Nigerian proverbs and their meanings

Are you looking to add some flavour to your conversations with Nigerian elders? Do you want to get them to pay rapt attention at all times? Proverbs are where the magic’s at. 

Whether you’re conversing in Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa or any other indigenous Nigerian language, there’s a rich tapestry of proverbs that will elevate your everyday interactions. So we compiled a comprehensive list of some Nigerian proverbs and their meanings to get you started on your learning journey.

A gha ye omo ku a ghi mhu gi enibie ore

Translation: After playing with a child, you give the child back to its parents.

Meaning: This Bini proverb preaches contentment. You should never be hyper fixated on what doesn’t belong to you.

Onen yo ba a te oju m‘ojuto a p‘eja

Translation: A person who stares at the gutter for a long time will kill fish.

Meaning: This Ondo proverb touches on patience. If you go at something long enough, you’ll be successful at it.

Mmiri ga eruo onye ogolo nga onye oruru onye nkenke

Translation: Rain will reach the tall person where it reaches the short person.

Meaning: This Igbo wise saying means you’ll always get what is destined to be yours.

Eteki oru gerevwe evwei rhie

Translation: The enemy of a strong man is the person within themselves.

Meaning: This is an Urhobo proverb that highlights the importance of having self-belief and inner strength to overcome one’s limitations.

Ibon o sai dede dun gbola, etu lo ti i ni itikuti

Translation: The gun didn’t just make a loud bang by itself; it’s the gunpowder that pushed it out.

Meaning: It’s a Yoruba proverb that urges one to look beyond the obvious. Everyone has a purpose.

Ozi-oweyi oku avo eri ver’osa doni

Translation: When a child says thank you for past favour, he’ll surely get another.

Meaning: It’s an Ebira proverb that stresses the importance of gratitude. It’s a recipe for getting more favours.

Nyịn edi akebo eka inua isọñ isọñ, eka aboanye kpon di ke ayaadikịt

Translation: The piglet asked the mother why they dig the ground, and the mother replied, “You’ill know when you grow up?”

Meaning: This Ibibio proverb highlights how the knowledge and wisdom of old age are important to understanding life.

Si neddo fiyii howru banndum fuu, nyoofa howru mum

Translation: He who hits his neighbour’s knee curls up his own legs.

Meaning: It’s a Fulfulde saying that hints at how you risk hurting yourself when you do harm onto others.

One to ba olu jiyan, we ka kpe ni dakun

Translation: The person who argues with the lord or king will plead for a long time.

Meaning: This is an Itsekiri proverb that stresses the importance of owning up and apologising when at fault.

Kworria ta bi kworria, en ta bi akoshi sai ta mutu

Translation: The calabash follows the calabash. When it follows the wooden basin, it gets broken.

Meaning: This Hausa proverb simply means you should never do what’s past your capability.

Wa ze u ri nyaa son’ u ba ko uma bwan zenku ma yi ku

Translation: Your enemy will not praise you even if you kill a lion him.

Meaning: This is a Jukun proverb that says you should never strive to impress those who are constantly against you.

Angereke nga cihin tembe ga

Translation: A gossip is always afraid of being exposed.

Meaning: This Tiv proverb means dishonest people always live in fear and worry of being caught.

Ochi enkpo ge ya ipu no

Translation: A tree can’t make a forest.

Meaning: It’s an Idoma proverb that highlights the importance of community and seeking help when in need.

Vwel de ya ke neken me ye reni murom vey re pye e lo me

Translation: It’s only the goat that’s tired of life that will invite a lion to dinner.

Meaning: This Berom proverb stresses the importance of treading carefully and protecting what you cherish.

Omo isama ghi oro aghe

Translation: A child who’s carried on the back does not know how far the journey is.

Meaning: This Ijaw proverb means ignorance is bliss.

If you enjoyed learning about Nigerian proverbs and their meanings, you’ll love: 13 Things Nigerians Who Can’t Speak Their Native Language Will Understand



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