Acholi Proverbs

Adong medo i kom can a slap adds to the poverty or misery. Physical abusing a poor or miserable person makes that person’s problem worse.

Agoro pe camo kato kulu  a type of white ant, which comes out only at night, does not eat beyond a river. Even if you are strong you should only operate within you territory.

Agulu odiyo otac   the pot is pressing the grass stand. Pressure has made someone to do something usually against his/her will.

Akurri ma welo maro moko a visiting dove gets easily trapped. A newcomer is usually in danger of being trapped or tricked.Agwata matek mac aye buko a hard calabash is only frightened (opened) by fire. A stubborn person is only managed by something scary. In other word it is a deterrent punishment which corrects.
Akuri ma welo came neno wang ceng a visiting dove eats and checks the sun. When one if far from home one should always be time conscious, to give allowance for time to reach home.

Aling aling ma ki celo wanga ki cogo? Should I keep quiet when someone has hit my eye with a bone? (explain)

Alunya loyo lakwong the follower is more severe than the first. The initial problem is usually not as bad as the second or what comes after it.

Aming aming ongolo nge gweno  a type of white ant appears after the chickens have turned in. The ants are normally not eaten by man. Something good turned up after those who could benefit from it have just gone.

Ange tyene lit/ koko ange  Regret has a painful leg that is why it arrives late. “Had I known” comes after a disappointment.

Arwot ki oda  I am a chief in my own house. No matter how poor one is, he is a chief/boss in his own house or territory.

Atura lipip calo ngok gwok suddenly like a dog’s vomit. Something happened without a warning.
Ayom mudong cen nyero yib lawote  the monkey at the back laughs at the tail of the monkey in front. Someone criticizes another person’s looks/errors without first looking at their own which might be similar.

Aweno pe kilaro ki rwod tol  do not compete for a guinea fowl that has been caught in someone else’s net, because it belongs to the owner of the net. Do not vie for something which is not rightfully yours.

B
Bedo inget bye oweko kom pura kwar staying near the anthill made the antelope brown.
Ber ber pa leteme/lalaa  as beautiful like lateme, a wild fruitless banana. So nice to look at but useless.

Bolo opuk i pii  throwing the tortoise into water ( in order to kill it). Sending someone to a place a kind of punishment, not knowing that the person feels very comfortable there. Tortoises love water. In other words miscalculating and as a result carrying out the opposite.

C
Can pa min Agudi (kimwono te aduku ka kidok ka twomo ki pii) the poverty of Agudi’s mother (she seals the bottom of a basket and then use it for fetching water).

Can pa min Adeng, cito kulu ki pany the poverty of Adeng’s mother, she goes to fetch water with a mortar. Extreme poverty leads to looking for last possible alternative.

Cet gwok kinguku mapud lyet the faaces of a dog must be dealt with while it is still hot.  Things /problems are better dealt with while it is still fresh.

Cing acel pe kweko ngwiny one hand cannot open an anus/vagina . Two or more are better than one.
Cogo oturo wot pa gwok a bone stops the journey of a dog ( because dogs love bones they can easily be distracted by them). Because of something nice the original intention or mission is abandoned.
Cok ogwang iwek gweno chase away the fox and not the chicken. The fox is the bad element. In other words one should support the good person.

D
Dako nywal ki nyeke  a woman gives birth with her co-wife. One can assistance even from a rival
Dongo min bul medo ki latinne/lanyige beats the mother of the drum as well as the child drum.
Ducu oyo to pa min Akec they are all rats from Akec’s mother’s house. They are all the same type, usually implying negative quality e.g they are all lazy, thieves, rude etc.

Dyel ma lapele tur ibad dero  a naughty goat breaks its legs on the arm of a granary. Kids like playing in dangerous places even if they are stopped, some will still continue and as a result get hurt.. A naughty person gets hurt easily.

Dwon odiyo Pilato voices pressured Pilate. Pressure of  the peoeple force Pilate the Roam judge to convict Jesus. Ging in to pressure from the majority.

G
Gin ma ikwiya darri yen  what you do not know (how to cook) finishes the firewood (without getting cooked or soft).  What you do not know how to deal with can waste a lot of your time without success.
Gin maruu doko gweng something which stays too long turns to stone. Hanging on somethign for too long may turn out to be a disadvantage.

Gwok ceto/woto kama ki bolo ire kwon a dog goes where they throw it food. One frequents where one is welcome.

Gwok ma dako bene mako lee a female dog can also catch an animal. A woman is as good as a man.

I
Ibino ma atakka pyeri opong you have come with your waist full of decorations (ready for a big part in a dance).  You have come full of ambitions and self pride. Be warned it might not be so easy.
Ibino ki gwok macol you have come with a black dog. You have misfortune.
Icwako ogwang iwek gweno support the fox and leave the chicken. Sometime the weaker person is also to blame.

Igal ka mwodo aboke you delay eating the first ready part of the harvest  Usually, more abundant rewards come following the beginning, so do not get stuck/overstay at the start.

Ikeng wii ogwang mutwo  you miss the dry head of a fox. Dried meat is a delicacy and one can miss this if one is unhelpful or uncooperative. The dry head of a fox is used here as a description of the contents of the old peoples’ bag, made of skin of  a fox.

Ikeng ki ollele you will only have the gravy and miss the rest. If one is unhelpful or greedy  other people would not assist him/her to get the best. He/she ends only with the superficial one.
Itwaro ma odoko acut You scatter only vultures. If you come late ( at a scene where a animal was killed) you find only vultures, the meat having got finished. It is important to arrive in time.
Iyoke ki ajut kweyo you have hit a small heap of sand. You have luck.

J
Jwi jwi ni/ci Ongole everyday like Ongole. Ongole a hunter was a very successful hunter. He had a net which kept on catching/trapping animals. So when you repeat success then one is being like Ongole.  One can become the favourite as luck keeps on striking one from time to time.

K
Kalli cek pa lawok  kalli (a type of nut) are plenty at a toothless person’s home.
Kicaa/kibegu pa ladit tere tut an old person’s bag is deep. There is abundance of knowledge in an old person. when an old person dishes out something to children, there is usually more where that came from. or tan old person’s wisdom is limitless, full of surprise, experience etc.
Kalwok pe doko katwo the bathing place should not be the drying place as well.
Kuk co kun co this side men the other side men. A tie, parity, equality.

L
Labolo pito to maneke the banana plantain feeds its own killer.   Sometimes one unknowingly looks after ones worst enemy.  For example a parent caring for or bringing up a child who eventually destroys him/her.

Labul tong gweno ngeyo ka pene the one who roasts an egg knows where the navel is. An expert knows better, leave it to him/her.

Labwor ma kok pe mako lee. A lion which roars does not catch an animal. One needs to be cautious and lees noisy in order to succeed.

Lacan makwo pe kinyero a poor person is never laughed at. Do not laugh at a poor person because something may yet come his/her way. Life and not wealth is paramount.

Ladit malam dong itee atabo an elderly  person who is light remains eating when others have left. If one is dignified, and elderly people are supposed to be, one does not continue eating until all the food is finished. In other words one should know when to withdraw or end a visit.

Ladwar neno opoko pii ki wange a hunter sees the water gourd with his eyes. When a hunter us thirsty and is told that there is no drinking water, he insist on checking the gourd  himself. The result may disappoint him if finds there is indeed nothing, or please him if there is some water. Whatever the case, the decision and consequences are his. Whoever insists on something will see the consequences (usually something negative).

Lakwo kidongo to laling a thief is beaten and dies silently (without confessing). It is very difficult to admit one has done something wrong.

Langala ramo/mwodo boo ki toyo one who despises or belittles eats greens with dew. One who does not appreciate what he/she has always ends up with a worse one. As a result of despising, one comes back eating the poorest food, all the good ones having been finished. Traditionally Acholi vegetables are not cooked immediately they are picked form the garden. They are first allowed to wilt in the sun in order to get rid of the insects. When one is very hungry an emergency food (boo which has dew and cooks fast) has to be prepared to feed those who had not eaten, including the despiser.

Lapok cinge ki guna the one who serves has curved fingers (and retains some for him/herself) . One s usually more generous with oneself.

Lapyelo inget yoo nyebe  one who defecates by the road side can make it a habit. Someone who commits crime can become addicted and eventually gets caught because of repeating it.

Lalur mwodo cogo kun geno ngwinye the hyena eats bones while trusting its anus. The person know what he/she is doing, despite the hardship involved.

Lalworo geyo ngwinye ki oluto kwon  a coward clean his/her anus with the stick for making kwon (millet bread). In Acholi villages people use leaves for cleaning their anuses. A coward is too scared to look for leaves especially at night so he/she uses whatever is easily available. Also cowards are called names.

Latong pa latek ladit aye omo the axe of a stubborn/unhelpful person is fetched by an old /stronger person.  if one refuses to cooperate, he/she is denied cooperation too, except the old ones who do so out of sympathy.

Latot kic aye nango cinge the honey harvestor is the one who licks his/her fingers. You reap what you saw.

Lato wang pe peyo wadi a blind person can not pull another blind person. Tow ignorant people can not help each other.

Layom cwinye poto the heart of a circumcised person misses a beat. The one who is circumcised always feels guilty. (The Acholi did not believe in circumcision) . In a society where something wrong has been committed and the suspect is not known, the culprits behaviour betrays the person.

Latin gwok pe tuko ki cak/nyuka  ma ii lawote a puppy does not play with the milk/porridge in another puppy’s stomach. One can not be contented just because some else is.

Lee ma welo poto i bur a visiting animal falls into a hole/pit. A visitor or newcomer can easily get into trouble or gets easily tricked.

Lum acel (ka owot) pe weko to cwe one grass (if it falls)cannot make a house leak. No damage is done if one out of many defects/defaults.

Lum maburuburu ogengo ayweri koko young soft grass prevented the ….. from cooing. Temporary progress may stop your progress.

M
Min gweno pe tongo bolo the mother hen does not pick (food) and throw (to the chicks). When it becomes dark, everyone for him/herself.
Mon nywal ki nyeggi women give birth with their co-wives. One can get assistance even form rivals.
Mot mot ocero munno poto slowly slowly prevented the European from falling. Persistence, however slow, pays.

N
Ngat ma otwoni ngwen okony ki cadi someone who denies you white ants has saved you from dysentery. Someone who denies you something “nice” might be saving you trouble.
Ngor cek pa lawok ngor (edible pea) is plenty at a toothless person’s home.

O
Odo mabor pe neko twol a long stick does not kill a snake. One can not solve a problem from a distance. This is emphasizing good neighbourliness as a neighbour, rather than a relative, may be the first to come to ones aid or rescue.

Ocamo oo i labyel kweri  he/she has eaten until the food reached where one carries a hoe. A person has over eaten.

Ocok man ki byene every ocok ( a type of fruit plant) has its own ant hill. Everyone has his/her own place or problems.

Ogwang pe lwoko gweno a fox does not escort a chicken. One can not expect an enemy to help.

Ojukkwe ceto ki cet iot pa maro Ojukkwe (someone who cannot be prevented or warned from doing bad things) goes with feaces to the mother-in-law’ s residence. It is important to listen to advice.
Okol ocok te the last log.  Problems covering all, cry over helplessness.

Okom oyoko langwec a tree stump has hit a runner. An impediment has stopped someone from achieving something.

Opong wiye woko it is so full the head is outside. The occasion is very well attended.
Opong agana lam it I so full one is unable to talk about it.

Opong ma lalur matar rabo kitenge is it so full the white hyena skirts around .

Opoto ma tugo it has fallen like the coconut. Something nice has happened unexpectedly.

Opuk odoko amida a tortoise has become the favourite. Rebounding on a post from which one has been sacked earlier, please the bouncer. (What was formerly despised, rejected becomes the favourite?)
Opuk malaco/matek kineno i mac a strong/male tortoise will be seen in the fire. When a tortoise is threatened it withdraws into its shell until the danger is over. When thrown into a fire, a greater danger, it will open up in order to get out of the situation. A person equally puts on a cover until a higher pressure is exerted. A strong person will be tested when faced with danger.

Or bwong dyel  being sent on errands is a goat kid. Being sent on errands is good because there are usually rewards.

Oree oketo latin joking made a child. Doing something as a joke may end into something serious.
Oyo man ki wino ume/doge each rat has its own whiskers. Each person is responsible for his/her problems.

P
Pii pe mol dok tere/cen river/water does not flow back to the source. Somethings cannot be reversed, like aging.

Puk con aye yat kot early rising is the medicine for rain. Planting early in the season is good.

R
Rucurucu ocwalo ayom ki yibe rushing or hurrying sent the monkey with its tail (or made the monkey go with its tail, unlike man.) It is good to prepare early and be ready for a  specific task. According to legend both man and monkey were going for an important visit. Man who was ready took of his tail, while monkey was so much in a hurry it left forgetting to remove its tail (or the monkey was in a hurry to leave the creation house so the creator let it go with its tail unlike man who was more patient, allowing the creator to complete his job).

Ruko war ikom okuto wearing a shoe when one has thorns in the feet.  Adding more pain willingly without first dealing with the problem.

T
Te okono pe kiputo the roots of the pumpkin is never uprooted. Do not destroy your reputation, friendship or asset on leaving as you might come back and need it or it will assist you.
Tek callo kolo man gwok as difficult as castrating a dog. It is an impossible task.

Tiyo obalo akeyo aging has spoilt akeyo ( a type of vegetable which is nice and soft when young, but hard and bitter when old). Aging spoils beauty.

Twol pwodo yibbe a snake wriggles/beats its tail. A defeated person tries to be strong/comes forward when he/she is no longer able to.

Twol nwoyo lakke a snake repeats its bite. Bad things have a way of repeating themselves.
Twon dyang oye ladod?ogwil  a bull has accepted a yoke/rope. Because of pressure/torture one can accepts something one is very opposed to or against. Pressure forces someone to accept(even unwillingly) a situation.

Twon gweno lworo labuce a cock fears the one who removes its feathers. When cocks fight, the stronger one beats the weaker one so much that it plucks off some of the latter feathers leading to the beaten one‘s permanent fear of the victor.

Twon gweno pe kok pa yaa a cock does not crow beyond its border (because there are always stronger ones beyond its border). One should always be conscious of ones limitations and restrictions.

Tingo dul ma opong ki nginingini carrying a log full of black ants. Getting involved in a situation unstudied before hand normally results in a bad choice or unexpected problems.

Twon gweno lworo labucce a cock fears the one who removes its feathers. One fear the one who is likely to hurt or has hurt him/her.

Twon gweno pa ladiro odoko kiler the chicken of the miser has become full of tendon. Miserliness can make one miss the best part of ones wealth.

W
Wang ceng odok I ode the eye of the sun has returned to its house. A reconciliation (between a wife and husband) after a rift.

Wek akuma ki rwode/rwede leave the trap to the owner. Do not vie for something which is not yours, something you did not set up.

Wor obwumu ladobo night/darkness camouflages a leper.
Wot ki lakwany lum iwangi travel with someone to remove the grass from your eyes. It is good to have companion, especially when travelling or visiting.

Y
Yito pe duny nono it does not smoke for nothing. There is no smoke without fire.
Yito duny lubu agulu smoke follows the pot. A bad smell comes from the source. Or the one who has dodged a problem he/she has caused is finally caught by revelations by the same person.
Yom cwiny oneko latinna generosity killed Latina. Do not be too generous like Latina who died because of it. Legend?

Yoo aryo oloyo lalur two roads defeated the hyena. A hyena was hurriedly following the smell of meat reached a junction and was confused as to which branch to follow. It lost time and could not decide which one was correct as the smell was coming from both directions. It is not possible to do two things at the same time. One should choose and stick to that choice. Or one cannot be faithful to two masters/ mistresses.

Ywayo mori ki lagadagidi pulling safari ants with a rope. Bringing problem innocently.