Swahili Methali and Misemo (Proverbs and Sayings)

One of the things students of Swahili language and culture might enjoy learning the most is methali and misemo, which are common proverbs or sayings.  Along the Swahili coast, methali and misemo might be displayed on kangas to communicate subtle messages, incorporated in song lyrics, or used to teach moral values and lessons.  Here are a few examples of kangas with methali from a Swahili language and culture website:

Usimlaumu sisi mizi sukari haimaliza
(Don’t blame the ant, it won’t finish all the sugar)


Heri kuniuliza kuliko kunichugunza
(Better ask me than spying on me)


Mapenzi hayana macho ya kuona
(Love does not have eyes to see, or love is blind)


Other methali to learn and use:

  • Haraka haraka haina baraka
    (Hurrying has no blessing)
  • Haba na haba hujaza kibaba
    (Little by little fills the container)
  • Mapenzi ni kikohozi hayawezi kufichika
    (Love is a cough that cannot be hidden)


Some practice using methali:


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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.