Ghanaian Proverbs: A proverb is a terse expression which conveys a traditionally held truth based on common sense. Proverbs are not just exclusive to Africa. Some countries and continents of the world have their wise sayings and proverbs.
African proverbs, also called wisdom nuggets, are deep, wisdom-filled expressions that are used mainly by elders for advice, encouragement, conveying lessons of life, and conversation. While some proverbs are known to have originated from specific ethnic groups, communities, tribes, or countries, others, however, have an unknown source.
Like most cultural proverbs, Ghanaian proverbs provide a window into the culture of a community. They often reflect the thought, principles and ideologies of a community through the use of cultural metaphorical statements. Nothing defines a culture as distinctly as its language, and the element of language that best encapsulates a society’s values and beliefs is its proverbs.
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We have compiled over 40 Ghanaian proverbs pertaining to different aspects of life below.
1. A child does not laugh at the ugliness of his mother.
2. A crab does not beget a bird.
3. A cracked bell can never sound well.
4. A calf that is sucking does not bellow.
5. A slave does not choose his master. A slave does not choose his master.
6. A healthy person who begs for food is an insult to a generous farmer.
7. A knife does not know who is its master.
8. A powerful deity is the one to whom sacrifices are offered.
9. A woman is a flower in a garden; her husband is the fence around it.
10. A worthy cause is worth pursuing to the end.
11. An army is driven back by a courage and not by insults, however many.
12. A stranger dances – he does not sing
13. By going and coming, a bird weaves its nest.
14. By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed.
15. Death has the key to open the miser’s chest.
16. Do not call the forest that shelters you a jungle.
17. Don’t expect to be offered a chair when you visit a place where the chief himself sits on the floor.
18. We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.
19. What is bad luck for one man is good luck for another.
20. What people get by hard work they don’t get for their neighbours.
21. When a deceiving man tells you to climb a tree, tell him to climb it first. If he finds a comfortable spot you can follow him.
22. When a king has good counsellors, his reign is peaceful.
23. The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people.
24. It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.
25. If an opportunity is not taken when it comes, it passes away.
26. The goat says: “They bought my mother, not I”
27. If the young palm tree wants to stay alive, it grows next to the Odum tree.
28. The left-hand washes the right and the right washes the left.
29. People working on the slope of a mountain do not look at the buttocks of one another.
30. The prickly branches of the palm tree do not show preference even to friends.
31. If two selfish young men sit next to a pot of water, the water spills out on the ground
32. The responsibility of power is like holding an egg. Grasp it too tightly and it will drip through your fingers; hold it too loosely and it will drop and break.
33. He who seems to be for you may be working against you.
34. The witch is going! The witch is going! but if you are not a witch you don’t turn around to look.
35. If youthful pride were wealth, then every man would have had it in his lifetime.
36. I will get it because I can, one says for a reason.
37. If we knew where death resided, we would never stay there.
38. One camel does not make fun of another camel’s hump.
39. If things are getting easier, maybe you’re headed downhill.
40. No one tests the depth of the river with both feet.
41. When a woman is hungry, she says, “Roast something for the children that they may eat.”
42. The rain wets the leopard’s spots but does not wash them off.
43. The rich man may wear old clothes.
44. The monkey says there is nothing better than poverty to unlearn man of his conceit.