his wing break: Let people live in peace and if someone refuses [to do so], may things not go well for him. (Live and let live.)
  2. Let the morning take away evil: The one who wishes for another person's death, let him go to sleep before the chickens [something unusual - implies illness or death]. (See above: Live and let live.)
  3. If a woman is unsteady [unstable in mind], her house will not be in good order: There is no peace where there are bad thoughts. (Peace is incompatible with evil.)
  4. When the lizard falls into a pit, he knows who is his friend [the one who honors him]: When a person is in trouble, he knows who hates him. (When we are in difficulties, we know our friends and enemies.)
  5. Grace [acting in a graceful way] does not please a bad person: When a person is evil, there is nothing one can do for him to convert him. (The evil-minded cannot be converted by good deeds.)
  6. The woman whose husband wants to hate will not be able to change his mind by cooking delicious soup: One who wishes to do evil to a person does not remember God. (See above.)
  7. When a corpse smells [i.e., when there is trouble], good friends go home, bad brothers come out: There is no better model than a brother. (Blood is thicker than water.)
  8. It is the owner of the corpse who must carry it at the head [heaviest part of the coffin]: One who is affected by a thing must bear its burdens, not those who come to help. (One must bear his own burden.)
  9. You cannot sell at home a chicken with a broken leg: One takes bad or defective things out to the street. (Neighbors can hardly be deceived.)
  10. There is nothing attractive in a compound where an enemy lives: We hate our enemy and the ground he walks on. (People are not pleased with their enemies.)
  11. We remember someone deceased when someone living does not know how to behave: A person is remembered by what he does. (We remember people when we are in difficulties.) [The deceased got no credit when he was alive. Only when some survivor does poorly do we remember how well the deceased would have done.]
  12. Tortoise said that his father's children did well by him to sew a garment of iron for him: One who has someone to look after his needs is boastful. (We are proud of our special possessions.)
  13. One who seeks to quarrel with his father's wife tells her to give him oil to eat with his palm kernel: One who looks for trouble is always looking for excuses. (A quarrel-monger always seeks excuses.)
  14. One is happy when his burden is removed. (We are happy when our burden is lifted.)


  1. If you give a child something that is too much for him, he starts to ask with whom he should share it: If you give a child something he does not expect, it surprises him. (We are surprised at our good fortunes.)
  2. Those who have heads do not know how to rub oil on them: People with good heads [intelligence] do not realize the blessing they have. (People with talents do not know how to use them.)
  3. You cannot predict a bad market day from the way things go in the morning. The beginning of something does not show how the end will be. (Early to bed and early to rise makes a man happy and wise. The beginning does not necessarily foretell the end.)
  4. The poor person's chicken is his goat: No matter how small our possessions, we are satisfied. (We are proud of our own things however small.)
  5. I cannot shoot a bird if he is not in the place where my bow is aiming: We do not need excessively great things to satisfy us. (We are happy with our own things.)
  6. The worker should be paid for his work: Everyone deserves the reward due him. (The laborer is worthy of his hire.)
  7. If you treat a child as his peers are treated, he will be happy: If everyone is treated the same, there will be no murmuring [grumbling]. (Equal treatment will satisfy all.)
  8. When one consumes what he has, he covets what he does not have: No one is satisfied with what he has. (Man is insatiable.)
  9. A person's eye judgment is his gift: What a person does for himself is better than what someone else does for him. (We are better judges for ourselves.)
  10. If you greet an old woman who has food left over in the morning, she says "ndarî, ndarî," my child [expression of happiness]: We are happy if we have things. (We are happy if we have what we want.)
  11. If the dog plays with someone he knows, it looks as if he does not bite: A person does not quarrel with someone with whom he gets along well. (Being familiar with a process makes it appear as if it is not difficult.)

Foolishness and Wisdom

  1. A foolish person brings yam to use in cooking a snake: A fool [one who does not know things] does foolish things. (Fools are easily deceived.) [My informant was not sure but said some people did not like to eat snakes and might think yam too good to waste on snake food.]
  2. If one comes to the lizard's house and tells him to bring him a chair--does he see the one the lizard is sitting on? Cf. One who looks for something in the bag of one who is also looking for something. Begging of a person who has nothing the thing that he does not have. (To ask a person for what he has not.)
  3. If the tortoise argues and stretches himself, his shell breaks: Everything has its limits. (There is a limit to possibility.)
  4. When the chicken's eggs are in the basket, do you know which are male and which are female?: There are things that are beyond human knowledge. (There are things that are beyond human understanding or knowledge.)
  5. If one does too much whispering, a deaf person hears him: If one keeps on hiding a thing, the one from whom he is hiding it will know it. (Too much secrecy might lead to no secrecy at all.)
  6. If a bachelor takes his fish hook and places it on a high shelf, whom is he putting it up for? [He is behaving like a man who has children]: Everyone should act according to his rank. (Cf. Cut your coat according to your size; people should act or live according to their rank.)
  7. The chicken heard the cry of the ufu and its head swelled in fear: (The fool places himself in difficulties through foolishness.)

At the Right Time and Place

  1. Look for a black goat in the afternoon, because of night falling [when you can't see]: Start promptly to do something important. (Do things in their right time. Cf. A stitch in time saves nine. Make hay while the sun shines.)
  2. If a proverb is quoted concerning a thin basket, the thin person knows that it is he who is being referred to: One knows when he is being talked about or when his faults are being discussed. (We know when people refer to our weakness.)
  3. Coming and going keeps the road from getting cold: Doing a thing all the time causes it to be done well. (Repetition leads to perfection.)
  4. If urination is not difficult, let the chicken do it [chickens can not urinate]: One knows that something difficult is difficult. (People know what is difficult.)
  5. The chicken being used as an aid in buying oil says that some should also be bought to compensate him: We should remember what helps us. (We have to remember where our wealth or fortune comes from.)
  6. A bird whose head is not hard does not go to fight a woodpecker: A difficult task requires a strong person. (People who want to accomplish feats must be strong.)
  7. The herbalist who talks too much does not perform divination for a thief [the thief refuses to consult him]: The behavior of some people adversely affects their work. (Silence is golden. Flippancy is bad.)
  8. If death wants to take a dog, he does not smell feces: A person does not remember what he owns when death comes. (Obstinacy is bad. Being deliberately mindless of looming misfortune.)
  9. One swallows one piece of food and "breaks the hunger pot" [releases a lot more hunger]: A thing being unable to solve a person's problem. (Being too insignificant to be of any use.)
  10. The child who talks about what he has suffered illness has really been through a lot [seen something]: The suffering a person endures for a long time is not easily described. (Long suffering is very painful.)
  11. One should not rest while the hill is still in front of him: A person should finish the work confronting him before resting. (We should not rest till the work is accomplished.)
  12. A prophet is not recognized [a chief] in his native land: One who knows a person well will not take him as anyone special. (The prophet is not honored in his own land.)
  13. If you do not use mgba [forked stick] to block the road, it will not be closed: To do something strongly or extremely well brings it to accomplishment. (We need special efforts are to accomplish certain feats.)
  14. The crab says that he has swum in waters large and small, but the woman's soup pot overcomes him [eats his head]: Something not important defeating or overcoming a person. (Being overcome by what one considers weak or unimportant.)
  15. The bedbug told his children not to trouble themselves, that what is hot will be cold: It is best to have patience; the thing that rushes headlong will eventually be calm. (Patience is the key to life. A patient dog eats the fattest bone.)
  16. The chicken says that not working for one's food will distend the abdomen: What is not done well leads to quarreling. (What is done without due consideration leads to failure.)
  17. The load is not too much for ants: Even if a thing is difficult, if people join together it will be overcome. (Unity is strength. Mutual cooperation leads to success.)
  18. If you prepare dog meat well, you feel like eating it: Doing things with care causes them to be good. (Doing things with care leads to their being better.)
  19. An old man does not fight under normal circumstances [with good eyes]: Cf. The way the animal comes out running determines the way one aims at it. (When something happens suddenly you handle it as it comes.)
  20. One whose relative sings and dances badly is embarrassed [has an itch on his eyebrow]: Cf. The madman does not feel shame as his kinsmen do. (The failures of our relatives and friends are also ours.)


  1. If one neglects a small pot, it boils over and extinguishes the fire: a small thing being effective. (Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make a mighty ocean and pleasant land. Surprises often come from unexpected quarters.)
  2. The chief smiles and the elders burst out laughing [burst open their heads]: To be a great person is very good; people imitating [for the purpose of pleasing] those in high positions. (Cf. Gentleman's gentleman. A nod from the king sends the audience a-laughing.)
  3. Chicken says that if the kola drum is beaten she will not listen because she does not have teeth for chewing kola: People will not [do what they will not] profit [from]. (People do not care for what they will not benefit.)
  4. If husband and wife go out early in the morning from their house, they do not know when something bad befalls them. (People are expert in what they know how to make.)
  5. The dog bought by two people dies of hunger: A person watches out for something of his own more than something owned by many. (People care more for their own than things owned in common.)
  6. Being spotted seems good to the python: Something seeming good to a person because it concerns him. (We ignore our errors or failing.)
  7. The dog says to his child, are you listening to the drum--are they going to use your head to strike it? People do not pay attention to things that do not affect them. (People do not care for what does not concern them.)
  8. The snake climbs up and the lizard falls [out of fear] and kills himself: If something too much for a person confronts him, he will not know what to do. Cf. If the stone climbs up, fear attacks the water pot [the stone might drop on it]. Something larger than the cricket enters the cricket's burrow.
  9. If one says that he likes the dog's nose, the dog's nose is cut off and given to him: A person should not purposely say that something bad is good. (If a person prefers evil, evil will come to him.)
  10. If a woman suffers from shabbiness (if a woman's clothes are too ragged) she says that her husband does not take care of her properly: We discard a thing if it is no longer useful to us. If a thing ceases to be profitable, it is like saying that there never was a time when, if you did not have that thing, you would do nothing. [You forget that there was a time when you craved a thing so much that if you did not have it you refused to do anything.] Cf. When the old woman had become aged it seemed as if no money was paid to marry her.


  1. The atanî [animal in squirrel family] says that its family members donate money to it when they have not yet started dancing the most fascinating [eye-blinding] part of the dance. Do something for a person at the time that it is helpful to him.
  2. The oil palm bearing fruit today and ripening today is not a good thing. If you do not plan a thing well and then start to do it, it does not yield good results.
  3. One should search for a black goat before nightfall: Doing something at the right time.
  4. If the duiker escapes today's hunting, there is plenty of hunting left: A thing's turn comes out in its own time. Cf. There are plenty of tomorrows. (Tomorrows have no end.)
  5. If the animal gets away today, tomorrow is another hunting day: The time for something good lies in the future.
  6. You do not recognize a black goat at night: Everything has its own time.
  7. The old woman stayed at her in-laws' place while her okra got too ripe: Putting things off. (Procrastination.)
  8. When a woman comes at first, she is called [answers to the name of] a beautiful woman; when she stays a while, she is regarded as ordinary: People rejoice over something new. People tire of things very quickly. (Things lose their appeal very quickly.)
  9. What a man creates in youth is what he reaps in adulthood: Doing something when you have the capability. (Make hay while the sun shines.)
  10. Constantly going to and fro keeps the duiker from having a big stomach. Not staying in one place or not sticking to one thing brings trouble.
  11. One whose age grade takesozo title should start to avoid things that have fallen on the ground: A person should do what is right for his age group.
  12. One who walks fast does not [stop to] watch the monkey: A man who has important business does not fidget [waste time] (act as though it did not exist).
  13. The child who watches the monkey does not go to work: One who abandons the right way gets lost.
  14. One who gets things done quickly goes home at night: Being careful about things will keep one from making a mistake (spoiling things).
  15. Green bean says that sleep that lasts for a week is the same as death: If a thing is done in excess of the way it should be done, it will be known that something is wrong and that the person has gone too far.
  16. Always "coming, coming" [never ready] made the toad not to sprout a tail: Best to do things on time. (Procrastination is the thief of time.)
  17. The animal who leads the way drinks the best water: The first one to do a thing receives the most praise or good things that result from it.
  18. On hunting day one should hunt the cane-rat in its own habitat: At a suitable time. (At (or during) a suitable time.)
  19. The bachelor who wants a woman immediately [today and tomorrow]-- with whom was he living before? [What's his hurry?] Being impatient when what a person wants fails to reach him; hurrying not being good.
  20. The chicken that continually nibbles will one day be covered by the basket [overturned basket frequently used to keep a thing from being eaten by chickens]: If one keeps on doing bad things, one day he receives the wages of his work.
  21. Maturity means that when one is fully grown he must wait for others [to mature]: Everything has a place where it comes to a halt.
  22. Chicken says that one does not see his anus except when the wind blows. When something happens, a person's defects are discovered.
  23. One who is alive will do what he plans: As long as there is life, anyone will do what he plans or what he has in mind.

Envy and Jealousy

  1. Tortoise says that God did him a favor in giving him an iron garment: One who has a place to lay his hands [security] can boast. (A person naturally provided for is unworried.)
  2. Big eyes [jealousy] does not mean that one must have eyes as big as an orange: Jealousy means a person wanting everything to belong to him. (Size alone does not measure the effect or strength of a thing.) [Note: ike is used with certain fruits such as orange, cherry, pumpkin, etc. to denote the size of one of them. Mkpuru is used to denote one of them.]
  3. A woman who sighs and groans creates false fears: It is what a thing does that earns it respect or honor. (Effectiveness of a thing earns its respect.)
  4. One who says that ashes have no effect should take them and put them in his eyes: We discover the effectiveness of a thing through what it does. (The effectiveness or the strength of a thing is known by the result.)
  5. One who does not know a person calls him "this one:" People do not respect someone they do not know. (People don't respect people they don't know.)
  6. A situation that is not fitting signifies enmity: It is through not loving that a person is persecuted. (Hatred leads to persecution.)
  7. The fly that is killed during [a person's] defecation is wasted: If one destroys something because of something trivial, nothing will be gained from it. (Do not care for trivialities.)
  8. Not asking questions before eating causes death without illness [sudden, with no apparent cause]: Not having limits where one stops doing a thing causes ruin. (Uncontrolled and untrained behavior leads to ruin.)
  9. If a certain palm nut falls and a certain chicken runs to carry it off, the palm nut says, "When did this happen?" It is not good to act against someone who has done nothing against you. (Unprovoked attack is unjustifiable.)
  10. When the ant stings the buttocks it [the buttocks] learns wisdom (it has good sense): A difficult thing makes a person learn something. (We learn through difficulties.)
  11. The gadfly says that continually running and pausing shows who is the strong man: The strong man is known by difficult tasks. Having sense and patience. (Bravery is the sign of valor.)

Convenience and Inconvenience

  1. When the bird perches on the fence, the fence dances and the bird dances: One who gives trouble also gives himself trouble. (If you trouble trouble, trouble will trouble you.)
  2. The lizard says that one uses the head to agree to what has already been discussed: There is no trouble where there is agreement.
  3. If an itch bothers a human being, another human being scratches it, but if it bothers a wild animal, he goes and rubs his body against a tree. A human being helps his friends.
  4. A dog's game is that one falls for his companion and the other falls for his companion: Through helping each other, things work out well. Cf. The right washes the left hand, the left hand washes the right hand. By one thing touching another, the gun fires.
  5. The goat sweats but his hair keeps us from knowing it: Everyone has something which bothers him or is on his mind.
  6. The old man and his companions use their eyes to divide the meat that is in the soup: Things are done with common sense.
  7. Urinating together causes foam: Doing something together causes it to be done well.
  8. If one person cooks food for many people, the people will eat up all the food, but if many people cook it, it will not be all eaten up: A group of people is better than one person.
  9. [To be told]"Take [food] and eat alone" is a bad thing: It is bad for one to seek only his own welfare. (Selfishness is bad.) [Poor explanation.]
  10. One hand does not tie a package: A person needs his companions' help.
  11. If one finger defiles the oil it spreads to all of them: If one person does something bad it will affect many people.
  12. One person should not chase a lizard [ngwere ngarube : type of lizard that is very clever]. Cf. If a person buries himself his hand sticks out.
  13. If one person carves up a he-goat, it seems as though it were pregnant [takes as long as cutting up two goats]: What one person does turns out differently.
  14. If the right hand washes the left hand, and the left hand washes the right hand, then they both are clean.
  15. Front [face, forward] is good but back is better: To have someone supporting [backing] you is better than strength.
  16. One who holds someone to the ground holds himself. If one does not want things to go well for the other person, things will not go well for himself.
  17. The thoughts of one person are not enough for him: (The adult does things as a mature person does.)
  18. Who, when greeted with good will, will respond badly: In sharing, everyone will lick [eat] something good.
  19. One who chews does not know the experience of one who swallows. Everyone lives with something that gives him trouble or suffering: No one has everything. [Known by Joel Nwamuo as "One who swallows does not know the experience of one who chews," referring to an old practice of mothers chewing food before giving it to their babies who are just beginning to eat solid food and have no teeth.]
  20. One who has palm fruit should give it to the bush rat because the bush rat does not climb: A person helps his fellow man.
  21. If the rat jumps into the water with the lizard, when the lizard dries off will the rat also dry off? If one does what his companion does, the results will not be the same for him as they are for the other person.
  22. When sickness affects the eyes, it also affects the nose: Having many troubles at the same time. What affects a person affects his friends and relatives as well.
  23. One tree does not make a forest: One person cannot accomplish what is expected of a group of people. One person alone cannot call out that he sees war on the plains.
  24. Rat, don't purposely chew the doctor's bag; doctor, don't deliberately curse the rat. No one should deliberately do something against his fellow man. Cf. Dog, do not purposely chew the doctor's bag, and doctor, do not deliberately curse the dog.
  25. Let no one die and let not his companions be lost: Let one cut grass and let another cut grass, but one should not call his companion a prisoner. A person should not inconvenience his fellow man.
  26. If you see an old woman eating chicken droppings, take them away from her, because if they give her a cough it will spread to everyone: It is not good to wink at evil. (Do not connive at evils.)
  27. The crab says that he has two heads so that death cannot kill him, but death comes in between them and kills him. No matter how a person is careful or watches out, what is going to happen is bound to happen. (There is no armor against fate.)

Strength and Weakness

  1. If friendship exists only when the mother returns from the market, it should stop: Doing something for a person half-heartedly is not good. (Doing a thing or favor half-heartedly is not good.)
  2. The child who is carried on the back does not know that walking is painful: One who has someone to do things for him does not know his sufferings. Cf. A child who is treated with stomach medicine has frequent stools. (A person always enjoying protection is weak.)
  3. Green beans are not new to the small lizard: Something a person is accustomed to; being addicted. (Being adept at a thing; being accustomed to.)
  4. One knows when the market where he trades is held: What a person does (works at) he knows well. (One is at his best in his specialty.)
  5. The bird a child knows the name of is Hawk: Everyone has wisdom according to his age. (Experience matters a great deal.)
  6. If an adult says something, he follows through according to what he has: Something that goes together with something else. (Everything has what goes with it.)
  7. One mother gives birth but not one god creates: People's behavior and thoughts differ. (People have different luck or idiosyncrasies.)
  8. The child who sees too much of his mother's friend cuts her with a kitchen knife: Constant fraternization causes scorn. (Familiarity breeds contempt.)
  9. He who climbs to the top of the kolanut tree should gather firewood for himself, because one does not climb to the top of the kolanut tree every day: One should do things while he is young, because one is not young forever. (Making full use of opportunity when it offers itself.)
  10. The palm tree that is in the road knows for whom it should cause its fruit to fall: Not all people can receive favors at the same time. (A person knows for whom he should do a favor.)
  11. As long as one is alive, the possibility of accomplishment still remains: One should not kill himself because of others for whom things are going well. (While there is life, there is hope [Dum spiro spero]. If we live, we shall accomplish our desire.)
  12. If a lizard falls from the top of an iroko tree he says that if no one praises him, he will praise himself: One who does something difficult deserves praise. (If a person accomplishes a task, he deserves praise.)


  1. One who comes to discuss something does not know that he comes to a place where there is arguing: Talking does not create the child. No matter how easy a thing is, it requires strength. (Every job taxes one's energy.)
  2. When a child sees a fight that has been stopped, he says that he really saw a fight: One who has someone to do a thing for him does not know the pain of it. One who has not experienced a thing says that he would not have put up with it. (People do not care until they suffer the consequences.)
  3. Green beans are not new to the small lizard: Something a person is accustomed to. Being addicted. (Being adept at a thing; being accustomed to.)
  4. If a child does his errand wrong, he has to do it a second time: If one does not do a thing well, he has to do it again. (Carelessness or want of care leads to a double expenditure of energy.)
  5. When an old soothsayer performs a sacrifice, it is as though he gives it to the spirits in their mouths: What a person knows how to do he does well. If one does something he knows very well, it turns out different. (What an expert does is always different, i.e. excels.)
  6. A person knows when the market where he trades is held: What a person does (or works at) he excels at: (A person is at his best in whatever he specializes in.)
  7. If a child does not see his mother, he says that the market is not yet over: A person has an eye for the things he is looking for: Cf. What an Onitsha man desires he fights for: What is in a person's heart is what he sees. (What we desire is what we appreciate.)
  8. When a child tries to lift his father [playfully throw his father up], the father's wrapper covers his [the child's] eyes: When a child does something that is beyond the bounds for him, he suffers the consequences of it. Cf. Hang your bag where you will be able to reach it. A person trying to do something too difficult for him and his shoulder not being strong enough for it. (A person should not challenge his senior.)
  9. The bird a child knows the name of is hawk: People will be wise according to their ages. (Experience matters a great deal.)
  10. The woman who has married two men knows which one is better for her: Cf. When something happens to a person he learns something. A person learns by experience. (Experience is the best teacher.)
  11. When an ant stings one's buttocks, he learns to be careful: One learns from the suffering of his experience. (Suffering makes people to be more careful.)
  12. The arrow the child used to kill the vulture--it was an adult who carved it: A child's strength is small. Doing something with the thoughts or advice of elders. (The advice of elders is useful. Support of seniors is behind a child's success.)
  13. The leopard says that no matter how old he becomes, it will not affect his catching of goats: A person being able to continue doing a thing in spite of things being difficult or in spite of things changing. Cf. An old woman does not become too old for the dances she knows. (An expert never forgets his skill.)
  14. What one seeks but does not find, there is no shortage of in the soothsayer's bag: One should look for a thing where it is to be found. (People are good in what they specialize.)
  15. When the mother goat chews her cud, her children watch her. Learning a thing by watching or observing. (Learning by imitation or experience.)
  16. When a thorn pierces the tortoise it is the native son who sharpened it: Something very strong defeating something very strong. (It is only an expert who can defeat an expert.)
  17. If an adult says something, he keeps his word insofar as he is able: A thing goes with something. (Everything has what goes with it.)
  18. One mother gives birth but it is not one god who creates: People's behavior and thoughts are different [from other people's]. (People have different luck or idiosyncrasies.)
  19. The blacksmith who does not know how to fashion a gong examines the hawk's tail [it is shaped like a gong]: Learning a thing through careful observation. (Learning by careful observation.)
    19. The child who sees too much of his mother's friend cuts her with a kitchen knife: Constant fraternization causes scorn. (Familiarity breeds contempt.)
  20. The cricket that burrows is not a child. Cf. The bat that flies to the top of the kola nut tree is not a child. One who does what adults do is no longer a child. (If a child does what elders do, he is no longer a child.)
  21. One needs cleverness to kill a strong man: Cf. One needs cleverness to carry someone with a swollen stomach. (Wisdom excels physical might.)
  22. The oil palm that is in the road knows the one for whom it should let its fruit fall: Not all people receive favors at the same time. (A person knows for whom he should do a favor.)

23.As long as one is alive, he has hope of doing something more: A person should not kill himself because of those for whom things have gone well. (While there is life, there is hope.) (Dum spiro spero.) (If we live we shall accomplish our desire.)

  1. The chicken says that he [first] gathers [wealth] for his god, [then] gathers for himself, but before he gathers for himself it has become dark: To have bad luck. (Being unfortunate or unlucky.)
  2. One does not use an ear probe to probe the eye: If one probes the eye with it,the eye is blinded.
  3. One can run around the stalk of the pepper plant, but one cannot climb it: Everything goes according to its own order. (Everything goes after its kind; natural order of things.)
  4. When things are difficult for the tortoise, he says that his mother gave birth to many of them: Giving a meaningless excuse for blaming someone. (Lame excuse; giving worthless excuse for doing a thing.)

Igbo Proverbs and Meanings (Group 1)

  1. If the snake bites the tortoise he breaks off his mouth. (One who thinks of something bad he will do to his fellow man thinks in vain.)
  2. The tortoise says that his family did well to dress him in a garment of iron. (Anything done for a poor person impresses him.)
  3. If one hunts the tortoise vigorously, he starts to go [into his shell?] (When a child swallows his food quickly, is the food running away?)
  4. The corpse does not know that maggots have eaten it. (A person does not know when his friend, who is very talkative, has revealed what he has told him not to talk about.)
  5. The breadfruit tree that fell on New Year's Day fell too late to be used [on that day]. (One who tries to save someone whom one is trying to kill by hanging, when his head is put into the guillotine he does not come in time.)
  6. The string that holds the parcel: if the string becomes untied, the parcel opens. (One cannot tell what the behavior of a newborn child will be until it is grown.)
  7. The chicken says that it will not forget the one who plucked his tail during the rainy season. (One does not forget one who does something for a person when he is in great need.)
  8. The dog tells the one he sent to buy a mat to bring back his money-- he is accustomed to squatting on the ground. (If I send a child to fetch water for me because my throat is dry and he does not come quickly, I will no longer be thirsty.)
  9. The fly that follows meat does not starve. (Those who are servants to kings always fill their stomachs.)
  10. One cannot rely on his maturity [in years] to eat yams [saved out] during famine. (It does not mean, when a child has grown tall, that he has reached a place where he can live as head of a family of his own.)
  11. When stew ingredients are very numerous, the spoon does not enter it [too thick to stir]. (If granulation [?] fills the sore, medicine will not touch it.)

Subj: 066-074
Date: 7/31/03 6:04:27 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: FranLR
To: Lissentia

  1. If one uses thistles to wind a headpad, after lifting it up, he sets it down again. (When a good wrestler comes out into the arena and his peers look him over, no player will agree to go and wrestle with him.)
  2. When the soft mud that makes up a house caves in, the sand used to build it washes away into gaping holes. (If God, because of the evil men do, withholds the air, everyone will die.)
  3. If the cockroach carries 400 hawks easily [without resistance], he will go to the chicken's compound. (If one thinks erroneously that he is an important man and goes out into the town, no one will see him.)
  4. The medicine cannot be prepared that includes as an ingredient the stomach of an ant. (If the doctor says that one should bring something that is extremely difficult to obtain, you know that he does not want to cure the body.)
  5. I, being a tortoise, walk smoothly and steadily, but it is said that I walk clumsily and sluggishly. (No matter what an unimportant person does, it is said that he does it badly.)
  6. Who, when told to come and put on jewelry, will fail to look pleased? ( No one who fails to be happy when given something valuable.)
  7. If you hurry to dig and cut up a yam, you must bend down and dig up its tail. (If when cooking food a person stuffs firewood filled with flammable grass into the fire so that he can cook quickly, and the fire starts to burn the house, his problems are doubled.)
  8. When a dog who has a bell hung around his neck eats excrement, it is as though he were begging, "please, please." (When one begs his friend to make peace, it looks as though he were a weakling.)
  9. (missing)
  10. If a person goes and gets one [whole] measure of oil to eat [only] one yam, [does he think] the yam farmer who owns the land would put aside a whole mortar of palm fruit [for oil]? (If the child who is just learning his A B C's tells his father to buy him a fountain pen, what will the one who is in Standard VI use to write with?)
    22. If one invited to eat bread runs, does he think that it is very tasty to the one who eats it? [He might be eating it solely for nutrition and not for taste.] (James calls John to go on an errand for their mother and John runs away, thinking that the errand is pleasing to James.) ["Let George do it."]
  11. When all vulture-eaters are gathered together, the big woven basket is gotten down. (You should find out what kind of people are in the house before you tell secrets.)
  12. When one sees great thunder (?) one knows that the arrow (?) will fly. (If one sees darkness covering the sky one knows that rain will fall.)
  13. One who uses a gun to shoot (ojoko?--something worthless) should remember that famine will come. (The child who throws away the food his mother gave him should remember that he will be hungry.)
  14. I follow a well-known person to eat a cow's eye [probably a delicacy reserved for special people]. (Nwafo brought his father's bag, then went with him to a meeting where children are not supposed to go.)
  15. The cassava fruit is good in that it reaches the house--even if it is only the bare [bony] root head. (George has a head for learning, but his clothes are never clean.) [He ought to wash his clothes.]
  16. Lizard told his in-law that if he continued to pay him a special visit each time he fell, he would be constantly traveling (Idiom: leg would remain outside). (If one flogs a child for every offense, he will flog him to death.)
  17. One who has never had anything happen to his throat [so that he cannot swallow even saliva] does not know that saliva is food.
  18. If one is looking for an animal's eye, he should go to his head.
  19. If the farm work is not finished, the hoe will not rest.
  20. If one sees roasted yam [small ones used for roasting] and talks a lot about it, when he sees boiled yam [larger ones] what will he say about it? (When a child talks about every little thing he has seen, when something big happens he will give names.)
    33. You will not, because a yam-eater starts to cook breadfruit [inferior to yam], then call him an Eleele eater [probably a degrading name]. (Some friends soften their tongues [speak softly] toward their friends so that they [the friends] can give them something to eat.)
  21. Two events are in the sky: if rain does not fall, sun will shine. (One who wants to accomplish two things must do one of them at that time, before he does the other.)
  22. If one arrives at a land where people cut off ears, he cuts off his own and contributes it. (Cf. When at Rome, do like the Romans.)
  23. The toad does not run in the afternoon for no good reason.
  24. When the wise teacher is absent, will not someone dig out a folk tale to tell? (The guard who boasts that he chases away thieves, when he is dead, will they start to put the cap [of boasting] on your head?
  25. The more the stomach rumbles, the more one sniffles in discomfort. (As a child grows he understands things better.)
  26. ÈIkü [something like "rascals" or "ne'er-do-wells"] were told to count the Nza people; they [ÈIkü] began to stand in groups of three.
  27. A chicken-chaser must take a fall, and a chicken must waddle.
  28. All I did was cry Olololoo! Did I tell the rain to fall? [ask something excessive] (I told Joel to hunt the dog-- did I tell him to kill it? [I don't require him to go to extremes.]
  29. Rather than bite off [the food] and injure the gums, let it stay on the fire-stand until it cools off.
  30. If something takes me too long a time, it could be as long as three years. (The longest time I could stay in this school would be two years.) [refers to the outside limit]
  31. It is said that a rat bites a human being to death, then a lizard collects money to go and make teeth for himself. [the latter is an unusual happening -- double trouble -- one bad thing after another -- never rains but it pours]
  32. If the hen fails to cluck, how will she train her children?
  33. When one tries to save a chicken's life, it says that death is better for it. [contrariness]
  34. Since all lizards lie down flat on their bellies, one does not know which one has a belly-ache. [Lying flat on stomach is thought to relieve stomach pains.]
  35. Preparation of cocoyams [for planting] does not mean that they are already planted. (Buying books does not mean that a person knows what is in them.)
  36. Thoughts are like shoulder-bags--each person slings his own [over his shoulder]. (Each person behaves in his own way.)
  37. On hunting day, let us hunt the bushrat on its route! Let us start to work--when we finish, let us find a way to tell stories.
  38. If one has access to a professional wine-tapper, one should not use water as breakfast.
  39. When a wealthy man is given advice, the slave learns things.
  40. If one sees a flock ofigurube birds without calling his brothers, those [birds] who fly home, for whom will they return? [Edible birds that always fly in large flocks. Proverb concerns sharing, unselfishness, doing things at the right time.]
  41. A chief's son is never found guilty when his father is among the gathering of judges. [îma ikpe=to be guilty, e.g. ikpe mara gî]
  42. One does not use a basket to collect water.
  43. The crab becomes king in a small pool of water.
  44. It is the house-rat that tells the bush-rat that there is fish in the basket. [An insider reveals secrets.]
  45. Who will question it if he is told that a man is pregnant in Olu? [Distant riverain community. Inlanders do not go there often, and tend to look down on the Olu.]
  46. The thing that distracts [beats the drum for] the ngwesi [perhaps means a stubborn, uncooperative person] is in the land [of the spirits].
  47. One who does not know how to sell gunpowder, let him take the measuring receptacle of his companions that they use for selling.
  48. One who does not drink palm wine should not tap it. [ÈItî øoba=puncture top of palm tree with instrument having sharp flat blade.]
  49. When a small person kills a cow, his exaggerated description of the cow's size spreads over Nkwøo [village square]. (When the poor person does what the general public does, he views his own action differently.)
  50. One who mentions every illness that troubles him is avoided by others.
  51. The chicken that will become a male starts from the skull. [Its sex is determined by examining the protrusion at the top of its head.] (One who is going to be a bad person shows it in his actions.)
  52. The houses a madman will enter are many, in addition to dances he will do in the road. [He is erratic and easily diverted.] (The things that a person plans to do are numerous.)
  53. The head can be tied into a package except for the neck. [Use the proper thing.]
  54. One talks about the cost of something, yet the meat of it [its water] is being wasted.
  55. The drunken chicken has not seen the maddened wildcat. [The latter is far worse than the former.]
  56. If a child throws up his father [not showing proper respect], his [the father's] loincloth covers his [the child's] eyes. [The loincloth is drawn between the legs and the fringes hang down.] (If a child plays pranks on one who is older than he, he receives a knock on the head.)
  57. If a deaf person does not hear the harmattan blowing, will he not feel cold?
  58. When the sheep hears that her companion has given birth, she gives birth to a premature child. (If one does something because his peers have done it, his own [thing] will not go well for him.)
  59. If the oilbean scatters its seeds, the green bean tries unsuccessfully to explode in the same way. [asîkpem --onomatopoeic word] (One who does not know how to dance, if he danced like an expert no one would look at him.)
  60. Whatever a person has seems good to him; a chief uses a yam to obtain the pride of his chieftaincy and enjoys it to the full.
  61. The immature anünü [rare small bird] does not live in the bush of prickly grass. [Such grass causes itching and rashes to tender skin.]
  62. One who has yam available to eat says that cocoyam makes him itch. (One who is wealthy can afford to talk about his food preferences.)
  63. When Tortoise buys a new cloth, he goes to the meeting for settling disputes, [although] no one has invited him. (If a person wanting to be noticed buys a new cloth, he remembers to go out into the path.)
  64. The basket says that it is usually not sick except for [outside of] fever. [The basket is always near the fire.] (It is bad food that gives the vulture a lump in its throat.)
  65. When the elephant places his foot on the ground one sees his footprint.
  66. Tortoise's wife told him that she was tired of doing her birth ceremony duties for nothing. [Mother has duty to help daughter during weeks after childbirth. aføo üfülü =idiom for "for nothing, wasted"] (I am exhausted from cooking food for children who are ungrateful.)
  67. One who reaches the spirit abode and then starts to don his loincloth, will he cover his [spirit's] eyes or will he jump over him [spirit]? [Refers to futility: a spirit attacks on sight.] (If one sees soldiers coming before he carves an arrow, there is nothing he can do.)
    81. The boy who has been stung by a bee is afraid of a fly. [lit., extracts fear from the fly] (If an ant bites a baby, he will not want to sit on the ground again.)
  68. Kîtîkpa [insect] has killed a lazy person's mother. (One who feels reluctant about doing "Physical Training" is happy when it rains.)
  69. One who is of lower status than a chief says to bury him as a chief is buried.
  70. What the husband denies the wife is available in the market. (What one is hiding comes out into the open.)
  71. He-goat says that going out is fine, that he traveled out and learned how to raise up his mouth [to bray].
  72. The woman who cooks pumpkin seeds is familiar with the blind fly. [Soup odor attracts flies--only a blind one would not come around it.] (A person knows the time that the market he patronizes is held.)
  73. If a woman is very ugly, she remains at her mother's house. (If a child does something bad, he slinks against a wall.)
  74. If Nlüøonü commits an abomination, he fears the earth.
  75. Those who rush into a fight do not know that fighting means death.
    (The child who cries to be given fire does not know that fire burns people.)
  76. When the vulture hears that a human being has died, he beats the festival drum for his brothers. (If a hunter kills a mother antelope, her children cry and the hunter's children hear.) [Joel: not literal hearing, but more imagination]
  77. If the üdara [African Star Apple] says that the supply of seed pods at its top will not be exhausted, let thunder kill it. (When one gives his companion the one thing he has left, if that thing is important to him he continues to grumble about it.)
  78. To be first in marrying does not mean being first to have a child.
  79. A child is not flogged on the day that he [accidentally] spills oil, but rather on the day that he spills crude oil. (If you add together a child's deeds you flog him so that he remembers his behavior.)
  80. Pig says that what his eye tells him to root in the ground for is what his owner buys a hoe in the market for.
  81. (missing)
  82. When ØOjî sees his in-laws [those important to him], he emerges into the compound. (When one's friend comes over, he remembers that he bought azü-asa [good fish with gritty meat] and will give him a bit.)
  83. Not seeing those who stand in a small valley, Ezekwuabøo saw those who squatted on the ground. (One does not talk about the poor when he has not talked about the wealthy.)
  84. There are not enough bags for the doctors, yet the rascal wears nine. (I don't know how Nwankwo will justify sitting on one chair by himself when there were not enough chairs for others to sit three to a chair.)
  85. To give birth to a fool is equivalent to suffering the frequent loss of newborns. (The school child who buys many books but does not read them is the same as one who does not have any.)
  86. Not everyone who answers boldly to the name of Chief is the legitimate chief.

Igbo Proverbs and Meanings (Group 2)

  1. There is no one who does not like soup with fish in it. (Everyone desires good things.)
  2. One to whom an oath is administered says that if the ogu [swearing-stick] annoys him and gives him two knife strokes [from the resulting fight], will he give you one and take one? (If a person is given advice but does not take it and something bad results from it, he alone will suffer the consequences.)
  3. Who gives a squirrel palm fruit that has been roasted in the fire? [Squirrels are used to eating their palm fruit raw--they are unable to roast it.] (Don't expect from a person something he can't get [afford].)
  4. When people expect things to be done [perhaps by others], that means nothing is done. (Time does not wait for man.)
  5. The one who came to the toad's house and told the toad to bring him a chair--did he see the one that the toad was sitting on? (To ask a person for something that you do not see that he has at hand is foolishness.)
  6. If one plucks [fruit] with the intention of filling his bag, he falls to his death at the base of the tree. (Greed brings death.)
  7. A chicken who claims to be mad [wild] has not seen the drunken fox. (If one who is always ready to face death [belligerent] meets one who is also ready to face death, he begins to crave life.)
  8. Divining and having the divination materials [as well as results] fall aimlessly among the uli trees [refers to fruitless effort]. (One who paints uli designs while watching [looking over his shoulder] to see if he will be praised does not know that it is he himself he is killing.)
  9. When the food [oghe refers to cooked food] is properly done [soft enough so that crumbs fall], it reaches the ant. (If something good reaches one person it reaches others as well.)
  10. It is not the day the child spills oil that he is flogged, but rather the day he spills crude oil. [Repeat offense is what brings on punishment.] The day one does something small he is reminded of the big thing that had been forgiven)
  11. If one tells of the place where the rain met him, he is given a place to warm up by the fire. (If one explains his condition [situation] one does for him what ought to be done for him.) [He is treated as he ought to be treated; receives the help he needs.]
  12. He who holds me to the ground holds himself. (You don't know that you are wasting your own time when you are deceitful in performing a task.)
  13. A head of palm fruit does not fall to the ground empty of grass. [It has thorns that pierce the grass and carry it along impaled on it.] (Talk cannot be held [does not go free] if money is not involved.)
  14. The moon comes out; whenever it comes out [is when] it shines. (The time a person uses to do something he is able to do is his own time.)
  15. If one person cooks for a group, they eat all the food, but if a group cooks for one person, he will not eat all the food. (One person cannot do what a group of people can do.)
  16. The bushfowl tells his children that they should gather up yams and they should gather up roots, because there is no knowing when the farmer might dig up all of his yams. (A person should have a hand in many things; if the first thing is not profitable [ does not solve his problem], the next one will be.)
  17. When one is an invited guest, one does not tread the chicken to death [over-emphasize any offense on the part of the guest]. (A person does not feel ashamed if he goes where he is invited.)
  18. One who comes to visit a person should not come to behave badly, and he should leave without developing a hunchback [hard feelings]. (If you come to a person's place in peace, you will also return in peace.)
  19. The one against whom you practice divination surpasses you in being a diviner. (One who deceives one more knowledgeable than he does not know that he is wasting his time.)
  20. Okra should not be stronger than the planter. (A child should not be above his father's authority.)
  21. If one does not chew water he does not know that water has bones. (One who has not experienced life's ups and downs does not know that life is hard.)
  22. Nothing the eye can see will make it bleed. (There is nothing about which one can say that nothing like it has been seen in the world.)

Subj: 074-081
Date: 7/31/03 6:04:29 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: FranLR
To: Lissentia

  1. One who has been bitten by a snake is afraid of an earthworm. (What happened to a person earlier makes him afraid [now].)
  2. The bush where a child got a snail--there is where his eyes are drawn. (The child goes to the place where he has gotten something good.)
  3. One who has traveled exceeds a gray-haired person in knowledge. (One who travels around learns more than an older person who stays at home and does not go anywhere.)
  4. Running for one's life does not exhaust one. (One can do greater things out of fear than he can normally when there is nothing to fear.)
  5. If a woman marries two husbands she knows which was the better husband to her. (If a person does two different kinds of work he is able to find out which is the more profitable to him.)
  6. Oji aka eri aka [one who uses hand and reaps hand=one who does good and receives good in return] says that he is loved. (A gift of grace follows a gift of grace; anyone's good works bring him works of love.)
  7. A foolish rat copies a lizard and goes out in the rain. (If an ignorant person imitates a knowledgeable person and he falls, or if you see someone doing something that he can afford to do but you can not and you go and do likewise, you put yourself in debt.)
  8. (missing)
  9. Ururu [edible raffia termite] says, rather than closing his buttocks [which would kill him], extract his oil so that he looks shriveled. (It is better that a person throw away something sweet and save his life than to be silent [take no action] while his life is taken away.)
  10. If one puts excess oil in the soup it is not good-tasting. (To overdo a thing is not good.)
  11. If one experiences problems greater than the value of his farm, he sells the yam barn. (If one who cries for money experiences something that will take his life or his household, he brings out the wealth he has hidden.)
  12. The right hand washes the left hand and the left hand washes the right hand. (A good deed is reciprocal.)
  13. If buzzing around pushes the fly, it pushes it into the oil. (When something bad is destined to befall a person, it does not allow him to understand the difference between good things and bad things.)
  14. The snake that does not swallow its companion does not grow fat. (It is very hard for one to become wealthy if there is no way he can gain from the hands of his companions.) [Could be interpreted either as exploitation or as taking assistance.]
  15. One who says "I am dying" has not seen one who is almost dead. (If the one who desires [or asks for] death sees death, he begins to desire life.)
  16. The snake that bites the tortoise bites it in the shell. (For a person to take on something stronger than he is a waste of time.)
  17. If an old woman gathers okazi [hard-leaf plant] and cuts the roots [causing plants to die], the famine that came this year will return next year. (When a person eats something, he should remember tomorrow, or, gathering and eating all is a bad thing.)
  18. You should not play tricks on the natives of a place. (For a person to play tricks on someone wiser than he is foolishness.)
  19. One looks for an animal's eyes in its head. (One should look for a thing in the place where it ought to be seen.)
  20. One should not use the morning to predict a bad market. (One shouldn't use the early years to tell if a child is going to be wealthy or wise.)
  21. One does not kill a ram, because the work involved is excessive. (A person should not kill his companion for nothing.)
  22. If there is nothing [more food] in the hand it causes the piece [of food] in the mouth to grow cold [because it will be eaten more slowly]. (A person cannot succeed in accomplishing everything his heart desires if he has no money.)
    45. It is said that after when one drives away a wild cat one asks the chicken where he was [implies that it was far away] . (You should not blame one of your own people when his enemies are near [criticize him in private].)
  23. The toad does not run in the afternoon for no reason. (A person does not cry if nothing happened to him.)
  24. The anteater says that anything he sees and runs from, there must be something extraordinary about it. (What the old man sees and shouts alarm about or cries about should be examined closely-- it is not a small thing.)
  25. One should look for a black goat in the afternoon. (A person should do things at the proper time.)
  26. One does not have to tell an intelligent person to get out of the sun. (It is not wise for the mature man to put off what he ought to do and wait for someone to remind him.)
  27. One should not sell in the nearby area a chicken with a broken leg. (A person should not practice deceit in a place where people know him.)

51 (a) If one counts [an offence] once and counts twice, then strikes a knife-blow [in revenge], he cuts into the bone. (If a person's bad behavior exceeds all bounds, he will be given punishment, and given it so that he feels the pains in his body.)

(b) If the child's first yam the child burns up completely, he pulls the second one out [from the fire] before it is done. (When something happens to a person once, next time he is cautious.)

(c) When the black ant stings the buttocks, next time it [buttocks] learns wisdom. (If things have not happened to a person, he does not develop wisdom.) [Experience is the best teacher.]

(d) The old woman quoted a proverb, saying, "If she passes wind but it does not smell, did she go to the ogiri?" [Ogiri: food with a bad odor.] (If you apply your strength to do something but are unable to do it, you are not going to kill himself because of it.) [Don't worry yourself over things you can't control.]
(e) If the earthworm protects himself [takes good care of himself], he becomes a strong, long-lived earthworm. (If one protects his life in youth, his future will be good, or he will become a wealthy person.)

(f) Washing the hands before cracking a palm kernel for a chicken. (Being industrious for nothing.) [Palm kernels are usually sold--not given to chickens.]

(g) The day of war is not the day of judgment. (The day a person does something bad is not the day he receives payment for it.)

(h) The one who pounds the yam is not angry; the one who prepares soup is. (One who cultivates food is not angry; one who eats starts to get angry.) [The one who has the more difficult job is not annoyed, yet the one who has an easier time of it is annoyed.]

(i) If the grasshopper is burning, he says he is producing oil. (If one acts foolishly, he thinks he is wise.) [Putting a good face on things.]

(j) If the leopard's leg is broken, the deer comes to collect his debt. (When a person is in a bad position or in need, the person beneath him begins to talk back to him.)

(k) One who chases a chick has to fall, while the chick has to waddle away. (Only you are harmed when you chase away one who has done nothing to you.) [Unjust pursuit of innocent person.]

(l) Since I saw the winetapper's hemorrhoids when he was atop the raffia palm tree, what he was tapping no longer pleased me. (If a person defiles himself or sells his honor in public, he will no longer be respected.)

  1. The cottonwood tree [enormous tree] does not grow in only one nation. (There is no nation that lacks a wealthy person or something good.)
  2. What makes a man thin also makes him stout. (What a man suffers greatly to obtain is valuable to him.)
  3. To speak in secret does not make the mouth excel [does not make the content of speech better]. (Not all people in the same family will turn out to be foolish.)
  4. The bird does not defile his own nest. (For a person to do something bad in his own place is a bad thing.)
  5. The dog does not chew the animal bone that has been hung around his neck. (The thief will not steal what has been given to him to guard.)
    [betrayal of trust]
  6. If an immature child tries to take revenge for what happened to his father, the thing that happened to his father happens to him. (If a child is immature [there has not yet been anything he is equal to accomplishing] and he starts to pursue his father's enemies, he dies prematurely.)
  7. If a child purposely keeps on crying [for its own sake] they will carry the corpse past him [they will ignore him and he will miss whatever is going on]. (A person should not talk about everything he sees.)
  8. The weak grasshopper breaks a chisel. (One who does not have the strength to work ought to rise early, when the sun is not yet strong, and start to work.)
  9. The place where a crying child points is where either his mother or his father will be found. (The meaning of it is, anything a person sees and keeps on saying that he must do it, come what may.)
  10. If a wild animal feels itchy, he rubs his back against a tree; if a human being feels itchy, his fellow human being scratches him. (The value of human beings to each other lies in helping each other when in need.)
  11. One who goes to the latrine carries two (small sticks for cleaning the anus) because there is no knowing about the return of the urge to defecate. (If one is going to undertake anything, he should think long or prepare well, so that if it happens that the thing requires more than he at first thought, he will not be embarrassed but will be able to accomplish the thing quickly.)
  12. If one finger touches the oil, it spreads to all of the fingers. (The bad behavior of one person leads astray the general public.)
  13. One does not bury smoke [lit. "hot tobacco"] in the earth. (There is nothing that happens in the world without being known.)
  14. The chicken says that it is those who are knowledgeable who go to war with clubs. (To influence a person to do something he does not know how to do is to lead him into ruin.)
  15. Who gives a squirrel a roasted palmnut? [Squirrels always eat them raw.] (Do not ask a person for something he does not have or something he is unable to afford.)
  16. One who does not chew water does not know that it has bones. (One who has not done anything difficult does not know that the world is full of difficulties.)
  17. Let the hawk perch, let the eagle perch; the one that tells the other not to perch, let his wing break. (The one who tells his companion not to stay [tries to displace him], let him be the first to die.)
  18. Parasite does not know that famine is bad. (One who is given food does not know that things in the world are difficult to obtain.)
  19. Let me follow the body and be a slave to the grave. (To eat from the hand of someone else what you cannot eat in your own house.) [riding on someone else's coattails]
  20. Do not stay with a person only to bring him a shot with an arrow. (Staying behind another person, staying there while seeking to quarrel with your companion.)
  21. One who was not present when a body was buried digs it up at the shin. (Something of which a person does not know the full meaning.)
  22. One who becomes an in-law to a wretched person hooks his hand on the thorn of an oil palm. (One who becomes an in-law to a wretched person takes upon himself a heavy load because what he does not do himself, no one else will do for him.) [In-law cannot be counted on.]
  23. If something is cut down below it withers on top. (If a thing is properly discussed at home before taking it out in public, there will be no disagreement connected with it.)
    75. If the blind person can't retrieve the apple he treads under foot, how will he pick the one on the tree? (It is hard to take care of what you don't have in hand when you can't to take care of what you do have.)
  24. The chicken says that he tosses a thing from side to side until death before it eats. [Wants to make sure it is dead.] (If you list the particulars against a person [prepare the evidence carefully] concerning his transgressions, you win against him in a case.
  25. If one seeks something big, let him sling the jaw of an elephant on his shoulder. (If one looks for an argument or a quarrel, he will find it [he and the argument will meet].)
  26. If I cheat a child it is all right [with me], but what really matters is the final result. (Just as you get something by means of trickery, in the same way it will leave by trickery.)
  27. Water does not come out of its source polluted. (If someone is expected to take care of something, it is not good for him to spoil it.)
  28. Rather than carrying me on your back with my feet dragging on the ground, let me go so that I can walk on my own. (Rather than doing something for a person reluctantly, or if you are unable to complete the task properly, you should not do it in the first place.)
  29. If wine is going to cause quarreling between friends, let the wine pot break along the way. (If you know something that will come between or spoil things for you and your companions, you should stop it or leave it alone from the start.)
  30. Let us remove the monkey's hand from the soup while it has not turned into the hand of a human being. (From the first, remove the thing that you believe will turn into something bad in the future.)
  31. One's enemy looks at him in the spot where his god made a mistake in creating him. (Your enemy cannot say anything good about you.)
  32. The house rat tells the bush rat to come to the biscuit pot that his mistress has left uncovered. (One who is from the same compound as a person betrays him and gives him into the hands of his enemies who are outside the family.)
  33. The bird who is flying in the sky excretes 30 pieces of dung; if it then perches, will there be any space remaining on the ground? [If he excretes that much while flying, how much more while perched?] (A person does not show his bad behavior when he is far away.)
  34. Rather than fill the stomach so full that you fall over on the way, you should eat lightly. (A thing is good to do within limits.)
  35. The place that can accommodate a good person and his companions is not very large. (One who is compatible with his friends does not nag or find fault in everything.)
  36. Much water fills the toad's mouth. (Something there is no way to explain or express.) [overwhelming]
  37. The dog eats feces and the goat's teeth rot. (One person does something and another person is accused.)
  38. If one sets the mouth properly and chews very hard palm fruit, it is like chewing softer palm fruit. (If one uses a soft or gentle tone in replying, there is no getting angry or there is no quarrel.)
  39. The arrow the child used to shoot and kill the vulture was sharpened by an adult. (What a child does, an adult told him to do.)
  40. The bad smell that has been excreted on the palm tree cluster confuses the fly. (If one is speaking about something, another person enters and says something that has nothing to do with what is being discussed.)
  41. Where a child points his finger, if his mother is not there his father is. One who was not there when the corpse was buried starts to dig it up from the foot. (One who is not concerned with a thing, if he comes to a place where something important is being said, he takes it [the conversation] up in the middle. )
  42. The goat perspires but his hair does not reveal it. (If a person has a bad name, any good thing he does is not recognized by people.)
  43. Igbo people do not run if the rain does not reach their bodies. (A black person is not afraid if something harmful does not affect him personally.)
  44. It is said that a sudden event is too much for a strong man. (A man who is very strong does big things, but the week that death comes he can not run away from it.)
  45. It is said that if something is discussed in the absence of an influential person, it will be discussed a second time. (If one is a leader in village affairs and when something big happens in the village in which he is involved, a meeting should not be held in his absence.)
  46. One should proceed slowly and steadily. (If one does things little by little, things will be better than hurrying to finish in one day.)
  47. Fierce wrestling and great uge go together. [Uge is a wrestling move involving use of the leg for leverage in throwing a man down.]
  48. Turning the back causes gossiping. (If we are three people together, when I go out the other two start to talk about me; when I return, they and I laugh together as though we were on good terms.)
  49. Owl says that he is surprised by his child's head. (One who has things done for him does not know that the world is tough.) (If things are brought to you, you do not know that money is acquired with great suffering.)
  50. If Monkey holds her child in her arms she puts handcuffs on its arms. (If a mother trains her child she thinks that she has trained the child well; when she goes out, the child does something not expected of it.)
  51. Fire will not cross a stream to kill a toad. (If a toad is put into a fire, then put into water, before the water crosses the fire the toad will die.)
  52. The bush that the chicken enters and is stabbed by a thorn, if a human being enters it he will be carried out. (If one is wealthy and is struck by a catastrophe, he regrets it; if he is poor, he will not recover from it.)
    105. If an old woman falls down twice, one counts the things she is carrying in her market basket. If one shoots the first time and hits a certain tree trunk, shoots a second time and hits the tree trunk, does it mean that the arrow was carved for that particular tree trunk? (If something bad happens to a person and a certain person did it, it happens again and again that person did it, are all bad things meant for [attributed to?] only that person from then on?)
  53. One who is seen near the stalk of a pepper plant while people are looking for a pepper plant thief: (If you are seen in the place where something was lost, it shows that it is you who stole the thing.)
  54. Snake says that the reason he has no legs and arms is that if his legs did not get him in trouble, his arms would. (Snake says that having arms will bring you trouble, having legs as well will also bring you trouble.)
  55. Height does not mean that my child has matured. (If your child has long arms and legs but has no common sense, it does not mean that your child has grown.)
  56. If I hurry to lick my fingers, am I going to hang them up? Keep on running--who holds [wins]? (In wrestling, people do not ask how many days the match lasted, but rather who threw his opponent?)
  57. When the small bird starts to get an expanded chest [arrogant], it looks as though he will be bigger than his mother. (The nza is a small bird. As a newborn infant, when he starts to fill out it appears that he will be larger than his peers.) [temporary phenomenon]
  58. You do not use the morning to know [predict] a bad market. (If you come to market in the morning, you will not know if you are going to sell what you have brought with you.)
  59. Nduru [bird] habitually walks on the ground, let alone in the place where there are things his mouth can peck at. (The doctor who cures dysentery, does he keep his power on the shelf? [He is not the only one who knows how to do it.] The blind man eats up the apple he finds under foot, then endures his hunger [starts to be patient]. The apple that the blind man finds by feeling around is the one he eats.) [Take what comes.]
    113. If the snail is blind it denies itself food. [Snails can retreat into their shells and cause protective covering to block opening--"blind" refers to this.] (The snail has no eyes, which means that the snail's inability to find food to eat was his own doing.)
  60. A blind person, told that his in-law has come, then says that he is confirming it. (He is blind but sits close so he can see his in-law.)
  61. If a servant does good to his master, he is in fear; if he does bad to him, he is still in fear. (A servant owned by someone, no matter what is said to him, stays, because he has no place to go.)
  62. When a prominent man dies, the daughters of the town [those who have married in other towns] look for things to provide them with meat and fish. [The custom is for them to go from house to house. People hide their possessions because the women must be allowed to have whatever they see and want to take, such as household utensils, which they then sell for money to buy food and/or share among themselves.] (When a wealthy man dies, the married daughters flock around.)
  63. Vultures descend on the place where there is a dead body.
  64. Considering what a dog eats, a human being will not eat his [the dog's] stomach. (A dog eats excrement but a human being does not eat excrement; if one considers this well, one will not eat dog flesh.)
  65. It is said that if one talks about how he ran around in the evening, it becomes a cry for food. (If one complains about obtaining what he ate in the evening, it becomes a driving away of another person from eating.)


  1. A small amount of food stays in a small part of the body.
  2. If a person itches excessively, it comes out into the open: One cannot hide something obvious.
  3. If one looks for a child's mother and does not see her [she is deceased], pity for him is ended. [A child does not get much sympathy except from its own mother.]
  4. One learns about pieces of yam by splitting yam.
  5. When the chicken pecks at the ground in the wrong way, its neck becomes strained.
  6. If one finger touches the oil it spreads to all the other fingers.
  7. When a chicken drinks water and looks upward, sadness fills its heart. [A chicken cannot drink easily.]
  8. One who pursues a chicken [unjustly] must fall, and a chicken must waddle.
  9. The house rat tells the outside rat that there is fish in the basket.
  10. When the head touched the wasp it caused it to sting him.
  11. The chicken ignores the one who killed it, and crooks his neck [in displeasure] at the soup pot. [Instead of blaming the killer he is annoyed with the pot.]
  12. When the child learns climbing, its mother learns how to shout.
  13. Fire does not know the one who fetched it.
  14. Eating without inquiring about the food causes sudden death (lit., not suffering before dying).
  15. If one performs a sacrifice but does not see a vulture, one should know that something serious happened in the home of the spirits.
  16. Human beings are numerous but males are few.
  17. Feces do not smell while inside the stomach.
  18. If a trickster dies he is buried by trickery.
  19. It is failure to acquire wealth that causes one to boast.
  20. If the mouth does not speak, who is going to know?
  21. Sheep says that he does not know how to dance, but if he is pushed by an ant-sting, he will dance.
  22. If a child knows [recognizes] a good thing, the good thing knows him.
  23. If a young man chews a palm kernel, one sees its shell.
  24. What a person is [referring to behavior] he will always be.
  25. The eyebrow protects the eye.
  26. Come and listen to my child and his friends.
  27. One does not visit the spirits empty-handed.
  28. What is sweet to the mouth causes pain to the buttocks.
  29. Where there are spirits there are human beings.
  30. If one rips his mat, he sleeps on the floor.
  31. Whether the hawk flies high or low, it will still perch in the ojî tree. (One who travels abroad does not fail to return to his homeland.)
  32. The bee comes on account of wine, the fly comes on account of decaying things; what makes the wasp come? (A person should stay quietly until he is called.)
  33. When one hides to spy on a person, another person hides and spies on him. (No one knows when something good will befall him.)
  34. One who cuts with a knife of war goes home to a knife of war. (A man is known by his deeds.)
  35. It is good that the chicken carried the corpse of the dog, because if the dog had carried the corpse of the chicken, people would have said that the dog killed it. (It is good that the chief called himself a madman, because if someone else had called him that, that person would have been scorned.)
  36. If the rain beats down on the slave, it beats down on his owner. (Two people going to bring a case for trial at the house of a chief must spend money.) [Cases often were brought to chiefs for preliminary hearings before going to British courts.]
  37. If (it happens that) one plants a raphia palm tree in the earth, he also plants his ear.
  38. Is it that fish do not feel the cold, or is it that fish do not have fire?
  39. For the ears to hear properly, they need not be so large that they cover the head.
  40. What the goat sees and is silent about, if the male dog sees it, he barks until daybreak.
  41. While one is telling lies, he is losing out. [losing credibility and other things]
  42. The way a man comes into this world [referring to temperament or other circumstances of birth] calls to him [influences him] while he is young. [Maturity lessens the influence.]
  43. Where the corpse lies is where the vultures congregate.
  44. Whatever the hawk gives birth to will not fail to carry off chickens.
  45. The dog answers to whatever name anybody gives him.
  46. The water that is in the potsherd belongs to the dog.
  47. The fire left the pot alone and went and killed what was inside of it.
  48. If as many people as eat fish sit together, an entire basket is brought down [from its high storage place].
  49. Wherever a child has found a blind snail, he expects to find snails at all times.
  50. If one goes out in the morning and a chicken chases him, he should run away, because he does not know if it sprouted teeth during the night.
  51. If an old man with gray hair does something bad to you, harden your head and take revenge on him, [because] good is good.
  52. The yam that protrudes from the ground tells people to tread on it. [asking for trouble]
  53. After the chicken stares at something, he should peck at it. (After staring at me, do you think you are going to kill me?
  54. What the kid does, its mother taught it.
  55. The musk shrew went to cry for an in-law and cried himself into a long mouth.
  56. If the diviner talks more than the divination reveals, let him add his own materials of divination.
  57. The young girl committed an abomination and then looked upward [avoiding eyes].
  58. The young daughter keeps running around and around the chief's compound, because she ate her mother's groundnuts [afraid to go in].
  59. The chicken is the cause of people eating her eggs. [It is her own fault.] [chickens raised mainly for hatching]
  60. The thing that causes the sore determines the treatment of it.
  61. When the sun beats down, one sees what the small cricket killed.
  62. You can't fall from a high place and have someone else swell up.
  63. When a young girl eats bean cakes in the market, her honor is defiled.
  64. Continuing to bring is better when it concerns the other person [comes from another person's pocket]. (I will not bring my possessions, but I laugh deceitfully while taking all of your possessions from you.)
  65. Carrying the corpse of another person's child, is like carrying a bundle of firewood. (When another person's child dies, one who is not closely related does not feel sympathy.)
  66. Another person does not realize the sickness of his companion.
  67. If a bee has stung a child, when he sees a horsefly he runs away. (When one realizes that bees sting and that it is painful, that causes him not to want to experience anything else that is painful.)
  68. One who is compelled by the breeze to put on his wrapper will put on the ugberugede [tightly wrapped undergarment, like ogodo ]. [Maybe he has been embarrassed by the breeze blowing back his lighter garment.] (When a thrifty person does a thing a second time [he may have missed it the first time], he spends his money lavishly so he can get what he wants.) [Overdoing, going too far.]

One does not beat a child on the day he spills oil [first time overlooked] but rather on the day he spills inferior palm oil [second or third misbehavior].

  1. If one crosses over to another town, he starts to eat something he usually shuns.
  2. If the cooking-pot enters the yam barn, the small yams become afraid.
  3. If you see a place where a pumpkin bears fruit, you see also a place where a pregnant woman goes to pluck it.
  4. If the pumpkin does not bear fruit, what will the pregnant woman eat?
  5. It's not good for the oil palm to bear fruit and ripen on the same day.
  6. The bow that shot the swallow [bird so tiny that it is very hard to hit it] gets twenty small arrows [by way of reward].
  7. If one stays at home waiting for someone, his leg does not pain him (or break). [Easier to wait for someone at home, e.g., you are not inconvenienced if he does not show up.]
  8. Rather than fill my stomach and fall by the wayside, let me eat to half-full. [afo ugwu =half full stomach]
  9. A baby chick that falls into a pit is involved in dancing.
  10. I used the corner of my eye to know that to hold is really to hold. [I could easily tell that something serious was going on.]
  11. The brother of a madman feels shame but the madman does not feel it.
  12. The stroke of words hurts more than the stroke of a knife.
  13. One does not pinch the package one is going to unwrap.
  14. If the master of the house delays in eating the food, the children will scramble for it.
  15. If one piece of yam remains in the fire, all eyes will be focused on it.
  16. A chicken that fails to complain about the knife that killed it will start to twist its neck [in annoyance] to the stew pot.
  17. The crab swam the large stream and the small stream, then came into the stew pot and was stuck.
  18. If one finger touches the oil, it spreads to all the fingers.
  19. The support [encouragement] of a fight exceeds the actual carrying on of it.
  20. One cup of water is enough to bathe well in.
  21. The fly wastes time buzzing around the heap of feces that is bigger than it.
  22. If one does not know a thing, his age-mates will show him.
  23. If one does not agree to accept his standard [e.g., he may put himself above it], he is carried back to his father's compound. [Not literally carried, but subjected to discipline.]
  24. One uses old eyes to seek an old road.
  25. After the bachelor has gone out, the ashes of the morning's fire still wait for him.
    94. One who has things shares them.
  26. The chicken's eggs fill the basket-- find out which is male and which is female.
  27. When the corpse begins to smell, the brother carries it.
  28. One who holds someone to the ground holds himself.
  29. When "know-it-all" leads the way, love [friendly type] is destroyed. [avoided, missed]
  30. A person's foolishness is his wisdom. [Ignorance is bliss.]
  31. The hand that a person prefers is the one he uses to support his head.
  32. The playing of dogs is that one falls down for the other.
  33. If the soup is good and the fufu (boiled food) is good, the throat starts to cry, may you [pl.--referring to the cooks] not die.
  34. A good word has no answer. [Its value is obvious.]
  35. The palm tree grubs fall and the birds make a joyful noise.
  36. Do you think that the dog does not know who sells bones?
  37. Giving a dog the name of an enemy does not mean winning.
  38. Having many gaps in the teeth does not mean that one has eaten a lot of meat.
  39. If the garment were the measure of goodness, our wickedness would not remain in the world.
  40. If sleep were death, not one person would remain in the world.
  41. If the vulture were edible, the ancestors would have eaten it.
  42. When the leopard's pelvic area is broken all round, then the duiker approaches him concerning old debts.
  43. A large town causes large fear.
  44. If an enemy kills a leopard it is said that he killed a sleeping one.
  45. One who squints at [use of eyes to express some feeling, good or bad] someone greater than he is only recognizing him. [The gesture would be ineffective under such circumstances.]
  46. When the sore heals, one forgets the pain of it.
  47. Crow says that he cries so that the public will hear his voice, not so that the thing that holds him should release him.
  48. One who throws a bird up in the air shows him the road to the place where his mother is [in a state of freedom].
  49. When the lizard fails to run around the base of the tree, the dog catches it.
  50. If you kill a goat for a hawk, his eye remains on the chicken. [hard to change habits]
  51. The nduru 's eye is on the bag of black-eyed peas.
  52. The mouth [verbal approach] one uses to borrow money is not used to pay it back.
  53. A short person hangs his bag where his hand can reach.
  54. The dog does not chew the bone that has been hung around its neck.
  55. It is in the afternoon that the child realizes that its mother is dead. [no one to bring him food]
  56. If the chicken fails to cluck, what will she use to train her children?
  57. If you can't follow the bridge properly, you fall into the water.
  58. One who talks too much about his illnesses [or troubles] is avoided. [He is apt to reveal too many details about himself.]
  59. The owner of the corpse carries it at the head.
  60. When a child's is tired of working, he has strength to fight. [Fatigue makes him aggressive.]
  61. When a chicken comes out in the morning and starts to chase me, I start to run because I do not know if it has sprouted teeth during the night.
  62. It would be good for the wind to blow so that I can see the bottom of the chicken.
  63. One who chases a baby chick must fall.
  64. The chicken says that it will not forget the one who plucked its tailfeathers in the rainy season.
  65. One who plays with a chick smells the droppings. [over-familiarity]
  66. The chicken that will be a male comes out of the shell. [Gender shows up from the beginning.] (The thing that will be profitable starts in the morning.)

    136. When the chicken passes wind the earth chases it [the chicken] away.
    (When a person does something bad, he becomes afraid.)
  67. If the chicken stops clucking, what will she use to train her child?
  68. If you accuse me of stealing a chick, I will steal a hen. (If you keep on accusing me of something I did not do, I do something big.)
  69. If a child tells everything he has learned, he goes empty- handed to follow the spirits. [not literally follow spirits; he has nothing to say.]
  70. If a child keeps on seeing his mother's friend every day, one day he will cut her [the friend] with a knife.
  71. If a child carries both water and wine, he knows which is the heavier.
  72. If a child grabs his father around the feet, his [the father's] garment will cover his [the child's] eyes.
  73. If a child waves his hand [gesture of defiance] in his father's face, his father will strike the ofo on the ground because of him. [intent is to curse the child]
  74. If an immature child asks what happened to his father, what happened to his father happens to him.
  75. The eagle says that if you tell birds to choose what they want to be, he chooses the eagle.
  76. He-goat says that his traveling out was good, that he traveled out and learned to lift his nose up.
  77. The apple [African star-apple] says that it is the only one that gives birth to a child whose mouth must be squeezed open [in order to eat it]. [Refers to an individual's bad luck...]
  78. The ram says that as things happen to him, he learns wisdom.
  79. When the ant stings the buttocks, it learns wisdom.
  80. The hawk says that the case between him and human beings will not end, that they will litigate in heaven.
  81. Tortoise says that he is walking [normally], but people say that he is walking oddly. [rocking gait] [mara ghara = lacking in knowledge]
  82. Tortoise says he is the only one that God created with a covering.
  83. If one says that a broom is not important, he will be looking for it in the morning. (Everything has some way in which it can be useful.
  84. The uku tree told another tree that if it claimed it was uku it should sprout thorns.
  85. A woman says that the case between her and her husband is not something that human beings can judge; will she be better off if the spirits judge between them?
  86. An animal who is not strong enough does not live in a wilderness. [øodøo = habitat]
  87. The grass that comes the way of the goat is what he eats.
  88. One who has never had a sore throat does not know that one can use saliva for breakfast.
  89. The spirits that require chicken eggs in their sacrifices should be aware that the hands and feet of the chickens are in the eggs. [Some spirits don't want anything that has hands or feet.]
  90. The woman went to her husband's house and learned nothing but eating (all the time).
  91. If the elder does not talk around a thing [beat around the bush], he may reveal the secret. [Elders don't talk directly.]
  92. They mold pots but eat food from the potsherd. (Those who are in full possession of things but do not allow them to be useful to them.)
  93. A sudden event is too much for the strong man.
  94. Mortar carried food, it ran back.
  95. Mother [female] sheep will sprout horns; the back of her head rubs in her dream.
  96. One who denies [food] at the tortoise's house knows that the fire is counting him in at the start.
  97. The large tree has a reputation so that elephant leads its friends to it.
  98. Watching, watching, while a flower is watched, one does not use a flower to bury a corpse.
  99. If it is the thing that the herbalist loves that I tell him to mix [prepare as medicine], he does not mix at first in the obi .
  100. If a man learns to lie, his wife learns that her husband is not at home.
  101. If a husband is not a good person, neither will his wife be [a good person].
  102. If one loses the flute he has and his brothers are called in, on the day that the matter of the lost flute is to be taken up, he takes his mouth and makes a flute. (If one says that a thing is not important, afterwards he starts to look for it.)
  103. One knows that corn ripens in the eye.
  104. The wild mango does not fall at the foot of the wild mango.
  105. If the plantain-eater [large bird], not knowing that birds fly away, eats a grasshopper, he (perches, cries) sisisi .
  106. When one eats a coconut, a person also plants what a person will eat.
  107. If a thief is given advice, his heart is carving a tool for digging. (If one tells a person that he is doing something bad, he prepares to do it again.)
  108. If one completely throws out the ____ that is in the cloth, the one who wears the cloth goes naked.
  109. Seeing but not speaking is the fault of the older person, but speech without listening is the fault of the child.
  110. When the slave saw that a digging stick [stick sharpened with flat edge like a chisel] was used to bury his counterpart [a humiliating thing], he knew that such would be his own fate would some day .
    181. The monkey carries her child on her back, but she does not know when it plucks fruit and eats it all up.
  111. A great tree does not fall across to another village. [refers to reputation being local]
  112. The cow says that she follows the child purposely, that it is not hard for her to stop if the child drags her.
  113. If one avoids talking boldly to a chief, eventually he will put on the cap [basket-shaped, covers the face] to speak to him.
  114. The female goat has advanced beyond the stage of childish behavior [soiling, etc.].
  115. One who says that something is sweeter will tell what it is sweeter than.
  116. The deceiver always stays (aloof) like a leper.
  117. A blind man eats an apple only when he happens to strike it with his foot.
  118. If one loses the pipe he uses to call together his family, on the day that something happens he makes a pipe out of his mouth.
  119. One who plays a flute cleans his nose. [Everyone needs a respite to take care of his own needs.]
  120. One who holds a person to the ground holds himself.
  121. When words leak out of the mouth, taking them back is difficult.
    (When something happens, one does not retreat.)
  122. The right hand washes the left hand, the left hand washes the right hand. (Doing good to a person, and he returns the favor.)
  123. The pig says that by many people working together, the obi is cleared [filled up]. (When many people do the work, it ends quickly.)
  124. When the hawk is flying up, his shadow is on the ground.
  125. When the chicken's eggs fill the basket, one cannot know which is male and which is female.
  126. The stream does not flow backwards.
  127. The eye that sees an eagle thanks the eagle because the eye does not often see an eagle.
  128. Corn ripens for those who have no teeth. [Irony--good things come the way of those who are unable to take advantage of them.]
  129. If a child is treated the same as his companions, he will feel good.


  1. When the moon begins to shine, (even) the lame person begins to want to travel. [Irony]
  2. The fly that does not listen to advice follows the corpse to the land of the spirits.
  3. The moon got tired; it shone until daybreak.
  4. I am not afraid to kill a tall person, because I am not the one who will dig his grave.
  5. The immature animal does not live in the grasslands [shrubby area without protection].
  6. When the foot walks smartly, the eye looks smartly to see it.
  7. When words fall from the mouth, deception is difficult. [See #192.]
  8. When one is carrying someone else's child up a hill, when it sees the parents it says "let me go".
  9. One who knows his own things [is concerned about himself] does not know another person's things [is not concerned about someone else].
  10. One does not know where the water enters the pumpkin.
  11. Where the blacksmith peers at the iron is where the difficulty of the work lies.
  12. A friend needs only one finger to communicate with his friend.
  13. One does not learn [to use] the left hand in one's old age.
  14. The son does not give birth to a first son before his father does. [A youth does not know more than an older person..]
  15. If a spirit stays in a village a long time, people will invite it to their secret [private] meetings.
  16. A foolish person does not know that his brother is a guest. [Treat family members well.]
  17. House rat told bush rat that pumpkin seeds were in the basket.
  18. When a woman grows old, it is as though no wealth were expended in marrying her.
  19. If two people are equally matched in struggle, let neither of them strike the other to the ground.
  20. It is not good for one who has cut a man with a knife to continue to pursue him.
  21. If one tells an old woman to wipe her nose, it seems as though it is I who will chew her head if she dies. [Mind your own business.]
  22. For a human being to take a few palmnuts is acceptable, but if it were a dog it would be considered stealing.
  23. The lizard longs to sit down, but his tail will not permit him to do it.
  24. The snake says that anyone who sees him and doesn't lick up pepper soup will lick up blood. [Some people use snake meat in pepper soup. If one sees a snake and fails to kill it for soup, the snake will bite him and he will be licking up his own blood.]
  25. The owner of the corpse carries it at the head. [When something involves you, you are expected to play a major role in it.]
  26. If one takes something forcibly from a weak person, he [the latter] says that a person is supposed to do things for his fellow man.
  27. The chicken's egg is for wealth (for breeding) but that of the guineafowl is for meat.
  28. The crab does not stay tied up and still play the ubøo [musical instrument]. [When the "music" of eaters cracking the shells is heard, it is clear that the crab has been taken from its bonds and cooked.]
  29. The chicken that is drinking [pecking at water] looks upward, because its death comes from above. [Chickens raise their heads with each mouthful of water, in order to swallow properly. This is an imaginative way of explaining the phenomenon.]
  30. Akalata says that if it were not that one gave the øogbanje [child who came as a temporary visitor] something used to placate him, then when his Iya [talisman] was dug up it would grow back ]or be covered up] again.
  31. If the lizard that starts to run leaving the base of a tree, the child who is adept at catching will catch it.
  32. The one who came to the toad's house and asked for a chair, did he see the one where the toad sat down?
    (i) This man asks me for the horn of dog.
    (ii) This man asks me for one leg of a snake.
  33. The chicken says the reason he knows everyone hates him is that they see his droppings and they take money and go to buy pumpkin seeds in the market. [Chicken has a high opinion of his own droppings!]
  34. When an old woman is very cold, she remembers the one she was kind to in the past.
  35. When fighting becomes excessive, those who broke their arms start to carry those who broke their legs. [refers to those fighting on the same side]
  36. It is lack of more food in the hand that causes the food in the mouth to be eaten slowly and carefully [suffer].
  37. If you send me on an errand to a prominent person, I will go, but if you tell me to prepare a headpad and carry him, I will refuse. [avoids involvement in plots or intrigues]
  38. One whose house is on fire does not hunt rats. [ignoring the important to pursue the unimportant]
  39. If medicine is prepared to clear the eye, one does not put pepper in it.
  40. Rabbit says that when he lives far from the oil-bean tree, if the seed pods explode they fall down into his house, but when he goes and lives at the base of the oil-bean tree, it puts him into a bad [starving] condition [rubs ose and üzîza (both are kinds of pepper) into his eyes].
  41. The reason that we have two ears is, if one starts to drop something into one of them but it does not accept it, one turns to the other.
  42. Plantain-eater [large, noisy bird] says of the grasshopper it killed that an obstruction [growth in the ear] made it deaf.
  43. If the lizard excretes but does not excrete whitish substance, one does not know that it is the feces of a lizard.
  44. Nwa-Arü shoots gunpowder, while turning to check on his market bag. [divided attention]
  45. When the goat lies down on the ground, it lies on its skin.
  46. The palm wine-tapper does not reveal everything he sees on the top of the palm tree.
  47. One who was not there when the corpse was buried digs it up at the foot.
  48. The dog eats feces and the goat's teeth will rot.
  49. The chicken says that it does not cry so that the thing holding it will let it go, but rather so that the world will hear its voice.
  50. One does not [have to] tell a deaf person that there is a commotion in the market--rather, he uses his eyes to see what is happening.
  51. If one gives an old woman a child to carry, she says that she has no teeth. Was she told to chew it to death?
  52. If one who is smart but has no sense tells his father that he gave birth to a first son before his father did, the father asks him: "My child, whose first son are you then?"
  53. If the child wants to wander, he says that his mother is away on a journey. (The next question will be, where did she go, and the child will start to tell.)
  54. The young palm frond says that in the case of a small person, conditions tell him to come quickly and see his world in his eyes. [experience the world for himself]
  55. Where two people fought and separated themselves [unusual occurrence], was there a third person there?
  56. If an old woman sees someone "taking care of her," she says that her relatives do not grow old.
  57. The message that is sent to the smoke has reached the sky.
  58. People generally get along well except for the one who is hot-tempered.
  59. If the child who is not mature enough to shoot the antelope proceeds to shoot the antelope, the antelope jumps on him and his gun.
  60. The rat says take ripe palm nut to set a trap for him, because what he comes and carries it with is his head. [uses head to poke into trap.]
  61. Where the child went today and "brought back something good," when tomorrow comes he goes there very early.
  62. One who is on top says that he almost fell (he has fallen from the top)--has he climbed down?
  63. The chicken uses two feet to stretch itself, it strikes its chest on the ground. [bites off more than it can chew]
  64. The chicken says that he goes to look at the place where the bushfowl is being singed because birds [fatty animals] are all alike.
  65. The strong man ___carries fire in two hands, he uses a trough (?) [special wooden holder to keep animal from sliding while being butchered] to chase a dog.
  66. If a bee stings a dog, when he sees a large fly he runs away very fast.
  67. The small squirrel does not own an oil palm tree, the large squirrel does not own an oil palm tree, yet at all times the fights between the two of them are on account of oil palm trees.
  68. Procrastination saw the palm fruit, Suddenness cut it down.
  69. Child who escaped death said if one takes the pestle and makes a bow out of it and he fails to die, if one bends the pestle [so the arrow will be effective], he dies.
  70. The tree that [created, shone, tied nduko ] , if one cuts it down in the light of the open, grassy country, it falls on top of the grass.
  71. The toad does not run in the afternoon for no reason.
  72. The water that beats down on the stone washes its body. [It has no bad effect.]
  73. One who takes the bottom of his hand and excretes from his body excretes it for himself. [no effect on anyone else]
  74. One who runs to separate fighters doesn't know that fighting is death.
  75. A woman whose children die does not permit her child to sleep for a long time.
  76. When one looks for a "kitchen knife" one reveals what he ate.
  77. After one cuts everything completely, the whole thing returns to the farm of the yam farmer. [One must buy food -- no profit]
  78. The øogînî [a beautifully colored proud rat) says that if it looked at the mouth it would use to make a hole, it would nearly laugh itself to death.
  79. The first got burnt, the second was almost raw.
  80. If one stands up and digs up and breaks the "tail" [not root, but lower part] of a yam, one sits down to dig up its tail. [Haste makes waste.]
  81. No one knows the mind of one he is holding to the ground; is it that if he is released he will fight or if he is released he will run away?
  82. One who talks-- does he know the mind of the one who will answer?
  83. When the child washes his hands thoroughly, he can eat with an older person.
  84. The cricket says that one who "does not start to make holes when his companion does" (to make holes with speed), the earth shuts him out. [The earth is softer at certain times, such as at the end of rainy season.]
  85. If a child sneaks up and burns me, I will sneak up and burn him back.
  86. Cockroach says it does not know how it danced the wall-gecko's dance and it brought on a quarrel.
  87. One who hurries to lick his fingers--is he going to hang them up? [He is not going to lose them--they will still be attached.]
  88. One does not swat a fly directly on top of a sore.
  89. Leopard said that the thing one used to know how sick he was was the eye of "Atani," which showed its seriousness. [Atani= squirrel-like animal with bulging eyes.]
  90. The atani said that he should hurry and gather his children, because the thing that destroyed his nest would kill his children.
  91. The arrow that the child used to shoot the bird-- it was an adult that carved it.
  92. If a person who has diarrhea is not careful, he and his garment divide the feces in two. [sharing equally]
  93. When the grasshopper perched on the chest of the blind man, he carried it.
  94. If a thing starts to smell, one washes it in water; if water starts to smell, what is one going to do? [Some things are beyond control.]
  95. When one passes gas from above it confuses the fly.
  96. The goat perspires, but its fur does not let people see it.
  97. If one uses two hands to snap his fingers at the dog, he will not know which one to follow.
  98. If the child engages in ruinous behavior, the child will be scolded.
  99. A greedy person [one who consumes everything of the best immediately] does not know when he has consumed all of his daughter's bride price.
  100. The snake that bit me used its tail to strike you. [Don't rejoice over others' problems--the same thing may happen to you.]
  101. The herbalist whose medicine caused dysentery--did he keep his own buttocks high? [Doesn't he know that he will be affected too?]
  102. Speaking in proverbs protects you from the consequences of speaking bluntly [keeps the neck from being naked].
  103. A child's crying constantly prevents us from knowing when he is being killed.
  104. When the rat jumps in the water with the lizard, the water dries from the lizard but it does not dry from the rat.
  105. Okra does not outgrow the planter.
  106. When the lizard abandons the base of the tree, the dog captures it.
  107. Procrastination [always coming, coming] caused the toad not to sprout a tail.
  108. If one kills a cow for a hawk, its eye is still on the chicken.
  109. Where the hand of a small person reaches, there is where he hangs his bag.
  110. When the leopard breaks his leg the deer comes to collect her debt.
  111. The madman's brother feels shame, and not the madman himself.
  112. If one finger is dipped in the oil, it contaminates all of them.
  113. When the child eats the thing that he is staying awake for, then he falls asleep.
  114. One who throws a young bird up into the air has shown him the road to his mother's place.
  115. The toad does not run out in the afternoon for nothing.
  116. One who owns the corpse carries it at the head. [It is heavier at the head; sign of the owner taking leadership role or having full responsibility at burial of his relative.]
  117. Those who hurry toward a fight [perhaps to break it up, perhaps just to watch] do not know that fighting means death.
  118. Let the hawk perch, let the eagle perch--the one that tells the other not to perch, let his wing break.
  119. One who tells me to die, let him go to sleep before the chickens. [It is abnormal to go to sleep that early (around 5 p.m.). This is wishing some abnormality on the person.]
  120. One who says that my possessions should not be mine [usually out of jealousy], let it happen that his should not be his.
  121. The bow that is used to strike successfully at the eleke nti oba [tiny, clever bird, hard to hit], let it have twenty arrows. [Something like a wager, where the 20 arrows would be a reward for accomplishing a difficult feat.]
  122. One who is informed about someone else rejoices; but has the one who is accused confirmed?
  123. If one stays at home to wait for someone, his waist will not break.
  124. If one treats a child the same as his counterpart, he will be satisfied.
  125. For the oil palm to develop fruit today and ripen today is not a good thing. [Things should happen at the proper stages.]
  126. If a human being has an itch, his fellow human being scratches it for him, but if an animal has an itch, it goes and rubs its body against a tree.
  127. If the female sheep should sprout horns, is her skull hard enough? [If you want to emulate someone else, first ask yourself if you have the prerequisites.]
  128. Look for a black goat in the afternoon, otherwise she and darkness will be one and the same.
  129. If one starts to praise his wife, she becomes puffed up.
  130. The slave who sees that his companion is being buried with mbazu and laughs should know that things will be like that for him when his day comes.
  131. Suddenness overcomes the strong man.
  132. One whose house is burning does not chase rats.
  133. Pepper should not go to a shameful fight.
  134. One who sees an eagle should greet the eagle because one does not often set eyes on an eagle.
  135. When one scratches another person's child on the head, let his own not come out to the street.
  136. A child does not give birth to a first son before his father does.
  137. When an elder does not speak openly [hems and haws], he gives away the secret.
  138. It is the foolish child for whom the boundary of his father's land must be pointed out twice.
  139. When the foot goes fast, the eye must go fast in order to see it.
  140. If something is discussed too often, [even] a deaf person hears it.
  141. One who gathers ant-infested firewood is telling the lizard to come to his house.
  142. It is the one who had a strong say in things [is influential] who speaks loud; one who has no say swallows his words.
  143. The cow has no tail--his personal god chases away the flies for him.
  144. The matter that has been previously discussed needs only a nod of the head to agree to it.
  145. No one who scrapes the surface of a yam sticks the shovel into its back.
  146. The cow dung does not know that the adakada [brown beetle with thick shell] has entered it. [Refers to being unaware.]
  147. The poor, wretched person tells his god to come and take him away and kill him.
  148. The corn ripens for those who have no teeth. [Opportunities come to those who cannot make use of them.]
  149. The house-rat tells the bush-rat that fish is in the basket.
  150. When the palm fruit is being eaten, let us save some for the shy person.
  151. Bail out water when it is in the slow, dripping stage. [Nipping in the bud.] [Øogbügba øola = small ring, puddle]
  152. It is only the tree that, hearing that it is going to be killed, remains standing.
  153. If he had a nose he would have taken snuff.
  154. If a child sneaks up and burns me, I sneak up and burn him back.
  155. If one does not watch the small pot it boils over into the fire. [Don't underestimate the small pot.]
  156. A good market sells itself.
  157. One does not [have to] tell a deaf person that the market is on fire.
  158. The thing that a child is fond of will be his undoing.
  159. One who has diarrhea does not know a bad bush.
  160. If the dog persists stubbornly to the death, it does not allow him to perceive the smell of feces. [Heeds no warnings.]
  161. The chicken ignores the one who killed it and twists its neck [reproachful gesture] at the pot.
  162. When a proverb about raggedy basket is quoted, the emaciated person jumps into the discussion. [He takes it as referring to him.]
  163. The head splits, the stomach runs, which one is more serious than the other?
  164. The day that I look for a wife is when mad women are looking for husbands.
  165. The chicken says that it will not forget the one who plucked its tail feathers during the rainy season. (This means that one should not forget someone who has done something for him when he was in great need. It is to relieve a person from the great problem he has.)
  166. One who bathes in tears knows himself.
  167. Will I, because a yam-eater cooked breadfruit [low-status food], then call it elele [ground bean food of even lower status]?
  168. When one finds a woman for you, will he spread a mat for you too? [Do your part.]
  169. Where you bought pumpkin seed is where I went to buy pumpkin seed and pepper.
  170. When a strong man eats a palm kernel, one sees its shell. (This means that when a strong person does something, seeing it at that time you will know without being told. Seeing this deed is to believe that a strong man has done it.)
  171. Where one has come upon the corpses of two small birds, whatever kills small birds lives there. (This means that if something happens and happens again in the same place, this thing is not in vain. There is something or someone causing it, it is not happening by itself.)
  172. One uses small things to know big [deep] things. (Imurimu is petty things. Èimîrîmî is many things. This means that it is by small things that one learns how a person is. It can be that because of the money a man gave to one who eats with him, he tells him that he should go his own way.)
  173. What belongs to a person belongs to a person.
  174. There is nothing that the eye sees and weeps blood. [Nothing is that bad.]
  175. One who does not have a sore throat does not know thatone uses saliva to eat breakfast.
  176. When the rain has stopped falling, it runs down into a hole. [Everything clears up eventually.]
  177. When something dies, there was something that killed it.
  178. Lion says that Akara does not live in the forest.
  179. The grass that the goat's eye happens on first is what it will chew.
    380. The fufu, no matter how well it is pounded, does not make for good swallowing if the soup is not tasty.
  180. The broom is not important, but in the morning you look for it.
  181. If twenty men fall on top of me, I know the first one who falls on top of me. [Might also refer to attack.]
  182. When the birth traditions have been observed in another town, it is not good to return home without the child.
  183. The right hand washes the left hand, the left hand washes the right hand, they both are clean.
  184. One who eats watery food says that something thick should be cooked for him. (Pitipiti is something thick.)
  185. Where a child points his finger and cries, if his mother is not there his father will be there.
  186. The lizard wants to squat but its tail will not permit it.
  187. When the hawk flies up its shadow is on the ground.
  188. I have seen the road as a means of escape, but a woman calls it a place to run toward [for refuge].
  189. One does not stay beside a water pot and catch a frog.
  190. Whatever a woman gives birth to is what she will show to her husband.
  191. The ram says that walking is something to be done carefully.
  192. The door thought that it was the only thing that one entered, but it did not know that one entered the thick forest of tangled vines.
  193. Where there is a corpse the vultures will gather.
  194. When the bachelor finishes running from cleaning up the ashes, they still await him.
  195. The monkey traveled to the white man's land, returned, and was still a monkey.
  196. It is said that there is no wealth to marry a wife for a young man, yet the women of the house keep on giving birth to males.
  197. One knows when the market he patronizes is held.
  198. Rather than eat so much that I fall into the road, let me go hungry.
  199. One does not beat a child on the day he spills the oil, but rather on the day that he spills the yellow [inferior or crude] oil. [The punishment is for repeating the offense--not for the relative value of the oils.]


  1. What a person is causes his ____.
  2. When the herbalist keeps on preparing medicine and starts to tell amusing stories, it shows that he has reached the end of his knowledge of medicine. (This means that when a strong man who used to plant yams comes and starts to plant cocoyams, it shows that he has become a wretched, poor person [with mouth of ashes].)
  3. The greeting of the harmattan is around the fire. (The joy of the child is when he stays on his mother's body when there is no trouble.) [Mother free to give him attention.]
  4. When someone I have invited to come and eat washes his hands up to the arms, does he expect that I have food extending as far as the river?
  5. If you shake hands with a syphilitic person, he will want to embrace you.
  6. The bow that shoots the tiny bird should be given twenty small arrows.
  7. When the bachelor has finished dancing, the morning ashes [from last night's fire] are still waiting for him.
  8. The insect that refuses to hear [is stubborn] hears in the nest of the birds.
  9. If rhe rat jumps into the water with the lizard, the lizard dries off but the rat does not. (When a weak person joins a strong person in starting a quarrel, the strong person goes home and the weak person bears the trouble resulting from it.)
  10. The blacksmith who does not know how to make a gong should look at the butt of a gun. (One who is ignorant can learn by watching one who knows something.)
  11. When a chicken perches on a fence, the chicken dances and the fence dances [sways, rattles]. (No one who quarrels with another person has peace of mind.)
  12. Akîdî [similar to black-eyed pea] is not new food to the dove. (A corpse is nothing new to the earth.)
  13. One does not tell a bearded person not to lick okra soup, but rather that his mouth needs wiping. (One does not tell a wise person that disputation is bad, but rather that if he starts it, he must bear the consequences.)
  14. If the female sheep wants to grow horns, she must have a strong skull. (When a person starts to do something, he should see that his bag is heavy [presumably with money].) (One who eats a child's food tells him a sweet story [to distract him from the theft].) (Cf. One who becomes intimate with a woman does not know when he will let out a secret.)
  15. Always coming, coming, did not permit the duiker to sit down [It is a very active animal]. (Cf. Always doing, doing, did not permit the woman to grow a mustache.)
  16. Something happened to the big cocoyam that caused it to shout nwererem . [Refers to squeaking sound made as cocoyams dry.] (Things do not happen in vain.)
  17. It is not good for women to squat in a large gathering [undignified]. (To speak bad language in public is not good.)
  18. When the bachelor starts to cook and starts to gather calabashes, one [of those tasks] is unsuccessful. (When one does to two kinds of work at once, neither one is successful.)
  19. You do not use the way lizards lie on their stomachs to know which one is healthy. [All lizards lie the same way.] (You do not use the garments that are worn these days to know which people carry sickness.) [Possible explanation: People years ago wore different garments to indicate that they were carrying diseases.]
  20. When the stone flies up, the water pot is afraid. (When people start to make noise, they stop it when the chief enters.)
  21. If a person defecates without sharpening [squeezing to a point] the stool, it becomes useless. (When a man and his companion have a quarrel and it ends without settling it properly, the discussion is in vain.)
  22. One who chases after women has no hairs left on his head [He depletes his substance]. (One who is extremely fond of sweet things is unable to save even a halfpenny.)
  23. The woman who cooks ogiri knows which is the blind fly. (One who is a market trader knows which market] is most profitable.)
  24. One who gets two people together leads the spirits to kill one of them. (A trickster.)
  25. Where you went forogiri I have already gone for fire. (I have known what you knew.)
  26. The ancient spirit [old man], even if he [usually] does not run, will run when the sheep carries off his [smoking] pipe. (One who is weak [lazy] accomplishes something difficult when a pressing need arises.)
  27. The bat that does not perch when its companions perch is an odd bat. (One who does not do something when his companions do it is a person of odd behavior.)
  28. We do not take it that the leopard, in vanquishing the monkey, can then call the monkey-child's apple the leopard-child's apple. (We do not take it that a person, in helping someone else, can then tell the one who is being helped to answer to the name of the one who is helping him.)
  29. The arrow the child used to kill a bird--it was an adult who carved it. (Bad things are learned from bad people.)
  30. When the termite finished flying, it fell to the toad. (When the know-it-all has finished doing his best, he behaves like a normal human being.)
  31. The grasshopper that the plantain-eater [noisy bird] catches is deaf. (If it is known that leprosy is contagious, and a stubborn person and a person whom the sickness is killing eat and drink together, if the sickness infects him, that person brought it upon himself.)
  32. When a child stays near an adult, if he does not chew pepper he will chew kola nut. (One who stays near a knowledgeable person learns something from him.)
  33. The chicken that is carried on the head does not know the difficulties of walking. (One who is always given something or has something done for him does not know that things are difficult.)
  34. The rat that runs around the (imitation) coffin is trying to bring a fall on himself. (If one who looks for a quarrel encounters one who is stronger than he, the one who is stronger than he does one thing to him.) [Implication is that he gets a beating.]
  35. One uses a small cutting of yam in order totest the soil. (One learns about a person's behavior little by little.)
  36. One for whom the üsürügada is being played dances not knowing that üsürügada is a dance of the spirits. (One who is treated like a baby all the time does not know that he is being misled.)
  37. The flute-player must wipe his nose. (The worker, after working a while, stops to eat.)
    438. The chicken that was used to buy oil said that after buying, one should remember him. (The slave who is sensible enough to do something that yielded something good will be treated well.)
  38. Don't take away my axe from the [name of place] -- I do not use it to cut it. (Don't worry me because what I am saying is important.)
  39. When okra counts its time, it is mature. (One does not tell a young woman not to get pregnant when her time has come.)
  40. Rams lock horns [with each other]. (A ___ or a foolish person.)
  41. Ewumagala [an animal] said that he would not, because fire is burning the thick forest, fail to walk proudly [like a prominent citizen]. (One would not expect that, because outcasts are beautiful and have become proud people, a person who is not an outcast should become an outcast.)
  42. Gas that exposes a person sticks at the opening of the buttocks. (When one is going to put a person in trouble, there is no way that he can find that he will not try.)
  43. On hunting day the cane rat is hunted in its own path. (Let it be now, we shall see another day.)
  44. The cricket knows how to stop up the entrance to his hole [in the ground]. (When the time is reached that a trickster has completed his tricks, he takes the time to find out what he will do next.)
  45. When the lizard falls into a pit, he finds out who are his enemies. (When troubles befall a person, then he finds out those who love him and those who do not love him from the place where help is.)
  46. Borrowed oil is not enough for [lit. does not catch] the soup. (It is not good to do a thing half way.)
  47. If I shake hands up to the shoulder it turns into trouble. (If one starts a quarrel and crosses the boundary, it becomes a war.)
  48. Hot soup should be licked very slowly. (One should go slowly in doing something difficult.)
    450. One leg is not enough to support his mother's waist in a time of stress. (One who excels in knowledge does not know everything that happens in a day.) [Nobody knows everything.]
  49. As it is for someone with ringworm so it is for someone with crawcraw. The sheep is the counterpart of the goat. (Treat a person as others like him are treated, because all human beings are the same.)
  50. When sleep starts to be sweet [deep], snoring begins. (When husband and wife get along well in their lives, their pleasure knows no bounds, they do not know when they kissed each other.)
  51. When the mushroom starts to become a slave to the ground, it will sprout from the base of a large tree. (When a mischievous person finishes playing tricks, if trouble results, anything he is asked he will not know the meaning of.)
  52. When a great tree falls and breaks, the birds fly away. (When death kills the one who looks after the household, the people he was looking after run away because of fear of hunger.)
  53. The snail uses a smooth tongue in going over a thorn. (By going slowly one can avoid quarrels.)
  54. The muskrat scrapes palm nuts [with its teeth] when it is in labor. (When necessity pushes a man, he does not know when he begged an enemy for help.)
  55. If I am sent on an errand to deliver food, I deliver it, but if I am told to carry it on my head I refuse. (If there is someone I can help to release him from his difficulties [I will do so], but if it comes to supporting him further....)
  56. You have gathered together, you who eat the old vulture. (Wise people and their counterparts meet together.)
  57. When the pot is on the fire, the child [poor child, orphan] runs errands assiduously. (When a quarrel is taken to court, the clerks and the go-betweens [self-appointed intermediaries] are treated well.)
    460. The rat does not own the palm nut and the large squirrel does not own the palm nut, yet they both come and fight in the open. (It is like two men who come and start to fight about something that does not belong to them.)
  58. No matter how large the calf, it must kneel to suck at its mother's breast.
  59. Some people will sling sacks over their shoulders, come and kill snakes, then carry then in their hands. [Refers to not making good use of what people have.]
  60. If fire burns tortoise with his thick shell, how will it treat chicken whose leg is bare? (The trouble that befalls the wealthy man and doesn't let him recover, if it befalls a poor man it kills him.)
  61. A boil should not sprout up in the mouth of a flutist. (Let not bad things happen to a kind person in his work.)
  62. The small bird said that when young people learn to shoot without aiming, he will fly without perching. (When a person shows that he is wise, he is treated in such a way as to show that he does not know anything.)
  63. Where there is no cow, the sheep becomes one who moos. (In the land where [only] one person is wise, that person becomes chief over the others.)
  64. It is said that Okoroaføo is the sheep that goes around with goats. (He is foolish.)
  65. It is said that he is the stupid one [mee a refers to bleating sound] among his mother's children. (One whose isolation is more than that of others.)
  66. It is said he did to someone what the river toad did to the house toad. (Beating a person very well.)
  67. Do not underestimate the small pot that is boiling over on the fire. (The herbalist who is seen as a lizard's herbalist [quack] then kills people with poison.)
  68. If a dog is carried in a basket, he will chew up its cloth lining. (When one ignores a child, saying that he is ignorant, he does something very serious [life-affecting].)
  69. The water that remains in the broken pot remains there for the dog. (Cf. A lazy person goes here, there and everywhere, but his work still waits for him.)
  70. The herbalist is summoned to clear up the eyes, and he comes and puts in pepper. (It seems that if a girl is sent to be taken care of by a person, he/she comes and teaches her bad behavior.)
  71. The rat should not purposely chew the doctor's bag, and the doctor should not purposely curs the rat. (No one should provoke a quarrel with another person; if one knows his own way, let him say that things are peaceful.)
  72. One who reaches a land where people cut off their ears should cut off his own and contribut it. (One who travels to another land should behave as those people behave.) [When in Rome, do as the Romans do.]
  73. The toad does not call its companions wøokøom . (As it is for someone with ringworm, so it is for someone with crawcraw.) [The pot calling the kettle black.]
  74. It is said that hydrocele is not anything in the crotch (?); it is not something the head can carry.
  75. If it were not that this child and I were brothers, I would long ago have had him put in prison because of the bad things he does.
  76. If the tree did not strike the child in the back of the head, he would not know that the back of his head was sore. (One to whom nothing has happened is ignorant [of the ways of the world].)
  77. The tortoise fell into a pit of feces; when they came to take him out, he said that the smell was killing him. (Doing something quickly when it is unnecessary.)
  78. The thing that the chicken chases after when it is raining, that thing must be important to it. (A person striving and not avoiding anything in order to obtain what he needs.)
  79. If a hen's tail is plucked, the cock will be happy. (If someone helps me get what I want, I will be happy.)
  80. If a child is given something bigger than he is accustomed to, he asks if it has been given for him and someone else.
  81. The yam learns to burn me then I learn to open my mouth while eating it.
  82. Who is it who, after having salt placed in his mouth, will spit it out? [No one will refuse a good thing.]
  83. Where a child cries and points his finger, if his mother is not there his father is there.
  84. When one is from a village suffering famine, it is said that if someone starts to cook he says "puta;" if someone starts to scrape something out he says "pata." [He is so beset by hunger that he confuses verbs.]
  85. What a child cooks has too much salt; he does not cook mai mai .
  86. The goat who died said that his outer claws should be removed.
  87. It is the one who holds the handle of the knife who does the cutting.
  88. The cocoanut said that it knew how life would be, so it climbed upward with water inside it.
  89. A friend, rather than take meat from his friend and throw it away, should say that he will not eat.
  90. If all goats become useless and worthless, when the creditors come, which of them will they take?
  91. Where the knife is sharpest is where one strikes a blow with it. [Wears out faster there.]
  92. If one takes away a weak person's knife, he gives up being at home .
  93. A certain person was crossing a bridge, his knife fell into the water and he threw his sheath in as well, saying that when he pulled out his knife he would pull out his sheath.
  94. One who points at the feces has licked it.
  95. The drunken chicken has not seen a mad hawk. [Hawk is much worse.]
  96. One who plays about with a dog brings to it a large lump of feces.
  97. When the female goat chews the cud, her child watches her mouth.
  98. When the white chicken falls into yellow palm oil, its beauty is spoiled.
  99. When one finger is dipped into the oil, it soils all of them.
  100. If stubbing the foot against a rock brings good luck, let it [that kind of good luck] not come to me.
  101. One who says that he is the brother of a muskrat should cut off his [the muskrat's] mouth. [stop talking too much]
  102. Rather than fill my stomach and fall into the road, let me eat only a small amount.
  103. The person who carries both water and wine knows which one burns the head more.
  104. Rather than the yam be too strong [from undercooking], let the firewood be used up [in longer cooking].
  105. To continue wrestling for a long time does not show strength, but rather the one who wrestles a person down is the strong one.
  106. The young animal denies, the young wasp denies, what struck my dog blind?
  107. If water runs out and enters a small pond, and if water then runs out and enters a river, into what will the river enter?
  108. In a place where the thorn pierces the chicken, a human being cannot live.
  109. The millipede says that one who steps on it cries out, but it itself who was stepped on does not cry out.
  110. Does one tell the person who is chewing on dry food to drink water?
  111. I will not because I stay near the base of the ogele [bitter food] andsay that the ogele is not bitter.
  112. If the soup is good and the fufu is good, I have a boil in my throat.
  113. The foolish person does not know when the large portion of breadfruit is being divided.
  114. When a good mouth holds the hard lump it is like a lump of soft palm fruit.
  115. Tomorrow is pregnant. [No one knows the future.]
  116. The mother hen walks, her children run.
  117. When the chicken steps on her child, it does not kill it.
  118. One who mistreats an orphan -- will he take his own child with him when he dies? [He should remember that his own child remains behind to suffer for the father's behavior.]
  119. Because I smiled, did I say that the young woman should reject her husband? [One thing does not necessarily mean another.]
  120. A short person is the friend of children.

524.The dog that chases an automobile spoils its [the dog's] speed.

  1. If you want to see an old woman's teeth, give her sour wine.
  2. If you pull out the leach from behind the dog's ear but you do not show it to him, it is as though he were pinched with the fingernails. [Be honest.]
  3. If one is outrun by a snail [laziness], one who has meat should not give it to him.
  4. If people are afraid of a large-waisted person, who will marry her?
  5. Let's finish giving to those who are awake, then give to those who are asleep.
  6. One who holds me to the ground holds himself.
  7. When a blind person starts to lead a blind person, they fall into a pit.
  8. One who suffers from hydrocele does not defecate on ordinary ground .
  9. One who always wants to talk says that his mother is involved in her journey.
  10. If the chicken keeps on pecking at the ground, her neck becomes strained.
  11. One by one the house and the compound are filled up.
  12. One should sip hot soup slowly.
  13. If the chicken's egg breaks the palm kernel, the stone is covered with shame.
  14. If one counts one and then counts two [offenses], his knife slashes to the bone. [His revenge starts to get serious.]
  15. One who leaves quickly takes the light away quickly.
  16. The lobster says that it does not eat if it does not strike its head on the ground. [That is its method of killing its food.]
  17. The old woman who bears a child and groans is causing young women to be afraid.
  18. One does not tell a wise adult to get out of the sun.
  19. One who is foolish does not know that war means death.
  20. When an adult outgrows drinking cocoanut milk he drinks wine.
  21. One who shoots with gunpowder shoots out of his own bag. [He pays for what he does.]
  22. If an animal escapes today, tomorrow will be another hunting day.
  23. The day I come to hunt, the deer climbs upward [out of gunshot range]. [Hard-luck person]
  24. People who say, "Let me take a little," do not know that snuff is money.
  25. When the basket is untied, the meat is eaten.
  26. When the wildcat is driven away, you ask the chicken how far away it[the chicken] went. [Must have strayed far into the bush to attract a wildcar.]
  27. The one who saw the spirit knows how big his head was.
  28. When an old woman has a new cloth she goes to the dispute-settling meeting without being invited.
  29. One who tries to get something good done looks for the heart of the situation.
  30. The Igbo people have a proverb that says that when sleep starts to be sweet, one starts to snore.
  31. I am still of the belief that the hawk perches and the eagle perches, and the one that tells the other not to perch, let his wing break.
  32. If one stays under the vulture [in the rain?] but does not avoid [try to keep from] getting wet, the vulture is asked to shake its wings.
  33. There are two ears but they can not listen to two speeches [at the same time].
  34. When death wants to kill the beetle , it [the beetle] starts to fly on the ground. [Becomes stubborn about taking care of itself.]
  35. One who does not have a mother does not have his mother's friends either.
  36. After continual struggle the stomach ache kills a man and runs into the bush; when ever someone waits for it, it returns to the earth.
  37. One who sees someone with a fly perched on his mouth should leave it there--does he know whether it is something they eat?
  38. The muskrat that cures people should cure its own mouth.
  39. The pathway of the ©od?u [type of rat] should be for the odu; the pathway of the oguru [another type of rat] should be for the oguru..
  40. If one performs a sacrifice and does not see vultures, what about the young spirits? [Considered bad if spirits do not participate in the sacrifice.]
  41. One who because of a dog's head changes residence, then starts to clear the ground and sees the dog's head, is it a good thing?
  42. The cry that the farm owner should cry for the partridge; the partridge will cry for him. [Partridge is the one that eats the crop, yet it does the crying.]
  43. The cry of the bird when held in the hand is not the same as when it enters the forest.
  44. One who shoots a gun and falls to the ground is not a strong man.

569.The [lump of] fufu is afraid; it asks the green vegetable to accompany it.

  1. The market where a woman has a boyfriend, if she has not painted her body with uli she will not go there.
  2. One whose wife holds him in hunger, a fight with a gun is better than he.
  3. One who hunts an animal without someone to cover the flanks for him kills [only] an animal that has lost its way.
  4. One who has no kola nuts for an unexpected visitor will not have kola nuts for one who has made an appointment.
  5. One who has bad buttocks [therefore cannot sit down] denies a seat to one who has good buttocks.
  6. One who is praised by women uses "let us take this, let us take this" to claim goodness.
  7. It is not good for the palm nut and its brother to have something come between them.
  8. Tortoise knew what he did in using a knife [instead of his claws] to dig. [Behaving abnormally because of a bad deed.]
  9. One who suffers an attack of lice, scratching afflicts him so much that he does not know when feces are eaten. [avarara - onomatopoeic word]
  10. If the face is not good [as in bad mood], the back of the head eats kola.
  11. A rat and a cat who get along well together, when will they be friends better than brothers? [Never.]
  12. Calling a thorn by name at the time of its funeral.
  13. People use one thing to do another: if good wine is left overnight you add salt to it. [Requires a freshening agent.]
  14. It is not good for a leopard to wash its hands where the partridge bathes.
  15. Fire makes strong salt. [Blocks of salt were heated to strengthen them.]
  16. The old woman will find someone else in her own circumstances.
  17. Ham ma agawa je eji ije ogwo aløo.
  18. If one stays in the uni the antelope runs out.
  19. Mma mma [greeting] shows respect; greetings soothe the feelings [lit., heal sickness.]
  20. "Ha, ha" is an exterior thing [lit., laughed on top of the mouth], but love is in the heart.
  21. The tortoisee uses his common sense to reach the cooking stand.
  22. When there is only one chicken left, it stays under the bed [near home].
  23. If the rain permits, the moon will shine.
  24. Talk does not stay in the mind and still be pleasing. [Must be voiced.]
  25. It has been a long time since the arrow and the lizard started a fight; it the lizard had been the crying type, it would have cried.
  26. The things that happened yesterday are beyond the knowledge of a guest.


  1. Onye jee obodo ebi m nti, o biri nke ya tinye.

Literally: If one goes to a land where they cut off ears, he should cut off his own and contribute them. (When in Rome, do as the Romans do.)

  1. Ewu mmadu abuo nwere na-ehi ura nezi.

Literally: A goat owned by two people sleeps outside. (With joint ownership, each owner shunts his responsibility to the other, with the result that nothing gets accomplished.)

  1. Nwanyi umu iri o dighi ihe mere nabali o naghi ama.

Literally: When a woman has ten children, there is nothing that happens in the night that she does not know about.

  1. E lelia nwa ite, o gbonyua oku.

Literally: If you neglect the pot, it boils over and extinguishes the fire. (A small thing can do a lot of damage.)

  1. Mmecha ede abughi okuko.

Literally: Preparing cocoyams for planting does not mean that they are already planted. (Buying a lot of books does not mean that a person is educated.)



Fun To Learn Igbo


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