top of page

Note: LT = literal translation

          Int = Interpretation


A dↄn pul bↄd na trap we in yay rɛd lɛk jɛmbɛtutu, so noto pɛpɛ bↄd de kam mek chiw chiw pan mi.


LT - I have removed a bird with eyes as red as jembetutu (a kind of brown dove) from a trap. So ‘a tiny bird’ cannot come and make ‘twi twi twi’ at me.

Int - I am not frightened by, and can easily cope with a small matter like this, for I have coped with much more difficult situations.

A n go day fↄ pɛpɛ we sↄl de

LT - I will not die for pepper when there is salt

Int - I shall not stress myself over what I don't have when I have something else.

A nↄ go dↄn de wit yu na wekin ol nɛt dɛn na mↄnin yu aks wetin mek mi yay rɛd.

LT - I will not have been with you at a wake all night, and then in the morning you ask why my eyes are red

Int - We were both in the situation which has caused me to look, feel or act the way I do, so why ask for explanations. l or act the way I do, so why ask for explanations.

A nↄ go dↄn sɛl naynti-nayn grani, a nↄ no mi yon grani in prays.

LT - I cannot have sold ninety-nine grandmother and I do not know my own my own grandmother’s price

Int - Of course, I know everything about the subject in question because I have had a lot of experience in such matters.


A nↄ go fala pikin drↄ kalbas

LT - I will not follow a child to pull a calabash. (play tug-of-war with a calabash)

Int - I refuse to demean myself by quarrelling with a child especially when such a quarrel might have unpleasant or disastrous results. (Calabash being easily smashed).

A nↄ go gɛ lif ɛn tek mi an tot pupu (a nↄ go lɛf lif na bush ɛn tek mi an wep mi wes.)

LT - I will not have a leaf and take my hand to hold faeces.

Int - I will not have the wherewithal at hand to do something and not use it, but continue to suffer.

A nↄ it bif, so a nↄ go pupu iya. (na udat it bif de shit iya)

LT - I have not eaten meat so I will not excrete hair.

Int - I have not committed the act which results in such consequences so I will not suffer those consequences.

Adu tɛnki nↄ bay plaba

LT - How are you doing, thank you, does not lead to palaver/argument.

Int - The exchange of pleasantries should not lead to confusion or disagreement. 

Aks fↄ ed yu se yu go Gramma Skul

LT - Ask for head, you say you went to The Grammar School

Int - Instead of asking for good luck, you rely on your privileged background to succeed in life.

An go an kam

LT - Hand go, hand come

Int - Help is given and received.

Arata na big mↄreman, bↄt I nↄ go pre na pus kanda.

LT - The rat is a big (important) muslim soothsayer, but it will not pray on a cat’s skin.

Int - A person always knows, or should know how far he can dare.


Arata nↄ go kↄt nyanga usay pus de

LT - A rat will not go showing off where there is a cat.

Int - You will not go showing off where there are people who have the power to harm you.


As fↄ trↄbul bɛtɛ pas as fↄ bɛrin

LT - Sympathy for trouble is better than sympathy for bereavement.

Int - It is preferable to express sympathy for misfortune than for bereavement.


At nↄto bon

LT - Heart is not bone.

Int - There is a limit to what a person can take.


Aw di bata de bit, na so di egugu de dans.

LT - How the bata (small drum) is beating, that’s how the egugu (masked devil) is dancing

Int - For every action, there is an appropriate response.


Awuf nↄ gɛ bon

LT - Something which is free and plentiful does not have any bone

Int - When you have something freely and plentiful, you tend to use it recklessly


Ayɛn na in de kↄt ayɛn

LT - Iron is what cuts iron

Int - A tough opponent can only be defeated by someone of equal strength.


Aw yu mek yu bed, na so yu go ledↄm de

LT - How you make your bed that’s how you will lie down in it.

Int - You will suffer the consequences of your actions..

Aw fa kↄntintri to lɛmↄn gras

LT - How far is the cotton tree from lemon grass.

Int - There is a very wide social gap / difference between two people or thing


Babu lɛk ala dɛn go gi am wachman wok

LT - The Baboon likes to shout; you go and give him watchman’s work.

Int - Putting someone in a situation in which he can indulge in a particular habit.


Babu lɛk klin gron


LT - The baboon likes clean ground

Int - Those who are undeserving like to have good things they haven’t worked for.


Arata nↄ de day I nↄ shek tel


LT - A rat does not die without shaking its tail.

Int - Making one final effort before giving up a fight



Bad bush nↄ de fↄ trowe bad pikin

LT - There is no bad bush to throw away a bad child

Int - No matter what a child does, it parents cannot wash their hands off it. Hence, in close relationships, one should strive to forgive and preserve the bond. Don’t throw away the offender.


Bad man bɛtɛ pas ɛmti os.

LT - A bad man is better than an empty house.

Int - It is better to have a husband, no matter how bad he is than to be alone/lonely/be without ‘protection’ / security with no male around. He must be useful at something.


Bad mɛrɛsin na in fↄ tek mɛn bad sofut


LT - Bad medicine is what should be taken to mend (heal) a bad sore on the foot

Int - Tough measures are needed to tackle difficult situations.


Banana dↄn gɛ wata bifo ren kam


LT - The banana already had water before it rained.

Int - Someone was born privileged, so is not impressed with newly acquired wealth or status.

Also, not easily affected by the vicissitudes of life because one’s position has been long established.


Bay ɛn sɛl nↄto plaba 


LT - Buying and selling is not palaver

Int - Trader and customer should conduct their business in an amicable manner. Doing business should not be a cause for quarrelling.


Beg sↄl nↄ de kuk sup


LT - Begged salt does not cook soup

Int - You cannot depend on begging to get enough to do what you want to do.


Bɛlɛ nↄ gɛ lukin glas

LT - The stomach does not have a looking glass (mirror).

Int - You have to take responsibility of what you eat and not expect your system to warn you what is ad for you.


Bɛlɛ nↄ gɛ tɛnki

LT - The stomach does not have thank you

Int - The stomach is never satisfied. It will always want more, sooner or later.


Biabia man nↄ de fityay drↄsup

LT - A man who has beard does not disrespect drawsoup.

Int - Depending on your circumstances, always be careful in certain situations.


Biabia man nↄ de mek padi wit faya

LT - A man with a beard does not make friends with fire.

Int - Be aware of what you are and be careful not to put yourself in situations which may be dangerous to you.


Bifo banana lif disgres, na raysbred go gɛt ↄmbak

LT - Rather than the banana leaf being disgraced, it is rice bread which will have a hump.

Int - One is prepared to do whatever its takes to prevent failure. Go to any length to ensure that what is being done turns out successfully.


Bifo fut na in biɛn fut de fala

LT - The back foot always follow the front foot

Int - We follow the examples of our elders and betters e.g. older siblings, parents, teachers and others in authority


Bᴐd we de it rɛs nᴐ de mek nᴐys.

LT - A bird which is eating rice does not make noise

Int - If one is benefitting from a situation, one doesn’t brag.

Da ayɛn spun we se i wan chalenj mared krawo, na in mɔt go bɛn


LT - The iron spoon which says it will challenge the crusty bits left at the bottom of the pot from rice (jollof) cooked for a marriage feast, will end up with crooked tip.

Int - Insisting on doing what is beyond one’s abilities will result in one’s getting hurt.

Bifo I bↄn, lɛ I wɛt.

LT - Before it burns, let is wet. 

Int - One should choose between the lesser of two evils.


Big man fᴐ no usay fᴐ it pan fᴐl.

LT - A big man should know which part of a fowl should be eaten

Int - An elderly person should know how to behave in any situation


Big man nᴐ de was in an fᴐ natin.

LT - A big (important) man does not wash his hand for nothing.

Int - When an important man makes lavish preparations, it is because something is in store for him / He stands to benefit.


Big man nᴐ go de na tᴐŋ, kaw day na rop.

LT - A big (important) man does not wash his hand for nothing.

Int - Influential personage will not be around and important things go undone, or good things go to waste.


Big wet kak we nᴐ no insɛf, dɛn go dᴐk am na bᴐn pamayn.

LT - A big white fowl which does not know itself, they will deep it into burnt palmoil

Int - A person who does not behave in a way to earn the respect to which he is entitled, will find himself humiliated.


Rog/Chit nɔ de pan mɔndɔ.

LT - There is no cheating when all eat together from the same bowl, using hands.

Int - Injunction to be content with whatever falls to you in a distribution.


Broko kunu na waf sɛf gɛt ona.

LT - Even the broken canoe at the wharf has an owner.

Int - Do not violate or injure someone who appears weak or helpless, as you don’t know which of the many seemingly helpless people will have support when the need arises.


Buk nᴐ ba lay, bᴐt lay man kin rayt buk.

LT - A book does not lie, but a man who tell lies can write a book

Int - A written word is a good reference point as opposed to oral communication, but should not necessarily be accepted as gospel truth.


Rog/Chit nɔ de pan mɔndɔ.

LT - There is no cheating when all eat together from the same bowl, using hands.

Int - Injunction to be content with whatever falls to you in a distribution.


Da ayɛn spun we se I wan chalenj mared krawo, na in mɔt go bɛn.

LT - The iron spoon which says it will challenge the crusty bits left at the bottom of the pot from rice (jollof) cooked for a marriage feast, will end up with crooked tip

Int - Insistence in doing what is beyond one’s powers will result in one’s getting hurt.


Da bɛlɛ we bɔn tifman, na in bɔn dɔkta

LT - That womb which gave birth to a thief, is the same one that gave birth to a doctor.

Int - Similar background/origin can still produce very dissimilar individuals

Da blak got we yu nɔ si santɛm, nɔto nɛt yu go si am.

LT - The black goat which you where unable to see during the day, you won’t be able to see it at night.

Int - It is extremely unlikely that something which was not done when conditions where favorable, would be achieved at a less favorable time.


Da dɔg we briŋ bon go kɛr bon.

LT - The dog which brings a bone will carry (take away) a bone.

Int - Beware of gossipers . They bring gossip and they are always on the lookout for more gossip to take away


Da briz we de disgres fɔl, na biɛn am i de kɔmɔt.

LT - The breeze which disgraces a fowl, will come from behind it .

Int - Always be vigilant, so that you would not find yourself with problems that you did not anticipate



Da ed we kam fɔ tot ston, if yu put biba de i go fɔdɔm (kɔmɔt)

LT - The head which comes to carry stone, if you put a beaver hat on it, it will fall off

Int - Any attempt made to thrust one who is destined to be lowly into a position of power/authority/leadership, will not succeed. Pushed to a higher level, they will come crashing down to the level they were pre-destined for. 


Da fɔl we fala yuba fɔ it sara rɛs na forod, na supɔt i go fɛn insɛf.

LT - The fowl which joins the vulture to eat sacrificial rice at the crossroads, will find itself inside the soup pot.

Int - If you insist on going with someone else or going with the crowd to do what you are not  experienced, trained, qualified, talented or equipped to do, you will end up in serious trouble


Da gladi we de pan sapo, nɔto in de pan krɔkrɔ.

LT - The happiness which is in sapo (item used for washing/bathing), is not the same that is in krɔkrɔ (an  itching skin disease).

Int - What is satisfying/pleasant to the offender is not to the victim - conflicting interests.

Da mared we go swit, na frɔm di bachilɔz iv yu go no.

LT - The marriage (ceremony) which will be sweet it is from the bachelor's eve you will know.
Int - A good start is a sign of greater things to come.

Da pambɔd we mek padi wit pamtik, na brum go lɛf na in ed.

LT - The palm-bird which makes friends with a palmtree, it is broom which will be left on its head.

Int - Having the wrong friends could lead to bad   outcome.

Da pamtik we wan fityay san, na brumtik go lɛf na in ed.

LT - The palm tree which wants to disrespect the sun, it is broom straw which will be left on its head.

Int - Attempting to confront a powerful person could lead to disastrous consequences

Da pikin we se in go pul lɔng tit, na in go pul lip fɔ kɔba am.

LT - The child who says he will produce long teeth, will have to grow the lip to cover it

Anyone who deliberately does something out of the  ordinary, will have to make the provision for it to succeed.

bottom of page