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Igbo proverbs

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Here is a list of Ibo proverbs. You can add yours to the list by following the example of the already existing ones.

  1. The shaky bridge
  2. Wisdom is like a goat skin bag, every man carries his own.
  3. If the lizard of the house doesn't do the thing for which it is known it will be mistaken for a lizard of the farmland.
  4. Do not be like the little nza bird that ate and drank and challenged his personal god to a single combat.
  5. No matter how strong or great a man is he would never challenge his god.
  6. The man who carries the deity is not a king.
  7. He who brings an ant-ridden firewood home, should not grumble when lizards pay him a visit.
  8. An adult does not sit and watch while the she-goat suffers the pain of childbirth tied to a post.
  9. A disease that has never been seen before cannot be cured with everyday (herbs) medicine.
  10. What a man does not know is greater than he.
  11. The world is like a mask dancing, if you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place.
  12. An animal more powerful than nte was caught in nte's trap.
  13. A man who has no where to put his hand for support puts it on his own knees.
  14. The puppy attempted to answer two calls at once and broke his jaw in the process.
  15. The eneke-nti-oba, when asked by his friends why he was always on wing said, ‘Man of today has learnt to shoot without missing and I have learnt to fly without perching'.
  16. As soon as we shake hands with a leper he will want an embrace.
  17. The frog does not run in the afternoon for nothing, if something is not chasing it, then it is chasing something.
  18. Slowly, slowly, the hot soup is licked.
  19. The dog that barks a lot hardly bites.
  20. He who eats palm kernels in the morning understands the language of famine.
  21. Preparing coco-yams for planting does not mean that they are already planted.
  22. The death of a puppy hardly allows it to perceive the odour of faeces.
  23. If you see an udala fruit beside a mould of shit, pluck a leaf and cover the shit, and take your fruit.
  24. It is he whose moustache is on fire who smells the burning.
  25. It is the mother whose son has been eaten by a witch who best knows the evils of witch-craft.
  26. How can a man for whom a fire has been lit by his enemies go and rub oil on himself and lie close to the fire.
  27. Ignorance is the privilege of youth: alertness is the virtue of the old.
  28. When the cockroach hides itself in a basket of beans, it thinks it is safe but one day that basket will be opened and the cockroach will reveal itself.
  29. No matter how deep you dive into water to eat banana, the skin will surface.
  30. Softly, softly, least the egg breaks in the delivery.
  31. The child who says his mother will not sleep, will himself not sleep.
  32. You don't have to tell a deaf man that war has broken out.
  33. One man cannot battle a multitude but a multitude can cope with any situation.
  34. A tsetse fly perched on the scrotum must be chased away with extreme care.
  35. The itch in the eye must be done with extreme caution.
  36. The secret between a man and his wife is always revealed at the ninth month.
  37. A goat owned by two people sleeps outside.
  38. If dusk doesn't come one cannot blame the day.
  39. Tomorrow is pregnant none knows what it will give birth to.
  40. A lost black sheep must be searched for in the daylight.
  41. Let the grunt take over speech.
  42. It is water which drowns people it is still water people must drink.
  43. When a woman has ten children, there is nothing that happens in the night that she does not know about.
  44. When the rhythm of a drum changes, the dance steps change also.
  45. It is only when you kill a mad man that you will find out that he has relatives.
  46. A barrage of stones to the pear tree does not kill it.
  47. When a mad man walks naked on the streets, it is usually his relatives that become ashamed.
  48. Do not scratch the itching eye with what you scratch the ear.
  49. A bird that flies from the ground onto an anthill, does not know that it is still on the ground.
  50. The woman gets lost in the woods one day, and every wood deity dies the next.
  51. If the tortoise cannot tumble, it does not mean that it cannot stand.
  52. Until the finger nails scrape the dust, one cannot tell which insect released its bowels.
  53. Where something stands something else stands beside it.
  54. None dare touch the tail of a lion whether it alive or dead.
  55. He who waits for a chance may wait for a long time.
  56. A man who did not know where the rain began to beat him will not know where he dried his body.
  57. It is those whose legs go to the river that the river can drown.
  58. You do not beat a child and at the time order her not to cry.
  59. The poor man said that the meat was sandy simply because he had no money to pay for it.
  60. The crab may swim across big and small rivers but it will eventually end up in an old woman's soup pot.
  61. "Blow that child's eyes off", is an order easier given when the child concerned is not your own.
  62. The man who is murdered by his kinsman does not bleed.
  63. A town that throws a public party when a woman buys an enamel wash basin is capable of anything.
  64. The chicken does not forget the person who plucked its tail feathers during the rainy season.
  65. "Let the smoke carry the point."
  66. A child is not flogged the day he throws away palm oil, it is the day he throws the liquid waste from the oil that he receives the cane.
  67. Who gave the toad the privilege of wearing a coat?
  68. Do not predict that my pitcher will break even before I get to the stream.
  69. A man who wakes in the morning and finds himself being pursued by a chicken, should run for his life for who knows whether the chicken grew teeth overnight.
  70. You either lick your lips or the hammattan licks them for you.
  71. The rat which accompanies the lizard to the stream for a swim should ensure that it leaves the river with a dry skin like the lizard.
  72. When the cricket knows the crime it has committed, it dabs white-wash round its eyes.
  73. The rat says it has no objection to being killed, what it requests is that it should be killed in the same manner as its fellow animals.
  74. The breadfruit which chooses to fall on the day of festivity has not fallen early enough.
  75. Count your teeth with your tongue.
  76. One can tell the tree on which the bird would finally perch from the angle at which the bird inclined its wing in flight.
  77. The chicken is now cooked except for the legs.
  78. The rain made the strong man's drum sound so lifeless.
  79. When a child receives a hair-cut the size of his head becomes obvious.
  80. A man who has just come in from the rain and dried his body and put on dry cloths is more reluctant to go out again than another who has been indoors all the time.
  81. If you look only in one direction your neck will become stiff.
  82. When one slave sees another cast into a shallow grave he should know that when the time comes he will go the same way.
  83. If you fail to take away a strong man's sword when he is on the ground, will you do it when he gets up?
  84. It is only when you are close to man that you can begin to smell his breath.
  85. If the corpse does not fill the grave, we cover what is left with earth.
  86. A man who lives alone is either always overworked, or always overfed.
  87. A mad man sometimes speaks a true word but watch him, he will soon add something to it that will tell you his mind is still spoilt.
  88. When an old woman hears the dance she knows very well, her old age deserts her.
  89. It is curiosity that earned the monkey a bullet in the forehead.
  90. What one dog said to another is, if I fall for you this time and you fall for me next time, then I know it is play not fight.
  91. A goat does not eat into a hen's stomach no matter how friendly the two may be.
  92. It is too much praise that killed the puppy.
  93. One who buys from a relative does not often make a good purchase.
  94. What a young man cannot see standing atop a tall iroko tree, the experienced aged fellow already observes squatting on the grass mat or goat skin on the ground.
  95. When a chicken arrives at a new dwelling place, it first stands on one leg and watches what other chickens do. It needs a hand to turn the forest into a dwelling place.
  96. The offspring of a snake cannot be short.
  97. If a child either resembles his mother or father, was he thrown into the compound from the back yard?
  98. It is impossible for a person to be cooking food and at the same time tapping palm wine.
  99. The corpse is not a new thing to the soil.
  100. The lizard that fell from the top of the iroko without hurting itself deserves praise.
  101. When the kola nut reaches home it will say from where it came.
  102. He who brings kola nut brings life. The king's kola is in the kings hands.
  103. Is it that Mgbeke does not know how to cut or that the blade was blunt?
  104. Whoever tells a deaf man that disorder has broken out in the market?
  105. I didn't call you out here to poke a stick at my ulcer.
  106. He who bends down to look at the anus of another should remember that some other person may be looking at his.
  107. If one goes to a land where they cut off ears, he should cut off his own and contribute them.
  108. There is nothing that can happen in one part of the world which does not happen somewhere else.
  109. Since we cannot run away from the world, we must face whatever comes our way.
  110. A child who does not resemble his mother must resemble his father.
  111. The time has come to break the controversial coconut.
  112. Blinding flashes of lightening means an impending storm.
  113. If you neglect the pot, it boils over and extinguishes the fire.
  114. You have painted our faces with charcoal (shame).
  115. She is waiting for you just as water in a broken pot waits for a dog to drink it.
  116. Now that you have eaten the thing that kept you awake, let me watch you sleep.
  117. No one learns how to use his hand at old age.
  118. An elder who fails to open his mouth when he should speak will not escape the wrath when he should rest.
  119. When mother cow is cropping grass, her young one watches her mouth.
  120. It is the person whose head is being shaved that feels the pain in the neck.
  121. Not only had he eaten a toad but he had eaten a scraggy one.
  122. What is the best way of carrying a child with a fractured waist
  123. A woman who is pleasant to look at may not be good in the house.
  124. It is better to open your eyes and says you do not understand than to shut your eyes and say you do not believe.
  125. A toad does not jump around in the daytime, unless something is after its life.
  126. A man who has not secured a place on the floor should not begin to look for a mat.
  127. A yam that is destined to burn shall surely burn whether it is roosted or boiled.
  128. Where the wine visits, there it shall stay.
  129. A bird is not beaten by the rain in its nest.
  130. When a child eats a toad, it kills his appetite for meat.
  131. A proverb about a tattered basket makes a man in rags nervous.
  132. time waits on no man.
  133. Never assume or you will make an ass of you and me.

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