Wisdom from West Africa: Ghanaian and Nigerian Proverbs

Explore the wonderful world of quotes and proverbs from the lands of Ghana and Nigeria. These wise sayings cover many broad topics such as commons sense, patience, kindness, humility, greed, courage, family as well as survival and patriotism.

Ghanaian proverbs and Ghanaian wise sayings:

A child who asks questions does not become a fool. ~Ghanaian proverb

A child does not laugh at the ugliness of his mother. ~Ghanaian proverb

A straight tree never lasts in the forest. ~Ghanaian proverb

A crab does not beget a bird. ~Ghanaian proverb

A cracked bell can never sound well. ~Ghanaian proverb

A healthy person who begs for food is an insult to a generous farmer. ~Ghanaian proverb

A woman is a flower in a garden; her husband is the fence around it. ~Ghanaian proverb

He who seems to be for you may be working against you. ~Ghanaian proverb

Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together. ~Ghanaian proverb

Let not what you cannot do tear you from what you can do. ~Ghanaian proverb

Hunger is felt by a slave and hunger is felt by a king. ~Ghanaian proverb

If things are getting easier, maybe you’re headed downhill. ~Ghanaian proverb

If an opportunity is not taken when it comes, it passes away. ~Ghanaian proverb

If the strong man has nothing else, he can at least command others. ~Ghanaian proverb

The length of a frog can only be determined after it dies. ~Ghanaian proverb

Do good because of tomorrow. ~Ghanaian proverb

You must act as if it is impossible to fail. ~Ghanaian proverb

So many little things makes a man love a woman in a big way. ~Ghanaian proverb

Do not follow the path. Go where there is no path to begin a trail. ~Ghanaian proverb

If a blind man says he will throw a stone at you, he probably has his foot on one. ~Ghanaian proverb

Got a stone but didn’t get a nut to crack, got a nut but didn’t get a stone to crack it with. ~Ghanaian proverb

It is the calm and silent water that drowns a man. ~Ghanaian proverb

It is easy to become a monk in one’s old age. ~Ghanaian proverb

No one tests the depth of the river with both feet. ~Ghanaian proverb

Where error gets to, correction cannot reach. ~Ghanaian proverb

Be glad you are unknown, for when you are known, you would wish you weren’t. ~Ghanaian proverb

If you are on the road to nowhere, find another road. ~Ghanaian proverb

One falsehood spoils a thousand truths. ~Ghanaian proverb

When you are sitting in your own house, you don’t learn anything. You must get out of your house to learn. ~Ghanaian proverb

It is a child who has never traveled who says that only his mother prepares tasty meals. ~Ghanaian proverb

The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people. ~Ghanaian proverb

A knife does not know who is its master. ~Ghanaian proverb

A slave does not choose his master. ~Ghanaian proverb

A woman is like a blanket: If you cover yourself with it, it bothers you; if you throw it aside you will feel the cold. ~Ghanaian proverb

By going and coming, a bird weaves its nest. ~Ghanaian proverb

He who is guilty has much to say. ~Ghanaian proverb

If a woman gets rich she changes into a man. ~Ghanaian proverb

If the hunter comes back with mushrooms, don’t ask him how his hunt was. ~Ghanaian proverb

If we knew where death resided, we would never stay there. ~Ghanaian proverb

If you are in hiding, don’t light a fire. ~Ghanaian proverb

It is no shame at all to work for money. ~Ghanaian proverb

It is the wife who knows her husband. ~Ghanaian proverb

Marriage is like a groundnut: you have to crack them to see what is inside. ~Ghanaian proverb

No one boasts of what belongs to another. ~Ghanaian proverb

The chicken also knows when it’s morning, but still watches the mouth of the cock. ~Ghanaian proverb

What is bad luck for one man is good luck for another. ~Ghanaian proverb

If you’ve not been on someone else’s farm, you cannot say that you’re the only true farmer. ~Ghanaian proverb

Nobody can prepare for the harmattan by drinking plenty of water. ~Ghanaian proverb [Harmattan is the season of the dry wind that comes from the desert]

It is the human being that counts. I call gold; it does not answer. I call cloth; it does not answer. It is the human being that counts. ~Ghanaian proverb

Nigerian proverbs and Nigerian wise sayings:

A single tree can not make a forest. ~Nigerian proverb

When a ripe fruit sees an honest man, it drops. ~Nigerian proverb

Even when fire has done its very worst, one still has to resort to it. ~Nigerian proverb

A man who has one finger pointing at another has three pointing towards himself. ~Nigerian proverb

A fowl does not forget where it lays it eggs. ~Nigerian proverb

It is by the strength of their number that the ants in the field are able to carry their prey to the nest. ~Nigerian proverb

When an only kolanut is presented with love, it carries with it more value than might otherwise be associated with a whole pod of several kolanuts. ~Nigerian proverb

By being grateful, a man makes himself deserving of yet another kindness. ~Nigerian proverb

A speedy wrestling and a bad fall go hand in hand. ~Nigerian proverb

One finger cannot remove lice from the head. ~Nigerian proverb

He who is courteous is not a fool. ~Nigerian proverb

Rather than tell a lie to help a friend, it is better to assist him in paying the fine for his offense. ~Nigerian proverb

A hunter who has only one arrow does not shoot with careless aim. ~Nigerian proverb

It is little by little that a bird builds its nest. ~Nigerian proverb

Without retaliation evils would one day become extinct from the world. ~Nigerian proverb

One cannot go back to the farmer from whom one borrowed seed-yams to plant to say that the beetles have eaten up the seed-yams. ~Nigerian proverb

The one-eyed man does not thank God until he sees a blind man. ~Nigerian proverb

Two footsteps do not make a path. ~Nigerian proverb

Familiarity breeds contempt; distance breeds respect. ~Nigerian proverb

Without knowing a way thoroughly at day time, never attempt to pass it at night. ~Nigerian proverb

A farmer who would not work inside the rain and would not work under the sun, would have nothing to harvest at the end of the farming year. ~Nigerian proverb

Fishing without a net is just bathing. ~Nigerian proverb

It is only the tortoise that moves and carries its shell about, which it calls its house. ~Nigerian proverb

He who waits for a chance may wait for a long time. ~Nigerian proverb

Hold a true friend with both hands. ~Nigerian proverb

Horns do not grow before the head. ~Nigerian proverb

However far the stream flows, it never forgets its source. ~Nigerian proverb

However hard a thing is thrown into the air, it always falls to the ground. ~Nigerian proverb

If all seeds that fall were to grow, then no one could follow the path under the trees. ~Nigerian proverb

The bird that remembers its flockmates, never missed the way. ~Nigerian proverb

The habit of thinking is the habit of gaining strength. ~Nigerian proverb

If you can’t dance well, you’d better not get up. ~Nigerian proverb

What an old man will see while seating, a small child cannot see it even standing on top of mountain! ~Nigerian proverb

Before firing, you must take aim. ~Nigerian proverb

A bird does not change its feathers because the weather is bad. ~Nigerian proverb

Choose your fellow traveller before you start on your journey. ~Nigerian proverb

A smiling face dispels unhappiness. ~Nigerian proverb

He who marries a beauty marries trouble. ~Nigerian proverb

As long as you stay in a group, the lion will stay hungry. ~Nigerian proverb

A snake will always give birth to something long. ~Nigerian proverb

When the bush is on fire, the antelope ceases to fear the hunter’s bullet. ~Nigerian proverb

Two raindrops do not make a pool. ~Nigerian proverb

All is never said. ~Nigerian proverb

He who is sick will not refuse medicine. ~Nigerian proverb

He who does not lose his way by night will not lose his way by day. ~Nigerian proverb

A person once bitten by a snake will be scared by an old rope. ~Nigerian proverb

The child that will not allow his parents to sleep through the night must be prepared to stay awake himself. ~Nigerian proverb

When the elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. ~Nigerian proverb

A bird that flies from the ground onto an anthill does not know that it is still on the ground. ~Nigerian proverb

The heap of yams you will reap depends upon the number of mounds you have plowed. ~Nigerian proverb

If a toad jumps around in the daytime, it is either chasing something or something is chasing it. ~Nigerian proverb

A tree is best measured when it’s down. ~Nigerian proverb

Fine words do not produce food. ~Nigerian proverb

If one finger brought oil it soiled others. ~Nigerian proverb

An oil lamp feels proud to give light even though it wears itself away. ~Nigerian proverb

It is the first step that is difficult. ~Nigerian proverb

Does a man not know when he has pepper in his eyes? If we forget yesterday, how shall we remember tomorrow. ~Nigerian proverb

It takes a village to raise a child. ~Nigerian proverb

Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse. ~Nigerian proverb

The death that will kill a man begins as an appetite. ~Nigerian proverb

The disobedient fowl obeys in a pot of soup. ~Nigerian proverb

The frog does not jump in the daytime without reason. ~Nigerian proverb

The one being carried does not realize how far away the town is. ~Nigerian proverb

When the next house is on fire, ’tis high time to look to your own. ~Nigerian proverb

An ant-hill that is destined to become a giant ant-hill will definitely become one, no matter how many times it is destroyed by elephants. ~Nigerian proverb

He who is afraid of doing too much always does too little. ~Nigerian proverb

Sleep and indolence are not cousins of a good harvest. ~Nigerian proverb

When a dying man cries, it is not because of where he is going which he knows nothing about, but because of what he wishes he would have done in the world he is leaving behind. ~Nigerian proverb

It is not only the fox, even the snail arrives at its destination. ~Nigerian proverb

It is the same moon that wanes today that will be the full moon tomorrow. ~Nigerian proverb

The bottom of wealth is sometimes a dirty thing to behold. ~Nigerian proverb

The spider that knows what it will gain sits waiting patiently in its web. The praying mantis is never tired waiting all day. ~Nigerian proverb

A single man can not build a house. ~Nigerian proverb

A person on whose head lice are being removed, must be grateful. ~Nigerian proverb

When the laborer is praised, his cutlass begins to cut more keenly. ~Nigerian proverb

Money does not announce how it is earned but whereas properly earned money appreciates, improperly earned money depreciates. ~Nigerian proverb

We are what our thinking makes us. ~Nigerian proverb

The man who remembers others, remembers also his creator. ~Nigerian proverb

A person who picks something and decides to make it his own, ought to think how he would feel if he was the person who lost the property he picked. ~Nigerian proverb

Our examples are like seeds on a windy day, they spread far and wide. ~Nigerian proverb

It is the fear of what tomorrow may bring that makes the tortoise to carry his house along with him wherever he goes. ~Nigerian proverb

He who does not look ahead always remains behind. ~Nigerian proverb

The tree that cannot shed its old leaves in the dry season, cannot survive the period of drought. ~Nigerian proverb

Proverbs and wise sayings have long served as vessels of wisdom, encapsulating the collective knowledge and experiences of cultures around the world. In this exploration, we explore Ghanaian and Nigerian proverbs, each offering unique insights on life, relationships, and human existence.

The Inquisitive Child

“A child who asks questions does not become a fool.” – Ghanaian proverb

In many cultures, curiosity is celebrated as a valuable trait. This Ghanaian proverb underscores the importance of asking questions and seeking knowledge. It reminds us that ignorance is not a permanent state; rather, it’s the refusal to inquire and learn that can lead to foolishness. Embracing curiosity can be a path to wisdom.

Unconditional Love

“A child does not laugh at the ugliness of his mother.” – Ghanaian proverb

This proverb from Ghana speaks to the profound bond between a child and their mother. It emphasizes the unwavering love and loyalty a child feels toward their mother, regardless of her physical appearance. It serves as a reminder of the unconditional love that exists within families.

The Fragility of Perfection

“A straight tree never lasts in the forest.” – Ghanaian proverb

The pursuit of perfection can be a fleeting endeavor. This Ghanaian proverb uses the analogy of a straight tree in a forest to illustrate that those who stand out as flawless may not always endure. It suggests that embracing one’s unique quirks and imperfections can lead to greater resilience in the face of challenges.

The Nature of Lineage

“A crab does not beget a bird.” – Ghanaian proverb

This proverb underscores the idea that offspring inherit the characteristics and traits of their parents. Just as a crab gives birth to more crabs, the nature of a bird is passed down to its descendants. It serves as a reminder of the role genetics and lineage play in shaping individuals.

The Importance of Integrity

“A cracked bell can never sound well.” – Ghanaian proverb

Integrity and wholeness go hand in hand in this Ghanaian saying. It suggests that when something is damaged or compromised, its true potential cannot be realized. This proverb encourages us to value and uphold our integrity, as a compromised character cannot produce virtuous outcomes.

The Value of Self-Reliance

“A healthy person who begs for food is an insult to a generous farmer.” – Ghanaian proverb

Self-reliance and self-sufficiency are esteemed qualities in many cultures. This proverb from Ghana highlights the irony of a capable person resorting to begging when they have the ability to provide for themselves. It reminds us of the importance of independence and dignity.

The Garden of Marriage

“A woman is a flower in a garden; her husband is the fence around it.” – Ghanaian proverb

This picturesque proverb paints a vivid image of the relationship between a husband and wife. It portrays the woman as a delicate flower in a protected garden, with her husband serving as the protective fence. It underscores the role of care and protection in a marital union.

The Masked Intentions

“He who seems to be for you may be working against you.” – Ghanaian proverb

This cautionary proverb from Ghana encourages us to be discerning in our relationships. It suggests that appearances can be deceiving, and someone who appears to be supportive may, in reality, have ulterior motives. It reminds us to look beyond the surface and trust our instincts.

The Combustible Mix

“Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together.” – Ghanaian proverb

This proverb carries a warning about the volatile nature of certain combinations. Fire and gunpowder, both highly flammable elements, are best kept separate to prevent catastrophic consequences. It serves as a metaphor for avoiding situations or relationships that are prone to conflict or danger.

The Power of Initiative

“Let not what you cannot do tear you from what you can do.” – Ghanaian proverb

In the face of challenges and limitations, this Ghanaian proverb encourages action rather than resignation. It reminds us not to be paralyzed by what we cannot accomplish but to focus on what we are capable of achieving. It speaks to the importance of resilience and determination.

Universal Hunger

“Hunger is felt by a slave and hunger is felt by a king.” – Ghanaian proverb

Hunger, a fundamental human need, knows no social status or hierarchy. This proverb emphasizes the universality of hunger, highlighting that both a slave and a king can experience its pangs. It fosters empathy and underscores our shared humanity.

The Perils of Ease

“If things are getting easier, maybe you’re headed downhill.” – Ghanaian proverb

This thought-provoking Ghanaian proverb challenges the notion that an easy life is always desirable. It suggests that when life becomes too comfortable and effortless, we may not be growing or progressing. It encourages us to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and self-improvement.

Seizing Opportunities

“If an opportunity is not taken when it comes, it passes away.” – Ghanaian proverb

Opportunities, like fleeting moments, can be missed if not seized in a timely manner. This proverb serves as a reminder of the importance of recognizing and acting upon opportunities when they present themselves. It emphasizes the value of decisive action.

These Ghanaian proverbs offer valuable insights into various aspects of life, from the significance of curiosity and the nature of familial love to the perils of complacency and the importance of seizing opportunities. They reflect the wisdom of a culture that places great value on the power of storytelling and oral traditions as a means of passing down knowledge through generations.

Now, let’s shift our focus to explore a collection of Nigerian proverbs and wise sayings, each offering its own unique nugget of wisdom and cultural perspective.

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