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Part 2: On perspicaciousness (good judgment, perceptiveness), reasonableness, sagacity, savoir-faire, wisdom, and worldly wisdom


A bímọ kò gbọ́n, a ní kó má ṣàá kú; kí ní ńpa ọmọ bí àìgbọ́n?
A child lacks wisdom, and some say that what is important is that the child does not die; what kills more surely than lack of wisdom?
(A foolish child is not much better than a dead child.)

A dẹ́bọ fún igúnnugún, ó ní òun kò rú; a dẹ́bọ fún àkàlà, ó ní òun kò rú; a dẹ́bọ fún ẹyẹlé, ẹyẹlé gbẹ́bọ, ó rúbọ.
A sacrifice was prescribed for the vulture, but it refused to sacrifice; a sacrifice was prescribed for the ground-hornbill, but it declined to sacrifice; a sacrifice was prescribed for the pigeon, and it gathered the prescribed materials and made the sacrifice.
(The vulture and the ground-hornbill are unfortunate in comparison with the pigeon, because they did not carry out the prescribed sacrifice.) [1]

A fọwọ́ mú ajá o lọ, a ṣẹ̀ṣẹ̀ ńfi ìka méjì pè é.
We grab a dog with the hands and it escapes; thereafter we beckon it with two fingers.
(If both hands cannot detain a dog, two fingers from a distance will not bring it to where it escaped from.)

A fún ọ lọ́bẹ̀ o tami si; o gbọ́n ju ọlọ́bẹ̀ lọ.
You are given some stew and you add water; you must be wiser than the cook.
(Adding water is a means of stretching stew. A person who thus stretches the stew he or she is given would seem to know better than the person who served it how much would suffice for the meal.)

A kì í bọ́ sínú omi tán ká máa sá fún òtútù.
One does not enter into the water and then run from the cold.
(Precautions are useful only before the event.)

A kì í dá aró nÍṣokùń àlà là ńlò.
One does not engage in a dyeing trade in Ìṣokùń people there wear only white.
(Wherever one might be, one should respect the manners and habits of the place.)

A kì í dá ẹrù ikùn pa orí.
One does not weigh the head down with a load that belongs to the belly.
(Responsibilities should rest where they belong.)

A kì í du orí olórí kí àwòdì gbé tẹni lọ.
One does not fight to save another person's head only to have a kite carry one's own away.
(One should not save other's at the cost of one's own safety.)

A kì í duni lóyè ká fọ̀nà ilé-e Baálẹ̀ hanni.
One does not compete with another for a chieftaincy title and also show the way to the king's house to the competitor.
(A person should be treated either as an adversary or as an ally, not as both.)

A kì í fá orí lẹ́hìn olórí.
One does not shave a head in the absence of the owner.
(One does not settle a matter in the absence of the person most concerned.)

A kì í fi àgbà sílẹ̀ sin àgbà.
One does not leave one elder sitting to walk another elder part of his way.
(One should not slight one person in order to humor another.)

A kì í fi àì-mọ̀-wẹ̀ mòòkùn.
One does not dive under water without knowing how to swim.
(Never engage in a project for which you lack the requisite skills.)

A kì í fi ara ẹni ṣe oògun alọ̀kúnná.
One does not use oneself as an ingredient in a medicine requiring that the ingredients be pulverized.
(Self-preservation is a compulsory project for all.)

A kì í fi aṣọ ṣèdìdí yọwó.
One does not leave cloth in a bundle while bargaining over it.
(It is wise to know what one is negotiating to buy.)

A kì í fi ejò sórí òrùlé sùn.
One does not go to bed while a snake is on the roof.
(Never let down your guard while danger still lurks.)
Compare A kì í fi iná . . .

A kì í fi ẹ̀jẹ̀ ìbálé pa tírà; alákoto ò bí abo ọmọ.
One does not smear blood (from a woman's deflowering) on a Muslim charm; a de-virgined woman does not give birth to a “female” child.
(One must not do the forbidden if one does not expect trouble.) [2]

A kì í fi ẹ̀tẹ̀ sílẹ̀ pa làpálàpá.
One does not ignore leprosy to treat a rash.
(More serious problems deserve more immediate attention.)

A kì í fi ẹran ikún gbọn ti àgbọ̀nrín nù.
One does not brush off antelope meat with squirrel meat.
(Never prefer something of little value to something of great value.)

A kì í fi idà pa ìgbín.
One does not use a sword to kill a snail.
(Remedies should be commensurate with the problem.)

A kì í fi ìgbín sọ̀kò sórìṣà.
One does not throw a snail at a god.
(Service to the worthy should be performed with decorum, not with insult.)

A kì í fi iná sórí òrùlé sùn.
One does not go to bed while there is a fire on one's roof.
(Better take care of problems before relaxing.)
Compare A kì í fi ejò . . .

A kì í fi ìtìjú kárùn.
One does not because of shyness expose oneself to a disease.
(Never be too shy to speak out on your own behalf.)

A kì í fi ìyá ẹní dákú ṣeré.
One does not as a joke say one's mother has collapsed.
(Never trifle with serious matters.)

A kì í fi ogun dán ẹ̀ṣọ́ wò.
One does not tease a warrior by saying there is a war (or an invasion.)
(Do not play with a loaded and primed gun.)

A kì í fi ohun sọ́wọ́ búra.
One does not hide something in one's hand and yet swear [that one knows nothing about it].
(It is foolish to tempt fate; the dishonest exposes himself/herself to the possibility of discovery.)

A kì í fi ohun-olóhun tọrẹ bí kò ṣe tẹni.
One does not make a gift of someone else's property when it is not one's own.
(Never be too free with other people's property.)

A kì í fi oko sin fún ìwọ̀fà.
One does not hide the farm from the pawned worker.
(It does not make sense to prevent a servant one has hired from doing what one hired him to do.)

A kì í fi olórí ogun ṣe ìfagun.
One does not position the commander of the army at the rear of the column.
(The best foot is the one to put forward.)

A kì í fi oníjà sílẹ̀ ká gbájúmọ́ alápẹpẹ.
One does not leave the person one has a quarrel with and face his lackey.
(Focus rather on your main problem, not a side-show.)

A kì í fi owó du oyè-e alágbára.
One does not rely on money to contest a chieftaincy reserved for the strong.
(Money won't buy everything.)

A kì í fi ọlá jẹ iyọ̀.
One does not consume salt according to one's greatness.
(Too much of a good thing can be dangerous.)

A kì í fi ọ̀nà ikùn han ọ̀fun.
One does not show the throat the way to the stomach.
(Do not presume to know better than the expert.)
See the following entry.

A kì í fi ọ̀nà odò han ikún.
One does not show the squirrel the way to the river.
(Telling someone what he or she already knows is silly.)
See the preceding entry.

A kì í fi ọ̀rọ̀ sílẹ̀ gbọ́ ọ̀rọ̀.
One does not ignore one matter to attend to another matter.
(Every obligation deserves attention.)

A kì í gbá ẹni tó yọ̀bẹ mú.
One does not grab hold of a person who has pulled a knife.
(Prudence and caution are imperative in dealing with dangerous people.)

A kì í gbé ẹran erin lérí ká máa fẹsẹ̀ wa ihò ìrẹ̀.
One does not carry elephant meat on one's head and dig cricket holes with one's big toe.
(If one is blessed with plenty, one should not keep chasing after trifles.)

A kì í gbé odò jiyàn-an ọṣẹ́ hó tàbí kò hó.
One does not sit by a river and argue whether the soap will foam or will not foam.
(Where the claim can be put to the test, verbal argument is foolish.)

A kì í gbé ọ̀pọ̀lọ́ sọnù ká tún bèrè-e jàǹto.
One does not throw a toad away and inquire after its young.
(Commiseration after injury is hypocritical.)

A kì í gbẹ́ àwòrán gàgàrà ká má fi ọwọ́ ẹ ti nǹkan.
One does not carve a tall statue without resting its hand on something.
(Everybody needs some support.)

A kì í gbójú-u fífò lé adìẹ àgàgà; a kì í gbójú-u yíyan lé alágẹmọ.
One should not expect flight from the flightless chicken; one should not expect striding from a chameleon.
(To expect the impossible is to delude oneself.)

A kì í gbọ́ ẹjọ́ẹnìkan dájọ́.
One does not deliver a verdict after hearing only one side.
(Justice requires impartiality and a full hearing.)

A kì í jẹ “Mo fẹ́rẹ̀-ẹ́” lọ́bẹ̀.
One does not eat “I almost” in a stew.
(What one missed narrowly, one cannot enjoy at all.) [3]

A kì í ka igún mọ́ ẹran jíjẹ.
One does not list vultures among edible meats.
(Certain things one does not stoop to do.)

A kì í ka ilé òrìṣà kún ìlú.
One does not count a god's grove as part of the town.
(Do not list questionable items as part of your wealth.)

A kì í ka oyún inú kún ọmọ ilẹ̀.
One does not count a fetus among living children.
(Never count your chickens before they are hatched.)

A kì í ka ọmọ fún òbí.
One does not enumerate children for the parents.
(Do not presume to know better than those most intimately involved.)

A kì í kọ ọmọ-ọ́ bí ká sọ ọ́ ní Èwolódé?
One does not so resent having a child that one names it What-is-this-that-has-happened?
(Childbirth is always a happy event.)

A kì í léku méjì ká má pòfo.
One does not chase two rats and avoid coming up with nothing.
(Never try to go in two directions at once.)
Also Ẹní bá léku méjì á pòfo.

A kì í lọ́mọ lẹ́hin kọ oúnjẹ.
One does not have children at one's rear and yet refuse food.
(No amount of anger or distress should keep one from looking after one's dependents.)

A kì í mọ ọkọ ọmọ ká tún mọàlè-e rẹ̀.
One does not acknowledge the husband for one's child and also acknowledge her illicit lover.
(Never betray trust or connive at betraying it.)

A kì í mú ìbọn tetere.
One does not hold a gun carelessly.
(Always be careful in handling dangerous matters.)

A kì í mú oko mú ẹjọ́ kí ọ̀kan má yẹ̀.
One does not opt to work on the farm and also opt to go argue one's case and avoid neglecting one or the other.
(One cannot do two mind-absorbing tasks at once.)
Compare A kì í múlé móko . . . and A kì í ṣòwò méjì kẹ́ran má jẹ ọ̀kan.

A kì í mú ọmọ oǹdọ́pọ̀ dè.
One does not chain the child of a person who offers too low a price for one's wares.
(It is not a crime to make an offer that might be unacceptable.)

A kì í mú ọmọ òṣì lọ sí Ìlọ́rọ̀.
One does not take a child destined for poverty to Ìlọ́rọ̀.
(A person cannot transcend his/her destiny.) [4]

A kì í múlé móko kọ́kan má yẹ̀.
One does not devote oneself to the home and devote oneself to the farm and not wind up neglecting one of them.
(One cannot go in two opposite directions at once.)
Compare A kì í mú oko mú ẹjọ́..., And A kì í ṣòwò méjì kẹ́ran má jẹ ọ̀kan.

A kì í ní ẹgbàá nílé wá ẹgbàá ròde.
One does not have a thousand cowries (or six pence) at home and go chasing abroad for a thousand cowries.
(Only the promise of a greater fortune should tempt one to neglect what one already has.)

A kì í pa asínwín ilé, nítorí ọjọ́ tí tòde yó bàá wá sílé.
One does not kill the imbecile within one's home, because of the day when the one from outside might visit one.
(One should cultivate one's own madness; one might need it to combat others' madness.)

A kì í pa igún, a kì í jẹ igún, a kì í fi igún bọrí.
One does not kill the vulture; one does not eat the vulture; one does not offer the vulture as a sacrifice to one's head.
(Certain behaviors are beyond the pale.)

A kì í pé kí òṣìkà ṣe é ká wò ó.
One does not dare a wicked person to do his worst.
(Never tempt evil people to do their evil.)

A kì í peni lólè ká máa gbé ọmọ ẹran jó.
One does not suffer the reputation of being a thief and yet go seeking to dance with kids (baby goats).
(It is foolish to behave in ways that will confirm people's evil opinion of one.)

A kì í rán ọ̀lẹ wo ojú ọjọ́ àárọ̀.
One does not send a shirker to go see what the morning looks like outside.
(Never rely on the advice of people who have a vested interest in the matter being considered.)

A kì í re nísun lọ dà síbú.
One does not collect water from a spring to dump in the deep.
(Do not rob the poor to further enrich the wealthy.

A kì í rí adìẹ nílẹ̀ ká da àgbàdo fún ajá.
One does not see chickens about and throw one's corn to the dog.
(Always direct help where it will be appreciated and where it will do some good.)

A kì í rí àjẹkù orò.
No one ever sees the leavings of the god Orò.
(What must be consumed must be completely consumed.)

A kì í rí bàtá nílẹ̀ ká fẹnu sín in jẹ.
One does not see a bàtá drum on the ground and use one's mouth to mimic its sound.
(Too much talk about a problem is useless when a practical solution has presented itself. One should not make a person's case for him or her when the person is present.)

A kì í rí ewé nílẹ̀ ká fọwọ́ fámí.
One does not see leaves lying about and scoop up feces with one's bare hand.
(Take advantage of whatever aids are available to you.)

A kì í rí ẹ́ni ranni lẹ́rù ká yọké.
One does not find helpers willing to help with one's load and yet sprout a hump on one's back “from carrying too heavy a load”.
(Always avail yourself of offered help.)

A kì í rí ojú ẹkùn ká tọ́ ẹkùn.
One does not see the look on a leopard's face and then taunt the leopard.
(It is foolish to needlessly invite disaster on one's own head.

A kì í sá fún àjíà ká dìgbò lu eégún.
One does not run from the herald of the masquerader and collide with the masquerader himself.
(Never court a greater disaster in an attempt to avert a minor one.)

A kì í sin àlè kọjá odò; ohun tí ńṣe ọṣẹ́ ò tó ǹkan.
One does not walk one's secret lover across a river; the causes of huge disasters are usually insignificant in themselves.
(If one is engaged in a dangerous venture, one should not also cast discretion to the wind.)

A kì í sọ pé abẹ Ọ̀yọ́ mú; nígbà náà ni yó sọ pé bẹ́ẹ̀ ni òun ò tíì pọn.
One does not tell an Ọ̀yọ́ person that his knife is sharp, for only then will he say he has not even honed it yet.
(Offer no braggart any opportunity to resume his bragging.)
Compare A kì í yin ará Ìjẹ́mọ̀ pé ó mọ asẹ́-ẹ́ hun . . .

A kì í sọrọ ìkọ̀kọ̀ lójú olófòófó.
One does not discuss secret matters in the presence of a tattler.
(Be careful with your secrets.)

A kì í sùn jẹ́rìí ìdí.
One cannot be asleep and also be able to vouch for one's anus.
(Assert only those things you know for certain.) [5]

A kì í ṣe fáàárí ẹ̀ṣẹ́ dídì sọ́mọ adẹ́tẹ̀.
One does not flaunt one's ability to make a fist in the face of a leper's child.
(Never make fun of people because of their affliction.)
See also the following entry.

A kì í ṣe fáàárí itọ́ dídà sọ́mọ a-kú-wárápá.
One does not drool in jest in the presence of the child of an epileptic.
(Never make fun of afflicted people by mimicking their affliction.)
Compare the preceding entry.

A kì í ṣoore tán ká lóṣòó tì í.
One does not do a favor and then camp by it.
(Having done some good, do not hang around to compel gratitude.)

A kì í ṣòwò méjì kẹ́ran má jẹ ọ̀kan.
One does not engage in two trades without having one consumed by goats.
(One cannot effectively manage two enterprises at once.)
Compare A kì í mú oko mú ẹjọ́ kí ọ̀kan má yẹ̀, and A kì í múlé móko kọ́kan má yẹ̀.

A kì í ti ojú ogun wẹ́fọ́n.
One does not wait until the heat of the battle to start looking for palm-leaf midrib.
(Always make your preparations well ahead of the event.) [6]

A kì í ti ojú on-íka-mẹ́sàn-án kà á.
One does not count the fingers of a person who has only nine in his/her presence.
(One must be discreet in speaking about other people's flaws and deformities.)

A kì í tijú bá baálé ilé jẹ akátá; bó bá mú, ìwọ náà a mú tìẹ.
One should not be too embarrassed to eat a jackal with one's host; as he helps himself, one also helps oneself.
(Never be too bashful to adopt the ways of the people among whom you find yourself.) [7]

A kì í wá aláṣọ-àlà nísọ̀ elépo.
One should not look for a white-clad person in the stall of palm-oil sellers.
(One should know the likely places to look for whatever one seeks.)

A kì í wà nínú ìṣẹ́ ká perin tọrẹ.
One does not wallow in poverty and yet kill an elephant for public distribution.
(Always live according to your circumstances.)

A kì í wíjọ́ọ wíwò ká jàre.
One does not complain about being looked at and be vindicated.
(One should not complain that other people are doing what one is also doing.)

A kì í yin ọmọdé lójú ara ẹ̀; ìfàsẹ́hìn ní ńkángun ẹ̀.
One does not praise a child in his presence; only backsliding results.
(Children should not be praised too highly; they should always be made aware that they can be even better.)

A kúnlẹ̀ a pàgbò, alubàtá ní “ojú ò fẹ́rakù”; o fẹ́ bá wọn ṣúpó ni?
We kneel and sacrifice a ram, and the bàtá drummer shows reluctance to take his leave. Does he wish to inherit a wife?
(One should always know when to take one's leave.) [8]
See A sìnkú tán . . .

A lé tẹ̀m̀bẹ̀lẹ̀kun jìnnà bí ẹnipé kó bọ́ jù sígbó.
One chases conspiracy away, as though one would have it disappear into the bush.
(No one should want anything to do with conspiracy.)

À nfọ̀tún tẹ́ní, à ńfòsì tú ṣòkòtò, obìnrín ní a kò bá òun gbọ́ tọmọ.
One spreads a mat with the right hand while removing one's pants with the left hand; yet the woman complains that one is not helping her quest for a child.
(Some people are incapable of recognizing and acknowledging favors.) [9]

À ńgba òròmọ adìẹ lọ́wọ́ ikú, ó ní wọn ò jẹ́ kí òun jẹ̀ láàtàn.
One struggles to save the chick from certain death, and it complains that one is preventing it from foraging at the dump.
(Chicks foraging at the dump are easy prey for kites.)

À ńgbèjà Ọ̀jà, Ọ̀já ní ta ní ńjà lẹ́hìnkùlé òun?
We fight in defence of Ọ̀jà, and Ọ̀jà asks who is fighting in his backyard.
(Some people do not acknowledge or appreciate favors.) [10]

A ní ìrókò ni yó pa ọmọdé, ó bojú-wẹ̀hìn; òòjọ́ ní ńjà?
One curses a child that ìrókò will kill him, and he glances at his rear; does the curse take effect immediately?
(The child obviously does not know that the fact that he does not die immediately in no way invalidates the curse.)

A ní kí olókùnrùn ṣe tó, ó ní òun ò lè ṣe tó, tò, tó.
The invalid is asked to say, “Tó,” and he complains that he cannot keep saying, “Tó, tò, tó.”
(He has expended more effort in his refusal than he would have in complying.) [11]

A ní kọ́mọ má kùú, o ní kò jọ bàbá kò jọ ìyá.
We strive to keep a child from dying, and you say he resembles neither the father nor the mother.
(The person addressed has his or her priorities reversed.)

“À ńjùwọ́n” ò ṣéé wí lẹ́jọ́; ìjà ìlara ò tán bọ̀rọ̀.
“We are driven by envy of them” is a bad case to make; a quarrel spawned by jealousy is not easy to settle.
(Quarrels whose causes cannot be openly admitted will not readily end.)

À ńkì í, à ńsà á, ó ní òun ò mọ ẹni tó kú; a ní, “Alákàá ẹgbàá, a-biṣu-wọ̀rọ̀-wọ̀rọ̀-lóko, a-bàgbàdo-tàkì-tàkì-lẹ́gàn”; ó ní, “Ọlọ́dẹ ló kú, tàbí ìnájà?”
We recite someone's praise names, we intone his attributes, and a person says he does not know who died; we say, “He of the two hundred granaries, he whose yams are plentiful on the farm, he whose corn is abundant in the fields,” and the person asks, “Is the dead person a hunter, or a trader?”
(A person for whom everything must be spelled out, a person who cannot make deductions from the most obvious hints, is daft indeed.)

À ńkì í, à ńsà á, ó ní òun ò mọ ẹni tó kú; ó ńgbọ́, “Ikú mẹ́rù, Ọ̀pàgá, a-biṣu-ú-ta-bí-òdòdó, a-lábà-ọkà, a-roko-fẹ́yẹ-jẹ”; ó ní, “Àgbẹ̀ ló kú, tàbí ọ̀nájà?”
We recite someone's praise names, we intone his attributes, and a person says he does not know who died; he hears, “Death takes a renowned man, a titled man, whose yams spread like petals, who possesses barns of corn, whose fields are a bounty for birds,” and he asks, “Is the dead man a farmer or a trader?”
(This is a variant of the preceding entry.)

À ńsọ̀rọ̀ elégédé, obìnrín ḿbèrè ohun tí à ńsọ, a ní ọ̀rọ̀ ọkùnrin ni; bí a bá kó elégédé jọ, ta ni yó sè é?
We are discussing pumpkins, a woman asks what we are discussing, and we respond that it is men's talk; after we have gathered the pumpkins, who will cook them?
(The woman, certainly. There is no point in excluding her from a matter that will eventually involve her anyway.)

À ńsọ̀rọ̀ obìnrin, a ní ká sọ́ bàrà ká lọ gbin bàrà sódò; ta ní máa báni pa á?
We speak of women and someone suggests that we hedge our words and go plant water melon by the stream; who will help in harvesting it?
(This is a variant of the preceding entry.) [12]

A rí i lójú, a mọ̀ ọ́ lẹ́nu; òṣòwò oṣẹ kì í pọ́n-wọ́-lá.
One can tell by looking, and one can tell by taste; a soap seller does not lick her fingers.
(Soap is recognizable as soap, and anyone who has ever tasted it knows that one does not lick fingers caked with soap. Each trade has its don'ts.)
See Aṣòwòọṣẹ kì í pa owó ńlá.

A ta bàbà, a fowó-o bàbà ra baba.
We sell guinea-corn, and with the copper coins we redeem the old man.
(With what one has one seeks one's goals.) [13]
See the following entry.

A ta bàbà a fowó-o bàbà ra bàbà.
We sell guinea-corn, and with the guinea-corn money we buy guinea corn.
(This variant of the previous entry suggests that for all one's efforts and exertions one has not significantly altered one's circumstances.)

Àbá alágẹmọ lòrìṣà ńgbà.
The gods heed what chameleon proposes.
(One should heed the advice of trusted friends and advisers.) [14]

Àbá kì í di òtítọ́; ojo ni kì í jẹ́ ká dá a.
Plans do not automatically bear fruit; only the faint-hearted do not make plans.
(While plans may never bear fruit, people should still make them.)
Compare Àbá ní ńdi òtítọ́ . . .

Àbá ní ńdi òtítọ́; ojo ni kì í jẹ́ ká da.
Attempts result in achievement; it is faint-heartedness that keeps one from making an effort.
(Without striving, one accomplishes nothing.)
Compare: Àbá kì í di òtítọ́ . . .

Àbàtì àlàpà; a bà á tì, a bá a rẹ́.
Unfinished abandoned wall: unable to master it, one befriends it.
(One reconciles oneself to matters one cannot control.)

A-bayé-jẹ́ kò ṣéé fìdí ọ̀ràn hàn.
A treacherous person is not someone to tell profound matters to.
(One should keep one's secrets from treacherous people.)

Abẹ́rẹ́ ò ṣéé gúnyán.
A needle cannot be used to make pounded yams.
(Some tools are inadequate for some tasks.)

Abẹ́rẹ́ tó wọnú òkun ò ṣéé wá.
A needle that drops into the ocean defies finding.
(Some tasks are hopelessly impossible to accomplish.)

Abiyamọ, kàgbo wàrà; ọjọ́ ńlọ.
Nursing mother, make the herbal decoction in good time; the day is waning.
(Attend to duties in time.)

Abiyamọ kì í rìn kó ṣánwọ́ ahá.
A nursing mother does not venture away from home without a cup.
(She must be prepared to nurse the baby.) [15]

Abiyamọ́ purọ́ mọ́mọ-ọ rẹ̀ jẹun.
The nursing mother lies against her child to secure food.
(One uses every ruse available to one in the interest of one's well-being.)

Abiyamọ́ ṣọwọ́ kòtò lu ọmọ-ọ rẹ̀.
A nursing mother cups her palm to strike her child.
(Discretion is the better part of discipline.)

Àbọ̀ṣẹ́ kì í ṣe iṣẹ́ òòjọ́; iṣẹ́-ẹ baba ẹni ní ńgbani lọ́jọ́ gan-an.
Spare-time work is no profession; it is an assignment from one's father that takes all of one's day.
(One does not waste one's time on trifles or hobbies.)

Àbùkún layé gbà.
The world accepts only adding on.
(Supplement rather than deplete.)

Adánilóró fagbára kọ́ni.
He who disappoints one teaches one to be more resourceful.
(Once disappointed or injured, one learns to be self-reliant.)

Adẹ́tẹ̀ ò gbọdọ̀ dúró de eléépín.
A leper must not wait for a bearer of abrasive leaves (eépín [16] ).
(Know your weaknesses.)

Adẹ́tẹ̀-ẹ́ ní òún sẹ́ ọ̀ràn kan de àwọn ará ilé òun; ó ní bí òún bá lọ sídàálẹ̀, wọn ò jẹ́ fi kàn-ìn-kàn-ìn òun wẹ̀.
The leper says that he trusts his relatives on a certain matter; he says when he goes on a journey, they would not dare use his sponge to wash themselves.
(People have a knack for skirting dangerous or distasteful situations.)

Adìẹ ìrànà ní ńṣíwájú òkú.
It is the votive herald-chicken that precedes a dead person.
(Matters must be attended to in their proper sequence.) [17]

Adìẹ ò lè ti ìwòyí sunkún ehín.
Chicken cannot at this late date bemoan its lack of teeth.
(Everything at its proper time.)

Adìẹ ò lórúnkún ẹjọ́.
A chicken has no knees for cases.
(One should steer clear of actionable behavior.) [18]

Adìẹ́ rí aláásáà, ó pa ìyẹ́ mọ́.
The chicken sees the snuff seller and enfolds its wings.
(When one sees potential danger approaching, one should take precautions.) [19]

Adìẹ-odò ò ṣéé bọ ìpọ̀nrí.
Water fowl is no good as a sacrifice to ìpọ̀nrí.
(One should use only tools proper to the task in hand.) [20]

Àdó gba ara ẹ̀ tẹ́lẹ̀, ká tó fi oògùn sí?
Could the small gourd save itself, before we put charms into it?
(Do not seek protection from a helpless person.) [21]

A-fàtẹ́lẹwọ́-fanná kì í dúró.
He-who-carries-live-coals-in-his-palm does not tarry.
(A person who has a pressing problem has no time for socializing.) [22]

A-fasẹ́-gbèjò ńtan ara-a rẹ̀ jẹ.
He-who-would-collect-rain-water-in-a-sieve deceives himself.
(The shiftless person hurts himself more than others.)

Afẹ́fẹ́ ńda ológìì láàmú; oníyẹ̀fun rọra.
The wind is making life difficult for the seller of liquid corn starch; corn flour seller, you had better watch out!
(When those better situated than one are defeated, one must be prepared for tough times.)

Àfẹ́ẹ̀rí kan ò ju ká rí igbó ńlá bọ́ sí lọ; ẹbọ kan ò ju ọ̀pọ̀ èèyàn lọ; “Òrìṣá gbé mi lé àtète” kan ò ju orí ẹṣin lọ.
There is no disappearing trick better than the availability of a dense forest to disappear into; there is no sacrifice more efficacious than having many people on one's side; there is no “The gods have elevated me” that is higher than the back of a horse.
(Practical and realistic moves are more reliable than mysterious expectations.)

A-fi-tiẹ̀-sílẹ̀-gbọ́-tẹni-ẹlẹ́ni, ọ̀gànjọ́ ni wọ́n ńsìnkú-u rẹ̀.
He-who-neglects-his-own-affairs-to-care-for-others'-affairs, it is in the middle of the night that his burial is carried out.
(Do not sacrifice your self-interest to take care of others.)

Àfòmọ́ ńṣe ara-a rẹ̀, ó ní òún ńṣe igi.
The creeper is destroying itself, but it thinks it is destroying its host.
(The host's death will be the parasite's death.)

Àgádágodo ò finú han ara-a wọn.
Padlocks do not share their secrets with one another.
(Some secrets one should not divulge to others.)

Àgùntàn ò jí ní kùtùkùyù ṣe ẹnu bọbọ.
A sheep does not wake in the morning and droop its mouth.
(One should not dawdle in the morning.)

Àgbà òṣìkà ńgbin ìyà sílẹ̀ de ọmọọ rẹ̀.
A wicked elder sows suffering for his children.
(One's character often affects the fortunes of one's children.)
Compare, Àgbà tó gbin èbù ìkà . . .

Àgbà ṣoore má wo bẹ̀.
Elder, do a favor and remove your eyes from it.
(Do not advertize your acts of kindness, or pointedly await acknowledgment of them.)

À-gbà-bọ́ ò di tẹni.
A foster child does not become one's own child.
(There is nothing like having one's own.)
Compare Àgbàtọ́ ò jọ obí . . .

Àgbàdo kì í ṣe èèyàn;ta ní ńrí ọmọ lẹ́hìn eèsún?
The maize plant is not a human being; who ever saw children on the back of elephant grass?
(One should not overestimate the value of things.) [23]

Àgbàká labiyamọ ńgbàjá mọ́ ọmọ-ọ rẹ̀.
It is completely and securely that a mother (bearing her child on her back) supports the child with a strip of cloth.
(One must be thorough in discharging one's responsibility.) [24]

337. Àgbàlagbàá ṣenú kẹrẹndẹn; èyí tó máa ṣe ḿbẹ níkùn-un rẹ̀.
An elder shows a smooth belly to the world; but what he will do is known to him.
(Be a person of thought and action, not of words.) [25]

A-gbé-ọ̀ọ̀dẹ̀ bí òfé, a-mọ-ara-í-ré bí oódẹ;a dẹ́bọ fún òfé, òfé ò rú, agánrán gbẹ́bọ, ó rúbọ; àsẹ̀hìnwá àsẹ̀hìnbọ̀ òfé di ará Ọ̀yọ́, agánrán di ará oko; wọ́n rò pé òfé ò gbọ́n.
Òfé, dweller-in-the-corridor, forward as oódẹ́ a sacrifice was prescribed for òfé, but he did not offer it; agánrán went ahead and offered the sacrifice; in the end òfé became a citizen of Ọyọ, while agánrán became a dweller in the bush; and people thought òfé was foolish.
(Never second guess people who are better informed than you are.) [26]

Àgbẹ̀jẹ ò korò nílé ńlá.
Pumpkin is never bitter in a big household.
(When one is in need, one cannot be too choosy.) [27]

Àgbìgbò, rọra fò, ọdẹ́ ti dé sóko; àgbìgbò tí ò bá rọra fò á bọ́ sápò ọdẹ.
Àgbìgbò, fly warily, for the hunter has arrived in the forest; any àgbìgbò that does not fly warily will wind up in the hunter's bag.
(Conditions are hazardous; it behooves everyone to take care.)

Àgbò dúdú kọjá odò ó di funfun.
The black ram crosses the river and becomes white.
(Propitious events can drastically change a person's fortunes for the better.) [28]

Àgbókan là ńrọ́ Ifá adití.
It is with full voice volume that one recites divination verses for the deaf.
(One cannot be too subtle with the daft.)

Àgbọn kì í ṣe oúnjẹ ẹyẹ.
Coconut is no food for birds.
(Some things and some people are immune to some types of danger; one should not attempt the impossible.)

Ahún dùn;kò tóó jẹ fúnni.
Tortoise meat is delicious, but there is not enough of it to make a meal.
(One should husband one's resources wisely.)

Ahún ńre àjò, ó gbé ilé-e rẹ̀ dání.
Tortoise embarks on a journey and takes his house with it.
(One's dearest possessions deserve one's closest attention.) [29]

Ahun-ún wọnú orù, ó ku àtiyọ.
Tortoise has entered into a narrow-necked pot; now, getting out is a problem.
(One should consider the possible consequences of one's actions before one acts.)

Àìgbọ́n ni yó pa Iṣikan; a ní ìyáa rẹ̀-ẹ́ kú, ó ní nígbàtí òún gbọ́, ṣe ni òún ńdárò; bíyàá ẹní bá kú àárò là ńdá?
Foolishness will be the death of Iṣikań he is told that his mother has died, and he says that when he heard the news he sorely lamented the tragedy; if one's mother dies is it lamentation that is called for?
(The well bred person is always mindful of his/her obligations.)

Àì-gbọ́n-léwe ni à-dàgbà-di-wèrè.
Lack-of-wisdom-in-youth is imbecility in adulthood.
(The man turns out just as the child was; the grown person acquires his traits in childhood.)

Àì-mọ̀-ọ́-gbé-kalẹ̀ leégún fi ńgba ọtí.
It is ineptitude-in-setting-it-down that makes the wine a spoil for the eégún (i.e., that causes the wine to be spilled).
(Ineptitude makes an impossible job of the easiest tasks.) [30]

Àì-mọwọ́-ọ́-wẹ̀ ni àì-bágbà-jẹ; ọmọ tó mọwọ́-ọ́ wẹ̀ á bágbà jẹ.
Not-knowing-how-to-wash-one's-hands is not-eating-with-elders; a person who knows how to wash his hands will eat with elders.
(To qualify to live in society, one must learn the social graces.) [31]

Àìpé, “Tìrẹ nìyí” ní ḿbí ayé nínú.
Neglect to say, “Here is your's” is what incites the earth's anger.
(Failure to take account of people's possible influence on one's affairs incites their anger. As long as one assumes humility, people will let one be.) [32]

Àì-roko, àì-rodò tí ńṣápẹ́ fún eégún jó.
Not-going-to-the-farm, not-going-to-the-river that claps for masqueraders to dance.
(It is an idler who makes music for masqueraders to dance.)

Àì-sọ̀rọ̀ ní ńmú ẹnu rùn.
It is abstention from speaking that makes the mouth smell.
(One should always say one's piece in a discussion.)

Ajá èṣín ò mọdẹ.
A dog born a year ago does not know how to hunt.
(One learns from experience and maturity.)

Ajá là bá kí; èse ò pẹran fúnni jẹ.
One should rather commend the dog; the cat does not kill meat for one to eat.
(Assign commensurate values to your assets.)

Ajá tí ò létí ò ṣé-é dẹ̀gbẹ́.
A dog without ears is no good for stalking prey.
(A person who cannot be instructed is useless.)

Ajá ti eré-e rẹ̀ẹ́ bá dánilójú là ńdẹ sí ehoro.
It is a dog in whose speed one has faith that one sics at a hare.
(One entrusts important tasks only to those one can trust.)
This is a variant of Ajá to lè sáré . . .

Ajá tó gbé iyọ̀, kí ni yó fi ṣe?
A dog that swipes salt, what will it do with it?
(Do not expend your effort on senseless ventures.)

Ajá tó lè sáré là ńdẹ sí egbin.
It is a swift dog that one sends after a Kobe antelope.
(This is a variant of Ajá ti erée rẹ̀ẹ́ bá dánilójú . . . )

Ajàkàṣù ò mọ̀ bí ìyàn-án mú.
The person who eats large helpings does not care that there is a famine.
(Greed knows no thrift.)

A-jí-má-bọ̀ọ́jú, tí ńfi ojú àná wòran.
A-person-who-rises-in-the-morning-without-washing-his-face, one who sees things with yesterday's eyes.
(A person who does not keep his eyes peeled for developments is ever behind times.)

Àjànàkú kúrò lẹ́ran à ńgọ dé.
The elephant is not among the ranks of animals one lies in ambush for.
(The wise person puts some distance between himself and an elephant, or a formidable adversary.)

Àjànàkú ò ṣéé rù.
The elephant is impossible to carry.
(Some tasks are impossible to accomplish.)

Àjàpá ní kò sí oun tó dà bí oun tí a mọ̀ ọ́ṣe; ó ní bí òún bá ńrìn lóko ẹ̀pà, ọ̀kọ̀ọ̀kan a máa bọ́ sóun lẹ́nu.
Tortoise says there is nothing quite like what one knows how to do; it says when it walks through a peanut farm, peanuts keep popping one by one into its mouth.
(When one does what one is a true expert at doing, it seems like performing magic.) [33]

Àjàpá ní ọjọ́ tí òún ti jágbọ́n-ọn òo lọrùn ò ti wọ òun mọ́.
Tortoise says that since the day it learned the trick of saying yes its neck has ceased to shrink.
(One who says yes to every request avoids a great many arguments.) [34]
See Ẹlẹ́dẹ̀ẹ́ ní ọjọ́ tí òún ti jágbọ́nọn hùn . . ., and Ẹrùu òo kì í wọni lọ́rùn.

Àjàpá ńyan lóko, aláìlóye-é ní ó jọ pẹ́pẹ́yẹ.
The tortoise struts on the farm, the senseless person says it resembles a duck.
(It is indeed a fool that cannot discern the obvious.)

Àjẹ́gbà ni ti kọ̀ǹkọ̀.
Croaking-in-relays is the mark of frogs.
(It is in the nature of sheep to follow and to lack initiative.)

Àjẹ́kù là ńmayo.
Leaving-remnants is the indicator of satiation.
(How one lives will show how well off one is.)

Àjẹkù làgbẹ̀ ńtà.
It is the leavings from his table that the farmer sells.
(One takes care of one's needs before one disposes of the excess.)
See, Àjẹkùlóko àgbẹ̀ . . .

Àjẹsílẹ̀-ẹ gbèsè tí ò jẹ́ kí ẹgbẹ̀fà tóó ná.
Long-standing debt, that makes twelve hundred cowries insufficient to spend.
(Existing debts eat new fortunes away.)

Àjímú kì í tí.
The task one takes on waking in the morning does not flounder.
(The task to which one gives the highest priority does not suffer.)

Àjò kì í dùn kódídẹ má rèWó.
The journey is never so pleasant that the parrot does not return to Ìwó.
(The sojourner should never allow the pleasantness of his/her sojourn to obliterate thoughts of returning home.) [35]
See the following entry.

Àjò kì í dùn kónílé má relé.
The journey is never so pleasant that the traveler does not return home.
(The traveler should never forget his or her home.)
See the previous entry.

Àjòjí lójú, ṣùgbọ́n kò fi ríran.
A stranger has eyes, but they do not see.
(A stranger's eyes are blind to the intricacies of his new surroundings.)

À-jókòó-àì-fẹ̀hìntì, bí ẹní nàró ni.
Sitting-without-leaning-the-back-against-something is like standing.
(Never do things by half measures.)

Àkámọ́ ẹkùn-ún níyọnu.
A cornered leopard poses problems.
(One should be wary of what prey to stalk.)

Àkísà aṣọ la fi ńṣe òṣùká.
A rag is what one uses as a carrying pad.
(One's most valuable possessions are not for careless use.)

Àkó balẹ̀, ó fi gbogbo ara kígbe.
Àko hit the ground and cried out with its whole body.
(A person who needs help should not be coy in asking.) [36]

A-ká-ìgbá-tà-á náwó ikú.
He-who-plucks-the-African-locustbean-tree-seeds-to-sell spends death's money.
(Whoever engages in a dangerous venture more than earns his/her pay.)

Akọ̀pẹ Ìjàyè ò gbọ́ tiẹ̀, ó ní ogún kó Agboroode.
The palm-wine tapper of Ijaye: instead of looking to his own affairs says Agboroode has been destroyed by invaders.
(The wise person learns from others' misfortunes instead of gawking at them.)

Aláàjàá gbé e sókè, o ní, “Kó ṣẹ!”; o mọ̀ bí ibi lówí tàbí ire?
The wielder of the incantation rattle lifts it, and you respond, “May it be so!”; do you know if he has invoked good or evil?
(One should be certain about what is happening before one intervenes or becomes involved.)

Alágbàfọ̀ kì í bá odò ṣọ̀tá.
A washerman does enter harbor a grudge with the river.
(One does not turn one's back on one's means of livelihood.)

Alákatam̀pòó ṣe bí ọ̀bọ ò gbọ́n; ọ̀bọ́ gbọ́n; tinú ọ̀bọ lọ̀bọ́ ńṣe.
The person with the cross-bow thinks that the monkey is not clever; the monkey is clever, but it is following its own strategy.
(It matters nothing if one is derided, as long as one knows what one is doing and why.)

Alákìísà ní ńtọ́jú abẹ́rẹ́ tòun tòwú.
It is the owner of rags who makes sure that needle and thread are available.
(Each person looks after his/her own interests.)

Aláǹtakùn, bí yóò bá ọ jà, a ta ká ọ lára.
When the spider wants to engage an enemy, it spins its web around it.
(The attentive person can detect signs of hostility before it occurs. Also, one makes good preparations before embarking on a venture.)

Aláǹtakùnún takùn sí ìṣasùn, ṣíbí gbọludé.
The spider has woven its web in the sauce-pan; the spoon takes a holiday.
(In the absence of the proper tools, one cannot fault the laborer for being idle.)

Aláàárù kì í ru ẹṣin.
The porter cannot carry a horse.
(Certain tasks are impossible of accomplishment.)

Aláṣedànù tí ńfajá ṣọdẹ ẹja.
A wastrel “who” uses a dog to stalk fish.
(It is folly to employ an impossible tool for a given task.)

Àlejò bí òkété là ńfi èkùrọ́ lọ̀.
It is a visitor like a giant rat to whom one offers palm-nuts.
(One should approach other people as their stations dictate.)

Àlejò tó bèèrè ọ̀nà kò níí sọnù.
A stranger who asks the way will not get lost.
(One should be willing to admit one's ignorance and seek direction.)
Compare: Abéèrè kì í ṣìnà.

Àlùkò ò ní ohùn méjì; “Ó dilé” lagbe ńké.
The woodcock has but one statement: “Ó dilé” (meaning “Time to head for home”) is the cry of the touraco.
(One should know when the time is ripe to head for home.)

Àlùsì ẹsẹ̀ tí ńfa koríko wọ̀lú.
Disaster-causing legs that drag weeds into town.
(It is a person who will bring disaster on others who behaves like the wayward foot that drags weeds into town.)

Amọ̀nà èṣí kì í ṣe amọ̀nà ọdúnnìí.
The person who knew the way last year does not necessarily know the way this year.
(The person whose knowledge does not grow with the times soon becomes ignorant.)

Amọ̀rànbini Ọ̀yọ́, bí o bá gbé kete lérí, wọn a ní oko lò ńlọ tàbí odò.
People who-know-the-answer-yet-ask-the-question, natives of Ọ̀yọ́, if they see you carrying a water-pot they ask whether you are on your way to the farm or the stream.
(If the answer is plain to see, one does not ask the question.)

Amùṣùà àgbẹ̀ tí ńgbin kókò.
A wastrel farmer that plants cocoyams.
(It is a wastrel farmer that plants cocoyams.) [37]

Àpà èèyàn ò mọ̀ pé ohun tó pọ̀-ọ́ lè tán.
A wastrel does not know that what is plentiful can be used up.
(A wastrel knows no thrift.)

Àpà-á fi ọwọ́ mẹ́wẹ̀ẹ̀wá bọ ẹnu; àpà, a-bìjẹun-wọ̀mù-wọ̀mù.
The wastrel puts all ten fingers into his mouth; wastrel, a-person-who-eats-with-abandon.
(A wastrel is immoderate in his feeding.)

Apajájẹẹ́ ní ẹ̀rù adìẹ ḿba òun.
The-person-who-kills-and-eats-dogs claims to be afraid of chickens.
(A hardened criminal pretends to have scruples about mere peccadillos.)

Àpàkòmọ̀rà, tí ńgẹṣin lórí àpáta.
A-shiftless-person-who-knows-not-what-things-cost rides a horse on rocks.
(A person who has no part in paying for a thing is seldom careful in using it.)
Compare: Ẹni à ḿbọ́ ò mọ̀ pé ìyànán mú.

A-pẹ́-ẹ́-jẹ kì í jẹ ìbàjẹ́.
A person who waits patiently for a long time before eating will not eat unwholesome food.
(Those who are patient will have the best of things.)

Àpèmọ́ra là ńpe Tèmídire.
It is in furtherance of one's own fortune that one calls the name Temidire.
(Each person must advance his or her own interests.) [38]

Àpọ́n dògí ó ṣàrò.
When a bachelor becomes old, he makes his own cooking fire.
(One should make provisions for the future in one's youth.)

Ara ẹ̀ lara ẹ̀: ṣòkòtò ọlọ́pàá.
A little bit of it is a little bit of it: the policeman's short pants.
(Leave nothing to waste, for one can always find some use for the smallest remnant.) [39]

Ara kì í rọni ká ṣẹ́gi ta.
If one has the wherewithal to live a life of ease, one does not gather firewood for sale.
(When one has found success, one does not persist in grubbing.)

Ara kì í tu ẹni káká, kí ara ó roni koko, ká má leè jíkàkà dÍfá.
One cannot be so much at ease, or so much in pain, that one cannot wake early to consult the oracle.
(Whatever one's condition, one does what one must do.) [40]

Ará ọ̀run ò ṣẹ́tí aṣọ.
Natives of heaven do not sew their hems.
(The uninitiated do not know the customs of a place.) [41]

Ààrẹ ńpè ọ́ ò ńdÍfá; bÍfá bá fọọre tí Ààrẹ́ fọbi ńkọ́?
The Ààrẹ summons you and you consult the oracle; what if the oracle says all will be well and the Ààrẹ decrees otherwise?
(There is no point in attempting to restrict the action of an absolute authority.) [42]

A-rìn-fàà-lójú-akẹ́gàn, a-yan-kàṣà-lojú-abúni, abúni ò lówó nílé ju ẹnu-u rẹ̀ lọ.
One-who-saunters-in-front-of-detractors, one-who-struts-before-abusers, those who abuse one have no money at home, only their mouths.
(One's best course is to ignore detractors and insulters; all they have is their mouths.)

Arìngbẹ̀rẹ̀ ni yó mùú oyè délé; asárétete ò róyè jẹ.
The person who walks casually is the one who will bear a title home; the person who runs fast has no title to show for his efforts.
(The spoils do not necessarily go to those who exert themselves most.)
Compare: Asárétete ní ńkọjá ilé . . .

À-ró-kanlẹ̀ laṣọ ayaba; à-wà-kanlẹ̀ ni ti yàrà.
Wrapping-from-waist-to-the-floor is the style of the queen's wrapper; digging-down-to-the-deepest-bottom is the requirement of the dry moat, yàrà.
(Whatever one has to do, one must be thorough, and not be satisfied with halfmeasures.)

Arúgbó oǹdágbèsè, ó ní mélòó ni òun óò dúró san níbẹ̀?
The old person who incurs debt, he says how much of it will he be around to pay?
(A person whose days are numbered can afford to freely take on long-term obligations.)

A-sáré-lówó ḿbẹ lọ́nà ogun; A-pọ̀ṣẹ̀ṣẹ̀ ḿbẹ lọ́nà èrò; Bó-pẹ́-títí-ng-ó-là ḿbẹ lábà, ó ńjẹ ẹ̀sun iṣu.
He-who-hurries-after-riches is on his way to battle; He-who-has-in-abundance is off on his travels; Sooner-or-later-I-will-be-rich is back in his hut, eating roasted yams.
(Wealth comes to those who exert themselves, not to those who wait for it to find them.)

À-sìnkú-àì-jogún, òṣì ní ńtani.
Burying-the-dead-without-sharing-in-the-inheritance leads one to poverty.
(One should have something to show for one's efforts.)

Asínwín ní òun ó ti iná bọlé; wọ́n ní kó má ti iná bọlé; ó ní òun ó sáà ti iná bọlé; wọ́n ní bó bá tiná bọlé àwọn ó sọ ọ́ si; ó ní ìyẹn kẹ̀ ìkan.
The imbecile said he would torch the house; he was asked not to torch the house; he said he certainly would torch the house; he was told that if he torched the house he would be thrown in it; he said, “That casts the matter in a different light.”
(Even an imbecile becomes sane when his life is at stake.)

A-sọ̀kò-sádìẹ-igba, òkò ní ńsọ tí ilẹ̀-ẹ́ fi ńṣú.
One-who-throws-stones-at-two-hundred-chickens will be engaged in stone throwing until nightfall.
(Tackling a job with inadequate tools makes the job interminable.)

A-sọ-aré-dìjà ní ńjẹ̀bi ẹjọ́.
One-who-turns-play-into-a-fight is always guilty.
(One should take a jest in the spirit of jest.)

Àṣàyá kì í jẹ́ kí ọmọ ọ̀yà ó gbọ́n.
Roughhousing keeps the young of the cane rat from learning wisdom.
(A person who takes life as a jest does not learn to be wary.)

A-ṣe-kó-súni, ẹrú-u Ségbá; ó fọ́ akèrègbè tán ó lọ sóde Ọ̀yọ́ lọ gba onísé wá; bẹ́ẹ̀ni ẹgbàá lowó onísé.
He-who-frustrates-one, Segba's slave; he broke a gourd and went to Ọ̀yọ́town to hire a calabash stitcher; and a stitcher's fee is six pence.
(There is nothing one can do in the face of ingrained folly.) [43]

À-ṣe-sílẹ̀ làbọ̀wábá; ẹni tó ṣu sílẹ̀ á bọ̀ wá bá eṣinṣin.
What-is-put-aside is what-is-there-to-find; he who puts excrement aside will return to find flies.
(One reaps what one sows.)

À-ṣẹ̀ṣẹ̀-tọ́-ọtí-wò okùn-un bàǹtẹ́ já; bí a bá mu àmuyó ńkọ́?
One taste of wine and the belt snaps; what would happen in the event of drunkenness?
(One should match the response to the stimulus.)

Aṣiwèrè èèyàn lòjò ìgboro ńpa.
It is an imbecile who is soaked in the rain in the middle of a town.
(Only an imbecile ignores a refuge when one is available.)

Aṣiwèrè èèyàn ní ńgbèjà ìlú-u rẹ̀.
Only an imbecile gets into a fight in defence of his town.
(A town's cause is no business of any one individual.)

Aṣòroójà bí ìjà ọjà; onítìjú ò níí sá; ẹni tí ńnà án ò níí dáwọ́ dúró.
Difficult-to-fight as the fight of the market place; the self-conscious person will not run, and the person beating him up will not stop.
(Too much concern with appearances exposes one to occasional inconveniences.)

A-ṣòwò-ọṣẹ kì í pa owó ńla.
A trader in soap does not make big money.
(One's success cannot exceed one's enterprise.)
See A rí i lójú, . . .

A-ṣoore-jókòó-tì-í, bí aláìṣe ni.
A-person-who-does-a-favor-and-squats-by-it is like a-person-who-has-done-no-favor.
(One should not dwell on what favor one has done.)

Aṣọ funfun òun àbàwọ́n kì í rẹ́.
White cloth and stains are not friends.
(A person of good breeding does not associate with an ill-bred person.)

Aṣọ ìrókò ò ṣéé fi bora.
Cloth fashioned from the bark of the ìrókò tree cannot be wrapped around one's body.
(Always use the proper material for the job in hand.)

Aṣọ tá a bá rí lára igún, ti igún ni.
Whatever cloth one finds on the vulture belongs to it.
(The vulture may lack feathers, but it does not borrow from other birds.)

A-sọ́-ẹ̀hìnkùlé ba araa rẹ̀ nínú jẹ́; ohun tó wuni là ńṣe nílé ẹni.
He-who-spies-on-others-from-behind-their-walls upsets himself; one does as one pleases in one's home.
(What one does in the privacy of one's home is nobody's business.)

Àtàrí ìbá ṣe ìkòkò ká gbé e fún ọ̀tá yẹ̀wò; a ní ó ti fọ́ yányán.
If one's head was a pot and one gave it to an enemy to inspect, he would say it was irretrievably broken.
(An enemy is not one to trust with one's destiny.)

Atẹ́gùn ò ṣéé gbé.
The wind is impossible to carry.
(Certain propositions are unrealizable.)

Àtẹ́lẹwọ́ ò ṣéé fi rúná.
The palm of the hand is not good for stoking fires.
(One should not attempt difficult tasks without the proper resources.)

Atipo ò mọ erèé; ó ní, “Bàbá, mo réwé funfun lóko.”
Atipo does not recognize beans, he says, “Father, I saw white leaves on the farm.”
(Ignorance is a curse.)

Àtònímòní ò tó àtànọ́mànọ́.
All-day-long is no match for since-yesterday.
(The person who has endured since yesterday takes precedence over the person who has endured all day.)

A-tọrọ-ohun-gbogbo-lọ́wọ́-Ọlọ́run kì í kánjú.
The-seeker-of-all-things-from-God does not yield to impatience.
(The supplicant must be patient for an answer.)

A-wí-fúnni-kó-tó-dáni, àgbà òmùjà ni.
He-who-alerts-one-before-he-throws-one is a past master of wrestling.
(One would be wise to avoid adversaries confident enough to show their hands beforehand.)

À-wí-ìgbọ́, àfọ̀-ọ̀-gbọ́ tí ńfi àjèjé ọwọ́ mumi.
He-who-will-not-listen-to-talk, he-who-will-not-listen-to-counsel, who drinks water with the bare hand.
(The obstinate child drinks with the bare hand.)

Àwítẹ́lẹ̀ ní ńjẹ́ ọmọ́ gbẹ́nà; ọmọ kì í gbẹ́nà lásán.
Previous-instruction enables a child to understand coded speech; a child does not naturally understand codes.
(A clever child reflects the instruction he/she has received.)

Awo aláwo la kì í dá lẹ́ẹ̀mejì.
It is another person's divination that one does not repeat.
(One might not put oneself out for others, but one will for oneself.)

Àwòdì òkè tí ńwo ìkaraun kọ̀rọ̀, kí ni yó fìgbín ṣe?
The hawk in the sky eyes the snail-shell slyly; what will it do with a snail.
(One should not waste one's time on a task one cannot master.)

Awọ erin ò ṣéé ṣe gángan.
The elephant's hide cannot be used to fashion a gángan drum.
(Employ the proper material to the task in hand.)

Awọ ẹlẹ́dẹ̀ ò ṣéé ṣe gbẹ̀du.
The hide of a pig is no use for making the gbẹ̀du drum.
(Certain materials are of no use in some applications.)

Awọ ẹnu ò ṣéé ṣe ìlù.
The skin of the mouth cannot be used to fashion a drum.
(Employ the proper materials for the task in hand.) [44]

Ààyá bọ́ sílẹ̀, ó bọ́ sílé.
The Colobus monkey jumps to the ground; it runs for home.
(When danger lurks, the wisest course is to run for safety.)

Àáyá gbọ́n, Ògúngbẹ̀-ẹ́ sì gbọ́n; bí Ògúngbẹ̀-ẹ́ ti ḿbẹ̀rẹ̀ ni àáyá ńtiro.
The Colobus monkey is wily, but so is Ogungbẹ́ as Ogungbẹ crouches, so the monkey tiptoes.
(They prey that knows its stalker's tricks is safe.)

Àyàn ò gbẹdùn.
The àyàn tree does not accept an axe.
(Certain approaches one must reject as improper.) [45]

Àyangbẹ ẹjá dùn; ṣùgbọ́n kí la ó jẹ kẹ́já tó yan?
Dry smoked fish is delicious, but what is one to eat before the fish is smoked?
(While one must look to the future, one must also take care of the present.)

Ayé ńlọ, à ńtọ̀ ọ́.
The world goes forth, and we follow.
(One lives according to what life confronts one with.)

Ayé ò ṣé-é bá lérí; wọ́n lè ṣeni léṣe.
The world is not a thing to exchange threats with; it can inflict disaster on one.
(Be wary in dealing with the world.) [46]

Ayé ò ṣé-é finú hàn; bí o lọ́gbọ́n, fi síkùn ara-à rẹ.
The world does not deserve to be trusted; if you have a store of wisdom, keep it in you.
(People of the world are not reliable; whatever wisdom one wishes to pass on one should reserve for one's own use.)


1. The Yoruba name for pigeon, ẹyẹlé, means 'house bird.' The domestication of the pigeon gives it a higher status than that enjoyed by other birds.  [Back to text]


2. Muslims are understandably squeamish about blood from the deflowering of a woman. Alákoto here refers to a promiscuous woman, whose child one cannot expect to be well behaved. A “female” child is well behaved, while a “male” child is not.  [Back to text]


3. The quote is short for “I almost hit the prey I was aiming at.”  [Back to text]


4. Ìlọ́rọ̀ is an Ìjèṣà township. The name translates as “Town of Riches.”  [Back to text]


5. A sleeping person cannot be sure whether he farted or did not.  [Back to text]


6. Palm-leaf midrib is the material out of which arrows are made.  [Back to text]


7. A jackal is apparently no enticing food.  [Back to text]


8. The kneeling and sacrificing described here are the final activities in funeral obsequies. Thereafter the immediate survivors of the deceased turn to practical matters, like distributing the dead man's wives among themselves for support. Hired drummers are certainly not welcome in such matters. The greeting, ojú ò fẹ́rakù, meaning, literally, “the eyes do not “have not” miss“ed” one another,” is spoken on leave taking, but it suggests that the person departing is really still present in spirit.  [Back to text]


9. The woman in question obviously has severe difficulty in reading intentions, and is unappreciative to boot.  [Back to text]


10. Note the play on the syllable, jà, which as a word means “fight,” and which forms the main part of the name Ọ̀jà, which can be taken to means “a person who fights.”  [Back to text]


11. The sound tó suggests something that requires minimal effort, especially in diction.  [Back to text]


12. The proverb features a play on the word bàrà, which is both the word for water melon and an adjective describing an evasive course.  [Back to text]


13. The saying is more a play on the syllables ba-ba (both with regard to the different tones it can bear, and taking advantage of its different meanings) than a real proverb. Bàbà means guinea-corn, and owó-o-baba (literally “guinea-corn money”) means copper coin, because guinea-corn is copper-colored.  [Back to text]


14. In Yoruba tradition the chameleon is a trusted servant of the gods. In the myth of creation it was the chameleon that was sent down to the newly formed earth to determine if it was firm enough yet for habitation.  [Back to text]


15. Ahá is a cup cut out of a small calabash, and it is used in force-feeding babies.  [Back to text]


16. Ficus Asperifolia (See Abraham, 161).  [Back to text]


17. As part of Yoruba funerary rites, a chicken is sacrificed to clear evil forces off the way of the deceased's spirit.  [Back to text]


18. It is customary for litigants in Yoruba courts to state their cases on their knees. The proverb builds on the fact that chickens have no knees, and, therefore, cannot state cases kneeling.  [Back to text]


19. Snuff sellers use chicken feathers to sweep the snuff from the grindstone.  [Back to text]


20. Ìpọ̀nrí is a god for which the appropriate sacrifice is a chicken.  [Back to text]


21. Àdó is a tiny gourd in which people keep charms, often serving as talismans.  [Back to text]


22. Before the advent of matches, people who wished to start a fire took live coals from an established fire to start their own.  [Back to text]


23. When the maize plant develops fruits the Yoruba say,“Ó yọ ọmọ” literally, “It has sprouted a child.” The expression does not, however, mean that the people believe that the plant is human. Elephant grass is almost identical to maize in size and looks, even though it bears no fruit.  [Back to text]


24. After a mother has strapped her child to her back, she prevents the child from sliding down by passing a trip of cloth, ọ̀já, under the child's buttocks and around to the mother's front, there tying it snuggly.  [Back to text]


25. The proverb derives from the fact that inú means both “mind” and “stomach.” The expression, mọ inú, means “to know (someone's) mind.” Thus, to see a person's stomach is not to know the person's mind.  [Back to text]


26. Òfé, oódẹ́ (odídẹ, odídẹrẹ́) and agánrán are all types of parrots. Because agánrán is considered favored by the gods it is usually sacrificed to them, while òfé, which is not so favored, is spared that fate.  [Back to text]


27. The size of the household, and the need to feed the many mouths, make even the pumpkin with its slightly bitter taste acceptable food.  [Back to text]


28. This is also a riddle whose solution is soap. The traditional soap is blackish in color.  [Back to text]


29. The observation suggests that the animal is so concerned about its possessions that it must carry its house along on every journey.  [Back to text]


30. The Yoruba expression, “Eégún gbà á,” meaning literally, “Eégún (the incarnated spirit of the ancestors) has appropriated it,” is a way of saying, “It is lost to people.” Compare, Kélé gbé e, and Orò-ó gbé e.  [Back to text]


31. Washing one's hands before meals is both a health requirement and a mark of social grace. It is a minimum requirement for the privilege of joining the elders at meals.  [Back to text]


32. This belief is reflected in the practice of paying homage to ayé (meaning literally “the world,” but in fact the people of the world) before embarking on any venture; the gesture, people believe, will safeguard their venture from ill will.  [Back to text]


33. The point in this as in the next proverb is that there is really not trick to what Tortoise does, only the expected; what is important is that he knows how to do it.  [Back to text]


34. The explanation is that Tortoise one was in the company of more powerful animals. Whenever those animals had heavy loads to carry they sent for Tortoise, but the animal always refused to oblige, whereupon they gave it powerful blows on the head. At times, in order to avoid such blows Tortoise would carry the loads at the expense of its weak neck. Finally it learned to say “Yes” to every request but escape when the animals were not looking. The moral is that one may agree to every request, but one does not have to follow through.  [Back to text]


35. Parrots are associated with Ìwó, a town to which they faithfully return after their seasonal migrations-a relationship that recalls that of the swallows of Capistrano.  [Back to text]


36. Àko is the dry leaf-stem of a palm-like tree, which makes a resonant clatter when it hits the ground.  [Back to text]


37. Cocoyams, Colocasia Esculentum (Araceae), also known as taro, is a variety of yams that the Yoruba eat only for want of something better. Farmers would rather plant the more favored variety of yams.  [Back to text]


38. The name Tèmídire means “My affairs have prospered.” Although the name indicates that the bearer is the fortunate one, the person who calls the name says “My . . .,” thereby invoking good fortune on him/herself.  [Back to text]


39. Colonial policemen wore notoriously short pants as part of their uniform, giving rise to the suggestion or speculation that they were made out of remnants.  [Back to text]


40. This is a reference to incumbency of daily consultation of Ifá on the priests.  [Back to text]


41. Ará ọ̀run is the designation for masqueraders who are supposed to be the incarnated spirits of dead ancestors. Their costume is cloth shrouds, usually variegated strips that they do not bother to hem.  [Back to text]


42. The proverb came into being in the days of Kurunmí the Ààrẹ (military ruler) of Ìjaye in the 1820s. He was so powerful and so feared that people believed that even oracles could not deflect him from any course he chose to follow. See also, Àgbàlagbà ti ò kí Ààrẹ . . .  [Back to text]


43. The name Ségbá (sé igbá) here means “Calabash stitcher,” literally “Stitch Calabash.”  [Back to text]


44. The reference here is obviously to the cheeks.  [Back to text]


45. The àyàn tree is used for house-posts and for carving drums, while the àyán tree is used for axe and hoe handles.  [Back to text]


46. “The world” here stands, of course, for people at large.  [Back to text]