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Swahili Proverbs, Phrases, Idioms, and Sayings
Better to be tossed about than to sink.
The flaw of the armpit is that it stinks even though it is not a wound.
That which has passed isn’t a sickness, heal that which shall come.
The power of the hoe stays on the farm.
Forget about effort, each person has his or her luck.
A lion that walks quietly is the one that eats meat.
A spade without a handle does not plough.
The torment of the grave is known only by the dead.
When your enemy falls down, pick him up.
The enemy of a person is a person.
Your lips are your enemy.
Luck doesn’t give a warning sign.
You don’t live without working.
Life is the best gift; the rest is extra.
If you see Chakubimbe (the rumor monger) stay away from him.
The world is knowledge.
Education is an ocean (that is, it has no end).
Good luck begins in the morning.
How did you know this if you did not go behind my back?
If you give to me, I will receive; I am not used to begging.
The beauty of a wife is her character not her appearance.
I am used to your trouble making, but now I don’t care.
Poor as you are, what are you boasting about?
Thank you for your good deeds to me.
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Hypocrites accept their way.
When elephants fight the grass gets hurt.
Children have a right to enjoy life.
There are many shepherds but you are the leader.
To keep complaining won’t help.
I’m not jealous; I just feel bad.
We are all brothers and sisters. Why is there discrimination?
Why should you talk about others’ weaknesses instead of yours?
Marriage needs patience.
All are branches. I am the root.
A gift is a gift.
Work with the clay while it is wet.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Where there are many fowls do not spill millet.
Stick that is in the hand is the one that kills the snake.
He who chooses spades is not a farmer.
Things done in haste yield no good.
What you reap, you sow.
He who listens not of his elders, his leg breaks.
One hand cannot clap.
Come oh guest so that the host may benefit.
Long road is not without a corner.
A beautiful girl is not without a fault.
Better a witch doctor than a troublemaker.
Health is better than wealth.
It is astonishing for the neck to refuse to lie down on the bed.
Intelligence is wealth.
Intelligence is like hair, everyone has their own type.
One who lifts the load onto your head is indeed the one who will lift it off.
One who tells you about someone else’s business will tell someone else about your’s.
He who denies me beans rids me of farts.
He who is not taught by his mother will be taught by the world.
One who does not know death should look at a grave.
He who doesn’t drink from the spring will drink from the river.
One who is not in your eyes is not in your heart.
One who draws water at the river shouldn’t curse the crocodile.
The most famous creature in the ocean is the shark, but it is not the only fierce creature there.
Change in the grandchild begins with the grandfather.
When good fortune knocks you have to open the door yourself.
The ocean can’t be crossed by swimming.
Rivers flow to the sea that is there.
Don’t slaughter a duck that’s hatching eggs if you want more ducks.
I have nothing to give you except to pray for you.
I have nothing to give you except to wish you good luck.
The freeloader can’t ever get too much.
Laugh with them, but it’s not good for you.
The medicine of malaria is quinine. What is the medicine for wickedness?
Don’t go to war without weapons.
A pig doesn’t sleep in the lion’s thicket.
Clouds are a sign of rain.
Cross the bridge when you reach it.
If you destroy the bridge you’d better know how to swim.
The greatest medicine for anger is patience.
Education is life not books.
Avoid those who constantly praise you.
If you can’t feed a horse, how are you going to feed an elephant?
A distant stick won’t kill a snake.
In the discarded husk of yesterday’s sugar cane the ant sees a harvest.
The bark of a fragrant incense tree isn’t like that of one that stinks.
Little by little fills the measure.
There isn’t a rainy season without mosquitoes.
A long stride shortens the journey.
Better the death of the eyes than the death of the heart.
Better to stumble over your toe than to stumble over your tongue.
The money of the drunkard is eaten by the palm wine taper.
The vessel doesn’t go if everyone rows in their own way.
Taste by taste empties the honey jar.
Even a leopard has a wife.
A leopard can’t be hugged.
Better “what will I eat with” than “what will I eat”.
That which is reduced is that which is full.
If it doesn’t burn you, you haven’t tasted it.
A matter about which you know nothing is like a dark night.
The eye doesn’t have a curtain.
The cock from the country doesn’t crow in the city.
Bad work isn’t good play.
The noise of a frog doesn’t stop the cow from drinking water.
The noise of the landlord doesn’t prevent the tenant from sleeping.
Small goat by small goat buys a ship.
One finger cannot kill a louse.
The bereaved begins the wailing so that those from afar can come and join in.
A blind person doesn’t forget his cane.
One who always tells the truth is avoided by his friends.
One who has been bitten by a snake startles at a reed.
One who lives on rich food gets fat.
A trap without bait won’t catch anything.
An idle wanderer consumes his legs
The barber doesn’t cut his own hair and if he does he cuts himself.
The shade of a stick doesn’t hide a person from the sun.
A palm full of water can’t be grasped.
One mistake isn’t reason enough to leave your wife.
Reverence for God isn’t a white turban.
To die like a sheep is indeed a civilized death.
The death of the mouth scatters spit.
A chicken isn’t called to testify nor does it know the law.
Lighting a lantern for a blind person is a waste of kerosene.
Wood that is on top of the woodpile laughs at the wood in the fire.
Bounty doesn’t come from cleverness nor lack from stupidity.
Hearing isn’t seeing.
If you strip off your clothes by the water you have no choice but to bathe.
The water in a coconut is an ocean to an ant.
Love is like a cough, it can’t be hidden.
One who carves a spoon saves his hand.
One who harvests in the sun eats in the shade.
A dog’s teeth don’t bite each other.
One who is drowning doesn’t stop struggling.
One who hides their nakedness can’t give birth.
A banana tree isn’t broken by it’s stalk of bananas.
Flatter a fool and you’ll see how he goes.
One hand can’t raise a child.
The empty hand isn’t licked.
Kiss the hand you can not cut.
One who eats a goat will repay a cow.
One who drinks water with one hand remains thirsty.
Fire doesn’t beget fire, it begets ashes.
One who climbs up a ladder climbs back down.
One who boxes with a wall hurts his hand.
Hypocrites have their own places.
Brains are wealth.
Peace, Love, Unity
The person who laughs at another’s scar has not been wounded yet.
The one who loves does not take revenge.
Running about madly won’t prevent death.
The stench of something rotting can’t be hidden with incense.
The tongue steals what is in the heart.
Today is yours, tomorrow is your friend’s.
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