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15 Yoruba Proverbs And Their Meaning

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1. Proverb: Ọgbọ́n olọ́gbọ́n kìí jẹ́ kí á pe àgbà ní wèrè

Translation: The collective wisdom of others prevents elders from being regarded as fools.

Meaning: It is part of the culture of the Yorubas that elders usually like to listen to the ideas and opinions of younger ones, especially wherever there is an important controversy to take care of. As the younger ones speak, the elderly ones in the panel revise, modify or confirm their own personal opinions and ideas. 

2. Proverb: Ọjọ́ tí ọmọ abuké bá fẹ́ gbọ́ ọ̀rọ̀ ni ó ń sọ pé kí ìyá òun gbé òun pọ̀n.

Translation: When the son of a hunch-backed woman wants to hear bad comments, he requests his mother to strap him at her back.

 Meaning:  A woman with a hunch back cannot carry her son at her back. It is therefore considered a serious act of misbehaviour or even an abomination for any child to indicate that he wants to enjoy that privilege from a mother with a hunch back.  

3. Proverb: Ẹnú dùn ún ro ẹ̀fọ́, agada ọwọ́ ṣe é ṣán oko!

Translation: It is very easy to use the mouth to prepare a vegetable stew, and it is equally very easy to use the hand to cut a bush!

 Meaning: It emphasizes the fact that it may be very easy to describe how to do or produce something, but the actual practice needs much more effort that mere description.   

4. Proverb: Nígbà tí a bá ń fi àpárí iṣu han àlejò, kí àlejò mọ̀ pé ilé yá o.

Translation: When a host decides to show the hard remaining piece of a yam to a guest, then the guest should know that he should get ready to go back home.

 Meaning: In the days of plenty, there used to be a lot of food reserve at home. Such items of food were yam, plantains, gari, corn flour, and various types of materials for stew. So, if a guest happens to come at any time and he would be lavishly entertained. Yam is the most cherished item of food, and it is a great honour to entertain guests with pounded yam. But a guest also has to be careful not to overstay his welcome. If a guest seemed to be staying too long, the lady of the house may soliloquize in a low tone saying 'Well, we only have this hard head of a yam remaining in the house. She says it in such a way that the guest would hear. A self-respecting guest see this as a signal for him to get ready to go home. 

5. Proverb: Ọbẹ̀ tí ó dùn, owó l’ó pa á

Translation: A tasty stew is usually the product of a lot of money.

 Meaning: Housewives in Yoruba land love to provide the home with tasty stew for their dishes. This is one important way of retaining the love and favour of the Head of the home. When the mistress boasts that the stew is tasty, the Head of the house proudly says the tasty stew is a product of a lot of money and the mistress happily concurs. 

6. Proverb: Bí iṣu ẹní bá funfun, ńṣe ni a máa f’ọwọ́ bò ó jẹ.

Translation: If your yam is white, you should carefully cover it with your other hand when you are eating it.

 Meaning: The proverb is used to warn those who find themselves more affluent or more fortunate than their neighbours should not unnecessarily be ostentatious about their position. They should enjoy their position in such a way that they don't make other less fortunate ones envious. Sometimes, envy can lead to disaster for the higher folk, while the lower one says anyway 'he who is down fears no fall'.  

7. Proverb: Nígbà tí ọmọdé kò bá tíì rí oko ẹlòmíràn, á sọ́ pé oko baba òun ni ó tóbi jù l’áyé.

Translation: When a young child has not seen another person's farm, he believes that his father's farm is the largest in the world.

 Meaning: It is the custom in Yoruba land that young children who still live with, and depend on their parents for a living, should go to the farm with their parents whenever possible. Therefore it is most likely that it is only his fathers farm that he has seen  

8. Proverb: Ajá tí ó bá fẹ́ sọnù, kìí gbọ́ fèèrè ọlọ́dẹ.

Translation: The dog that wants to get lost refuses to heed the hunter's sound of the whistle.

 Meaning: The hunter sounds his whistle to call the dog back and show it the direction to go. But a stubborn dog pretends not to hear or refuses to heed the sound of the hunter and may eventually get lost. 

9. Proverb: Ìkòkò tí yó jẹ ata, ìdí i rẹ̀ yóò gbóná.

Translation: If a pot wants to cook a good stew, it must be prepared to experience high temperature.

 Meaning: The proverb is used to let people know that they have to work very hard in order to have achievements, great or small. In particular, our youths have to know that they cannot achieve any significant goal without really concentrating and working hard.   

10. Proverb: Àì f’ẹni p’eni, àì f’ènìyàn p’ ènìyàn ni ará oko fi ń sán ìbàǹtẹ́ wọ̀’lú.

Translation: It is a mark of absolute disregard of people and sundry that leads a farmer to come into the town when he is dressed only in a pant.

Meaning: The proverb is used to draw the attention of rude people to the propriety of their behaviour and the need for a change for the better. It is mark of respect and positive development to conform with the norms of civility in a society.

11. Proverb: Ọmọ ọlọ́mọ ni a ń rán ní iṣẹ́ dé t’òru t’òru.

Translation: It is another person's child that we usually send on an errand with the injunction that he must return that same day.

 Meaning: The proverb is applied to draw the attention of wicked of masters or mistresses to the need to change their attitude to their house helps or servants. It also applies to wicked bosses who expect their subordinates to accomplish almost impossible tasks under very unsuitable circumstances. 

12. Proverb: Ilé ni a ti ń kó ẹ̀sọ́ r’òde.

Translation: The way we appear to others when we go on an outing must reflect that we are respectable at home. 

Meaning: The proverb is used to warn people to ensure that the standard of performance or achievement expected of others is first exhibited by those who require the standard.    

13. Proverb: Ilé ni àbọ̀ ìsimi oko.

Translation: The Home is the place where you come to rest after working hard in the farm.

 Meaning: It is used to warn people not to forget or ignore their place of origin during apparent prosperous days. On would need the company of the native community at some time in the near or far future.  

14. Proverb: Àìgbọ́ ifá ni à ń wòkè, ifá kan kò sí ní ‘párá

Translation: One keeps looking up at the ceiling when one does not understand how to interpret what the 'ifá' oracle says. There is no 'Ifá' interpretation in the ceiling.

Meaning: This proverb is used to warn the clients or any one in trouble to be wary of false helpers who may take advantage of the urgency or pathetic nature of their situation. In particular, the proverb is used to advise would-be professionals to learn their trades properly in order to excel and deliver good services to their clients.   

15. Proverb: Ẹni tí a fẹ́ l’a mọ̀, a kò mọ ẹní t’ó fẹ́ ni.

Translation: We know whom we love, we don't know who loves us

Meaning: The proverb is used particularly when disappointment comes in situations where trust has been betrayed.


Content created and supplied by: Chemist-reporter (via Opera News )

Yoruba Yorubas


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