30 Ugandan Proverbs and their Meanings

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The Baganda tribe of Uganda is known for its rich oral tradition, which is revered in the African Great Lakes region. The general Luganda word for ‘proverb’ is ‘olugero olusonge’, which could be loosely translated as ‘pointed comparison’ In this article, we explore 30 Ugandan proverbs and their meanings.

The subjective nature of proverbs speaks to the many ways in which a message can be interpreted. In these differences, we find comparisons that also show the importance of speaking in symbolic terms and understanding life from multiple perspectives. In Uganda, one can find a diverse collection of experiences, stories, and philosophies amongst the 56 different ethnic groups. This has made Uganda one of the wealthiest cultures and with one of the largest collections of African literature that includes their highly intriguing proverbs. Although the proverbs in this article have given translations and meanings, the fact remains that all these proverbs have variations in their cultural wisdom.
Here are 30 Ugandan Proverbs and their Meanings:

30 Ugandan Proverbs and their Meanings

1. Oyita ewala, n’otuuka emirembe

Translation: Go round the long way and arrive in safety
Meaning: In life, it is better to take a longer way which is safe, than a shorter one which is dangerous

2. Abali awamu, tebalema kuyomba

Translation: People who live together cannot fail to have quarrels
Meaning: When you live with people, it is inevitable that you will disagree

3. Akatono, kekazzza omukwaano

Translation: A small gift strengthens a friendship
Meaning: It is the small acts that truly solidify a good friendship

4. Akozesa emikono gye, tabulwa ky’aalya

Translation: One who uses both hands, cannot fail to eat
Meaning: If you always do your best, you will not fail to achieve something

5. Ssajjabbi, tiribulwa kye lisiimwako

Translation: A bad man does not lack qualities which are pleasing in him
Meaning: Even bad characters have their good points

6. Akwata empola, atuuka wala

Translation: One who takes things slowly, goes far
Meaning: Rushing causes inevitable mistakes while careful deliberation and execution brings more success

7. Okwagalana kyayi kya mpiso, bwe kitasoba tikitunga

Translation: Mutual love is like the thread in the needle, if it does not pass through and stick out of the eye, it does not sew
Meaning: Friends should complement each other’s flaws

8. Abalungi mbwa ya nnamaaso, bw’etebba n’eyigga

Translation: The beautiful are like a dog with big, beautiful eyes, might turn out to be a thieving dog or a good hunter
Meaning: Not everything that looks precious or true turns out to be so

9. Bannange bangi, nga tonnagwa wabi

Translation: One can claim to have many friends, until they fall on bad times
Meaning: You never know how many friends you really have until you have fall into bad times

10. Bakuseredde mu katale, naye oyombela mu kubo

Translation: You were ripped off in the market, but you’re arguing about it in the road and carrying on
Meaning: Settle your arguments with people immediately and in the right place

11. Omusiru takufuula musiru

Translation: A foolish person shouldn’t make you foolish
Meaning: Choose your battles wisely and do not stoop down to somebody’s level

12. Ky’otonnalya, tokyesunga; ettooke balitutte kiro

Translation: What you have not yet got in your possession, do not consider as yours; they took back the bananas, you had stolen at night
Meaning: Making judgements on anticipated results rather than evaluated results corrupts your abilities

13. Azaala, akira atema ente

Translation: One who brings forth a child, is better off than one who kills a cow
Meaning: Children are more important than material possessions that fade away

14. Ataliiwo, y’atta embogo.

Translation: The one who was not there, kills the buffalo
Meaning: People who talk a lot about their experiences are often not as experienced as they claim to be

15. Entasiima ebula agiwa

Translation: An ungrateful person has no one to give him anything
Meaning: Gratitude wins people over

16. Ab’oluganda bwe bayomba, tossaayo kikyo

Translation: When relations quarrel: don’t put your oar in
Meaning: You should not give an opinion when relatives are arguing

17. Linda kiggweeyo, afumita mukira

Translation: Wait till the animal comes out properly, so you advise the hunter and he spears the tail-end.
Meaning: If you wait for an opportunity too long it will disappear, and you will end up with nothing

18. Akutwala ekiro, omusiima bukedde

Translation: He who takes you at night, you thank him in the morning
Meaning: Often we understand later what others have done for us in the past

19. Akasuka ly’ali nalyo : taba mutt.

Translation: A man who throws the spear he has, is no coward
Meaning: It doesn’t matter how strong or weak you are, you should use your gifts with confidence

20. Agenda gy’amanyi, tazibirirwa budde

Translation: One who travels to a familiar place does not worry about arriving in the dark
Meaning: If you know where you are going you never have to fear being lost both literally and metaphorically

21. Kamu, kamu, gwe muganda

Translations: One little twig with another, makes a bundle
Meaning: Small savings will eventually grow into something big

22. Agali awamu, ge galuma ennyama; ow’amalibu akiina wa ngereka

Translation: Teeth without gaps chews the meat; one who has gaps sneers at one who has protruding teeth
Meaning: At the end of the day unity makes a group strong

23. Empera tekwata magulu, ekwata akamwa

Translation: Brandishing weapons does not affect the legs, but the mouth
Meaning: This refers to those who brag the loudest but run in the face of real adversity

24. Abangi babi kulya, balungi mirimu

Translation: A crowd is bad for eating, but good for work.
Meaning: Both are finished quickly

25. Munno mu kabi, ye munno ddala

Translation: Your one in trouble, is your true one
Meaning: A true friend is one that is in trouble and seeks your support[ in their time of need

26. Ab’oluganda bita, bikoonagana ne bitayatika

Translation: Relations are like beer-calabashes, they bump against each other, but don’t break
Meaning: However hard family members clash, their bond is not easily broken

27. Akatono akatuuse, kakira ekinene ekisuubize

Translation: A little thing that is availed, is worth more than a big thing that only has been promised
Meaning: Value and appreciate what you have in your reach

28. Obukaajumbe, anaabusereka akeera

Translation: He who wants to put old thatch on the roof again, does so early in the morning
Meaning: The courageous tackle things without hesitation

29. Linda kigweyo, afumita mukila

Translation: To kill an animal, you don’t wait to see the tail before you strike
Meaning: When making decisions, you do not need the complete picture before embarking on a new venture, otherwise you may miss an opportunity waiting on all the information

30. Atagukwanye, ye agamba nti “banaakitiza

Translation: He who is not in love himself, says they are infatuated with love
Meaning: It is often those who do not love themselves that go insane looking for love

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