Igbo Proverbs and Meanings (Group 2)

1. There is no one who does not like soup with fish in it.  (Everyone desires good things.)

2. One to whom an oath is administered says that if the ogu [swearing-stick] annoys him and gives him two knife strokes [from the resulting fight], will he give you one and take one?  (If a person is given advice but does not take it and something bad results from it, he alone will suffer the consequences.)

3. Who gives a squirrel palm fruit that has been roasted in the fire?  [Squirrels are used to eating their palm fruit raw--they are unable to roast it.]  (Don't expect from a person something he can't get [afford].)

4. When people expect things to be done [perhaps by others], that means nothing is done.  (Time does not wait for man.)

5. The one who came to the toad's house and told the toad to bring him a chair--did he see the one that the toad was sitting on?  (To ask a person for something that you do not see that he has at hand is foolishness.)

6. If one plucks [fruit] with the intention of filling his bag, he falls to his death at the base of the tree.  (Greed brings death.)

7. A chicken who claims to be mad [wild] has not seen the drunken fox.  (If one who is always ready to face death [belligerent] meets one who is also ready to face death, he begins to crave life.)

8. Divining and having the divination materials [as well as results]  fall aimlessly among the uli  trees [refers to fruitless effort].  (One who paints uli  designs while watching [looking over his shoulder] to see if he will be praised does not know that it is he himself he is killing.)

9. When the food [oghe  refers to cooked food] is properly done [soft enough so that crumbs fall], it reaches the ant.   (If something good reaches one person it reaches others as well.)

10. It is not the day the child spills oil that he is flogged, but rather the day he spills crude oil.  [Repeat offense is what brings on punishment.]  The day one does something small he is reminded of the big thing that had been forgiven)

11. If one tells of the place where the rain met him, he is given a place to warm up by the fire.  (If one explains his condition [situation] one does for him what ought to be done for him.)  [He is treated as he ought to be treated; receives the help he needs.]

12. He who holds me to the ground holds himself.  (You don't know that you are wasting your own time when you are deceitful in performing a task.)

13. A head of palm fruit does not fall to the ground empty of grass.  [It has thorns that pierce the grass and carry it along impaled on it.]  (Talk cannot be held [does not go free] if money is not involved.)

14. The moon comes out; whenever it comes out [is when] it shines.  (The time a person uses to do something he is able to do is his own time.)

15. If one person cooks for a group, they eat all the food, but if a group cooks for one person, he will not eat all the food.  (One person cannot do what a group of people can do.)

16. The bushfowl tells his children that they should gather up yams and they should gather up roots, because there is no knowing when the farmer might dig up all of his yams.  (A person should have a hand in many things; if the first thing is not profitable [ does not solve his problem], the next one will be.)

17. When one is an invited guest, one does not tread the chicken to death [over-emphasize any offense on the part of the guest].  (A person does not feel ashamed if he goes where he is invited.)

18. One who comes to visit a person should not come to behave badly, and he should leave without developing a hunchback [hard feelings].  (If you come to a person's place in peace, you will also return in peace.)

19. The one against whom you practice divination surpasses you in being a diviner.  (One who deceives one more knowledgeable than he does not know that he is wasting his time.)

20. Okra should not be stronger than the planter.  (A child should not be above his father's authority.)

21. If one does not chew water he does not know that water has bones.  (One who has not experienced life's ups and downs does not know that life is hard.)

22.  Nothing the eye can see will make it bleed.  (There is nothing about which one can say that nothing like it has been seen in the world.)


Subj: 074-081
Date: 7/31/03 6:04:29 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: FranLR
To: Lissentia

23. One who has been bitten by a snake is afraid of an earthworm.  (What happened to a person earlier makes him afraid [now].)

24.  The bush where a child got a snail--there is where his eyes are drawn.  (The child goes to the place where he has gotten something good.)

25. One who has traveled exceeds a gray-haired person in knowledge.  (One who travels around learns more than an older person who stays at home and does not go anywhere.)

26. Running for one's life does not exhaust one.  (One can do greater things out of fear than he can normally when there is nothing to fear.)

27. If a woman marries two husbands she knows which was the better husband to her.  (If a person does two different kinds of work he is able to find out which is the more profitable to him.)

28. Oji aka eri aka [one who uses hand and reaps hand=one who does good and receives good in return] says that he is loved.  (A gift of grace follows a gift of grace; anyone's good works bring him works of love.)

29. A foolish rat copies a lizard and goes out in the rain.  (If an ignorant person imitates a knowledgeable person and he falls, or if you see someone doing something that he can afford to do but you can not and you go and do likewise, you put yourself in debt.)

30. (missing)

31. Ururu [edible raffia termite] says, rather than closing his buttocks [which would kill him], extract his oil so that he looks shriveled.  (It is better that a person throw away something sweet and save his life than to be silent [take no action] while his life is taken away.)

32. If one puts excess oil in the soup it is not good-tasting.  (To overdo a thing is not good.)

33. If one experiences problems greater than the value of his farm, he sells the yam barn.  (If one who cries for money experiences something that will take his life or his household, he brings out the wealth he has hidden.)

34. The right hand washes the left hand and the left hand washes the right hand.  (A good deed is reciprocal.)

35. If buzzing around pushes the fly, it pushes it into the oil.  (When something bad is destined to befall a person, it does not allow him to understand the difference between good things and bad things.)

36. The snake that does not swallow its companion does not grow fat.  (It is very hard for one to become wealthy if there is no way he can gain from the hands of his companions.)  [Could be interpreted either as exploitation or as taking assistance.]

37. One who says "I am dying" has not seen one who is almost dead.  (If the one who desires [or asks for] death sees death, he begins to desire life.)

38. The snake that bites the tortoise bites it in the shell.  (For a person to take on something stronger than he is a waste of time.)

39. If an old woman gathers okazi [hard-leaf plant] and cuts the roots [causing plants to die], the famine that came this year will return next year.  (When a person eats something, he should remember tomorrow, or, gathering and eating all is a bad thing.)

40. You should not play tricks on the natives of a place.  (For a person to play tricks on someone wiser than he is foolishness.)

41. One looks for an animal's eyes in its head.  (One should look for a thing in the place where it ought to be seen.)

42. One should not use the morning to predict a bad market.  (One shouldn't use the early years to tell if a child is going to be wealthy or wise.)

43. One does not kill a ram, because the work involved is excessive.  (A person should not kill his companion for nothing.)

44. If there is nothing [more food] in the hand it causes the piece [of food] in the mouth to grow cold [because it will be eaten more slowly].  (A person cannot succeed in accomplishing everything his heart desires if he has no money.)
45. It is said that after when one drives away a wild cat one asks the chicken where he was [implies that it was far away] .  (You should not blame one of your own people when his enemies are near [criticize him in private].)

46. The toad does not run in the afternoon for no reason.  (A person does not cry if nothing happened to him.)

47. The anteater says that anything he sees and runs from, there must be something extraordinary about it.  (What the old man sees and shouts alarm about or cries about should be examined closely-- it is not a small thing.)

48. One should look for a black goat in the afternoon.  (A person should do things at the proper time.)

49. One does not have to tell an intelligent person to get out of the sun.  (It is not wise for the mature man to put off what he ought to do and wait for someone to remind him.)

50. One should not sell in the nearby area a chicken with a broken leg.  (A person should not practice deceit in a place where people know him.)

51 (a) If one counts [an offence] once and counts twice, then strikes a knife-blow [in revenge], he cuts into the bone.  (If a person's bad behavior exceeds all bounds, he will be given punishment, and given it so that he feels the pains in his body.)

     (b) If the child's first yam the child burns up completely, he pulls the second one out [from the fire] before it is done.  (When something happens to a person once, next time he is cautious.)

     (c) When the black ant stings the buttocks, next time it [buttocks] learns wisdom.  (If things have not happened to a person, he does not develop wisdom.)  [Experience is the best teacher.]

     (d) The old woman quoted a proverb, saying, "If she passes wind but it does not smell, did she go to the ogiri?" [Ogiri: food with a bad odor.]  (If you apply your strength to do something but are unable to do it, you are not going to kill himself because of it.) [Don't worry yourself over things you can't control.]
     (e) If the earthworm protects himself [takes good care of himself], he becomes a strong, long-lived earthworm.  (If one protects his life in youth, his future will be good, or he will become a wealthy person.)

     (f) Washing the hands before cracking a palm kernel for a chicken.  (Being industrious for nothing.) [Palm kernels are usually sold--not given to chickens.]

     (g) The day of war is not the day of judgment.  (The day a person does something bad is not the day he receives payment for it.)

     (h) The one who pounds the yam is not angry; the one who prepares soup is. (One who cultivates food is not angry; one who eats starts to get angry.) [The one who has the more difficult job is not annoyed, yet the one who has an easier time of it is annoyed.]

     (i) If the grasshopper is burning, he says he is producing oil.  (If one acts foolishly, he thinks he is wise.) [Putting a good face on things.]

     (j) If the leopard's leg is broken, the deer comes to collect his debt.  (When a person is in a bad position or in need, the person beneath him begins to talk back to him.)

     (k) One who chases a chick has to fall, while the chick has to waddle away.  (Only you are harmed when you chase away one who has done nothing to you.)  [Unjust pursuit of innocent person.]

     (l) Since I saw the winetapper's hemorrhoids when he was atop the raffia palm tree, what he was tapping no longer pleased me.  (If a person defiles himself or sells his honor in public, he will no longer be respected.)

52. The cottonwood tree [enormous tree] does not grow in only one nation.  (There is no nation that lacks a wealthy person or something good.)

53. What makes a man thin also makes him stout.  (What a man suffers greatly to obtain is valuable to him.)

54. To speak in secret does not make the mouth excel [does not make the content of speech better].  (Not all people in the same family will turn out to be foolish.)

55. The bird does not defile his own nest.  (For a person to do something bad in his own place is a bad thing.)

56. The dog does not chew the animal bone that has been hung around his neck.  (The thief will not steal what has been given to him to guard.)
       [betrayal of trust]

57. If an immature child tries to take revenge for what happened to his father, the thing that happened to his father happens to him.  (If a child is immature [there has not yet been anything he is equal to accomplishing] and he starts to pursue his father's enemies, he dies prematurely.)

58. If a child purposely keeps on crying [for its own sake] they will carry the corpse past him [they will ignore him and he will miss whatever is going on].  (A person should not talk about everything he sees.)

59. The weak grasshopper breaks a chisel.  (One who does not have the strength to work ought to rise early, when the sun is not yet strong, and start to work.)

60. The place where a crying child points is where either his mother or his father will be found.  (The meaning of it is, anything a person sees and keeps on saying that he must do it, come what may.)

61. If a wild animal feels itchy, he rubs his back against a tree; if a human being feels itchy, his fellow human being scratches him.  (The value of human beings to each other lies in helping each other when in need.)

62. One who goes to the latrine carries two (small sticks for cleaning the anus) because there is no knowing about the return of the urge to defecate.  (If one is going to undertake anything, he should think long or prepare well, so that if it happens that the thing requires more than he at first thought, he will not be embarrassed but will be able to accomplish the thing quickly.)

63. If one finger touches the oil, it spreads to all of the fingers.  (The bad behavior of one person leads astray the general public.)

64. One does not bury smoke [lit. "hot tobacco"] in the earth.  (There is nothing that happens in the world without being known.)

65. The chicken says that it is those who are knowledgeable who go to war with clubs.  (To influence a person to do something he does not know how to do is to lead him into ruin.)

66. Who gives a squirrel a roasted palmnut? [Squirrels always eat them raw.]  (Do not ask a person for something he does not have or something he is unable to afford.)

67. One who does not chew water does not know that it has bones.  (One who has not done anything difficult does not know that the world is full of difficulties.)

68. Let the hawk perch, let the eagle perch; the one that tells the other not to perch, let his wing break.  (The one who tells his companion not to stay [tries to displace him], let him be the first to die.)

69. Parasite does not know that famine is bad.  (One who is given food does not know that things in the world are difficult to obtain.)

70. Let me follow the body and be a slave to the grave.  (To eat from the hand of someone else what you cannot eat in your own house.)  [riding on someone else's coattails]

71.  Do not stay with a person only to bring him a shot with an arrow.  (Staying behind another person, staying there while seeking to quarrel with your companion.)

72. One who was not present when a body was buried digs it up at the shin.  (Something of which a person does not know the full meaning.)

73. One who becomes an in-law to a wretched person hooks his hand on the thorn of an oil palm.  (One who becomes an in-law to a wretched person takes upon himself a heavy load because what he does not do himself, no one else will do for him.)  [In-law cannot be counted on.]

74. If something is cut down below it withers on top.  (If a thing is properly discussed at home before taking it out in public, there will be no disagreement connected with it.)
75. If the blind person can't retrieve the apple he treads under foot, how will he pick the one on the tree?  (It is hard to take care of what you don't have in hand when you can't to take care of what you do have.)

76. The chicken says that he tosses a thing from side to side until death before it eats.  [Wants to make sure it is dead.]  (If you list the particulars against a person [prepare the evidence carefully] concerning his transgressions, you win against him in a case.

77. If one seeks something big, let him sling the jaw of an elephant on his shoulder.  (If one looks for an argument or a quarrel, he will find it [he and the argument will meet].)

78. If I cheat a child it is all right [with me], but what really matters is the final result.  (Just as you get something by means of trickery, in the same way it will leave by trickery.)

79. Water does not come out of its source polluted.  (If someone is expected to take care of something, it is not good for him to spoil it.)

80. Rather than carrying me on your back with my feet dragging on the ground, let me go so that I can walk on my own.  (Rather than doing something for a person reluctantly, or if you are unable to complete the task properly, you should not do it in the first place.)

81. If wine is going to cause quarreling between friends, let the wine pot break along the way.  (If you know something that will come between or spoil things for you and your companions, you should stop it or leave it alone from the start.)

82. Let us remove the monkey's hand from the soup while it has not turned into the hand of a human being.  (From the first, remove the thing that you believe will turn into something bad in the future.)

83. One's enemy looks at him in the spot where his god made a mistake in creating him.  (Your enemy cannot say anything good about you.)

84. The house rat tells the bush rat to come to the biscuit pot that his mistress has left uncovered.  (One who is from the same compound as a person betrays him and gives him into the hands of his enemies who are outside the family.)

85. The bird who is flying in the sky excretes 30 pieces of dung; if it then perches, will there be any space remaining on the ground?  [If he excretes that much while flying, how much more while perched?]  (A person does not show his bad behavior when he is far away.)

86. Rather than fill the stomach so full that you fall over on the way, you should eat lightly.  (A thing is good to do within limits.)

87. The place that can accommodate a good person and his companions is not very large.  (One who is compatible with his friends does not nag or find fault in everything.)

88. Much water fills the toad's mouth.  (Something there is no way to explain or express.)  [overwhelming]

89. The dog eats feces and the goat's teeth rot.  (One person does something and another person is accused.)

90. If one sets the mouth properly and chews very hard palm fruit, it is like chewing softer palm fruit.  (If one uses a soft or gentle tone in replying, there is no getting angry or there is no quarrel.)

91. The arrow the child used to shoot and kill the vulture was sharpened by an adult.  (What a child does, an adult told him to do.)

92. The bad smell that has been excreted on the palm tree cluster confuses the fly.  (If one is speaking about something, another person enters and says something that has nothing to do with what is being discussed.)

93. Where a child points his finger, if his mother is not there his father is.  One who was not there when the corpse was buried starts to dig it up from the foot.  (One who is not concerned with a thing, if he comes to a place where something important is being said, he takes it [the conversation] up in the middle. )

94. The goat perspires but his hair does not reveal it.  (If a person has a bad name, any good thing he does is not recognized by people.)

95. Igbo people do not run if the rain does not reach their bodies.  (A black person is not afraid if something harmful does not affect him personally.)

96. It is said that a sudden event is too much for a strong man.  (A man who is very strong does big things, but the week that death comes he can not run away from it.)

97. It is said that if something is discussed in the absence of an influential person, it will be discussed a second time.  (If one is a leader in village affairs and when something big happens in the village in which he is involved, a meeting should not be held in his absence.)

98. One should proceed slowly and steadily.  (If one does things little by little, things will be better than hurrying to finish in one day.)

99. Fierce wrestling and great uge  go together.  [Uge  is a wrestling move involving use of the leg for leverage in throwing a man down.]

100. Turning the back causes gossiping.  (If we are three people together, when I go out the other two start to talk about me; when I return, they and I laugh together as though we were on good terms.)

101. Owl says that he is surprised by his child's head.  (One who has things done for him does not know that the world is tough.)  (If things are brought to you, you do not know that money is acquired with great suffering.)

102. If Monkey holds her child in her arms she puts handcuffs on its arms.  (If a mother trains her child she thinks that she has trained the child well; when she goes out, the child does something not expected of it.)

103. Fire will not cross a stream to kill a toad.  (If a toad is put into a fire, then put into water, before the water crosses the fire the toad will die.)

104.  The bush that the chicken enters and is stabbed by a thorn, if a human being enters it he will be carried out.  (If one is wealthy and is struck by a catastrophe, he regrets it; if he is poor, he will not recover from it.)
105. If an old woman falls down twice, one counts the things she is carrying in her market basket.  If one shoots the first time and hits a certain tree trunk, shoots a second time and hits the tree trunk, does it mean that the arrow was carved for that particular tree trunk?  (If something bad happens to a person and a certain person did it, it happens again and again that person did it, are all bad things meant for [attributed to?] only that person from then on?)

106. One who is seen near the stalk of a pepper plant while people are looking for a pepper plant thief:  (If you are seen in the place where something was lost, it shows that it is you who stole the thing.)

107. Snake says that the reason he has no legs and arms is that if his legs did not get him in trouble, his arms would.  (Snake says that having arms will bring you trouble, having legs as well will also bring you trouble.)

108. Height does not mean that my child has matured.  (If your child has long arms and legs but has no common sense, it does not mean that your child has grown.)

109. If I hurry to lick my fingers, am I going to hang them up?  Keep on running--who holds [wins]?  (In wrestling, people do not ask how many days the match lasted, but rather who threw his opponent?)

110. When the small bird starts to get an expanded chest [arrogant], it looks as though he will be bigger than his mother.  (The nza is a small bird.  As a newborn infant, when he starts to fill out it appears that he will be larger than his peers.)  [temporary phenomenon]

111. You do not use the morning to know [predict] a bad market.  (If you come to market in the morning, you will not know if you are going to sell what you have brought with you.)

112. Nduru  [bird] habitually walks on the ground, let alone in the place where there are things his mouth can peck at.  (The doctor who cures dysentery, does he keep his power on the shelf?  [He is not the only one who knows how to do it.]  The blind man eats up the apple he finds under foot, then endures his hunger [starts to be patient].  The apple that the blind man finds by feeling around is the one he eats.)  [Take what comes.]
113. If the snail is blind it denies itself food.  [Snails can retreat into their shells and cause protective covering to block opening--"blind" refers to this.]  (The snail has no eyes, which means that the snail's inability to find food to eat was his own doing.)

114. A blind person, told that his in-law has come, then says that he is confirming it.  (He is blind but sits close so he can see his in-law.)

115. If a servant does good to his master, he is in fear; if he does bad to him, he is still in fear.  (A servant owned by someone, no matter what is said to him, stays, because he has no place to go.)

116. When a prominent man dies, the daughters of the town [those who have married in other towns] look for things to provide them with meat and fish.  [The custom is for them to go from house to house.  People hide their possessions because the women must be allowed to have whatever they see and want to take, such as household utensils, which they then sell for money to buy food and/or share among themselves.] (When a wealthy man dies, the married daughters flock around.)

117. Vultures descend on the place where there is a dead body.

118. Considering what a dog eats, a human being will not eat his [the dog's] stomach.  (A dog eats excrement but a human being does not eat excrement; if one considers this well, one will not eat dog flesh.)

119. It is said that if one talks about how he ran around in the evening, it becomes a cry for food.  (If one complains about obtaining what he ate in the evening, it becomes a driving away of another person from eating.)