The compulsory use of Igbo proverbs (ilu), parables (ukabuilu) and idioms (akpaalaokwu), in every traditional setting has elevated the language to the status of a living art of popular communication.
Igbo language has several “dialects.” As a result, many of us may not immediately understand the meaning of proverbs owing to the perhaps strange dialect of words therein contained. As we become more acquainted with these dialects, we begin to appreciate our total inheritance as Igbo language speakers.
Reciting proverbs is as effective as not using them. Beyond the usual recitation, it is important to always know the appropriate event and time to use Igbo proverbs in order to communicate the appropriate message and achieve the desired result.
Below are some of the popular Igbo proverbs:
1. Ura ga-eju onye nwuru anwu afo. A dead person shall have all the sleep necessary.
2. Gidi gidi b? ugwu eze. Unity is strength
3. Ch?? ewu ojii ka chi d? Make hay while the sun shines
4. Otu onye tuo izu, o gbue ochu Knowledge is never complete: two heads are better than one.
5. Ihe ehi h?r? gbalaba oso ka okuku huru
na-at? onu Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
6. Oge adighi eche mmadu Time and tide wait for nobody.
7. E lewe ukwu Egbue ewu. A buxom waist that makes her man(husband) kill a goat for her when he looks at it.
8. Ebe onye dara ka chi ya kwaturu ya. Where one falls is where his god pushed him down.
9. Ihe di woro ogori azuala na ahia. What was secret is revealed in the market place.
10. Ewu nwuru n’oba ji abughi agu gburu ya.
A goat that dies in a barn was never killed by hunger.
11. A ma ka mmiri si were baa n’opi
ugboguru? Who knows how water entered into the stalk of the pumpkin?
12. A chuo aja ma a hughi udele, a mara na
ihe mere be ndimmuo. If the vulture fails to hover at the end of a sacrifice, then you know that something happened in the land of spirits.
13. Si kele onye nti chiri; enu anughi, ala
anu. Salute the deaf; if the heavens don’t hear, the earth will hear.
14. Nwunye awo si na di atoka uto, ya jiri
nuta nke ya kworo ya n’azu. The female toad said that husband is so sweet that when she got married, she carried her husband permanently on the back.
15. Ugo chara acha adi(ghi) echu echu A mature eagle feather will ever remain pure.
16. Onyeubiam adi(ghi) aza “Omeokachie.” An indigent does not take the title of “Omeokachie” (i.e. one who completes whatever he puts his hand to)
17. Eze mbe si na olu oha di mma, mana
oriri oha na-aka ahu. The tortoise said that many hands at work is enjoyable, but many mouths to feed can be embarrassing.
18. Eze mbe si na ihe ya ji-achiri ihe egwu
ya aga njem bu maka ya ezu ndiegwu. The tortoise said that it always travels with its musical instrument in case it meets other musicians.
20. Nwaanyi muta ite ofe mmiri mmiri, di ya
amuta ipi utara aka were suru ofe. If a woman decides to make the soup watery, the husband will learn to dent the Garri before dipping it into the soup.
21. O na-abu a si nwata wuba ahu, o saba
afo ya. Tell a child to wash his body, he washes his stomach.
22. Akwukwo juru n’ohia, ma a baa a choba
okazi. There are various leaves in the bush, but people go in to look for okazi leaves.
23. Agwo emeghi nke o jiri buru agwo
, umuaka achiri ya hie nku. If a snake fails to show its venom, little kids will use it in tying firewood.
24. Ukpala gbabara n’ikpo okuko na-ala ala
mmuo. The grasshopper that runs into the mist of fowls ends up in the land of spirits.
25. Onye a kporo apari, o na-ehi n’amanna
ya, abughi apari. A presumed fool who sleeps in his father’s house is not a fool.
26. Ndi na-eje mposi abali na-ahu ukpana
ndi mmuo. Those who defecate at night see the ghost grasshopper.
27. Nwata bunie nna ya enu, akpaamu ya
ayochie ya anya. If a child lifts his father, his scrotum will blindfold him.
28. Onye hapu onu ya, uguru arachaa ya. If one fails to lick his lips, the harmattan will do it.
29. Okuko si na ihe ya ji-ele anya n’enu ma
ya na añu mmiri bu na ihe na-egbu si
n’igwe abia. The chicken says it looks up when drinking water because what kills it comes from the sky.
30. Ijiji na-enweghi onye ndumodu na-eso
ozu ala n’inyi. A fly that has no counselor follows the corpse to the grave.
31. “Nwunye anyi, nwunye anyi”: ka ndeli
bia ka anyi mara onye o bu nwunye ya. “Our wife, our wife”: come midnight and we will know whose wife she really is.
32. Ula towa uto, ekwowe ya ekwowe. When sleep becomes enjoyable, we snore.
33. O bialu be onye abiagbuna ya, mgbe o
ga-ala mkpumkpu apukwana ya n’azu. May one’s visitor not constitute a problem, so that on his departure he will not leave with a hunchback.
34. Nwa ovu na-eto, o di ka o ga-aka nne
ya. When the baby wren is growing, it looks like it would be bigger than its mother.
35. Okuko na-arogoro ite onu, chetekwe
mma gburu ya. The chicken frowns at the cooking pot, ignoring the knife that killed it.
36. Ihe ka-nte bata n’onu nte, nte etefu. When something greater than the pigmy cricket enters its hole, it takes off.
37. Uzu na-amaghi akpu ogene lee egbe
anya n’odu. The blacksmith who does know how to forge a metal gong should look at the tail of a kite.
38. Oke oshimmiri anokataghi rie onye
obula nke o na-ahughi ukwu ya anya. The ocean never swallows a person with whose leg it does not come in contact.
39. Onye buru chi ya uzo, o gbagbue onwe
ya n’oso. He who walks before his godly guardian does the race of his life
40. Okuko nyuo ahu, ana achuwa ya oso. When the fowl farts, the ground becomes a nuisance.
41. Okwulu anaghi amiri ote ofe. A master chef is not blessed with a good harvest of okra.
42. Mmiri riri enyi ka mbe huru na-awa
ogodo: o ga-efe mmiri a efe ka o ga
-awu ya awu? The tortoise gears up to besides a river that swallowed an elephant: is it going to fly over this river or just jump over?
43. Ohia woro gi nku, sere gi onu The forest that denies you firewood has massaged your neck.
44. O bia mgbe Alio Ene gburu atu, ya
biakwa ma atu zogbuo Alio Ene. He who calls whenever Elder Ene kills a deer, let him call if the deer kicks the living daylight out of Elder Ene.
45. O bulu na i taa m aru n’ike, ma i zeghi
nshi; mu taa gi aru n’isi, agaghi m
ezere uvulu. If you bite me on the butt, despite the danger of sinking your teeth into fecal matter, then if I bite you on the head, I will disregard the danger of sinking my teeth into cerebral matter.
46. Okuko mmanya na-egbu ahubegh
i mmanwulu ara na-ayi. A drunken fowl has not met a mad fox.
47. Nwaanyi anaghi-eji na nwunyedi ya
kwere ya ekene nke oma kpowa ya
A woman does not regard her sister-wife as sister-in-law just because she (her husband’s other wife) accepted her greeting gracefully.
48. Onye si na ya anaghi ata anu nkita, ya
arakwala mmiri ofe ya. He who abhors dog meat should not eat dog-meat soup.
49. A tuoro omara, o mara, a tuoro ofeke,
o fenye ishi n’ohia. If you tell a wise one, he understands; tell a dunce, he runs into the bush.