Bantu Proverbs

Bantu Sayings

Bantu peoples is used as a general label for the 300–600 ethnic groups in Africa who speak Bantu languages. They inhabit a geographical area stretching east and southward from Central Africa across the African Great Lakes region down to Southern Africa. (Source)

  • The power of the crocodile is in the water.
  • Who suffers from diarrhea, is not afraid of the dark.
  • Words in conversation are like beans, one breaks them off where they are ripe.
  • A redeemer of people is a walker with people.
  • A good deed will make a good neighbor.
  • You take a bull by the horns and a man by his words.
  • It is the grass that knows where the snake goes.
  • To marry is to put a snake in one’s handbag.
  • Adjoining houses always burn.
  • We celebrated at the wax door, and all the time the honeycomb was empty within.
  • What one won’t eat by itself, one will eat when mixed with other food.
  • One mouth doesn’t taste the beer.
  • People get to know one another when traveling.
  • The bitter heart eats its owner.
  • It is better to have no law than not enforcing it.
  • No man can paddle two canoes at the same time.
  • Stroke your dog and he will steal eggs.
  • Work is good provided you do not forget to live.
  • The judge also dies.
  • The hunter who always comes home with meat is a thief.
  • Cut of the sick part while it is still small.
  • The most stupid chicken always challenges the wildcat.
  • Even if you are cunning, you will not tie water up in a bale of grass.
  • A case is not to be decided from one mouth.
  • The road doesn’t tell the traveler what lies ahead.
  • Earth is like a prison: we all go in through the same door, but we stay in different cells.
  • A stick one bends while it is still green.
  • Just one by one white hairs have come, and thus have they grown.
  • Young man, countries practice witchcraft on one another.
  • The cabin of a loved one is never too far away.
  • Hunger has no friend.
  • The insolence of shortness is to stretch itself big.
  • Whenever I work hard for other people, I always sleep on an empty stomach.
  • He was entrapped by the evening, it has cost him his marriage.
  • A child one does not instruct on return, one instructs him when going.
  • Dance, father, people’s eyes don’t eat, they just stare.
  • Every beast roars in its own den.
  • The eye never forgets what the heart has seen.
  • The egg teaches the chicken how to breed.
  • A thief does not like to be robbed.
  • Mother carry me, and I tomorrow will carry you.
  • Mr. Not-present was the brave man.
  • Away from home the girl picks forbidden fruit.
  • The wise are as rare as eagles that fly high in the sky.
  • Where there is a friend, one does not have to call, he will come of his own accord.
  • When there is on a red-hot hoe, it is not grasped.
  • The tortoise stores its wisdom in his shell.
  • A new handle hurts the hand.
  • A bone does not bring itself, it is people that bring it.
  • You do not teach a giraffe to run.
  • Visitors’ footfalls are like medicine; they heal the sick.
  • What nature gives us is not refused.
  • Your friend, one doesn’t stare at his forehead, one stares at his stomach.
  • Patience is the mother of a beautiful child.
  • Even if your bee-hive has no honey in it, you shouldn’t break it up.
  • A dead man does not know where his grave is.
  • The horizon will not disappear as you run towards it.
  • There is no return, worse luck; for could I return, I would foresee what has come into the country.
  • A kingdom’s strength is in mutual honor.
  • The owner of the skin is the one to tan it.
  • The earth is a beehive; we all enter by the same door but live in different cells.
  • Only heaven can see the back of a sparrow.
  • Respect a little child, and let it respect you.
  • What makes the drum pleasing is the song.
  • A woman’s clothes are the price her husband pays for peace.
  • What is not bitter is good to eat.
  • Even if we eat, earth will inevitably enter our mouths.
  • The bull should be taken by the horns, a man at his word.
  • Days are many, what is one is life.
  • There are forty kinds of lunacy, but only one kind of common sense.
  • One doesn’t follow a wild beast into its lair.
  • They are happy, the free men that have their fathers.
  • Cunning comes to an end, what remains is folly.
  • Days cannot be tied in a bundle.

The Bantu languages constitute a traditional branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages. Bantu languages are largely spoken east and south of present-day Cameroon, that is, in the regions commonly known as Central Africa, Southeast Africa and Southern Africa. Parts of the Bantu area include languages from other language families.

Estimates of number of speakers of most languages vary widely, due both to the lack of accurate statistics in most developing countries and the difficulty in defining exactly where the boundaries of certain languages lie, particularly in the presence of a dialect continuum.

The Bantu language with the largest total number of speakers is Swahili; however, the majority of its speakers use it as a second language. According to Ethnologue, there are over 180 million second-language speakers of Swahili but only about 2 million native speakers.

Bantu Proverbs

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