A random (albeit long) selection of common Swahili Proverbs - Wise Sayings of our Elders.


Adhabu ya kaburi, aijua maiti. The torture of the grave is known only to the dead.


Ahadi ni deni. A promise is a debt.


Akiba haiozi. A reserve(savings) does not decay.


Akili ni nywele; kila mtu ana zake. Reasoning is like hair, every person has his own.


Akili nyingi huondowa maarifa. Too much wit diminishes wisdom. Too much thought overlooks the wisdom.


Akipenda, chongo huita kengeza. If he loves, he will call a one-eyed person a squinter. (Love is blind)


Baada ya dhiki faraja. After hardship comes relief.After a storm there is calm.


Cha mlevi huliwa na mgema.The drunkard's money is consumed by the palm-wine trapper.


Chanda chema huvikwa pete. A handsome finger gets the ring.


Chema chajiuza, kibaya chajitembeza. A good thing sells itself, a bad thing treads on itself(is hawked).


Dawa ya moto ni moto. The remedy to fire is fire. Fire must be met with fire.


Fimbo ya mbali hayiuwi nyoka. A distant weapon does not kill a snake.


Fuata nyuki ule asali. Follow bees and you will eat honey.


Haba na haba hujaza kibaba. Little by little fills up the measure.


Hakuna msiba usio na mwenziwe. There is no unaccompanied misfortune.


Hakuna siri ya watu wawili. There is no secret between two people.


Haraka haraka haina baraka. To be in a hurry has no blessing.


Hasira, hasara. Anger brings loss(damage).


Heri kufa macho kuliko kufa moyo. It is better to lose your eyesight than to lose heart.


Ihsani (hisani)haiozi. Kindness does does not rot.


Jina jema hungara gizani. A good name shines in the dark.


Jitihadi haiondoi kudura. Great effort does is not a substitute for faith.


Jogoo la shamba haliwiki mjini. The village cock does not crow in town.


Kamba hukatika pabovu. A rope breaks where it is rotten.


Kawia ufike. It is better to delay in order to ensure arrival.


Kazi mbaya siyo mchezo mwema. To do a poor job is not a good game(idea).


Kila ndege huruka na mbawa zake. Every bird flies with its own wings.


Kizuri chajiuza kibaya chajitembeza. A good thing sells itself a bad one treads on itself.


Kuishi kwingi ni kuona mengi. To live long is to see much.


Kujikwa si kuanguka, bali ni kwenda mbele. To stumble is not to fall but it is to go forward.


Kukopa harusi kulipa matanga. Borrowing is like a wedding, repaying is like mourning.


Kuku havunji yai lake. A hen does not break her own eggs.


Kupoteya njia ndiyo kujua njia. To get lost is to learn the way.


Kutoa ni moyo usambe ni utajiri. Charity is the matter of the heart resulting in wealth.


Kwenda mbio siyo kufika.To go quickly is not necessarily to arrive.


Maafuu hapatilizwi. You dont take vengeance on silliness.


Macho hayana pazia. Eyes have no screens or shades. (They see all that is within view)


Majuto ni mjukuu. Regrets are like grandchildren. (They are few and far between)


Mali ya bahili huliwa na wadudu. A misers possessions are eaten by insects.


Manahodha wengi chombo huenda mrama. With many captains, the ship does not sail astray.(Too many cooks spoil the broth)


Maneno makali hayavunji mfupa. Harsh words do not break a bone.


Maneno mema hutowa nyoka pangoni. Pleasent words will draw the snake from its hole.


Masikini akipata matako hulia mbwata. When a poor man gets the ass of a carcase he boasts of his new good fortune.


Mchagua jembe si mkulima. One who selects a hoe is not necessarily a real farmer.


Mchelea mwana kulia hulia yeye. He who fears the crying of a child, will cry himself.


Mchezea zuri, baya humfika. He who ridicules the good will be overtaken by evil.


Mchimba kisima hungia mwenyewe. He who digs a well will also enter it himself.


Mfa maji hukamata maji. A drowning man claws at the water.


Mfuata nyuki hakosi asali. One who follows bees will never fail to get honey.


Mkono moja haulei mwana. A single hand cannot bring up a child.


Mkono mtupu haulambwi. An empty hand is not licked.


Mkono usioweza kuukata, ubusu. Kiss the hand which cannot cut you.


Mkulima ni mmoja walaji ni wengi. The farmer is one but those who eat the fruits of his labour are many.


Mla cha mwenziwe na chake huliwa. He who eats another's food will have his own food eaten by others.


Mlimbua nchi ni mwananchi. He who enjoys the first fruits of a country is a son of that country.


Mnyamaa kadumbu. One who keeps silent, endures.


Mpiga ngumi ukuta huumiza mkonowe. He who fights with a wall will only hurt his hand.


Msema pweke hakosi. One who talks to himself cannot be wrong. (no one to correct him)


Mstahimilivu hula mbivu. A patient man will eat ripe fruits.


Mtaka cha mvunguni sharti ainame. He who requires what is under the bed must bend for it.


Mtaka unda haneni. He who wants to make something does not talk. (His intentions are not announced, just turns them into actions)


Mtaka yote hukosa yote. He who desires all, will get nothing.


Mtaka yote kwa pupa, hukosa yote. He who wants everything in a hurry, loses everything.


Mteuzi hashi tamaa. A connoisseur never stops desiring.


Mtumai cha ndugu hufa masikini. One who always depends on his brother will die poor.


Mwacha asili ni mtumwa. He who renounces his ancestry is a slave.


Mwamini Mungu si mtovu. He who trusts in God lacks nothing.


Mwanga mpe mtoto kulea. Give a child to an educated person to rear.


Mwekaji kisasi haambiwi mwerevu. He who nurses vegeance is not called wise.


Mzigo Wa mwenzio ni kanda Ia usufi. Your companion's burden is (no more than) a light load (to you). (The burden is light on the shoulder of another)


Nahodha wengi, chombo huenda mrama. Too many captains and the ship rolls. (Too many cooks spoil the broth)


Nazi mbovu harabu ya nzima. A rotten coconut spoils the good ones(A rotten apple spoils the whole bushel. A sickly sheep infects the whole flock).


Ngoja, ngoja huumiza matumbo. Waiting hurts the stomach.


Ngozi ivute ili maji. Stretch the hide while it still has water(is green). (Strike while the iron is hot)


Njema haziozi. Good does not go bad.


Pema usijapo pema; ukipema si pema tena. It is a good place if you don't go too often otherwise it is no longer good. (Familiarity brings contempt. Do not outstay one's welcome)


Penye mafundi, hapakosi wanafunzi. Where there are experts there will be no lack of learners.


Penye nia ipo njia. Where there's a will there's a way.


Pilipili usozila zakuwashiani? How can you be burnt by chilies which you have not eaten?


Radhi ni bora kuliko mali. Blessings are better than wealth.


Simba mwenda kimya ndiye mla nyama. The lion which moves silently is the one that eats meat.


Subira yavuta heri huleta kilicho mbali. Patience attracts happiness; it brings near that which is far.


Udongo uwahi ungali maji. Work the clay while it is still wet. Strike while the iron is hot.


Ukienda kwa wenye chongo, vunja lako jicho. When you go among one-eyed people, put out your own eye. Cf. Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.


Ukiona kwako kunaungua kwa mwenzako kunateketea. If you find your own house is on fire, you may be sure that your neighbour's house is burning much more fiercely. Consider yourself lucky.


Ukiona neno, usiposema neno, hutapatikana na neno. If you see something and say nothing, you will have nothing to suffer for. Cf. Mind your own business.


Usiache mbachao kwa msala upitao. Never give up your own old mat for a better prayer mat which you see Dont desert your old friend for a new acquaintance who may not be permanent.


Usicheze na simba, ukamtia mkono kinywani. Do not play with a lion, you might put your hand in its mouth.


Usidharau kiselema chalima kikapita jembe zima. Dont despise a worn hoe, it is able to cultivate and even surpass a sound one.


Usijifanye kuku mweupe. Do not pretend to be a white fowl (important person).


Usile na kipofu ukamgusa mkono. Dont eat with the blind, you might touch his hand. (to do so will lead him to suspect that either the food is finished or you are trying to play a trick on him). You must be very careful with a simple person lest you do something to make him suspicious of you.


Usisafiriye na nyota ya mwenzio. Don't travel under another's lucky star. Do not rely on someone else's good fortune.


Usisahau ubaharia kwa sababu ya unahodha. Do not forget what it is like to be a sailor when you are a captain yourself.

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