Shona Proverbs

Here are a few of my favorite Shona Proverbs:

English Translation:  Actions taken and words spoken under the stress of sorrow are not to be taken seriously.


English Translation:  One who has washed doesn’t have stiff porridge broken off for himself.

Meaning: A cultured person is entitled to respect.


Translation:  Like Musasa, like Munhondo.

Meaning: You are not making yourself clear. I don’t understand what you are trying to say.


English translation: You must not search too hard for a missing old woman when you see a hyena spitting white hairs.

Meaning: Sometimes you have to acknowledge and accept a certain reality or explanation (even when it is a very unpleasant one) if the evidence for that explanation is strong.


English Translation: A new thing doesn’t come to she who sits, but to she who travels.

Meaning: (pretty obvious)


English Translation: The axe forgets, but the tree remembers

Meaning: A person who harms another, or who borrows money from another often forgets about it, but the one who was harmed, or who lent the money, always remembers.


English Translation: It is mysterious if a baboon falls from a tree

Meaning:  When someone who is very good at something messes up, it is confusing to everyone involved…. actually, I think there’s more to this one that I forgot to write down.


English Translation: A strange thing does not walk fast; it waits for you to see its horns.

Meaning: I forgot what this one means, and failed to write its explanation down altogether…and Old Man Google is of no help to me. :(  Any speculation would be welcome. Mr. Mugabe, Maybe you can help me out with this one?


English Translation: The white pumpkin invites trouble for the black one.

Meaning: In Zimbabwe, there is a species of black pumpkin, which is difficult for people to see in the undergrowth, and a species of white pumpkins, which are easy to spot. If a white one grows near some black ones, then the hungry person is lured over to the patch by the white one, but then, sees the black ones and eats them too.

This means that if a given individual is engaged in mildly bad behavior, he will probably be able to remain hidden (like the black pumpkin), but if he had a friend who is a reckless miscreant, then both of them will be discovered and punished.


English Translation: Those that have grazed at one anthill have become acquainted.

Meaning: People who share an experience are united by it forever. This one is my favorite.


That’s all I have time for now, but I might add more later. I have many more.

Do you have a favorite proverb (from any country or culture)?  Have you written any of your own? I’m compiling a list of my own proverbs over the last few years. They’re mostly funny, but some may be universal and useful.

9 Responses to “Shona Proverbs”

  1. Proverb Collecting « a time to cast away stones Says:

    […] In response to my questions, they would think, say a phrase in Shona, then debate with each other warmly about how to translate it into English words, and then they would explain its meaning, and real-life applications to me. If you’d like to read through some of my favorites, you can click here. […]

  2. Luke Cuenco Says:

    “A strange thing does not walk fast; it waits for you to see its horns.”

    From my understanding this simply means that, a dangerous or overwhelming situation does not present itself blatantly it waits until you are close enough or far in enough to be affected by the situation. I don’t speak Shona though.

    My favorite one of these is : “You must not search too hard for a missing old woman when you see a hyena spitting white hairs.”

    I appreciated this blog and I’ll be sure to look out for more of these wonderful cultural communication tools in my travels.

  3. Tarah Says:

    Here’s one that I made up, I think you will understand it, but I’ll explain it anyway:

    “Don’t drink gross punch at a costume party because you will regret it.”

    It means that if you are little and at a church costume party dressed up as a tiny cave-woman with a bleached chicken bone in your hair, and you already know you do not like punch, DO NOT drink the punch at that costume party, because for years to come you will remember it and how gross it was and you will regret it.

    • a time to cast away stones Says:

      Before reading this comment, I thought that the king of the Proverbs was “This too shall pass”

      Although it is not recorded in the Bible, Jewish tradition says that a sultan asked King Solomon to write him a sentence to be ever in view, and which must be appropriate and TRUE in all times and situations. Solomon presented him with the words: “This too shall pass”.

      It expresses so much! It corrects us in our hour of pride! And it consoles us in the depths of affliction!

      …..anyway, I was wrong.

      The king of the proverbs is the one you just wrote: “Don’t drink gross punch at a costume party because you will regret it.”

      Behold, the eternal words of perfect wisdom!

  4. alison neville Says:

    you seem like a person who can explain’ Shona time’ to me

  5. modikwe Says:

    Inspired l could not get my eyes off the page!

    Iwould really love to see more!

  6. LensTHERAPY Says:

    would love to actually see the shona text for these too

  7. Thomas Chigwida Says:

    mabaya dede nemukanwa my dear friends meaning, u hv made it clear as it is in SHONA

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