Denkyem icon

How to pronounce Denkyem

Meaning of Denkyem

Denkyem means “crocodile.” It is a symbol of adaptability, cleverness, from the proverb, “Ɔdɛnkyɛm da nsuo mu nanso ɔhome mframa,” to wit, “The crocodile lives in water yet it breathes air.”


One may attribute the adaptability of the reptile to himself to show his own adaptability and ingenuity coupled with formidability and mystery. The idea that it takes ingenuity to live in water but breathe air comes from the inability of humans to do that. Hence, the anthropomorphized crocodile becomes a symbol that embodies superhuman traits the user desires to communicate about himself.

This is not the only Adinkra symbol with a crocodile. Funtumfunefu-denkyemfunefu (the Siamese crocodiles) is another Adinkra symbol with crocodiles in it.

Funtumfunefu-denkyemfunefu (the Siamese crocodiles), another Adinkra symbol with crocodiles in it

Akan proverbs on ingenuity

1. Dua kontonkyikuronkyi na ɛma yehunu ɔdwomfo

Literally: It is the unworkable (severely crooked) wood that shows us the (true) sculptor.

2. Nwaanwaa hu ne so hwɛ a onyini ma yefreɛ no otope

Literally: When the small snail is able to take good care of itself, it grows for us to all it a big snail

3. Obanyansafoo na odi kosua bo mu dompe

Literally: It is a wise person who eats an egg and cracks a bone in it.

Adinkra Chart: Explore West African Symbols