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African Proverbs and Their Meanings

  • Don't set sail using someone else's star.
    Meaning: Just because someone has been successful at doing something does not mean you will be successful at doing the same thing.

  • The best way to eat an elephant in your path is cut him up into little pieces.
    Meaning: The best way to solve a problem is to solve it bit by bit.

  • A sugarcane is sweetest at the joint.
    Meaning: What seems to be hard to achieve in real life is often the best.

  • He who does not know one thing knows another.
    Meaning: No one knows everything, but everyone knows something.

  • It takes a whole village to raise a child.
    Meaning: Everyone in a community should be responsible for helping to raise a child.

  • Rain does not fall on one roof alone.
    Meaning: Trouble comes to everyone at one time or another.

  • After a foolish deed comes remorse.
    Meaning: After you have done something foolish, you feel sorry for doing it.

  • A roaring lion kills no game.
    Meaning: You cannot gain anything by sitting around talking about it. You must get up and work for it.

  • Restless feet may walk into a snake pit.
    Meaning: It is easy for a person to get into trouble when he or she is not busy doing something.

  • Knowledge is like a garden: If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.
    Meaning: If you do not use the knowledge that you have, you cannot expect to gain anything from it.

  • Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.
    Meaning: Don't look at your mistakes; look at what caused you to make the mistakes.

  • Only a fool tests the depth of water with both feet.
    Meaning: It is not wise to jump into a situation before thinking about it.

  • Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him.
    Meaning: Your character follows you wherever you go.

  • Life is like a shadow and a mist; it passes quickly by, and is no more.
    Meaning: Life is short, and you only live it once.

  • If you offend, ask for a pardon; if offended forgive.
    Meaning: If you upset someone, apologize to him or her. If someone upsets you, forgive him or her.
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