If you spend enough time on social media, it wouldn’t take you long to find a video of Nollywood’s Kunle Afod getting his colleagues to mention ten Yoruba proverbs and their meaning. He’s had veterans like Yinka Quadri, Saheed Balogun, Lere Paimo, racking their brains to provide these proverbs — a trade in stock for their type of work.

But if these guys don’t have Yoruba proverbs on speed dial, the rest of us are in trouble. We took the trouble to compile a comprehensive list just in case we’re ever put in a similar spot. Grab a notepad, class is in session.

Adie funfun ko mo ara re lagba

Translation: A white chicken does not realise its age.

Meaning: Basically, respect yourself.

Ile oba to jo ewa lo busi

Translation: A king’s palace that gets burnt has only added more beauty

Meaning: Make the best of any situation you find yourself in.

Bami na omo mi o de inu olomo

Translation: A parent who wants you to beat their child doesn’t mean it

Meaning: Don’t go around disciplining other people’s kids.

Iku npa alagemo to yole nrin, kambelete opolo to ngbe are re shonle

Translation: A chameleon that approaches with caution dies, talk more of a toad that slams its body with every step.

Meaning: Tread carefully.

Ibi ti a ba pe lori, a ki fi tele

Translation: Whatever you name as the head, you don’t tread the floor with it.

Meaning: If it truly matters to you, you’ll hold it dear.

Ile la ti n ko eso re ode

Translation: Charity begins at home.

Meaning: Your good or shitty behaviour is a reflection of your background.

Orisa bi o le gbemi, se mi bi o se bami

Translation:  A deity that can’t help your situation should leave you in your present state.

Meaning: Who go help you no go stress you.

Gbogbo oro ni nsoju eke

Translation: A gossip is privy to all matters.

Meaning: Only busy bodies have an opinion on everything.

Omo to kawo soke lo fe ka gbe oun

Translation: It’s the child that lifts its arms that asks to be picked.

Meaning: Don’t be quiet when you have problems that need solving.

Banidele la mmo ise eni

Translation: Going home with a person is how you know his or her ways.

Meaning: You can only see the true version of a person when you visit their home.

Labalaba fi ara e weye, ko le se ise eye

Translation: A butterfly can liken itself to a bird, but it can’t do what a bird can do.

Meaning: No go dey do pass yourself. Know your limits.

A ki gbe sara koja a mosalasi

Translation: One does not carry alms beyond the mosque.

Meaning: See-finish is the recipe for disgrace.

Epo ni mo ru, oniyangi ma be temi je

Translation: I’m carrying palm oil. Sandman, please, don’t ruin my fortune.

Meaning: Bad energy, stay far away.

Eni daade ti kuro lomode

Translation: Anyone who wears a crown has out grown childhood.

Meaning: Grow up and embrace the responsibilities of adulthood.

Idi mejeejii to oluwa a re e jokoo

Translation: The two buttocks are sufficient for the owner to sit on.

Meaning: Contentment is key.

Kaka ki agbo ke, agbo a ku

Translation: Rather than cry out, a ram will die.

Meaning: Know how to hide your pain.

If you loved these Yoruba proverbs, you should check out this article: 70 Pidgin Proverbs and Their Meanings



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