Owe Yoruba: 100 Yoruba Proverbs & Their Meanings

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The yorubas seem to have a wise word for every situation, an answer to every question, what’s more? When you get to understand the literal translation of Yoruba proverbs and the meaning derived, you would see that the Yoruba culture is very rich. It could cause a good laugh and give you an insight into how deep the culture is. This article provides you with Yoruba proverbs and their meanings.

Owe Yoruba: 100 Yoruba Proverbs & Their Meanings

Yoruba proverbs and their meaning

Foriti Foriti lomu ki ori Agba pa

Translation: The head of an old man is bald because he has taken on so much trouble on his head in his lifetime.

Meaning: Prolonged endurance is what yields elderly maturity

Proverb: Ile oba t’o jo, ewa lo busi

Translation: When a king’s palace burns down, the re-built palace turns out even to be more beautiful. 

Meaning: Necessity is the mother of invention; great feats are achieved after overcoming many difficulties. 

Proverb: Gbogbo alangba lo d’anu dele, a ko mo eyi t’inu nrun

Translation: All lizards lie flat on their stomach; therefore it is difficult to determine which has a stomach ache 

Meaning: Everyone looks the same on the outside but all have different problems they are dealing with that you do not know about 

Proverb: Ile la ti n ko eso re ode 

Translation: Charity begins at home 

Meaning: Good manners, ethics, character and behaviour are learnt from the home; therefore you can trace a man’s behaviours (good or bad) to his/her background. 

Proverb: A pę ko to jęun, ki ję ibaję

 Translation: The person who eats late, will not eat spoilt or rotten food

 Meaning: The patient Dog eats the fattest bone. It is wiser to be patient in any situation and find a well thought out plan than to hastily make decisions and accept ill conceived solutions

Proverb: Bí a bá ro dídùn ifọ̀n á ó ọ’ra déegun 

Translation: If a person thinks of the pleasure gotten while having an itch on the body he or she is likely to keep scratching out the skin till it gets to the bone

Meaning: There are limits and boundaries to everything in life and it is important one bears this in mind so as to avoid calamities’

Proverb: Akìí rí ẹfọ̀n ta lẹ́ẹ̀ mejì

Translation: One is not chanced to shoot a Buffalo twice. A Buffalo is an animal always at alert and security conscious. It is also mainly found in thick forest, here, it is difficult or almost impossible for any human to channel his part easily. Therefore, if an hunter is lucky to have seen a Buffalo, it is best of he is careful in shooting it and hits once, because if he misses it, chances are the Buffalo will escape for good

Meaning: This proverb is often used when advising a person who is about to make a decision to be careful and make the right one. Opportunities come but once

Proverb: Ọmọdé kìí mọ Ori jẹ kí ó mà ràa lọ́wọ́ 

Translation: A Child does not know how to eat pap without making a stain on his hand.

Meaning: The way we know a child is how he or she eats; staining his hands and wasteful of food. This proverb is used when one is apologizing on behalf of a younger one who has offended or has been rude to an adult, emphasizing that the child was only being childish and should be forgiven.

Proverb:  “Ìkòkò ò ni gba omi k’ó tún gba ẹyìn

Meaning: The pot cannot contain both the palm fruit and water at the same time

Meaning: Two masters cannot ride one boat/ Two incompatible people cannot live or work together 

Proverb: Òkú ò mọ iye aa ra agọ̀

Translation: The dead does not know how much casket is bought 

Meaning: This proverb is used when addressing a person who good things without care, mostly because he is not the one who paid the price for it

Proverb : “Bi Esin ba dáni gúlè ã tun gun ni!”

Meaning: If a Horse fell someone, what we do is to re-climb it

Translation: When a plan falls out, you should not give up but keep trying

Proverb : Aje ke lana omo ku loni, tani o so wipe ko mope ana lo pa omo je

Translation: There was a witch cry yesterday and a child died today. Who wouldn’t know it is the witch who is responsible for the child’s death

Meaning: There was a threat yesterday and a tragedy struck today, who wouldn’t know it is the one who threatened to strike yesterday that is responsible for the tragedy

Proverb: Bí kò fę ju ìpàkó, ęşin tí ó ngùn á ję kojū

Translation:  No one rides a horse without voluntarily or involuntarily moving his head,

Meaning: It means your status in life dictates your attitude towards others 

Proverb: Bí abá so òkò sójà ará ilé eni ní bá

Translation: He who throws a stone in the market will hit someone he knows

 Meaning: Just as the market place is often crowded, so is life and people’s paths cross easily, so be careful of your deeds because it may bounce back on you 

Proverb: Agba ki wa loja, ki ori omo tutun o wo

Meaning: Whenever an older one is present, he is able to correct things that are not in place because he or she is more experienced and wiser

Proverb: Adìẹ funfun kò mọ ara rẹ̀lágbà 

Translation: The white chicken does not realize its age 

Maeaning: An older one is supposed to respect himself 

Proverb: Ọbẹ̀ kìí gbé inú àgbà mì 

Translation: The soup does not move round in an elder’s belly 

Meaning: One should be able to keep secrets

Proverb: À ń pe gbẹ́nàgbẹ́nà ẹyẹ àkókó ń yọjú 

Translation: A sculptor is summoned but it is the woodpecker that shows up

 Meaning: You should never think too highly of yourself and be involved in conversations you are not called to

Proverb: Eni bama m’obo akoko se bi lagido

Translation: To catch a monkey, you must act one

Meaning: In some situations, you have to act the part in order to get what you want

Proverb: Díẹ̀ díẹ̀ nimú ẹlẹ́dẹ̀ẹ́ fi ń wọgbà 

Translation: It is little by little that the pig’s nose enters the yard 

Meaning: Catch the little foxes before they destroy the vineyard. Attend to a small problem before it becomes bigger and more difficult to handle

 Proverb: Iy’o wu mi e wue, oun e, ni mu omo iya meji jeun ototo

Translation: It is differences in likes and dislikes that make two brothers eat separately 

Meaning: One man’s food is another’s poison and every human has traits unique to them




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