50+ Igbo Proverbs, Quotes & Idioms + Their Meanings - Lingalot (2023)

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Igbo people use a lot of sayings and expressions in daily life which offer advice and even sometimes have hidden meanings.

Check out these proverbs and quotes below to gain some insight into Igbo beliefs and ways of thinking.

Below I’ve listed famous Igbo quotes, inspiring Nigerian sayings and common Igbo proverbs with their meaning.

Table of Contents

Famous Igbo Proverbs And Their Meanings

Below I’ve listed the most famous Igbo proverbs and their English translation as well as some common Igbo sayings. These are used often in day to day life.

  1. Adịghị ebute ozu ọdụm n’ụlọ – No one picks up a dead lion right in his compound.

This Igbo proverb teaches us that great things do not come from our comfort zones.

  1. Ugo chara acha adịghị echu echu – A mature eagle feather will forever remain pure.

This proverb means that someone who is well trained or well educated will stand the test of time.

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  1. Ụwa dika ara nne ehi, ọ gaghị agba mmiri ma ọ bụrụ na ipighị ya aka ọfuma – The world is like a cow’s udder. It does not yield any milk unless you punch and squeeze it.

This Igbo proverb means that in life, nothing comes easy. You have to work hard to accomplish things.

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  1. ​​Mgbe nwoke otu ụkwụ ji ekele Chukwu bụ mgbe ọ hụrụ onye ngwụrọ – A one-legged man is seldom thankful to God until he sees a crippled person.

This Nigerian proverb teaches us to be grateful and thankful for what we have.

  1. Mgbe nnukwu anụ ji apụta n’ọhịa bụ mgbe dinta sọrọ ngọngọ ọrụ – The big meat often appears when the hunter has given up the hunt for the day.

This Igbo saying teaches us to never give up. Don’t rest until you have succeeded.

  1. Ebule laa azụ, ọ bịa ọgụ – The ram retreats before attacking an enemy.

This Igbo quote means that we should take time to assess a situation before jumping in.

  1. Mma eji egbu Ọjị taa, bụ mma ụzụ hụrụ na ọkụ ụnyaahụ – The machete that cuts down a tree today is a machete that went through the blacksmith’s forge yesterday.

This Igbo proverb about success is similar to the English saying ‘no guts, no glory’ which means we have to take risks and go through hardships to succeed at something.

  1. Onye gbochiri enyi ya ịbụ eze, agaghị enwe enyi bụ eze – Whoever hinders his friend from becoming a king won’t have a king as a friend.

This Igbo proverb about life teaches us to foster goodness. Preventing others from succeeding will only lead to a poor outcome for us.

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  1. Onye ji mmadụ n’ani ji onwe ya – He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.

This Igbo proverb teaches that we should not bring others down as it devalues ourselves too.

  1. Mgbe otu onye isi di mma kpọrọ ndi ara iteghete gafee, ihe anyị mara bụ na ndị ara iri gafere – When a sane person walks in the company of 9 mad people, 10 mad people walk by.

This Igbo quote means that your associates identify you. The people you associate yourself with shows your true character.

  1. Ọkụkọ na-akwa ákwá nwere mgbe ọ bụ àkwá – The cockerel that crows was once an egg.

This Igbo proverb means that we all have to start somewhere. Your time will come.

  1. Ọ nweghị ka ewu tara ahụ ga-esi maa abụba n’ụbọchị ahịa Nkwọ – A lean goat cannot be fattened on market day.

This Nigerian saying means that good things take time. You cannot rush things if you want good results.

  1. A na-agwa ntị ma ntị anụghị, e gburu isi ntị esoro ya – If the ear refuses to heed warning, when the head is cut off, the ear goes with it.

This Nigerian proverb teaches us to always listen to advice. If we don’t take notice of good advice we shall likely fall into trouble.

  1. Azụ rahụ ụra, azụ ibe ya elo ya – If a fish sleeps, it will be eaten by another fish.

This Igbo proverb means that we should be cautious, keep pushing and be tough. Don’t be complacent.

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  1. Ọnwụ amaghị eze; ọ na egbu onye ukwu, ọ na egbu onye nta – Death does not recognize a king, it kills both the mighty and the low.

This Igbo saying tells us that death is inevitable for everyone and nobody can escape it.

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  1. Onye chọrọ ị bụ ọgaranya ga-agba mbọ, maka na ego dị n’ogwu – Whoever wants to be wealthy must be prepared to work hard because wealth resides right in the thorn.

This Nigerian proverb means that we must take risks in order to achieve our goals.

  1. Agwọ emeghi ihe o ji bụrụ agwọ, ụmụaka ewere ya kee nkụ – If a snake fails to live up to its attributes, children will use it to tie firewood thinking its a rope.

This saying means that we should defend our own capability to avoid being taken for granted.

  1. Uriom hapụ nne ya kpawa nri, egbe eburu ya – The chick that ventures to search for food alone is the one that the hawk gets to pounce on.

This proverb teaches us to be cautious and avoid things that come with big risks.

  1. Mmiri mara ugo sara ugo ahụ​​​​ – The rain fell on the eagle and also bathed the eagle.

This proverb means that sometimes unfortunate events can turn out to be blessings in disguise.

Beautiful Igbo Quotes & Nigerian Sayings

Below I’ve listed a range of famous and inspirational Igbo quotes and more Igbo Nigerian proverbs and meanings.

  1. Ka anyasị eteka, chi ga-efo – However long the night, the dawn will break.

This Igbo proverb teaches us that tough times don’t last forever. We should keep the hope alive and wait it out.

50+ Igbo Proverbs, Quotes & Idioms + Their Meanings - Lingalot (4)
  1. Chọọ ewu ojii ka chi dị – Make hay while the sun shines.

This quote means that we should promptly explore opportunities and not leave it too late.

  1. Ndụ dị, olileanya dị – As long as there is life, there is hope.
  1. Oge adighi eche mmadu – Time and tide wait for nobody.
  1. Ụtọ bụ eleta aghara – Willingness to overlook is what makes loving relationships endure.

This Igbo proverb about love teaches us to be tolerant as nobody is perfect.

  1. Gidi gidi bụ ugwu eze – Unity is strength.
  1. Ego dị na ogwu – Money resides right in the thorns.

This Igbo proverb means that fortune favors the brave. To get something great you may have to do something difficult.

  1. Ụbọchị tata k’anyị mara, ọ nweghị onye ma echi – Today is what we all know, no one knows tomorrow for certain.
  1. Ezi aha ka ego – A good name is better than riches.

This Igbo proverb means that being a good person with a good reputation is far more important than having a lot of money.

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  1. Chi foo onye ngana a maa ọ́sụ – When the day breaks, a lazy man hisses.
  1. Ọdụm na-ebigbọ adịghị atagbute anụ – A roaring lion kills no prey.

This Nigerian saying means that you cannot win at life by sitting around and wishing it. You have to get up and work for your success.

  1. Onye nwere mmadụ ka onye nwere ego – A person with a robust network of people is stronger than an individual with only money.

This Nigerian proverb teaches us about the importance of building good relationships.

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  1. Anụ gbala taa, echi bụ nta – If an animal escapes the hunter today, tomorrow is yet another day to hunt.

This Igbo quote means that tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities. We should keep hope alive.

  1. Ejighị akpata atụfuo aba ọgaranya – No one gets wealthy by throwing away what they have acquired.

This Igbo proverb about money teaches us that wasteful people will never become wealthy.

  1. Adịghị ajụ arụsi ihe mere ihe ji aga nkeọma – Nobody goes to a prophet to find out why they’re doing well in life.

This Igbo quote means that nobody asks questions when things are going well. We only ask questions when things go wrong.

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  1. Otu onye tuo izu, o gbue ochu – Knowledge is never complete: two heads are better than one.
  1. Ewu nwụrụ n’ọba ji abụghị agụ gburu ya – A goat that died in a yam barn was not killed by hunger.

This Igbo proverb means that the goat died due to it’s laziness. The goat had the means to survive but was too lazy.

  1. Obele ime-ụlọ ga-abata ndị enyi iri ma-ọbụrụ na ifunanya dị n’etiti ha – A small room is good enough for ten friends if there is love among them.

This Igbo proverb about love means that with love, anything is possible. Love conquers all.

  1. Pam pam ka nkwụ ji eju ọgba – Drop by drop is how the palm wine fills the container.

This Nigerian saying means that little by little you can achieve big things.

Best Igbo Idioms & Igbo Expressions

Below I’ve listed the most well-known Igbo idioms and expressions. Many of these have hidden meanings.

  1. Anya bewe, imi ebewe – When the eye cries, the nose cries too.

This Igbo idiom means that if a close friend or relative is hurt, it upsets you too.

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  1. Aki ga-agba mmanụ aghaghị igabiga n’ọkụ – A palm nut that wants to become palm oil must pass through fire.

This Igbo idiom teaches us that in order to succeed we must first do difficult things. Nothing good comes easy.

  1. Ọkụkọ nwa ogbenye bụ ehi ya – The poor person’s chicken is a cow.

This Igbo idiom means that we should be content with our own possessions no matter how small they may appear.

  1. Ndụ mmiri, ndụ azụ, mmiri atala azụ anwụla – Let the water live and let the fish live, the water won’t dry and the fish won’t die.

This idiom is similar to the English saying ‘live and let live’. It means that we should tolerate other people’s opinions so that they will tolerate ours.

  1. Emesia, emesia bụ ọnwụ na-egbu onye ngana – ‘Later, later’ is the death that kills a lazy person.

This Igbo saying means that procrastinating and putting things off will only prevent you from succeeding.

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  1. Anụahụ agụ mara mma, ma ọ bụghị obi ya – The skin of the leopard is beautiful but not his heart.

This Igbo idiom is similar to the English saying ‘all that glitters is not gold’. It means that we should be perceptive as things are not always as they seem.

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  1. Imi na ọnụ adịghị ese okwu – The nose and mouth are too close to be enemies.

This idiom means that it is unwise to harbor grudges against our neighbors, family and friends.

  1. Ugo rie awọ, mma ya arụọ – The moment an eagle decides to feed on a toad, the beauty is lost.

This Nigerian saying means that a person of honor should be careful not to bring himself into disrepute.

  1. Ọ bụrụ na ị gbara okenye ọsọ maka ajọ ume, ị gaghị enweta amamihe – If you stay away from elders because of bad breath, you will not learn wisdom.

This Igbo idiom means that small inconveniences should not deter us from acquiring knowledge.

  1. Ọ bụ naanị nwata na-eti aki ewegara okenye ka ọ na-azọtara nkume – It is only the child that gives a cracked palm nut to an elder than enjoys his protection whenever the stone is in dispute.

This Igbo quote means that it pays to be kind.

  1. ​​Ihe ehi hụrụ gbalaba oso ka okuku huru na-atụ onu – Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

This Igbo proverb means that foolish people will not stop to think about a situation before jumping in, often leading to failure.

  1. Ígwè nile ga-eje n’ụ́zụ̀ – Every iron will go to the blacksmith’s furnace.

This Igbo proverb about death is used by Igbo people to preach that life ends in the same way for everyone – in death.

  1. ​​Dinta chọrọ ịgbu enyi, ga-adịkwa njikere ibu ozu ya n’isi – A hunter who is prepared to kill an elephant should be prepared to carry it’s carcass on his head.

This idiom means that we should prepare for the consequences of our actions.

Check out the videos below which feature a range of famous Igbo proverbs and well-known Igbo quotes & idioms.

Thanks for reading this post on the best Igbo quotes about life, famous Nigerian sayings and fascinating Igbo proverbs.

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These Igbo quotes & proverbs give an interesting insight into the Igbo beliefs and language.

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FAQs

What is ILU in Igbo? ›

PROVERBS (Ilu or Ilulu)

Igbo proverbs permeate all aspect of life: family, marriage, bravery, love, patience, self control, gratefulness, peace, satisfaction, gratitude, problems, difficulties, common sense and others. Proverbs are highly prevalent in Igbo language. Ilu bụ mmanụ ndị igbo ji eri okwu.

What is the use of proverbs in the Igbo religious tradition? ›

The depository of most of the peoples' cultural values is found in proverbs. Among the Igbo, proverbs are used to inculcate in the people good values which they exhibit in their daily activities.

What was the use of parables and proverbs among the Igbo? ›

The Igbo proverbs and parables are used to teach their children wisdom and how to view life. Thought the way the Igbo people word their proverbs and parables are strange, people still come to realized that one has heard of these proverbs. Some examples would be "Live and let live." or "A stitch in time saves nine."

What are some Nigerian Proverbs? ›

Some Nigerian Proverbs
  • The child of an elephant will not be a dwarf. [ ...
  • What an old man sees while lying down, a young man can never see even when he climbs up in a tree. ( ...
  • Only the thing for which you have struggled will last. ( ...
  • Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse.

How do you greet someone in Igbo? ›

Greetings in Igbo Language - YouTube

What is the meaning of Daalu? ›

thank you. interjection. en an expression of gratitude.

What does it mean to use your tongue to count your teeth? ›

It's 'USE YOUR TONGUE TO COUNT YOUR TEETH ' which means 'use your initiative ' 'BEFORE YOU SPEAK ' shouldn't have been included. 1.

What is the importance of proverbs in Things Fall Apart? ›

From Things Fall Apart, it is not only evident that proverbs are a component of Igbo linguistic features. Achebe suggests proverbs are also used as a device with specific effects: they help in defining characters, clarifying issues not overtly stated and enriching the process of conversation.

What does the proverb the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them? ›

The elders say “the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them” (Achebe, 8). This proverb means that life will reward those who work hard, and in the book Unoka will pay back the debts to those who have worked hard first rather than those who have not worked hard.

What is the purpose of the proverbs in Things Fall Apart? ›

In the Umuofian society, proverbs are used very often in conversation, and help people understand things better by presenting the truth and can also give them advice. Proverbs have an important impact on the storyline. All proverbs have some kind of deeper meaning behind them, and this is part of the Nigerian culture.

What are the two most important proverbs in Things Fall Apart? ›

Terms in this set (19)
  • "Proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten" (Chapter 1). ...
  • "If a child washes his hands he could eat with kings" (Chapter 1). ...
  • "When the moon is shining the cripple becomes hungry for walk"(Chapter 2). ...
  • "A man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness" (Chapter 3).

What is Achebe's purpose in using Igbo proverbs in the novel? ›

Achebe's use of Igbo language, speech patterns, proverbs, and richly drawn characters creates an authentic African story that effectively bridges the cultural and historical gap between the reader and the Igbo.

What does the proverb if a child washes his hands he could eat with kings mean? ›

African Proverb: If a child washes his hands he can eat with kings. Santi Mario dan 1,619 yang lain menyukai ini. It simply means ; if you respect greatness , you will become great by yourself.

What are proverbs and their meanings? ›

A proverb is basically just an expression or saying based on common sense or experience. They are nothing but common and traditional sayings which explain some truth. They are often metaphorical in nature. The origin of most common proverbs generally lies in local or universal truths and principles.

What an elder see while sitting down? ›

“What the elders see while sitting, the young ones standing on their toes won't see.” Because of all the knowledge they have accrued, elders can easily perceive things that younger people can't, no matter how hard they try, according to this proverb.

What is Ibolachi in Igbo? ›

Ibolachi is a good morning greeting in the Igbo language. Igbo is one of the major languages spoken in Nigeria. Have a wonderful morning and a great week ahead.

What is the meaning of Ututu OMA? ›

Ututu Oma is a recent invention. It is a literal translation of the British morning greeting 'Good Morning'. However, ndi Igbo do not great each other by proclaiming Good Morning. It's up to each person & his/her chi to determine how good or bad their Morning would be. To the Igbo, 'Mgbe onye jiri tete ura bu ututu ya.

What does Igbo Kwenu mean? ›

Igbo ekelem unu! Apart from using the Kwenu as a signal to gain audience attension, Kwenu in. the real sense means greetings from the speaker to the audience. It does not make a difference what the occassion is all about.

What is the meaning of Nwanne? ›

ig Nwa means child, Nne means mother. So Nwanne is "my mother's child/my sibling". For a sister. you would add nwanyi aand for a brother you would add nwoke to the end of the word. The direct English translation would be "Child of my mother female / Child of my mother male"

How do you respond to KEDU in Igbo? ›

Therefore when the greeting “kedu” is offered, one expects the response “ọ dị mma” (it is alright) and not “ọ dị njọ” (it is bad or it is not alright). The person initiating the greeting has to demand for an explanation for the negative response.

What Bhai means? ›

: brother, friend. used in address as an expression of friendship.

What happens if one of your front teeth fall out? ›

Knocked-out teeth need to be treated by a dentist within 1-2 hours. Call us immediately. If possible we will attempt to reinsert the tooth or bond any broken fragments back into place. However, if there is nerve damage involved, you may require endodontic treatment to save the tooth.

What are teeth used for kids? ›

With the lips and tongue, teeth help form words by controlling airflow out of the mouth. The tongue strikes the teeth or the roof of the mouth as some sounds are made. When we eat, our teeth tear, cut, and grind food in preparation for swallowing.

What is a good proverb? ›

Proverbs are also known as sayings.
...
50 Common Proverbs in English.
1PROVERBAbsence makes the heart grow fonder
4EXAMPLE“I wish this vacation would go on forever. It's too bad that all good things must come to an end.”
5PROVERBA picture is worth a thousand words
MEANINGAn image can tell a story better than words
196 more rows

What are some wise sayings? ›

19 Wise Quotes for a Better Life
  • Always be looking forward. “You can never plan the future by the past.” — ...
  • Live a life of purpose. ...
  • Be brave. ...
  • Use your time wisely. ...
  • Value yourself for who you are. ...
  • Hone your skills. ...
  • Keep your head up. ...
  • Learn to speak well and listen better.
16 Feb 2017

What is a traditional proverb? ›

A proverb (from Latin: proverbium) is a simple and insightful, traditional saying that expresses a perceived truth based on common sense or experience. Proverbs are often metaphorical and use formulaic language.

What is Igbo philosophy? ›

The Igbo management philosophy takes the viewpoint that successful business leaders are servant-leaders who sacrifice themselves and lead by age-old African values.

Where is the Igbo tribe located? ›

Igbo, also called Ibo, people living chiefly in southeastern Nigeria who speak Igbo, a language of the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo language family. The Igbo may be grouped into the following main cultural divisions: northern, southern, western, eastern or Cross River, and northeastern.

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