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Swahili Proverbs

June 26, 2013

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Swahili Proverbs

Ada ya mja hunena, muungwana ni kitendo –  It is customary for man to talk, and gentlemen to act (actions speak louder than words)

Adhabu ya kaburi aijua maiti – The  touture of the grave is only known by the corpse

Adui aangukapo, mnyanyue (muinue) – When the enemy falls, lift him up

Adui mpende – love your enemy

Afya ni bora kuliko mali – Health is better than wealth

Afua ni mbili, kufa na kupona – Help comes in two ways, death or healing (we should not worry about things out of our control)

Ahadi ni deni – A promise is a debt

Ajidhanie kasimama, aangalie asianguke – One who thinks he is standing should beware of falling

Ajuaye mengi, hasemi mengi – One who knows more doesn’t speak more

 

Akiba haiozi – A reserve will not decay

Akili ni mali – Knowledge is wealth

Akili nyingi huondoa maarifa – Too many ideas drive wisdom away

Akufaaye kwa dhiki ndiye rafiki – A friend in need is a friend indeed

Asifuye mvuwa imemnyea – He who praises rain has been rained on.

Akili nyingi huondowa maarifa – Great wit drives away wisdom

Asiye kubali kushindwa si mshindani – He who does not admit defeat is not a sportsman

Asiyefunzwa na mamaye, hufunzwa na ulimwengu – He who is not taught by his mother is taught by the world

Atangaye na jua hujuwa –   He who wanders around by day a lot, learns a lot

Asiye kuwapo na lake halipo – If you are absent you lose your share

Avumaye baharini papa kumbe wengi wapo –  Shark is the famous one in sea the but there are many others

Baada ya dhiki faraja – After hardship comes relief.

Bahari haishi zingo – An ocean never ceases to storm (life will always have ups and downs)

Bendera hufuata upepo – A flag follows the direction of the wind.

Bilisi wa mtu ni mtu – The evil spirit of a man is a man.

Chamlevi huliwa na mgema – The drunkard’s money is being consumed by palm-wine trapper.

Chanda chema huvikwa pete – A handsome finger gets the ring.

Changu ni chetu, na chako ni chako – What’s mine is ours, and what’s yours is yours (don’t be selfish)

Chombo cha kuzama hakina usukani – A sinking vessel needs no navigation.

Chovya – chovya yamaliza buyu la asali – Constant dipping will empty goud of honey

Dalili ya mvua mawingu – Clouds are the sign of rain

Damu nzito kuliko maji – Blood is thicker than water

Daraja livuke, ulifikiapo – Cross the bridge when you get there

Dawa ya moto ni moto – the remedy of fire is fire

Debe tupu haliachi kuvuma – An empty pot makes the loudest noise

Dua la kuku halimpati mwewe – the curse of the fowl does not bother the kite.

Elimu ni maisha, si vitabu – Education is (in) life, not books

Elimu haina mwisho – Education never ends

Elfu huanzia moja – A thousand begins with one

Enga kabla ya kujenga – Survey before you build (look before you leap)

Epuka wakusifuo siku zote – Avoid those who always compliment you

 

 

Fadhila ya punda ni mateke – Gratitude of a donkey is a kick.

Fimbo ya mbali hayiuwi nyoka – A weapon which you don’t have in hand won’t kill a snake.

Fuata nyuki ule asali – Follow bees and you will get honey

Fumbo mfumbe mjinga mwerevu huligangua – Put a riddle to a fool a clever person will solve it

Ganda la mua la jana chungu kaona kivuno – The skin of yesteday’s sugarcane is a havest to an ant.

Haba na haba hujaza kibaba – Little by little fills up the measure.

Hakuna masika yasiyokuwa na mbu – There is no season of heavy rains without mosquitoes (the troubles of one person are usually the pleasure of another)

Hakuna matata – No troubles

 

Hapana marefu yasio na mwisho – There is no distance that has no end.

Hakuna siri ya watu wawili – There is no secret between two people.

Haraka haraka haina baraka – Hurry hurry has no blessings (haste makes waste)

Hasira, hasara – Anger brings loss (Damage)

Heri kufa macho kuliko kufa moyo – It is better to lose your eyes than to lose your heart.

Heri kujikwa kidole kuliko ulimi – Better to stumble with toe than toungue.

Hiari ya shinda utumwa – Voluntary is better than force.

Hucheka kovu asiye kuwa na jeraha – He laughs at scar who has received no wound.

Ikiwa hujui kufa,tazama kaburi – If you don’t know death look at the grave.

Jina jema hungara gizani – A good name shines in the dark.

Jino la pembe si dawa ya pengo – An ivory tooth is not cure for the lost tooth.

Jitihadi haiondoi kudura – Effort will not counter faith.

Jogoo la shamba haliwiki mjini – The village cock does not crow in town.

Kamba hukatika pabovu – A rope parts where it is thinnest.

Kanga hazai ugenini – A guinea- fowl not lay eggs on strange places

Kawaida ni kama sheria – Usage is like law

Kawia ufike – Better delay and get there.

Kazi mbaya siyo mchezo mwema – A bad job is not as worthless as a good game

Kelele za mlango haziniwasi usingizi – The creaking of the door deprives me of no sleep.

Kenda karibu na kumi – Nine is near ten.

Kiburi si maungwana – Arrogance is not gentlemanly.

Kichango kuchangizana – Everyone should contribute when collection is made.

Kidole kimoja hakivunji chawa – One finger canot kill a louse (you need to work as a team).

Kingiacho mjini si haramu – That is fashionable in town is never prohibited.

Kikulacho ki nguoni mwako – That which eats you up is in your clothing.

Kila chombo kwa wimblile – Every vessel has its own waves

Kila mlango na ufunguwo wake – Every door with its own key

Kila mtoto na koja lake – To every child his own neck ornament

Kila ndege huruka na mbawa zake – Every bird flies with its own wings.

Kila wakati ni wakati wa chai – It is chai (tea) time all the time

Kilio huanza mfiwa ndipo wa mbali wakaingia – The beareved begins the wailing latter others join.

Kinga na kinga ndipo moto uwakapo – One fire brand after another keeps fire burning.

Kinyozi hajinyoi – A barber does not shave himself.

Kinywa ni jumba la maneno – Mouth is the home of words.

Kipendacho moyo ni dawa – What the heart desires is medicine to it.

Kisebusebu na roho kipapo – Refusing and wanting at the same time.

Kisokula mlimwengu,sera nale – what is not eaten by a man,let the devil eat it.

Kitanda usicho kilala hujui kunguni wake – You canot know the bugs of a bed that you have not lain on.

Kivuli cha fimbo hakimfichi mtu jua – Shadow of a stick cannot protect one from the sun.

Kiwi cha yule ni chema cha;hata ulimwengu uwishe – The blindnes of that one is his good fortune

Kizuri chajiuza kibaya chajitembeza – A good thing sells itself a bad one advertises itself

Konzo ya maji haifumbatiki – A handfull of water can not be grasped.

Kosa moja haliachi mke – One fault does not warrant divorce of a wife

Kuagiza kufyekeza – One eye of a master sees more than four of a servent.

Kuambizana kuko kusikilizana hapana – Giving advice but no one listens.

Kucha Mungu si kilemba cheupe – The fear of God is not wearing a white turban

Kufa kufaana – Death has its advantages too ie it benifits those who inherit.

Kufa kwa jamaa, harusi – The death of not a relative is a wedding. Compared to a death of a relative

Kufa kwa mdomo,mate hutawanyika – When the head of the family dies,that family breaks up.

Kuishi kwingi ni kuona mengi – To live long is to see much.

Kujikwa si kuanguka,bali ni kwenda mbele – To stumble is not falling down but it is to go forward.

Kukopa harusi kulipa matanga – Borrowing is like a wedding, repaying is like mourning

Kuku havunji yai lake – A hen does not break her own eggs.

Kuku mgeni hakosi kamba mguuni – A new fowl always has string around its legs.

Kulea mimba si kazi kazi kulea mwana – It is not hard to nurse a pregnency,but it is hard to bring up a child.

Kunako matanga kume kufa mtu – Where there is mourning someone has died.

Kunguru mwoga hukimbiza mbawa zake – The timid crow withdraws his wings from harm.

Kupanda mchongoma ,kushuka ngoma – You may climb a thorn tree,and be unable to come down.

Kupoteya njia ndiyo kujua njia – To get lost is to learn the way.

Kutoa ni moyo usambe ni utajiri – Charity is the matter of the heart not of the pocket.

Kwa mwoga huenda kicheko na kwa shujaa huenda kilio – i.e.timidity often ends in a laugh, bravado in a lament.

Kwenda mbio siyo kufika – To run is not neccessarily to arrive.

Kwenye miti hakuna wajenzi – Where there are trees,there are no builders.

La kuvunda(kuvunja) halina rubani – A vessel running agroud has no captain.

Leo ni leo asemayo kesho ni mwongo – Today is today who says tommorrow is a liar

Liandikwalo ndiyo liwalo – That which is written by God is what is

Lila na fila hazitangamani – Good and evil will never mix.

Lipitalo ,hupishwa – Things don’t just happen by accidents

Lisilokuwapo moyoni,halipo machoni – Out of sight out of mind.

Macho hayana pazia – Eyes have no screens,they see all that is within view.

Mafahali wawili hawakai zizi moja – Two bulls do not live in the same shade.

Maji hufuata mkondo – water follows current.i.e.swim with current.

Maji usiyoyafika hujui wingi wake – You can not know the extent of water in a pond that you have never been to.

Maji ya kifufu ni bahari ya chungu – Water in a coconut shell is like an ocean to an ant.

Maji yakija hupwa – When tide is high,it ebbs.

Mbio za sakafuni huishia ukingoni – Running on the roof finishes at the edge

Mchezea zuri, baya humfika – He who ridicules the good will be overtaken by evil

Mchimba kisima hungia mwenyewe – He who digs a pit will fall into it himself

Mchovya asali hachovi mara moja – He who dips his finger into honey does not dip it once

Mfuata nyuki hakosi asali – One who follows bees will never fail to get honey

Mjinga akierevuka mwerevu yupo mashakani – When a fool becomes enlightened, the wise man is in trouble

Mpanda ngazi hushuka – He who climbs a ladder comes down again.i.e.What goes up must come down

Maji yakimwagika hayazoleki – If water is split,it can not be gathered up.

Majumba makubwa husitiri mambo – Big houses conceal a lot.

Manahodha wengi chombo huenda mrama – With many captains,the ship does not sail properly.i.e.Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Maneno makali hayavunji mfupa – Words alone won’t break bones.

Maneno mema hutowa nyoka pangoni – Pleasent words will draw the snake from its hole.

Masikini akipata matako hulia mbwata – When a poor man gets something he boasts of his new wealth.

Masikini na mwanawe tajiri na mali yake – A poor man with his child a rich man with his wealth.

Mchagua nazi hupata koroma – He who selects coconut with great care ends up getting a bad coconut

Mchama ago hanyeli,huenda akauya papo – A traveller does not make a mess where he had made a camp as he might one day come back.

Mchelea mwana kulia hulia yeye – He who fears the crying of a child,will cry himself.

Mcheza na tope humrukia – He who plays with mud will get splashed.

Mchezea zuri ,baya humfika – He who ridicules the good will be overtaken by evil.

Mchimba kisima hungia mwenyewe – He who digs a pit will fall into it himself.

Mchuma janga hula na wakwao – He who earns calamity,eats it with his family.

Mchumia juani,hula kivulini – He who earns his living in the sun,eats in the shade.

Mdharau biu,hubiuka yeye – He who riducules a deformed person becomes deformed himself.

Mfa maji hukamata maji – A drowning man catches at the water.

Mfuata nyuki hakosi asali – One who follows bees will never fail to get honey.

Mfukuzwa kwao hana pakwenda – He who is expled from home has no where to go

Mgeni ni kuku mweupe – A stranger is like a white fowl (noticeble)

Mgeni njoo mwenyeji apone – Let the guest come so that the host may benefit.

Mjinga akierevuka mwerevu yupo mashakani – When a fool becomes enlightened,the wise man is in trouble.

Mkono moja hauchinji ngombe – A single hand cannot slaughter a cow.

Mkono moja haulei mwana – A single hand cannot nurse a child.

Mkulima ni mmoja walaji ni wengi – The farmer is one but those who eat the fruits of his labour are many.

Mla cha mwenziwe na chake huliwa – He who eats another man’s food will have his own food eaten by others.

Mla cha uchungu na tamu hakosi – He who eats bitter things gets sweet things too.

Mnyamaa kadumbu – One who keeps silent,endures.

Mpofuka ukongweni,hapotewi na njia – He who becomes blind in his old age does not lose his way.

Msasi haogopi mwiba – A hunter is not afraid of thorns.

Msema pweke hakosi – One who talks to himself can not be wrong.Ie no one to correct him.

Mshoni hachagui nguo – A tailor does not select his cloth.

Mstahimilivu hula mbivu – A patient man will eat ripe fruits (Patience will be rewarded).

Mtaka unda haneni – He who desires to make something does not announce his intentions ,just turns them into actions.

Mtaka yote hukosa yote – He who desires all, misses all

Mtondoo haufi maji – An old man always keeps something in reserve.

Mtoto wa nyoka ni nyoka – The child of a snake is a snake.

Mtu hujikuna ajipatiapo – A person scratches himself where his hand can reach.

Mtu ni watu – A person is people (affect one, you affect all–all are united)

Mtumai cha ndugu hufa masikini – One who always depends on his brother will die poor.

Mvunja nchi ni mwananchi – The destroyer of a country is a citizen of that country.

Mvuvi ajuwa pweza alipo – A fisheman knows where to look for an octopus.

Mwacha asili ni mtumwa – He who renounces his ancestrey is like a slave.

Mwamini Mungu si mtovu – He who trusts in God lacks nothing.

Mwanzo wa chanzo ni chane mbili – The begining of a mat-making is two slips of raffia leaf.

Mwapiza la nje hupata la ndani – One who curses someone in public,brings it on himself in private.

Mwenye kelele hana neno – A noisy person is harmless.

Mwenye njaa hana miiko – A hungry man observes no taboos.

Ndege mwigo hana mazowea – A bird that imitates others does not get used to a place.

Ndugu chungu, jirani mkungu – A brother is (as useful as) a cooking pot, and a neighbour is (as useful as) a cooking pot lid.

Ndugu mwui afadhali kuwa naye – A bad brother is far better than no brother. cf. Blood is thicker than water.

Ndugu wakigombana, chukua jembe ukalime, wakipatana chukua kikapu ukavune – When brothers quarrel, take a hoe and go and dig; and when they make it up, take a basket and patter the crop (i.e. never interfere with a dispute between brothers except to fly and settle it amicably).

Ngoma ivumayo haikawii kupasuka – A drum that is sounded loudly will soon split cf. A pitcher that often goes to the well, is broken at last.

Ngozi ivute ili maji – Stretch hide while it is still green. cf. Strike while the iron is hot.

Nia njema ni tabibu, nia mbaya huharibu – A good purpose is like a doctor (it heals or keeps you well) and evil purpose corrupts.

Nifae na mvua nikufae na jua – Do me a favour during a rainy season and I shall do the same to you during the dry season.

Nimekula asali udogoni, utamu ungali gegoni – I ate honey in my childhood, and its sweetness is still in my tooth.

Njia ya mwongo fupi – The way of a liar is short (i.e. he soon comes to grief).

Njia ya siku zote haina alama – A regular path has no signpost. cf. A used key is always bright.

Ng’ombe avunjikapo guu hurejea zizini – When a bull gets his leg broken, he is sure to go back to his yard.

Ng’ombe haelemewi na nunduye – A cow is not oppressed by its own hump.

Nyani haoni kundule, huliona la mwenziwe – The ape does not see his own backside, he Sees his companion’s.

Nyimbo ya kufunzwa haikeshi ngoma – Songs learnt from outside sources (foreign importations) are not used at a dance so long.

Nyumba usiyolala ndani huijui ila yake – You cannot know the defects of a house you have not slept in. Cf. It is the wearer who knows where the shoe pinches.

Nyumba ya udongo haihimili vishindo – A mud hut cannot withstand great shocks.

Pabaya pako Si pema pa mwenzako – Your own bad place is far better (so far as you are concerned) than your companion’s place (which will do you no good).

Padogo pako Si pakubwa pa mwenzako – Your own small place is not like a big place of your companion. cf. A poor thing but mine own.

Painamapo ndipo painukapo – Where it slopes down is where it slopes up.

Paka akiondoka, panya hutawala – when the cat goes away, mice reign. cf. When the cat’s away, the mice do play.

Paka wa nyumba haingwa – A cat belonging to the house is not chased away.

Panapo wengi hapaharibiki neno – Where there are many, nothing goes wrong. (A council of many people ensures that things are kept on the right tines.) cf. Many hands make light work.

Papo kwa papo kamba hukata jiwe – Constant rubbing of a rope will cut a stone. cf. Constant dripping wears away a stone.

Pema usijapo pema; ukipema Si pema tena – A good place you don’t go to is a good place: if you go too often, it isn’t a good place any longer. cf. Familiarity brings contempt; or, Outstay one’s welcome.

Penye kuku wengi hapamwagwi mtama – Where there are many fowls, millet is not scattered (i.e. it is not advisable to disclose a secret in the presence of a number of people).

Penye mafundi, hapakosi wanafunzi – Where there are experts there will be no lack of learners.

Penye miti hakuna wajenzi – Where there are plenty of trees there are no builders.

Penye nia ipo njia – Where there’s a will there’s a way.

Penye wazee haliharibiki neno – Where there are old people, nothing goes wrong.

Penye wengi pana mengi – Where there are many (present) there is much (said).

Penye wengi pana Mungu – Where there are many people, there God is

Pofu hasahau mkongoja wake – A blind person does not forget his walking stick.

Pwagu hupata pwaguzi – A thief finds another one (who is a bigger and better thief than he is). Cf. When Greek meets Greek.

Radhi ni bora kuliko mali – Blessings are better than wealth

Sahani iliyofunikwa, kilichomo kimesitirika – When a plate is covered, its contents are hidden.

Samaki mmoja akioza, huoza wote – If one fish rots, they all rot. cf. A rotten apple spoils its neighbours. A sickly sheep infects the whole flock.

Sikio halipwani kichwa. Alt: Sikio halipiti kichwa – The ear does not surpass the head.

Sikio Ia kufa halisikii dawa – A dying ear does not feel the medicine.

Siku njema huonekana asubuhi – A good day becomes evident in the morning.

Simba mwenda kimya(pole) ndiye mla nyama – The lion which moves silently is the one that eats meat.

Simbiko haisimbuki ila kwa msukosuko – A thing that is firmly fixed cannot be dislodged except with much trouble.

Sitafuga ndwele na waganga tele – I shall not suffer illness while doctors abound.

Subira ni ufunguo Wa faraja – Patience is the key to tranquility.

Subira yavuta heri, huleta kilicho mbali – Patience attracts happiness; it brings near that which is far.

Sumu ya neno ni neno – The poison for a word is a word. cf. Tit for tat.

Tamaa mbele, mauti nyuma – Desire first, death afterwards, (i.e. ‘No one ever thinks of the possibIlity of death when concentrating on achieving a particular end).

Taratibu ndiyo mwendo – Slowly is indeed the way to walk. Cf. He that goes slowly goes surely, or, Hasten slowly. or, Slow but sure.

Teke Ia kuku halimwumizi mwanawe – A hen’s kick does not hurt her chick.

Tonga si tuwi – The juice of an Immature coconut Is not like the real coconut juice.

Ucheshi wa mtoto ni anga Ia nyumba – The laughter of a child lights up the house.

Uchungu wa mwana, aujua mzazi – The Iabour of childbirth is known to the mother.

Udongo uwahi ungali maji – Work the clay while it is still wet Cf. Strike while the iron is hot

Udugu wa nazi hukutania chunguni – The brotherhood of coconuts is a meeting in the cook- in pot (said of people who do not cooperate until it is too late).

Ukenda kwa wenye chongo, vunja lako jicho – When you go among one-eyed people, put out your own eye. Cf. Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise, or, When in Rome, do as the Romans do (?).

Ukiona kwako kunaungua kwa mwenzako kunateketea – If you find your own house is on fire, you may be sure that your neighbour’s house is burning much more fiercely.

Ukiona neno, usiposema neno, hutapatikana na neno – If you see something and say nothing, you will have nothing to suffer for. Cf. Mind your own business, or, Hear all, see all, say nothing.

Ukiona vinaelea, vimeundwa – If you see vessels afloat, remember that they have had to be built.

Ukiona zinduna, ambari iko nyuma – If you see amber, ambergis is (not far) behind, (i.e. Where there is a jealous husband, there will be jealous wife). (Sauce for the goose . . .?)

Ukupigao ndio ukufunzao – What beats you is what teaches you. Cf. Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Ukistaajabu ya Mussa utaona ya Firauni – If you are astonished at Moses’ deeds, you will be more astonished at Pharaoh’s. Not-Moses declared himself to he a prophet, but Pharaoh declared himself to be God.

Ukitaja nyoka, shika fimbo mkononi – When you mention a snake, have a stick ready in your hand. Talk of the devil, and you’ll hear the rustle of his wings.

Ulimi hauna mfupa –  A tongue has no bone (i.e. it can get round anything, both literally and metaphorically).

Ulimi unauma kuliko meno – The tongue hurts more than the teeth.

Ulipendalo hupati, hupata ujaliwalo – You will not necessarily get what you desire, you will get what is appointed to you (by God). Cf. Man proposes, God disposes.

Unamlaumu mwewe, kipanga yuwesha kuku – You are blaming the hawk, (while) the falcon is killing the chickens.

Ungalijua alacho nyuki, usingalionja asali – Had you known what bees eat, you would not have tasted the honey.

Usiache mbachao kwa msala upitao – Never give up your own old mat for a better prayer mat which you see passing.

Usicheze na simba, ukamtia mkono kinywani – When you play with a lion, do not put your hand in its mouth (that would be going too far!).

Usinivishe kilemba cha ukoka – Do not put a grass turban on my head, (i.e. do not flatter me).

Usipoziba ufa utajenga ukuta – If you do not fill up a crack, you will have to build a wall. cf. A stitch in time saves nine

Usisafiriye na nyota ya mwenzio – Don’t travel under another’s lucky star (i.e. do not rely on someone else’s good fortune).

Usisahau ubaharia kwa sababu ya unahodha – Do not forget what it is to be a sailor because of being a captain yourself.

 

The proverbs are taken from the following links:

http://www.mwambao.com/methali.htm 

http://www.oocities.org/sudimn/methali.html

From → Swahili Proverbs

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