All Things Kenyan

Proverbs of Kenya

I’m working to attribute these proverbs to a particular tribe. If you know which tribe the unattributed proverbs come from, please send me some feedback. Asante!

A baboon (monkey) laughs at the buttocks of another baboon.

A child does not fear treading on dangerous ground until he or she gets hurt stumbles.

A donkey always says thank you with a kick.

A flea can trouble a lion more than a lion can trouble a flea.

A fool’s walking stick helps the wise man to stand.

A fully grown up tree cannot be bent into a walking stick.

A good person once you shelter with him under the bush you will know him, and bad one as well.

A house cannot be repaired when the owner is destroying it.

A judge is himself under judgement.

A leader does not wish for war.

A leader who does not take advice is not a leader.

A lion cannot hide in the grass.

A lone runner says he has legs (runs fast).

A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning.

A nation is never exulted by disunity.

A nose alone does not lead.

A person changing his clothing always hides while changing.

A person who carries responsibility also receives blame.

A rat-trap catches both the guilty and the innocent.

A rope parts where is thinnest.

A sinking ship doesn’t need a captain.

A slave has no choice.

A slippery person is not a king.

A thread follows the path of the needle.

A true person is the one who gives birth to a foolish child.

After a foolish deed comes remorse.

All cassavas have the same skins but not all taste the same.

All monkeys cannot hang on the same branch.

An elder is a healer.

An empty pot makes the loudest noise.

An old pot never lacks food remains.

An orphaned calf licks its own back.

Avoid singing a song without a soloist.

Bad leaders are elected by poor citizens who do not vote.

Bartered grains do not fill up the granary.

Blessings are better than possessions.

Bow-legged person does not hunt antelopes.

Consensus does not lead to easy decision making.

Crookedness does not lead cattle.

Cut your nose to save your face.

Dip after dip depletes a jar of honey.

Do not respond to a mosquito with a hammer because you will miss and hurt yourself.

Do not show wisdom, where there is wisdom.

Do not use your spear to separate cattle.

Elders choose their words.

Even if you bewitch in the night, you will be known.

Feet cannot stop one from going into danger.

Follow bees and get honey.

Force is not profitable.

Good things sell, bad things advertise.

He who has not reached his destination never gets tired.

He who is unable to dance says the yard is stony.

He who wants what is under a bed must bend over to get it.

He whose seeds have not germinated does not put down the seed container.

Home affairs are not talked about on the public square.

How gently glides the married life away, when she who rules still seems but to obey.

However much it rains on you, no wild banana tree will grow on your head.

If a leader limps, all the others start limping, too.

If it doesn’t resemble dad, it resembles mum.

If you do not know death, look at the grave.

If you want to kill a monkey, avoid looking him in the eyes.

In times of danger it is important that people act together.

Intelligence is like hair, everyone has its own.

It is better for the eye to die than the heart.

It is better to be poor when one is young, rather than becoming poor at old age.

It is the grass that suffers when elephants fight.

Leadership comes from God.

Nine is nearly ten.

No length without end.

No water without waves.

Of five fingers, which is the best?

One arrow can knock down an elephant.

One does not throw away one’s old praying mat just because of a new one that one has borrowed.

One in the woodpile does not laugh at the one in the fire.

One whose seeds have not sprouted does not give up planting.

Reason is wealth.

Regular work tires a woman but totally wrecks a man.

Someone relative is blood of the tongue, some you spit out and some you swallow.

Talking with one another is loving one another.

The abundance of fruit caused the death of the fruit lover.

The alarm from the other house does not prevent one from eating.

The big fish eats the smaller one.

The brewer dilutes the beer if over-praised.

The cattle cannot all have bells.

The celebration does not last forever.

The cow that bellows does so for all cows.

The curse of the fowl does not bother the eagle.

The elders’ meeting is the sharpening stone of men.

The elephant eats from many trees.

The fool hides what would eat him.

The foolish cannot be leaders.

The hen pecks and wipes its beak.

The leader knows the reality.

The medicine man has no fame in his village.

The mouth wronged the walker.

The one who has been attacked by a buffalo, is afraid when he sees a black cow.

The powerful should mind their own power.

The remedies of several medicine men weaken one another.

The stick in the hand kills the snake.

Those exercising good habits and truth are leaders.

Three can keep a secret when two died.

Thunder is not yet rain.

To lead is not to run roughshod over people.

Too much tolerance paves the way for trouble.

Two bulls fighting must disengage their heads before one is defeated.

Two lions cannot rule in one valley.

Two noisy waterfalls do not agree.

Unity is the real thing.

Water never flows up the mountain.

We have not inherited this land from our ancestors; rather we have borrowed it from our children.

What has defeated the elders’ court, take to the public.

When the leading animal is lame, the herd fails to get to the pasture.

When the lion cannot find meat, it eats grass.

Who thinks to stay should take care not to fall.

Who walks slowly will also reach the aim.

Wisdom breaks a taut bow.

You don’t teach a grown up monkey how to climb a tree.

You should never forget your neighbor when you invite people to come to the feast.