The Wisdom of Nigerian Proverbs: Lessons for Life and Success

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

Nigerian proverbs have a unique way of encapsulating timeless wisdom and life lessons in just a few words. These proverbs, often rooted in the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria, offer profound insights that can guide us through the complexities of life. In this article, we will explore some of the most thought-provoking Nigerian proverbs and unravel the wisdom they contain.

Fine Words Do Not Produce Food

“Fine words do not produce food.” This Nigerian proverb reminds us that eloquent speech alone cannot satisfy our basic needs. In a world where words are plentiful, actions speak louder. While persuasive communication has its place, it is essential to back up our words with concrete actions and efforts to achieve tangible results. In other words, it’s not enough to talk about our goals; we must take practical steps to accomplish them.

If One Finger Brought Oil, It Soiled Others

The proverb, “If one finger brought oil, it soiled others,” emphasizes the interconnectedness of our actions and their consequences. Just as a single finger dipped in oil can spread its stain to the rest, our actions can have far-reaching effects on others and our surroundings. This proverb encourages us to consider the ripple effect of our choices and to act responsibly, knowing that our actions can influence and impact those around us.

An Oil Lamp Feels Proud to Give Light

“An oil lamp feels proud to give light even though it wears itself away.” This proverb teaches us the value of selflessness and the joy that comes from helping others. Like the oil lamp, we should take pride in making a positive difference in the lives of others, even if it requires self-sacrifice. It reminds us that true fulfillment often comes from acts of kindness and service.

It Is the First Step That Is Difficult

Starting something new can be intimidating, and that’s precisely what the proverb “It is the first step that is difficult” addresses. Many of us hesitate to embark on new ventures or make significant life changes because of fear or uncertainty. However, this proverb reminds us that the most challenging part is often taking that initial step. Once we overcome the inertia and begin, we are on our way to progress and achievement.

Does a Man Not Know When He Has Pepper in His Eyes?

This thought-provoking proverb asks, “Does a man not know when he has pepper in his eyes? If we forget yesterday, how shall we remember tomorrow?” It underscores the importance of learning from our past experiences and mistakes. Just as a person can feel the discomfort of pepper in their eyes, we should acknowledge and learn from our past errors to make better decisions in the future. Forgetting the past can hinder our ability to navigate the challenges of tomorrow.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

“It takes a village to raise a child” is a well-known Nigerian proverb that highlights the significance of community support and collective responsibility in child-rearing. This proverb reminds us that children benefit from the guidance and care of not only their parents but also their extended family and community. It stresses the importance of working together to provide a nurturing environment for the younger generation.

Not to Know Is Bad; Not to Wish to Know Is Worse

Curiosity and a thirst for knowledge are essential qualities for personal growth and development, as emphasized by the proverb “Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse.” Ignorance can hinder progress, but a lack of desire to learn can be even more detrimental. This proverb encourages us to embrace a lifelong learning mindset and seek knowledge actively.

The Death That Will Kill a Man Begins as an Appetite

This thought-provoking proverb serves as a cautionary reminder about the consequences of unchecked desires and indulgence. It suggests that destructive habits and behaviors often start small, like an appetite, but can ultimately lead to one’s downfall. It calls upon individuals to exercise self-control and moderation in their actions and choices.

The Disobedient Fowl Obeys in a Pot of Soup

“The disobedient fowl obeys in a pot of soup” humorously illustrates how circumstances can change one’s behavior. In this proverb, the fowl, which was once defiant, becomes obedient when faced with the prospect of being part of a delicious meal. It reminds us that external incentives and consequences can shape our actions, but ideally, we should act with integrity and responsibility regardless of the situation.

The Frog Does Not Jump in the Daytime Without Reason

This proverb, “The frog does not jump in the daytime without reason,” speaks to the idea that actions should be purposeful and deliberate. Frogs typically jump at night to catch insects, and daytime jumping would be uncharacteristic. Similarly, we should have clear motives and intentions behind our actions rather than acting impulsively.

The One Being Carried Does Not Realize How Far Away the Town Is

When we rely on others to carry us or handle our responsibilities, we may lose sight of the effort and distance involved. “The one being carried does not realize how far away the town is” reminds us of the importance of taking personal responsibility for our journeys and not assuming that others will carry our burdens indefinitely.

When the Next House Is on Fire, ’Tis High Time to Look to Your Own

This proverb emphasizes the importance of being proactive and prepared. It suggests that instead of waiting for a crisis to affect us directly, we should take action to safeguard our own interests and well-being. By being vigilant and taking preventative measures, we can avoid unnecessary hardships.

An Ant-Hill That Is Destined to Become a Giant Ant-Hill Will Definitely Become One

This proverb speaks to the inevitability of success when one is determined and persistent. Just as an ant-hill will eventually become giant, regardless of how many times it is destroyed by elephants, our determination and resilience can lead to achieving our goals, no matter the obstacles we face.

He Who Is Afraid of Doing Too Much Always Does Too Little

Fear of failure or overexertion can hold us back from reaching our full potential. This proverb encourages us to overcome our apprehensions and put forth our best efforts. It suggests that those who are overly cautious or reluctant to invest themselves in their endeavors often end up achieving less than they are capable of.

Sleep and Indolence Are Not Cousins of a Good Harvest

In the pursuit of success, hard work and diligence are key ingredients. This proverb reminds us that idleness and laziness are not conducive to achieving our goals. Just as a good harvest requires effort and care in tending to crops, success in any endeavor demands consistent and dedicated work.

When a Dying Man Cries

“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.” This profound proverb highlights the importance of living a meaningful and purposeful life. Regret often accompanies the realization that one has not fully embraced opportunities or made a positive impact on the world. It serves as a poignant reminder to live with intention and make the most of our time.

It Is Not Only the Fox

“It is not only the fox, even the snail arrives at its destination.” This proverb teaches us that success can be achieved by different means and at varying speeds. Just as the fox is known for its agility and cunning, the snail is slow and deliberate. However, both can reach their respective destinations. It encourages us to respect different paths to success and not underestimate those who may take a slower but steady approach.

It Is the Same Moon That Wanes Today That Will Be the Full Moon Tomorrow

This proverb reminds us that life is cyclical, with its ups and downs. Just as the moon wanes and waxes in a continuous cycle, our circumstances can change over time. It encourages us not to lose hope during difficult times, as brighter days may be ahead.

The Bottom of Wealth Is Sometimes a Dirty Thing to Behold

This proverb cautions against the pursuit of wealth at any cost. While material success is desirable, it is essential to maintain one’s integrity and ethics along the way. The “bottom of wealth” refers to the darker aspects of accumulating riches, which can sometimes involve compromising one’s values or engaging in unethical practices.

The Spider That Knows What It Will Gain Sits Waiting Patiently in Its Web

Patience and foresight are celebrated in this proverb. The spider, with its intricate web, waits patiently for its prey because it knows what it will gain. Similarly, it encourages us to plan and patiently work toward our goals, trusting that our efforts will eventually yield the desired results.

A Single Man Cannot Build a House

This proverb underscores the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Building a house is a monumental task that requires the efforts of many individuals. It reminds us that we often achieve more when we work together and support one another.

A Person on Whose Head Lice Are Being Removed Must Be Grateful

Gratitude is a central theme in this proverb. It suggests that when someone helps us in a seemingly small or unpleasant task, we should express our appreciation. Even in situations where assistance may not be glamorous, acknowledging the effort of others is a sign of gratitude and respect.

When the Laborer Is Praised

“When the laborer is praised, his cutlass begins to cut more keenly.” This proverb highlights the motivating power of recognition and appreciation. When people are acknowledged for their hard work and efforts, they are often inspired to perform even better. It serves as a reminder of the positive impact of acknowledging and praising the contributions of others.

Money Does Not Announce How It Is Earned

This proverb underscores the importance of earning money through honest and ethical means. It suggests that the source of one’s wealth should be a matter of pride, and those who earn money legitimately are more likely to see their wealth appreciate over time.

We Are What Our Thinking Makes Us

Our thoughts have a profound influence on our actions and ultimately shape our character. This proverb emphasizes the power of positive thinking and self-reflection. It reminds us that our mindset plays a significant role in determining our outcomes in life.

The Man Who Remembers Others

“The man who remembers others, remembers also his creator.” This proverb highlights the significance of compassion and empathy. When we extend kindness and assistance to others, we are also acknowledging our connection to something greater than ourselves. It encourages us to be mindful of our fellow human beings and to recognize the divine in our acts of generosity.

A Person Who Picks Something and Decides to Make It His Own

This proverb underscores the importance of empathy and consideration for others’ feelings and possessions. It encourages us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and consider how our actions may affect them. Respecting the property and feelings of others is a fundamental aspect of ethical behavior.

Our Examples Are Like Seeds on a Windy Day

The influence of our actions and behavior can extend far beyond our immediate surroundings, just as seeds carried by the wind can spread over great distances. This proverb reminds us that our actions set an example for others, and we should strive to be positive role models and make choices that contribute positively to the world.

It Is the Fear of What Tomorrow May Bring

“It is the fear of what tomorrow may bring that makes the tortoise carry his house along with him wherever he goes.” This proverb conveys the importance of preparedness and the uncertainty of the future. The tortoise’s caution serves as a metaphor for our need to be ready for unexpected challenges. It encourages us to plan and adapt to whatever may come our way.

He Who Does Not Look Ahead Always Remains Behind

This proverb emphasizes the importance of forward-thinking and planning. Those who fail to anticipate future needs and challenges are likely to fall behind. It reminds us that progress often requires foresight and a proactive approach to life.

In conclusion, Nigerian proverbs offer us valuable insights into life, human nature, and the world around us. They serve as timeless reminders of the importance of actions over words, the interconnectedness of our choices, the value of selflessness, and the necessity of wisdom and foresight. By embracing the wisdom contained within these proverbs, we can navigate life’s challenges more effectively and lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives. So, let us reflect on these proverbs and apply their lessons to our own journeys.

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