Yoruba Proverbs

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Ẹyìn tí yóò di epo, yóò tọ́ iná wò. / A palm nut that desires to become palm oil will have a taste of fire. [There’s always a price tag; good things do not always come easy; no pain, no gain.]

Kí a fi gègé gún ara ẹni wò, kí a tó fi gún ọmọ ẹyẹ / Prick yourself with the (sharp) penpoint first, before trying it on a bird. [Be fair; don’t impose on anyone what you are unwilling to impose on yourself; do unto others as you’d have them do unto you]

Ààrò kì í gbóná títí kó máà tutù. / No matter how long the hearth gets hot, it will become cold eventually. [Whatever is hot will one day become cold; whatever has a beginning will have an ending: nothing lasts forever: change is certain; keep hope alive.]

Ogún ọmọdé ò lè ṣeré fún ogún ọdún; ọgbọ̀n àgbà ò lè ṣe àṣàrò fún ọgbọ̀n oṣù / Twenty youngsters cannot play together for twenty years; thirty elders cannot hold discussions for thirty months. [Nothing lasts forever; change is inevitable: anticipate and prepare for it]

Tí àdúrà bá gbà tán, apá aládúrà ò ní ká a. / When a prayer is answered, the person who prayed would be overwhelmed. [Prayers work; God’s response is always so complete as to be overwhelming.]

Àkùrọ̀ ti lómi tẹ́lẹ̀, kí òjò tó rọ̀ si. / The river bank was damp with water, even before the rain fell on it. [Be humble; don’t arrogate to yourself what is essentially God’s blessing.]

Àìmọṣẹ́ kọ̀ ọmọ ajá, lọdẹ fi ńrán an níṣẹ́ ikú. / Not knowing how to say no, is why the dog gets sent on life-threatening errands by the hunter. [Learn to say “No”; it is not every offer that one accedes to.]

Ọwọ́ ata ò ṣe é fi bọ́jú; ọwọ́ epo ò ṣe é fi mú àlà. / A hand that has handled pepper cannot be used to wash the face; the one with palm oil cannot be used to handle a white cloth. [Even with the best of intentions, some things are just inappropriate.]

A kì í bínú sí ẹni tí a kò rí. / Do not be angry with someone you have not heard out. [Never rush to judgment; there is always a chance you could be wrong; always give people the benefit of the doubt.]

Ìwà ọ̀lẹ ló ńba ọ̀lẹ lẹ́rù; ọ̀lẹ ṣe tán, ó ní wọn ò fẹ́ràn òun / An indolent is preceded by his character, but complains that he or she is not accepted. [Our character often confronts us with unpleasant consequences; change your character to change any unwanted outcome]

A kì í ní k’ọ́mọ ẹni má d’ẹ́tẹ̀, tó bá ti lè dá’gbó gbé. / You never restrain your child from becoming leprous, as long as he can live in the forest alone. [Everyone bears the consequences of his or her choices.]

Ilá kì í ga ju onírè lọ; èyí tó bá ga ju onírè lọ, a sì tẹ́ẹ ká. / An okro plant should not outgrow the farmer; whichever does will be bent low to be plucked. [Pride goes before a fall; humility is it.]

Iṣẹ́ l’oògùn ìṣẹ́. / Hardwork is the antidote for poverty. [Diligence pays; hardwork is a sure-fire remedy for poverty.]

O rí àgbébọ̀ adìyẹ lọ́jà, o sáré sí i; tó bá ńyé ogún tó ńpa ogún, ṣé aládìyẹ á tàá? / You saw a matured hen in the market and jumped at it; had it been very good at laying and hatching, would it have been sold? [If it is too good to be true, it usually is.]

Bí agbada ò bá gbóná, àgbàdo ò leè ta. / If the frying pan is not heated up, the corns cannot pop. [Good things do not always come easy; no pain, no gain; hang in there: don’t give up.]

Tí ẹyẹ ò bá fín ẹyẹ níràn, ojú ọrun tó ẹyẹ ẹ́ fò láì fara kanra. / If a bird won’t seek the ill of another, the sky is wide enough for all to fly without colliding. [Be positive; live and let live.]

The sky is not seen from only one single spot. [Alternative approaches exist; there are many ways to achieve a goal: don’t be fixated on one.]

Ajá tó máa sọnù kì í gbọ́ fèrè ọlọ́dẹ. / A dog destined to get lost won’t hear the hunter’s (redeeming) whistling. [Those bent on a course of action won’t listen to wiser contrary counsels; keep an open mind: there is some sense in nonsense.]

Ẹnu ẹyẹ ni í pẹyẹ; ẹnu òrofó ni í pa òrofó; òrofó bímọ mẹ́fà, ó ní ilé òun kún ṣọ́ṣọ́. / The mouth of a bird is its undoing; the wild pidgeon hatches just six chicks and brags that its nest is completely filled up. [Modesty is it; inordinate bragging can be risky.]

Òròmọadìyẹ ńbá àṣá ṣeré, ó rò pé ẹyẹ oko lásán ni. / The chick gullibly plays with the hawk believing it to be an ordinary bird. [Naivety can be risky, if not fatally costly; it is wise to invest in knowledge.]

Ohun tó ṣe igúnnugún tó fi pá lórí, tó ṣe àkàlàmàgbò tó fi yọ gẹ̀gẹ̀ lọ́rùn, tó bá ṣe àgbò bọ̀lọ̀jọ̀, á ti fa ìwo rẹ̀ tu. / If what balded the vulture and gave the crow goiter had befallen the full-grown ram, it would have lost its horns. [People are different.]

Source : Ayotunde O. Joshua Ayotunde O. Joshua