Owe Yoruba: 100 Yoruba Proverbs & Their Meanings

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Written By Oluwaseun Ayo

 

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Revealed to you in this post are 100 Yoruba proverbs & their meanings. 

Yoruba is one of the most recognized ethnic groups in Nigeria, and the Yoruba people are predominantly found in Southwestern Nigeria.

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A significant highlight of the Yoruba is their language which about 44.5 million people speak. And Yoruba language is not complete without proverbs. 

As a result, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the Yoruba proverbs to embrace this language’s richness. 

100 Yoruba Proverbs & Their Meanings

Owe Yoruba: 100 Yoruba Proverbs & Their Meanings

The following are the Yoruba proverbs and what they connote: 

1. Adìẹ funfun kò mọ ara rẹ̀lágbà

The white chicken does not realize its age

(Respect yourself)

2. Ọbẹ̀ kìí gbé inú àgbà mì

The soup does not move around in an elder’s belly

(You should be able to keep secrets)

3. À ń pe gbẹ́nàgbẹ́nà ẹyẹ àkókó ń yọjú

A sculptor is summoned, and the woodpecker shows up

(Never think too highly of yourself)

4. Díẹ̀ díẹ̀ nimú ẹlẹ́dẹ̀ẹ́ fi ń wọgbà

Little by little is how the pig’s nose enters the yard

(Attend to a small problem before it becomes uncontrollable)

5. Ilé ọba tójó ẹwà ló bùsi

The king’s palace that got burnt added beauty to it

(Do not be dismayed, you can recover what you’ve lost in multiple folds.)

6. “Bi Esin ba dáni gúlè ã tun gun ni!”

If you fall from a horse, you don’t abandon it; instead, you climb it again. 

(Failure is not the end, you can try over and over again.) 

7 ‘‘Sún mhùn-ún, aóṣoròilé-e wa,’’ tí kò je kí àlejò di onílé. 

‘”Make room; we are about to perform our lineage ritual,” which keeps the sojourner from becoming a permanent resident. 

(As long as citizens exclude immigrants from full participation in civic activities, the latter will not become fully integrated into the population.) 

8. ‘‘Òní ló ḿmọ,’’ ìjà olẹ. 

“It will all end today,” the lazy person’s fighting motto. 

(The lazy person enters into a fight with the consoling knowledge that it will end sometime.) 

9. Òní‘‘Mò ńlọ,’’ ola ‘‘Mò ńlọ,’’ tí kò kí àlejò gbin awùsá. 

Today, “I am leaving”; tomorrow, “I am leaving,” which keeps the sojourner from planting awùsá (walnut)

10. Ehìnkùlé lotá wà Ilé laṣeni ńgbé 

(The enemy lives in the back yard; the abode of the person who inflicts injury is the home])

11. À ńkolé ikin À ńyodede imo Hòrò nilé àgbékehìn 

(Although we build a house of thatch, we construct a porch of palm leaves, but the grave is the final home.)

12. Pípé là ńpé gbon A kì í pé go

(Assembling is what we do to be wise. We do not assemble to become foolish.)

13. Àgbààgbà ìlú kì í péjọ kí won jẹ ìfun òkété Àfi iyán àná

(The town patriarchs will not assemble and eat the intestines of a bush rat, Only stale, day-old pounded yams.)

14. Eyin loro bó bá bale, fífo nín ńfo 

(Speech is an egg; When it drops on the floor, what it does is shatter.)

15. Òwe lẹṣin oro, bí oro-bá sọnù, òwe la fi ńwá a 

(The proverb is the horse of speech. when speech is lost, the adage is the means we use to hunt for it)

16. Ilé olóore kì í jó tán tìkà kì í jó kù 

(The house of a good person never burns entirely that of a wicked person never burns partially)

17. Àsoro àìlàdí ló pa Elempe àkoko

Tó ní igbá wúwo ju àwo 

(Speaking without elaborating is what killed Elempe, the first who said calabash is heavier than China)

18. Òrò púpo, iró ló ḿmú wá 

(A lot of words only entail lies)

19. Bí a bá ńkìlo fólè Ká kìlo fóníṣu èbá ònà 

(As we reprimand the thief, Let us also criticize the owner of the yams beside the path)

20. Òyìnbó ò fólè Ófe ìyára 

(The white man does not like stealing He admires nimbleness)

21. Ọmọ tí yó jé àṣàmú kékeré ló ti ńṣẹnu ṣámú-ṣámú 

(A child that will turn out to be peerless, it is from childhood that he or she distinguishes himself or herself)

22. Ọmọ tó káwó  sókè ló fé  ká gbé òun

(It is the child that lifts up its arms that asks to be picked up)

23. Iwájú iwájú lò pá èbìtì ńré sí 

Forward is the direction in which the staff of the [tripped] snare springs. 

(It is usually employed in a prayer that a person’s fortunes may continually advance, but it also expresses the belief that one must always aspire to move forward, to be better tomorrow than one is today.)

24. Awolúmáté, ìwòn ara è ló mò 

(The person who enters a town and avoids disgrace achieves the feat because he or she knows his or her place)

25. Ilé ẹni la ti ńjẹ òkété onídodo 

It is within the confines of one’s home that one eats a cane rat with a tumor

(One’s home is one’s castle, and that one may do as one likes, even behave dishonorably, in its privacy)

26. Bánidélé là ḿmọ ìṣe ẹni Èèyàn gbé òkèèrè níyì 

(Going home with a person is how one knows his or her ways People enjoy good reputation when they live at a distance)

27. Ọlórun ò pín dógba Sajiméjò-ó ju Kòròfo

God has not apportioned things equally; the Sergeant Major outranks the Corporal

(Everyone has his or her own place)

28. ‘‘Dìendì’’ lòpin-in sinimá 

“The End” is the end of the cinema show

(When the end to something has come then it has come”

29. Òyìnbó tó ṣe lèédì ló ṣèrésà 

(The same white man who made the lead pencil also made the eraser)

30. Ìmàlé sòrò òjó kù Óní Ọlórún sán-ìn sí i

(The Muslim spoke and thunder rumbled He said God has signed off on the matter)

31. A kì í bèrù ikú bèrù àrùn ká ní kí ọmọ ó kú sinni. 

One does not so fear death and disease that one asks that one’s child die before one. 

(One should not be more concerned with saving oneself than with saving one’s dependents.)

32. A di gàárì síle ewúré ńyọjú; ẹrù ìran rè ni?

We prepare the saddle, and the goat presents itself; is it a burden for the lineage of goats?

(Goats that know their place do not offer their backs to be saddled.)

33. A kì í bínú ààtàn ká dalè sígbé. 

One does not get angry with the rubbish dump and discard one’s rubbish into the bush. 

(One should not act in unreasonable and harmful ways because of anger.)

34. A kì í bínú orí ká fi fìlà dé ìbàdí. 

One does not get angry with one’s head and therefore use one’s cap to cover one’s buttocks. 

(Do not cut off your nose to spite your face.)

35. A kì í dàgbà má làáyà; ibi ayé bá báni là ńjẹ

One does not become an adult and yet lack courage; one lives life as it finds one. 

(One should do what is fitting for one’s station in life.)

36. A kì í dájò òrò ká yèé. 

One does not set the day for an orò rite and then ignore it. 

(One must not let important matters slide.)

37. A kì í dáké ká ṣìwí; a kì í wò sùn-ùn ká dáràn. 

One does not keep quiet and yet misspeak; one does not silently contemplate the world and yet get into trouble. 

(A careful and cautious person seldom gets into trouble.)

38. A kìí fi ìka ro etí, ká fi ro imú, ká wá tún f i ta ehín. 

One does not use one’s finger to clean one’s ear passages, use it to pick one’s nose, and then use it to pick one’s teeth.

(One should always behave with decorum.)

39. A kì í gbón tó Báyìí-ni-ngó-ṣe-kan-ànmi.

One cannot be as wise as “Thus-will-I-domy-thing.” 

(Never impose your preferences on other people in their own affairs. Compare the following two entries.)

40. À ń sòrò olè, aboyún ńdáhùn; odiidi èèyàn ló gbé pamó. 

We speak of stealing, and a pregnant woman intervenes; she herself is concealing a whole person. 

(Her condition makes her guilty of concealment.)

41. À ńgé e lówó, ó ḿbọ òrùka. 

His hand is being severed, yet he is slipping on a ring. 

(The person has been judged undeserving of a hand; it is an insult, therefore, for him or her to adorn the fingers—an indication of heedlessness.)

42. Àgbéré lẹyẹ ńgbé; kò lè mu omi inú àgbọn.

The bird only attempts the impossible; it cannot drink the milk in a coconut. 

(One should know one’s limits.)

43. Àì-mò-kan, àì-mò-kàn ní ḿmú èkúté-ilé pe ológbò níjà.

Severe ignorance prompts a mouse to challenge a cat to a fight.

(Never taunt an adversary you cannot handle.)

44. Ahón ni ìpínnlẹnu. 

The tongue is the border of the mouth. 

(There is a limit to everything.)

45. Àìsí èèyàn lóko là ḿbá ajá sòrò.

The absence of people on the farm brings one to converse with a dog. 

(But for unfortunate circumstances, one would not intentionally choose to associate with certain people.)

46. Àìsí-ńlé ológbò, ilé dilé èkúté. 

The cat being away from home, the house becomes a domain for mice. 

(People will take advantage of any relaxation of supervision. See the previous entry.)

47. Ẹni à bá fi sóko kó dàparò, óní òun ẹni ilé.

The person one would leave on the farm hoping he would become a partridge boasts that he is the indispensable presence of the household. 

(An unwanted person believes himself to be indispensable.

48. Ẹní dádé ti kúrò lómọdé. 

The person who wears a crown has outgrown childhood. 

(A high office carries high responsibilities with it.)

49. Ẹni tí a lègbé kìí dawó.

A person who can be lifted does not hang limp. 

(There is no point in resisting the irresistible.)

50. Ẹni tó tijú tì í fún ara-a rè. 

The person who is self-aware protects his or her reputation thereby. 

(Good character benefits the owner more than others.)

51. Ara-à ibale, olórí àrùn.

Restlessness father of all diseases.

(No disease is more significant than hyperactivity.)

52. Àṣeṣeyọ màriwo, ó ní oun ó kan orun; àwọn aṣáájúu re-e ṣe bee rí?

The newly emerged palm frond says it will touch the sky; did those that came before it do so?

(Ambition should be tempered with realism. See the following entry.)

53. Bí a bá to sílé, onípo a mọ ipo

If someone wets the bed, each person should know where he or she slept.

(In the event of a crime, the guilty should not attempt to shift the blame to others.)

54. Bí a ko bá tí i lè kolé àgo là ńpa.

If one cannot build a house, one makes a tent.

(One should neither overreach oneself nor refrain from striving.)

55. Aṣiwèrè èèyàn ní ńsọ pé irú oun osí; irúu re-e po ó ju ẹgbàágbèje lọ.

Only an imbecile says there is no one else like himself; his likes are many more than several thousand.

(There is no one the likes of whom the world has never seen.)

56. Ayo àyojù làkèré fi ńṣe nítan.

It is excessive rejoicing that breaks the frog’s thigh.

(Immoderate happiness breeds unhappiness.)

57. Àyo-yó ni bàtá à-jó-fẹ-ehín.

Dancing to bàtá music and exposing one’s teeth is excessive happiness.

(Happiness should know moderation.)

58. Babaaláwo kií bèrè ẹbọ àná.

The diviner does not ask for yesterday’s sacrifice.

(One should not demean oneself by demanding piddling favors)

59. Bẹbẹlúbẹ o i ti débe, ibe ló ḿbo.

The busybody is not there yet, but he is on his way.

(There is no keeping a nosy person out of others’ affairs.)

60. Èro onà ni yó rohin ọkà tó gbó.

People who use the path will spread the word about mature corn.

(A noteworthy accomplishment need not advertise itself.)

61. Ẹlede ńpàfo ó ro pé oún ńṣoge.

The pig wallows in mud but thinks it is awesome.

(People who lack good judgment are never aware of their misbehavior.)

62. Bí a bá dàgbà à yé ogun-ún jà.

When one becomes old, one stops warring.

(An elder should leave off things that are a mark of youth.

63. Bí a bá fi inú wénú, iwọ là ńjẹ.

If we compare notes with others, we wind up eating bile.

(Comparing fortunes with others is likely to leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth.)

64. Àwúrèbeé ní oún lè yenà; ta ní je tọ onà àwúrèbe?

Àwúrebe says it can make a path; who would wish to follow a path it makes?

(One should not offer services where one’s abilities are inadequate.)

65. Bí a bá ḿbá ọmọdé jẹun lóko, gànmùganmu imú ẹni ní ńwo..

If one eats with youth on the farm, he stares at the protrusion of one’s nose.

(Too much familiarity with youth breeds contempt.)

66. Èwo ni ti Síkírá nílùú Ìwó.

What business does Sikirat have in the town of Ìwó?

(One should not intrude into matters that do not concern one.)

67. Bí àgbà ko. bá ṣe ohun erù, ọmọdé ki í sá.

If an elder does not do something fearful, the youth do not flee.

(Youth responds to age according to how age acts.)

68. Bí èèyán bá ní o. sí irú oun, àwọn ọlọgbon a máa wo ye.

If a person says there is no one like him or her, wise people maintain a contemplative silence.

(A person who thinks he or she is peerless fools no one but himself or herself.)

69. Èèyàn bí obọ lobọ ńya láṣọ.

Only people like monkeys have their clothing torn by monkeys.

(Those who consort with undesirables are likely to have their reputation soiled.)

70. Bí ẹkùn o bá fe, èse là ńpè é.

If a leopard does not act mighty, one refers to it as a cat.

(A person who acts beneath his station loses some respect.)

71. Digbolugi digbolùùyàn je ká mọ ajá toóto.

The mad dog and the person who behaves like a mad dog makes it impossible for one to know the actual dog.

(He who acts like a dog makes himself the equal of a dog.)

72. Eegun àjànàkú: ó há ikoko lenu.

An Elephant’s bone: it sticks in Wolf’s mouth.

(A person has overreached himself or herself and is paying the price of folly.)

73. Ibi tí a bá pè lórí, a ki í fi tẹle.

Whatever one names as the head, one does not tread the floor with it.

(Never misuse or abuse your prized possessions or attributes.)

74. Ibi tí ayé bá ẹni ni a ti ńjẹ e.

Where life catches up with one, there one lives it.

(One lives according to the conditions one finds oneself in.)

75. Èèyàn o ríbi sùn, ajá ńhanrun.

Humans have no place to sleep, and a dog is snoring.

(A lowly person lays claim to what his or her better lack.)

76. Ejo ki í ti ojú Ààrẹ gun ọgbà lọ.

A snake does not escape over the fence while a warrior watches.

(One does not permit disaster on one’s watch; one must live up to the expectations of one’s position.)

77. Etí lobinrín fi ńgbo ohùn orò

It is only with the ears that a woman hears the voice of orò.

(One must not intrude into affairs that do not concern one; undesirable people should be kept in the dark about essential or delicate matters.)

78. Èwo ló tó ekọ-o gbà nínú ewé irúgbàá?

Which among the leaves of the locust-bean tree is adequate to receive corn loaf?

(Certain feats are beyond certain people; people should not presume to do things beyond their capabilities.

79. Ẹní bá dẹ ojú-u re síle á rímú-u re.

Whoever gazes downward will see his or her nose.

(Whoever comports himself or herself indecorously will be disgraced.)

80. Ẹni tí a bá ńdáṣọ fún ki í ka èèwo.

The person who is clothed by others does not list what he will not wear.

(Those who depend on the charity of others must be satisfied with whatever they can get

81. Mànàmáná o ṣéé sun iṣu.

Lightning is no good for roasting yams.

(Many instances of boasting lack the substance to back them.)

82. Idà ahun la fi ńpa ahun.

It is with its sword that one kills the tortoise.

(Each person carries his or her bane

83. Ijàkùmo ki í rin osán; ẹni a bí ire ki í rin oru.

The wild cat never roams in daylight; a well-bred person does not wander around in the nighttime. (People who care about their reputation should avoid questionable actions.)

84. Ijàlọ o lè gbé okúta.

The brown and cannot lift a boulder.

(One should not attempt a task beyond one’s capability.)

85. Inú burúkú làgbà ńní, àgbà ki í ní ojú burúkú.

An unpleasant inside is what a venerable elder should have; a venerable elder should not have an unpleasant mien.

(One should not permit the way one feels to push one into unseemly behavior.)

86. Kí ni ànfàníi ketekete lára ketekete à-gùn-fẹse-wole?

What is the point of bragging about an ass which, when one rides on it, one’s feet drag on the ground?

(It is pointless to make too much of a virtually worthless thing.)

87. Kí ni apárí ńwá ní iso onígbàjámo?

What does a bald man want in the stall of the barber?

(One should stay out of places where one has no business

88. Ko sí ohun tí Ṣàngó lè ṣe kó jà leerùn.

There is nothing Ṣango can do to enable himself to rage in a drought.

(One cannot transcend one’s nature.)

89. Lábúlábú fara wé aró, ko lè ṣe bí aró; popondó fara wé àgbàdo.

Ash mixed with water likens itself to indigo dye, but it cannot do what the dye can do; the large red bean likens itself to corn.

(One should know better than to attempt to overreach one’s capabilities.)

90. Ibàje ọjo kan o tán boro.

The disgraced one incurs in one day does not disappear that soon. (Reputations are easy to destroy but the most challenging to repair.)

91. Ibi tí a fi ara sí lara ńgbé

Wherever one situates the body, there it inhabits. (One should confine oneself and one’s activities to the appropriate spheres.

92. Mo dàgbà tán èwé wù mí.

Having grown old, I miss youthfulness.

(One does not appreciate one’s youth until one has lost it.)

93. ‘‘Mo dára, mo dára,’’ àidára ní ńpekun e.

“I am beautiful, I am beautiful” has ugliness as its conclusion.

(Whoever is infatuated with his or her attractiveness will be despised by all.)

94. Ńláńlá lọmọ abuké ńdá: ó ní ‘‘iyá, iyá, oun ó pon.’’

The humpback’s child has presented a formidable dilemma: he cries, “Mother, mother, carry me on your back!”

(A dependent who demands of one what one cannot provide is intent on showing one up.)

95. Aṣọ à-fo-fún je ká mọ olówó.

Clothes washed clean make identifying the rich person impossible.

(A poor person who looks to his or her appearance appears rich.)

96. A-ṣúra-mú o te boro.

A person who is mindful of his or her image is not easily disgraced.

(People take one as one presents oneself)

97. O ko mọ ewà lóńjẹ à-jẹ-sùn.

You do not know what black-eyed peas are like for dinner.

(Addressed to a person who is not mindful of the repercussions of his or her behavior.)

98. A ki í fi oko sin fún iwofà.

One does not hide the farm from the pawned worker.

(It does not make sense to prevent a servant from doing what one hired him to do.)

99. Àpon dogí ó ṣàro

When a bachelor becomes old, he gets his cooking fire.

(One should make provisions for the future in one’s youth.)

100. Bí ọmọdé kọ iyán àná, .tàn la ó pa fún un.

If a child refuses yesterday’s pounded yam, it is stories one treats the child to. (A person who boycotts a meal or some entitlement simply deprives himself or herself of some benefits.)

BONUS: 100 Yoruba Proverbs & Their Meanings

101. Dídi ní ḿmú abẹ mú

It is wrapping that makes a knife sharp.

(Only by taking great care of them does one keep one’s possessions in good shape.)

102. Eekan lejo ń sán ni

One gets bitten by a snake only once.

(The same disaster does not occur more than once; after the first time, one learns to avoid it.)

103. Igbá là ńpa, a ki í pa àwo

It is a calabash that one cuts decorative patterns on; one does not cut patterns on china plates.

(What is appropriate treatment, for one thing, may be inappropriate for another.)

104. Iyàwó ṣe oràn kan tán; ọkọ e-e ṣe orànan nko.-jẹ-mo.

The wife has done the unpardonable; her husband has adopted an I-will-not-eat-anymore prolonged attitude.

(Said of people who have caused unpardonable offense)

105. Kàkà kí ọmọdé pàgbà láyo, àgbà a fi ọgbon àgbà gbé e.

Instead of permitting defeat by a child in a game, an elder should resort to elderly wiles.

(An elder should save face and protect his standing by all means available.)

Conclusion: 100 Yoruba Proverbs & Their Meanings

By now, we believe you can confidently interprete some of the Yoruba proverbs you hear around. Even, you should be able to include some in your Yoruba language conversations.

While this is not an exhaustive list of Yoruba proverbs, this list of 100 Yoruba proverbs & their meanings is here for you to go over and over again and gain mastery of some Yoruba proverbs. 


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