List of African words of wisdoms (proverbs) you may not have heard
Photo credit: David Stanley
Photo credit: David Stanley

Noteworthy is the fact that from ancient times, African proverbs have been used to convey messages during important conversations or meetings. It is believed that these sayings popularly referred to as ‘words of wisdom’ (proverb) comes from the wise and it takes only the wise to comprehend it.

Over the years, proverbs have become associated with the wise, the elderly and grey haired who pride themselves as custodians with a vast knowledge of these proverbs and more often than not, these words of wisdom are usually used to advise a child or youth as it is believed that a message appears clearer when passed using a proverb.

Be that as it may, it is somewhat of a tradition in Africa for one to tell a proverb and provide an interpretation or meaning to it.

In the light of the foregoing however, I bring to you some of Africa’s thrilling words of wisdom.


1. He who does not know one thing, knows another

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


2. Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both legs

Interpretation: you do not jump straight into a situation without giving it a proper thought.


3. It takes a whole village to raise a child

Interpretation: The society is responsible for the moral character it creates and everyone in a community should be responsible for helping to train a child regardless of who the parents are; offering corrections where they are needed.


4. When a King has good counsellors, his reign is peaceful

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


5. A common snake which a man sees all alone may become a python in his eyes

Interpretation:  One man’s account is not enough to judge a case

6. It requires a lot of carefulness to kill the fly that perches on the scrotum

Interpretation:  Always give your actions a thought before executing it.


7. The same sun that melts the wax, hardens the clay

Interpretation: The same problem that will cause you to cry will someday inspire you to be someone.


8. Don’t set sail using someone else’s star

Interpretation: Do not try to initiate someone, be yourself. Be original


 9. If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything

Interpretation: Any position needs to be defended


10. An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep’’

Interpretation: It is important not what society consists of, but who operates it

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