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Today is International Mother Language Day: Nigerian Proverbs

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Sunday, February 21st, 2016
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Malu ti o niru, Olorun lo’n ba le eshin — Yoruba
Cow wey no get tail, na God dey help am drive fly. —- Pidgin

Translation – God helps the tailess cow drives away flies bothering it, as in God helps the helpless

Ye ye a’ re gbe’ efen no’ vba ahe —– Ishan lang.

Sofry sofry na im dem dey take kill rat wey dey inside pot. —-pidgin

One needs to take great care to kill a rat hiding in a clay pot as in patience and introspect is required in dealing with a delicate situation.

When pickin begin dey answer im papa back, know say im don dey do the tin wey papa and mama dey do —- Pidgin

If a child begins to answer his or her parent back rudely, it is likely that s/he has started indulging in adult activities as in sudden bad behaviour from a child is a likely indication of deeper issues.

Old man wey dey carry small girl no suppose complain when di girl slap am for public.- Pidgin

An old man that likes sleeping with young girls should zip and not complain when he is disrespected in public, as in familiarity breeds contempt.

A kì í bó sínú omi tán ká máa sá fún òtútù. – Yoruba

Translation: One does not enter into the water and then run from the cold.
Precautions are useful only before the event. not after the event, Meaning try and avoid circumstances that can be avoided

A kì í fi ètè sílè pa làpálàpá. – Yoruba

Translation: One does not ignore leprosy to treat a rash.
More serious problems deserve more immediate attention, focus on the important issues first

Bí a bá fi ọwó òtún na ọmọ, à fi ọwó òsì fà á móra.- Yoruba

Translation: If one whips a child with the right hand, one embraces it with the left.
A child deserving punishment yet deserves love,meaning admonish your kids however still let them feel loved.

Igba wo ni ma’i ku o’ni ku —– Yoruba

Translation: When will death not be, as in, what will be will be or death is inevitable.

Dem no dey tell blind man say market don close, when im no hear voices im go sabi. – Pidgin

Translation: There is no need to tell a blind man that the market has closed he will know when he no longer hears voices as in the handwriting is on the wall or that people will learn through experience.

Na who marry cripple, know as im dey take sleep with am – Pidgin

Translation: Only s/he who is married to a crippled spouse, knows how they manage their sexual life as in people’s bussiness is theirs and theirs alone or where there is a will, there is always a way.

Aseju ni irun ehin (Yoruba)

Translation: Na overdo dey cause man to grow hair for back

Nwaagadi nwanyi anaghi echefu egwu o muru n’agbogh (Igbo).

An old woman never forgets the dance she learnt (how to dance) in her youth). The fact that the old woman (still) remembers or knows the dance suggests her possession of admirable mental capacity.

Nwa-agbogho Ugwuta si nne ya na otu nwoke ka ya na-agara onwe ya, o wee tuburu ya raa. Nne ya wee si ya gaa rakwuru. O gaa, a rachie ya ozo -(Igbo).

An Ugwuta (Oguta) girl told her mother that as she was going on her way, a man came and thew her down and sexed (raped) her. Her mother told her to go and retaliate. She went, and was sexed (raped) again.
Context: The proverb presents the sexual vulnerability (helplessness or powerlessness) of
women, which she fails to recognize to her own detriment due to her assumed weakness in reasoning.

Gbogbo alangba lo d’anu dele, a ko mo eyi t’inu nrun – Yoruba

Translation: All lizards lie flat on their stomach and it is difficult to determine which has a stomach ache
Everyone looks the same on the outside however everyone has problems that are invisible to outsiders.
Bí abá so òkò lójà ará ilé eni ní bá – Yoruba

Translation: He who throws a stone in the market will hit his relative
Sometimes we aim for one target, however we end up making the target close to home

Bi omode ba laso tagba, ko le ni akisa tagba – Yoruba

Translation: If a child has as man clothes as an elder, he cannot have as many rags as an elder
In a nut shell an elder has more experience than a child or a younger person.

Ba mi na omo mi, ko de ni olomo – Yoruba

Translation: Help me discipline my child, is not a heartfelt remark from the mother
Yes this one is true for mothers they may complain about the kid however do not try to punish the child the mother will clam up… no be village dey train pickin nowadays anymore

Oga ta, Oga o ta, owo alaru a pe – Yoruba

Translation: Whether the master sells or not, the servants wages are guaranteed
This is true in all business at the end of the month the employer has to pay the employee regardless business booms or not.

When a tse-tse fly perches on ones balls,it takes great skill not force to kill it.

Translation: Certain things need to be done without the use of force ,so one does not hurt oneself in the process of taking care of ones assets.

Dan gwobe ake wanke tuku yan yau —-Hausa

Translation: The pot is washed in readiness for tomorrow as in planning for tomorrow or planning ahead

Rana bata keriya, sai uwa iya. —– Hausa

Translation: Time never lies, but a girls’mother. As in a parent for instance privaricating by promising to girl her daughter in marriage at a later time in the future. That time will sure come to pass so time in that context never lies

Omo ti ko n’iya, kii d’egbo eyin – Yoruba

Translation: A motherless child does not go into the evil forest.
Meaning in general, try not to get yourself into situations you cannot get out of all by yourself, if there’s no one around to help you.

Akẹ́yinjẹ ò mọ̀ pé ìdí ńro adìẹ. – Yoruba

Translation: The person who gathers eggs to eat does not know that the chicken’s orifice hurts.
Translation: (One should never be so preoccupied with one’s own pleasures that one does not care what they cost others.)

Aro to nmu oogun iyagbe, orun elese meji ni o nmu si. – Yoruba

Translation: A cripple drinking medicine to purge his stomach is doing so because people with two functional legs are nearby.
The person engaging in an act that may bring future trouble is probably doing so because of the assurance that his kinsmen will give him support when the trouble arrives.

Idobale o ra keke, ekun sisun ko dele ana. – Yoruba
Translation: Prostrating for a bicycle dealer does not mean he will give it to you free while weeping at the the house of your prospective in-laws does not guarantee that they will give you their daughter just like that.
This means that feasible solutions should be found to issues and that serious issues should never be trivialized.

Bi eniyan o bale ko fi han omo iya re, obakan ko ni saa fun. – Yoruba

Translation: If you fail to convince people that you will stand on your principles by showing example with your own siblings, your half-brothers and other family members will never take you serious.
This means that you should not discriminate when it comes to holding on to your principles as flip-flopping will lose you credibility.

Bi irugbon alagbase ba gun to koja igunpa, eni gboko fun san loga e. – Yoruba

Translation: If the beard of the labourer is as long as that of Osama bin Laden, the owner of the work he is contracted to do is still the boss.
This means that you may be more qualified or older or more handsome or more beautiful than your boss but he or she remains the boss because he or she is the one paying your wages.

Ese giri nile Anjofe, Anjofe ku, a o ri enikan. – Yoruba

Translation: People will flock to any place where it possible to freeload, once the freebies are over, they will disappear .

Bi omode ba su imi buruku, a si ja ewe esinsin afi nu idi fun. – Yoruba

Translation: A child who pass very bad or very smelly excreta deserves to have his anus cleaned with esinsin (very irritating plant) leaves.
In context, the punishment to be meted out to a criminal should commensurate with the level of crime committed.

Adoni laya ko n gba ero rere seni. – Yoruba

Translation: Someone committing adultery with your wife is definitely an enemy.
In context,  anyone committing an act calculated to humiliate you shoud be mercilessly treated.

A nri were sa, were ni ti a ba de oke oja ki a duro de oun. – Yoruba

Translation: We are running away from the madman, the madman in turn says we should wait for him when we get to the market junction

Sisu ojo l’apere fun aditi; kiku ti ojo nku l’orun fun anfaani afoju ni, ki o baa le mo wipe nkan mbo – Yoruba

Translation: The darkening of the clouds is a sign to the deaf while the rumblings in the clouds is a sign to the blind that the rains are coming

Eniti won ba fi ori re fo agbon kii bawon je ninu e – Yoruba
Translation: He whose head has been used to crack open the coconut cannot share of the delicacy

Omo ti baba re se obe ti o ni iyo o dun, Itan nkan ti o le iya re lo lo fee gbo! – Yoruba
Translation: A young man who disparages his dad’s cooking tempts the dad to reveal the unpalatable truth that forced the mum out

A kii ni oko n’ile ki a fi owo ko imi – Yoruba
Translation: You don’t own a spade and use you hand to pack s-h-i-t

Ti won ba fun were l’oko, abe ara re ni o koko ro si – Yoruba
Translation: If you give a mad man a hoe, he would always pack the mound under himself

Agbalagba ti o sare ninu egun, ti o ba le nkan, dajudaju nkan lo n’lee – Yoruba
Translation: When an adult takes flight in a field of thorns, he’s either chasing something or something is chasing him

Eniti eegun ban le ki o maa roju, bi o tin re ara aye, bee na lo nre ara orun – Yoruba
Translation: Whoever is being pursued by a masquerade should persevere; the heavenly being and the earthly being will both tire out at some point

Oun ti o wun mi ko wun e, l’omu ki omo iya meji maa dana otooto – Yoruba
Translation: We all have different tastes, that is why two siblings will decide to eat different things

Bi eni ti ri, ola le ma ri bee, lo nmu babalawo d’ifa ojoojumo – Yoruba
Translation: No two days and corresponding challenges are the same; that’s why the priests consults the gods on a daily basis

Ti a ba gunyan ninu ewe, ti a se obe ninu eepo epa, eniti o maa yo a yo – Yoruba
Translation: If we pound yam inside leaves and prepare the soup in a groundnut’s shell, whoever will be satisfied will be satisfied

Oun ti o ba jo ara laa fi we ara won: eepo epa jo posi eliiri – Yoruba
Translation: We should always compare like for like ‘ the groundnut’s shell can be compared to a small rat’s coffin

Ona lo jin, eru naa ni baba – Yoruba
Translation: The slave may be far away from home, it is certain that s(he) also has a father

Oju lo nkan omo ole ti o nda ajo; eyi ti gbogbo ara ilu da, baba re lo nbo wa ko – Yoruba
Translation: The thief’s son who joins others to put money in a local bank is only impatient, the bank would eventually be burgled by his/her dad and the entire money will end up in their house

Eniti o ta ofa soke ti o yi odo b’ori, bi oba aye o rii ti orun nwo – Yoruba
Translation: Whoever shoots an arrow into the sky and dives under the mortar should realise that if no one sees him/her on earth, the God of heaven is watching

Ona kan o wo oja, oun ni ifa ti a da fun kafinter ti o tun n’gun ope – Yoruba
Translation: A market does not only have one entry/exit point ‘ that is why a carpenter will also work as a palmwine tapper

Ai le ja ni ita baba mi o de ibi, ojule baba eni kii gbeja eni – Yoruba
Translation: Only a coward claims lack of home advantage as an excuse for not duelling in a one-on-one fight

Ai rin jinna ni ko je ka ri abuke okere, ti a bar in jinna, aa ri abuke erin – Yoruba
Translation: It is because we have not travelled far enough that we haven’t found a hunch-backed squirrel. If you travel far enough, you will even see a hunch-backed elephant

Eniti o ti de oko baba elomiran ri, lo ma nso wipe ko si oko ti o tobi to ti baba oun – Yoruba
Translation: It’s only someone who has not seen the extent of another man’s farm that will always boast that his dad’s farm is the biggest in the world

Ogun ni maa nsi eni mu, epe kii si eni pa – Yoruba
Translation: Someone can get killed inadvertently in a war, but a curse doesn’t affect anyone inadvertently

Elenu rirun lo ni amu iya e – Yoruba
Translation: You don’t pick issues with someone with offensive mouth odour over the use of his/her mother’s water jar

Ti ko ba ni owo aye ninu, omo ojo mejo o gbodo ya were – Yoruba
Translation: It is highly abnormal for an 8-day old baby to exhibit symptoms of madness

Ti ode ba ro ise ro iya, t’o ba pa eran ko ni fun eni kankan je – Yoruba
Translation: If a hunter considers what he goes through to make a kill, he will never let anyone partake of the meat

Bi ewure se ri ode fin, ti agborin ba dan iru e wo a pare ninu igbo – Yoruba
Translation: If a giraffe treats a hunter with the same contempt and lack of fear as a goat, it would become extinct

 A’i rin l’owowo lo nje omo ejo n’iya ‘ Ti oka ba siwaju, ti sebe tele, ti ojola wa na ruru bo lehin, omo baba ta lo le duro? – Yoruba
Translation: Snakes get killed because they are not organised. If a python leads the way in a group, followed by the cobra, with the boa constrictor keeping rear-guard, will anyone be able to stand them?

Bi iku ile o pani, ti ode o’le pani – Yoruba
Translation: If an inside death doesn’t kill you an outside one won’t succeed in killing. As is outsiders can only get or hurt you if you’re betrayed from inside. Just like Jesus was betrayed by one of his inner caucus disciple Judas to the Romans

Eni ri n’kan he, to fe ku kpe lu e, owo eni to ti sonu nko? – Yoruba

Translation: Some one that found a lost item and wants to die on account of it, what should the person who lost it in the first instance, do. As in stressing/killing oneself over what does not actually belong to one.

A tale oma hon, o le gbo vbo’han, a mei, oma ta o’le gbo ohua – Ishan

Translation: A child is told and doesn’t listen is what kills a child and an elder sees wrong and keeps quiet is what kills the elder

Ask for a camel when you expect to get a goat

Translation: It means aim high even when you expect to settle for less as in demanding higher than you want as a negotiating

E’ma len ono yu, no ya – Ishan

Translation: I don’t know who is dead, that is smelling. As in am I bothered naah!!!, I don’t give a shite what or who you are or own. Mumsy uses this a lot in situation where someone thinks they are “it” like in delusion of grandeur.

Yoruba Proverbs and Their Meaning

Eera ko fe poroporo denu; kin kinni l’omo araye n fe ni mo

Translation: The ants do not truly like the cornstalk,so is the love of other people minimal

Epe ibinu ko pa odi

Translation: Cursing a deaf in anger has no effect

Ero ona ni royin oka to gbo

Translation: Passers-by are the first to bring the news that the corn is ripe

Eti baba nile, eti baba l’oko;eniyan ni i je be

Translation: Father hears everything because people tell him

Ewure ti n je alubosa,oju ni i nkan; kini won yoo fi se

Translation: A goat that eats onions is just in a hurry,is that not the ingredient with which it will be cooked?

Ewure wo alapata bi ko ku

Translation: The goat looks at the butcher and wished him dead

Eyi ko t’ofo,eyi ko t’ofo; fila imale ku peeki

Translation: The loss is small, the loss is minimal culmulated in the smallness of the muslim’s cap

Eyin to ta yo,wahala enu ni.

Translation: A protruded teeth is a problem to the mouth
Igbo Sayings And Their Meaning
Eze mbe si na e jighi ehi kwa nne ya di na nso, mana a si ya wete na ya enweghi.
lit: The (king) tortoise said it is an abomination not to conduct his mother’s funeral with a cow, but if asked to produce one he couldn’t afford it.
Exp: Emphasizing the importance of the necessity of an object even though one cannot afford it.

Eze mbe si na nsogbu bu nke ya, ya jiri kworo ya n’azu
Lit: The tortoise said that trouble is its own; that’s why it carries trouble on its back
Exp: One should try and shoulder one’s own burden

Eze mbe si na olu oha di mma, mana oriri oha na-aka ahu.
Lit: The tortoise said that many hands at work is enjoyable, but many mouths to feed can be embarrassing.
Exp: A warning that it is not easy to feed the multitude.

Eze mbe si na ihe ya ji-achiri ihe egwu ya aga njem bu maka ya ezu ndiegwu
Lit: The tortoise said that it always travels with its musical instrument in case it meets other musicians.
Exp: Stressing a state of maintaining a state of preparedness.

Nwaanyi muta ite ofe mmiri mmiri, di ya amuta ipi utara aka were suru ofe.
Li: If a woman decides to make the soup watery, the husband will learn to dent the foofoo before dipping it into the soup.
Exp: one should learn to change tactics to suit a situation.

O na-abu a si nwata wuba ahu, o saba afo ya.
Lit: Tell a child to wash his body, he washes his stomach.
Exp: This is a sign of immaturity.

Agwo emeghi nke o jiri buru agwo, umuaka achiri ya hie nku.
Lit: If a snake fails to show its venom, little kids will use it in tying firewood.
Exp: There are times when one defends ones capability.

Akwukwo juru n’ohia, ma a baa a choba okazi.
Lit: There are various leaves in the bush, but people go in to look for okazi leaves.
Exp: Many are called but few are chosen.

Ekpere niile bere n’Amen.
Lit: All prayers end in Amen.
Exp: The essence of true religion is righteousness.

Onwu egbuchughi ji e jiri chu aja, e mesie o pue ome.
Lit: If the yam used in sacrifice does not die prematurely, it will eventually germinate.
Exp: Things will eventually improve despite the present difficulties.

O te aka o di njo, emesie o ga-adi mma.
Exp: Things will eventually improve despite the present difficulties.

Aka a na-ana dike bu itube ya (abuba) ugo.
Lit: Appropriate handshake for the valiant is to cap him with an eagle (feather).
Exp: Noble deeds should be appreciated.

Azu na-eloghi ibe ya adighi ebu.
Lit: A fish that does not swallow other fishes does not grow fat.
Exp: There are occasions where one acts without qualms.

Isi kotara ebu ka ebu na-agba.
Lit: It is the head that disturbs the wasp that the wasp stings.
Exp: Used in warning trouble makers about serious consequences.

E tie dike n’ala, a nu uzu ya.
Lit: Knock a valiant man on the ground and the shouts will be tremendous.
Exp: The downfall of a famous man attracts public attention.

O bu mmuo ndi na-efe na-egbu ha.
Lit: It is the deity that people worship that kills them.
Exp: A reference to the efficacy of people’s belief.

O na-abu akota ihe ka ubi, e lee oba.
Lit: Whilst farming, if one encounters what is bigger than the farm, one sells the barn.
Exp: One who incurs what is beyond one’s ability may sell all one has.

E gbuo dike n’ogu uno, e ruo n’ogu agu e lote ya.
Lit: Kill a warrior during skirmishes at home, you will remember him when fighting enemies.
Exp: Don’t destroy your leaders.

Ewu nwuru n’oba ji abughi agu gburu ya.
Lit: A goat that dies in a barn was not killed by hunger.
Exp: He has the means but his undoing is laziness.

A ma ka mmiri si were baa n’opi ugboguru?
Lit: Who knows how water entered into the stalk of the pumpkin?
Exp: Who can explain this puzzle.

A chuo aja ma a hughi udele, a mara na ihe mere be ndimmuo.
Lit: If the vulture fails to hover at the end of a sacrifice, then you know that something happened in the land of spirits.
Exp: The regulars must be around otherwise something is amiss.

Si kele onye nti chiri; enu anughi, ala anu.
Lit: Salute the deaf; if the heavens don’t hear, the earth will hear.
Exp: Let us do the correct thing, there are those who will understand.

Nwunye awo si na di atoka uto, ya jiri nuta nke ya kworo ya n’azu.
Lit: The female toad said that husband is so sweet that when she got married, she carried her husband permanently on the back.
Exp: A humorous proverb used in cajoling women into loving their husbands.

Ugo chara acha adi(ghi) echu echu
Lit: A mature eagle feather will ever remain pure.
Exp: One well trained will stand the test of time.

Onyeubiam adi(ghi) aza “Omeokachie.”
Lit: An indigent does not take the title of “Omeokachie” (i.e. one who completes whatever he puts his hand to)
Exp: Used in condemning false claims.

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