African proverbs

Proverbs from all of Africa.


  • Don't look where you fell, but where you slipped.
    • English equivalent: Today is yesterday's pupil.
    • Sr, Neil, Neil, Neal (2011). Police Instructor: Deliver Dynamic Presentations, Create Engaging Slides, \& Increase Active Learning. CreateSpace. p. 245. ISBN 1. 
  • Don’t set sail using someone else’s star.


  • Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
    It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
    Every morning a lion wakes up.
    It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
    It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
    When the sun comes up, you better start running.
    • Thomas L. Friedman, The World Is Flat (2005–2006), Ch. 2, Flattener #6 (p. 137 in the 2006 edition)


  • If one knows thee not or a blind man scolds thee, do not become angry.
    • Anonymous (claimed to be an African proverb by The Journal of Negro History, Volume I. Jan. 1916[1])
  • It takes a whole village to raise a child.
    • Popularized in English by Hillary Clinton's 1996 book, It Takes a Village. Although sayings with similar purport are found in various African cultures, the authenticity of this expression's African origin is debatable.[2][3]
  • It is a bad child who does not take advice.
    • English equivalent: Advice most needed is the least heeded.
    • Stone (2006). Routledge Dictionary of World Proverbs. Taylor \& Francis. p. 8. 




  • The sun is the king of torches.
    • West African proverb, quoted in Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages : Classified Subjectively and Arranged Alphabetically (1887) by Robert Christy, p. 322
  • Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.
    • Prospectus, Goldman (2011). Baseball Prospectus 2011. John Wiley \& Sons. p. 496. ISBN 0470622067. 


  • You condemn on hearsay evidence alone, your sins increase.
    • Latin equivalent: When in doubt, in favour of the accused.
    • Anonymous quoted in Apropos of Africa : Sentiments of Negro American Leaders on Africa from the 1800s to the 1950s (1969) edited by Adelaide Cromwell Hill and Martin Kilson

See alsoEdit

Last modified on 14 March 2014, at 10:04