Akan Proverbs + English Meanings

1. Ɔdɛnkyɛm da nsuo mu nanso ɔhome mframa

Literally: The crocodile lives in water but it breathes air

2. Wannya biribi amma w’ase a, emmɔ no krɔno

Literally: If you don’t get anything for your in-law, don’t steal from her (or him).

3. Wopre fa ahenkyɛ hyɛ a, obiara nsom wo da

Literally: If you rush to take the king’s crown, nobody serves you

4. Wosene wo yɔoko a otan wo

Literally: If you are greater than your friend, he hates you

5. Odo nyera fie kwan

Literally: Love does not miss its way home

6. Mako nyinaa mpatu mmere

Literally: All peppers (presumably on the same tree) do not ripe simultaneously

7. Asem ye den se den ara a yenfa sekan ntwa

Literally: No matter how difficult a matter is, we do not cut it with a knife.

Perhaps, a better literal translation of this is: No matter how difficult a matter is, it is not with a knife that we cut it. In other words, we may cut it but definitely not with a knife. Presumably, we use a mouth or a tongue. This proverb reveals the preference among the Akans to settle matters in a community amicably in order to maintain harmony, rather than resorting to violence. This is no trivial observation. Indeed, this culture is so prized that it may be playing no small part in the perception that Ghanaians (more than 40% of who are Akans) love a lot of talk without action.

8. Nea onnim on sua a ohu

Literally: When he who does not know learns, he knows

9. Huriyɛ si akyekyedeɛ akyi kwa

Literally: The tsetsefly sits at the back of the tortoise in vain

10. Nea wayera no na onim nea ote

Literally: It is the one who is missing who knows where he is hiding.

Probably, this means that the one who has gone missing may be hiding after all. If he is hiding, then it may be very hard to find him though if he has lost his way, someone may randomly bump into him somewhere.

This could mean that it is futile to search for a missing person if he is not actually missing but only hiding.

11. Odehyeeba de ne mogya na egoro

Literally: A royal plays with his blood.

This could mean a royal has the luxury or the power or the wherewithal to do what others cannot afford to do. Royals in Akan culture, much like other cultures, are pampered with privileges that others could only dream of.

12. Nea owoo kwasea ammre se nea otetee no

Literally: The one who gave birth to a fool did not suffer as much as the one who raised him (the foolish child).

This means that producing children, a relatively easy task, is completely different from raising them, which is a much harder task.

13. Eda a aponkyerene bewu na yebehunu ne tenten

Literally: It is the day that the frog dies that we will know its length.