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Swahili Proverbs III


* Nadhari njia ya peponi.
o Idiomatic Translation: Good judgment is the road to paradise.
o Literal Meaning: Wisdom in judgment is the secret of happiness.

* Nazi haishindani na jiwe.
o Idiomatic Translation: A ripe coconut can't compete with a stone.
o Literal Meaning: A coconut is hard but not compared with the hardness of a stone. Don't compete out of your league.

* Ndege mjanja hunaswa kwa tundu bovu.
o Idiomatic Translation: A clever bird gets caught by a worthless trap.
o Literal Meaning: A clever person can be tripped up by an idiot. It is possible to be "too smart" and forget or overlook what is blatantly obvious to everyone else.

* Ndoto haihadithiwi.
o Idiomatic Translation: A dream can't be told.
o Literal Meaning: If you go around telling everyone of the great things you plan to do you will just be beset by naysayers and detractors.

* Ng'ombe wa maskini hazai mapacha.
o Idiomatic Translation: A poor man's cow doesn't give birth to twins.
o Literal Meaning: Wealth begets wealth. The poor are doomed to remain poor.

* Nguo ya kuazima haisitiri matako.
o Idiomatic Translation: Borrowed clothes don't cover your rear.
o Literal Meaning: Borrowed goods can be demanded back by the lender at any time. Get your own damn things.

* Nilikuonyesha nyota, uliona kidole tu.
o Idiomatic Translation: I showed you the stars, but you only saw my finger.
o Literal Meaning: I tried to tell you great things, but you completely missed my point.

* Njia ya mwongo fupi.
o Idiomatic Translation: The path of a liar is short.
o Literal Meaning: The deceptions of a liar are uncovered quickly.

* Nyumba kubwa husitiri mambo makubwa.
o Idiomatic Translation: A large house hides large matters.
o Literal Meaning: Where there are lots of people in one place there will be lots of things going on, both good and bad.


* Ogopa ni ngao pia.
o Idiomatic Translation: Fear is also a shield.
o Literal Meaning: It is sometimes suitable to show fear as when blind bravado will serve no purpose but to get you killed (i.e. don't attack a lion barehanded when you run across one while you are unarmed!).
o See also: Discretion is the better part of valor.

* Ombaomba huleta unyonge.
o Idiomatic Translation: Repeated begging leads to poverty/misery.
o Literal Meaning: Living by begging off of others will lead to an inability to support yourself.

* Ondoa dari uezeke paa.
o Idiomatic Translation: Remove the ceiling and thatch the roof.
o Literal Meaning: Do what is important first and leave the minor parts until later.


* Paka akiwa hakimu panya hawezi kushinda kesi.
o Idiomatic Translation: If a cat is the judge the rat can't win its case.
o Literal Meaning: One can't expect the help of an enemy; Don't expect an enemy to be / be able to be impartial.

* Paka hashibi kwa wali, matilabaye ni panya.
o Idiomatic Translation: A cat isn't satisfied by rice, its desire is rat.
o Literal Meaning: A person is only satisfied by their heart's desire.

* Penye nia, pana njia.
o Idiomatic Translation: Where there is a goal there is a path.
o Literal Meaning: If you don't despair you will attain your goal.
o See Also: Where there is a will there is a way.


* Radhi ni bora kuliko mali.
o Idiomatic Translation: A blessing is better than property.
o Literal Meaning: Any one can obtain things but a blessing, as from your parents, must be earned and thus is priceless.

* Radhi ya wazee ni fimbo.
o Idiomatic Translation: The blessing of parents is a stick.
o Literal Meaning: A firm hand raises a good child.
o See Also: Spare the rod, spoil the child.


* Sahau ni dawa ya waja.
o Idiomatic Translation: Forgetting is humankind's medicine.
o Literal Meaning: The ability to forget the worst of times allows the heart to heal.

* Shida haina hodi.
o Idiomatic Translation: Trouble doesn't knock.
o Literal Meaning: You never know when trouble is going to show up.

* Shimo la ulimi mkono halifukiki.
o Idiomatic Translation: The hand can't cover the tongue's hole.
o Literal Meaning: Actions can't change the damage done by words.

* Shoka la mgeni haliwezi kuimaliza kazi yako.
o Translation: A borrowed axe can't finish your work.
o Meaning: You can't expect to reach your goal by depending on others' possessions.

* Sikio halilali na njaa.
o Idiomatic Translation: The ear doesn't go to sleep hungry.
o Literal Meaning: You can't go a day around people without hearing words, be they good or bad.

* Siku njema huonekana asubuhi.
o Idiomatic Translation: A good day is apparent in the morning.
o Literal Meaning: It is clear from early on whether something or someone will turn out good or bad. For example, the character of a man can be seen in his manner as a child.

* Siku ya kufa nyani miti yote huteleza.
o Idiomatic Translation: The day a monkey is destined to die all trees become slippery.
o Literal Meaning: You can't escape your fate.

* Siku utakayokwenda uchi ndiyo siku utakayokutana na mkweo.
o Idiomatic Translation: The day you decide to leave your house naked is the day you run into your in-laws.
o Literal Meaning: One who is not in the habit of breaking the rules will be discovered the one time they do something wrong.

* Simba mwenda pole ndiye mla nyama
o Idiomatic Translation: The lion who goes slowly/cautiously eats meat.
o Literal Meaning: One who goes about his business carefully reaches his goal.
o See Also: Slow but sure.

* Sitaacha kula mkate kwa kuogopa kiungulia.
o Idiomatic Translation: I won't stop eating bread for fear of indigestion.
o Literal Meaning: It makes no sense to stop a beneficial action on the basis of rumor and hearsay.

* Sitapiki nyongo harudi haramba.
o Idiomatic Translation: I don't vomit bile and then return to lick it up.
o Literal Meaning: You shouldn't return to problems or people you have washed your hands of.


* Tabia ni ngozi ya mwili.
o Idiomatic Translation: Habit is the body's skin.
o Literal Meaning: It is as impossible for a person to change their habits as it is for them to change their skin.

* Tamaa mbele, mauti nyuma.
o Idiomatic Translation: Desire first, death afterwards.
o Literal Meaning: No one considers their own mortality when concentrating on achieving a particular goal.

* Tamu ya mua kifundo.
o Idiomatic Translation: Sugarcane is sweetest at the joint.
o Literal Meaning: The best things are difficult to attain.

* Tawi kavu kuanguka si ajabu.
o Idiomatic Translation: It is not surprising for a dry branch to fall.
o Literal Meaning: The downfall of the weak or corrupt should not be a point of astonishment.

* Tunda jema halikawii mtini.
o Idiomatic Translation: A good fruit doesn't ripen on the tree.
o Literal Meaning: A good person will be rewarded early. i.e. A girl with a good disposition will be married young.

* "Tabia ni mimba haifichiki."


* Ujana ni moshi.
o Idiomatic Translation: Adolescence is smoke.
o Literal Meaning: Youth is transient, disappearing like smoke. Once dissipated it can never be brought back.

* Ukimwiga tembo kunya utapasuka mkundu.
o Idiomatic Translation: If you imitate an elephant defecating you'll burst your anus.
o Literal Meaning: If you run with the big boys you're going to get hurt.

* Uking'wafua mnofu ukumbuke kuguguna mfupa.
o Idiomatic Translation: When you are snapping at boneless meat, remember gnawing on a bone.
o Literal Meaning: One who has seen good fortune should not forget hard times.

* Ukistahi mke ndugu huzai naye.
o Idiomatic Translation: If you respect your wife like a friend you won't have children with her.
o Literal Meaning: If you fear and respect a person from whom you need help, your fear will prevent you from receiving their help.

* Ukitaka salama ya dunia zuia ulimi wako.
o Translation: If you want world peace then hold your tongue.
o Meaning: If you want the world to be a peaceful place then stop talking trash about other people.

* Usiache mbachao kwa msala upitao.
o Idiomatic Translation: Don't give up your old prayer rug.
o Literal Meaning: Don't toss away old things or friends for new shiny ones.

* Usimwamshe aliyelala, ukimwamsha utalala wewe.
o Idiomatic Translation: Don't wake he who is sleeping, if you wake him, you will sleep yourself.
o Literal Meaning: Don't trust a fool with your private matters, if you do, you will be the fool!

* Usione simba kapigwa na mvua.
o Idiomatic Translation: You shouldn't look at a lion as it is being rained on.
o Literal Meaning: Don't ridicule the powerful when their situation takes a turn for the worse.

* Usipoziba ufa, utajenga ukuta.
o Idiomatic Translation: If you don't fill a crack, you will build a wall.
o Literal Meaning: If you ignore a small problem now it will only turn into a bigger problem later.
o See Also: A stitch in time saves nine.


* Vita havina macho.
o Idiomatic Translation: War has no eyes.
o Literal Meaning: Anything can happen in war; it doesn't discriminate between those who started it and those who just get caught up in it.


* Wapiganapo tembo wawili ziumiazo nyasi.
o Idiomatic Translation: When two elephants fight it's the grass that gets hurt.
o Literal Meaning: When the rich and powerful contend with each other it is the weak and powerless who pay the price.

* Watetea ndizi mgomba si wao.
o Idiomatic Translation: They argue over the bananas but the banana plant belongs to someone else.
o Literal Meaning: Don't waste your time arguing over matters that don't pertain to you.


* Yote yang'aayo si dhahabu.
o Idiomatic Translation: Everything that shines isn't gold.
o Literal Meaning: External beauty doesn't mean that a thing has value.
o See Also: All that glitters isn't gold. Don't judge a book by its cover. Beauty is only skin deep.


* Zana za vita ni silaha.
o Idiomatic Translation: The tools of war are weapons.
o Literal Meaning: You can't succeed at a task without the proper tools.

* Ziba mwanya usipite panya.
o Idiomatic Translation: Fill up the crack so the rat can't pass.
o Literal Meaning: Fix small problems when they arise so they don't turn into large ones.

* Zunguo la mtukutu ni ufito.
o Idiomatic Translation: The exorcism for a mischievous child is a cane.
o Literal Meaning: The cure for mischievous children is to beat them.
o See Also: Spare the rod, spoil the child.

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