Gikuyu Proverbs: (1000 in Total)

The Kikuyu are traditionally agriculturalists and keep livestock– they are well-favored by the fertile soils and climate to the south and west of Mt Kenya, Africa’s second highest mountain. Although agriculture remains of paramount importance, many Kikuyu are involved in business, and work in towns and cities throughout the country. The Kikuyu are known for their key participation in Kenya’s liberation struggle. Key players in the struggle included Jomo Kenyatta, Harry Thuku, and Dedan Kimathi to mention just a few. They were instrumental in achieving independence from Britain and formed Kenya’s first post colonial Government.



Agikuyu moi kuhitha ndia, matiui kuhitha uhoro

The Kikuyu know how to conceal their quiver, but do not know how to conceal their secrets.

The Kikuyu, though very clever in concealing their arms, cannot keep secrets from the members of their tribe.


2.                  Ageni eri matiri utugire

Two guests (at the same time) have no welcome.


3.                  Ageni eri na karirui kao

Two guests love a different song.

When you receive two visitors at the same time, you cannot treat them in the same manner, because they have different tastes.

Every man has his hobby horse.


4.                  Aikaragia mbia ta njuu ngigi

He is a man that looks after maney as ‘njuu’ looks after locusts.

‘Njuu’ is a bird which accompanies migrating locusts to feed on them.

Much wants more


5.                  Aka eri ni nyungu igiri cia utugi

Two wives are two pots full of poison

The more women you have in your haouse, the more twoubles you must expect

Women’s jars breed men’s wars.


6.                  Aka matiri cia ndiiro no cia nyiniko

Women have no upright words, but only crooked ones

The Kikuyu use the proverb to say that women keep no secrets and seldom tell the truth.

Women conceal all that they know not


7.                  Aka na ng’ombe itiri ndugu

Wives and oxen have no friends

There are things which are not to be given to friends.

A woman is to be from her house three times: when she is christened, married, and burried.


8.                  Andu maiganaine magithii na magiceera

Men are equal whe they are going and walking

One can notice a difference between man and man when they, ‘exempli gratia’ are commanding or working, but not on the road where they look quite the same.


9.                  Andu matari ndundu mahuragwo na njuguma imwe

People who have not secret agreement are beaten by a single club.

A group of men not bound by a secret will be easily beaten by a single man

Lack of union spells weakness


10.              Andu matiui ngamini

Men do not know liberality

One does not give without hope of return


11.              Andu matiui ngu, moi ithendu

Me do not know hard firewood, but only lops people put aside hard tasks and devote themselves only to easy ones.


12.              Andu me muoyo matiagaga wira

Live men do not lack work

Life would be too smooth if it had no rubs in it.


13.              Angimituiria na umirite ndangimiona rikii

He who seeks his goat with the man who ate it, is certain not to find it.

Do not look for stolen goods in the robber’s house


14.              Arume mari rwamba

Men have got quills

Do not annoy others because they will respond by hurting

Do evil and look for like


15.              Bata ndubatabataga

Necessities never end

He that will have no trouble in this world must not be born in it.


16.              Cia athuri inyuagira thutha

The elders drink afterwards (i.e after the others)

Elderly people are not in such a hurry as young ones.


17.              Ciakorire wacu mugunda

The food found Wacu in the field.

The proverb originates in the legend of Wacu, the most despised amongst the wives of a rich man who never gave her any presents.  One day, when a banquet was being held at home, she went to work in the field, since she knew there would be nothing for her at home.  In the middle of the banquet a raven swooped down in the courtyard where the meat was being roasted, snatched a big piece and brought it to Wacu.

The Kikuyu use the proverb to say that God takes care of His poor.


18.              Cia kionje itigayagwo gitanakua

The property of a helpless man must nit be divided before his death

The reason is that he is unable to get anything more than he already possesses.


19.              Cia mucii iri gacuguma gacio gatathukagio ni muthuri ungi tiga mwenegwo

Home affairs have their staff, which cannot be brandished by anyone but the head of the house

The proverb means either that private matters must not be spoken of to strangers or that in each house there must be only one in authority.


20.              Cia mucii itiumaga ndira

Home affairs must not go into the open

Do not wash dirty linen in public


21.              Cia mucii ti como

Home affairs cannot be told to the public

Do not wash dirty linen in public


22.              Ciana cia ndigwa itiri maithori

The widow’s sons have not tears

It means that they have been accustomed to suffer very early


23.              Ciathanaga ikigua, itiathanaga ikiumbuka

Birds agree when flying down, but do not agree when flying up.

The proverb means that it is easy for a swarm of birds to alight together, while it is difficult to get up together since after eating their fill they will fly up separately.  Morally the proverb means that men easily agree when deciding on an enterprise, but will probably quarrel as soon as they have obtained what they want.


24.              Cia thuguri itiyuraga ikumbi

Bought things do not fill the granary

Do not hope to become rich without cultivating your fields


25.              Ciatura nguyu iriaga ng’umo

When there is shortage of figs, birds eat the fruits of the ‘mugumo’

The tree called ‘mugumo’ by the natives bears little fruits that are not eated by birds when there is plenty of other food.

If thou hast not a capon, feed on an onion


26.              Cia uthoni ciambaga nguhi

The buying of a wife begins from a little thing

Great events have small beginnings


27.              Ciigwatagirira mareru

Goats fall that take hold of lichens

Lichens are not strong enough to prevent a goat from falling.  The proverb means that unsatisfactory excuses are insufficient defence


28.              Cionje ikumi irugitwo ni umwe uri na hinya

Ten helpless people were surpassed by a single strong person

One strong person is better than ten helpless ones

One grain of pepper is worth a cartload of hail


29.              Cira munene ni ukia

A long lawsuit breeds poverty

Fools and obstinate men make lawyers rich


30.              Cira munene ni wa uthoni igikua

The breaking of a betrothal is no small matter.  Marrying a girls means giving a large numnber of goarts or cattle to her family.  Starting from the day of the betrothal the price is paid gradually.  Evidently it is no simple matter if the would-be husband breaks his contract and demands the return of the marrieage price.


31.              Cira wa kirimu utindaga kiharo

The lawsuit of a fool keeps the court (sitting) all day

The lawsuit of a fool never comes to an end


32.              Cira wa mucii ndumagirio kiharo

Home affairs are not to be carried on in the public squuare

Do not wash dirty linen in public


33.              Cira wothe wambagiririo na nda

Every case begins from the stomach

The Kikuyu have an ox or a goat killed, roasted and distributed to judges at the beginning of every case.  Familiarly they use the proverb to say that one of the most important jobs of life is to provide something to eat

An empty belly hears nobody


34.              Ciunagwo rukomo, kimenyi akamenya ikiunwo

We speak byh proverb: he who is intelligent will understand

Intelligenti pauca


35.              Ehera thakirio

Clear out of the ‘thakirio’

‘Thakirio’ is the place the Kikuyu hut where the wife stays when distributing the food to the family

Mind your own business


36.              Gakiibatha ni koi ni karithoitha

He who spends his time adorning himself knows he is going to a dance

There is a reason for everything


37.              Gakiihotora niko koi uria kariina

He who adorns himself knows to what sort of dance he is going

There is a reason for everything


38.              Gakunywo kagira thooko

The fool takes many people with him

It is said of people who, when invited to a feast, instead of going alone, take others with them

A fool cannot bear his own company.


39.              Garurira mbeu ti ya kinya kimwe

Change seeds taking them from different calabashes

It is good to introduce new blood.


40.              Gatami kari mondo yene gatingikurutira wira

The piece of cloth that is in another’s bag does not patch your garmet


41.              Gathutha konagia mundu njira

A little, contemptible path is sometimes the one that leads you to the highway

Little strokes fell great oaks.


42.              Gatitu ka muimwo ni iri noko kari miti

The forest of an unpleasant (ill-liked) person is the one that has trees

The proverb means that evil-doers often do prosper


43.              Gatitu ka ngoro gatiunagwo

The grove of the hear is not laid open


44.              Gatinyinyiraga gatari gakunye

Nobody cries that has not been pinched

No smoke without fire


45.              Gatuma kainagia murigwa

Darkness caused to dance even him who cannot

All cats are the same in colour at night


46.              Gatundu koragithirie Watatua

A secret agreement enabled people to kill Watatua

Watatua was a powerful Chief, invincible in open combat, who was killed at night by a few men

Secret union means strength.


47.              Giathi githaragio ni gaka kamwe

A market can be spoilt by one woman

One cloud is enough to eclipse the sun


48.              Giathi kiri murugirwo

Every feast has ists guest of honour


49.              Giathi kiriagwo ni kingi

One appointment is eatedn by another

Today kills yesterday.


50.              Giathi kiumu no kia murokero

That of circumcision is a hard appointment

The Kikuyu circumcision is a civil and religious rite by which the adolescent is admitted into the public life of the tribe and becomes a man in the full possession of his rights.  The ceremony is physically painful, but the candidate is expected to face the operation without wincing.

There are not gains without pains.


51.              Gieterero ti kiinaino

To wait is not to tremble

Men’s actions are not to be judged at first sight


52.              Gicegu kia andu aingi ti kiega

The ‘gicegu’ of many men is not good

‘Gicegu’ is that part of the Kikuyu hut where they enclose the ram in order to fatten it.

Too many cooks spoil the broth.


53.              Gicigo kia mugunda gitinyihaga

A piece of land is not a little thing

The proverb means that however small the field you possess, it has its importance if you work it

A little house well filled, a little land well tilled, a little wife well willed are great riches.


54.              Giikaro kimwe kiri ngee kana ndaa

By staying always in the same place one gets lice.

The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only one page.


55.              Gikuru kiega no kiratina

The only thing good, though old, is the ‘muratina’.  ‘Muratina’ is the fruit of the hot-dog tree (Kigelia Etiopica) used by the natives to cause fermentation of sugar-cane beer.  It is believed that the older the fruit, the greater it is fermenting power.  The proverb means that there are only few things that improve with age.


56.              Gikuu gitiraragirio

You cannot (do not) make an appointment with death


57.              Githaka gitigunaga mumi, kigunaga muki

The land enriches not people who clear it, but people who come (when it is already cleared)

One beats the bush, and another catches the bird.


58.              Githaka kia muici ni gukaana

Lying is the thief’s stronghold.


59.              Githumba gitiri murimu wa ngoro

Beggars have no worries.

Poverty needs no granary.


60.              Githuri kiri mwatu wa ngotoko

The chest contains a beehive full of pride.

The proverb means that proud people have always in store lots of reasons justifying their wickedness.


61.              Gitiganiriro kirugitwo ni kirugamanio

Talking something over is better than leaving it pending.

Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.


62.              Gitiiro kia muka wene gitikagio athii

The song of a stranger-woman is answered after she has gone.

The proverb is metaphorically used to mean that foreigners, especially women, are not to be trusted too much.

Eat a peek of salt with a man before you trust him.


63.              Gitindo kia mucii ni kiuru

It is bad to stay at home.

He that stays in the valley shall never get over the hill.


64.              Gitoi kimenyaga kierwo

He who does not know, knows after being told.

A man forewarned is forearmed.


65.              Gitoi kiraragia kiui njira

He who does not know the road delays also one that knows it.

Who goes with a fool becomes a fool.


66.              Gitonga kigiragio iganjo gikarima

The rich man cannot be prevented from cyltivating the ‘iganjo’ he wants.

‘Iganjo’ is the place upon which a hut had been built.  Since the flocks live in the owner’s hut, the floor of the hut becomes fertilized.  The proverb refers to the fact that if a rich man has left a piece of his land to a poor man on which to build his hut, very often he wants it back as soon as the soil under the hut has been enriched by the dropping of the animals.

Mights is right.


67.              Gitonga kiriaga munyuko

Rich people sometimes eat badfood.

All is not gold that glitters.


68.              Guceera ni kuhiga

Travelling is learning.

The world is a great book, of which they that never stir read only one page.


69.              Gucekeha ti guicuhio

To be slim does not mean having been pared.

Do not scorn little things.


70.              Guciara kunaga irigu ngingo

The woman who gives birth to a child is like the banana tree that breaks under the weight of its fruit.

Maternity means pain to the mother.


71.              Guciara uru ti kwenda kwa mwene

It is not the mother’s will to have a bad offspring.


72.              Gucukagwo utaguteo

People slander somebody even if they do not despise him.


73.              Gukiara na gutonga ititiganaga

Riches and poverty do not leave each other.


74.              Gukira kuri ngatho

To keep one’s tongue is worthy of praise

Silence is golden.


75.              Gukira ni guthurana

Not to talk is to hate.

One keeps silence with people one does not like.


76.              Gukiririria kwagira kieha

Indulgence breeds regret.


77.              Gukura ni kuuru: ngathii uriri ngicayaga

It is bad to get old, for one goes to bed grumbling.

Old sacks want much patching.


78.              Gukuhiriria mbaara tikuo kurua

The fact that you have gone near the battle-field does not mean that you fought.


79.              Gukungagwo utuku ti muthenya

Thieves conceal themselves in the night not in the day.

The night is a cloak for sinners.


80.              Guota mwaki ni gucera

To get the warmth of fire one must stir the embers.

No gains without pains.


81.              Guoya utuuragia ukia mucii

The fear (of toil) keeps your house poor.

Idleness is the key of beggary.


82.              Guteithagio witeithitie

If you help yourself you will be helped.

God helps those who help themselves.


83.              Gutema na kanua ti gutema na rihiu

Cutting by the tongue is different from cutting by the knife.

Slander is not mortal stabbing.

Hard words break no bones.


84.              Guthama nikuo kuhika kwa arume

A man changing his abode is like a woman marrying.   As a woman, on marrying, adopts the customs of the family she enters, so a man going to live in a strange country, must accept its customs.

When in Rome do as Rome does.


85.              Guthekererwo ni andu ti kuririrwo ni hiti

To be laughed at by men is not to be wept by hyenas.

Better to be laughed at than to die.


86.              Guthekererwo ti kuririrwo

To be laughed at is not to be pitied.

One starting any enterprise ought not to fear what others say of him.

Do well and dread no shame.


87.              Guthekio ti kwendwo

If anybody makes you laugh, it is not always because he loves you.

Eat a peck of salt with a man before you trust him.


88.              Guthigagio mbura gutongitwo matuguta

Some hope for rain even though they have not prepared their fields.

He who hopes for favours should have prepared himself to profit by them.


89.              Guthii gutigiragia mundu acoke

To go does not prevent a man from returning.

Never give up.


90.              Guthii kuonagia mundu njira.

Travelling teaches men their way.


91.              Guthii ki kuona

Travelling is seeing

Travel broadens the mind.


92.              Guthimba ti kuura

Having rain clouds is not the same as having rain.

Don’t cry herrings till they are in the net.


93.              guthinga kurugite gutonga

Virtue is better than riches.

Virtue is the only true nobility.


94.              Guthinga kikuo kihoto

Virtue is power

Virtue makes men on the earth famous, in their graves illustrious, in the heaven immortal.


95.              Guthura ng’ombe ni guthura kamukwa kayo

To despise the ox means to despise also a strip of hide from it.

One cannot scorn great things without scorning little ones related to them.


96.              Guthukagirio wanatega itega

One favours him from whom one has in the past received a gift.

One good turn deserves another.


97.              Guthuragwo mundu uriendwo

A man is (sometimes) scorned who will be loved (later on).

Judge not of men or things at first sight.


98.              Gutiri gitatuirie kingi

There is no thing which does not cause another to exist.


99.              Gutiri githinji utathinja.

There is no butcher that does not slaughter

Every man to his trade.


100.          Gutiri gukura na kurara keri

One ages every night one lives

Time fleeth away without delay.


101.          Gutiri ita ithiagwwo na gitete kia njohi no gia ucuru

No war has been fought by men carrying a calabash of ‘njohi’ but of ‘ucuru’.

‘Njohi’ is an inebriating drink brewed out of sugar-cane.  ‘Ucuru’ is a kind of thin porridge made by boiling millet-flour in water.  This gruel is supposed to be highly nourishing and therefore suitable for long journeys or hard fighting; while the sugar-cane beer by inebriating the warriors makes them weak and easy prey to the enemy.

Out of temperance comes strength.


102.          Gutiri mbura itari na gitonga kiayo

There is no rain which does not enrich someone.

It is an ill wind that blows nobody good.


103.          Gutiri mucii uri kahii utukarugwo mutwe     

In every family where there is a son, the head of an ox, goat or ram is cooked to be eaten by him with his friends.

They use the proverb to mean that ordinarily a son gives his parent more trouble than a daughter, or that in every family parents do not lack troubles.

There is a black sheep in every family.


104.          Gutiri muici na mucuthiriria

There is no difference between the thief and the looker-on.


105.          Gutiri muki urehage urugari

Nobody entering a hut pays for the heart he will enjoy in it.  Only the owner of the hut had the drudgery of carrying home the firewood; the visitor does not know the cost of the fire he is enjoying.  Metaphorically the proverb is used to say that he who enters a house cannot realise the troubles of the occupants.

None knows the weight of another’s burden.


106.          Gutiri mundu ui haria eguthii no haria ekuuma

Nobody knows where he goes, but only whence he comes.

No one can see into the future.


107.          Gutiri mundu wendaga gutungana na nyoni njuru

Nobody wants to meet an ill-omened bird.

To the Kikuyu many birds foreshadow calamity.  The cry of the owl forebodes mishap.  If the owl cries, perched on the top of a hut, the oldest man in that village will die very soon.  If someone, about to make a journey, hears the cry of any bird of ill- omen, he must not start on any account.

Nobody seeks his own ruin.


108.          Gutiri mundu utangutuika wa ndigwa

There is no man that cannot become an orphan.

No flying from fate.


109.          Gutiri mundu wonaga wega wake, no kuonwo wonagwo

Nobody can see his own goodness: it can be seen only by others.


110.          Gutiri murio utainagia ruthia

There is no pleasure (however little it may be) that does not cause one’s cheeks to tremble.

The Kikuyu consider the cheek trembling an expression of joy.

A little pleasure is nertheless a pleasure.


111.          Gutiri muthenya ukiaga ta ungi

No day dawns like another

Every day brings a new light.


112.          Gutiri mutumia wenjagirwo mbui kwa nyina

No married woman will have her white hair shaved at her mother’s

The Kikuyu girls go around with bald heads which they get periodically shaved by their relations.  So the woman, who by being married has left her house and relations, will never be shaved at her mother’’.

Once sold, ever sold.


113.          Gutiri mwana ungitema agitemera ithe

The son does not cut his finger in cutting meat for his father.

Sons are stingier than their parents.


114.          Gutiri ngware itari muhuririe wayo

There is no partridge which does not know its own way of scratching.

As many methods as men.


115.          Gutiri ngware nyinyi mahuririo-ini

No partridge is small when it claws the soil.

Every one can do great good or evil according to his possibilities.


116.          Gutiri njamba irumaga imera igiri

No prepotent man will insult other people for two consecutive seasons.

Prepotence comes quickly to an end.


117.          Gutiri nyama na ngirinyu

Meat has no choice morsel.

When distributing the meat or anything else one must not favour any one person.


118.          Gutiri nyoni njega mwere-ini

There is no nice bird in the millet.

Millet is one of the staple crops of the Kikuyu.  They protect it from birds by building pulpit-like huts in which boys or women stand to frighten them whilst the harvest is ripening.

Even sugar itself may spoil a good dish.


119.          Gutiri uciaragwo ari mugi.

Nobody is born wise.


120.          Gutiri ucokaga haria arumiirwo kaara.

Nobody returns where he got his finger bitten,

Once bitten twice shy.


121.          Gutiri uikagia itimu atari na haria akuratha

Nobody throws a lance if he has no target.

There is a reason for everything.


122.          Gutiri ukinyaga mukinyire wa ungi

Nobody walks with another man’s gait.

Every man in his way.


123.          Gutiri undu utari kihumo

There is nothing without a cause.

All things have a beginning.


124.          Gutiri uriragio ni ukia wene

Nobody grumbles at being rich, all at being poor.


125.          Gutiri uriragio ni utonga no ukia

Nobody cares about other people’s poverty.


126.          Gutiri uriru utonwo

There is no mischance you are guaranteed against.

There is many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.


127.          Gutiri uru utuuraga, no wega utuuraga

No evil, but only the good will last.

Good deeds remain, all things else perish


128.          Gutiri uta utari nyama

There is no bow without its meat.

God helps those who help themselves.


129.          Gutiri ritwa ritakuria mwana

There is no name which cannot distinguish a child

Every bird is known by its feathers.


130.          Gutiri thingira uciraga ta ungi

There is no location which discusses its affairs in the same way as the other does.

Every man in his way.


131.          Gutiri uthuire tiga akiaga

A man is poor not because he scorns possessions, but because he  possesses nothing.

Sour grapes, as the fox said when he could not reach them.


132.          Gutiri wa nda na wa mugongo

There is not the son of the front and the son of the back.

The Kikuyu mothers carry a baby on the back if they have only one.  If they have two, one is carried in front and the other one on the back.  Of course the one carried near the breasts can suck oftener than the other.  That is why they say this is the favourite one.

Parents should have no Benjamin.


133.          Gutiri wiriraga agikuua, eriraga akiiga thi

Nobody grumbles while carrying a load, but when he has laid it down.

The proverb means that nobody hates to be rich but all hate to become poor; or that nobody refuses to command, though all are sorry when they have to give up the command


134.          Gutiri wiriraga agithii, no agicoka

Everybody regrets not what he leaves but what he does not find (when he comes back)


135.          Gutiri witaga ithe wa ungi baba

Nobody calls another’s father ‘dad’.


136.          gutirika guteaga njamba noru

To forget a strong man who could help you is the same as to scorn him


137.          Gutirika ni gute

To forget is the same as to throw away


138.          Gutungata gutingigiria mundu agatungatwo

The man that serves is not prevented from being served in turn.

Every dog has its day, and every man his hour.


139.          Gwakia kwarama, gwatuka gwakundeera

The day is for working, the night is for resting.

There is a time to wink as well as to see.


140.          Gwethera gitahi muka

To seek a woman to the belly.

The expression is used when they look for something to eat.

To go foraging


141.          Gwi thigari mugambo


Some soldiers are only soldiers when talking

A good friend is a treasure


142.          Gwika wega kumathaga ungi

A good action reaps another

One good turn deserves another


143.          Handu ha njuguma na ha mugwi hatiganaine

The place to use the club and the above arrow are not the same.

Everything has its place.


144.          Hari muthuri hatiitangagwo maai

In the presence of elderly people one must not pour water.

Nobody is allowed to be foul-mouthed especially when elderly people are present.

Old age is honourable.


145.          Haro ni ya muka uri ihii

Quarrelling is peculiar to the woman who has got male children.

They use the proverb to mean that since sons are more mischievous than daughters, and mothers are more proud of their sons than of their daughters,women  are inclined to quarrel to defend or to exalt their sons.

No mother is so wicked but desires to have good children.


146.          Haro ni ya muka uri thira

Quarrelling is peculiar to the woman who has debts

A woman in debt is quarrelsome.


147.          Hita itanakira

Resist the beginnings

Small faults indulged are little thieves that let in great


148.          Hinga ndikinyaga iraka

A wily person does not walk on dry leaves (for they would betray his presence)


149.          Hinya nduigana urume

Strength does not correspond with courage.


150.          Hinya nduri indo

Strength has nothing

Strong people are not necessarily rich people


151.          Hiti ciathii mbwe ciegangara

When hyenas go away jackals rejoice

Little dogs begin to eat when big ones have eaten enough


152.          Hiti itaga iria ingi ya mutiri

The hyena calls another hyena worse than itself

The pot calling the kettle black.


153.          Hiti yugaga arume no ogi, monaga gicinga ngwatiro

Hyena says that men are wise because they know how to hold a firebrand.

A story told by the Kikuyu says that one night a hyena entered a hut to eat the goats.  The owner wakened by the noise, took hold of a firebrand to scare it out.  The beast tried top do the same, but not knowing how top handle firebrands it scorched its paws.

There is a right and a wrong way of doing everything.


154.          Hiti ndiriaga mwana, na mui uria iri ngoroku

The hyena does not eat its baby, and you know how insatiable it is.

No mother is so wicked but loves her children.


155.          Hungu ireraga haria mburi irathinjirwo

Vultures arrive at the place where the goat is slaughtered.

Where the carcase is, the ravens will gather.


156.          Hungu igithii iguru ndiatigire thi kuri kwega

The vulture perches on the trees because it does not feel sure on the groung.


157.          Huni nene igiraga huhita

To eat much leaves you with a swollen belly

Enough is as good as a feast.


158.          Hururu ithekaga rwaro

The abyss laughs at the plain

Every man thinks his own geese swans.


159.          Igiaraga uru mwene oine

The cow has a bad delivery though her owner is present

Misfortunes may come in spite of watchfulness,


160.          Iganagwo yaari iria yakua

The good milking cow is praised after her death

A friend is never known till needed.


161.          Igitunywo mwana iikagirio mungu

The cow is given a present when her calf is carried away

When one thing distresses you, another consoles you..


162.          Igukua ihuragia kiara

The ox that claws the ‘kiara’ will die.

‘Kiara’ is the dunghill you will find in every Kikuyu village.  In order to understand the proverb it much be borne in mind that the Kikuyu regard it as a sacred place which the witch-doctors dedicates with the sacrifice of a goat to secure that the evil spirits may not return into the hut from which he expelled them. They are supposed to stay in the ‘kiara’ just as the rubbish does

Touch pitch and you’ll be defiled.


163.          Ikuruma ndioragia muguguta

The ox that feeds itself does not spoil its skin.


164.          Ikurura yarahuraga imamii

The animal rambling in the stable makes the sleeping ones rise too

III examples are like contageous diseases.


165.          Ikururio ti noru

The ram that is shown around is not fat

A really fat ram will easily find a buyer and does not need to be carried around and shown in the markets.

Good ware makes a quick market.


166.          Ireragira ruku-ini na ikaya kuigana

The cimex lives in the firewood and still it reaches its full growth

Where there is a will there is a way


167.          Iri guciarira riua-ini yongithagiria o ho

The cow that drops her calf in the sun feeds it there too

One likes the place where one does well.


168.          Iri gukura iragwo iguku ni aka

The hump of the ox that has grown old must be eaten by women.

The hump is a choice morsel for young men when the ox is young.  But if it is old women must eat it.

Rubbish is women’s portion.


169.          Iri gukura ndiri mwiroreri

The ox which has grown old has no admirer

Nobody looks after elderly people.


170.          Iri gutu ihugagia mwene

The flea troubles him who has got it in his ear.


171.          Iri kuhinja ndiri muniri ngu

Nobody gathers firewood to roast a thin goat.

Poor people have no friends


172.          Iri kuhuma ndiri muti itangigwatirira

There is no tree which a panting animal would not cling to

A drowning man will catch at a straw.


173.          Iri kura ndiri muhiti

The ox that ran away cannot be caught

Resist the beginnings


174.          Iri kuruga ni iguita, iguitirira ni nguu

The cooking pot on the fire leaks, when pouring water it is broken.

Misfortunes come by forties.


175.          Iri murungu igiritagia iri kahia

The ox which has no horns, relies for help on the one that has them

He who feels weak relies on the friend he knows is strong.


176.          Iri muthece kinya tene ndioyagira ingi

The bird who has always possessed a beak, does not pick up for another.

Content is more than a kingdom


177.          Iri nyite ni mutego ndithuire gwiteithura

The animal caught in the trap does not refuse to set itself free.

No man likes his fetters, though of gold.


178.          Iri tha ni iri iria

It is he who got milk that is merciful

‘Milk’ here has the sense of money; possessions.  The proverb means that the rich should help needy people, since the poor cannot do it.


179.          Iri thoni inyuaga munju

The timid ox drinks muddy watr.

He goes to the river only when others have come away leaving the water dirty.

Faint heart never won fair lady.


180.          Irugamaga ni ikurumaga

He who goes around with his body upright, later on will go crawling

Young today, old tomorrow


181.          Itakuura igwatagia ruhuho

To blame the wind for the rain that does not fall

It refers to boasting people who try to make silly excuses for themselves.


182.          Itari thahu igunagwo ni makoro ma njira

The man who has no impurity will be helped even by peels he sees on the road.

God cures honest people.


183.          Ithinjagirwo murwaru igakora warwarire tene

The goat slaughtered for a man who is sick now, finds another who ws sick long before.

God cures and the doctor takes the fee.


184.          Ithimbaga na nduire

The sky is heavy with rain, but does not come. 

It refers to people who are always promising great thing which they never do

Great boast, small roast.


185.          Itunyagwo mbui ni guciara

A plant loses its blossom as soon as it bears fruit.

Woman’s beauty is spoilt by maternity.


186.          Igai ria mutundu ritigiragia kiriti kiumwo

A branch of ‘mutundu’ does not hinder the division of a field.

‘Mutundu’ is a small tree growing in the bush.  It is not used by the natives, except as firewood.


187.          Igego rithekagia itimu

The tooth laughs with the lance.

It means that oftern a person plays with his enemy.

The cat plays with the mouse


188.          Igwa njithi itiri njohi

Young suga-cane gives no beer

There is no putting old heads on young shoulders.


189.          Ihenya inene riunaga gikwa ihatha

Great haste breaks the yam tuber (instead of taking it out whole)

Haste trips up its own heels.


190.          Ihii na igwa ikuragira uthu-ini

Boys and sugar-cane grow up as enemies (because boys are all the time eating sugar-cane)


191.          Ihiga riega ritiringanaga na thio njega

A good millstone does not meet a good miller


192.          Ikinya na thii itiaganaga

The foot and the earth cannot help meeting.


193.          Ikinya ria mukuru rikinyaga muruna

Old people’s walking teaches young ones to walk

That comes of a cat will catch mice.


194.          Ikuura inya na inyanya

One can lose four and eight

All cover all lose


195.          Indo ciene iri mutino

Stolen things bring in misfortune

III- gotten goods seldom prosper.


196.          Indo ni kurimithanio

Riches are found in cultivating together

Many hands make light work.


197.          Iriaga na mbugi kuri na ugwati

The goats pasture with bells hanging from their necks in order not to stray.


198.          Iri guthua ndongoria itikinyagira nyeki

If the first goat goes lame, those that follow will not reach the pasture.

III examples are like contagious diseases.


199.          Iri gwithamba iticokaga gwota mwaki

Candidates for circumcision   

0 after washing do not return to warm themselves at their father’s (but go straightaway to the place of the ceremony to show their courage)

In things that must be it is good to be resolute.


200.          Iri kanua itiri nda

The food that is in the mouth is not yet in the belly.


201.          Iri kuhia itioragirwo

When the food is cooked there is no need to wait before eating it.


202.          Iri ukabi itiri Gikuyu.

What is in Masai is not in Kikuyu

There is many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.


203.          Irima rirekagia riemba

The pit allows the grass to fall in

The proverb alludes to the pits the Kikuyu used to dig for trapping wild animals.  These pits were covered with sticks over which, as well as over borders, they put a layer of grass.  Since this grass often fell in the pit through the spaces between the sticks, so they say that often one falls into the pit dug by himself.

Hoist with his own petard.


204.          Irimu ikenagira undu muru

Fools rejoice for a bad thing

A fool will laugh when he is drowning.


205.          Irio cia maitho ititiraga

Cooked food is not sold for goats (but is given to friends visitors and pilgrims)

God helps the poor for the rich can help themselves.


206.          Ita cia maitho itiriraga.

The war of the eyes never comes to an end

The eye is never satisfied with seeing.


207.          Ita itari ndundu ititahaga

The war that has no unity will make no prey,


208.          Ithaga riene rinogagia ngingo

Other’s ornaments tire one’s neck

Do not wear borrowed plumes.


209.          Ithare riaguka gucokaga mugumo

When ‘ithare’ is uprooted ‘mugumo’ grows in its place

‘Ithare’ is a kind of a cane growing on the riverbanks.  The Kikuyu say it is of no use.  ‘Mugumo’ is a kind of a fig tree (Ficus Hochstetteri), which does not grow except leaning on another tree or twisting around it like a creeper.  This is why they think that the ‘mugumo’ is worse than the ‘ithare’


210.          Ithe wa thaka ndari matu

A fair daughter’s father has no ears.

The father who wants to marry his daughter to the best among the young men who crowd his hut to woo her, turns a deaf ear on their foul words.

Few men will be better than their interest bids them.


211.          Itheru ritiringaga ini

A joke must not hit the belly

The jest is tolerable, but to do harm by jest is insufferable.


212.          Itheru ritirutagirwo mugui

For a jest one should not take the arrow out of the quiver


213.          Itheru riumaga mbaara

From a jest comes a strife.

Jests, like sweetmeats, have often-sour sauce.


214.          Itheru riuragaga ndebe

A joke can break the earring

An ill-timed jest has ruined many


215.          Itheru ti mugui

A trick is not an arrow

Good jests bite like lambs not like dogs


216.          Itonga igiri itiri nyoni

Two rich persons do not wish each other a bird of ill omen

Dog will not eat dog.


217.          Itonga irugaga na ngio

Rich people cook their food in a potsherd

The tailor’s wife is worst clad.


218.          Ituura rir kanono ritituhagia kahiu

The village, which has got a whetstone, does not blunt the knife

The sense of the proverb is that if in a village there is a good whetstone it does not mean that the villagers should purposely blunt their tools in order to whet them.  The time will come when the shetstone will have to be used.

Every thing is good in its season.


219.          Ithinjiro ritiagaga thakame

A slaughterhouse is not without a little blood.

Touch pitch, and you’ll be defiled


220.          Kaana ka ngari gakunyaga ta nyina

The son of the leopard scratches like its mother

Like father like son


221.          Kaana karere ni ucuwe gatingirungika

The baby nursed by its grandmother can never be corrected

Too much breaks the bag


222.          Kaara kamwe gatingiyuragira ndaa

One finger does not kill a louse

Union is strength


223.      Kagwaci ka mwana wene nook kahoragia mwaki

            It is always the potato of another family’s boy that extinguishes the fire

The proverb alludes to the custom of roasting potatoes in the embers of a dying fire.

            Nobody calls himself rogue.


224.     Kahiga gakuru gatiagararagwo ni maai

The stream does not pass over an old stone (through respect to its age)

Old age is honourable.


225.     Kahii ka mwathi kamenyaga kugereka

The hunter’s son knows how to hunt

Like father, like son.


226.     Kahii kogi ta ithe kabaritaga ta migwi

            A son as cunning as his father knows the arrows like father

            Like carpenter like chips


227.     Kahiu getainwo na rwenji

            A knife and a shaving-knife are alike.

The proverb means that if you do not have something you need, you will have something you can instead.

Necessity is the mother of invention.


228.     Kahiu karathime kariaga nyama cia kinandu

            The blessed knife (son) eats of the meat of the ‘kinandu’

‘Kinandu’ is a small calabash used to keep oil, fat and the best morsels of meat.  They say that the father share the contents of the ‘kinandu’ with the most beloved son.


229.     Kahunii gatiui mwiri

            He who is full does not understand what is told (about others’ troubles)

            Another’s burden does not worry us.


230.     Kahunii gatuhaga uriri wa nyina

            The fed baby plays on its mother’s bed


231.     Kaihu koruri gatigaga kwao gugithinjwo

            The rambling pole-cat leaves its house when there is banquet.

The son that leaves his father’s house for liberty’s sake will not share his father’s inheritance


232.     Kamamiriria gateire mugunda murime

            A little idleness lost a tilled field

            A little leak can sink a great ship


233.     Kamau mweru ni airaga

            Kamau who is white becomes black

‘Kamau’ is typical name.  The proverb means there is nothing constant in this world.


234.     Kamuhuthua kaharurukagia mwatu

            A little idleness causes the ruin of the beehive.

            The Kikuyu hang beehives on the branches of the forest trees, and it is their

Custom to visit them often to make sure that they are all right.  For it might happen that if out of idleness one did not see them regularly, one would ultimately find the branch broken, the beehive fallen and the contents spoilt.


235.     Kamuingi koyaga ndiri

            Many people together lift up the ‘ndiri’

‘Ndiri’ is a heavy wooden mortar in which the Kikuyu women, when brewing beer, crush the sugar-cane.

Many hands make light work


236.     Kanira njara iria ukomeire

            Take an oath only for the hand youslept on

            Swear only to that which you know to be true.


237.     Kanoro kari ituura gatituhagia

            The whetstone in a village does no blunt the knife

            Every potter praises his own pots.


238.     Kanua karia kariire mbeu nook koragia ‘ngahanda ki?’

            The mouth who ate the seeds asks, ‘Now what shall I plant?’

            He sups ill who eats up all at dinner.


239.     Kanua kene gatinyuaga muma

            Another’s mouth cannot take the oath for you

            Every bird must hatch its own egg


240.     Kanua ni ikahu

            The mouth is a chink

            From the mouth come many futilities.


241.     Kanua kendagia kiongo

            The mouth sells the head

            The tongue talks at the head’s cost


242.     Kanua weriire

            You spoke (against yourself) with your own mouth

            Its means that one can sometimes condemn oneself in defending oneself


243.     Kanya gatune mwamukaniro

            A small red snuff-box is a welcome

The proverb refers to the Kikuyu custom of giving a pinch of snuff to their friends when they meet.


244.     Kanyoni kabariti keminagira njoya

            The little bird that flaps its wings too much will spoil them

            One must crawl before one can walk


245.        Kanywanjui kerathaga kero gako

‘Kanywanjui’ scratches its thigh

‘Kanywanjui’is a species of a tiny blue bird with a long bill, which sucks nectar from flowers.  The proverb means that such birds, although very small, can do everything for their own needs, and do not require others’ help to have their legs scratched.

Everyman something can


246.        Karaguthwo niko koi kwigita

He who is stricken knows how to defend himself

Scalded cats fear even cold water.


247.        Karanga hako gatiumagia

It is not the owner, trampling his own field, that spoils it (but the others)

The proverb has arisen from the fact that many people if they have a bad harvest, say that it is the fault of other people who walked across their plantations.

Nobody calls himself a rogue.


248.        Karara gekinya

A person will change his mind on something if left to sleep over it.

Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today.


249.        Karatha gatukagia karatha

Prophet copies a prophet

Like tree like fruit                


250.     Karatu gatagwo na kuguru kwa mwene

The shoe is made for the foot that will wear it.

If the cap fits wear it.


251.     Karegi nyina gatihonaga

            The baby that refuses its mother’s breast, will never be full.

            Faint heart never won fair lady.


252.     Kareraria kagaruragwo na muti

The sleeping dog is turned by a stick; i.e. it turns round to bite if disturbed or touched by a stick.


253.     Kariki kamwe gatukiriirie ndutura kirimu

A stupid turtle-dove is sometimes surprised by night for wanting one more grain of castor-oil plant.

Time stays not the fool’s leisure.


254.     Kari mata gatiagaga wa kuuga

            The mouth that has saliva does not lack words.

            The proverb means that the man who has something to say will say it.


255.     Kari nda gatiiyumburaga

            The word that remains in the belly does not mean anything.

            Tell the truth and shame the devil.


256.     Kiaga ngui kiabaca

            The song that has no leader, goes wrong.

            No longer pipe, nolonger dance.


257.     Kiama gitirugaga ruui

            The elders of the council do not jump over a brook.

Metaphorically the proverb means that the elders who are to judge a case must but hurry.  But if often means that a person like a judge should anot do anything undignified.


258.     Kiambi nda nikio giakura

            The food eaten first lasts longest in the stomach

            First impressions are most lasting.


259.     Kiara kiiyuragio ni guita ihuti

            The dunghill grows by straws thrown upon it

            Every little helps.


260.     Kiega ta ki gitithiraga

            A really good thing is ever good

            A good tale is none the worse for being twice told.


261. Kiere kia njira-ini gitigwatagwo ni muura


Literal translation: A grain of millet grown on the road will bear no ears.

Contextual note: The proverb means both that a promiscuous woman has little hope of bearing children, and that a thing in common use will not last long.

English equivalent: A pot that belongs to many is ill stirred and worse boiled.

262. Kiero ni uimbo


Literal translation: The thigh is a bubble.

Contextual note: Thigh means full blooded youth. The proverb is for the young who scorn old people or make wrong use of their strength to sin. It reminds them that youth passes quickly.

English equivalent: Young today, old tomorrow.

263. Kieru ni kiiraga


Literal translation: What is white becomes black.

Contextual note: The proverb originates in the fact that the Africans are almost white when they are born, but become black by growing.

English equivalent: There is nothing constant but change.

264. Kigina gitininukagio irio hande itari nguru


Literal translation: The seeds kept are not finished before the ripening of the crops planted in the field.

English equivalent: Every thing has its time, and that time must be watched.

265. Kihooto gituthaga ruga rutunge


Literal translation: The argument breaks the strained cord of the bow.

266. Kihooto kigeturaga uta mugete


English equivalent: The argument relaxes the bent bow.

267. Kihooto kiringaga ruui ruiyuru


Literal translation: The reason crosses even a flooding river.

268. Kihooto kiongagirirwo njuguma


Literal translation: The club is added to one’s argument.

269.Kihooto ni indo


Literal translation: Having a good argument (in a discussion) is like having riches.

Contextual note: The five proverbs here above mean that he who can support his views or actions with a strong argument, will go through any difficulty and obtain what he wants.

270. Kinandu kia mucii gitihakagwo mugeni


Literal translation: The fat of the ‘kinandu’ is not used to anoint a stranger.

Contextual note: For the meaning of the word ‘kinandu’ see No. 228.

English equivalent: Charity begins at home.

271. Kindu kiene gitiri ndokeirwo nuu


Literal translation: Who prospered with robbed things.

English equivalent: Ill gotten goods seldom prosper.

272. Kindu kiuru no kironda, indi kiri rua rwa muhuhi


Literal translation: A sore is a really bad thing; still it means luck to the doctor.

English equivalent: It is an ill wind that blows nobody good.

273. Kindu kiuru no mundu ethukitie we mwene


Literal translation: A really bad thing is to hurt oneself willfully.

English equivalent: It is stupid to cut of your nose to spite your face.

274. Kindu no mwene muhoi ahoyage


Literal translation: The thing you want must be begged from the owner.

Contextual note: This means that it must not be acquired from other people nor taken without permission.

English equivalent: It is not a sin to sell dear, but it is to make measure.

275. Kindong’o kiariire mai ni undu wa kwaga mayu ma gukira


Literal translation: The beetle feeds on excrement for it can’t fly high.

English equivalent: If thou hast not a capon, feed on an onion.

276. Kinya kiri itina nikio kiigaga


Literal translation: Any calabash that has got a bottom can stand upright.

Contextual note: The proverb means that God gives every man what is required by human nature: but it depends on man to exploit such gifts.

English equivalent: Every man is the architect of his own fortune.

277. Kiongo kienjithagio ni mwene


Literal translation: The head is shaved at its owner’s desire.

English equivalent: Let every peddlar carry his own burden.

278. Kionje gitihoyaga njohi micii iri


Literal translation: An invalid does not go to two houses to ask for beer (since he cannot move).

English equivalent: Old age is honourable.

279. Kiri kwihia ciihitie ciothe


Literal translation: If a child has sinned all have sinned.

English equivalent: One does the blame, another bears the shame.

280. Kiriro kia mburi ni ndara


Literal translation: It is the gridiron that cries (for the slaughtered goat).

Contextual note: Everyone rejoices when a goat is killed, for each will have his piece of meat; only the gridiron on which the meat is roasted, weeps, i.e. crackles.

281. Kiriro kiri ituura gitingireka mundu akome


Literal translation: One person weeping prevents all in a village from sleeping.

English equivalent: One barking dog sets all the street a-barking.

282. Kiriti kiri ngoro gitiunanagirwo


Literal translation: The forest in the heart cannot be cut down by somebody else.

Contextual note: Troubles in somebody’s heart cannot be removed by somebody else.

283. Kirimu gitindagia andu njira


Literal translation: The fool makes other people stop on the road.

English equivalent: The fool wastes the time of other people.

284. Kirimu kihithaga rwembea-ini rwa nyumba kiui gitikuonwo


Literal translation: The fool hides himself under the eaves of the hut and thinks nobody will see him.

Contextual note: It refers to foolish people who invent silly excuses to conceal their faults.

285. Kirimu gia gwikigia kirugite kia muciarire


Literal translation: He who feigns to be stupid is more stupid than the stupid-born.

English equivalent: None is so deaf as those who won’t hear.

286. Kirimu kiongaga nyina ari mukuu


Literal translation: A fool can even suck the mother after she is dead.

287. Kirimu ni ta mwatu


Literal translation: A fool is like a beehive.

Contextual note: The proverb means that he is a fool who does not look after his own interest, like the beehive which allows itsself to be emptied.

288. Kiringiri gia aka ni rwenji rukirega


Literal translation: To force a woman to do something she doesn’t like is like forcing a blunt shaving knife to shave.

289. Kironda kia mwene gitimuiragia ngoro


Literal translation: He who has a sore does not feel sick on account of it.

English equivalent: We are blind to our own faults.

290. Kiruka gia kimbu gitithiragwo ni mung’ung’utu


Literal translation: All the species of the chameleon family shall always have a protruding backbone.

English equivalent: That that comes out of a cat will catch mice.

291. Kiuma gitihatagiririo ruga


Literal translation: Do not force a big thread into a bead with a small hole.

English equivalent: Grasp all, lose all.

292. Kiunuhu gitiriagirwo


Literal translation: A wasted thing cannot be eaten.

English equivalent: Willful waste makes woeful want.

293. Kiura kiaringio ruui kiugaga nikio kieringia


Literal translation: The frog that was helped across the river, said she had crossed by itself.

English equivalent: Eaten bread is soon forgotten.

294. Kiririria, thuti ti ruo


Literal translation: Be patient, a desire is no pain.

Contextual note: This proverb is told to people who long after anything they cannot obtain.

295. Kirihia thuti


Literal translation: Desires tie.

English equivalent: If desire be endless, your cares will be so too.

296. Kiuga githeri gitirutanagirwo


Literal translation: An empty bowl is not offered.

Contextual note: It means that it is better to keep silence than to try to justify oneself by empty excuses.

English equivalent: Be silent or speak something worth hearing.

297. Komu ateire kaigu wa nyina


Literal translation: The dry firewood does not despise the wet one coming from the same tree.

English equivalent: Dog will not bite dog.

298. Komu athinirie kaigu wa nyina


Literal translation: Mother’s dry firewood laughed at the green one (and it did not think that both of them had but one common lot).

English equivalent: Today me, tomorrow thee.

299. Kuganwo ni kura


Literal translation: Being praised leads to ruin.

English equivalent: Praise without profit puts little in the pot.

300. Kugera mugathi ti gutinia


Literal translation: To tell the beads is not to cut the thread.

English equivalent: Do not judge men or things at first sight.

301. Kuguru kuri muhu na kuri ime itihanaine


Literal translation: A foot dirty of ashes is not a foot wet of dew (because the former holds firmly, while the latter skids).

302. Kuguru ni irata thi


Literal translation: The foot goes all the world over.

English equivalent: It is perseverance that prevails.

303. Kugunagwo mwithiomeri ti muthiomerwo


Literal translation: It is he who speaks that profits, not he who is spoken for.

304. Kugunirwo mwana no ta kugunirwo nyina


Literal translation: To make the son happy is to make the mother happy.

305. Kuhika ni kuna


Literal translation: Hurrying, is breaking.

English equivalent: Haste makes waste.

306. Kuhitia ni kwa njamba


Literal translation: Erring is proper in a courageous person.

English equivalent: To err is human.

307. Kuhonoka ti gutuura


Literal translation: To pass safely through danger (once) is no guarantee (for the next time).

English equivalent: One can escape the rocks and perish in the sand.

308. Kuhoya kwa arume ni maitho


Literal translation: Males beg with the eyes.

Contextual note: It alludes to the Kikuyu custom according to which male guests, when invited to a beer party sit in the courtyard waiting for the host to pass round the drinks.

309. Kuhoya ti kuiya


Literal translation: To beg is not to steal.

310. Kuhuuta na kuhuuna ititiganaga


Literal translation: Hunger and surfeit do not leave each other.

English equivalent: Riches have wings.

311. Kuhura maai na ndiri


Literal translation: To pound the water in the mortar.

English equivalent: To waste time and labour.

312. Kuira ti kurita


Literal translation: To be black is not to be stupid.

English equivalent: Little bodies may have great souls.

313. kuma ti kuma ta ihiga, na kuororoa ti kuororoa ta maai


Literal translation: To be hard does not mean to be hard as stone, and to be soft does not mean to be soft as water.

English equivalent: There is a measure in all things.

314. Kumtha gutiri hinya ta kuramata


Literal translation: To harvest is not so difficult as to keep the harvest.

English equivalent: Keep some till more comes.

315. Kumenya muno ni kumenyuka


Literal translation: Knowing too much is like being ignorant.

English equivalent: Too much breaks the bag.

316. Kumenya weru ni kuutinda


Literal translation: He knows a place who lives in it.

English equivalent: Every man knows his own business best.

317. Kungu maitu na hunyu wake


Literal translation: Long live my mother and her ugliness.

318. Kunyiha ti gutinio


Literal translation: To become small is not the same as being cut.

319. Kunyitwo ti kuohwo


Literal translation: To be caught is not to be imrisoned.

English equivalent: There is many a slip, ‘twixt the cup and the lip.

320. Kuri arume na maiyuria ndua


Literal translation: Some are males (useful people) and some can only fill the gourds (useless people).

English equivalent: Some good, some bad, as sheep come to the fold.

321. Kuri guciara uru ta kihia gigiciara na mutwe


Literal translation: There are women who give forth a bad issue, just like the sorghum that bears its fruit on the head (instead of growing it underground like most Kikuyu crops).

322. Kuri gukahuka guticokaga ndebe


Literal translation: One cannot put the ‘ndebe’ into a broken ear-lobe.

English equivalent: ‘Ndebe’ is the wooden ring put into the pierced ear-lobe as an ornament. The painful operation of piercing the lobe is done with a wooden bodkin by the parents of the boy or girl in the years preceding the initiation. Pieces of wood are then introduced into the hole and these will successively be replaced by larger ones until a large wooden ring (‘ndebe’) can be put in as an ornament. The proverb means that these are things once broken cannot be soldered.

323. Kuri gukua murio ta kigwa


Literal translation: There are people who, like sugar cane, are killed for being sweet.

English equivalent: He who makes himself a sheep shall be eaten by the wolf.

324. Kuri mwoni na murata thi


Literal translation: There are lucky and unlucky people.

English equivalent: The wind of luck is inconstant.

325. Kuri ukuu utatumwo, ta wa nyungu


Literal translation: There are things, like the earthen pot, which if ever broken can’t be repaired.

English equivalent: For some evils there is no remedy.

326. Kuria mbere ti gukoroka


Literal translation: To eat first is not to be a glutton.

327. Kuria muno ni kuoria nda


Literal translation: To eat much means to spoil one’s belly.

English equivalent: Too much breaks the bag.

328. Kuria nai gutigiragia mundu akaria wega


Literal translation: To eat bad food (today) does not prevent a person from having good food (tomorrow).

English equivalent: Change of fortune is the lot of life.

329. Kuria thi ti kuria tiri


Literal translation: One does not eat the soil, but the fruit thereon.

330. Kuria thiri ni kuriha


Literal translation: The way of eating a debt is paying it.

English equivalent: He that gets out of debt grows rich.

331. Kuriithia imwe ti kwenda kwa mwene


Literal translation: To graze only one goat is not the owner’s will.

English equivalent: Evils come though we do not want them.

332. Kurikanira gutigiragia ndeto ihitane


Literal translation: To have come to an agreement does not mean that the agreement may not be broken.

English equivalent: The cat and the dog may kiss, yet are none the better friends.

333. Kurima ni kwienda


Literal translation: To till the land is to love oneself.

English equivalent: Work is well done that is well loved.

334. Kurita ni kuru


Literal translation: It is bad to be a fool.

335. Kuruga ti kwega, amu kiura kioragire uthoni na iruga


Literal translation: To leap is bad, since the male-frog by leaping broke up the betrothal.

Contextual note: The proverb originates in the following fable. One day the male-frog went to his fiancée’s home to arrange the marriage with her father. But as soon as the fiancée noticed the indecorous leaping-posture assumed by the male frog during the conversation, she refused to marry him. The Kikuyu tell the proverb to express their esteem for decency and modesty.

English equivalent: Loquacity storms the ear, but modesty takes the heart.

336. Kurua, kugurana na kuriha thiri gutiiriragwo


Literal translation: Nobody feels sorry for having been circumcissed, for having bought his wife and for having paid hi debts.

Contextual note: The proverb means that there are certain things that leave no regrets.

337. Kurua ni kuhia


Literal translation: Being circumcissed is like being scalded.

Contextual note: This means that the pain of the circumcission is a few minutes’ pain.

338. Kurua ni kwara itara


Literal translation: Being circumcissed is like building the ‘itara’.

Contextual note: The ‘itara’ is a trellis of twigs suspended a short distance above the fire-place in the Kikuyu hut to prevent sparks from setting fire to the thatched roof. The same word is often used to mean the whole hut. Thus this proverb means that a young man as soon as circumcissed, must realise that the years of irresponsibility are over and that he must see about building his hut and starting a new home.

English equivalent: A married man must turn his staff into a stake.

339. Ku ndiriaga


Literal translation: A blow does not always injure.

340. Kuma kwa mbaa guthii kwa heho


Literal translation: To come from rime and go into the bitter cold.

English equivalent: To fall out of the frying pan into the fire.

341. Kumagara ni kuhiga


Literal translation: To come out of one’s house means learning.

English equivalent: Travel makes a wise man better.

342. Kwa mucuni ni gwateirwo ni muhituki


Literal translation: Mucuni’s place was ruined by the traveller.

Contextual note: ‘Mucuni’ is the name of a person who refused hospitality to a passer by. Since hospitality is traditionally sacred among the Kikuyu, they say that this traveller cursed Mucuni’s house which went to ruin.

343. Kwa munegeni gukiura, kwa mukiri kworire tene


Literal translation: The house of the talkative man perished long after that of the quiet.

Contextual note: It is easy for somebody who is friendly to get help from others.

344. Kwa mwendwo gutiri irima


Literal translation: On the way to one’s beloved there are no hills.

345. Kwaria ni kwendana


Literal translation: Talking is loving one another.

English equivalent: Friendship increases by visiting friends.

346. Kwaria ti gucaya


Literal translation: To talk is not to grumble.

347. Kwaria ti gutua cira


Literal translation: To talk is not to decide.

348. Kwigeria mucii ni kwigeria mathina


Literal translation: To start a family is to start troubles

English equivalent: When a man is married his troubles begin.

349. Kwigita ti guoya


Literal translation: To prepare is not to be afraid.

English equivalent: Let him that wants peace prepare for war.

350. Kwionera ti kwirwo


Literal translation: To see for one’s self is different from being told.

English equivalent: Words are but wind, but seeing is believing.

351. Kuona kimera ti kuria


Literal translation: To see the crop in the fields is not to eat it.

English equivalent: There is many a slip, ‘twixt the cup and the lip.



352. Maai maraitika matiri muhitire


Literal translation: Spilt water has nobody to collect it.

English equivalent: It is no use crying over spilt milk.

353. Maai mararu timo mahiu


Literal translation: Lukewarm water is not hot water.

354. Maciara maingi ni mbirira nyingi


Literal translation: Many births mean many burials.

Contextual note: The proverb means that in the family tree where there are many children one must expect many griefs too; and that people who run many businesses must also expect many reverses.

English equivalent: Much coin much care.

355. Mageria nomo mahota


Literal translation: Trials mean successes.

English equivalent: Where there is a will there is a way.

356. Maguta makuru matinaga rwimbo


Literal translation: Old fat sings no song.

Contextual note: This means that he who goes to dance does not anoint himself with rancid fat. The word ‘fat’ is used for ‘beauty, youth’. The proverb means that old folks cannot have admirers as young ones; that old people cannot hope to have more children.

English equivalent: Water run by, will not turn a mill.

357. Maguta mambagio uthiu


Literal translation: The smearing begins on one’s face.

Contextual note: Actually the Kikuyu who smear themselves very often, always begin the anointing on the face, and laugh at people who begin on any other part of the body.

English equivalent: There is a time and a way for all things.

358. Maheni mari mutino


Literal translation: Lies are dangerous.

English equivalent: Liars have short wings.

359. Maheni ti thiri


Literal translation: Lies are no debt.

360. Maitho ma andu matiendaga kindu kihinju


Literal translation: Men’s eyes do not like to see anything thin.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to children, oxen and goats.

361. Maitho ma arume ti ma irang’a


Literal translation: Men’s eyes are not the eyes of the ‘irang’a’.

Contextual note: ‘Irang’a’ is an insect with very tiny eyes. The proverb means that the eyes of this insect see very little, while men’s eyes see everything.

362. Maitho ma arume ti mambo


Literal translation: Men’s eyes are not like the ‘mambo’.

Contextual note: ‘Mambo’ are the holes the Kikuyu make in the hides for fastening them to the ground when they dry them in the sun.

363. Maitho ma ciura matigiragia ng’ombe inyue


Literal translation: The eyes of frogs do not prevent cattle from drinking.

English equivalent: Do what thou ought, let come what may.

364. Maitho maronana mari nduiriro


Literal translation: The eyes which see each other are destined to see each other again.

English equivalent: Friendship increases by visiting friends.

365. Maithori ti ruthiomi


Literal translation: Tears are no language.

English equivalent: Tears, idle tears.

366. Marakara ma arume matituuraga ta ma aka


Literal translation: Men’s anger does not last so long as women’s.

English equivalent: Women are as prone to revenge injuries as men to forgive them.

367. Marakara ti gitei


Literal translation: Getting into rage means being proud.

368. Mari mbere matirutaga nyota


Literal translation: Run-by water does not quench the thirst.

English equivalent: Water run by, will not turn a mill.

369. Matari maku mahitukaga ugikunja ituma


Literal translation: The water that is not yours flows away while you are folding the ‘ituma’.

Contextual note: ‘Ituma’ is the leaf of a kind of edible arum. Out of these large leaves the Kikuyu used to drink water.

370. Mathanwa mari kiondo kimwe matiagaga gukomorania


Literal translation: Many axes in one basket must hit against each other.

371. Matienda mwako mendaga murugurio


Literal translation: Some people do not like the building of a hut, though they like the ‘Murugurio’.

Contextual note: ‘Murugurio’ is a kind of dedication-ceremony held by the witch-doctor to solemnize the completion of a new hut. On such occassion the owner of the hut distributes beer to his relations and to the people who assisted him in the building.

English equivalent: There is scarcity of friendship but not of friends.

372. Matigana nomo moranwo


Literal translation: They who leave one another forget one another.

English equivalent: Out of sight, out of mind.

373. Matiruka ni maingi kuruga magua


Literal translation: Slips outnumber falls.

English equivalent: Every slip is not a fall.

374. Matuku ni nguririri


Literal translation: Days pass quickly.

English equivalent: Time fleeth away without delay.

375. Matuku ni thigo


Literal translation: The days are a hurry, i.e. go quickly.

English equivalent: Time fleeth away without delay.

376. Matuku ti ma kiumia


Literal translation: Not all days are sundays.

English equivalent: Christmas comes but once in a year.

377. Matumbi ma njamba matituranaga


Literal translation: The eggs of males do not hatch each other.

Contextual note: The proverb means both that any man prefers living with a woman rather than another man, and that there ought not to be two people commanding in one home.

English equivalent: Two sparrows upon one ear of wheat cannot agree.

378. Maundu ni ndiganiro


Literal translation: The important things are left in the locker.

Contextual note: In other words, they are not told to everybody.

English equivalent: Tell not all you know.

379. Mba yakwa irihagwo na ingi


Literal translation: My stolen or damaged lamb must be replaced by another.

English equivalent: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

380. Mbaara ti ucuru


Literal translation: War is not porridge.

381. Mbaaraya ya aka ndiri ng’ondu


Literal translation: Women’s strife has no sheep.

Contextual note: According to the Kikuyu custom the one that wounds another in a quarrel must pay a sheep as a fine. The proverb means that in women’s strifes nobody incurs such a fine, for their quarrels are usually words only.

English equivalent: Words are for women, actions for men.

382. Mbari ya ngeka makorirwo matari meka


Literal translation: They who said ‘I shall do’ became people who had done nothing.

English equivalent: Never leave that till tomorrow which you can today.

383. Mbia iminaga ndarwa na igutha


Literal translation: The mouse finishes the hide by gnawing.

English equivalent: Little strokes fell great oaks.

384. Mbere ndiriragwo ta thutha


Literal translation: The future is not so much regretted as the past.

385. Mbere ni gikeno thutha ni maithori


Literal translation: Tears follow joy.

386. Mbere no mbere thutha no mugiano


Literal translation: Before is before: afterwards there is nothing but repining.

English equivalent: Resist the beginnings.

387. Mbogo nyingi itiri nyama


Literal translation: Many buffaloes are no meat.

English equivalent: If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.

388. Mbui nyingi ndiri munge


Literal translation: A small flower has no smell.

English equivalent: A little barrel can give but little meal.

389. Mburi igucagio ni munyu


Literal translation: The goat is attracted by salt.

English equivalent: The bait not the hook catches the fish.

390. Mburi itiugagirwo mbu


Literal translation: No alarm is shouted for a goat (because it is not a dangerous beast).

English equivalent: Do not waste time and money on unworthy things.

391. Mburi na kaana itirumagwo


Literal translation: The goat and the child are not insulted (because they cannot defend themselves).

392. Mburi ya mai ndiremaga


Literal translation: One can always find the goat to pay the penalty for having defecated in another’s house.

Contextual note: According to Kikuyu customs he who defecates in another’s house is liable to be fined a goat. The proverb means that he whoincurred such penalty will contrive to find the means to pay it.

English equivalent: Necessity sharpens industry.

393. Mburi ya rwagatha ndikiraga


Literal translation: A chattering goat does not keep its tongue.

Contextual note: The word ‘goat’ is here used instead of ‘people’.

English equivalent: A fool may ask more questions in an hour than a wise man can answer in seven years.

394. Mburi yene muitha ni gutu


Literal translation: The best part of another’s goat is the ear.

Contextual note: The proverb means that a stranger coming in when a slaughtered goat is distributed, must not expect to be given a choice morsel, but rather an inferior part like an ear. Metaphorically the proverb means that a prudent person keeps for himself and his family the best parts of anything instead of giving them away to his visitors and friends.

395. Mburi ndia muhu ndingirigaria


Literal translation: The goat which eats ashes does not hide its habit.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu live under the same roof as their animals. So if any goat forms the habit of leaving its place and coming to lick ashes at the fire, it will soon be discovered. In the same manner the vices of the wicked will soon be known.

396. Mburi nguru nditihagira tuhu


Literal translation: An old goat does not sneeze without cause.

Contextual note: The proverb means that old folks speak the truth and do not speak without reason.

English equivalent: Old dogs bark not for nothing.

397. Mburi ti marigu


Literal translation: Goats are not bananas (which are given for nothing).

English equivalent: There are no pains without pains.

398. Mburi ya ngia yaringirira no uguo bata uringagirira


Literal translation: When the poor man’s goat is about to kid, then the need drops also.

Contextual note: The proverb means that if a man rejoices because his goat is going to kid and so increase property, a sudden need might force him to sell his goat.

English equivalent: Count not your chickens before they be hatched.

399. Mbu ya arume itikagio ni athamaki


Literal translation: Men’s alarm-shouts are answered by the elders.

Contextual note: The proverb means that if the alarm is shouted only by women one can make light of it; but if the alarm is cried by men there exists a real danger. Metaphorically the proverb means that women cannot claim any right of discussing or giving evidence in court.

English equivalent: Let women spin and not preach.

400. Mbugi ndikirite muriha


Literal translation: The bell needs its tongue.

Contextual note: In this proverb the word ‘bell’ means ‘woman’, and ‘tongue’ means ‘man’.

English equivalent: Wives must be bad, be they good or bad.

401. Mburungo nyinyi iri muthiomeri irugite nene itari muthiomeri


Literal translation: A trifle well presented becomes more precious than a thing of great value badly presented.

English equivalent: It is not the value of a gift that matters but the intentions of the giver.

402. Me haraya matirutaga nyota


Literal translation: A distant water does not quench one’s thirst.

403. Menya wigerere ndukore.


Literal translation: Be not too proud lest you ruin yourself.

401. Mburungo nyinyi iri muthiomeri irugite nene itari muthiomeri


Literal translation: A trifle well presented becomes more precious than a thing of great value badly presented.

English equivalent: It is not the value of a gift that matters but the intentions of the giver.

402. Me haraya matirutaga nyota


Literal translation: A distant water does not quench one’s thirst.

403. Menya wigerere ndukore


Literal translation: Be not too proud lest you ruin yourself.

404. Miano nditukanagio no kanua


Literal translation: The ‘miano’ cannot be confused, but the mouth can.

Contextual note: ‘Miano’ are the small gourds used by witch-doctors to contain the divining stones. The proverbs means that the divining stones cannot fail to tell the truth, though it may happen that the witch-doctor does not tell it.

English equivalent: God cures and the doctor takes the fee.

405. Migambo ni miruki ya ngoro


Literal translation: The words are the odour of the heart.

English equivalent: The tongue ever turns to the aching tooth.

406. Miguguta iri ndiambagiririo


Literal translation: Two hides are not laid out at the same time.

English equivalent: One cannot be in two places at once.

407. Miguire ya ngu na ya migogo ti imwe


Literal translation: The fall of branches and that of big trees are not the same.

408. Mihehu yongagirirwo gukunga


Literal translation: Speaking in a whisper is followed by hiding (in order to steal).

Contextual note: The proverb means that people who whisper are probably arranging something evil.

English equivalent: Beware of a silent dog and still water.

409. Mitheko itari githimi yumaga kanua-ini ka irimu


Literal translation: Laugh without measure comes out of fools’ mouths.

English equivalent: The laughter of fools.

410. Mondo ti thegi


Literal translation: One’s pocket is not a repository (in which all people can put their hands).

Contextual note: Pocket means in this case home affairs.

English equivalent: Scald not your lips in another man’s pottage.

411. Mondo yene ndiikagio njara


Literal translation: The hand has not to be put into another’s pocket.

English equivalent: Scald not your lips in another man’s pottage.

412. Mubatari ndaconokaga


Literal translation: He who is in necessity does not feel ashamed (to ask for help).

413. Mucakwe uguithagia njamba


Literal translation: A cob of maize can knock down a giant.

English equivalent: A small leak will sink a great ship.

414. Mucangacangi onaga miguongo


Literal translation: It is he who travels that finds the tusk.

English equivalent: God helps those who help themselves.

415. Mucari urutagwo ndugu-ini


Literal translation: Yaws is caught through friendship.

Contextual note: The proverb means that just as the disease is contracted by contact with infected people, so bad habits are acquired by consorting with bad people.

English equivalent: Who keeps company with a wolf will learn how to howl.

416. Mucaria ungi ndamwagaga


Literal translation: He who looks for another must find him.

English equivalent: He who will seek may find.

417. Muceera na mukundu akundukaga taguo


Literal translation: He who walks with a mangy man becomes mangy.

English equivalent: He who keeps company with a wolf will learn to howl.

418. Muciari ari tha


Literal translation: Parents are merciful.

419. Muciari ndairagio ngoro ni kimira kia mwana wake


Literal translation: Parents do not feel sick when wiping the mucus from their child’s nose.

420. Muciari ndathikuragia igwa itina


Literal translation: Parents do not take away the earth that covers the root of the sugar cane.

Contextual note: As a good farmer does not uncover the roots of the sugar cane lest it may dry, so good parents have a limit also in punishing their children.

421. Muciari ni etiagira


Literal translation: Parents are proud of their chidren.

422. Mucii ndwathagwo ni utawakire


Literal translation: The house is not ruled by him that did not build it.

English equivalent: Mind your own business.

423. Mucii ni kurarwo uraragwo, ndutindagwo.


Literal translation: The house is for sleeping in by night, not for staying in by day.

English equivalent: There is a time for all things.

424. Mucii uri mburi ndwagaga kihuno


Literal translation: The house which has goats does not lack miscarriages.

English equivalent: Who has land, has war.

425. Mucingu munene unaga hiti kuguru


Literal translation: The strong smell (of roasting meat) causes the hyena to break its leg.

English equivalent: Hasty climbers have sudden falls.

426. Muciriri kirimu ndaigaga muthigi thi


Literal translation: He who advises a fool does not lay down his ‘muthigi’.

Contextual note: ‘Muthigi’ is the staff of the elders.

427. Muciri umwe ndagambaga


Literal translation: One man alone in a tribunal can say nothing, i.e. can take no decision.

428. Mucukani ndari mucii mwega


Literal translation: A slanderer has no peaceful home.

English equivalent: Slander flings stones at itself.

429. Mugambo uri kugua thi nduoyagwo; woyagwo na ungi


Literal translation: A word that has fallen to the ground cannot be picked up: it is picked up by another.

English equivalent: Time and words can never be recalled.

430. Mugambo uroigwo ndugukagwo


Literal translation: A word given must not be retaken.

431. Mugariura igiri ndagaga imwe icura


Literal translation: He who broils two maize cobs (at the same time) burns one of them.

English equivalent: He who hunts two hares leaves one and loses the other.

432. Mugathi uri gutwika nducokaga muigana


Literal translation: A broken necklace cannot be made whole again.

English equivalent: A broken friendship may be soldered, but will never be sound.

433. Mugathi wa kuona uteaga wa mwene


Literal translation: The necklace found makes you lose your own, too.

English equivalent: Ill-gotten things seldom prosper.

434. Mugeni amiaga mbirira


Literal translation: The foreigner evacuates in the cemetery (for he does not know the place and its customs).

435. Mugeni kirimu ndarugagirwo njohi


Literal translation: One does not give any beer to a foolish visitor.

Contextual note: The proverb means both that it is not honourable for the host to give hospitality to a fool, and that it is silly to give beer to a fool since he does not enjoy it.

English equivalent: He is not the fool that the fool is, but he that with the fools deals.

436. Mugeni ndahuhitaga


Literal translation: A guest does not eat as much as he wants; i.e. he must not be greedy.

437. Mugeni ni ruui


Literal translation: The guest is like a river, i.e. he passes quickly.

English equivalent: Fish and guests smell at three days old.

438. Mugethi utuku agethire kiri muura


Literal translation: He who harvests by night, reaps chaff.

English equivalent: There is a time for all things.

439. Mugi ni mwire


Literal translation: He who has been advised is wise.

English equivalent: A man forewarned is forearmed.

440. Mugiri rwa kunyitura agirire rwa kunyitia


Literal translation: One can cause the illness which he wanted to cure.

English equivalent: The cure may be worse than the disease.

441. Mugiti ndagaga ruhara


Literal translation: He who irritates will be scratched.

English equivalent: Let the sleeping dogs lie.

442. Mugogo umwe nduhingaga iriuko


Literal translation: One trunk does not close a river.

English equivalent: One flower makes no garland.

443. Mugoma murungu ni uturaga nyungu


Literal translation: The she-sheep can break the cooking pot, and still she has no horn.

Contextual note: Cooking pot means here an affair of great importance. The meaning of the proverb is that a fool can spoil wise people’s affairs.

444. Mugunda uraga na rutere


Literal translation: A field begins to become wilderness from a side; i.e. from a small place.

English equivalent: A little neglect may breed a great mischief.

445. Mugunda wa mwere umenyagwo na ngetho


Literal translation: One knows a field of millet from its crop.

English equivalent: A tree is known by its fruits.

446. Mugunda wene nduinagwo


Literal translation: Another’s field is not praised.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to the fact that the Kikuyu when they are drunk imagine themselves very rich, and so become proud of others’ riches.

447. Mugurira hakuhi ni ta aheo


Literal translation: The man who buys something at a place near by is like the man who is given something.

English equivalent: That is little esteemed that costs little.

448. Mugui utari wa awa ni ukundemburira thiaka


Literal translation: The arrow which is not my father’s, pierces my quiver.

English equivalent: Ill gotten goods seldom prosper.

449. Muhaka na ciake itimuragia thakame


Literal translation: He who pays another with his own things, does not bleed.

Contextual note: The proverb means that one spends his money willingly when he needs help.

450. Muhakana na ciake itimuragira


Literal translation: He who stands close to his things does not lose them.

English equivalent: The master’s eyes make the horse fat.

451. Muhaki ndari hiu igiri


Literal translation: The messenger of peace has no two knives (presents).

English equivalent: Messengers should neither be beheaded nor hanged.

452. Muhandi tiwe murii


Literal translation: He who plants is not he who eats.

English equivalent: Man proposes, God disposes.

453. Muharwo niwe uthingataga githaka


Literal translation: The one with diarrhoea must look for a bush.

English equivalent: Let him that is cold blow coal.

454. Muhehwo ni matu meri ndaiguaga


Literal translation: He who is spoken to at both ears does not understand.

English equivalent: Too much consulting confounds.

455. Muhenania ndathekaga


Literal translation: A liar does not laugh (for if a liar laughs when he tells a lie he is not believed).

456. Muhenia ago oigaga murimu uri guthira


Literal translation: He who would deceive the witch-doctors says that his illness is finished.

English equivalent: Hide nothing from thy minister, physician and lawyer.

457. Muhenio ari matuku kuri muhenania


Literal translation: The deceived has many more days than the deceiver.

English equivalent: Liars have short wings.

458. Muhenio ti mugi ta muhenania


Literal translation: The deceived is not so cunning as the deceiver.

459. Muheo ndagathimaga


Literal translation: He who receives must not measure.

English equivalent: Do not look a gift horse in the mouth.

460. Muhikana na kuria ahikanaga na guitwo


Literal translation: He who takes his food in a hurry, is also choked in a hurry.

English equivalent: Haste makes waste.

461. Muhiki ariaga rubia


Literal translation: He who hastens eats money; i.e. wastes his money.

English equivalent: Haste makes waste.

462. Muhiki atumaga rweru


Literal translation: He who is in a hurry sews a garment (whereas he could mend the old one).

English equivalent: Haste makes waste.

463. Muhiriga ti muhirigo


Literal translation: A clan is not a wall (which can be destroyed).

Contextual note: The Kikuyu are very keen on keeping distinction between one clan and the other. That is why they say that distinction cannot be cancelled.

464. Muhoreri ndari ngui


Literal translation: He who is quiet has no troubles

465. Muhotwo ndararaga kiharo


Literal translation: He that has been beaten in a quarrel does not sleep in the court-yard.

English equivalent: Scalded cats fear even cold water.

466. Muhuunu etaga uhutii mukoroku


Literal translation: He who is surfeited calls the hungry one glutton.

English equivalent: It is easy preaching to the fasting in a full belly.

467. Muici athamagia murogi


Literal translation: The thief makes the poisoner change his residence.

Contextual note: The proverb comes from the following story. A witch-doctor intended to poison a thief. But the thief always managed to steal the poison and the witch-doctor had to find a fresh home.

468. Muici na kihii atigaga kieha kiarua


Literal translation: He who robbed in company with a boy will live in fear until the boy is circumcissed.

English equivalent: What children hear at home soon flies abroad.

469. Muici na mundu muka atigaga kieha akua


Literal translation: He who robbed in company with a woman, will live in fear until she dies (for a woman cannot keep a secret).

English equivalent: Woman conceals only what she knows not.

470. Muici ndathiragwo ni mari hindi


Literal translation: The thief cannot keep fit, because his stools contain undigested food.

Contextual note: The proverb means that a thief, who eats his food in a hurry and with the fear of being caught, cannot enjoy good health.

English equivalent: Ill-gotten things seldom prosper.

471. Muici uri hunyu arindagira uri maguta


Literal translation: An ugly thief is more likely to be caught than one smeared with fat: i.e. carefully dressed.

Contextual note: The proverb means that a robber who cannot dissemble will soon be discovered, while the thief who can sham, will continue to flourish.

472. Muici utari munyite ni muria gake


Literal translation: The thief who has not been caught eats of his own.

Contextual note: The proverb means that stolen goods belong to the thief if he is not caught.

473. Muici wa muthenya ni oio, na wa utuku ni oio


Literal translation: He who robs in the day is known, and he who robs in the night is known, too.

English equivalent: What is done by night appears by day.

474. Muigua uthekagirira cong’e


Literal translation: The big thorn laughs at the small one.

English equivalent: The greatest thieves punish the small ones.

475. Muihwa ndahoyaga na ndaimagwo


Literal translation: A cousin does not ask and is not refused anything (because he is a member of the kindred).

476. Muihwa ndaimagwo runyeni


Literal translation: A cousin is not denied a meal.

Contextual note: Both proverbs mean:

English equivalent: Charity begins at home.

477. Muikarania na kiimba ndagaga maithori


Literal translation: He who stays near a corpse cannot help weeping.

478. Muikaranio niguo mubarano


Literal translation: To stay together is to kno each other.

479. Muikari muti gitina niwe ui kiria thambo iriaga


Literal translation: He who stays at the foot of the tree knows what ‘thambo’ eat.

Contextual note: ‘Thambo’ are the black ants which live and nest on the trees. The proverb means that nobody knows the affairs of a home, society, etc. better than he who lives or has part in it.

English equivalent: Every man knows his own business best.

480. Muikari na hunyu ndakoragwo onete maguta akarega kwihaka


Literal translation: He who is ugly, is not so because he refused to smear himself with fat (but rather because he had no fat to smear himself with).

English equivalent: We are but what God made us.

481. Muikia ndoi mwehereri


Literal translation: He that shoots an arrow does not know whom he will hit.

English equivalent: You know not where a stone may light.

482. Muimwo ni iri ndatuuraga


Literal translation: He on whom fortune has frowned cannot live long.

483. Muingatwo na kihooto ndacokaga


Literal translation: The man overwhelmed by another’s arguments does not return to discuss matters.

English equivalent: Once bitten, twice shy.

484. Muinuki kwao ndatukagirwo


Literal translation: He who keeps good hours is not surprised by night.

English equivalent: Early to bed, early to rise, make a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

485. Muka mucangacangi ndagaga mwana


Literal translation: A woman that hangs about does not lack children.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to the married women who, failing to have children of their husbands’, go around looking for other men.

486. Muka mukuru acokagirirwo na gikuu


Literal translation: One returns to the old wife when the young one dies.

English equivalent: Half a loaf is better than no bread.

487. Muka uri kironda ainagira gitiro ihugo


Literal translation: The woman who has a sore dances on the outskirts.

English equivalent: A guilty conscience needs no accuser.

488. Muka uri mwana ndoraga


Literal translation: The woman who has children does not desert her home.

489. Muka wa mwathi ahingaga na kuguru etereire kigurumuki oke


Literal translation: The hunter’s wife, awaiting her husband’s return, closes the door only with her foot; i.e. she leaves the door unbolted so that her husband may enter more quickly with his prey.

490. Muikarire ni umwe no murarire ti umwe


Literal translation: To stay together is not the same as to have the same type of life.

Contextual note: People often agree in words but not in judgement.

491. Mukagera mahoro ma ndugira


Literal translation: You will pass through the ear-holes.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu pierce the lobes and the upper part of their ears to put wooden sticks in the holes as an ornament. They use this proverb referring to people attempting to perform impossibilities.

English equivalent: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

492. Mukami tiwe munyiti njau


Literal translation: He that milks is not he that holds the calf.

English equivalent: Every man to his own job.

493. Mukari aimaga uhunii


Literal translation: The miser denies food to him who is surfeited.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to stingy people who deny some help to others who would in turn be the most helpful.

494. Muukiri tene ainukaga tene


Literal translation: He who gets up early returns early.

English equivalent: The early bird catches the worm.

495. Mukurira githunu ndamenyagwo


Literal translation: He who ages in the ‘githunu’ is not known by other people how old he is.

Contextual note: ‘Githunu’ is a dormitory where unmarried people sleep. The proverb means that he who has no hut and no wife will age without having children to tell him how old he is.

496. Mukuru, gaya, unyonie mugaire


Literal translation: Old man, divide, and teach me how to divide.

Contextual note: This proverb shows how the Kikuyu respected old people, to whom was left the distribution of meat, beer, etc. at all gatherings.

English equivalent: Old age is honourable.

497. Mukwithia ari itigi kwi muthati


Literal translation: The woman whose sons have died is richer than a barren woman.

498. Mumbi arugaga na ngio


Literal translation: The pot-maker cooks in a potsherd.

English equivalent: The tailor’s wife is worst clad.

499. Mumeni mundu ungi amwitaga kiongo kia njau


Literal translation: He who despises another man, calls him ‘head of calf’.

Contextual note: Owing to their esteem for oxen, it is not dishonourable for the Kikuyu to be told he has a head as big as that of an ox. But it is shameful to be called ‘head of calf’ since the calf is a useless animal.

500. Mumeni ungi amurutaga mbaki iniuru


Literal translation: He who despises another steals even the snuff from his nose; i.e. has no respect for him.

501. Mundu ageraga maimwo ndageraga maheo


Literal translation: Man counts what he is refused, not what he is given.

English equivalent: We are more mindful of injuries than benefits.

502. Mundu mugi ndari muhere wa uhoro


Literal translation: A wise man does not need to be told a thing twice.

English equivalent: A word is enough to the wise.

503. Mundu mugo nderaguragira


Literal translation: The witch-doctor cannot do for himself what he does for others.

504. Mundu mugo wa gwithokia ndari rua


Literal translation: The witch-doctor who goes to see a patient without being sent for, will not have the hide of the slaughtered goat; i.e. will have no reward.

English equivalent: Give no counsel no salt till you are asked for it.

505. Mundu mugo wa ituura ndagaga


Literal translation: The witch-doctor of the place is not needed.

English equivalent: Never a prophet was valued in his own country.

506. Mundu muka na iguru itimenyagirwo


Literal translation: Woman and sky cannot be understood.

English equivalent: Woman, wind and fortune are ever changing.

507. Mundu muka ndoragagwo


Literal translation: A woman must not be killed.

Contextual note: The reasons for this proverb are the facts that the woman is too weak to defend herself and that only the woman can produce children.

508. Mundu muka ndatumagwo thiri-ini


Literal translation: A woman is not sent to collect debts.

English equivalent: Let women spin and not preach.

509. Mundu muigwa ni muhootani


Literal translation: The obedient man gets through.

English equivalent: Do what thou ought and dread no shame.

510. Mundu murume ni wa karugi


Literal translation: Men act promptly.

511. Mundu urakanyuira niwe ui kari rita


Literal translation: He that has drunk once, knows that to drink is a pleasure; i.e. he who has experienced something knows whether it is good or bad.

English equivalent: Experience is the father of wisdom.

512. Mundu uri na undu otaga mwaki na riua


Literal translation: The man who warms himself at the fire while the sun is shining, does so for some reason.

513. Mundu utari mburi ndendaga nyama


Literal translation: People who have no goat do not desire meat.

English equivalent: ‘Sour grapes,’ as the fox said when he could not reach them.

514. Mundu utathiaga athinjaga mwati atoi ndurume iri gicegu


Literal translation: He that does not travel slaughters the she goat as he is ignorant of a ram in his fold; i.e. he is stupid.

515. Mundu utathiaga oi no nyina urugaga


Literal translation: He who does not travel only knows his mother’s cooking.

Contextual note: Both the proverbs mean that he that does not leave his native place will have a very limited knowledge.

English equivalent: The world is a great book, of which they who never stir from home read only one page.

516. Mundu wa rurugi ourugagwo akerwo niwe wourugana


Literal translation: He who is wont to provoke others, is called a provoker even when he is provoked.

English equivalent: A liar is not believed when he speaks the truth.

517. Mundwithia rimwe ngagacoka kunwithia ringi


Literal translation: He who has circumcised me once does not return to do it again.

Contextual note: The proverb means that he who has erred or has been cheated once, becomes wise and will not be cheated a second time.

English equivalent: He who stumbles twice over one stone deserves to break his shins.

518. Munua umwe ni ugaruragirwo


Literal translation: One mouth must be changed; i.e. it is not good to talk always with the same person nor about the same things.

English equivalent: Change of pasture makes fat calves.

519. Munyaka ni unyakukagwo


Literal translation: Fortune passes.

English equivalent: When fortune smiles, take the advantage.

520. Munyaka uri mbere ya kahinga


Literal translation: Fortune is beyond the bush; i.e. the obstacle.

English equivalent: He that endures overcomes.

521. Munyaka ndurokaga


Literal translation: Fortune is not a thing that must surely come.

English equivalent: Fortune is not of every day.

522. Munyotu athiaga ruui


Literal translation: He who is thirsty goes to the river.

English equivalent: Let him that is cold blow the coal.

523. Mura na mundu ti mura na hiti


Literal translation: To be robbed by a person is different from being robbed by a hyena.

Contextual note: The proverb means that if you were robbed by a person, you can hope to be recompensed for the damage; but if a member of your family or a head of your herd has been stoled by a hyena, there is no hope for redress.

English equivalent: There are injuries beyond redress.

524. Muragani ndakayaga, no muragwo ukayaga


Literal translation: It is not the killer that moans, but the killed.

525. Muregi akirwo ndaregaga akihetwo


Literal translation: He who refuses (to do something) when asked, does not refuse when forced.

526. Muregi gwathwo ndangihota gwathana


Literal translation: He who refuses to obey cannot command.

English equivalent: He that knows not how to obey, knows not how to command.

527. Muremwo ni ndugo oigaga nja iri mahiga


Literal translation: He who cannot dance says that the yard is stony.

English equivalent: A bad workman complains of his tools.

528. Muri kuria ta athi a thatu


Literal translation: Sometimes one eats bad food like the hunters when they are out hunting in the misty season.

Contextual note: This proverb comes from the fact that hunters, who stay in the forest or in the plain for rather a long time must often be content with cold raw food.

English equivalent: When bread is wanting, oaten cakes are excellent.

529. Muria na gati ndoi muria na kaara ni akuhia


Literal translation: He who eats with a stick does not know that he who eats with the fingers gets scalded.

530. Muria ngime ni uri mukimiri


Literal translation: He who eats cooked food has someone who cooks for him.

Contextual note: The proverb means that he who desires a thing sufficiently either can easily have it, or will make efforts to get it.

English equivalent: Nothing is imposssible to a willing mind.

531. Muria njithi yake ndarundagwo


Literal translation: He is not condemned who eats even unripe maize of his own fields.

English equivalent: Every man is a king in his own house.

532. Muria wiki akuaga wiki


Literal translation: He who eats alone dies alone.

533. Murimirwo ni ithe ndoi indo iri bata


Literal translation: He who has fields tilled by his father, does not know that things are precious.

English equivalent: What costs little is little esteemed.

534. Murimi ndoinagwo guoko


Literal translation: One must not break the arm of him who tills the fields.

English equivalent: Do not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

535. Murimi umwe ndaiyuragia ikumbi


Literal translation: One tiller does not fill the granary.

English equivalent: Union is strength.

536. Murimi tiwe murii


Literal translation: He that tills the earth is not he that eats(its fruits).

537. Murio nduminaga ng’aragu


Literal translation: Sweetness does not satisfy hunger.

Contextual note: The proverb means that pleasures do not quench the thirst for many more pleasures. But it is also used when we should say:

English equivalent: ‘Sweet words butter no parsnips.’

538. Murio ndunenganagirwo


Literal translation: Pleasure cannot be communicated.

Contextual note: This proverb means that he who has any reason for rejoicing, cannot feel unhappy even if his friends or neighbours are grieved.

539. Murio ndutuuraga ta ngatho


Literal translation: Pleasures do not last so much as gratitude.

Contextual note: The proverb means that few virtues are as great as gratitude and that few joys are greater than that of being thanked for a service.

English equivalent: Gratitude surpasses all other virtues.

540. Murio niwiriagira


Literal translation: Sweetness eats up itself

Contextual note: and

541. Murio ugiraga kieha


Literal translation: Sweetness brings sorrow.

English equivalent: Pleasure stings even though it pleases.

542. Murio uminaga magego


Literal translation: Sweetness spoils teeth.

543. Murio urutaga hungu muti iguru


Literal translation: Sweetness makes the vulture descend from the tree.

English equivalent: Beauty draws more than oxen.

544. Murio wa njohi ni uriukagwo, no wa indo nduriukagwo


Literal translation: The drunkenness of beer passes away, but the drunkenness of wealth lasts forever.

English equivalent: Avarice increases with wealth.

545. Muria runene ndaruriagira


Literal translation: He who asks too much will not eat anything.

English equivalent: All covet, all lose.

546. Muriganio uri tha


Literal translation: They who live together must be merciful.

English equivalent: Bear and forbear is good philosophy.

547. Murimu nduri hinya ugitonya mwiri ta ukiuma


Literal translation: Illness enters the body with less difficulty than it meets on going away.

English equivalent: Misfortunes come on wing and depart on foot.

548. Murimu wa mucoka niguo uragaga mundu


Literal translation: It is the illness that returns that kills people.

English equivalent: Resist the beginnings.

549. Murogi tiwe murogori


Literal translation: The poisoner cannot stop the effect of the poison.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to the superstition by which a person who has been poisoned cannot go to his poisoner to have the effect of poison neutralized by his arts but must go to another person, who is called ‘murogori’.

550. Murori aruga murimi


Literal translation: He who looks at another’s field sees many more weeds than does its owner.

English equivalent: To be blind to one’s own faults.

551. Murugiri arume ndagaga ngiha


Literal translation: He who cooks food for men, does not lack big veins, i.e. bruises.

Contextual note: This proverb means that he who works for a master must do his duty to avoid punishment.

English equivalent: Men like facts not words.

552. Murunguru wa njamba utahaga na ime


Literal translation: He who rises early skips in the dew.

Contextual note: The proverb means that people who get up early finish their work early.

English equivalent: The early bird catches the worm.

553. Mururi ndwakaga


Literal translation: The ‘mururi’ does not build.

Contextual note: ‘Mururi’ is a forest tree with beautiful red flowers, but yielding very poor timber.

English equivalent: All is not gold that glitters.

554. Murwithia arume aari kihii


Literal translation: He who circumcises the boy was a boy, too.

555. Murwithia arume ni arwithagio


Literal translation: He who circumcises the male was circumcised.

English equivalent: The child is father of the man.

556. Mutego ti ngoro, ni wathi warera


Literal translation: It is not the trap that counts, but the art of trapping.

English equivalent: A good archer is known by his aim, not his arrows.

557. Muteng’erania na muteng’erio gutiri utanogaga


Literal translation: Both he that chases and he that is chased become tired.

English equivalent: Everyone has his own troubles.

558. Muthakwa wa athi nduthiragwo ni gicanjara


Literal translation: The ‘muthakwa-tree’ will not discontinue to produce branches of only one shape.

English equivalent: Like father like son.

559. Muthamaki uterwo ti muthamaki


Literal translation: The wise man who is not taught is not a wise man.

560. Muthinio ni kuona aruga muthinio ni wagi


Literal translation: He who is troubled by having (property) is better off than he who is troubled by poverty.

561. Muthiirwo ugo-ini no uria arirwo


Literal translation: He who sends somebody to a witch-doctor on his behalf must believe all he is told.

562. Muthiganwo ni uri nja ndahonokaga


Literal translation: He who is sought by a man already in the courtyard, has no way of escape.

Contextual note: To understand this proverb one must bear in mind that the Kikuyu hut has only one entrance and no window.

English equivalent: There is no medicine against death.

563. Muthii wiki akuaga wiki


Literal translation: He who travels alone, dies alone.

564. Muthii ndoimbikaga irigu


Literal translation: He who starts (on a long journey) does not put a banana to toast under the ashes (for he is not sure he will come back to eat it).

565. Muthii onaga magothe


Literal translation: He who travels sees many things.

English equivalent: The world is a great book, of which they who never stir from home read only one page.

566. Muthii tene ainukaga tene


Literal translation: He who starts early returns early.

567. Muthikani ndathikagwo


Literal translation: He who buries (the others) is not buried.

English equivalent: Do good, but do not expect to receive it.

568. Muthiururi ni ethiururaga


Literal translation: He who turns others around may also turn himself around.

Contextual note: According to the Kikuyu superstition to turn a person round is to wish him misfortune.

English equivalent: The devil that cometh out of thy mouth flieth to thy bosom.

569. Muthuguni itheri akira wikonotete


Literal translation: He who has a bone (to lick) is happier than he who gathers up his limbs for hunger.

English equivalent: When bread is wanting, oaten cakes are excellent.

570. Muthuguri ni akuaga


Literal translation: He who goes himself to buy things carries them too.

571. Muthungu ndari nyagitugi


Literal translation: The European has (among the natives) no trustworthy man.

Contextual note: This is a modern proverb of clear meaning.

572. Muthunuko ugiraga mukindirio


Literal translation: Wickedness begets remorse.

573. Muthuri mundu tiwe Ngai


Literal translation: He that dislikes a person–is he God?

Contextual note: The proverb means that if anyone is hated by men, he is not necessarily hated also by God.

English equivalent: God is just.

574. Muthua ngoro ti muthua kuguru


Literal translation: He that is lame of heart–unlike him that is lame of foot–cannot be recognized.

English equivalent: All is not gold that glitters.

575. Muthuri utari kahii niwe wiriragira ngururu


Literal translation: The married man who has no son goes himself to scare away the birds from his harvest.

576. Muti mumu nduciaraga muigu


Literal translation: A dried up tree does not bear a green one.

English equivalent: One cannot get blood out of a stone.

577. Muti uguagira mundu uri hakuhi


Literal translation: The tree falls on the man who stands by it.

578. Muti utagutemwo ndugerekagiririo ithanwa


Literal translation: A tree that is not intended to be felled, is not aimed at with an axe.

Contextual note: It is told to people who, devoting themselves to many things at the same time, finish none.

English equivalent: Jack of all trades and master of none.

579. Mutiga mwahu akoraga igima


Literal translation: He who leaves a bunch of bananas finds a whole stalk.

English equivalent: Give and spend, and God will send.

580. Mutigwo iganjo ndagaga gia kuoya


Literal translation: The man left where there was once a hut, will certainly find something.

581. Mutiga njeru akoraga njeru


Literal translation: He who leaves a white goat will meet another of the same colour.

English equivalent: Contentment is above wealth.

582. Mutino urutaga mundu uriri


Literal translation: Danger makes a man rise from bed.

English equivalent: Men in danger need no spur.

583. Mutino uthatagia ndigiriri


Literal translation: Misfortunes frustrates one’s plans.

English equivalent: Man proposes, God disposes.

584. Mutirima wa kirimu witirimagia na mugi


Literal translation: A fool’s walking-stick helps the wise man to stand.

Contextual note: This proverb means that wise people know how to get profit from things that a man thinks useless.

English equivalent: A wise man gets learning from those who have none themselves.

585. Mutuuri muno ndagaga


Literal translation: He who lives a long time (in one place) must find what he wants.

586. Mutumia angikura atari mwana ndangiona mutahiri maai


Literal translation: The woman that gets old without bearing a child, will have nobody to draw water for her, i.e. will have nobody to help her.

English equivalent: Children are poor men’s riches.

587. Mutumia na kionje ni undu umwe.


Literal translation: A woman and an invalid man are the same thing.

English equivalent: Words for women, actions for men.

588. Mutumia ndaturaga mutwe na ndaikagia ndahi ndua.


Literal translation: A woman does not split the head (of the slaughtered goat) nor dip the cup into the beer (because both are men’s jobs).

English equivalent: Let women spin and not preach.

589. Muturi tiwe muhurutiri


Literal translation: He that hands the hammer is not the same as the man who pulls the belows.

English equivalent: You cannot drink and whistle at the same time.

590. Mutumumu ndonagia uria ungi njira


Literal translation: A blind man does not show another the way.

English equivalent: Blind does not lead blind.

591. Mutwari ndari uhoro


Literal translation: He who carries an embassy has no concern in it.

English equivalent: Messengers should neither be deheaded nor hanged.

592. Mutwe umwe ndwaturaga ng’undu


Literal translation: Only one head does not divide a field.

English equivalent: Four eyes see more than two.

593. Mutwe wa mundu umwe ni ithino


Literal translation: One man’s head is a solitary place.

English equivalent: Counsel is not of one.

594. Mugi ndoi uria akerwo


Literal translation: He who speaks does not know what others will reply.

595. Mumagari onaga unene


Literal translation: He who travels sees great things.

English equivalent: The world is a great book, of which they who never stir from home read only one page.

596. Muni kiriti niwe ui uria thina uigana wa migogo na nyamu


Literal translation: It is the forest clearer who knows the troubles caused by trunks and animals.

English equivalent: Every man knows his own business best.

597. Mumi na nja oyaga mara kana anyuaga twiri


Literal translation: He that enters a hut either picks up the bowels or drinks twice.

Contextual note: To understand the proverb one must remember that the Kikuyu huts receive the only scanty light from the low front door. So people who enter a hut where a banquet is being held may either be unlucky and take hold of a piece of bowel instead of a piece of good meat, or may be lucky and be given a couple of drinks.

598. Mwaga gukua mwaruta mbaara


Literal translation: It is they who have not died in war that start it.

599. Mwagi maguta oigaga hunyu ni umwe na maguta


Literal translation: He that lacks fat says ugliness is the same as beauty.

600. Mwagi maguta oigaga ati king’aru ni undu umwe na maguta


Literal translation: He who has no fat (to smear himself with) says that ochre is as good.

Contextual note: In both these proverbs ‘fat’ means ‘beauty’.

English equivalent: ‘Sour grapes,’ as the fox said, when he could not reach them.

601. Mwaki nduhoragio na mwaki


Literal translation: Fire is not extinguished by fire.

English equivalent: Fire is not to be quenched with tow.

602. Mwambi nacio tiwe murigia nacio


Literal translation: He that begins, is not he that finishes.

English equivalent: Judge not of men or things at first sight.

603. mwamukiri ndairaga ngoro


Literal translation: He who receives does not loathe.

English equivalent: A gift horse is not looked in the mouth.

604. Mwana mukuru na ithe ni hamwe


Literal translation: The eldest son and the father are one thing.

Contextual note: The proverb means that after the father’s death the eldest son rules.

605. Mwana mwega no nda


Literal translation: Only the belly is a good (lucky) child (for its owner takes care of it and never lets it empty).

English equivalent: The belly is the commanding part of the body.

606. Mwana mwende ndoi kuinia thumbi


Literal translation: The son most loved (by his parents) does not know how to shake his feather head-dress.

Contextual note: The proverb alludes to the initiation rite, on which occasion a special head-dress composed of ostrich feathers is worn by the candidates. It means that often the young man for whom the parents have bought a costly head-dress so that he may look well, does not show any gratitude by wearing it proudly.

English equivalent: Things got easily are not appreciated.

607. Mwana ndaheanagwo


Literal translation: The child is not given away without a price.

Contextual note: The proverb is used especially by a father to the young man wanting to marry his daughter. It must be bourne in mind that the Kikuyu girl is not given to her husband, but she is bought by him.

English equivalent: No gains without pains.

608. Mwana ndahuragwo ithe ari ho


Literal translation: The son is not beaten when the father is near.

609. Mwana ndetagia ithe nyama


Literal translation: The son need not ask his father for a piece of meat (for a parent spontaneously gives his children the best food).

610. Mwana uri kio ndagaga muthambia


Literal translation: A child who likes work does not lack one to wash him, i.e. to take care of him.

English equivalent: God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.

611. Mwana uri mureri ndatangaga mai


Literal translation: The baby that has some one to take care for it does not dirty itself.

English equivalent: Young and old age complete each other.

612. Mwana wa ndigwa niwe ui kwirera


Literal translation: An orphan knows how to make shift with it (for he has nobody to help him).

613. Mwana wa ngari akunyaga ta nyina


Literal translation: The baby leopard scratches like its mother.

English equivalent: Like father, like son.

614. Mwana wa ngoriai ndekagira njingiri kuguru


Literal translation: The orphan boy wears no rattles on his feet.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu used to wear rattles on their feet when dancing.

615. Mwana wa rwendo ariaga nyina na ithe


Literal translation: The son of love eats his father and mother.

Contextual note: The proverb has the obvious meaning that the son who realizes he is his parent’s Benjamin gives them most trouble. But it also means that the child born of illegitimate love will soon become a nuisance to his parents.

English equivalent: To nourish a viper in one’s bosom.

616. Mwana wa thahu ndatigaga kiriro


Literal translation: The son of sin does not cease weeping.

English equivalent: Sin and debts are always more than we think them to be.

617. Mwana wi na ithe ndanyuaga muma


Literal translation: The son whose father is still alive, takes no oath (for his father defends him and if necessary, takes the oath instead of the son).

618. Mwanake ni kienyu kia Ngai


Literal translation: The youth is a part of the Divinity.

Contextual note: The proverb originates in the fact that the circumcised Kikuyu youth is greatly respected by women and uncircumcised young men.

619. Mwanake wi na indo ndoihanaga


Literal translation: The youth who has enough to buy his girl, need not beseech her.

English equivalent: Money is the sinew of love as well of war.

620. Mwaniki ambe eanike


Literal translation: He who airs something must air himself first.

English equivalent: No gains without pains.

621. Mwari mwega ahitukira thome wa ngia


Literal translation: A fair girl does not stop at a poor youth’s (for he could not buy her).

622. Mwari mweru ndaraguragirwo


Literal translation: One does not consult the witch-doctor about a white daughter.

Contextual note: It is luck for Kikuyu parents to have a daughter with skin whiter than the average. Such a girl will be sold dearer to her husband.

623. Mwaria ciene arigagwo ni ciake


Literal translation: He who talks about others’ affairs does not know his own.

624. Mwatu nditagirwo mwana


Literal translation: A boy is not sent to collect the honey (for he does not know how to collect it).

English equivalent: Every man does his own business best.

625. Mwatukiria ki? Aca no thumbi na ruhuho


Literal translation: What have you that we have not? Nothing but ‘thumbi’ and wind.

Contextual note: ‘Thumbi’ is the piece of cloth or leather used to fasten ostrich and other birds’ feathers around the head. The proverb means, ‘There is no news’.

626. Mwathwo ni nda arugite mwatho ni ithe


Literal translation: Being ruled by one’s stomach is better than being ruled by one’s father.

627. Mwega ni ongagwo


Literal translation: Good people are sucked.

English equivalent: Cover yourself with honey and the flies will attack you.

628. Mwendi gatungu ni mwenjeri


Literal translation: He that wants to become rich must till the earth.

English equivalent: Sleeping foxes catch no poultry.

629. Mwendi irura ni mucini


Literal translation: He who wants papyrus-ashes burns papyrus.

Contextual note: Previous to the advent of Europeans, the Kikuyu used papyrus-ashes, which are supposed to be rich in sodium, for cooking purposes.

English equivalent: Let him that is cold blow coal.

630. Mwendi muhiriga utuikane etagia rurimi na mbere ndaruriaga


Literal translation: He who wants to cause disagreement within the clan asks for the tongue (of the slaughtered goat) which he was not wont to eat before.

Contextual note: The tongue of the goat is a choice morsel which belongs by right to the head of the family or clan. The proverb means that he who wants a pretext for quarrelling, asks for somethingwhich he cannot be given.

631. Mwendi uru ni awonaga


Literal translation: He who seeks evil finds it.

632. Mwendi uthaka ndacayaga


Literal translation: He who wants beauty does not complain (if it costs him some pain).

English equivalent: No gains without pains.

633. Mwendia ni aguraga


Literal translation: He who sells buys.

English equivalent: To buy and to sell are both business.

634. Mwendwo ndari ngarari


Literal translation: He who is loved receives no refusal.

635. Mwenjani mikuri ndoi ungi


Literal translation: The barber who shaves badly does not know any other (better) way of shaving.

English equivalent: The first degree of folly is to think himself wise, the second is to tell others so, the third is to despise all counsel.

636. Mwere mwega umenyagwo na ngetho


Literal translation: The good millet is known at harvest time.

English equivalent: A tree is known by its fruit.

637. Mwetereri ariaga ya mugwato


Literal translation: He who waits gets the best food, i.e. the biggest potato, the sweetest maize, etc. and can eat better cooked food.

638. Mwicariria ndari karo gatuhu


Literal translation: He who wants to dig out a potato does not use a blunt pole.

Contextual note: The proverb means that he who wants to accomplish something, uses just those means that ensure success.

639. Mwigerekanio wateire kiura matina


Literal translation: The frog that compared itself to the ox lost its buttocks.

Contextual note: There is a fable, that the frog seeing what big buttocks the ox had, thought it could grow as big by swelling. But it burst and so lost buttocks and life.

English equivalent: All covet, all lose.

640. Mwigerero wa ngoro ndukinyaga no wa Ngai ukinyaga


Literal translation: What a man wants does not reach the goal, only what God wants reaches it.

English equivalent: Man proposes, God disposes.

641. Mwigito ti guoya


Literal translation: Self defence is not fear.

English equivalent: Weapons bode peace.

642. Mwiiganio ti wa mweri


Literal translation: To obtain what one wants is not a month’s job.

English equivalent: Time and straw make medlars ripe.

643. Mwiikaria ndari haro


Literal translation: He who lives alone has no quarrel.

English equivalent: It takes two to make a quarrel.

644. Mwiikaria ndari ruruto


Literal translation: He who looks after his own business has no trouble.

645. Mwinyamaria ndari ikwa nyumu


Literal translation: He who has no patience will have no hard yams.

Contextual note: Yams are fully ripe only when they have grown hard. So he who wants to eat a good yam must be patient and wait till it is hard.

English equivalent: Everything is good in its season.

647. Mwiri ti icoya ati ni ugutembuka


Literal translation: One’s body is not a banana leaf which should be rent.

English equivalent: The proverb is told to people who threaten to abuse or have abused others.

648. Mwirihiria niwe muru


Literal translation: He who revenges himself is bad.

English equivalent: In taking revenge a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over he is superior.

649. Mwitaari ndari uthu


Literal translation: He who takes counsel only from himself meets no hatred.

650. Mwithinia ndathinukaga, no muthinio ni athunukaga


Literal translation: He who is the cause of his own troubles never comes to the end of them; but he who is troubled by others does.

651. Mwoni umuthi tiwe mwoni ruciu


Literal translation: He who sees today does not see tomorrow.

English equivalent: Today thee, tomorrow me.



652. Narua, mugogo utanatendera


Literal translation: Haste, before the trunk bridge becomes slippery.

Contextual note: It must be borne in mind that native bridges consist of only one trunk spanning the two banks of the river. Hence passing such bridges in wet weather is dangerous.

653. Nda imwe yumaga muici na murogi


Literal translation: The same womb gives birth to a thief and a poisoner.

654. Nda irugite ita


Literal translation: The belly is more important than war.

655. Nda ti mutwe.


Literal translation: The belly is not a head.

Contextual note: Into the head you can put as many things as you know without filling it, but you cannot do the same with your belly.

656. Ndakurama kinganga nawe wanama kingware?


Literal translation: I gave you the beauty of a guinea fowl and you give me the beauty of a francolin.

Contextual note: The proverb originates in the following fable. Once upon a time the guinea fowl wanting to dance, called upon the francolin to have its feathers dressed. The francolin, hoping to have the same favour returned by the guinea fowl, assented. But the latter taking as an excuse of its laziness that the dance was about to begin, left the other bird in the lurch. This is why the guinea fowl has now got much finer plumage than the francolin.

English equivalent: To do good to the ungrateful is to throw rose-water into the sea.

657. Ndaregirwo ni ikere ta njagathi ikiregwo ni guoya


Literal translation: I have no calves as lizards have got no hair.

Contextual note: Well shaped calves are supposed by the Kikuyu to add a great deal to one’s beauty: therefore they are much appreciated.

English equivalent: As poor as a church mouse.

659. Ndaya ikinyia


Literal translation: The long road arrives (at the goal).

Contextual note: The proverb means that a long but sure way, is better than a short but dangerous one.

English equivalent: Fair and softly goes far in a day.

660. Ndegwa nyinyi ihaicaga ng’ombe na mutwe


Literal translation: The young bull mounts the cows from the head.

English equivalent: Young is the goose that will not eat oats.

661. Ndeto itimataga ta iria


Literal translation: Sentences do not curdle like milk.

English equivalent: Words and feathers are tossed by the wind.

662. Ndeto njega ni iria njirane


Literal translation: Good words are those spoken of common accord.

Contextual note: The proverb means both:

English equivalent: ‘Friendship is friendship and business is business’ and ‘A word is enough to the wise’.

663. Ndia kahora igiaga gukameria


Literal translation: The animal that eats slowly can swalllow well.

English equivalent: He that goes softly, goes safely.

664. Ndiakagwo ta ya wakini


Literal translation: Nobody is forced to build his hut on the pattern of his ‘wakini’.

Contextual note: ‘Wakini’ is a person circumcised at the same time–somebody of the same age-group.

English equivalent: Every one to his own taste.

665. Ndiani ndikinyaga iraka


Literal translation: The thief does not tread on dry leaves (for they would betray his presence).

666. Ndiambaga na magua


Literal translation: The bee does not begin with the comb.

English equivalent: A good beginning makes a good ending.

667. Ndigure: Konyu kegura ni komirie ikwa


Literal translation: Humble yourself: the inhabitants of Konyu were able to grow yams after humbling themselves.

Contextual note: The proverb originates in the legend that the people of Konyu, a place in the Kikuyu country, who had been at war with their neighbours of Mathira, ceased to be raided and could till their fields in peace, only by submitting.

English equivalent: He makes a good war that makes good peace.

668. Ndikuraga na migiria


Literal translation: The ox does not become old with strong muscles.

Contextual note: The proverb means that man cannot expect to age and retain the vigour of his youth.

669. Ndiri ndiiyuragira kuria ikugaragario


Literal translation: The mortar is not filled with juice in the place where it is rolled.

Contextual note: The proverb means that anything is found useful only in that place and by those people who are in need of it.

English equivalent: Everything is good in its own season.

670. Ndiri njega ndiringanaga na muthi mwega


Literal translation: A good mortar never meets a good pestle.

Contextual note: The proverb means that a good wife rarely meets a good husband and vice versa.

671. Ndia ngiri yanina andu


Literal translation: Still water has finished many men.

English equivalent: Beware of a silent dog and silent water.

672. Ndikwenda wingwatirire ta kieha


Literal translation: I do not want you to stick on to me like beard moss (sticks on the tree).

English equivalent: Live and let live.

673. Ndithuire munyoni ta munyaniriri


Literal translation: I do not hate him who sees me so much as him who reveals me, i.e. my faults.

English equivalent: Nobody is willing to acknowledge he is in fault.

674. Nditiku na magumi, o kuria mugaitanirira


Literal translation: Nditiku and Magumi (go) to the place where you can agree.

Contextual note: Nditiku and Magumi are metaphorical names used to mean two quarrelsome people. The proverb is told to disagreeable people, who though warned do not stop their strife.

English equivalent: He that cuts himself willingly deserves no balsam.

675. Ndiunikaga thondu


Literal translation: It is not the meagre (but the fat) ox that breaks its leg.

English equivalent: Misfortunes seldom come alone.

676. Ndonga nanu irugitwo ni mukari


Literal translation: A rich evil-doer is worse than a miser

677. Ndonga imwe ndihingaga iriuko


Literal translation: One rich man cannto close the ford; i.e. cannot do all he would.

English equivalent: No living man all things can.

678. Ndugate kuguru ta nyakinyua


Literal translation: Do not give your foot the position which ‘Nyakinua’ gives.

Contextual note: ‘Nyakinyua’ is used to mean old women, who often sit unbecomingly.

679. Ndugira na kaigwa kayo


Literal translation: Every little hole of the ear has its little thorn.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu used to put little sticks or thorns in the pierced upper part of the ear.

English equivalent: Every sparrow to its ear of wheat.

680. Ndugetange ta kihia kia mucai


Literal translation: Do not torment yourself as you torment the seeds of the broom-tree (which you scatter everywhere without any regard).

681. Ndugu irutagwo njira


Literal translation: Friendship begins with meeting at the road.

682. Ndugu ni makinya


Literal translation: Friendship is steps, i.e. it consists in going to see one another.

English equivalent: Friendship consists in visiting friends.

683. Ndugu nyingi ithatagia muhuko


Literal translation: Many friends make one’s pocket empty.

English equivalent: Friends are pick-pockets.

684. Ndugu ya mwana imatagio ni nyina


Literal translation: The friendship of the son is strengthened by his mother.

English equivalent: Children’s joys are parents’ toys.

685. Nduire nyiki ta murogi


Literal translation: I live alone like a poisoner.

Contextual note: The proverb illustrates the Kikuyu’s dislike for poisoners and wizards.

686. Nduirio ni mata ta thua


Literal translation: I live on saliva like a flea.

English equivalent: To live from hand to mouth.

687. Ndukagerekanie gikuu na toro


Literal translation: Do not compare death with sleep (because they are not the same).

688. Ndukamenyithie wa itara


Literal translation: Do not make home affairs known.

English equivalent: Do not wash dirty linen in public.

689. Ndukanine nduma mbira


Literal translation: Do not finish the small ‘nduma’.

Contextual note: ‘Nduma are the tubers of an edible arum much cultivated in Kikuyu. The proverb means that one must dig out only the big tubers and leave the small ones to grow new plants.

English equivalent: Enjoy the present but think also of the future.

690. Ndukanumirire ta njuu na ngigi


Literal translation: Do not follow me as the ‘njuu’ follows the locusts.

Contextual note: ‘Njuu’ is the name of a kind of passerine bird, which follows locusts to feed on them.

English equivalent: God deliver you from a false friend.

691. Ndura iciaraga miigwa


Literal translation: The ‘ndura’ gives forth nothing but thorns.

Contextual note: ‘Ndura’ is the name of a thorny tree. The proverb means:

English equivalent: One cannot gather figs from thistles.

692. Nduma ndihitithagia muthii mbere


Literal translation: Darkness shows no wrong path to him who gets what he wants before dark.

English equivalent: Early to bed, early to rise, make a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

693. Ndumumu ndionagi ingi njira


Literal translation: A blind man does not show another blind man the way.

English equivalent: Do the blind lead the blind? Do they not both fall into the ditch?

694.Ndundu ya mwana na nyina ndiringagiririo


Literal translation: It is not fair to attempt to penetrate mother and son’s secrets.

695. Ndurumo igiri itiguanaga ikigamba


Literal translation: Two noisy waterfalls cannot agree (in their tune).

English equivalent: Two of a trade seldom agree.

696. Ndutura irumaga irorete gitara kiayo


Literal translation: The turtle-dove coos when it has seen its nest

English equivalent: Every bird likes its own nest best.

697. Ni hiti mugambire


Literal translation: It is the hyena that howls.

Contextual note: The proverb is applied to boisterous people.

English equivalent: Barking dogs seldom bite.

698. Ni itumaga na itirue


Literal translation: One can sing the song which precedes the circumcission and not be circumcissed.

English equivalent: Man proposes, God disposes.

699. Ni muiguanite ta gikwa na mukungugu


Literal translation: You agree like the yam and the tree to which it clings.

English equivalent: to be like David and Jonathan

700. Ni gukaga mukira mwite


Literal translation: Somebody may come in higher in dignity than he who was firstly invited.

Contextual note: The proverb has almost the same meaning as the words of the Gospel: When thou art invited to a wedding sit not down in the first seats at the table, lest perhaps one more honourable than thou be invited by him’; etc.

English equivalent: Humility often gains more than pride.

701. Ni ngingo itindaga iri theri ti nda


Literal translation: It is the neck that stays without ornament, but not the belly (without food).

702. Ngaita itiriagirwo kwenda


Literal translation: The ‘ngaita’ is not eaten unless there is a reason.

Contextual note: ‘Ngaita’ is the very bitter fruit of a shrub, which is taken as an antihelmintic.

English equivalent: Medicines are not meat to live on.

703. Ng’aragu ya mundu ungi ndingigiria ngome


Literal translation: Other people’s hunger does not hinder me from sleeping.

704. Ngarari ni githuria kia mbaara


Literal translation: Arguments are the source of strifes.

English equivalent: It takes two to make a quarrel.

705. Ngarari ni kamena


Literal translation: Discord breeds scorn.

706. Ngari ndioi gukunya ni kuonio yonirio


Literal translation: The leopard did not know how to seize its prey: it was taught.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu say that when the leopard began to kill goats, it did not know how to seize them to kill. One day frightened by the shepherd, it had to leave its prey badly wounded though not killed. From the tree where it had taken refuge it heard the shepherd say: “What luck! Had my goat been seized by the neck, it would be already dead’.

707. Ngatho ithingatagio ingi


Literal translation: One kindness prepares for another.

English equivalent: One good turn deserves another.

708. Ngatia ciathii hiti cieragara


Literal translation: When lions have gone, hyenas dance.

English equivalent: When the cat is away, the mice will play.

709. Ngemi ciumaga ndiri-ini


Literal translation: The woman’s trills are shouted at the mortar.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to the songs and shouts of the women crushing the sugar cane to be brewed; and means that such songs are sung only on that occasion.

English equivalent: Everything has its time.

710. Ng’enda thi ndiagaga mutegi


Literal translation: The animal that treads on the earth may find its trapper.

Contextual note: The proverb means:

English equivalent: ‘To err is human’.

711. Ngia na muigwa itikomaga


Literal translation: The poor and the thorn do not sleep.

Contextual note: The former, say the Kikuyu, is kept awake by his anxieties whilst the latter is always on the alert in order to sting anyone who happens to touch it.

English equivalent: Poverty breeds strife.

712. Ngia yethagwo mukuha wayo


Literal translation: The poor man is robbed even of his awl.

English equivalent: The poor man turns his cake, and another comes and takes it away.

713. Ngi imwe yoragia muguguta


Literal translation: One fly spoils an ox-hide.

English equivalent: A little leak will sink a great ship.

714. Ngi ndiri ruga


Literal translation: The fly has no sinew.

English equivalent: You cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

715. Ngi irahtagwo uigana mukiha uria iri naguo.


Literal translation: The fly is bled proportionately to its veins.

English equivalent: If you squeeze a cork, you will get but little juice.

716. Ngingo ndikiraga mutwe


Literal translation: The neck does not grow above the head.

English equivalent: Everything to its place.

717. Ngingo ya muria-ng’uru ni githitu na rurigi


Literal translation: The neck of him who sells too dear, is all amulets and necklaces (for nobody buys from him).

English equivalent: All covet, all lose.

718. Ng’ombe itionagwo ni ithayo


Literal translation: Oxen are not found through laziness.

English equivalent: Laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes it.

719. Ng’ombe yahithio njau ikamagirwo ikaya


Literal translation: When the cow is left to the care of a man who is not the owner, the calves are suckled only when they cry.

English equivalent: Look to the cow, the sow, and the wheat mow, and all will be well now.

720. Ngoro iriaga kiria ikwenda


Literal translation: The heart eats what it likes.

English equivalent: Love is blind.

721. Ngoro ni muru wa nyina na mundu


Literal translation: Every man’s brother is his heart.

English equivalent: Few hearts that are not double, few tongues that are not cloves.

722. Ngoro ni mutitu mutumanu na ndungitonyeka ni mundu


Literal translation: The heart is a thick forest which cannot be penetrated by anybody.

English equivalent: What is in one’s heart man’s eyes see not.

723. Ngoro ndirumaga tuhu


Literal translation: The heart does not curse for nothing.

Contextual note: The proverb means that one does not repine nor swear at another without a reason.

English equivalent: Everything has its reason.

724. Ngoro itiumaniire ta njira


Literal translation: Hearts do not meet (converge) like roads.

English equivalent: Eat a peck of salt with a man before you trust him.

725. Ngugutu ya gwithurira ndiri gacere


Literal translation: The beads one has chosen have no imperfection.

English equivalent: Every man thinks his own geese swans.

726. Nguku ya maguta ni iikagirio


Literal translation: (Even) drinking liquid fat comes to an end.

Contextual note: Liquid fat of animals is esteemed a dainty by the Kikuyu.

English equivalent: All good things come to an end.

727. Ngunguni ireragira ruku-ini


Literal translation: The bedbug prospers on a piece of wood.

English equivalent: There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.

728. Nguri ndigayagwo


Literal translation: The beard pincers are not inherited.

Contextual note: It must be remembered that the Kikuyu did not shave but pull the beard with pincers forged by native black-smiths. The proverb means that there are some things which are so personal that the father does not bequeath them to his son: he has to get his own.

729. Ngumo ndiigana mwene


Literal translation: The fame is never up to its owner’s merit.

English equivalent: He that does good for praise only, meriteth but a puff of wind.

730. Nguo njega ndiikagio rutami


Literal translation: To good clothes no ornaments is added.

English equivalent: Good coral needs no colouring.

731. Ngwa mbere ti noru ta ngwa thutha


Literal translation: The first fall is not as bad as the second fall.

English equivalent: Every man’s tale is good till another’s is told.

732. Ngwaci itigathagwo rienjero


Literal translation: Potatoes are not praised when they are dug out (but when they are eaten).

English equivalent: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

733. Ngware ikirara muti iguru ndiatigire thi kuri kwega


Literal translation: The francolin sleeps on a tree because it is not all right on the ground (and on a tree it feels safer).

English equivalent: Everyone knows his business best.

734. Ngware ndiuragagirwo nja


Literal translation: The francolin is not killed in the courtyard.

Contextual note: According to Kikuyu superstition to kill a francolin found on one’s courtyard brings in misfortune. If anybody has done it, he must slaughter a goat to propitiate the spirits.

English equivalent: There is a measure in all things.

735. Ngware nyinyi iri na muhuririe wayo


Literal translation: The little francolin has its way of scratching.

English equivalent: Every man his way.

736. Njamba iguaga na ingi


Literal translation: A hero dies with the other.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to the days of war before the advent of Europeans, when warriors went together to plunder and were bound to win or die together.

737. Njamba imwe ndihingaga iriuko


Literal translation: One strong man only cannot close the ford of a river.

English equivalent: No living man all things can.

738. Njamba ndiriagwo ni wira


Literal translation: A strong man is not overpowered by his task.

English equivalent: He that endures is not overcome.

739. Njamba ndirumaga imera igiri


Literal translation: A powerful man does not domineer two seasons.

English equivalent: Nothing that is violent is permanent.

740. Njamba ni ithaga ria rika


Literal translation: A strong man is the ornament of his age-group.

741. Njamba ti ikere


Literal translation: Strength does not dwell in the calves of the legs.

Contextual note: The proverb means that one’s strength does not dwell in one’s appearance, but rather in mind and virtue.

742. Njau iri ndoge nyina ni ndoge.


Literal translation: If the calf has been poisoned, also its mother has been (for they ordinarily eat the same food).

English equivalent: Like father like son.

743. Njeterera ndikinyaga


Literal translation: He who waits does not arrive.

English equivalent: Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.

744. ‘Njika na njika ndiri’ maruru


Literal translation: ‘Do to me and do to me’ have no bitterness.

Contextual note: The proverb means that a person cannot complain on receiving from others the same kind of treatment as he had given to them.

745. Njira ndirag mugendi huruka


Literal translation: The road never says to the traveller, ‘Take a rest’.

746. Njira nguhi no ya uriri


Literal translation: A short way is only the way to bed.

Contextual note: The proverb is told when one wants to cut short a discussion, or when one wants a whole night to reflect before making up one’s mind.

English equivalent: Consult with your pillow.

747. Njogu ndiremagwo ni miguongo yayo


Literal translation: The elephant is not overpowered by its tusks.

748. Njohi ni gacuhura


Literal translation: The beer is a thing that unties (the tongue).

English equivalent: When the wine is in the wit is out.

749. Njoya na muthece ndioyagira ingi


Literal translation: A bird that picks food with the beak does not collect food for another bird.

750. Njuki ndiri mboora igiri


Literal translation: The bee has not got two stings.

Contextual note: The proverb is told to greedy people, who when given something are not satisfied and want more.

English equivalent: Much wants more.

751. Njuguma ya njamba ithukagirio ugeni-ini


Literal translation: A strong man’s club is tested by foreigners.

Contextual note: The proverb means that it is foreigners who actually test the strength of a man, for they dare measure themselves with him. Whilst the people who live with him, judging his strength as a thing beyond any doubt, are afraid of testing it.

English equivalent: The proof of a pudding is in the eating.

752. Njuku irugite ruui ruiyuru


Literal translation: Slander is worse than a river in flood.

English equivalent: The most dangerous of wild beasts is a slanderer, of tame ones a flatterer

753. Njuku ni migathi ya itonga


Literal translation: Calumnies are (as plentiful as) rich people’s beads.

754. Nyamu nguru ndihatagwo maai


Literal translation: An old ox is not refused water.

English equivalent: Old age is honourable.

755. Nyama njuru iroragwo na kanua


Literal translation: Bad meat is tasted with the mouth.

English equivalent: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

756. Nyamacucu, kanua ni koinagirwo ithigi


Literal translation: Woman, remember that the mouth is sometimes covered with a branch.

English equivalent: A woman cannot keep a secret.

757. Nyanja imwe nditiragia itega One gourd (of beer) does not stop the gift.


Contextual note: The Kikuyu used to send their relations and friends presents of native beer in gourds. The proverb means that the breaking of one gourd in transit does not prevent the delivery of the others.

758. Nyanja nguhi nditegaga


Literal translation: A short gourd (of beer) is not give as a present.

English equivalent: A slight gift small thanks.

759. Nyeki ya nja ndirikaga


Literal translation: The grass of the courtyard is not eaten.

Contextual note: The proverb means that oxen do not eat the grass growing near their pen, for they know it has been fertilized by their droppings. But the oxen which come from another pen and have no reason for loathing such good pasture feed on it with delight. The proverb is applied to the girls who ordinarily are not loved by young men of their village, to whom the girls of other places look handsomer.

English equivalent: Never a prophet was valued in his own country.

760. Nyitira na nginyirira ti imwe


Literal translation: To possess and to send for is not the same.

English equivalent: There is many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.

761. Nyoko nditugaga


Literal translation: Beauty does no good.

English equivalent: Beauty may have fair leaves, yet bitter fruit.

762. Nyoneka narua yuraga narua


Literal translation: What is found quickly, is quickly lost.

English equivalent: Quick come, quick lost.

763. Nyoni kirimu yakaga irigu ikuru iguru itoi riatemwo


Literal translation: The foolish bird nests on an old banana tree and does not know that it will be cut down.

English equivalent: A fool always comes short of his reckoning.

764. Nyoni yakaga nyumba na muthece umwe


Literal translation: The bird makes its nest only with one beak.

English equivalent: God never sends mouths but He sends meat.

765. Nyota wa gikuu ndunyotokagwo


Literal translation: Death’s thirst is never quenched.

English equivalent: There is no medicine against death.

766. Nyumba ikihia mwene ni otaga.


Literal translation: If the hut burns, its owner gets warm.

767. Nyumba irindagira magothe


Literal translation: The house covers many things.

English equivalent: There is not always good cheer where the chimney smokes.

768. Nyumba na rika itiumagwo


Literal translation: The clan and ‘rika’ cannot be canceled.

Contextual note: People initiated in a particular season are banded together in an age group and are said to be of the same ‘rika’. They are supposed to be obliged to help one another, like the members of the same clan.

769. Nyumba ndigukumagio ikumbi


Literal translation: A granary cannot be pushed into a hut.

English equivalent: Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

770. Nyumba nyinyi iciraga utuku


Literal translation: The little house discusses its affairs by night (because they are not worth discussion by day with waste of time).

771. Nyumba nyinyi yoragana yathama, yoragwo yathama


Literal translation: If a member of a small family is killed or kills another, the family moves (since it may be unable to defend itself).

772. Nyungu irugaga na ndirie


Literal translation: The pot cooks the food and does not eat it.

English equivalent: Bees that make honey, do not taste it.

773. Nyungu ya gana ndimeraga


Literal translation: A rotten gourd seed does not germinate.

English equivalent: Immoral people seldom get offspring.

774. Nyungu ya maguta ndikuaga


Literal translation: The pot in which fat is stored does not break (for it is well fed).

775. Nyungu ya muingi ndiagaga muteng’uri


Literal translation: The cooking pot from which many people await their food, does not lack him who takes it from the fire.

Contextual note: In like way, the problem in which many people are interested, will have one able to solve it.



776. O mundu athondekaga uriri wake


Literal translation: Every man makes up his own bed.

English equivalent: Every bird must hatch its own eggs.

777. O mundu ahuragia mwaki na mwihirito wake


Literal translation: Every man scratches in his fire and in his ‘mwihirito’.

Contextual note: ‘Mwihirito’ is the space between any two of the three stones of the Kikuyu hearth.

English equivalent: Everyone should sweep before his own door.



778. Rigu ndutwaranagio


Literal translation: The food one takes as provision for one’s journey is not carried by another person.

English equivalent: Take heed is a good read.

779. Riri nda rikuaga unene


Literal translation: The foetus which is in the womb carries the future.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu use this proverb to mean that only God knows the future, just as only God causes a foetus to be a male or a female.

780. Ritwa ni mbokio


Literal translation: The name is a useless thing.

English equivalent: From our ancestors came names, but from our viirtues our honours.

781. Riu ni thatu, no riu ringi ni mbura ya mahiga


Literal translation: Now we have the misty weather, but after a while it hails.

Contextual note: To become worse and worse.

782. Rigi ria nyumba ritirutagwo ria gutiria nyumba ya ungi


Literal translation: The door of one’s hut is not taken to close another’s hut.

English equivalent: He who has but one coat cannot lend it.

783. Rika na nyumba itiuraga


Literal translation: One does not lose the age-grade nor the clan-right.

Contextual note: Kikuyu circumcissed in a particular season are banded together in an age group to which a name is given, after a special event of the season. This age-grade as well as the clan imply certain rights which no Kikuyu wants to give up.

English equivalent: No man is willing to waive his rights.

784. Riko na mwana na nda itiui ‘kwaga’


Literal translation: The hearth, the child and the belly ignore the word ‘lack’.

785. Riko na mwana na nda itiganagia


Literal translation: The hearth, the child and the belly never have enough.

786. Ringira haria rukugambira


Literal translation: Cross the stream where it roars.

English equivalent: Still waters run deep.

787. Ritho riarira riariria iniuru


Literal translation: The watering eye makes the nose water.

English equivalent: When the head aches all the body is the worse.

788. Ritho riathigithwo riarira


Literal translation: The eye, which is disturbed, waters.

English equivalent: Let sleeping dogs lie.

789. Ritho rimenaga njamba


Literal translation: The eye scorns heroes; i.e. it can judge falsely of what it sees.

English equivalent: Never judge from appearances.

790. Ritho riui thaka ritiui ngamini


Literal translation: The eye discerns the beauty but not the kindness (of a person).

791. Ritho ti ndami


Literal translation: The eye is not a piece of cloth (which can be thrown away).

English equivalent: The eye is the pearl of the face.

792. Ritho ti ndathio


Literal translation: The eye is not a thing which can be asked for.

793. Riua ritietagirira muthamaki


Literal translation: The sun does not wait for the judge.

English equivalent: The sun may do its duty though your grapes do not ripen.

794. Riua ritiui gitonga no ngia theri


Literal translation: For the sun there are no rich, but only poor people.

Contextual note: The proverb means that in the dry season neither the rich nor the poor people can plant.

English equivalent: The sun shines on the just and the unjust.

795. Ruua rukuhi rutiri thogora


Literal translation: A short hide is of no value.

796. Ruua rwa mwenw rutiri iringa


Literal translation: The owner of the goat does not give away its hide.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to the fact that the skin of a slaughtered goat belongs by right to the animal’s owner, who does not allow anybody else to have it for nothing. Metaphorically it means that nobody gives his life but for a cause worthy of it.

797. Ruga runaga uta


Literal translation: The string (too tightly strung) breaks the bow.

English equivalent: A bow long bent at last waxeth weak.

798. Rugendo rwa njua na rwa mburi ititwaranaga


Literal translation: Hides and goats do not keep the same pace (when they are taken to the market).

Contextual note: In facts goats go onn foot while hides are carried by men who actually go more quickly.

English equivalent: Every man in his way.

799. Rugutema rutiagaga igeca


Literal translation: The cutting knife does not lack bruises.

English equivalent: Touch pitch and you will be defiled.

800. Ruhiu rugi nirutuikaga


Literal translation: A knife too well sharpened easily breaks.

English equivalent: To kill with kindness.

801. Ruhonge rwa muti rutithendukaga mundu


Literal translation: A tree branch cannot put forth a man.

English equivalent: Nothing comes out of the sack but what was in it.

802. Rui runenehagio ni tuthima


Literal translation: The river is made bigger by small springs.

English equivalent: Little winnings make a heavy purse.

803. Rui rutithamaga mukuru waruo


Literal translation: A river is not made to flow out of its bed.

English equivalent: Every sparrow to its ear of wheat.

804. Rukaga rutaraire rugakira ruraire


Literal translation: An occurrence in the morning can be of more importance than one of the night before.

Contextual note: Problems should be dealt with in order of importance not in order of time.

805. Rumira nguo haria hatari ihoro


Literal translation: Take hold of your clothes where there is no hole (lest you would tear them even more).

806. Rumwe ruranagwo rukiria: rwagomania hia rugacokanwo


Literal translation: The members of one clan can leave one another, but after all they return (to help one another).

Contextual note: Mutual assistance is one of the pacts by which members of one clan are bound.

807. Rumwe rutiuranagwo, no kurikana rurikanaga


Literal translation: The clan does not break, but its members can separate.

808. Rurakora mundu rutiri muthemere


Literal translation: The fate, dear man, cannot be avoided.

809. Ruri itara ruthekaga ruri riko


Literal translation: The firewood which is in the pile laughs at the firewood which is already in the fire.

English equivalent: Today me, tomorrow thee.

810. Ruri kuuma njora ruticokaga tuhu


Literal translation: The knife which has been unsheathed does not return into its sheath without having done some work.

811. Rurimi rwa ngia rutithiraga kimanda


Literal translation: The poor man’s tongue is always thin.

Contextual note: Since a poor man’s tongue is supposed to utter only words of no importance, so it is said to be thin. The meaning of the proverb is that a poor man will never be listened to.

English equivalent: The poor man’s wisdom is as useless as a palace in the wilderness.

812. Ruri mucii ruri mugunda


Literal translation: If you have a pain at home, you have it in the field too.

English equivalent: No place is fenced against suffering.

813. Ruri na Komu ruri na Kaigu wa nyina


Literal translation: If Komu has it, Kaigu, his brother, has it too.

Contextual note: ‘Komu’ and ‘Kaigu’ are used in Kikuyu proverbs to denote brothers. The proverb means that if a man has something (either good or bad) his brother has a share in it too.

814. Rurira rutithambagio ruui


Literal translation: Family-ties cannot be washed at the river, i.e. cannot be untied.

815. Rurigi ruri nja rutiagaga gia kuoha


Literal translation: The string in the courtyard does not lack something to tie (in due time, although at present it may seem a useless thing).

816. Rurigi rwetagiriria mundu mukwa


Literal translation: The string can be useful until a rope (of hide) can be got.

English equivalent: Little is better than nothing.

817. Rutemaga mwenji


Literal translation: The knife cuts him who shaves another.

English equivalent: A knave is often caught in his own trap.

818. Ruthuko runungaga ruri mbuthu


Literal translation: The ‘ruthuko’ spreads its smell from its container.

Contextual note: ‘Ruthuko’ is a medicine given by a witch-doctor to a trapper to help him attract prey, or to a shepherd to call his sheep. It should be burnt and the smell of the smoke is supposed to be a call for animals. But natives believe the medicine to exercise its power even from its container. The proverb compares the smell of the medicine to the words of a man, which are supposed to be a reflection of his mind and means that one can judge him from his words.

819. Rutungu rumwe rutiraragia mwaki


Literal translation: One piece of wood only does not keep the fire alight.

English equivalent: One stroke fells not an oak.

820. Rutungu rwa gwitiniria rutiri githong’ori


Literal translation: The log which I myself cut has no knot.

English equivalent: Every potter praises his own pot, and more if it be broken.

821. Rutwaraga muthambiri


Literal translation: The stream drowns even the swimmer.

822. Ruu ni rurigi rwa kuruta rungi kinya


Literal translation: That is a thread for pulling another thread out of the ‘kinya’.

Contextual note: ‘Kinya’ is a calabash used to draw water or to hold gruel. Here it is taken to mean the hidden place wherein one’s secrets are kept. The proverb is told to people who ask indirect questions for discovering what they cannot learn directly.


823. Ruuo ruriaga mwene


Literal translation: The pain is felt by its owner (and not by another).

824. Ruuo rutiguanagirwo


Literal translation: Pain cannot be felt by one for the other.

825. Rutaniria muigua na maguta


Literal translation: Take out the pus with the thorn.

English equivalent: Do nothing by halves.

826. Rwambo rumwe rutiambaga ndarwa


Literal translation: One peg only does not stretch out a skin.

English equivalent: No living man all things can.

827. Rwendo ni unyamarania


Literal translation: Love means trouble.

English equivalent: Love is a sweet tyranny, because the lover endures his torments willingly.

828. Rwendo rukirite ihaki


Literal translation: Love exceeds reward.

English equivalent: Love is not mean.

829. Rwendo rwarutire mwana wa nderi iguru


Literal translation: Love put the eaglet out of its nest.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu say that the young eagles, if left alone in the nest by their parents try to do as the parents do out of love for them and leap out of the nest; but in so doing they kill themselves.

English equivalent: Love is blind.



830. Tha cia arume itiri iria


Literal translation: Males’ pity has no milk.

Contextual note: It means that men are unable to stop the crying of a baby by suckling it. Metaphorically the proverb means that men feel no less pity than women although they show less.

831. Thaka ya mwene ndiunikaga


Literal translation: The owner’s beauty does not break.

English equivalent: Every man thinks his own geese swans.

832. Thakame ndiri ndugu


Literal translation: Blood has need of no friendship.

Contextual note: The proverb means that the best friendship is the one that comes from relationship; for, as it has been told before, all the members of a clan are tied by the bond of helping one another.

English equivalent: Blood is thicker than water.

833. Thakame ihakagwo maguta na gati


Literal translation: The ‘thatu’ is smeared with fat and driven out.

Contextual note: ‘Thatu’ is the name of a big caterpillar which infests sweet potato plantations. To the Kikuyu it is a creature of bad omen; that is why, when it happens to enter their huts they do not kill it, but rather smear it with fat and take it out carefully to propitiate the spirit.

English equivalent: Misfortunes that cannot be avoided, must be sweetened.

834. Thegere igiri itiremagwo ni mwatu


Literal translation: Two ‘thegere’ are not overpowered by a beehive.

Contextual note: ‘Thegere’ is a small mammal, about the size of a pole-cat common in Kikuyu land. It is fond of honey. The proverb means that only one ‘thegere’ would be unable to pull a beehive down from a tree. But if two of them join together, they easily succeed in overturning and emptying it.

English equivalent: Union is strength.

835. Thekaniriro ni hitaahitano


Literal translation: He who laughs at others will be laughed at.

836. Thi na iguru itimenyanaga


Literal translation: The earth and the sky do not know each other.

Contextual note: The proverb means that nobody can foretell the weather.

837. Thiga ni muruu: marara nja gutiri


Literal translation: ‘Thiga’ is circumcissed: there is no reward in passing the night in the courtyard.

Contextual note: ‘Thiga’ means a certain fellow. The proverb originates in one of the many customs relating to the Kikuyu ceremony of circumcission. On the eve of the circumcission day women and girls gather at the hut of the candidate and sing for a great part in the night; not gratuitously, but in the hope of getting food and beer from the candidates mother. But if when the rite is completed, she makes as an excuse that now the child is circumcissed and refuses to give them what they expect, they start singing the above strain, meaning: ‘Have no recourse to the idle pretext that your son is now circumcissed; but rather give us the reward to which we are entitled after a night’s singing and dancing’.

English equivalent: Eaten bread is soon forgotten.

838. Thina nduri miri


Literal translation: The ‘thina’ has no roots.

Contextual note: ‘Thina’ is the name of a kind of leafless plant growing on trees. It also means affliction, troubles, sadness, poverty.

English equivalent: Troubles pass.

839. Thina ndutigaga handu uramenyera


Literal translation: Affliction does not leave a place which is already known to her.

English equivalent: One danger is seldom overcome without another.

840. Thina ndutuuraga


Literal translation: Affliction does not last.

English equivalent: After a storm comes calm.

841. Thina ni ruhiu rwa guicuhia muro


Literal translation: Affliction is a good knife to sharpen the ‘muro’.

Contextual note: ‘Muro’ is a short stick used to beat the earth, to plant, to dig out potatoes, etc.

English equivalent: Necessity sharpens industry.

842. Thia ndithiragwo ni mihumu


Literal translation: The duiker cannot help panting.

English equivalent: The leopard cannot change his spots.

843. Thia ndithiragwo ni munithi


Literal translation: The duiker is not found without head stripes.

English equivalent: Man is what God has made him and nothing else.

844. Thiaka ni uta


Literal translation: Quiver means bow (for there is no quiver but it has also its bow).

845. Thiaka uinii ndwagaga guita migwi


Literal translation: A quiver upside down cannot fail to pour out its arrows.

Contextual note: The proverb is an excuse for an error which depends only on human weakness.

English equivalent: To err is human.

846. Thiari ndirerega kwa ngia


Literal translation: The ‘thiari’ does not hover above a poor man’s house.

Contextual note: ‘Thiari’ is the tick-bird. The proverb says that this bird does not stay with the poor for there are no oxen to provide ticks.

English equivalent: A poor man has no friends.

847. Thiri utarihagio no wa urogi


Literal translation: The debt of poisoning is a debt which cannot be paid.

Contextual note: All the other crimes can be paid for with a number of goats, but the crime of bewitching must be expiated by heavier punishment.

848. Thiriti ni iteanaga


Literal translation: Friendships dissolve.

849. Thiriti ni ya andu eri, ya atatu ni rumena


Literal translation: Friendship can exist between two people, friendship of three people would mean strife.

English equivalent: Two’s company, three is none.

850. Thiriti yagia kihehu no ithire


Literal translation: Friendship finishes if there are whisperings.

851. Thogora ni mururumo utaruo


Literal translation: Buying (and selling) brings in much noise but no strife.

852. Thogora nduri nyina na mwana


Literal translation: Buying and selling has neither mother nor son.

English equivalent: Friendship is friendship and business is business

853. Thome wa anake nduri thogora no tharo


Literal translation: Young unmarried men do not buy in their ‘thome’: they steal things.

Contextual note: ‘Thome’ is the pathway leading up to the entrance of the Kikuyu homestead. It is made in the shape of a narrow passage which can be closed at night or in time of danger. The proverb means that nothing orderly can be done when only youngsters are present.

854. Thoni itiri gathuthuma


Literal translation: Shyness has no sucking.

Contextual note: It means that if a calf is shy it will be afraid to approach its mother and consequently will get no milk.

855. Thoni nene ni ukari


Literal translation: Too much shyness means miserliness.

English equivalent: There is measure in all things.

856. Thu ndiguaga haria iikagio


Literal translation: The enemy does not fall where one throws him.

English equivalent: Man proposes, God disposes.

857. Thu ndiagaga mwenji


Literal translation: An enemy does not lack someone to shave him; i.e. to keep him informed of what is going about him, and very often to give him help.

858. Thumbi iri nyone, mwene ni muone


Literal translation: If one sees the ostrich-feather head-dress, one sees also the owner of it.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu warriors used to pass over the head and under the chin a strap carrying ostrich feathers. Such a head-dress is used today only by young men at the circumcission ceremonies. The proverb means that if you see anyone wearing such an ornament, you easily recognize him as a warrior.

859. Thurania gukua na kuhona


Literal translation: Choose between dying and living; i.e. between death and life, war and peace.

860. Thutha mwega ni wa ndurume


Literal translation: It is proper of the ram to have a good tail.

Contextual note: It means that the good side of many a thing is not found at the beginning of it, but at the end, just as the best part of the ram is not its head, but its fat tail.

English equivalent: The best fish swim near the bottom.

861. Thutha ni mwarii


Literal translation: The afterwards is wide.

Contextual note: The future holds many happenings.

862. Thutha wa arume nduoyagwo ruoya


Literal translation: Where men have passed there is not a single feather to pick up.

863. Thutha wa maundu mothe ni Mwathani


Literal translation: After all, there is God.

English equivalent: Man proposes, God disposes.

864. Tiga gukunga hira-ini na tama mweru


Literal translation: If you wear white clothes do not hide ina place where the grass has been burnt (for you would easily be discovered).

Contextual note: The proverb means that it is useless to tell lies that are obviously lies.

865. Tiga gukungia ugi ugi-ini


Literal translation: Do not show wisdom where there is wisdom.

English equivalent: To carry coals to newcastle.

866. Tiga thina: toboka: nducunaga kiihuri


Literal translation: Cease repining: go on; you are not like a child that licks the ‘kiihuri’.

Contextual note: ‘Kiihuri’ is a half calabash used as a ladle or eating bowl. The proverb means that a man must not be timid like a child that is afraid of his mother’s rebuke and dares not lay down the ‘kiihuri’ used for gruel, if it is not licked.

English equivalent: Fortune helps them that help themselves.

867. Tiga kuhoya ngi thakame


Literal translation: Do not expect blood from a fly.

English equivalent: If you squeeze a cork, you will get but little juice.

868. Tiga kwaria na kanua ka ngoma


Literal translation: Stop talking with the mouth of the ‘ngoma’.

Contextual note: ‘Ngoma’ are the spirits of the departed in which the Kikuyu firmly believe.

English equivalent: Keep the tongue within your teeth.

869. Tiga kuonia ngari kuhaica muti


Literal translation: Stop teaching the leopard how to climb a tree.

English equivalent: Don’t teach your grandmother how to knit.

870. Tutikuhe hiti keri


Literal translation: We do not give twice to the hyena.

English equivalent: Once bitten, twice shy.

871. Tutu uri mwana ndunyitagia ngotho


Literal translation: The man who has a family does not adorn his family with finery.

English equivalent: Children are certain cares, but uncertain comforts.

872. Turuma yakira kirugo


Literal translation: A sip is better than a feast.

Contextual note: The proverb means that a sip of beer given to him who happens to call on a friend during a beer drinking is more appreciated than a feast to which one has been invited (and has therefore waited for).

873. Tuoko tuingi tuthuranaga tukiria


Literal translation: Many hands eating (from the same dish) hate one another

English equivalent: Two cats and a mouse, two wives in one house, two dogs and a bone never agree in one.



874. Ubataire ahurithagia kihii ime


Literal translation: He who is in need sends his boy when there is still the dew.

English equivalent: Need makes the naked man trot.

875. Ubataire ndaconokaga


Literal translation: The person who is in need does not feel ashamed.

English equivalent: Need makes the naked queen spin.

876. Ubataire niwe uhuraga uriri


Literal translation: It is the person who feels the need (of sleeping) that prepares the bed.

English equivalent: Let him that is cold blow the coal.

877. Ucamba nduringaga tuhuro twiri


Literal translation: (Even) bravery does not cross two valleys (at one time).

English equivalent: Samson was a strong man, yet he could not pay money before he had it.

878. Ucokereru ni ukigu


Literal translation: To return (to the same thing, argument, etc.) is foolishness.

English equivalent: A tale twice toldis cabbage twice sold.

879. Ucukagwo na nduguteo


Literal translation: You are slandered without being thrown away.

880. Ugakinya muhua gutari gati


Literal translation: (The time will come when) you will step on the ‘muhua’ in a place where there is no other plant.

Contextual note: ‘Muhua’ is a common forest tree yielding a very poor timber. The proverb means that he who despises this tree because it is of little value and there is plenty of good timber, will go so far as to scorn it even when no better timber is available.

English equivalent: Half a loaf is better than no bread.

881. Ugakinya na mutwe wiirite ni maguru


Literal translation: You will move on the head thinking it is the feet.

Contextual note: It is said to proud people who think they know everything.

English equivalent: Do as most men do and men will speak well of thee.

882. Ugathina ta ritho gwakia


Literal translation: You shall have pains like the eye that opens in the morning

Contextual note: The proverb is a curse, and refers to the pain which one’s eyes are supposed to feel when after a night’s pleasant dreams, they open again to this world’s miseries.

883. Ugi munene utuaga ithanwa


Literal translation: Too great a wisdom breaks the axe.

English equivalent: Too much breaks the bag.

884. Ugi ndutongoragia ta urimu


Literal translation: Wisdom does not go in front as foolishness; i.e. is not so easily attained as foolishness.

English equivalent: No man is born wise or learned.

885. Ugi ni kihooto


Literal translation: Knowledge is power.

886. Ugi ugigu


Literal translation: (There is) wisdom (that is) a bluff.

English equivalent: All is not gold that glitters.

887. Ugi ukirite hinya


English equivalent: Wisdom outweighs strength.

888. Ugi wa arume utemaga ta kahiu


Literal translation: Men,s skill cuts like knives.

English equivalent: Words are for women, actions for men.

889. Ugi wa mundu umwe ndurimaga


Literal translation: Only one man’s ability cannot till (all the fields).

English equivalent: No living man all things can.

890. Ugeni wa nyama nduoyagiruo nguo


Literal translation: He who has been invited to eat meat does not waste time looking for good clothes.

Contextual note: The proverb means that if anyone has received an invitation for a feast he does not waste time in adorning himself at the risk of arriving too late.

891. Ugithondekera mucii ndungiuga ni urikora ungi


Literal translation: While you adorn your house, you don’t imagine that you will find another (more adorned than yours).

Contextual note: The proverb refers to self confident people who go to discuss a question with the certainty of getting the best of it, and do not think they will meet an adversary stronger than they are.

English equivalent: The first caper of fools is to esteem themselves wise.

892. Ugwithirima mutino


Literal translation: You smear yourself with misfortune.

Contextual note: The proverb is told as an advice to people who are on the point of doing something which sooner or later will become a cause of misfortune.

English equivalent: He that cuts himself willfully, will deserve no balsam.

893. Uhere ni ugwatanagio


Literal translation: Scabies is contracted (by contact).

English equivalent: A rotten sheep infects the whole flock.

894. Uhii ni umagwo, no uka ndumagwo


Literal translation: The man comes out of childhood, but the woman never comes out of womanhood.

Contextual note: To understand the proverb, it must be remembered that according to Kikuyu law, after the initiation a boy is no longer a boy, but a man in the fullness of his rights. On the other hand a girl, even when circumcissed, does not become entitled to new rights.

895. Uhoi ni ugariurire


Literal translation: Asking for something is like turning (potatoes in the fire or meat on the spit).

Contextual note: The proverb means that he who wants to succeed in a petition tries all ways, just as he who is roasting his food turns it on all sides.

896. Uhoro wa maitho ti wa ruthiomi


Literal translation: What one sees with one’s eyes is not what one hears from another’s tongue.

English equivalent: One eye-witness is better than ten hearsays.

897. Uhunii ndari kieha


Literal translation: He who is sated has no affliction.

898. ‘Ui, ui’ igunaga ki?


Literal translation: What is the use of crying ‘ui, ui’?

English equivalent: What cannot be cured must be endured.

899. Ui tene i…


Literal translation: Oh, for the (good) past!

Contextual note: This is an expression often heard in the mouths of Kikuyu elders and corresponds to:

English equivalent: ‘Past and to come seem best: things present, worst’.

900. Ukabi ni muhuunu mutu


Literal translation: The Masai have had their fill of flour.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu used to sell maize and millet flour to their neighbours the Masai. But if they happened to sell it too dear, the flour trade became the spark which kindled one of the many raids which ended only when the British government confined the Masai to their present territory. The proverb had the meaning of an alarm, as to say: ‘Now that the Masai have eaten all the flour we have sold them dear, we may expect their revenge’.

English equivalent: A little spark can kindle a great fire.

901. Ukeni ndutuuraga


Literal translation: Joy does not last.

English equivalent: Pleasant hours fly fast.

902. Ukundihia ugacoka kunjuria ndario ni ku?


Literal translation: You wound me and then ask what is ailing me?

903. Ukuru ndugaga mbu


Literal translation: Old age does not shout any notice-cry.

English equivalent: Time is the rider that breaks youth.

904. Ukuru ni ta wonje


Literal translation: Old age is like being lame.

Contextual note: The proverb is told by or to old women.

English equivalent: Old bees yield no honey.

905. Ukuru uriaga wanake


Literal translation: Old age eats youth.

English equivalent: Old age creeps in.

906. Ukwenda munyu mbere ya mucini


Literal translation: You want the salt before the person who burned the salt-grass.

Contextual note: To understand this proverb it must be borne in mind that, before the arrival of Europeans, the Kikuyu obtained salt from the ashes of salt-grass. (See also No. 629.)

English equivalent: No cross, no crown.

907. Umenyagwo ni muraari, ti muroki


Literal translation: Home affairs are known by him who sleeps in the home, not by him who only comes in the morning.

English equivalent: None knows the weight of another’s burden.

908. Undiaga rimwe na ugi


Literal translation: You sometimes eat me by cunningness

Contextual note: In this proverb ‘to eat’ means ‘to cheat’.

909. Undu ukwendwo ndutanukagwo ni kumerio umeragio


Literal translation: The thing that one finds palatable is not chewed, but it is swallowed quickly.

910. Ungiigua igikaya ni nume


Literal translation: If you hear a goat moan, it is because she has been bitten.

English equivalent: No smoke without fire.

911. Undu urekwo nducokagirwo


Literal translation: One must not return on the work done.

Contextual note: The proverb means that one must not be too attentive to the details of his work if one wants to finish it, since–

English equivalent: Perfection is not of this world.

912. Ungigacema muno kahahuka


Literal translation: If you go too carefully, (the chance) will pass away.

English equivalent: Sleeping foxes catch no poultry.

913. Ungiigua kaana gakiuga undu ugakahura: menya kaiguite na ithe


Literal translation: When you hear your child say anything, you beat him; remember that he says what he has heard from his father.

English equivalent: Children pick up words as pigeon peas, and utter them again as God shall please.

914. Ungiria irio cia muthemba umwe iri kinyiria


Literal translation: If you eat ever of the same food, it becomes bitter: it is a good thing to change.

English equivalent: Change of pasture makes fat calves.

915. Ungiona ukirite, imeretie ingi


Literal translation: If you see a quiet snake, it is because it swallowed another snake.

English equivalent: Beware of a silent dog and still water.

916. Uracama ari njeme


Literal translation: He who has tasted (food) has its appetite.

Contextual note: The proverb means that, if a man has willingly started to do some job, he is not satisfied until he completes it.

917. Urathina mugunda wa mwana ndari


Literal translation: He who is in trouble lacks (also) a field for his son.

English equivalent: Misfortunes seldom come alone.

918. Uri kuhitia na mbugi, ndurathaga na njoya


Literal translation: If you have missed with the point (of the arrow) you do not hit with the feathers.

English equivalent: Resist the beginnings.

919. Uri kungariura ta mutura wa ihii


Literal translation: You have tried to roast me as boys roast goat’s bowels.

Contextual note: When a goat or an ox is slaughtered, it is a Kikuyu custom to give the bowels to the uncircumcissed for them to roast. The proverb is a contemptuous expression meaning ‘I know that you want to deceive me: but don’t expect to succeed as easily as boys succeed in roasting the bowels they are given’.

920. Uri kwiirukira ndungithondekeka


Literal translation: If you despair you are not cured.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to women who go to the witch-doctors for a remedy for their sterility.

English equivalent: Not to have hope is the poorest of all conditions.

921. Uri mwega no ukamenyeka


Literal translation: If you are good you are known.

English equivalent: Good wine needs no bush.

922. Uri na ithe ndaringagwo wa ngoro


Literal translation: He who has a father is not knocked down by any of those word or deeds that hurt one’s heart (for he has somebody to defend him).

923. Uri ndugu nyingi ndatukagirirwo


Literal translation: He who has many friends is not caught by darkness in the road; i.e. he has a lodging for the night.

924. Uri witu utandiga na ndunjerera


Literal translation: You are a person who neither leaves nor waits for me.

English equivalent: To have two strings to one bow.

925. Uri wona rukure?


Literal translation: Have you ever seen an unsheathed knife (a thing that has frightened you?)

English equivalent: Scalded cats fear even cold water.

926. Urimi nduhinyaga


Literal translation: The tilling does not come to an end.

927. Uriru nduthiraga


Literal translation: Misfortune that has put down roots, does not finish.

English equivalent: Mischiefs come by the pound, and go away by the ounce.

928. Urugari nduri indo, ni heho iri indo


Literal translation: It is not warming oneself (staying at home) that makes one rich, but talking with many people.

English equivalent: God helps them who help themselves.

929. Urugite na urugite matihoyanaga


Literal translation: Two persons, who have both cooked their food, do not beg from one another.

930. Urutagwo mwiruti


Literal translation: The work is done if one does it.

English equivalent: If you want anything done, do it yourself.

931. Utahetwo ni muigire


Literal translation: Also for the man who has not yet received a present, there is something put aside for him.

English equivalent: Everything comes to him who waits.

932. Utamerithitie ndaigaga kigina thi


Literal translation: He whose seeds have not germinated, does not lay down his ‘kigina’.

Contextual note: ‘Kigina’ means the seeds put by for planning next season.

English equivalent: Perseverance kills the game.

933. Utana uminagira murokerwo ng’ombe


Literal translation: Prodigality ruined the man who used to give away his oxen.

Contextual note: The legend, from which this proverb originates, tells that a very rich man used to present all his visitors with an ox, with the result that very soon he found himself reduced to poverty.

English equivalent: Prodigality brings a man to a morsel of bread.

934. Utana wa ngia uragira ngoro


Literal translation: A poor man’s generosity is lost in his heart (for he has nothing to show it with).

935. Utari kondo ari kagara


Literal translation: The person who has not a small bag, has a small basket.

English equivalent: Every man has his lot.

936. Utari ndari ngoro


Literal translation: He who has nothing has no heart.

Contextual note: The proverb means that a poor man, though refused what he asks for, does not feel so much pain as a rich man would, for the latter knows the difference between possessing and not possessing what one needs.

English equivalent: Nothing have, nothing crave.

937. Utari maitho ndatumaga kinya


Literal translation: A blind man does not sew a gourd.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu make use of the dried shell of gourds as dippers or ladles. They mend them with a rough thread when they crack.

English equivalent: Blind men should not judge of colours.

938. Utari ndetagwo ndundu


Literal translation: A poor man is not invited to a private discussion.

939. Utari ciake na ndaria ciake


Literal translation: He is a person that does not eat other’s food, nor his own.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to people who are not able to take advantage of their own things, nor of those of other people.

940. Utatiga ndakora


Literal translation: He who does not leave, will not find.

English equivalent: No gains without pains.

941. Utenderu nduri njamba


Literal translation: Slipping has no hero, i.e. nobody however clever he may be, is guaranteed against a fall when walking on a slippery road.

English equivalent: No fence against ill fortune.

942. Utenderu uri nja nduri muthemere


Literal translation: Nobody can avoid the slippery place that is in the courtyard.

English equivalent: What cannot be cured must be endured.

943. Uthayo na ng’aragu ni mundu na muru wa nyina


Literal translation: Laziness and starvation are like a man and his brother.

English equivalent: Laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes him.

944. Uthaka nduriagwo


Literal translation: Beauty is not eaten.

English equivalent: Beauty will buy no beef.

945. Uthuuri wa gitonga ndunungaga


Literal translation: A rich man’s old age has no bad smell.

English equivalent: Rich men have no faults.

946. Uthuuri wa kanua ukirite wa miaka


Literal translation: Mouth’s old age is better than year’s old age.

Contextual note: The proverb means that it is of no use to be old in years, if one does not show his old age by his wise words too.

English equivalent: An old goat is never the more revered for his beard.

947. Uthu nduhingagia


Literal translation: Hatred does not affect all.

Contextual note: The proverb means that he who is hated by some people is not necessarily hated also by all the others.

948. Uthuuro mwega nduiyuraga ikumbi


Literal translation: The picking up of only the good things does not fill one’s barn.

949. Utoi karirui, oi waci


Literal translation: He who does not know how to dance the ‘karirui’ knows how too dance the ‘waci’.

Contextual note: ‘Karirui’ and ‘waci’ are two native dances. The meaning of the proverb is the same as the following one.

950. Utoi uu, oi uu


Literal translation: He who does not know one thing, knows another.

English equivalent: Every man hath his lot.

951. Utonga nduhanyukagirwo


Literal translation: Riches are not attained by running.

952. Utonga ni kigunyi


Literal translation: Riches are a shadow.

English equivalent: Riches have wings.

953. Utonga nduri nyoni


Literal translation: Riches have no bird of ill omen.

954. Utonga wa muici nduthunaga, na niuteaga wake


Literal translation: Unlawful riches do not increase, but rather spoil the lawful ones.

English equivalent: Ill-gotten things seldom prosper.

955. Utuku ndutumagwo nguo


Literal translation: One does not sew clothes by night.

English equivalent: There is a time for all things.



956. Wa githi ngagiragia wa kio akagia


Literal translation: He who feels envy cannot prevent a man of energy from becoming enriched.

English equivalent: Envy never enriched any man.

957. Wa haraya uhoragira njira


Literal translation: The fire which comes from afar dies out in the way.

English equivalent: Out of sight, out of mind.

958. Wa hwai-ini warugwo ni wa kiroko


Literal translation: What happens in the morning, surpasses what happened the preceding evening.

English equivalent: Every day brings a new light.

959. Wa karimu witirimagia na mugi


Literal translation: The fool’s staff (walking stick) is used by the wise.

Contextual note: The proverb means that something belonging to a fool may help the wise, as the fool does not know how to use it to his benefit.

960. Wa mburi nduteagwo utari mwatie


Literal translation: The goat bone is not thrown away if it is not completely chipped.

English equivalent: Do nothing by halves.

961. Wa kuona ndangihitia


Literal translation: He who sees does not err.

English equivalent: One eye-witness is better than ten hearsays.

962. Wa mucari wagwatirie wa mutigiri


Literal translation: Yaws causes one to be attacked by chicken pox too.

English equivalent: Misfortunes seldom come alone.

963. Wa Ngai uraragio ni magoto


Literal translation: God’s fire keeps alight with ‘magoto’.

Contextual note: ‘Magoto’ is dry banana bark which is much used for thatching but of no use as firewood. The proverb means that God can kindle a fire and keep it alive with unsuitable materials.

English equivalent: With God all things are possible.

964. Wa muingi wathura mutiri


Literal translation: The work of many people scorns him who does not do it.

Contextual note: Work however heavy it may be, if done by many people seems to become light for each worker. This is why the proverb says that he who refused to do his part should be despised by the work itself.

965. Wa murunguru ururaga na ime


Literal translation: The squirrel walks in the dew.

Contextual note: The proverb originates in the fact that the squirrel is often seen in the road by early travellers, which would suggest that it rises very early in the morning. The Kikuyu say the proverb as a reply when, met by friends in the road, they are asked about the place they are coming from and why they are travelling so early. It means: I start my work early because I am like the squirrel that knows that morning hours are the best.

English equivalent: The early bird catches the worm.

966. Wa muru unungaga uri thiaka


Literal translation: A wicked man’s arrow emits its unpleasant smell even if hidden in the quiver.

English equivalent: Stinking fish are felt from afar.

967. Wa mwangi ndutogaga keri


Literal translation: The fire of the ‘Mwangi’ does not smoke twice.

Contextual note: ‘Mwangi’ is the name of one of the major ruling generations. The representatives of each generation stand in authority and are responsible for the conduct of public affairs all over Kikuyu land for about thirty years. After such a term there is a ceremony of handing over the custody of the affairs of the tribe from one generation to the next. The handing-over rite takes months and even years to complete. When the consolata Fathers entered Kikuyu land in 1902 the Maina generation was handing over its powers to the Mwangi generation, which in its turn has already begun to hand over to the Irungu.

English equivalent: Time flies away without delay.

968. Wa mwega ta wa muru


Literal translation: The case of the good man is like the bad one’s.

Contextual note: The sentence is said by elders when judging tribal questions, and means that all people have the same right and nobody can expect to have his case discussed before another’s: every one must wait his turn.

969. Wa mwene uthuire thakame


Literal translation: One hates to see the blood of a thing that belongs to him.

Contextual note: The proverb means that one’s heart is affected by the pains of the persons and animals whom one loves.

English equivalent: Whom we love best, them we want to be happy.

970. Wa mwiri ndumenyagwo


Literal translation: What is inside the body is not known.

English equivalent: No one knows the weight of another’s burden.

971. Wa mwitumo nduremaga


Literal translation: The work one imposed on oneself is never impossible.

English equivalent: Where there is a will there is a way.

972. Wainaga ni eroragira


Literal translation: He who used to dance, now looks on.

973. Wairire ndakeruha


Literal translation: He who has ever been black will never become white.

English equivalent: A leopard cannot change his spots.

974. Wanyua inyuaga mugui


Literal translation: He who drinks (beer in company) drinks an arrow at the same time.

Contextual note: The proverb means that people who drink beer together as a token of friendship, drink as well an arrow which they will use to shoot one another as soon as their friendship breaks.

975. Wariire athinirie waigire


Literal translation: He who has eaten (all his food) vexes him who has put some aside.

Contextual note: A fool and his money are soon parted.

976. Warugaga ni atobokaga


Literal translation: He who used to jump across now wades through.

English equivalent: Old age creeps in.

977. We uri karia nime


Literal translation: You are the one who eats the fruit of what your father has planted.

Contextual note: The proverb is a reproach to young people who expend lavishly what they have inherited from their parents.

English equivalent: What costs little is little esteemed.

978. We uri munyota matahwo


Literal translation: You are only thirsty when somebody has drawn the water.

English equivalent: The proverb is told to lazy people.

979. Wega na wega iticemanagia


Literal translation: Good and good never meet.

English equivalent: Perfection is not of this world.

980. Wega uri mbere ya kahinga


Literal translation: The good is to be found beyond the bush, i.e. the obstacle.

English equivalent: No gains without pains.

981. Wega umaga mucii


Literal translation: Prosperity is found in one’s home.

English equivalent: Look to the cow, and the sow, and the wheat mow, and all will be well now.

982. Wega wariire karigu


Literal translation: Illicit love spoilt the uncircumcissed girl.

Contextual note: Sexual relation between an uncircumcissed girl and a circumcissed young man is considered unmentionable depravity by the Kikuyu.

English equivalent: The reward of unlawful pleasure is lawful pain.

983. Weru uguthogoranirwo nduagaga ruitiki


Literal translation: The open country where markets are held does not lack rubbish.

984. Weru wa arume ndwagaga kununga


Literal translation: The open place where men used to stay cannot help stinking (because of the many quarrels and thefts which occur therein).

985. Wiigiire ndahutaga


Literal translation: He who has put something aside will not starve.

English equivalent: Thrift is good revenue.

986. Wira wa muingi uragaga kirimu


Literal translation: Many people’s work kills the fool (because he does alone what should be done by many).

987. Wirane nduri ngarari


Literal translation: He who has been warned does not dispute.

English equivalent: A word is enough to the wise.

988. Witeithie nguteithie


Literal translation: Help yourself so that I may help you.

English equivalent: God helps those who help themselves.

989. Wona ciene waruta ndunguru, wona ciaku wacokia ndunguru


Literal translation: When you see another’s things your mouth waters; when you see your own you swallow such water.

990. Wonaga ni agaga


Literal translation: He who had things, may stand in need.

English equivalent: Today gold, tomorrow dust.

991. Woni uri njaci, wagi gitaranio


Literal translation: To have means mischief, to lack means thought.

English equivalent: Misfortunes tell us what fortune is.



992. Ya gwithurira ndiri githegenywa


Literal translation: The ox one has chosen has no imperfection.

993. Ya gwithurira ndiri ihindi


Literal translation: The meat one has chosen has no bone.

994. Ya kuhia ihiaga na ma mbere


Literal translation: The food which cooks well is cooked with the first water.

Contextual note: The Kikuyu believe that the food which is not cooked in the first water, would not be cooked even if new water should be added, and it is therefore to be thrown away.

English equivalent: Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.

995. Ya matharara igwatagia ya nyeki


Literal translation: The hut thatched only with bad grass sets fire to the one covered with good thatching grass.

English equivalent: A rotten sheep infects the whole flock.

996. Ya mwene ndiri njereri


Literal translation: One’s own ox has no cast in the eye.

(See also No. 992 and No. 993.)


English equivalent: Every man thinks his own geese swans.

997. Ya rika ringi iriaga ikihurunjaga


Literal translation: The goat which is of another age group eats scattering the fodder.

Contextual note: The proverb originates in the fact of the distinction which is kept among people of different age-grade, and means that if a member of an age group is admitted to eat food with people of another, he grows proud and shows no respect toward them.

English equivalent: Familiarity breeds contempt.

998. Ya rika ithinjaga na mweri


Literal translation: People of the same age group slaughter the beast to be eaten even by night time.

Contextual note: The proverb refers to a Kikuyu custom. Young men of the same age group used to go round from village to village until they found a rich man who gave an ox or a goat for them to eat. And when the animal was found, they killed and broiled it even if the night had already come. The proverb means that one must finish what one has begun.

English equivalent: Do nothing by halves.

999. Yaciara mathathatu yongithagio ni mwene


Literal translation: The she-goat that gives birth to six kids feeds them too.

1000. Yaikio iikagia ingi


Literal translation: The goat that is pushed forward pushes forward the other.

English equivalent: One fool makes many.

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