Acholi Proverbs and Idioms

Proverbs and idioms occupy a central place in Acholi culture. Colorful and highly descriptive, they are used to educate and advise in daily life, and to entertain the children and young people of the family during nightly gatherings around the wang oo, or fireplace. Below are a selection of Acholi proverbs and idioms common in the central Acholi dialect used in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum Pader, Nwoya, Amuru and Omoro.

Proverbs (Caro Lok

Adong med i kom can: A slap adds to suffering

Agulu odiyo otac: The pot squeezes the head-pad

Akuri ma welo cam neno malo: A visiting dove eats while watching the sun

Akuri ma welo maro moko i kom kwaka: A visiting dove is easily trapped

Aling-aling ma kicelo wanga ki cogo?: Should I keep silent when someone has hit my eye with a bone?

Alunya loyo lakwong: The follower is more severe than the first

Aming-aming ongolo nge gweno: The small white ant appears after the chickens have gone to sleep

Ange tyene lit, koko ange: Regret has sore legs, that’s why it arrives late

Arwot ki oda: I am a chief in my own house

Atura lipip calo ngok gwok: Suddenly, like a dog’s vomit

Agwata matek mac aye buko: Fire breaks the strong calabash

Lanyap lake pa lyedi: The lazy person has sharp teeth


Dwong dok: Plenty of mouths (i.e. a gossip or chatterbox)

Lit wic: Pain of the head (i.e. stubbornness)

Mit dok: Sweet mouth (i.e. to have a big appetite)

Balo wic: Spoiling the head (i.e. to manipulate someone or to waste someone’s time)

Col cwiny: Darkness of the heart (i.e. to wish someone ill)

Leng cwiny: Clean heart (i.e. to wish someone well)

Tuc ic: Depth of the stomach (used to describe an introverted or taciturn person)

Ngic kom: Coldness of the body (i.e. laziness)



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