Exclusive list of Zulu Proverbs and sayings

Much of Africa’s history has been passed on through the generations orally. One consequence of this is that traditional wisdom has been crystallized in the form of proverbs.

Zulu is one of the South African tribes that has stood the test of times in upholding the community’s culture.

Not only does the tribe’s history live in their dress code and traditional ceremonies, but also the Zulu proverbs and sayings.

Like most African communities, the Zulu have a set of wise sayings whose meanings are symbolic. These sayings are, in most cases, used to reinforce specific topics.

Even though they are in Zulu, they can be translated into English without losing their intended meaning. Here are some of the proverbs in Zulu;

1. Isitsha esihle asidleli

Translation: A nice plate is not long eaten off from.

Meaning: It is used to express sentiments on the damage that has been done on a good thing.

2. Uthanda ukubukwa njengesiyephu

Translation: He likes to be looked at is like a long-hairy goat.

Meaning: It is used to describe someone who is an attention seeker.

3. Ikhiwane elihle ligcwala izibungu

Translation: The nice fig is often full of worms.

Meaning: It is used to warm people who are fond of focusing on the good side of something, forgetting on the negative side of it.

4. Uphakathi komhlane nembeleko

Translation: he is between the back and the sack.

Meaning: It is used to refer to someone who is in the middle of cosy situations.

5. Kuhlonishwa kabili

Translation: Respect is two ways.

Meaning: For you to earn respect you have to give it.

6. Akukho mango ongenaliba

Translation: There is no hillside without a grave.

Meaning: Death is one of the unavoidable occurences.

7. Uchakide uhlolile imamba yalukile

Translation: The weasel is at ease because the mamba has gone out.

Meaning: When the oppressor is away, the oppressed will find their way into doing what they like.

8. Udla indlu yakho njengentwala.

Translation: You eat your hut (hair) like a lice.

Meaning: You should not despise someone or something that was once beneficial to you.

9. Inkunzi isematholeni

Translation: The bull is among the calves.

Meaning: A great leader was once an ordinary man, the same way, the leaders of tomorrow are the youths of today.

10. Amanxiwa Kamili Mbuya

Translation: A rolling stone gathers no moss.

Meaning: Someone who does not settle in one place doing something does not accumulate any wealth.

11. Isikhuni sibuya nomkhwezeli.

Meaning: The lit fire-brand has returned with one tending fire.

Translation: If you choose to play with a risky situation, be sure that you will have to suffer the consequences.

12. Enethunga ayisengeli phansi.

Translation: He who has a milking-pail should not be obliged to milk on the ground.

Meaning: If you have an opportunity, do not let others have it and be inconvenienced, all in the name of kind.

13. Libunjwa liseva.

Translation: The day is worked while it is still fresh.

Meaning: Make good use of opportunities when they are available.

14. Ukubona kanye ukubona kabili

Translation: Once beaten twice shy.

Meaning: Once you get into an unpleasant situation, you learn the art of being cautious.

15. Iso liwela umfula ugcwele

Translation: The eye crosses the full river.

Meaning: If you have a desire to do something, you cannot be stopped by anything.

16. Amaqili kathengani

Translation: Cunning men do not deal with each other.

Meaning: People of the same mischievous character cannot relate with one another.

17. Akukho nkwali yaphendela enye

Translation: There is no partridge that scratches for another.

Meaning: Everyone must learn to do things by themselves.

Apart from the proverbs, the Zulu also have interesting Zulu idioms whose meanings are closely related to that of the proverbs.

Zulu quotes 

Apart from the proverbs and idioms, there are interesting Zulu quotes that are also part of the community’s culture. They include.

18. Ukuph’ ukuziphakela

Translation: Giving is to dish out for oneself.

19. Kuhlonishwana kabili

Translation: Respect is mutual.

20. Bonke abantu bazalwa bekhululekile belingana ngesithunzi nangamalungelo. Bahlanganiswe wumcabango nangunembeza futhi kufanele baphathane ngomoya wobunye.

Translation: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Apart from the general quotes, there are Zulu love quotes that one can use to spice up their relationships.

Zulu phrases that you may find useful

The community also has some of the most common phrases that one could us to spice up a conversation. These are some of the most common phrases in Isizulu.


Translation: Where are you from?

Uhlala kuphi?

Translation: Where do you stay?

Igama lami ngu…

Translation: My name is…

Ngisaqala ukufunda isiZulu

Translation: I’ve just started learning Zulu.

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