100 Igbo Proverbs and Their Meanings

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Written By Blessing Okoro

 

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Do you want to know what Igbo proverbs and their meanings look like? We have some examples in this article that you will enjoy reading. You will enjoy them because they capture the essential meaning of the experiences from which they were derived.

Igbo proverbs (Ilu Igbo) are idiomatic expressions that enrich the Igbo language when used. So look through the list of Igbo proverbs and their meanings that we have put together and see what you can make of it.

Igbo Proverbs and Their Meanings

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1.   Eze mbe si na nsogbu bu nke ya, ya jiri kworo ya n’azu 

Literal meaning: The tortoise said that trouble is its own; that’s why it carries problems on its back

2.       Nwaanyi muta ite ofe mmiri mmiri, di ya amuta ipi utara aka were suru ofe. 

Literal meaning: If a woman decides to make the soup watery, the husband will learn to dent the fufu before dipping it into the soup.

3.        O na-abu a si nwata wuba ahu, o saba afo ya. 

Literal meaning: Tell a child to wash his body; he washes his stomach

4.   Agwo emeghi nke o jiri buru agwo, umuaka achiri ya hie nku. 

Literal meaning: If a snake fails to show its venom, little kids will use it in tying firewood

5.   Onwu egbuchughi ji e jiri chu aja, e mesie o pue ome.

Literal meaning: If the yam used in sacrifice does not die prematurely, it will eventually germinate.

6.        Azu na-eloghi ibe ya adighi ebu.

Literal meaning: A fish that does not swallow other fishes does not grow bigger.

7.       Isi kotara ebu ka ebu na-agba.

Literal meaning: It is the head that disturbs the wasp that the wasp stings.

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8.       E tie dike n’ala, a nu uzu ya.

Literal meaning: Knock a brave man to the ground, and the shouts will be tremendous.

9.       O bu mmuo ndi na-efe na-egbu ha.

Literal meaning: It is the deity that people worship that kills them.

10.    O na-abu akota ihe ka ubi, e lee oba.

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Literal meaning: while farming, if one encounters what is more significant than the farm, one sells the barn.

11.    E gbuo dike n’ogu uno, e ruo n’ogu agu e lote ya.

Literal meaning: Kill a warrior during skirmishes at home; you will remember him when fighting enemies.

12.    A ma ka mmiri si were baa n’opi ugboguru?

Literal meaning: Who knows how water entered the stalk of the pumpkin?

13.    A chuo aja ma a hughi udele, a mara na ihe mere be ndi mmuo.

Literal meaning: If the vulture fails to hover at the end of a sacrifice, you know that something happened in the land of spirits.

14.   Si kele onye nti chiri; enu anughi, ala anu.

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Literal meaning: Salute the deaf; if the heavens don’t hear, the earth will listen.

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Related: How To Say Hello In Yoruba

15.    Nwunye awo si na di atoka uto, ya jiri nuta nke ya kworo ya n’azu.

Literal meaning: The female toad said that her husband is so sweet that she carried her husband permanently on her back when she got married.

16.    Ugo chara acha adighi echu echu

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Literal meaning: A mature eagle feather will ever remain pure.

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17.   Anaghi a no n’otu ebe e kili mmonwu

Literal meaning: You don’t have to stand in only one place, watching a masquerade.

18.    Ihe di be evu di be añu

Literal meaning: What is in the hornet’s nest is in the bee’s hive.

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19.    Akpataghi aku na-akpata ntukwuba onu.

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Literal meaning: Destitution breeds disdain.

20.    Udene na egbe anaghi azo nri: udene na-eri ozu; egbe na-ebu na nkike.

Literal meaning: The vulture and the kite do not scramble for food: the vulture is a scavenger; the kite a predator.

21.   Kama mmanya ga-esere ogo na ogo okwu, ya waa n’uzo

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Literal meaning: Instead a pot of wine will breed animosity among in-laws, let it break on the way.

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22.    Onye riri osisi oji kpaa ya nku ka o nwere ike: anaghi ari enu oke oji kwa daa.

Literal meaning: While on top of the iroko tree, gather all the firewood you can: it is not every day that one scales the great iroko.

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 23.    Anaghi eje akwa onye kwulu udo

Literal meaning: No one attends the funeral of one that commits suicide.

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24.    Atulu na-acho ipu mpi jee jua ebune ka ekwo di ya.

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Literal meaning: A sheep that will grow horns should ask the ram how its neck feels.

25.    Anaghi eji na aguu na-agu noo ukwara.

Literal meaning: No one swallows phlegm to appease the pangs of hunger.

26.    Akpara akwu bu akpara-akwu; ibulu ishi akwu bu ohi.

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Literal meaning: To extract a palm nut is more precise than to remove a palm nut; to take the entire head of a palm nut is stealing.

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27.    Ishi kote evu: evu agbaa ya.

Literal meaning: It is the head that disturbs the hornet’s nest that pays.

28.     Ekwughiekwu mere onu; anughianu mere nti.

Literal meaning: Unspoken, blame the mouth; unheard, blame the ear.

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29.    Obu onye ga-aka nwaanyi ajo mmuo gburu nwa mara maka amuosu.

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Literal meaning: Who will know better the evils of witchcraft than the woman who lost a child to evil spirits?

30.     Onye vu ozu enyi anaghi eji ukwu akpa mpuzu.

Literal meaning: He who carries the carcass of an elephant does not search for crickets with his legs.

31.   Ura ga-eju onye nwuru anwu afo.

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Literal meaning: A dead person shall have all the sleep necessary.

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32.    Onye ite abughi onye ahia

Literal meaning: A clay-pot retailer is not really in business.

33.    Okuko na-aboputa mma na-egbu ya.

Literal meaning: The fowl digs out the blade that kills it.

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34.    Ukpala gbabara n’ikpo okuko na-ala ala mmuo.

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Literal meaning: The grasshopper that runs into the mist of fowls ends up in the land of spirits.

35.    Ndi na-eje mposi abali na-ahu ukpana ndi mmuo.

Literal meaning: Those who defecate at night see the ghost grasshopper.

36.   Onye hapu onu ya, uguru arachaa ya.

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Literal meaning: If one fails to lick his lips, the harmattan will do it.

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37.    Okuko si na ihe ya ji-ele anya n’enu ma ya na añu mmiri bu na ihe na-egbu si n’igwe abia.

Literal meaning: The chicken says it looks up when drinking water because what kills it comes from the sky.

38.   Ijiji na-enweghi onye ndumodu na-eso ozu ala n’inyi.

Literal meaning: A fly with no counselor follows the corpse to the grave.

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39.   “Nwunye anyi, nwunye anyi”: ka ndeli bia ka anyi mara onye o bu nwunye ya.

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Igbo Proverbs Related to Midnight and Dawn

Literal meaning: Our wife, our wife”: come midnight and we will know whose wife she is.

40.    Ula towa uto, ekwowe ya ekwowe.

Literal meaning: When sleep becomes enjoyable, we snore.

41.    “Nwa anwuna, nwa anwuna”: nwa nwuo ka anyi mara ma chi agaghi efo.

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Literal meaning: May the child not die, may the child not die”: Let it die, and let’s see if there will be no dawn of the day.

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42.    O bialu be onye abiagbuna ya, mgbe o ga-ala mkpumkpu apukwana ya n’azu.

Literal meaning: May one’s visitor not constitute a problem so that on his departure, he will not leave with a hunchback.

43.   Nwa ovu na-eto, o di ka o ga-aka nne ya.

Literal meaning: When the baby wren grows, it looks like it will be bigger than its mother.

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44.   Okuko na-arogoro ite onu, chetekwe mma gburu ya.

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Literal meaning: The chicken frowns at the cooking pot, ignoring the knife that killed it.

45.    Ihe ka-nte bata n’onu nte, nte etefu.

Literal meaning: When something more significant than the pigmy cricket enters its hole, it takes off.

46.    A gbara aka na-azo ana, onye nwe ji a na-ako ji.

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Literal meaning: If you dispute land ownership empty-handed, the person who has yams will be planting them.

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47.   Onye bulu ihe isi, ijiji esoro ya.

Literal meaning: The fly follows the person carrying a smelly stuff.

48.    Uzu na-amaghi akpu ogene lee egbe anya n’odu.

Literal meaning: The blacksmith who does know how to forge a metal gong should look at the tail of a kite.

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49.   Oke oshimmiri anokataghi rie onye obula nke o na-ahughi ukwu ya anya.

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Literal meaning: The ocean never swallows a person whose leg it does not come in contact with.

Related:  Is water wet?—An African perspective

50.    Onye buru chi ya uzo, o gbagbue onwe ya n’oso.

Literal meaning: He who walks before his godly guardian does the race of his life.

Igbo Proverbs and Their Meanings

51.     Onye na-acho igba oso si na-aroro ya anya

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Literal meaning: A person who has plans to flee contends that someone made an evil eye at him.

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52.    Ulili si na-ejekete ije si tuo nkwa oso maka ihe oso e mee.

Literal meaning: The ground squirrel says he who walks should sometimes break into a trot in case the need to run arises.

53.   Okwulu anaghi amiri ote ofe.

Literal meaning: A master chef is not blessed with a good harvest of okra.

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54.   Mmiri riri enyi ka mbe huru na-awa ogodo: o ga-efe mmiri a efe ka o ga-awu ya awu?

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Literal meaning: The tortoise gears up beside a river that swallowed an elephant: is it going to fly over this river or jump over?

Igbo Proverbs and Their Meanings

55.   Ohia woro gi nku, sere gi onu

Literal meaning: The forest that denies you firewood has massaged your neck.

56.   O bia mgbe Alio Ene gburu atu, ya biakwa ma atu zogbuo Alio Ene.

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Literal meaning: He who calls whenever Elder Ene kills a deer, let him call if the deer kicks the living daylight out of Elder Ene.

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57.    A na-asi onye e ji ugwo na agaghi akwu ya ugwo e ji ya, onye e ji ugwo na-asi na e nye ya ewu ojii na ya agaghi ewe.

Literal meaning: A creditor is being told he won’t be paid, saying he won’t accept a black goat!

58.    Okuko mmanya na-egbu ahubeghi mmanwulu ara na-ayi.

Literal meaning: A drunken fowl has not met a mad fox.

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59.   Bete anu, bete anu, o’u kwa n’ahu ehi?

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Literal meaning: Cut meat, cut meat. Is it not from the body of a cow?

60.    Obele mmanwu na-akpa ike maka na ijele anoghi nso.

Literal meaning: A small masquerade is powerful because a big masquerade is not around.

 61.   Nwaanyi anaghi-eji na nwunyedi ya kwere ya ekene nke oma kpowa ya ogo.

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Literal meaning: A woman does not regard her husband’s other wife as sister-in-law just because she (her husband’s other wife) accepted her greeting gracefully.

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62.    A na-akwa akwa ndi oke tagbulu, ngwere ewere nnu na-eso eze ha.

Literal meaning: Lizards sharpen their teeth with salt while we mourn those who died from rat bites.

63.   Onye si na ya anaghi ata anu nkita, ya arakwala mmiri ofe ya.

Literal meaning: He who says he does not eat dog meat should not also take the dog-meat soup.

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64.    Ukpana na-ere n’oku si na ya na-asha mmanu.

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Literal meaning: He who abhors dog meat should not eat dog-meat soup.

65.   A tuoro omara, o mara, a tuoro ofeke, o fenye ishi n’ohia.

Literal meaning: If you tell a wise one, he understands; tell a dunce, he runs.

66.   Were ire guo eze gi onu abughi na o nwere nke na-efu. 

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Literal meaning: Count your teeth with your tongue does not mean you are losing any.

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67.    Nti na-anaghi anu ihe, mgbe a ga-egburu ishi e gburu nti.

Literal meaning: The ear that won’t hear; when the head is cut off, it goes.

Igbo Proverbs and Their Meanings

68.    A furu nwata chete nna ya.

Literal meaning: A child reminds folks of his father.

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69.    Oge adighi eche mmadu

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Literal meaning: Time waits for nobody.

70.   E lewe ukwu Egbue ewu.

Literal meaning: A buxom waist that makes her man(husband) kill a goat for her when he looks at it.

 71.   Ebe onye dara ka chi ya kwaturu ya.

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Literal meaning: Where one falls is where his god pushed him down.

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72.   Onyeubiam adi(ghi) aza “Omeokachie.”

Literal meaning: An indigent does not take the title of “Omeokachie” (i.e. one who completes whatever he puts his hand to)

73.   Eze mbe si na olu oha di mma, mana oriri oha na-aka ahu.

Literal meaning: The tortoise said that many hands at work are enjoyable, but many mouths to feed can be embarrassing.

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74.    Eze mbe si na ihe ya ji-achiri ihe egwu ya aga njem bu maka ya ezu ndiegwu.

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Literal meaning: The tortoise said it always travels with its musical instrument in case it meets other musicians.

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75.    Akwukwo juru n’ohia, ma a baa a choba okazi.

Literal meaning: There are various leaves in the bush, but people go in to look for okazi leaves

76.    Nwata bunie nna ya enu, akpaamu ya ayochie ya anya.

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Literal meaning: If a child lifts his father, his scrotum will blindfold him.

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77.   Onye buru chi ya uzo, o gbagbue onwe ya n’oso.

Literal meaning: He who walks before his godly guardian does the race of his life.

78.    Okuko nyuo ahu, ana achuwa ya oso

Literal meaning: When the fowl farts, the ground becomes a nuisance.

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79.    Onye a kporo apari, o na-ehi n’amanna ya, abughi apari

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Literal meaning: A presumed fool who sleeps in his father’s house is not a fool.

80.   O bulu na i taa m aru n’ike, ma i zeghinshi; mu taa gi aru n’isi, agaghi mzere uvulu.

Literal meaning: If you bite me in the butt, despite the danger of sinking your teeth into the faecal matter, I will bite you on the head, not minding the cerebral matter.

81.    Onye si na ya anaghi ata anu nkita, yaarakwala mmiri ofe ya.

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Literal meaning: He who abhors dog meat should not eat dog-meat soup.

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82.    Ihe ehi hụrụ gbalaba oso ka okuku huru na-atụ onu

Literal meaning: Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

83.    Otu onye tuo izu, o gbue ochu

Literal meaning: Knowledge is never complete: two heads are better than one.

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84.    Chọọ ewu ojii ka chi dị

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Literal meaning: Make hay while the sun shines.

85.   Gidi gidi bụ ugwu eze.

Literal meaning: Unity is strength.

86.        Anuahu agu mara nma, ma o bughi obi ya

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Literal meaning: The skin of the leopard is beautiful, but not his heart

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87.        Ora na-azu nwa

Literal meaning: It takes a village to train a child.

88.       Ihe nwoke zọgidere ahụ mkpụrụ amụ ya, si hapụrụ ya.

Literal meaning: Anything a man will struggle for until his testicles are exposed should be left for him.

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89.       Mgbe nnukwu anụ ji apụta n’ọhịa bụ mgbe dinta sọrọ ngọngọ ọrụ.

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Literal meaning The big meat often appears when the hunter has given up the hunt for the day.

90.       Ọ bụrụ na ihe nile diri egbe mma n’elu, ọ gaghị agbadata n’ala izu uriom

Literal meaning: If all is well with the hawk above, it will not come down so low to steal a chick.

91.       Otele ukwu a na-asọ anya, ọ bu ya ga-ara onwe ya?

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Literal meaning: The large waistline is greeted with awe; will it be sexed by itself?

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92.        Anyi nwere ji nwe mbú.

Literal meaning: We have both yam and hoe.

93.       Egbe bere, ugo bere nke si ibe ya ebena nku kwaa ya.

Literal meaning: Let the hawk perch, let the eagle perch, the one that forbids the other the right to share the roost, may he break a wing.

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94.       Ozu kwe ka ọ hà, e lie ya n’oge.

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Literal meaning: When a corpse accepts its status, it is buried on time. But when it demands seven cows whilst it never owned a fowl in life, it’ll be left to rot.

95.   Ọ dịghị etu a siri nwaanyị àgà nọrọ ka a raa ya ọ mụta nwa ọ ga-ajụ.

Literal meaning: There is no posture you ask a childless woman to adopt, which she will refuse while making love to her husband to enable her to have a child.

96.   Ara na obi adịghị ese okwu.

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Literal meaning: The breast and the chest are too close to be enemies.

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97.   Egwu adighị atụ afọ, o buru ụzọ.

Literal meaning: Fear does not affect the stomach; it is always in front.

98.   Oké ọkpa kwaa n’ụtụtụ onye umengwụ a maa ọ́sụ.

Literal meaning: The cock crows and the lazy person hissed in the morning.

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99.    Okenye adighị anọ n’ụlọ nne ewu amụọ n’ogbịrị.

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Literal meaning: An elder does not sit at home and watch the she-goat suffer the pain of childbirth tied to a post. 

100.   Ugboro abụọ ka ekwe n’akpọ dike, ọ kpọ ya na ndụ, ọ kpọ ya n’ọnwụ.

Literal meaning: The gong only announces a warrior’s birth and passing.


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