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B M D17 E2T 









Captain G. MERRICK, R.G.A. 



Dryden House, 43, Gerrard Street, W. 







New and Revised Edition. 

Crown 8vo, cloth. 210 pages. Price 5s. 

Drtdkn HorsE, 43, Gekkaeb Street, W. 



Peeface vii 

Introduction 1 

Proverbs 9 


Common Expressions 81 

Miscellaneous 91 

Grammatical 102 

4-oS'7 4i 


Within the last week or two it has been pointed out 
to me that my statement, that no previous collection of 
Hausa proverbs had been made^ is incorrect. There are 
at least three : — 

1. " Lehrbuch der hausanischer Sprache," von A. 
Mischlich (this contains 70). 

2. Canon Kobinson's new Grammar (this contains 
upwards of 100). 

3. " Haussa-Sprichworter und Haussa-Lieder," von 
Kudolf Prietze. 

It was also pointed out that, as regards the gram- 
matical notes at the end of this book, many people 
would not know the Bolewa, Kerrikerri, or Gerawa 

Without going into detail, one may say that the 
Kerrikerri, Eolewa, and Gerawa tribes occupy the 
country between Hausa and Bornu, somewhat to the 

The Bolewa and Gerawa claim to have originally 
come from a district called Gera, in Bagarmi, many 

viii Preface 

hundreds of years ago, and their traditions corroborate 

A mountain range, Gere Gebirge, appears on Fie gel's 
map between 11° and 12° lat., and east of 18° long. 
The distance between this mountain and Fika is some 
500 miles as the crow flies. 

Hausa is undoubtedly closely connected with Bolewa. 

Flegel notes the close connection between Hausa and 
the language of Logone. 

Thus a link would be established between Hausa and 
the East, as opposed to Hausa and the North. 

G. Merrick. 

Portrush, July 2Uh, 1905. 



Though Hausa abounds in proverbs and sayings, no 
attempt has hitherto been made to collect them. 

In Schon's " Magana Hausa " there is a short list, 
but there are no explanatory notes, and many specimens 
can hardly be called proverbs. Sir R. Burton pub- 
lished a book, entitled "Negro Wit and Wisdom," 
which contains proverbs in Kanuri, Yoruba, and other 
languages, but none in Hausa. 

Apart from the fact that these sayings are a guide to 
grammar, history, and other subjects of interest, they 
are also of great practical value. 

The manners and customs of everyday life, social 
conditions, the virtues most admired, the vices most 
despised, &c., &c., are shown us from the native point 
of view. 

They enter into ordinary conversation to an extent 
of which one does not become aware in the routine of 
a provincial court, or of the " orderly room." 

Many quite common expressions and allusions require 
some explanation before their significance is really 

2 _ . , ' . ^ ^ . Hansa Proverbs 

As an instance of this the following may be quoted : — 

Eations were being issued, and there were two parties 
to receive them, one of police and one of soldiers ; the 
issuing officer was military. As the men were taking 
it away a policeman was overheard to say, 

^oja ha su hukan soodi, 
referring to the proverb No. 3, Mai chi da lava ha 
slii Icuka^n soodi, and meaning that the soldiers had 
got a very full share, as the officer issuing was, so to 
speak, their " uwa." 

Also vide 293, &c. 

A few general remarks on the Hausa and his 
language may not be out of place here. 

There is, among people who have only a superficial 
knowledge, a tendency to regard Hausas, and indeed all 
black men, as stupid and thick-headed. 

So far from being stupid, the Hausa has a very 
lively imagination and great intelligence. His point of 
view is different to that of a European, and his means 
of comparison more limited, but it is to our failure to 
appreciate this, rather than to his stupidity, that mis- 
understandings are generally due. 

Hausa is not, strictly speaking, a written language, 
that is to say, it has no literature. It can be, and is, 
written in Arabic characters, formed in a very clumsy 
way by writing perpendicularly from top to bottom of 
the paper, which has to be turned round to read from 
right to left. 

But any African, or for that matter European, lan- 
guage could, if required, be WTitten in a similar way. 

A much larger percentage of men can write than is 
usually supposed. One comes across them in every 

Introduction 3 

trade and profession — horse-boys, soldiers, carriers, 

If asked to write they will always produce a line or 
two of Arabic from the Quran, never Hausa. 

A mallam will write a letter in Hausa, but, if he 
has any regard for his reputation for learning, he prefers 
to do so in Arabic, which language holds much the 
same position in Central Sudan now as Latin did in 
Europe in the Middle Ages. 

The whole of the correspondence found in Sokoto and 
Kano in 1903, some 800 letters, was written in Arabic, 
and comprised letters from every corner of Nigeria, on 
all kinds of subjects, from questions of land tenure to a 
report on a slave raid. 

The following extract from " Notes de Linguistique 
Africaine, Les Puis," by Capt. Th. Grimal de Giraudon, 
is of some interest in this connection. It might have 
been written of Hausa : — 

" Chez les Puis du Senegal, comme d'ailleurs chez 
toutes les peuplades musulmanes de I'Afrique, il n'y a 
d'autre langue ecrite que I'Arabe, que, seuls, quelques 
individus plus ou moins lettres, que nous appelons com- 
munement des marabouts, savent lire et ecrire ; ils ne 
le comprennent pas tous egalement, quelques-uns meme; 
le comprennent a peine ; mais ces derniers ont acquis, 
du moins, I'habitude de pouvoir lire dans leur langue 
ce qui est ecrit en arabe ou ecrire en arabe ce qui est 
dit en leur langue. Ceci pose, supposons qu'un Dyolof 
des environs de Saint-Louis veuille addresser une lettre 
a un Peul de Matam pour lui parler d'un Europeen 
qu'il connait : il ira trouver un marabout et lui dictera, 
entre autres, la phrase suivante en wolof : ' tubab bile 

4 Hausa Proverbs 

haklfina lal.^ Ce blanc est tres bon : le marabout 
eerira en arabe plus ou moins correct : 

uJjplj ^JL }i\j ^jfj^^ \JA 'Get Europeen est tres bon.' 
Le Pul, en recevant la lettre, ira egalement la porter a 
un marabout, qui, apres avoir dechiffre a voix basse, 
lira a baute voix en pul: ^ tuhalz I'o o modyo nohevV 
(blanc ce lui bon beaucoup). Et de meme partout oii 
il y a des marabouts lisant et ecrivant Parabe. Quel- 
quefois cependant, s'il s'agit d'une communication de 
Pul a Pul, et surtout si le marabout sait moins ecrire 
I'arabe que le lire, ce dernier transcrira de son mieux le 
texte pul en caracteres arabes, Dieu sait avec quelles 
incorrections : mais I'alpliabet arabe, meme modifie, se 
prete si mal a la transcription du pul, comma d'ailleurs 
de toutes les langues indigenes, que ces essais sont 
toujours tres difficiles et le plus souvent impossibles 
adechiffrer; j'en ai eu quelques-uns entre les mains, 
et je puis affirmer qu'ils n'ont aucune valeur litteraire. 
Que quelques lettres arabisants de I'interieur se soient 
livres a des tentatives litteraires en pul ou toute autre 
langue, la chose n'a en elle-meme rien d'impossible ; mais, 
outre qu'ils ont du etre bien vite rebutes par les diffi- 
cultes de la transcription en caracteres arabes, il est 
certain que leurs elucubrations, beaucoup trop em- 
preintes d'arabismes, doivent etre incomprehensibles 
pour leurs compatriotes que les traductions de la Bible 
faites par les missionaires." 

My own experience entirely coincides with the above. 
I have always made a point of inquiring for Hausa 
manuscripts at every town visited, and have at different 
times received a large number of letters from natives. 
On three occasions only have I obtained manu- 

Introduction 5 

scripts written in Hausa, on their own initiative, by 

One was a poem called " Waka'l Sirati " produced 
by an old mallam of Argungu, a place wliere one might 
expect to get a good deal of manuscript, for it has not 
been destroyed within the last two or three centuries, 
as have most other Nigerian towns. 

The second was a letter written by a mallam of 
Beibei, a town in Ariawa, which no mallam, who has 
seen it, has been able to read. 

The third was a letter from a horse-boy^ containing 
a complaint against a soldier, of which again no mallam 
could make head or tail. 

In addition to this I have procured from mallams a 
good deal of Hausa manuscript and have gone through 
it with them and with other mallams. While they 
could generally understand what they had written 
themselves they read other men's writing with the 
greatest difficulty. 

All, however, read Arabic manuscript with some facility, 
so that it appears to be the language rather than the 
letters which puzzles them. From this I infer that 
the only literature which Hausa possesses is really oral, 
not written, and consists of proverbs, simple poems, and 
war songs. 

Many poems can hardly be understood without 
some knowledge of Arabic ; they teem with references 
to Muhammad, the prophets, &c. 

They have occasionally been committed to writing. 
Most mallams, however, know all the well-known songs 
by heart. 

For example, in the song of the mallam of the 

6 Hausa Proverbs 

B. Gwari, which was given a mallam to read, two lines 
had been accidentally omitted, this did not disconcert 
him at all, and he inserted them as he read. To test 
him, one or two lines were picked out at random and he 
was asked to read them, and though, when repeating 
the whole poem, he had apparently been able to do so 
easily, it was with the greatest difficulty that he de- 
ciphered the lines when presented to him one at a time. 

The war songs are very simple, and most districts 
have their own. 

The people are very fond of verbal competitions, such 
as riddles, naming as many trees, birds, animals, &c., 
as possible without pausing, or like our " Peter Piper 
picked, &c." 

Ɓx. Ɓabha ha ya ha hahha haha ha. 

It is probably partly due to this trait in the national 
character that the vocabulary of the language is so 
much more full (" da zurufi " as they say themselves) 
than that of its neighbours. 

So much more expressive is it, that it is no un- 
common thing to find two natives of the same tribe 
prefer to converse together in Hausa (Kanuri, Fulani, 

The grammatical structure of Hausa is essentially 
simple, and there is little doubt that it belongs to 
a group of Central African languages as yet un- 

The very fact that a considerable number of tcords 
are derived from Arabic, ivMle the grammar is entirely 
different, tends to shoiv that the original vocabulary 
was limited. 

In the older proverbs Arabic words are not frequent. 

Introduction J 

and, on the other hand, words are used that are now 
seldom heard. 

The languages spoken by the Bolewa and Kerrikerri 
tribes are probably dialects of Hausa. 

Songhai presents a great many points of resemblance, 
and the proverbs of more western tribes show a striking 
similarity of ideas. The eastern languages, including 
Kanuri, do not seem to be so closely connected. 

The present book contains : — 

(1) Proverbs, common sayings, riddles, &c. 

(2) Some idioms in common use. 

(3) A few odds and ends of general interest. 

A full explanation of any proverb, thought to require 
it, is given, together with the nearest English 

Proverbs with the same signification are generally 
grouped together. 

Some sayings explain themselves, and in these 
cases that translation has been given which seems to 
best express the sense and at the same time to be as 
near literal as possible. 

The idioms have been found generally useful and are 
in daily use. 

The system of literation is the same as that 
employed by previous writers on the language ; but a 
few accents have been inserted to emphasize the pro- 
nunciation of some words, and for the same reason oo 
has been sometimes used instead of u and ee 
instead of i. The ^vord mani (to me) has been written 
minny, as it is pronounced. Two dots over a u are 
intended to show that it is pronounced rather like an i 
in English. 

8 Hausa Proverbs 

The gi ammatical notes were added as being of 
interest to the more advanced students of Hansa. All 
the matter found in the book has been verified in 
actual conversation, and the explanation of the meanings 
and how they are arrived at has been frequently 

The native's way of looking at things, his stand- 
point, is so radically different from ours, that the exact 
meaning of many proverbs is very easily missed. 

When being questioned as to the origin or meaning 
of a word natives do not always understand what the 
particular point is which puzzles a European : their 
explanation is, therefore, often somewhat hard to 

Sometimes, in order to save themselves trouble, they 
will jump at the first suggestion made and maintain 
that it is the correct one. The same man has been 
known to give three different interpretations of the 
same proverb on three successive days. 

The explanation of many of the words and sentences 
given may therefore not always be correct ; they have, 
however, been obtained from native sources and, even 
in their present form, it is hoped that they will be 
found of some use to students of the language. 

Of these proverbs, &c., some were obtained from a 
native of Kabbi, some from a Ba Asbenchi who had 
lived all his life in Kano, some from a mallam of 
Zaria who had lived some years in Kano, and the rest 
from soldiers, carriers, &c. 


1 A yi, a gamma, ta fi takamma, gobe a koma. 

To do, to finish, is better tliaii "don't care, come 
back to-morrow." 

Takamma, swagger : it comes to mean here not 
to work hard so as to show independence and 
disregard for authority. 

Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day. 

2 Hakki da ka rena slii kan soni maka ido. 

The grass which you disregard will injure your 

Don't forget to take all precautions. 
No man or thing is too insignificant to be altogether 

3 Maichi da uwa ba shi kuka'n soodi. 

He who eats with his mother will not have to ask 
for the soodi, for she will give it to him as 
a matter of course. 

Soodi, the surplus or remainder of anything. The 
usual way of eating is for every one to dip his 
hand in turn into a calabash until the food 
is finished : the scrapings are the soodi, and 
this the child of the house would naturally get. 
Vide 70. 

4 Ba afafi giandumma ran taffia. 

The day of starting is not the time to prepare the 

Giandumma, the gourd or calabash with a narrow 
neck, which all carriers use for water on a march. 

Fafewa, hollowing out the pith from the inside of the 

Don't leave a thinof till the last minute. 

10 Hausa Proverbs 

[; 5 Rua ba su yami banza. 

Water does not get bitter without a cause. 

There is reason for everything. 

6 Kadda gammu ya birkitchi maidemmi. 

Don't let the gammu upset the carrier of a 
bundle of corn. 

Don't let the gammu become so big that it even- 
tually gets bigger than the load that is being 

Don't keep on giving things away until you become 
the poor man and the man to whom you give the 
rich one. 

Don't keep on giving your subordinates more and more 
power until at length they are more powerful than 
you are. 

Gammu, the pad the carrier puts between his head 
and his load. It is usually a small cushion stuffed 
with chaff or cotton, sometimes merely twisted 

7 Yawa shi kan sa zarre ya ja duchi. 

Quantity makes the cotton draw a stone. 
Unity is strength. 

8 Makafo ya rassa ido, ya cbe ido na wari. 

The blind man lacks eyes, he says eyes stink. 

Na might perhaps be written 'na, as it is the 
abbreviation of yana, tana, tSrc, or rather it 
is more usually used in conjunction with a per- 
sonal pronoun than by itself. 

Sour grapes. 

9 Maidoki ya koma kutarr. 

How are the mighty fallen. 

Haiisa Proverbs II 

10 Na dumka riga babu wuya, Avonda ya yanka 
wuva shi sa ma kainshi. 

I have sewn a ricja without a neck, let him who 
cuts a neck for it put it on. 

The riga is a shirt with a hole at the top for the 
head to be put through : if made without this 
wuya or neck, one would have to be cut before 
the riga could be put on. 

If the cap fits put it on. 

1 1 Ba don " riga'n domin " ba, da mutum ya 
mutu masiachi. 

If it were not for rigcin domin a man (a fellow) 
would die poor. 

Riga'n domin, because of some one else, for some 
one else's sake, through some one else's in- 

Na shigga " riga'n domin " wuri'n Abdu. 

I got it through Abdu. 

12 Ba na fassa randa'n daki ba, na waje ba ta 
shio^o^a ba. 

I won't break the randa of the house until the 
one outside (new one) has been brought 

Don't be off with the old love until you are on with 
the new. 

This might very well be said to a guide, who asks if 
he may go when the village to which he is guiding 
you is reached : meaning, " I can't let you go until 
I get another guide, for otherwise I may be left 
without any one at all," 

Randa, a big water jar about 2 ft. high, which always 
stands in the " gidda " : it is too big to be con- 
veniently carried, and if moved when full would 
probably break. 

12 Hausa Proverbs 

13 Ba ayi ma birri burrtu. 
Don't do huTvtu to a monkey. 

Burrtu, a black bird with a large bill. It stands about 

2 ft. high, and is usually seen on the ground; 

when it rises a white patch shows on each wing. 

Hunters put the skin on their head when they 

stalk game. 
You don't get the better of him in that way. 

11 A buggi karifi da saura'n zafi, en ya fooclii 
sai a wohalla. 

Strike while the iron is hot. 

15 Idan rua ya zubar, ya ber tulu, ya yi keau. 

Even if the water is spilt, as long as the tulu is 
not broken, no harm. 

Tulu, the jar used for carrying water from the well 
or stream ; it has a small mouth. Different 
districts have different patterns. 

Don't cry over spilt milk. That can be remedied. 

16 Rigaya zua fadda ba slii ne samu'n sariki 


"First come to the council" does not always 
" catch king." 

First come is not always first served. 

Though a man may have been in the king's service a 

long time, it does not follow that he will always 

have the king's ear. 

17 Ba domin tsawo akanga wata ba. 

The moon is not seen because of great stature. 

It is by no merit of yours that you have done that. 
Any one can do it. 

18 Fawa biu tana bata hankali'n kuda. 

Two pieces of meat confuse the mind of the fly. 
To hesitate between two things, two courses, &c. 

Hausa Proverbs 


19 Da kuka'n kura, da batcliewa'n akwia duka 

daia ne. 

The cry of the hyena and the losing of the goat 
are one and the same. 
Give a dog a bad name. 

20 Gurgu ba shi koiya gurgu taffia. 
The blind leading the blind. 

21 Rama ba mutua ba. 

Being thin is not dying. 
Appearances are deceptive. 

■^2 Rijia ta bayes, gugaa ta lianna. 
The well gives, but the bucket refuses. 

The great man orders a distribution of food, money, 
&c., but his agent does not issue it. 

Might be used when an official, who is dependent on 
an interpreter, gives an order ; meaning " he may 
give an order, but I doubt whether it will be 
carried out." 

23 Ya zamma wandu dei dei da gatto'n kowa. 

He is (a pair) of trousers that fit every one's 
He is so powerful that every one fears him. 

24 Mai abu kan san barra. 

A man with wealth will always get a servant. 
San, a contraction of samu. 

25 Mai akwia ya yi taffia derri, bale mai kura. 
If the owner of a goat is not afraid to travel by 

night, why should the owner of a hyena 
be (seeing that night is the usual time for 
a hyena to move about)? 

14 Hm^sa Proverbs 

26 Da ayi jiranka ga abinchi, gara akayi ka 

jira'n abinchi. 

Better that you should be made to wait for food 
than that food should be made to wait for 

27 En chi dadi da yawa en wohalla, gara en 

chi babu dadi wonda ni ke koshi. 

Better to eat something not tasty which is enough, 
than to eat something tasty which upsets 

Enough is as good as a feast. 

28 Mai tambaya ba shi bata, sai dei asheerinsa 

ka tonoa. 

He who asks does not go wrong, but his secret is 
dug up. 

The first part of this proverb is very commonly used 
by itself with the meaning, " Always ask if you 
are in doubt." 

The meaning, as it stands, is — before you ask for infor- 
mation be quite sure that it will not give away 
your object, i.e. if you wish to conceal it. 

29 Rami'n mugunta a ginnashi gajere. 
Ɗio- the hole of evil shallow. 


30 Kango'n Allah maiwuya'n tuk-yewa. 

The place which Allah has made a hango is hard 
to fill. 

Kango, any place which has at one time been in- 
habited, but is now deserted. 
An unlucky man will always be unlucky. 

Haiisa Proverbs 1 5 

31 Ganni'n ido ba shi hanna chi'n kai. 

Seeing the eye does not prevent one from eating 
the head. 

If a chief's follower was brought before a judge and 
his master came to ask that he might be let off, 
this might be said to him, meaning, '' Though I 
see you I shall still do justice, I shall not let him 

32 Zakarra a-rataye ya yi koatuh ? 

Can a cock slung by both legs peck at corn ? 

Kotu or koatuh, the pecking action of hens eating 

Can I do it in my present position ? 

33 lya rua fidda kai. 

He, who can swim, can save himself. 
Fidda, a contraction of " fita da." 

34 Da kura tana da magani'ii zawo, da ta yi 

ma kanta. 

Had the kura the means of curing itself of zav:o 
it would have done so. 
Physician heal thyself. 

35 Daki ya tasshi, ragaya ya zona ? 

Will the ragaya remain when the hut has started 
on a journey ? 

Will the child remain when his father goes away. 

Is it likely that I shall remain here when you, my 
master, are going ? 

Ragaya, the net or basket of string which will be 
found hanging from the roof of any hut ; all kinds 
of odds and ends are put into it. Vide 188. 

36 Asa zuchia ta chi, shi ya kawo ji'n yungwa. 

To make the heart eat is to bring a feeling of 
Wishing for a thing makes one feel the want of it. 

1 6 Hates a Proverbs 

37 Enna darra'n gammi. 

Might be said to a man who claims to have met 
you before and you deny it ; it is as if one 
said, " How can I have met you, it would 
be as easy for the pebbles of the darra 
board to meet." 

The idea is, I think, that as the pebbles in the game 
of darra are separated by the partitions of the 
board, so have you been from the man you are 
speaking to. 

Darra is universal throughout the Central Sudan. 
The board is made either of wood or is merely a 
double row of holes in the ground. Small brass 
models of darra boards are among the many 
Ashanti " weights." 

38 Zua da kai wonda ya fi sako. 

Going oneself is what is better than a substitute. 
The master's eye. Personal supervision. 

39 Sai anbatta akan nemi mashiggi. 

One only seeks a guide when one has lost the 

Mashiggi, a guide. 

40 Zaki ba na seye ba, ba a-rena gwanda'n 


Sweet food that has cost you nothing is not to be 
despised even if it is only a bush pawpaw. 

Zaki has the guttural " kaf," and means sweet food. 

41 Gaadu ba na uwa ba, ba na uba ba, en 

anbaka alura ka gode. 

An inheritance, which does not come either from 
your mother or your father, you are thankful 
for it even if it is only a needle. 

Hausa Proverbs 17 

42 Babba juji ne, kowa ya zo da shaara sai ya 

The chief (or head of the family) is like a dust-heap, 
every one comes with his sweepings and 
deposits them. 
The master is the recipient of all complaints and troubles. 

43 Dauda'n gora achikki akan sha slii. 
The dirt inside a gora is drunk inside. 

Swallow your wrath. 

Gora, a water-bottle ; note that it is pronounced 
differently from gora, a male bamboo. 

44 Sai kwarri ya chikka, saanan akan yi zagia. 
Only when the quiver is full do you make a zagia. 

Don't give anything away until your own wants are 

Zagia, when a quiver is full it is usual to pull two 

or three arrows out a little so that they may be 

easily got at if suddenly wanted ; this projection 

of arrows is called the zagia. 

45 KunkuiTU ya so dambe, ba shi da yasa. 

The tortoise wishes to fight with his fists, but he 
has no fingers. 
Impotent wrath. 

46 Gero ya saba da ganni'n rua tun ba na 

surfesbi ba. 

Gero (millet) has seen (has been familiar with) 
w^ater before it was put into the turmi to 
have its skin taken off. 

If a man asks one for anything and is refused, he may 
make this reply, as much as to say, '' Ail right, I 
can get plenty more."' 

Siirfee, the operation of taking off the " dusa." 

Apropos of this, there is a saying describing the 
disadvantages of being without a wife. '* Sissikka, 
siirfee, bakachi, tankaddi, nikka, dakka, dauka'n 
rua aiki'n gobro (or goro). 

Clearing the chaff, taking off the dusa, sifting the gari, 
winnowing, rubbing on stones, pounding in a 
turmi, are all work which a bachelor has to do. 


1 8 Hausa Proverbs 

47 Komi ya ke chikkin dan kaza, shafu ya 

deddi da sanninslii. 

Whatever there is inside a chicken the hawk has 
been familiar with it for a very long time. 
There is not much that you can teach me about that. 

48 Ansan baki yana da ja'n myo, akan zubar 

da fari. 

It is well known that the month has red spittle 
(or that it looks red in the mouth), still 
white comes out. 

Though spittle in the mouth looks red, still, when it 
comes out, it is white, so, though you are hot with 
anger, let it come out cool. 

I know you are angry, still forgive him. 

49 Gishiri nema (na yi ma) main kadde daria'n 

rana, randa rua ya zo gishiri ya ji 

Salt laughs at mai'n liadde while the sun 
shines, but when rain comes it hides its 

Mai'n kadde, shea butter. 

He laughs best who laughs last. Vide 63. 

50 Inda gainya'n doka daia ya fadi, asa gain- 

ya'n dorowa derri ba rufe wurinn. 

Where one doTca leaf has fallen, it would require 
more than 100 dorowa leaves to fill its 

100 men will not fill the place of the man who has been 

removed or died ; you will never get one so good. 
The leaf of the doka is a large flat one ; that of the 

dorowa is like that of an ash tree or a fern ; 

when a leaf falls all the side pieces (pinnae) fall 

Wurinn, note the accent on the " inn," meaning " in 

that place." 

Hausa Proverbs 19 

51 Idan gamba tana da dadi a nono, nono ma 

yana da dadi a wuri'n gamba. 
If gamha is pleasant (to drink) with sour milk, 

sour milk is pleasant to drink with 

Gamba, the flour of millet, to which water has been 

If he likes me, I like him. If he agrees, I do. 

52 Ba rabbo ba, dan wabi ya fada a wutta. 

That was not fated to be my share : it is as though 

a dan tvahi had fallen into the fire and 

been burnt to death. 
It was fated that I should not get it ; it is no loss. 
Dan wabi, a child that is fated to die. 
Mai wabi, a woman whose children die one after 

Itachi'n wabi, a tree whose fruit falls off" without 


53 Wurinda baki ya karkatta, nan myo kan 

Wherever the mouth turns, there spittle is 

54 Ganni ya fi ji. 

Seeing is better than hearing. 

To be able to say that you have seen a thing with your 

own eyes is better than only to know by hearsay. 
The full formula is — Q. Ka ganni? A. Xa ganni. 

Q. Ka ji ? A. Na ji. 
The questioner now says — ganni ya fi ji — seeing is 


55 Zamma dubara, ta ii karifi. 

Stratagem is better than brute force. 

Na yi maka dubara. I give you a bit of advice. 

56 Kadda ya yi cbikki, ya haifu wuya. 

Don't let him conceive and bring forth trouble. 
Don't do something that you will be sorry for after- 

20 Hausa Proverbs 

57 Ganni ba chi ba ne. 
To see is not to obtain. 

To see a thing does not necessarily mean that you will 
obtain it. Chi, literally to eat, often means to 

58 Yo da gobe magani'n wata rana. 

To-day and to-morrow are the cure for wata 

Wata rana signifies an indefinite time, — Sai wata 
rana, — we will meet again some day. The idea 
is that every day that passes brings " wata rana " 

59 Tilas ba ta rassa daki'n kwana. 

Compulsion does not lack a house to sleep in. 

Necessity knows no law. 

Tilas is often pronounced chilas : more especially in 
Kabbi and Ariawa. 

60 Tilas kaia'n gwewa, yaro na ganni, babba 

na dauka. 

Compulsion is the load of ^i^eV-a; the boy looks 
on while his master carries it. 

Gwewa, elephantiasis of the testicles ; it is a disease 
from which a boy could not sufi'er, and is a load 
which cannot be transferred to him. 

Na, Vide^. 

61 KafFa'n woni ba ta wa woni taffia. 

The legs of one man are no good to another for 

62 Idan dei a chini (ni=ne) ba a seyer ba, kaza 

ta ii doki. 

If it is a matter of eating and not of selling, then 
the hen is better than a horse. 
Everything has its own peculiar uses. 

Hausa Proverbs 21 

63 Mankadde ba ya saba da tandu ba. 

The manliadde is not used to (fit for) the 

Mankadde, or more correctly main kaddu, is a grease 

or ointment (shea butter), 
Tandu, a narrow-necked leather bottle. 
If shea butter were put in a tandu it could not 

easily be got out ; it is not a suitfcble receptacle 

for it. Tide 49. 

64 Da wutta da sebbi ba su zamma wiiri daia. 

Fire and cotton cannot live in the same place. 
Sebbi, cotton in the fluffy state before it is carded. 

65 Da kwoi da duchi ba su gamma wuri daia. 

Eggs and stones will not stay in the same place. 

%Q Dan kuka ba shi zamma dan tsamia. 

The fruit of the kuka and the fruit of the tsamia 
are different. 

The kuka, the baobab or monkey bread tree ; 
tsamia, the tamarind. The fruit of the former is 
very large, that of the latter small, in a pod like 

67 Taba ta banbanta da gari'n gero. 

Tobacco and the flour of millet are very different 

Tobacco is often used in the form of snuft', so that the 
outward appearance of gero flour and tobacco 
would not be very different. 

68 Kowa ya seye raria ya san ta zubar da rua. 

Every one who buys a raria knows that it does 
not hold water. 

Raria, any kind of sieve: also the passages under 
the walls of a town which allow water to drain off. 

You know what you are about. You are doing it with 
your eyes open. 

22 Hausa Provei-hs 

69 Ni ba ni so na shigga slieguUa, giandumma 

tana rawTvah takkai. 
I don^t want to join in tliat business, it would 
be like a yianchimma playing with 

Takkai, when any kind of feast or rejoicing is in pro- 
gress, among other means of adding to the noise, 
men often beat short sticks together, these sticks 
are called takkai. 

Giandumma, the hollowed out gourd used to carry- 
water on a journey. It is very fragile. Vide 4. 

70 Wonda ya yi tuo achikkin tulu ya san yenda 

za ya yi kwashashi. 

Whoever makes tuo inside a tulu knows how he is 

going to get it out. 
Tulu, an earthenware jar with a narrow mouth. 
Tuo is eaten from a calabash. Each of the party in 

turn puts in his hand. The mouth of the tulu 

will not admit the hand, and it could only be 

extracted with great difficulty. 
You seem to be doing a foolish thing, but I suppose 

you know what you are about. Vide 3. 

71 Tnnkn ya san suri da za ya yi mashi kasshi. 

The tunku knows the hillock which is his own 
icuri'n hasshi. 
The tunku, a kind of wild cat. It is said to be very 

strong smelling. 
Suri, an ant hill. 
Foxes smell their own holes. 

72 Madaki shi ya san enda rua ke zubar mashi. 

The ov/ner of the house knows from where the 
water drips on him. 
Every one knows his own business best. 

73 Yi nema'n katanga enda ka fi karifi'n tulu. 

Seek for hatanga where you are stronger than a 
Katanga, a fragment of pottery. 
Only ask for a thing when you are likely to get it. 
Ne ultra sutor crepidam. 

Hausa Proverbs 23 

74 Kworria ta bi kworria, en ta bi akoshi sai ta 


The calabash follows the calabash, when it follows 
the wooden basin it gets broken. 
Don't meddle with anything which is outside your 

75 Mutum ba shi shigga mahauta shi ji'n tsoro'n 

A man does not enter a slaughter honse if he fears 

76 Mutum da bunu a gatto ba shi gudumowa 


A man wdth grass on his qaito does not help (to 
put out) a conflagration. 

77 Waja'n suka'n doki ba waja'n suka'n jirigi 

A horse at full speed is a very different thing to a 
boat at full speed, i.e., you cannot compare 
the two. 

78 Mi ya gamma kifi da kaska ? 

What will bring a fish and a tick together 
Meaning as in 77. 

79 Aboki'n gammi'n maddi, gari'n tamba. 

Maddi, a paste made from the fruit of the dynnia 

tree and very black . 
Tamba, a herb used for seasonmg. It is cultivated, 

and when made into a paste is also very black. 
The two mixed together make a drink. 
Where you find the one you find the other. 
Birds of a feather flock together. 

80 Mugu ya san makwanta'n mugu. 

Evil knows the sleeping place of evil. 

24 Hatisa Proverbs 

81 Aboki'n gammi'n masa sure. 

Masa, baked cakes; we should call them pancakes. 

Sure, a herb used in their seasoning. 
Exactly the same meaning as 79. 

82 Tumbi ba shi ki'n sanfo. 

The guts don't refuse (or object to) a basket. 
Same meaning as the last three. 

83 Dei-dei dei-dei kunua'n doki. 

A case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. 

84 Halli zani'n duchi ne, ba mai iya shafewa, 

ba mai iya sbafeyslii. 
Disposition (or a man's cature) is like the grain of 
stone, no one can rub it out or efface it. 

85 Albassa ba ta balli'n rua. 

The nature of an onion and water are different 
(though one grows by the help of the 

86 Kowa da rananshi, mai ido daia ya leka 

Every one has his peculiarities, a man with one 
eye squints down the mouth of a buta. 
Buta, another word for gora, a water bottle. 

87 Halli ya rigaya foro, halli'n mutum kowa da 

A man's disposition, or nature, precedes his educa- 
tion, and every one has his own. 

88 Tun randa akayi ginni, ranan akayi zani. 
The marks on the mud wall are made at the same 

time as the wall. 
As walls are built up of mud, which is laid on a 

handful at a time, the marks of the fingers are all 

over the surface, and when the mud dries they 

remain there. 
The same meaning as the last. You can't change the 

leopard's spots. 

Hausa Proverbs 25 

89 Kowa ya ga shamuwa da kwushinta ya 


Every one wlio sees the raven knows it by its 

red legs. 

Much the same meaning as the last. Every one has 
some peculiarity by which they are known. 

90 Kowa ya ga zabua da zaninta ya ganta. 

Every one who sees the guinea fowl sees it with 
its marks. 
Same meaning as 89. 

91 Woni tsuntsii ya ke gudu rua, agwagwa rua 

ta ke nema. 
Some birds avoid water, the duck searches for it. 
Every one to his own taste. 

92 Kowoni tsuntsu ya yi kuka'n giddansa. 
Every bird has the note peculiar to its own kind. 

If you are born among people who weave, farm, &c., 
you will do the same. 

93 Kowa da kiwo da ya karbeslii, makwochi'n 

mai akwia ya seye kura. 

Every one has the food that suits him, sometimes 
the neighbour of a man who has a goat will 
buy a kura. 

94 Fura'n danko, a shekarra dama, ba shi faro- 

faro, sai bakki'n rua. 

The jura of rubber, kneaded for a year, does not 
become white, but remains black water. 

Fura, a sort of dry porridge made of the flour of 
guinea corn, rice, &c. It is usually eaten mixed, 
with sour milk or water. Fura'n danko, a lump of 
rubber. Rubber is cleaned, to a certain extent in 
water before being offered for sale. 

26 Hausa Provei-bs 

95 Sata ta sache sata. 
Does dog eat dog. 

96 Shafu ba ya chi'n rabbo'n kunkurru. 

The hawk does not eat the food of the tortoise 
(because their tastes are different). 

97 Yungwa na tanda kishinrua. 

Does hunger lick (the hand of) thirst. 

If one beggar had just received something and another 
asked him for a share he might reply as above. 

Na, see 8. 

98 Sabani'n kiwo shi ya sa kura ba ya chi birri 


Difference of diet saves the monkey from being 
eaten by the kura. 

Because it is so dij5"erent that they never meet in 
getting it. 

99 Zamma da mai dauka'n kanwa shi ya kawo 

ja'n kai. 
Living with a man who carries potash is what 
makes your head red. 

Carrying potash on the head makes the hair red. 
You can't touch pitch without being defiled. 

100 Zamma da mai zakkanku shi kan kawo 

Associating with a man who has zakhaiikib makes 
you want to taste it. 
Zakkanku, the ash of the wood of a small thorny 
shrub called kaia'n rakumi : this is kneaded into 
small cakes and used as medicine. 

101 Idan angulu ta bia maka maradi, zabua ta 

taffi da zanenta. 
If the vulture fulfils your desire, the guinea fowl 
will pass you by, (beautiful) marks and all. 
If you are satisfied to associate with such low people, 
a better class will have nothing to do with you. 

Hausa Proverbs 27 

102 Gudu da marri ba shi magani'n bauta. 

To run away with the marri on, is not a cure 
for shwery. 

Marri, leg irons put on both legs. A man can 
only shuffle along with them. 

103 Biizarre ba shi rabba jaki da kaia. 

Bucking will not separate a donkey and its load ; 
for the owner will merely put it on again. 
Don't kick against the pricks. 

104 Tsimmi da kasshi chikki ba shi magani'n 


Eking out (or saving up for another day) when 
your stomach is empty is not a cure for 

105 A turn ba shi rabba karre da kura. 

Throwing earth or sand on them will not separate 
a dog and a kura. 
That's no good. 

106 Ba aroko'n jinni ga fara. 
Blood is not begged from a locust. 

Blood from a stone. 

107 Tsaria ba mu boye ne ba. 

The tsaria, we do not hide there. 

Tsaria, the small opening through which jQre is put 

under an earth bed. 
All your efforts are futile. This might be said to a 

man, who had run away and hidden, after he 

had been discovered. 

108 Kana saida baba a rugga. 

You are selling your indigo at a rugga. 

Rugga, the temporary village of nomad Fulani. 
They only concern themselves with cattle and 
do not weave, dye, &c. ; it is therefore useless 
offering them indigo for sale. 

28 Hausa Proverbs 

109 Anyi berri'n tamba achikkin to-yi, babu 

mai iya sincbewa sai rua'n bazarra ya 

Tamba seeds are left" in io-yi^ there is no one 
who can find them until the first rains 

To-yi, a patch of bush burnt black. 
Tamba, a grass with black seeds. 
Looking for a needle in a bundle of hay. 

110 Gudu da susa'n gusu ba shi yi. 

Kunning and scratching oneself does not do. 
You can't do two things at once. 

111 Ba a gammn gudu da susa'n katerri. 

;/ Ennning and scratching one's thigh don't go 
• together. 

Same meaning as 109. 

112 Ba asa yaya'n taura guda biu a baki. 

You can't put the fruit of the taura in your 
mouth two at a time. 
The taura tree has a large flat fruit which is edible, 

113 Fura da zai (za ya) zubar ba shi tara'n 


A pot of fura that is going to fall will not stay in 
the hole hollowed out for it. 

Guribi, the scratching a hen makes to lay an 

egg in. 
What must be must be. 

114 Sallati ba shi hanna karba'n rai. 
Prayer won't prevent you from dying. 

115 Da abinda mutum kan samu, da abinda kan 

samu nai, tun ran ta lialita shi ke. 

"What a man gets and what happens to him is 
written from the dav of his birth. 

Hausa Proverbs 29 

116 Danda (da wonda) za ya mutu, magani ba 

ya seyseyshi. 

The man who is fated to die medicine won't save 
The same meaning as 114. 

117 Ayi nitso a masekki? 

Shall one drown in a maselcki ?■ 

Masekki, a large calabash, generally used to hold 

118 Ba a tasshi achikkin tsaria. 

One cannot stand upright in the tsaria. 

The tsaria is so narrow that no one, however small, 

could get into it. 
You can't do the impossible. Vide 107. 

119 Chi loma ya fi jira'n malmala da ba kari 


To eat a mouthful is better than to wait for a 
malmala that is not cooked. 

Loma, a mouthful. 

Malmala, a large quantity of tuo cooked in a big 

pot for a feast, &c. 
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. 

120 Mugu'n gatarinka ya ^ " sare ka bani." 

A bad axe of your own is better than one you 
have to wait for until the owner has 
finished with it. 
Same meaning as 119. 

121 Kofa'n wutta ta fi enda ba a fura ba. 

The place where there is a fire is better than the 
place where a fire has not been lighted. 

122 Kwoi a bakka ya ii kaza achikkin akAvilke. 

An egg in the mouth is better than a hen in the 
Same meaning as 119. 

30 Hausa Proverbs 

123 Zamma da mai rabbo ya fi ^' ga hannuna." 

To live with a man who shares (who is liberal) is 
better than always having to say " see nay 

124 Samu ya fi resshi. 

" To have " is better than " not to have." 

125 Maisamu ya rigaya mainema. 

" He who has " precedes " he who wants." 

126 Da babu wawa gara da wawa. 
Better to have a fool than no fool at all. 

Half a loaf is better than no bread. 

127 Komi mugu'n bawa ya ^ gidda'n wofi. 

However bad a slave is he is better than " empty 

128 Komi tsannani'n jifa bissa kassa ta ke 


However hard a thing is thrown into the air it 
always falls to the ground. 

Tsannani, to stretch, of a string or rope. 

Woni abu ya tsannancheni. Something troubles 

Tsannana, hard times. 

129 Idan ka ji '^ marhaba " ka ji " a issa lafia." 

If you hear " welcome," you will also hear 
" May you reach home in safety," i.e., the 
guest will not stay for ever. 

130 Demmi baki'n rumbu ko yo ko gobe. 

The bundle at the mouth of the rurahu may be 
taken any day. 

Rumbu, the large earth receptacle into which 
bundles of guinea corn are put. The only means 
of getting at them is a small door or opening, so 
that the nearest ones will be taken first. 

Haiisa Proverbs 31 

131 A juri zua rafi dei wata rana ayi berri. 

Continual going to the stream one day there is a 
Juri, jimri, yana da jimri, he is doing his best. 
A juri, to keep on going. 

132 Komi karko'n rua, ya koma kwarrie. 
Water always finds its own level. 

133 Banza ba shi kai zomo kasua. 

" Do nothing " does not bring a hare to market. 
Nothing can be done without work. 

134 Da resshi'n taye akan ber araha. 

For lack of asking prices bargains are lost. 

Taye, to ask the price of a thing. Ataya minny 

shi, find out its price for me. 
Na taya hamsa, I offer 5,000. 

135 Sai ansba wuya akan san babba. 
Greatness is only achieved by effort. 

136 Sai anbugga akan san beedi. 

Only by fighting can the better man be found out. 
Ya bida shi, means he overcomes him. 

137 Sai angamma jikki, akan san babba. 

Who is the better man can only be decided by 
"body to body" (wrestling). 

138 Wonda ya clii zomo ya clii gudu. 

Whoever catches a hare has to run for it. 

139 Ba da magana ba shi kai rakumi Asben ba, 

sai gammi da akala. 

Talking won't take a camel to Asben, only 
acquaintance with the nose string. 
The Asbenawa (Kel Geres or Kel Owi) are the 
great camel owners to the north of Nigeria. 
During the rainy months they remain in Asben 
or Air (situated about latitude 19^), and come 
down to trade in the dry. 

32 Hausa Proverbs 

140 Da resshi'n kirra karre'n baibai ya batche. 
It is for lack of calling that tlie dumb man's dog 

gets lost. 

141 Hang-ye (harara) ba shi kawo wonda ke da 

Gazing at a man who is a long way oiff will not 
bring him to you. 

142 Ayi taffia ya li zamma. 

" Move about " is better than *' sit still." 

An active (and therefore a willing) man is better than 
an unwilling. 

143 Dan kuka shi kan ja ma uwanshi jifa. 

It is the fruit of the kuka tree that causes its 

mother to be thrown at. 

Any one who wants to get the fruit of the kuka tree 

throws stones till he knocks one down. The tree 

is difficult to climb, and the fruit, which hangs by 

a long stalk, is easily knocked down. 

144 Dan usuli ya fi shiggegi. 

The original inhabitant is better than a stranger. 

145 Mutum ba slii soka'n chikkinshi, saanan shi 

komo shi yi kirari. 
A man does not stick a knife into his stomach and 
then go and boast about it. 
A man does not do an injury to, or make an accusa- 
tion against a relation and then go and boast 
about it. 

146 Jinni ya fi rua guibi. 
Blood is thicker than water. 

147 Mu dei bera'n rami daia, en ba agamma 

ashigga ba, agamma a fita. 
We are mice of one hole, if we don't meet going 
in we meet going out. 
If you refuse to lend a man something that he asks 
for, he might reply as above, meaning, "Any day 
you may want to borrow from me." 

Hausa Proverbs 33 

148 Akwia ta miitii, ta ber fata na sha'n wiiya. 

The goat has died and left its skin to encounter 
The skin being the children and family generally. 

149 Hankuri'n wuya sai naka. 

Only your own people will be patient under hard 

150 Ba samu'n abinchi ke da wuya, wurinda 

zaka je ka chislii shi ke da wuya. 

As the hen says, " It is easy enough to find food, 
but hard to get away to a place where you 
can eat it in peace." 

Your friends and relations always want a share of 
your goods. 

151 Dan uwa rebbi'n jikki ne, abinda ya tabbi 

waje daia, komi kankantanchi, sai ka ji 

Eelations are like a part of your body, if anything 
touches it, however small, you feel it. 

152 Ma fi dadi'n rai dan uwa. 

A man's relations are the pleasantest things on 

153 Dan uwa riga'n kaia (i^>) ne, en ka sashi 

ya sokeka, ba ka dama'n chirreshi, ka 
yer da shi. 

Eelations are like a coat of thorns, you put it on 
and it pricks you, you cannot (are not 
" fit " to) pull it ofi" and throw it away. 

154 Dodowa shina gaia ma manda bakki. 

Dodowa, the small block of pounded dorowa seeds, 

sold in every market. They are very black. 
Manda, a black salt from Bornu. 
Pot calling the kettle black. 


34 Hausa Proverbs 

155 Daria'n darara, funtu daria'n mai riga. 

To laugh at a laughing man is like a naked man 
jeering at a man with a coat. 
Meaning as in lo4. 

156 Madoatchi shina re 'da dumma. 

Madoatchi, a bitter-tasting tree. 

Dumraa, a kind of calalDash. Its inside is very 

Re'da, to whisper, backbite, insinuate something 

Meaning as in 154. 

157 Allah na mutane. jaba ta ga baki'n mijinta. 

Allah made all men, the long-nosed rat laughs at 
her husband's snout. 
Meaning as in 154. 

158 Abinda ba a-tamaha anyishi. 
The unexpected has happened. 

159 Anatamaha wutta makera, anka isketa 


One is expecting fire at a blacksmith's, one gets it 
at the weaver's. 

160 Rammamme kada maikibba. 
The very thin defeats the very fat. 

The unexpected happens. 

161 Anyi kunnu don auki, ya komo ya rassa 


Etmnu was made so as to be in a great quantity, 
it turns round and is not in great quantity. 

Kunnu, gari and hot water mixed to form a drink. 

It is made with a good deal of water so that 

there shall be plenty of it. 
Auki, plenty, a great quantity. 

Hatisa Proverbs 35 

162 Na dauki karre clon hauslii, ya komo shina 


I got the dog on account of its barking (i.e. I 
got it as a watch dog) ; it turns round and 
butts like a goat. 
This has turned out contrary to my expectation. 

163 Garaji ba karifi ne ba. 

Garaji is not strength. 
Garaji, hurry, worry. 

164 Kwaramnia ba ta dakka. 
Hurry does not stay at home. 

More haste less speed. 

Kwaramnia, mai kwaramnia, a hasty man, an 
impetuous man. 

165 Mai son zaii ya iska nowyi (nowwa). 
The impetuous man meets with delay. 

More haste less speed. 

166 Taffia sanu sanu kwana nesa. 

Travelling slowly (and with due caution) you will 
sleep far. 

167 Hankuri, hatchi'n tukunia ne, ba slii wuya'n 


Patience is like grass for (lighting a fire to cook) 
a pot, it quickly comes to an end. 

168 Wa ta dama dunia? Maras hankuri shi ne 

ta dama. 

Who finds the world troublesome ? the impatient 

169 Hankuri'n kaia sal jaki. 

The donkey surpasses all animals in his endurance 
in carrying a load. 

36 Hausa Proverbs 

170 Mahankurclii, mawadd'achi. 

Tlie man witli patience gets a competency. 
Wadd'a, to have more than enough, to be rich. 

171 Saba'n ido shi ke sa areni. 

" Being used to of the eye " causes contempt. 
Familiarity breeds contempt. 

172 Sabo dei (da ya yi) shi ke sa arena mutum. 

Same meaning as above. 

173 Ya yi gudu'n garra ya fadi zaggo. 

He runs from the garra and stumbles over the 
Garra, the small species of ant called white ant. 
Zaggo, the large black one whose sting is rather 

Out of the frying pan into the fire. 

174 Ya yi gndu'n chichifi shigga mache mache. 
Ya yi gudu'n yeyefi shigga mamako. 

He runs from the shower and enters a downpour. 
The first form is as given in Kabbi ; the second as 
given in Zaria. 

1 75 Kaikai ya komo mai shakia. 
Curses come home to roost. 

Kaikai, the chaff of any grain. 

Shakia, pronounce as in English shake. 

Shika, to keep on pouring grain from one calabash to 

another so that the chaff may blow away ; to 


176 Bu^nsuru ya je berbera ya dawo da chikki. 

The he-goat goes a-seeking tiie she-goat; he 
returns in child. 
The biter bitten. 

177 Masubamu anabasu, mata ta ga anaba miji 


The biter bitten, as a wife who sees her husband 
beaten (having beaten her). 

Hatisa Proverbs 37 

178 Kowa ya clebo da zafi, bakinsa za ya sa. 

Every one must take the consequences of his own 

179 AYanka'n wiitta ziibawa daia ne. 
Washing with fire ; one pour. 

Once bit twice shy. 

180 So daia giijia'n makafo ta kona, na bin sal 

shi cliita dainya. 

Once the blind man's ground-nut is burnt (while 
he is cooking it) next time he eats it raw. 
A burnt child fears the fire. 

181 Dan buzrua'n akwia, en ba ya yi gaslii 

koenna ba, ya yi a kattaterri. 

Though the young of the hairy goat may not 
have hair everywhere, it has on its thighs 

The child has always some points of resemblance to 
its parents. 

182 Da da mahaifi ba arrabbasn. 

The son and his father are not to be divided. 
Like father like son. 

183 Ba a rerebbi da fusari'n maijego. 

Same meaning as above. 

184 Da wasa da varo^ goum mu kwana da 



Better sleep hungry than play (or trifle) with a 

This saying is constantly heard. It shows the native 
objection to being too familiar with inferiors. 
They invariably take advantage of it. 

38 Hausa Proverbs 

185 Yaro main kaza ne, en ya ji rana, sai shi 


A boy is like a hen's fat, when it feels the sun it 

A boy has not a man's endurance, any hardship will 
overcome him. 

186 Zamma da mugun babba, yaro tsak-y^ 


A boy whose master is harsh (evil) has to lookout 
for himself (watch it). 

187 Kadda a kwache ma yaro galma, en ya ji 

rana ya yayes. 

Don't take a boy's cjalma from him (and do his 
work), for he will throw it down when he 
finds it too hot to work. 

Let him alone, he will look after himself. 
Galma, a hoe. 

188 Kworria tagari tana ragaya. 

A good woman stays at home like the hworria in 
the ragaya. 

Ragaya, the string basket or net which \vill be found 
hanging from the roof of any hut ; the woman 
of the house puts any odds and ends into it. 
There is often a small calabash or kworria at the 
bottom to hold the smaller articles. Vide 33. 

189 Mata'n zamani ba tukunia ne ba, baM 

akwonkwossa, aji wonda ta ii kwahrie. 

A woman is not like an earthen pot which we try 
by tapping to see which is strongest. 

A man selling pots in the market taps them at the 
bottom to show that they are quite sound. 

190 Karifi'n mata sai yawa'n magana. 
The strength of a woman is in her tongue. 

Hans a Proverbs 39 

191 Hankuri'n wuya sai da. 

Only a free man is patient of hard work (for he 
works for himself). 

192 Komi akayi ma da, ya rama, amma banda 

ginna kushiewa. 

Whatever you do to a free man he will return it 
(whether good or evil) let us except, how- 
ever, digging his grave (for if you dig his 
grave he will be dead). 

193 Doki " da na sani " ba shi zua yaki. 

The horse, "had I known/^ does not go to war. 

Compare another similar construction, '' Ba don sabbo 
da duchi ba, da ba na fadi ba. Had it not been 
for the stone I should not have fallen/' 

194 ^* Da na sani " kyeya ne, abaya akanbershi. 
" Had I known " is like the back of a man^s head, 

it is always left behind. 
Kyeya, the back of the skull. 

195 Allah ya tseremu da "da na sani." 
Allah preserve us from " had I known." 

196 Eena kamma ka ga gaiya. 

Despising on account of appearance you see 

gain a. 
Appearances are deceptive. 
If a man gets the better of you one day and some 

other day you get the better of him, you are said 

to " ka ram a gaiya." 
Ya rama mashi gaiya. He got something back on 


197 Karmamme da nowyi'n duchi, alura da 

nowyi'n galma. 

A guinea corn stalk as heavy as a stone, a needle 
as heavy as a hoe. 

Two things which one would expect to find light, 
lie does not look as if he could, but he can. 

40 Hausa Proverbs 

198 Halaamu'n karifi ga maikibba. 

The appearance of strength is to the fat man. 
Same meaning as 196. 

199 Giingummi'n ayaba, tsofiia na ganninka ta 

kwana da clari. 

log of the plaintain, the old woman sees you, 

she will sleep cold. 

The log of a plaintain tree is full of sap and would 
never burn. The old woman sees the log from a 
long way off, goes to it and finds it useless. Her 
movements are so slow that she has no time to 
get another. 

Na, usually tana. The word is also used by itself 
in the same way as " ke."' Vide 8. 

200 Rama chiuta ga mai cliiuta, ibada ne. 

To return evil for evil is a praiseworthy action. 

201 Na yi maka chikki a gwiwu, mai wuya'n 


1 will make a stomach (swelling as if with child) 

on yonr knees, from which the bringing 
forth will be painful (difficult). 

I will do you an injury, and you will not be able to 
retaliate (or which will give you great trouble). 

202 M da rikewa kafo, woni ya yi tasa ? 

Am I to hold the horns while someone else gets 
the udder. 
Am I to do all the work, &c. 

203 Ba na gasso gado dan keesbia ya ban. 

I won't make the oven bed for my rival's son to 
get on. 

Shi ya zamma keeshiansa ; he becomes his snpplanter. 
"When a man takes a second wife it may be said of 

the first, " Anyi mata keeshia." 
Aboki "n keeshi, a rival or supplanter. 

Hausa Proverbs 41 

204 Woni da toosa, woni da karba'n riga. 

Same sense as 202. 

205 Wata ya seyray kankantchi'ii garra. 

Does the moon trouble itself about the punisli-, 
ment of an ant. ; 

I can't trouble myself about such trifles. 

206 Wiicliiar raknmi ta yi nesa da kassa. 
The camel's tail is far from the ground. 

Same meaning as 205. 

207 AVonda ya clie ya iya hadie gatari, a rike 

masa koata. 
If a man says he can swallow a pickaxe hold the 
handle for him. 

If a man says he can do a thing, which you suspect to 
be beyond his powers, don't let him get out of 
doing it, keep him to his word. 

208 "Wonda ya clie rino ba ya aiki ba, shi koma 

matsaya'n rino, shi tsaya, mu ganni. 
Let the man who says the vino does not work get 
into its place. Will he stop there ? we 
will see. 

If you know so much about it do it yourself. 

Rino, a three-pronged fork or skevrer used for cooking. 

209 Matsorachi rairai ne, ko ka cliibrashi 

(churaslii), idan ya ji sainyi sai ya 
The coward is like sand, even when you knead 
it together, if water is poured on it, it 
falls to pieces. 

210 Gudii gado'n matsorachi, tsayawa na 

maikarifi'n zucbia. 
To run is the couch of the coward, to stand fast, of 
the brave man. 

42 Hausa Proverbs 

211 Inda halli, muni keau nCj inda ba halli ba, 

keau muni ne. 

Where there is a (good) disposition ugliness is 
beanty (or evil is good), but where there is 
no disposition beauty is ugliness. 
Handsome is as handsome does. 

212 Ba keau ba ga daki'n gona, sbi dei ya yi 

magani'n rua. 

The farm shelter is not beautiful, but it keeps 
out rain. 

Daki'n gona, an erection of grass put up tempo- 
rarily while the owner of a farm is working on it. 
Farms are often many miles from the town. 

Meaning as in 211. 

213 Karami'n sani kunkummi ne. 
Little knowledge is like huiikummi. 

Kunkummi, the tying the hand to the neck, as is 
,,-^ done with prisoners, 

214 Ressbi'n sani ya fi derri dufFu. 

Lack of knowledge is darker than night. 

215 Resshi'n sani slii kan sa makafo ya taka 

It is only lack of knowledge (knowing where he 
is) which would make a blind man tread 
on a king. 

216 Ko a fadi a tassbi salka ya fi giandumma. 
A salka is always better than a giandumma. 

Salka, the leather skin for carrying water. It con- 
tains more than the giandumma, and if it falls 
does not break. 

Giandumma. Vide 69. 

217 Feeke ya fi kaia tsini? 

Does a stick which has been sharpened surpass a 
thorn in sharpness ? 

Hausa Proverbs 43 

218 Ko ba a gwodda, linzami ya ii baki'n kaza. 
Even without seeing it everyone knows that a bit 

is too big for a hen's mouth. 
It is pretty obvious. 

219 Tun badcluku ba ya mutu ba, akan ga 

bori'n tumki da jekkansa. 
The stork had its pouch before the leather man 
died, i.e. it did not steal it from him. 
Eadduku, a sewer of leather. They carry their 

tools in a leather bag. 
Borin tilmki, a kind of stork with a large red beak ; 
there is a pouch under this in which it retains 

220 Wonda ba ya san dundiifFa ba, hakikan ya 

san muria nasa. 
Though you may not have met a celebrated man, 
at any rate you will have heard his name. 

Dundiiffa, a large drum, too big to be carried while 
it is being beaten. 

221 Komi tsawo wuya, kai bissa. 

However long the neck is, the head is above it. 

222 Karambani akwia gaida kura. 
Eashness, as when a goat greets a kura. 

You are playing with edged tools. 

223 Mai karambani sbi kan rigaya mai kari'n 

kwana mutua. 
Eashness is the precursor of sudden death. 

224 Ban yi maka tona, en yi maka hadeea ba? 
I refused to chew it for you, do you think I will 

swallow it ? 

225 Idan dei na rena kaza, ko romunta ba ni 

If I despise the hen, you don't suppose that I 
will touch the stuff it has been seasoned 
(cooked) with ? i.e. its gravy. 

44 Hausa Proverbs 

226 Mai doki ya clie clokinsa ya mutu, berri 

dan chiawa. 

If the owner of the liorse tells us that his horse 
is dead, how much sooner will the boy 
who cuts grass for it (for his work is 

227 Ban aike fara debo mia, bale ta kawo 

minny yokee. 

I did not want you to do this, much less that you 
should have had all this trouble. 

I don't send a locust to fetch mia much less to fetch 

Yokee, the sticky inside of a kubewa or calabash. 
To carry mia w'ould be a hard enough task for a 

locust, but to carry yokee would be worse. 
Kubewa ya yi yokee, the kubewa's juice is running. 
Yana yokee, of the slow movements of a man who is 

weak or weary. 

228 Kwoi ya yi wayo, bale dan chiako. 

If the egg is " smart," how much more so is the 
young chicken. 

229 Sai anclii moreean ganga, saanan akan 

yadda kwongo. 

Only when you have got the profits of drumming 
will you throw away the hwongo. 

To suck an orange dry. To desert a friend when he 

is of no further use to you. 
Kwongo, the wooden frame of a drum. 

230 Kworria wonda akaginna rijia, ba a shan 

rua da slii. 

The calabash vv'ith which the well has been dug, 
water is not drunk from it. 

When a well is being dug the earth is drawn up to 

the top in calabashes. 
To cast aside old friends who have served their turn. 

Hausa Proz'crbs 45 

231 Wonda akoi chiwo chikkiusa ba shi rena 

He who is sick does not despise medicine. 

232 Wonda yal fada rijia, ko anbashi kaiii'n 

takobiyiya kamashi. 

A man wlio falls into a well will seize even the 
edge of a sword. 
Clutch at straws. 

233 Da yeyefi kwogi kan cHikka. 
Small showers fill the stream. 

Perseverance finishes work. Vide 174. 

234 Itachi'n da akanyi chokali da shi, kamma'n 

ciiinya ke, da sassakk^ ya kari. 

The stick out of which a spoon is made, though 
it be like a man's thigh, is finished 
(becomes a spoon) by whittling. 
Same meaning as 233. 

235 x\llah»ba ya ba gwanni'n tona tsaba. 

Allah^does not give the expert in chewing any 

A man who is a good rider (or good at anything) 
must not expect that Allah will give him a horse, 
he has already given him his skill. 

You can't have everything. 

Tsaba, grain, or cowries in a calabash. 

236 Samii ya fi iyawa, haw^an doki macbiji. 

" To have " is better than " to be able," as a 
snake (which cannot ride) riding a horse. 

237 Komi lalachewa'n masa ya fi kassbi'n 


However bad mdsa may be they are better than 
cow's dung. 
Masa, see 81, round cakes. 

46 Hausa Proverbs 

238 Ba a wasosu'n boosliia da mai agalemi. 

No one scrambles for a hedgehog with a man who 
has a leather apron (to throw over it) . 

Wasosu, to scramble, plural of wasa. 

239 Akwilki'n dundu wawa ka sa hannu. 

Only the fool puts his hand into the henhouse 
with dundu round it. 

You will be a fool if you do not keep out of that. 
Dundu, a thorny bush. 

240 Rijia na mahasadda, wawa ka sha rua da 


Only a simpleton will drink water at the well of 
the backbiter. 
Same meaning as 2-39. 

241 Koda zaki ya zamma wulakantachi, ba ya 

yi wasa da khinzeri ba. 

Though the lion is humbled, he won't play with 
the pig. 

I have not fallen so low as that. 

242 Koda birri ya zamma wawa, ba ya yi wasa 

da itachi mai kaia ba. 

Though the monkey has lost its wits, it is not 
such a fool as to play with a thorn tree. 

243 Bera yana ganni'n raminshi, ba ya yi yerda 

wutta ta cliislii ba. 

A rat who is in sight of its hole will not allow 
the fire to catch him. 

A man who sees safety ahead of him will make a last 

Ba ya yi yerda, he no agree. 

Hausa Pj'o verbs 47 

244 Komi lalachewa'n giwa, ta fi kwando 

However small an elephant may be, it will fill 
more than ten hampers, when cut up. 
Lalachewa, literally spoilt. 

245 Komi mugu'n taya'n mahauchi, ba ya taya 

giwa cleri bokkoi ba. 
However bad at pricing a butcher may be, he 
won't price an elephant at 700 cowries. 

246 Samu'n kai ya fi samu'n fula. 

To have your life is better than to have your cap. 
If the chief of a town has seized part of your property 
and you escape you will not be such a fool as to 
go back to try and recover it ; for he wull pro- 
bably have you killed. 

247 Asshe gwano ba shi ji'n wari'n jikkinsa. 

Truly the gwano does not perceive its own 

A man does not see his own defects. 
Gwano, a strong smelling ant. 

248 Laifi tuddu ne, sai ka taka naka, saanan 

ka gani na woni. 

Faults are like a hill, you mount on your own 
and then see other people's. 

249 Muni tuddu ne, kowa nasa ya ke hawa, ya 

fadi na woni. 

Evil is a hill, every one gets on his own and 
speaks about some one else's. 

250 Kwanchia'n liankali da arne, shi ya kawo 

chi'n yankainslii. 
Familiarity, or living with, the pagans makes you 
eat what they have killed, and so be 
defiled, as they have not ''hallal'd" it. 
Hankalina ya kwanta da kai, I like you. 

48 Hausa Proverbs 

251 Cliiniki'n azni noma. 

The only trade that the pagans know is farming. 

252 Kilishi'n jaba dsomi bori'n gyedda, komi 

kawa'n azni ya bershi. 
The meat of the jdba steeped in bad gyedda, 
however much the pagan wants (food) he 
will leave it. 
Such a combination is too much even for his stomach. 
Gyedda, the seeds of a plant used for seasoning; 
also used by itself as a food, not considered 
very sustaining. 
Jaba, vide 157. 

2532Jvua da kua ba ta clii'n kaia'n Buzu. 

Calling out and calling out won't get the property 
of a Buzu. 

A peculiarity of the Buzawe is that, when looking 
after their flocks and working in the fields, they 
call out to each other a great deal. 

The Hausas, not understanding their language, also 
speak of their ordinary conversation as "kua." 

You won't get the better of a man in that way, he 
knows too much about it. 

254 Na Ma'azu kasslii'n slianu. 

The Nupes are like cow's dung — they are so 

Cow's dung which has been exposed to the air has a 
hard outside and a soft inside : so the manner of 
a Nupe is sincere while his heart is false. 

Ma'azu, a king of Nupe. 

255 Wanzami'n Bohnu, ka slia' v^^oni, ba a slia' 

ka ba. 
barber of the Bohnu, you circumcize but no 
one circumcizes you. 
Bohnu, a district west of Nigeria. 

256 Bohnu kasua da gado. 

The stupid Bohnu bring their beds to market 
with them. 

Hatisa Proverbs 


257 Cliasau shina raw wall, Sarra na kallo. 
Shall Chasau dance with Sarra looking on. 

These are the names of two well known dancers, of 

which Sarra was the best. 
Do you think I am going to make a fool of myself 

before him "? 

258 Abinda Jeeka ke so, ba slii Buzu ke so. 

The requirements of Jeeka and the Buzu are 
quite different. 

Jeeka was a horse dealer ; the Buzawe are slave 

259 Buzu akoreka kua, eu ka yi kora kua. 

O Buzu, when you are chased you cry out_, and 
when you chase you cry out. 

The Buzu or Buzawe are the offspring of Tawarek 

females with black men. 
See Barth, vol. i. ch. xiv., p. 343. 

260 Fad da Gogo a kofar. 

The scolding of Gogo at the gate. 

Gogo, the name of a well-known " scold " in Kano. 

261 Muua da nia (neea) ma-je Gwonja ya kasa 


We are full of great resolve, the traveller for 
Gwonja grows weary at the Waterri 

Great promise, little result. 

Gwonja, the kola-nut district near Ashanti. 

Waterri, a stream close to Kano. 

262 Zua fara da rani a Gherku, akache mi zata 


The arrival of the locust at Gherku in the dry 
weather, people say what will it eat. 

Gherku, a town some three days from Zaria. 
Ka yi zua'n fara da rani a Gherku. You are late 
there is nothing left for you. 


50 Haiisa Proverbs 

263 Gidda'n Zahanna maiwuya'n zua, sai a nuna 

da karra. 

Zahanna's village is hard to get at, people will 
only point it out with a cornstalk. 

Zahanna, the village of Tanimo, a Kanuri famous for 
his warlike qualities ; no one would conduct you 
to it, only point it out with a cornstalk. 

264 Aboki'n kiyayi zamma'n zauri, ka san 

gussuri, ka ba hauri, gidda ba samu 
komi ba. 
Sitting in a zauri is a thing to be avoided, there 
you get giissuri, you give it to your 
teeth, the gidda gets nothing. 

Aboki'n kiyayi, a thing to be avoided. 

Gussuri, the section of kola-nut given to every one 

sitting round : usually means supplies generally. 
San, samu. 
Husbands should not waste their time loafing in 

zauris, but look after their family affairs. 

265 Idan gora tana rawwah, ba chikka ne ba. 

If the bottle is shaking it will not be filled. 
A rolling stone gathers no moss. 

266 Ennua'n giginia na nesa ka sha sainyi. 
The shade of the palm tree (deleb) only from a 

distance do you enjoy its coolness. 

Said of a man who entertains strangers well, but 
neglects his own family. 

267 Dan banzarairaine, ko andunkullaysbi, sai 

shi wache. 

The " waster " is like sand, though he is kneaded 
together he falls to pieces. 

268 Gaadu'n gidda, wohalla ga raggo. 

To inherit a gidda is a trouble to a " waster." 

Gidda, the compound containing several huts ; it 
would include farms and establishment generally 
and would entail a good deal of labour. 

Haiisa Proverbs 5 1 

269 Raggo ba shi chi'n abin ginna. 

The " waster " lias no use for digging tools. 

270 Ya chi deri'n masa, ya kasa dauka'n deri'n 


He will eat 100 masa cakes, but if he is given 
100 needles to carry he says he is tired. 
Tamfassua, alura, needles. 

271 Tuo'n girima miyatasa nama ne. 

The present for the man whom you desire to 
honour should be a very good one. 
The tuo of honour its mia (soup) is meat. 

272 Kabbakk-ye'n girima ya fi kabbakk-ye'n 


The big calabash of honour is better than one of 

273 Kowa ya ke so mussaya da abin woni ya 

rena nasbi. 

A man who wants to exchange with some one else 
is dissatisfied with his own property. 

274 Mai son sbi chi doki'n woni nasbi sbi ke 


A man who wants any one else's horse brings his 
own (to exchange). 

275 Dunia birgima bankaka, en ka ga fari ka 

ga bakki. 

The world is full of changes and chances. 

The hankaka, or crow, has a white breast, and if it 
rolls in the dust one sees first its black back and 
then its white breast. 

52 Haiisa Proverbs 

276 Dunia rawwali yan mata ne, na galDa shi 

koma baya. 
The world is like tlie play of children, the one 
in front often becomes the one behind. 

277 Alhaki da romo, ashigga iyaka wuya. 

The lawful wage, with a little added, will make a 
man Avork his hardest. 
A tip is a good thing to make ^ man work his best. 
Romo, tit-bit. 

278 A wanki kifi da ruanslii. 
Washing a fish with its own water. 

Giving a present in return which is of less vakie than 
the one which has been given j;ou. Or giving in 
return some present which has cost you nothing. 

279 A dauki kanwa'n baki (jIj), a ba awaki'n 

To accept the present of potash which one stranger 
gives you and to give in return the goat 
which some other stranger has given you. 
The custom of a traveller giving his host a present is 
universal. It is merely the equivalent of paying 
for board and lodging, only it is done in advance. 

280 Laifi'n babba, rowa, laiii'n yaro, kiwuya. 
The boy complains that his master is stingy, the 

master that his boy is lazy. 
These are the two faults which masters and servants 
respectively find most objectionable. 

281 Kai ka ja rowa, ni kua ja mako. 
You are stingy, but I will wear you out. 

282 Chiwu mai tauri'n liantchi, ka nuna ka ki 

chiwu, you are hard at the fork, you ripen but 
you do not fall, 
Chiwu, a shrub very tough where the branches join. 
Said to a stingy man. 

Haiisa Proverbs 53 

283 Don gobe akeyi'n wanka'n derri. 

It is because of to-morrow that one cleans up at 

A man borrows a hoe (or any other article), he wants 
to do so again, so he brings it back as soon as he 
has finished with it, so that it may not be refused 
next time because he kept it too long the first. 

284 Don tuo'n gobe akeyi'n wanka'n tuknnia. 

It is because of to-morrow's tuo that the pot is 
Same meaning as 283. 

285 Talaka ba aboki, ko ka sosbi, ran btikki ka 


You can't make a friend of a poor man even if 
you are fond of him ; on a feast day you 
will dislike him. 

286 Mai kwarka sbi ne aboki'n maikiwuya. 
The beggar is the companion of the loafer. 

287 En anki fimtu ran biikki, ansoshi ran 


One may dislike the naked man on a feast day, 
but when it comes to kneading mud (for 
building a house) one will like him. 

288 Onfani'n kwarka tari (tuari). 

The beggar^s weapon is his cough. 

Beggars, if not attended to, always attract attention 

by coughing. 
Onfani, anfani, use, also prosperous, fertile. 

289 Da karre da daagummi duka malakka'n 

knra ne. 

The dog and his collar are both the property of 
the kura. 

54 Hausa Proverbs 

290 Da kai da kaia duka malakka'n wiiya. 

The head and the load are both the possession of 
the neck. 

291 Abinda ke chikkin aljifu duka malakka'n 

mai riga ne. 

Everything that is in the pocket is the property 
of the coat man. 

292 Ana mugunia shekarra, kwado ya ji rua'n 


It has been a bad season (year), like a frog being 
in hot water. 

293 Zomo ba shi fasshi da makasshinshi sai 


The hare is not angry with the man who actually 
kills him, but with the man who prompted 
him to do so. 

This saying has given rise to a peculiar use of the 
word rataya which usually means to hang or 

For instance, a man, being called by another, might 
call out in reply, Wa ya kirra ? and be answered, 
Ni ne ! He would then ask, Rataya ko da 
kanka ? meaning, Did you call me yourself or 
did some one tell you to ? 

A hare when killed is always carried slung by the 
hind legs ; the man who slings it and carries it 
off is, presumably, the one who is going to eat it : 
he is the real cause of the hare's death, though 
some one else may have struck the blow. 

294 Ba ni na kassbi zomo ba, rataya akabani. 
I did not kill the hare, it was given me slung. 

I am only doing what I have been told to do ; I can't 
help myself. 

295 Sai anyi kamma'n kura, saanan akan clii 

Only by doing as a kura will you get a goat. 

Hausa Proverbs 55 

296 Sliigga uku goro (gobro) da yaye. 

The bachelor with a weaned child has treble 
Yaye, anyayeshi, he is weaned, his mother has 
stopped suckHng him. 

297 Hauka sania ta ga malka, ta yi gudu. 

The silly cow when it sees rain coming runs 
(though it is useless to try to escape it in 
that way) . 

298 Ido ba mudu ba ne, ya san kima. 

The eye is not a measure, but it knows what is 

Kima, probably from the Arabic «uJ, price ; its 
signification here is " small." 

299 Dabbenka ya ji makubba. 
To receive the finishing touch. 

Dabbe, the beaten pebble floor of a hut. 

Makubba, the water in which the pods of the 

dorowa have been boiled or soaked. This water 

is used for putting on a floor or dabbe to 

harden and blacken it. 
The dabbe is a good floor, but when makubba is 

put on it is really good. 

300 Tsuntsu da ya kirra'n rua, shi rua kan 

The bird that calls out for rain, the rain strikes 
It gets more than it asked for. 

301 Sabo turki'n wawa. -? 

Familiarity with a thing is the tethering stick of 
a simpleton. 

302 Idan kunni ya ji, jikki ya tsira. 

If the ear hears the body is saved. 

If you do as you are told you will not be punished. 

56 Hausa Proverbs 

303 Idan ka ji makafo ya che ^^zo mu yi 

wasa'n jifa " ya taka cluchi ne. 

Beware of a blind man wko says, "Let us play at 
stone throwing," for lie most likely has a 
stone under his foot. 

Be on your guard against a man who invites you to 
compete at anything you know he is not generally 
good at. 

304 Idan jifa shi ketarre kanka, ko kan wa shi 


As long as it does not hit you, let it hit whom it 

305 Enna tukunia'n dammu, enna na guzza. 

AVhere is the pot of the damnnu and where is that 
of the giizza. 

The dammu and the guzza are both lizards ; the 
guzza is scaly, the dammu is not ; they are 
much alike, the dammu being the smaller. 

There is practically no difference between two things. 

306 Aboki'n kuka ba a boye masa mutiia. 

The man who is such a friend that he will weep 
for your sorrows, will you hide from him the 
fact that one of your family has died, and 
weep by yourself. 

307 Kadda ka yi fasshi'n majibaari, wonda ya 

yi fasslii ya fadda wiitta. 

Don^t be (foolishly) angry, like a moth ; the man 
who gets an^-ry falls into the fire. 

The moth flying against a light is supposed to be 
angry with it. 

308 Ka aje tukwa kamma'n gauraka. 
You have a crest like a crown bird. 

You are very proud. 

Hausa Proverbs 57 

309 Gidda bin magani'n gobarra. 

The cure for a conflagration is to have two 

310 Waiwaiya magani'n mantua. 

Keturning (for a thing forgotten) is the cure for 

311 Dauka'n wuya ba ya san gari da nesa. 

A man who is carried on some one's neck does 
not notice the distance of a town. 
As a horseman. 

312 Ni da abina, ina so emba karre, emba 


My property is my own. I will do what I like 
with it. 

313 Kun so dara, Allah ya hanna. 

You wanted to laugh but Allah prevented you. 

Said to a man who has had bad luck suddenly. He 
was quite secure in his liappiness when some 
sudden misfortune happened to him. 

314 Zona garinka mugu. Dan gujia ba 

mutiim ne ba. 

Get away, I don't want to have anything to do 
with you. 

Dan gujia, a chacha player, mostly used in the 

northern dialects. 
Chacha is not a game that a respectable man would 

be seen playing in public. 

315 Koshi kan maida tsofo yaro. 

Sufficiency, a good feed, will render an old man 
like a boy. 

58 Haiisa Proverbs 

316 Yimgwa shi kan maida yaro tsofo. 
Hunger will render a boy like an old man. 

317 Wayo kamma'n bera. 

Cunning as a rat. 

318 Rua ga wuya magani'n ma ki wanka. 

Water up to Ms neck is the cure for a man wlio 
does not like washing. 

319 Suka'n rua magani'n hauka doki. 
Galloping in water is the cure for a restive horse. 

320 KaiFa ba ta zamma enda babu kassa. 
The feet will not rest where there is no earth. 

321 Eana'n wanka ba a boye'n tcliibi. 

One does not hide one's navel the day one 
When you go before the judge do not hide the truth. 

322 Dukawa'n wada ba shi lianna ka tasslii da 


To salute a dwarf by bowing will not prevent you 
from rising to your full height again. 
It will not do you anj^ harm to do that. 

323 So kainka woni ya ki ka, ki kainka woni 

ya so ka. 
If you love yourself people will hate you, if you 
are unselfish people will love you. 

324 Zabe'n tummu'n derri. 

To choose a bundle in the dark. 

Tummu, a bundle of corn on the stalk. 
Kai ma kanka zabe'n tummu'n derri. 
You are taking a leap in the dark. 

HaiLsa Proverbs 59 

325 Mi na bissa ya clii. 

What is the one above to eat. 

If my master has no money, where am I to get it ? 

The idea appears to be that a servant would be sent 
up a tree to shake fruit down, the master being 
at the bottom ready to pick it up ; if he ate it 
all, or if there was very little of it, there would be 
none for the servant when he descended. 

326 Ganni en ba chi, karre kan kwana da 


To see and not to eat leaves the dog to sleep 
hungry. Vide 57. 

327 Mutum da gishirinsa sai ya dafFa kafo. 

A man and his salt, he only cooks a horn with it. 

Sooner than give you any of his salt he would waste 
it on cooking a horn. 

328 Goro'n magana ga mabaki, kuruma sai ya 


The kola-nut for talking is to the man who talks, 
the dumb man, to him only patience. 

329 Kurdi'n gudu ka bai angarama, kirru 

yana ganni, ba ya karba ba. 

The prize for running is given to the big horse, 
the small one looks on but gets nothing. 

330 Saura'n kurdi ka ba wa zomo, kwado sai 

ya danganna. 

The prize for swiftness is given to the hare, the 
frog has to be patient. 

331 Allah shi ne maisani, ba bawa ba. 

Allah is the one who knows everything, not man. 

6o Hausa Proverbs 

332 Zomo ba bawa'n giwa ba ne, dowwa suka 


The hare is not the slave of the elephant when 
they meet in the bush. 

333 Mai abin rufe. slii ne ya ke kuka'n dari, 

funtu ya ba gaskia ga itachi. 

The man with a covering shivers, the naked man 
pins his faith to a fire. 

334 Kishinrua ba ruanta da worigi, karba 

rangamma sai yungwa. 

Thirst is not a thing to joke about, a man who 
gets goods in exchange for what he sells 
goes hungry. 

335 Masoyi ya fi yerda. 

One volunteer is worth ten pressed men. 

336 Damina da zata yi alberka, timda bazarra 


The rainy season which is going to be a good one 
is known when the first rains fall. 

From the way a man begins his work you know 

whether he is going to make a good job of it. 
Coming events cast their shadows before. 

337 Alkemma bissa duclii, Allah slii kan baslii 

Allah will give water to the wheat on a rock. 
Allah will look after you if no one else will. 

338 Kwache goruba a liannu'n kuturu ba shi 

da wuya. 

To snatch the fruit of the dum-palm from the 
hand of a leper is not hard. 
Nothing to boast about. 

Haiisa Proverbs 6i 

339 Da sabo'n ginna gouma yaabi. 

Better plaster np an old wall tlian build a new 

Make the best of what you have. 

340 A yerda kaiira rana'n tiio, shinkafFa abin 

marmarri ne. 

Be content with what you have, you can't have 

Kaiira, a very red variety of guinea corn, some- 
times called ibirni. 

Marmarri, a luxury, a thing one wants but cannot 
always afford. 

341 Fadda'n bata kai, goiima ka yi shiru da 


Bather be silent than enter into a controversy in 
which you will be worsted. 

342 Idan gulbi ya hanna ketarre, ba ya hanna 

davrowa ba. 

The stream may prevent you from crossing, but it 
cannot prevent you from retracing your 
There is a limit to every one's powers. 

343 Idan magani ya ki shaowa, ba ya ki zubar 

rua ba. 

Medicine may be so nasty that it prevents your 

drinking it, but it can't stop your throwing 

it away (or it can't prevent your mixing it 

with water so as to be able to drink it). 

I can't do so and so, but I can and will do so and so. 

344 ^Ivlainema'nrangaminaba shi hanna cliiniki. 

Because a man only wants to barter there is no 
reason why you should not do business 
with him. 

62 Hausa Proverbs 

345 Sai anbatta ke bauta. 
A fool is always a slave. 

In old days a man who lost himself in Hausa was 
probably made a slave, so a man who always 
makes mistakes will never rise. 

This is one of those sayings whose sense is somewhat 

346 En mutum ya yi maka rana, ka yi masa 

Keturn good for evil. 

347 Mutum ba slii tube minny riga a kasua, 

saanan ya komo gidda ya clie za ya sa 

A man will not publicly insiilt me and tlien 
apologize privately. 

348 Ana magana'n kaia'n kai, ba a magana na 


We are talking of the head load, not of tlie one 
slung over the shoulder. 

Don't shove your oar in, you are much too small a 

The load carried on the head is a heavy one, one 

merely slung would be something small, done up 

in a bag or handkerchief. 

349 Fure tagari ba shi da dadi'n kamsbi 

A good fire is not always sweet smelling. 

350 Mai ido daia ba ya gode Allah ba, sai ya 

ga makafo. 

The one-eyed man only thanks Allah for his one 
eye when he sees a totally blind man. 
You never know when you are well off. 

Hausa Proverbs 63 

351 Juga rabbo'n cluffu, mai kaza ya tasshi da 


Sharing in tlie dark is not a good thing, the 
owner of the fowl (shared) may come off 
with the head. 

Anajuga masa da yawa, he has had much more than 
his share. 

352 Kowa na Allah ne, amma dammu na 

maigona ne. 
Every one belongs to Allah, but the dammu 
belongs to the owner of the farm. 
That at any rate is mine. 
Dammu, a Hzard. 

353 Arziki ba riga ba ne, bale a tube. 

Good luck is not like a coat which you can take 
off and on. 

354 Zuma da zaki (jl;) da harbi. 

The bee has both sweetness and a sting (zuma, 
honey, a bee). 
There are two sides to every question. 

355 Dukia magani'n kankantchi. 
Wealth is the cure for punishment. 

356 Barewa ta yi gudu, danta shi rereffi. 

When the bareica runs shall its young one crawl. 
When my master goes out shall I stay at home. 
Barewa, the gazelle, the Senegal antelope. 

357 Kura na sba'n rua, karre ya leka. 
The dog looks on while the kura drinks. 

Na, vide 8. 

358 Litafi'n makariacbi, shi ka yi karatu'n 

abinshi rana'n taro. 

The record of the liar, you read it the day you 

64 Hausa Proverbs 

359 Dasshe ya fi sirreri (or sliukakye). 

Planting out or transplanting is better than sow- 
ing seeds. 

360 Dan maigona ya fi dan mai gaiya. 

The son of a man who owns a farm is better 
than the son of the man who has only got 
a piece of ground which he intends to 

Gaiya, to collect a number of men together to hoe 
your farm ; a feast is usually prepared for them. 

361 Mai koda ba ta so mai koda. 

Maikoda, maikodia, a woman who pounds corn. 
Rivals do not agree. 

362 Dadi'n magana ka jira shi tarsheka. 
One does not seek to avoid pleasant talk. 

363 Wa ya ki faddua'n rumbu, mata'n gidda 

ko kaji ? 

Do the women of the house or the hens object to 
the falling down of the rumbu ? 

Rumbu, the earthen receptacle for corn, usually with 

a grass roof. 
They don't object, because it gives both less trouble 

to get the corn. Vide 129. 

364 Mai kaia ke tsoro'n fuslii, dan alaaro sai 

anbasbi magana. 

The owner of the load fears robbers (he acts with 
caution for fear of losing his property), the 
carrier does not care (all you can do is to 
warn him). 

Hausa Proverbs 65 

365 Rena kiwo makwaidaitchi, ko ya yi keau, 

ya chinye abinshi. 

Do not take any account of what the *' sponger " 
has, even if it is good he eats up his all. 

Makwadai, a man who lives on his neighbours, not 
necessarily a beggar. 

366 Mainama shi kan nema wutta. 
The man with meat seeks fire. 

367 Ta fi chikka kasua'n munafukai. 
The market of evildoers is always fullest. 

368 Resshi'n tuo kan chi wake akona. 
" Lack of tuo " has to eat burnt beans. 

Make the best of a thing. 

Wakd, beans, the food of the poorest people. 

369 Wonda ya dauki birri, sandanshi ba ya 

makki abissa ba. 

The stick of the monkey man will not be hidden 
in the tree long (for the monkey will bring 
it down for him). 

370 Tsuguni ba kari ba, anseyer da karre, 

anseye birri. 
The matter is not to be settled in that way. 

The dog and the monkey both squat, so that it is no 
good selling your dog and buying a monkey 
because you are tired of an animal that squats. 

371 Wake daia bata gari. 

"— One bean will spoil the flour. 

372 Ka fei banna, kamman gata'n birri. 

You are as destructive (mischievous) as a baboon. 

66 Hausa Proverbs 

373 Toosa ya kari a wuri'n bu derri. 

There's an end of that. He won^t do any more 

Bu derri, a strong-smelling animal, a wild cat or a 
kind of tortoise. 

374 Gulbi ba ya chi ni ba, koramma ba ya 

cbi na. 

The river has not been too much for me, its bed 
won't be. 

375 Gajiawa'n kurege a baki'n rami. 

To fail at the last minnte, like a IcuTege which 
has reached the mouth of its hole and is 
too tired to enter. 

376 Wasa'n kurege a baki'n raminshi. 

The playing of a jerboa at the mouth of its hole 
(where it is safe). 

Like a man who defies his enemies from a safe 

377 Kasslii a cbikkin turmi, ba na wada'n 

karre ne ba. 

A dwarf dog cannot leave its excrement inside a 

Turmi, the mortar of wood in which corn is pounded. 
Some one else must have done this, it is not like his 

378 Kyeta'n gwewa shi kan kassbi ubangij- 

To jeer at or neglect gwewa kills the master. 
Almost our " A stitch in time saves nine." Vide 60. 

379 Kaia na chi, gammu na cbi. 

The load troubles you (for it is heavy), but don't 
let the gammu do so (for it is light). 
Vide 6. 

Haiisa Proverbs 6y 

380 Talaala mai kamman sekk-ye, nesa mai 

kamman kussa. 

Talaala is like being loose^ as if a far away thing 
were close. 

To an animal to be tied with a long string, which it 

does not notice, is like being untied. 
Ya yi masu talaala, he watches them unawares. 

381 Maduki kussa, macheto nesa. 
The striker near, the refuge far. 

382 Abin duk da kaza achikkin chi'n danko. 

It is all the same to a hen what rubber it eats (for 
it does not eat rubber at all). 
It is all the same to me. 

383 Bakkai'n gizzu, shi ba Allah ba, shi ya 

hanna Allah rua. 

The spider's web is not Allah, but it prevents the 
rain falling. 

The heavy black clouds that hang about before a 
tornado are supposed to be like a spider's web 
and to prevent rain from falling. 

384 Taffia'n itachi'n kaddangari. 
Good intentions. 

The lizard, when it feels cold at night, says to itself 
" to-morrow I will find a smouldering tree to 
sleep in so that I shall be warm." Next day 
when it basks in the sun it forgets and does not 
do it ; the consequence is that it feels cold again 
next night. 

385 Mahasadda kuna zatto'n fari, Allah ya 

sakko da rua. 

slanderers, you think a thing is white (withered), 
but Allah will freshen it with water. 

Slanderers do a man great harm by their slander, but 
Allah will put it right. 

68 Hausa Proverbs 

386 Kirra da hannu magani'n wonda ya yi 


Calling with the hand is the remedy for one who 
is a long way off. 

387 Da terbache giwa ta fi dengi. 

By reason of collecting all round the elephant is 
the biggest beast. 

If everyone gives a little to make up one thing it will 
become biggest of all. 

388 Ya samu laamuni ga Dodo, shigga rua ba 

woni abu ne ba. 

He has a safe conduct from Dodo (the devil), if he 
enters water no harm will come to him. 
The devil looks after his own. 

339 So'n rakumi'n yara dagga nesa, en ya zo 
kussa sal su gudu. 

Children love the camel when it is afar off, when 
it approaches they run away. 
Don't be in a hurry to choose, be sure you want it. 

390 Muna shiri'n ganni kariwa'n booshia da 

fari'n wata. 

We are getting ready to see the catching of the 

hedgehog in the moonlight. 
We are expecting a day of reckoning or exposure 

for him. 

The hedgehog moves at night ; it requires moonlight 
to see it. 

391 Miskin, mai shigga rijia ya je da dawu. 

A lucky man is like a man who having fura 
(which is dry) enters or comes on a well 
(which has water). 

Hausa Proverbs 69 

392 Kurum bakka, amaria ta hadie kasshe. 

Silence, indeed, as a bride who has swallowed a 
bone on her wedding-day. 

393 Daji ba kari chi'n wiitta ba, fara ba ta yi 

ma yar mvatata berk a. 

While the bush is still burning the locust does not 
congratulate its friend. 
Do not cry out till you are out of the wood, 

394 Chan gasso gadda, zoiiio ya ji kiddi'n 


There where the gadda is the hare hears the 
sound of the beating of drums. 

Antelope are driven by a large crowd of shouting 

people who beat drums, &c. 
At any rate the hare is warned in time. It is an ill 

wind that blows no one any good. 
Gadda, the duiker. 

395 Koenna funtu zashi, da sanni'n mairio^a. 

Wherever the naked man goes, the man with a 
coat knows where he is. 
A naked man is always conspicuous. 

396 Kadda mu yi sara'n itcbi da mutum bissa. 
Don't let us talk of him, there he is. 

397 Ido ba ma gani ba, sai hankali ke gani. 

It is not the eye that understands, but the mind. 

398 Man rua ya sha kai, shakirra muburmi. 

If water is up to your head the buttocks are like 

a muburmi in a masekhi. 
To plunge deeper into the mire. 

Muburmi, the small calabash used to bale water out 
of a larger one. It would usually be at the 

Shakirra, the buttocks. 

70 Hausa Proverbs 

399 Kwadai ka kasshe'n karre, ba yungwa ba. 

It is not liimger that kills the dog but continually 
hanging round for food; for people get 
angry and throw stones at it. 

400 Da kuiTU gadda ta yi sunna. 

The gadda has a reputation for courage, or on 
account of its small size. 
Gadda, a very small antelope, duiker. Vide 394. 

401 Koyanzu kasua ta tasshi, angulu ta sha 


As soon as the market breaks up the vulture 
begins to drink blood. 

402 Saba da maifito, tun kwoginshi ba kawo 

rua ba, randa rua ya bayenna kai ne 
fito'n farko. 

Familiarity with a boatman, before his river fills 
with water, causes you to be the first to 
benefit by his boat when the water appears. 
Maifito, a boatman, one who puts you out. 

403 Saba da kwana'n rami, ko mutua ya 


A man who is accustomed to hardship will not 
mind a little extra. 

404 Kowa ta kai, gobarra yan bera. 
Every one for himself. 

405 Shi ke nan birni, en ji ba kowye. 
see the city, so says the rustic ! 

Kowye the small hamlets within a radius of ten miles 
or so from a walled town ; in a larger sense, 
sometimes for all towns depending on the " birni." 

Hausa Proverbs 7 1 

406 Da angansu, sai anclie " kworria akarabba." 

On seeing them one would say, '* A calabash cut 
in half." 
As like as two peas. 

407 Kaddangari ka shigga rua ka zamma kadda. 

0, lizard, if you ent'er the water you will become 
a crocodile. 

As if one said to a man, " Yes, go on, you can do it," 
knowing well that he cannot. To egg him on. 

408 Wonda a rua ba ya san tuddn anarana ba. 

He who is at his ease does not know what it is to 
be in want. 

409 Tulu ne, ya ke ka kawo, randa tana dakka. 

The tulu you carry to and fro, the randa remains 
in the house. 

The owner of the house is always there, he does not 
do the fetching and carrying. Vide 12. 

410 Maigado ya so kwana mai taberma nadde. 

The owner of the bed wants to sleep, and the 
owner of the mat (who has spread it on the 
bed) must pack up. 

411 Kwana bukka ya ii kwana soro (da ba 


To sleep in the grass shelter of the trader (and 
have plenty of food) is better than to sleep 
in a soro without any. 
Soro, the flat-roofed mud hut, the best kind known 
in the Central Soudan. 

412 Akwoi mai- abut a uku zamma'n dunia, da 

zuchia, da hankali, da leura. 

There are three things worth having in this world, 
courage, good sense, and caution. 

72 Hausa Proverbs 

413 Enna rua'n gusu da taba. 

They are two entirely different things. 

414 Muna da nia (neea) maje samma ya hau 


We are full of zeal, the goer to the sky climbs a 
palm tree (deleb). 
Much promise, little result. 

415 Ido'n da ya ga hayaki shi kan debo wutta. 
The eye that sees smoke looks for fire. 

416 Zamani'n da doki da jaki ba su mutu ba, 

mi maikia ta chi ta yi rai. 

What is the vulture to eat if horses and donkeys 
don't die. 
It is an ill wind that blows no one any good. 

417 Wawa ba mabaukaclii ba ne, en ya chi 

kasua giddansa sai ya komo. 

The simpleton is not absolutely devoid of sense, 
if he visits the market he will return 

418 Da bagarua da abin gari ne, da ba aber na 

majema ba. 

Had the bagama been of any other use it would 
not have been left to the tanner. 

Bagarua, acacia tree, its wood is very hard and is used 
for the handles of axes, &c., the bark for tanning. 
Majema, masu gyetta fata, tanners. 

419 Sabta'n tsoola, ka debi fusari ka wanka 

To rob Peter to pay Paul. 

Hausa Proverbs 73 

420 Hallali'n gimda itachi'n gao. 

The proper food for the gunda is the wood of the 
gao tree. 

Gunda, the insect that bores holes in wood. 

421 Kufan mai ta fi. na rua. 

A grease stain is more lasting than one of water. 

422 Makafo ba ya san anaganninsa ba, sai ansa 

sanda anzungereshi. 

A blind man does not know that he is being 
looked at until one takes a stick and 
pokes him. 

423 Inda rua, garra ya yi ginna, in ba rua ba, 

garra ya yi ginni. 

The garra (white ant) builds with or without 

424 Karriya ne, kunne ba slii iinn kai. 

It is a lie, the ears are not bigger than the head. 
The servant is not a bigger man than his master. 

425 Aki maraya da riga'nbuzu, a ganshi da na 


You refuse the orphan a leather rig a (or you 
object to him with a leather riga on), 
you meet him with one of iron. 

426 Kadda ayi "ban rua albassa/' a deeba 

akassa, a zubass akassa. 

Don't do " giving an onion water ; " it is taken 
from the ground and poured out on the 
Don't do that kind of thing, there is no end to it. 

74 Hausa Proverbs 

427 Masiachi, ko ansakkaslii achikkin tandu'n 

mai, sai slii fito busasslii. 

A poor (unsuccessful) man, if lie was put into a 
pot of grease lie would come out dry. 
If a man is fated to be poor, nothing will enrich him. 

428 Blikki'n kuUa, aska ta bata a wuri'n 


" Looking feast " is like spoiling a razor on a bald 
It is a waste of time. 

429 Malakka'n karre da banta'n kura. 
Tbe kura's liver and tbe property of a dog ! 

A thing he is not likely to have. 

430 Sai ansba wuya akantunna AUab. 
When in trouble one remembers Allah. 

431 Mai babetcbi maso fadda, wonda ya tanka 

ko ya fisbi. 

Tbe man who is full of trite sayings rejoices in 
a discussion ; it is not impossible tbat tbe 
.man wbo answers may silence bim. 

Tbe following twenty-two sentences, wbicb define tbe 
peculiarities of certain tbings and animals, are often 
used wben tbey are considered to tbe point as : — 

11 Meaning he may be ugly and stupid, but he does 
us no harm. 

15 What a chatterbox. 

Hausa Proverbs 75 

16 He would not come here without a reason. 

An officer well known in North Nigeria was commonly 
spoken of among the soldiers in a similar way : 
Ku-ado, hicado ha I'ct chi'n ivoni. 

1 Dila maishenchia, maiwayo, sha rua da na 


The dila with a bushy tail is a wily animal, he 
drinks to-morrow's water as well as to-day's. 

2 Kaza, bata wiiri'n kwananki. 

hen, you foul your own nest. 

3 Yawa'n daria kamma'n gona'n abduga. 

A great deal of laughter is like a cotton field (for 
the white teeth show). 

4 Rangamma kina da kamma'n anseyes a koma 


0, rangamma, you are like "sold and cried for sale 

Rangamma, to barter, to get goods in exchange, not 

Talha, to cry anything for sale in the market. 

5 Giwa'n bassa, ko miitum ya massu, ba ya 

seyer da shi ya seye fur a. 

Giwa'n bassa, a large hamper of butter (shea) ; it is 
very carefully closed, and a carrier would not 
think of opening it to buy himself food with, even 
if he were hungry. 

6 Tolo-tolo ka fi yanka'n baki (Jk), 

0, turkey, you are too good (expensive) to kill for 
a stranger to eat. 

'j6 Hausa Proverbs 

7 Dammu sariki'n hankuri, kurrum ya gum- 

slieka da kowa, wanda ya che " ka che " 
shi ya che. 

The dammic is the prince of patience, he tries to 
please every one, if any one says, " speak," 
he speaks. 

8 Tsari mai ba haushi akoreka ka fada riia. 

tsari, you give disappointment, when you are 
chased you drop into the water. 
Tsari, said to be a small alligator. 

9 Iska ba ki da nowyi, kina kada mainya 

mainyan itachi. 

wind you have no weight, but you cut down the 

biggest trees. 

10 Kitse mugu'n nama, ba ka nima ba, ka 

kasshe wutta. 

fat, you are an evil kind of meat, you do not get 
cooked and you put out the fire. 

11 Enna laifi'n angulu, kaza'n birni, wonda ba ta 

tona sbuka. 

Why do people find fault with the vulture ; it is a 
town bird, it does not eat seeds (that have 
been sown). 

12 Man ka ji zuma yana kugi, ya yi rua ne, 

shina nema'n maichinsa. 

When you hear the bee buzzing, you know it is 
making honey and wants some one to take it. 

13 Laya'n karra da keau, ba magani. 

Laya (charms) made of guinea corn stalk sewn in 
leather are nice to look at, but they are 
not real " juju." 

Hausa Pi'overbs yy 

14 Hansekkye'n darma, ka kai ba ka kawo ba. 

pincers made of lead, you can bring up iron to 
the fire but cannot carry it away again. 

15 Sooda maiyawa'n labari fadi ba a tambayeka 


sooda, you are full of noise, tliougb no one asks 
you to make it. 
Sooda, a small bird which makes a great twittering. 

16 Maikia ba ki sauka'n banza, sai maidalili. 

vulture, you do not settle on the ground without 
a reason. 

17 Belbela chi da motsi'n woni. 

belbela, you live by the movements of others. 

Belbela, the paddy bird of India; it is always seen 
near cattle, &c., and feeds off the ticks. 

18 Gona'n tofa kewoya dagga nesa. 

Go a long way round to avoid the fields where tofa 
is growing. 
Tofa, a grass which leaves prickles in the feet. 

19 Karre'n ramma ba ruanka da kanzo. 

dog, made of tie-tie, you have no concern with 

Ramma, a straight bush ; tie-tie is made out of its 

Tie-tie, the native English for string made out of bark. 
Karre'n ramma, a basket made out of this tie-tie filled 

with rubbish, which children play with, supposed 

to be a dog. 
Kanzo, the dry remains of yesterday's tuo, usually 

thrown to hens or dogs. 

78 Hausa Proverbs 

20 Hankaka maicla dan woni shi zamma naka. 

haiikaka, make some one else's child become 

The hankaka, or crow, is supposed not to have young of 
its own but to appropriate those of other birds. 

21 Gaiwa chi jikkinki. 

gaiiva, eat your own body. 

Gaiwa, the mud fish, found under the mud after water 
has fallen below its usual level ; it is, during the 
dry weather, supposed to live on the secretions of 
its own body. 

22 Faran tunfafia ba achinki, ba ka chin woni. 

locust of tbe tunfafia tree, you are not eaten, you 
do no one any barm. 


1 Rigata biu, wonda ni ke sawa shi ne sabua, 

won da ba ni sawa ita che tsofiia. 

I have two coats, tlie one wliich I always wear is 
new, and the one I don^t wear is old. 
Ansiver. — A road. 

2 Rigata guda daia, aljifunta deri. 

I have a coat with a hundred pockets. 
Answer. — An anthill. 

3 Godiata da chikki ba na bawa'n doki, sai 

chikki ni ke hau. 

When my mare is in foal I don't ride her, but I 
ride the unborn foal. 
Ansicer. — A house with a bed inside. 

4 Shanunsa deri, madaurinsa daia. 

Answer. — A broom, which has a hundred pieces of grass, 
but only one string to tie them with. 

5 Babba na chikki gemansa na waje. 

The master of the house is inside but his beard is 

Answer. — A hut with a fire inside and the smoke 
coming out of the roof. Vide 8 na. 

6 Dan karami'n abu gamma dunia. 

A very small thing, but the world is not complete 
without it. 
Answer. — The moon. 

So Hausa Proverbs 

7 Afallalu kan dabobi, dukia mai kamma'n 

Iblis, kowa ya sekkyeka ya nemoka. 

Largest of beasts, devilisli property, every one 
who loses you has to look for you. 
Answer. — A camel. 

8 Fura'n uri, dama kwogi. 

A cowrie's worth of fura wbicli whitens tke pool or 
Answer. — The moon. 

9 Akoshi'n babba faskarra sudewa. 

The basin of a great man which cannot be emptied. 

Answer. — The kuddu'n diiflS, the pits from which earth 

has been dug to build walls, they fill with water 

during the rains. 
Soodi or suddi, the remains of a dish ; you may keep 

on baling out " kuddu'n diiffi," but will never 

empty them. 

10 Rawani'n babba faskarra naddawa. 
The chiefs headdress defies rolling up. 

Rawani, the strip of cloth wrapped round the face and 
head — Puggari. 

Anm)er. — A road. 

11 Na wanka kworriata, na je da ita gabbass, 

na je da ita yamma, na dawo, ba ta 
booshe ba. 

I clean my calabash, I go east with it, I go west 
with it, still it won't dry. 
Ansxcer.—k dog's tongue. 

12 Uku, Tiku ta gamma gari. 

Three, three complete the town; no town is 
complete without them. 

Answer. — The three stones or lumps of earth on which 
pots are put to stand when cooking. 


1 Ba don na gani ya dauka ba, sai en che 

ba ya iya dauka'n shi ba. 

Had I not seen him carrying it, I should have said 
that he was unable to. 

2 Ba don sabboda da duchi ba, da ba na fadi 


Had it not been for the stone, I should not have 

3 ]\Iutum dei shi kanwa a kainsa. 
He brought it on himself. 

4 Idonka ya rassa gani ne ? 

Can't you see ? 

5 Nama'n daji ya gilma a banya. 
Some animal has crossed the road. 

6 Ya gaaji yaki waja'n ubanshi. 

He inherits his taste for war from his father. 

7 Anyi tsimmi da shi. 

I have saved it up (for another time). 

8 Da kai da wonan sai wata rana. 

You are never likely to get this. 

82 Hausa Proverbs 

9 Wa ya fara tono'n wonan fadda ? 
Who started this disturbance ? 

10 Ka fei tsauri'n ido. 

You are very disrespectful (or disobedient). 

11 Na koasa da kai. 
I am sick of you. 

12 Ka terri minny shi. 

Catch or get hold of him for me. 

13 Ya rassa ni da gani. 

He did not see me. 

14 Kadda ka rigaya wokachinka. 

Don't come before your time. 

15 Kowa ya ga dama, ya ba. 

Every one, who sees fit, can give. 

16 Shi ya sab a da shi. 

He is familiar with it. 

17 Anfi sabo da shi. 

More familiar with it. 

18 Ka gurguntchi kainka don wuya. 

You are pretending to be lame to avoid work. 

19 Gari ya tsake minny. 

I don't recognize the town. 

20 Ya sa baki achikkin magananmu. 

He joined in our conversation (uninvited). 

Coniino7i Hmisa Expressions 83 

21 Ataya masu aiki. 

Help them in tlieir work. 

22 Ya che a gai masa da kai. 

He said, salute you for him. 

23 Ku Hausawa, kii kan sa ma mutum sunna 

kamman wonan? 
Is this a common Hausa name ? 

24 Gaba'n Kwarra yana gabchewa. 

The banks of the river (Niger) are falling in. 

25 Akoi king! ko babu ? 
Is there any left or not ? 

2^ Ya dauki zobe. 

He knows we are talking about him. 

27 Doiya ya fooda minny jikki. 
I am full up with yam. 

28 Samma yana halaamu'n yi'n rua. 
It looks like rain. 

29 Shina da halaamu'n kammanshi. 
It looks like him. 

30 Anajuga masa da yawa. 

He has been given much more than his share. 

31 Ka tabba masuwa ? 

Are you afflicted, or in straitened circumstances ? 

$4 Hausa Proverbs 

32 Kowa ya niffi kainshi da alheri. 
Every one is fond of a present. 

33 Waneni ya kada woni da magana a waja'n 

In whose favour was judgment given. 

34 Kadda ka kauchi kanka. 

Don't duck your head. 

35 Sanche ya dauki woni. 

Some one has slipped. 

36 Hanya ta yi sanche. 
The road is slippery. 

37 Dari ya taakurraka wuri daia. 
Cold makes you sit crouched up. 

38 Woni abu ya tsannancheni. 

Something is troubling me. 

39 Yana da wolkia. 

His face shines. 

40 Ya bugga waya. 

He tells a lie, is deceitful. 

41 Dauki lumfaashinka. 
Hold your breath. 

42 Na seyeshi hagye. 
I bought it on credit. 

Common Hausa Expressions 85 

43 Tosheyshi da kadda. 

Fill it up with cotton, i.e., stuff up a crack with it. 

44 Rabbu da ni. 
Get away from me. 

45 Fashi'n kwana biu ya kan zo. 
He comes at intervals of two days. 

46 Fataki suna zua, ba su fasawa. 

Traders keep on coming, there is a continual stream 
of them. 

47 Abajjeshi baya daia, or abajjeshi. 
Level it (of ground). 

48 A maida wonan a mazonin wonan. 
Change this one with that. 

49 Bani magammi'n fata wonda ke zua gaba. 
Give me the leather thing which goes in front. 

50 Zo nan kowache rana kadda ka chirr a rana, 

ko daia. 
Come here every day, don't miss one. 

51 Ka zona daura (dough-ra) da ni. 

Sit opposite to me. 

52 Kadda ka wohalla kainka achikkin rana. 
Don't overwork yourself. 

53 Wane gari za afara issa ? 

What town shall we reach first ? 

86 Hausa Proverbs 

54 Ka yi wasosunshi. 

Scramble for it. 

55 Kadda ka sa ya falka. 
Don't wake him up, 

56 Bakinshi yana kwatta. 
He has an accent. 

57 Danko ya leeke minny a hannu. 

Kubber is sticking to my hand. 

58 Ya fansamma minny rua. 
He is splashing me with water. 

59 Maganataka magana mabi ne. 
Your talk is senseless. 

60 Ya bini bashi. 

He follows me for what I owe him. He is dunning 

61 Ka chikka dauda. 
You are filthily dirty. 

62 Bashi da chi. 

He is not feeding. He is off his feed. 

63 Kadda ka Iwasashi. 

Don't squash or crush it (of a frog, egg, &c,). 

Of paper, " mursekk-yeshi " (crumple up in hand). 
Of a handkerchief, " dandonneshi," (to crush up in 
one's hand). 

Coimnon Hausa Expressions 87 

64 Ya shigga a chikkin hatem. Ya sha 

haterri da yawa. 
He ran a great risk. 

This word " haterri " is not common, it is derived from 
the Arabic, and is probably only known to 
educated men. 

65 Bani iyaka'n alhakina. 

Give me the limit that is due to me. 

%Q Ba ya sonka da riga. 

He does not value you at a coat. 

He does not like you well enough to give you a coat. 

67 Tushiansu daia. 

Their stock, or origin, is the same. 

68 Kadda ka yi minny shishiggi don resshi'n 

Don't be so lacking in respect as to interrupt me. 

69 AYa ya mutu, xlbdu ya chi ? 

Who was king before Abdu ? 

70 A fiadishi. 

Knock it down (of a earthen hut or wall). 
A gotcheshi (of a grass hut). 

71 A kankarreshi. 

Scrape it (of a piece of iron or wood from which 
one wishes the paint removed). 

72 Kai maisabta ne. 

You are a ^' smart " man, i.e. well turned out. 

88 Hausa Proverbs 

73 Kai kazami'n mutum ne. 

You are a dirty beast. 

74 Kaia'n sariki ba kamma'n naka ba ne, bale 

ka seyer da shi. 
Uniform is not the sort of thing you can sell. 

75 Ka tsak-ye tasshi. 

Get up again. 

Ka tasshi kuma is rather a clumsy way of speaking, 
what the native calls " Hausa'n turawa." 

76 Turawa suna Hausa berkatai. 
The white men are all over Hausa. 

77 Ya doora minny batchi. 

He abuses me. 

Doora, pronounced like English door. 

78 Anadinga magana. 

There is a lot of talking going on. 

79 Chi dununka (da hannu). 
Put your arms akimbo. 

Kamashi a dunu. 
Seize him by the waist. 

80 Kadda woni ya goata woni. 

Don't let any one project beyond his fellows. 

Useful in explaining the idea of dressing to a soldier, 
or a line of them. 

81 Anyi minny lalle na bashi. 
I was obliged to give it him. 

Co7nvw7i Hmisa Expressions 89 

82 Marrike, or marke, mai dan jikki. 

A spare man or horse, well nourished, but with no 
superfluous flesh on him. 

83 Ya kada girimanka. 

He pays you no respect, he disregards you. 

84 Na rebbi da slii. 

I recognize him. I know all about him. 

85 Ya yi sulfu majunansu. 

He reconciled them. He made peace between 

86 Yana yagewa chiawa kamma'n dan jaki. 

He " noses" the grass like a young donkey. 

He pushes about the grass on the top of a pool like a 
young ass to get a place to drink. 

87 Zaami nana. 
Pull up here. 

To a man riding. 

88 Soma wonan chikkin rua. 
Dip this in the water. 

89 Ya soma yi. 

He has begun to do. He is on the point of doing. 

90 Fita da hannu'n riga waje. 

Turn the sleeves inside out. 

Yana jn-ye. 
It is inside out. 

91 Minene kana sumani achikkin liankalinka. 

What do you think yourself? What is your 
opinion ? 

90 Hausa Proverbs 

92 Yi magana da karifi. 

Speak up. 

93 Ya ji dadi, yana tunna giddansa. 
He is happy, thinking of his home. 

94 Magana'n mi ku ke yi ? 
What are you talking about ? 

95 Kai tari da junansu? 
Were you with them ? 

96 Ya yi kua har muria ta diisshe. 

He kept on shouting till he became hoarse. 

97 Yana orunnaao^imni. 
He is grumbling. 

98 Zuchiata ta niffeni da riga wonan. 
I want this coat. 

99 Na kari aiki. 
I finish work. 

Na kare bugu. 

I ward off a blow. (Note the difference of termina- 
tion, in one case hari in the other 'kare,) 

100 Rigata ya taakurra. 
My coat has shrunk. 

101 Chirri cliiawa duk da soyanta (sowuya 

Pull up the grass, root and all. 

102 Ka gamma kanka da ni ? 

Do you set yourself against me ? Do you wish to 
compete with me ? 



The origin of the name Hausa has been the subject of 
some discussion. Leo Africanus, in his travels, in the 
first half of the sixteenth century, did not, apparently, 
know the name, for he says that the people of Katzena, 
Zanfara, &c., talked the language of Gober. 

Ibn Batuta, the famous Arab traveller also mentions 
Gober in his travels (a.d. 1353). 

In the translation of the " Tarikh es Sudan " (a 
history of the Songhai Empire in Arabic dating, from 
1600 A.D.), we find the name Hausa (Haoussa) men- 
tioned five times ; the name was therefore well known 
at that time. 

The country appears to have served as a shelter for 
fugitives from Songhai, and to have consisted of a 
number of independent tribes not worth while conquer- 
ing, or perhaps too troublesome. 

Barth suggests that the name Hausa may have 
originated from the northern tribes and be identical 
with A'usa, by which name the Western Tuareg denote 
the country on the north side of the Niger near 

It is not impossible that the name is derived from 
the Arabic name for the Abyssinians, viz. 
(Habbash), which would become Haushi. 

92 Hausa Proverbs 

To neighbonring tribes tliey are known by a great 
variety of names : — 




usually Kanawa, but also Hausa 

and Afuno' 




Bau Hakkini 


Mugdu or Mugadu 







Shuwwa Arabs 

Afunu or Hausa 


Hosab or Hausa 







The name Hausa, then, is by no means universal. 
Afunu, tbe name by wbicb the eastern peoples know 
them, is almost as common. Nearly all Hausas, if 
asked to what race they belong, will answer, ba Kat- 
seni, ba Zanfara, &c. 

The smaller tribes bordering on Hausa call their 
nearest neighbours Goberawa, Kanawa, Zanfarawa, &c., 
as the case may be. 

Barth suggests that the name Afunu originated from 
the name of a king of Kano. 

So little is known of the subject that it may be 
worth while giving a derivation of the word suggested 
by a Fulani tradition ; though I am bound to say that 
the authority for the tradition is not very reliable. 

The Kanuri are called by the Fulani Sirratiyen, and 

Tribal Marks 93 

there is a tradition that this is the name of an ancestor 
common to both Kanuri and Fulani. If this has any 
foundation, it might be possible to trace the meaning 
of Afunii to Fulani, in which language fiinah means 
east and A-funu might mean " not eastern." 

The Kerrikerri name Mugadu is said to mean 
^* Western people." 

The natives, however, from whom I got a few words 
of Kerrikerri, knew Hausa so very imperfectly that it 
is more than likely that I misunderstood them. 

Funeh, or Founey, means East also in Songhai. 

Waiuii funne means East in Zaberma. (A fuun = 
he goes, or comes, out.) 


Tribal marks have not been much studied, and there 
seems to be very little system in their arrangement. 
Every man carries the name of his district on his face, 
and, in addition, there are all kinds of marks and cuts 
on the limbs and body. These marks are, so to speak, 
the armorial bearings of a tribe, but whether they have 
any special meaning, or whether there is any reason for 
the various patterns, it is impossible to say. Speaking 
generally, the more uncivilized a tribe the larger the 
number of marks, though there are many exceptions to 
this — the Ngaz, for instance, a pagan tribe in Eautchi, 
have only one cut, a prominent one, like a chinstrap. 


Hausa Proverbs 

If two tribes, a long distance apart, liave the same 
marks, it is probable that they once had some connec- 
tion. The only instance of this, that I know, is Daura 
and Ariawa, and the Ariawa people claim to have come 
from Danra ; their marks, two long lines from corner 
of mouth towards the ear, are the same. 

People who have been settled for generations in a 
foreign district still continue to put the old tribal marks 
on their children. A knowledge of marks is useful, for, 
in addition to knowing a man's district, one knows roughly 
his special aptitudes. For example, a man with Kabbi 
marks would probably be able to swim ; one with Gober 
marks would know about camel and donkey transport ; 
one with Bornu marks would know about ox transport, 
&c. One can also trace criminals and deserters. 

The marks of the Hausa States proper are, as a 
rule, neatly executed and well defined. No one could 
mistake the Katzena or G-ober marks. 

Tribal marks are cut, not branded, and for this 
reason Eabeh's mark is easily distinguished, as it was 
generally branded. 

Marks with a large number of lines, such as Bornu, 
Kabbi, &c., are known as zuhhe. 

The mark which slants down, bisecting the angle 
made by the nose and eye, like the Nupe, is, in con- 
junction with tribal marks, called shdtanni. In 
Kabbi, if a man has a shdtanni on each side, it 
signifies that both his father and mother are Kabawa. 

In Gober, a shdtanni on the right side signifies 
good birth. 

Keshestu are small marks or dots in parallel lines. 

Akanza are marks tattooed with blue pigment, 

Hausa Proper Names 95 

usually on the side of the frontal bones, but also in 
other places. 

Katamhirri are the marks, usually black, which 
women paint on their faces. 

When it is remembered that each tribe and sub- 
division have different marks, it is apparent that the 
subject is a large one. This note merely calls attention 
to it. 


Most natives who are nominally Muhammadans, in- 
cluding nearly all soldiers and men who come in con- 
tact with Europeans and are more or less civilized, 
have adopted names from the Quran, or the common 
corruptions of them, and by these they are known in 
their ''book," though their names among their friends 
are often quite different. The correct spelling of these 
proper names has received very little attention, though, 
being derived from Arabic, their orthography is more 
or less fixed. 

To follow all the vagaries of uneducated pronuncia- 
tion creates unnecessary confusion. It is just as absurd 
to write Jakge instead of George as to write Aloo 
instead of Aliyu or Alihu. 

Such names are: — Audu, Abdu, Aliyu, Alihu, Ali 
(not Ally), Mahmadu (not Mamadu), Mahama (not 
Momma or Mamma), Muhammadu (not Mohamedu), 
Ahmadu (not Amadu), Saidu (not Seydu), Hassan, 
Alhassan, Sani, Sanusi, Husaini (not Oseni), Suli (not 
Suley), Sulimanu, Musa, Moshi, Bakri, Bekri, Abu 

96 Hausa Proverbs 

Bakri, Bubar (a contraction of Bu Bakr), Usumanu, 
Usman (Issuman and Suman are tlie same name mis- 
pronounced), Zubehru (not Seberu), Shefu, Ibrahim, 
Grabima, Brahima, Adamu, Isa (not Esa), Umoru, 
Abdullabi (not Abdulai), Atabiru, Salufu, Hamma, 
Albamdu, Haji, Yesufu, Ismaila (not Smaila), Yakiibu, 
Iliasu, Idrisu, Kadiri. 

Other names of a religious character are similar to 
the Puritan names of Cromwell's times. Such are : — 
Samu ga Allah (pronounced Sangalla), Alia Eama, 
Na' Allah, Allah Nana, Allah Sariki. These names 
are common among converted pagans. 

Some are genuine native names, most of which occur 
in the genealogical lists of the ruling families of various 
tribes. Such are : — Gambo, Jimba, Garba, Dankassa, 
Bermu, Nebo, Kure, Ɗangude, Majinyawa, Mayaki, 
Gomki, Baw^a, Bunzulu, Anbanga, Halbo, Gurnu, Tomo, 

Some are rather \vhat we should call nicknames 
(suna'n wasa) . Such are : — Ɗogo, Maiwuya, Maikarifi, 
Kuruma, Madugu, Barau, Mumini, Angulu, Djinjeri, 
Mai Damiisa, Dan Dogari, Maigari, Bako, Doclo, Dogo'n 
Yaro, Na Koko (I beg you), Maki-gudu (he won't run 
away), Ba Chikkinka, Dan Makadda, Mai-reggoma, 
Neminaka (look out for yourself), Dan Giwa, Yaro, 
Damana, Sooda. 

Other common ones are : — Ari (K.), Bello (F.), Bairu, 
Kiari (K.), Billama (K.), Bokpa (F.), Aruna, Manzo, 
Mainassara, Babba, Tanko, Jidda, Sambo, Ba Goberi 
(not Bogoberri), Kolo, Salu, Balarabi, Miko, Magaaji, 
Ma-ji'n-dadi, Arzika, Jatau, Korau, Jibu, Labbu, Ango, 
JimS, Maina. 

Camel and Giraffe 97 


The European classes all natives together as " black 
men." The native himself recognizes many diifferent 
shades of colour. 

The down-river native of Asaba or Onicha is about 
the only man whom all agree in calling black. 

There is a peculiar shade between black and red 
known as wanhan tarwada. The tarwada is a fish, 
and it is the grey appearance of its skin when washed 
which represents the colour. 


OxE of the first things that strikes any one who is 
interested in the Hausa names for animals is that the 
camel should be called rahumi and the giraffe the 
raliicmi^n daji. 

Hausa alone compares the giraffe to the camel, 
though some of the pagan tribes to the south have 
borrowed both names. 

Now the camel is an introduced animal, and the 
names by which practically all the tribes east of the 
Niger call it are corruptions of the Arabic al jamaL 
jJlI, our own word camel. 

*Nyillim luguma 

fSarra langamm 

Bagarmi luguma 

* Nyillim, a tribe on the Logoiie. 

t Sarra, S.E. of Lake Tchad, on Ghari. 


g8 Proverbs in the Hausa Language 









The word may be traced roughly as follows : — 



Lagumal (luguma in Bagarmi) 

raguma (karigyimmo in Kanuri) 

rakumi (in Hausa) 

The giraffe, on the other hand, is an indigenous 
animal, and these same languages, with the exception 
of Hausa, have a distinct name for it. 

Nyillim nyamboh 

Sarra kolloh 

Bagarmi korloh 

Kanuri kinjirr 

Marghi meetsku 

Bolewa tell'emm 

Hausa rakumi 'n daji 

Incidentally the Songhai language, or rather the 
Zaberma dialect of it, though not using the same word 
for camel, also calls the giraffe the bush camel, or 
gangi yoh ; where gangi = bush and yoh = camel. 

These names indicate that the camel was known 
before the giraffe, and as a consequeuce that the Hausa 
did not originate in a country where the giraffe was 

* Barth derives this word from the Kanuri word for a plant 
on which camels feed. 

House Building 99 

The adaptability of the language and the readiness 
with which it assimilates new ideas and absorbs 
foreign words give some ground for another explana- 
tion. His every-day life, once he was acquainted with 
it, would bring the Hausa into daily ^contact with the 
camel, whereas the giraffe would only be seen occasion- 
ally ; it would not be unnatural for him, then, to 
discard the old barbarous name for giraffe and 
substitute for it the name rakumVn daji, which, 
owing to his familiarity with the camel, would better 
represent that animal to his imagination than the old 
one. He has discarded his old system of numeration 
in a similar way. 


There are several varieties of house : — 

Daki The conical :roofed hut with the 

wall made of mud. 
Dauke or taffe Very often this hut is also called 

daJii, but, strictly speaking, it is 

built of z ana mats throughout. 
Bukka or Booka The grass shelter of traders. The 

hut that the Bornu people build is 

also given this name. 
Soro The flat-roofed house, built of mud. 

Zauri The entrance to a gidda ; it has 

two doors and is where visitors sit 

and gossip. 

100 Proverbs in the Hausa Language 

Taferferra A four-cornered house, after tlie 

Yoruba style. 

Ginna, to build a house. Yaahi, to patch a crack 
up with mud. There is a proverb, No. 339, referring 
to these two words. 

Goffa (pronounced like our coffer), the fork of a stick: 
itachi maigoffa the stick or pole with a fork at the 
top, mostly used for the support of a house. 

Mafiadi, the cross-piece which rests on two goffa. 

Dirlvohi, the short poles which are put round the 
circle or square marked out for a new house ; on these 
the framework will rest 

Tsayko, the sticks which slope from the dirkoki to 
the mafiadi. 

Karra'n taiika, the cross-pieces tied to tsaylco for the 
grass of the roof to rest on (Ajarra^ guinea-corn stalk). 

Sahga'n or Sauga'n tmika, the same use as harrcCn 
tanha, but consists of stripped rods or branches. 

Jinka, the roof proper, i.e., the conical erection of 
grass, &c., put on a house. 

Yanta, the stringing grass together to make roofing. 
A common saying is Aihin malalachi yanta. Yanta 
is the work of a useless man. 

Dahho, or conjuring. The tricks performed by 
these conjurors are said to be very similar to those 
performed by natives of India. A guinea-corn plant 
grows from a seed, &c., a child is killed, chopped up, 
and brought to life again, &c. 

It often happens that one wants to use the word 

' - ' • Ch^i^'ins- ' '^s * '•■*. > / ' . loi 

for a piece of something. Tliere is do word corres- 
pondiBg to ours. Everything has a special name : — 

Tsoka a piece of meat. 

Katanga a piece of broken pottery. 

Sakaiiya a piece of calabash. 

Kelle a piece of cloth. 

One can, of course, say dan duchi, dan takarda, etc. 
but this rather means not a " piece of," but a small 
stone^ a small sheet of paper, Sec. 

Lai/a. The ordinary Inya are scraps of paper with 
a text from the Koran written on them : they are then 
wrapped in cotton and enclosed in leather. They are 
the mdgani for every kind of danger or sickness, 
being looked on rather as a preventative than a cure. 

A mallam, who is well up in the Quran, will often 
put in an appropriate text ; for instance, I have found 
the " Chargers " verse in the charm tied to a horse's 
mane or bridle, but as a rule any unmeaning scrawl is 
sufficient as long as the words and characters are 

The mdgani for curing disease, &c., is to write on 
the slate or alio, wash off the ink and drink it ; such 
are love charms, &c. 

Another is to tamhaija itachi. A certain sum is 
paid, and the maimdgaui indicates certain trees from 
which the bark, leaves, &c., are to be collected ; these 
are pounded up and the resulting concoction drunk. 

Other rites survive in some districts, but the people 
are rather chary of talking to Europeans on this 

I C2 Provt-H^J' in the Ilai/sa Lariguage 


There are two words in common use which are 
somewhat different from other verbal forms in that 
the personal pronouns are placed after the verb. 

These are jeka and ijaka^ meaning go and come 

The true explanation of this anomaly is, I think, 
that what appears to be a personal pronoun is, in 
reality, not so : or at any rate the word is borrowed 
from another language. 

Yoka, the Soughai word for come is A:«, and yaka 
is probably derived from this. 

Jeka the Bolewa for go is jikho. This word jeha is, 
possibly, a reminiscence of a time when Hausa was 
closely connected with this language. 


Among uncultivated races the formation of the 
numerals on a base of ten rather than on one of five 
is usually held to be an indication of a higher degree 
of civilization. 

The numerals of the two principal neighbours of 
Hausa, viz. Songhai and Kanuri, have a base of ten, 
and it is always assumed that the Hausa base is the 

To all intents and purposes this is so, but it was 
originally five and has only gradually developed into 
one of ten. 

In order to show that there is some foundation for 

System of Numeration 


this statement, let us compare the numerals up to ten 
in Hausa and three neighbouring dialects which appear 
kin to it, viz. Kerrikerri, Bolewa, Gerawa.* 





1. dia 




2. biu 




3. uku 




4. fudu 




5. biar, biat 




6. shidda 

ba shi maudi 

ba shogu 

be shimi 

7. bokkoi 

ba ouloh 

ba shi belu 

ba shim bollo 

8. tokkos 




9. tara 




10. goma 




The connection between the numbers from one to 
five in these four languages is very striking, and such 
a similarity cannot easily be explained away. It is 
interesting to note that three dialects of Marghi have 
a word for four similar io fudu. 

As regards the numbers from six to ten, it appears 
that in Bolewa, Kerrikerri, and Gerawa they are formed 
from the five base. 

It is suggested that this is the case also with Hausa, 
and that the formation comes about as follows : — 


This is probably a contraction of slia dia (Barth also 
holds this opinion) ; it resembles the method of forma- 
tion in the other three languages. 

It may also be connected with the Songhai word for 
six, which is iddou, and be formed by joining it with 
another Songhai word, tji. 

* Vide Note at commencement of book. 

104 Proverbs in the Hans a Language 


May be a contraction of hiii and the Songhai word 
lioi^ meaning owner of. 

There is another possible explanation : the Bolewa 
people have a great difficulty in pronouncing the letter 
Zu in some words, and bokhoi may be connected -with 
ha oulohj 7, as ha-h-ouloh. 


The same contraction of uhu and hoi is suggested. 


No connection can be traced with any other dialect. 


Either from gou, which in Songhai means 5 : or it 
may be connected with the Kanuri megu, ten. 

When counting in tens the Bolewa have a similar 
word, A:o, to represent 10. 

Again, in Kanuri, Songhai, and Hausa the same 
method of combining numerals and the thing numbered 
prevails : — 


mutum daia 

man one 


kamm tilo 

man one 


boro f o 

man one 


mutum ashirin 

man twenty 


kamm piasku 

man thirty 


boro waranka 

man twenty 

Also, in expressing numbers, such as 18, 28, 38, or 
19, 29, 39, i.e. 20, 30, 40, less two or less one, both 

System of Numeration 105 

[ansa use 
uses the same for less one. 

Songhai and Hausa use the same form, and Kanuri 



ashirin biu babu 



waranka hinka si, i.e. 
twenty two not 



ashirin daia babu 



waranka afo si, i.e. twenty 
one not 



piasku tilo bawo, i.e. thirty 
one not 

Again, the words for 100 and 1,000 are the same in 

Hausa and Songhai. 

Hausa 100 zango 

Songhai 100 djongo 

Hausa 1000 zambar 

Songhai 1000 djomber 

In all the languages which have been mentioned, 
Songhai, Kanuri, Bolewa, &c., the numbers for 20, 30, 
40, &c., are formed by saying " ten two," " ten three," 

Hausa must have had a similar system, but it has 
now been entirely replaced by the Arabic. 

It is worth remarking again, in this connection, that 
in Bolewa, when forming the numbers for 20, 30, &c._, 
the word for 10 is Izo. 

Again, in the ordinary transactions with cowries both 
Hausa and Songhai have special words for a heap of 
cowries (20), Hausa hauia, Songhai tohoij, and both 
carry on the system mentioned above of "less one," 
" less two," in the tens. 

The cowrie was current in Songhai in the fourteenth 
<ientury (Ibn Batuta), and the Hausa 2iri is probably 
derived from the Songhai otmi. 

I06 Proverbs in the Hausa Language 


Hausa is an uncultivated language ; it can be, and 
sometimes is, written in Arabic characters, but it has 
no literature. It has not long passed its primitive 
stage, and therefore it is to primitive methods that we 
must turn when we study the grammatical structure. 

Primitive language may be said roughly to have two 
ways of expressing number — 
(a) By reduplication. 
(6) By the addition of some word or 
termination signifying mass. 

The so-called English, talked by natives in Nigeria, 
gives a clue to their idea. 

Ex. Boy-boy, boys. Plenty beef. Plenty man, 
&c., &c. 

An examination of Hausa shows that the number of 
plural forms in common use is not large; it also shows 
that such plural words are used in a collective sense 
and not with numerals to denote a particular number. 
Nearly all these common plurals may be shown to have 
been formed by reduplication, which may be assumed 
to have been the method by which the Hausa language 
first expressed its idea of number. 

The second method, which, subject to certain phonetic- 
laws, is regular, is to add aiji to the singular. 

Compare this to the Songhai, which adds ijo and 
Zaberma, which adds ijann to the singular. It is- 
possible that some connection may be established with 
yawa much. 

The third method, a similar one, forms the plural by 

The NiLviber Formation 


adding the termination una to the singular form. As 
a rule, it forms the plural of words which are fairly 
recent, and may be due to Arabic influence. 

The fourth method, which at first sight resembles the 
broken plurals of Arabic, forms the plural by internal 
and sometimes by both internal and external change : 
it is extremely interesting, as it gives a clue to the 
original roots of many icords. 

The plurals which do not come under any of these 
heads must, at present, be classed together as irregular : 
when allied languages are better known their formation 
will, no doubt, be explained. An examination of these 
four methods wall, it is believed, show that there is, at 
any rate, some ground for such a classification. 

1. Eeduplication. 

The following common words are instances of re- 
duplication : — 






























garrurua (gari 
is some- 
times pro- 
n u n c e d 

ja jajayi 

It is, with our present knowledge of Central African 

io8 Proverbs m the Hausa Language 

languages, impossible to trace the laws which govern 
the change of letters, and therefore the above attempt 
to follow the process of reduplication has no scientific 
support. Speaking generally, the tendency is to soften 
the harsher sounds, the principle of least effort. 

2. Adding "ayi" to the Singular. 

dorina dorina-ayi dorinai 

aboki aboki-ayi abokai 

alura alura-ayi * alurai 

giwa giwa-ayi giwayi 

birri birri-ayi birrayi 

barao barayi 

The termination of these words is, in reality, formed 
in the same way. The usual rule in Hausa is that 
the accent shall be on the penultimate, and we find it 
so in giwdyi, etc. But in dorina the accent is on the 
i, in ahohi on the o, and in alura on the u. 

The reason is that these three words being com- 
pounds the accent still remains in its old place, with 
a consequent shortening of the a in ayi. 

dorina doki'n rua 

aboki a ba koi (Songhai) 

alura al ibra (Arabic) 

3. The third Method, by adding ''una" to the 







Number Formation 1 09 

4. Formation of Plukal by internal Change. 

The true explanation of this is that these words are 
really compounds. In most cases the first half of the 
compound undergoes change, in some cases both. 


]ira gi 


sara kiina 


dawa ki 


awwa ki 


mara ki (a kind of tree) 


tuma ki 


dua tsu 


ita tua 


maa su 


jiwoji (a form of re-duplication) 

Take the following words of this list : — jirigi, doki, 

(a) JiPJGl. 

Compare the words for a boat in the neighbouring 
languages : — 

Hausa. I^nuri. Bolewa. Kerrikerei. Zaberma. 
jirigi magaara gerre jirigi garrba 

Here the root appears to be itri or gerre with the 
suffix gi, hi, or hoi. 

(h) Ɗ0KI. 

Hausa. Bolewa. Kerrikerri. 

doki dohsho dohku 

The plural of the Bolewa word dohsho is do-oivi. 
The plural of the Hausa word dohi is do-uicivi-hi 
or davahi. 

I lO Proverbs in the Hausa Language 

It is possible that tlie terminations lii and slio 
were originally tlie same, and that when the Songhai 
termination Izi or Itoi became common the origin 
of the lil of doki was forgotten, and it was added to 
the old plural. 

(c) Akwia. 

Hausa. Bolewa. 

akwia ohsho (pi. oo-wi) 

How aliicia reached its present form it is impossible 
to say ; possibly olisho-iceh {iceh or tcey = woman in 
Songhai) thence oli-hi-weh, and so akwia. The plural 
is oowa-hi or awahi, the M being retained for the 
same reason as in doki. 

5. Ireegular Plurals. 
The following are a few examples : — 

ido idanu 

mutum mutane 

mache mata 

hannu hannua 

kafo kafoni 

zanne zanua 

sa shanii 

rakumi rakuma 

shekarra shekarru 

Of these plurals rakuma may be a reminiscence 
of the Arabic plural. (^Vide note on Camel and 

The anu and ane of ido and mutum may be a 
survival of a long lost dual form, but are more likely 
connected with the Kanuri plural termination aanyi, 

Formation of the Noun of Action 



In Hausa this is formed by prefixing mai (sing.), masu 
(plural) to a noun, verb, or adjective. 
A similar construction is to be found in most neigb- 

bouring langu 

ages, the word 

corresponding to mai 

being sometimes prefixed and sometimes suflSxed. 



man going. 


kamm ledjinn 

man going. 


mai kiwo'n doki 

man feed horse. 


fiirr nyogo ma 

horse feed man. 


mai doki 

man horse. 


aim dohsho 



ba dohkii 



windi koi 

house man or owner. 


kwara koi 

village man or owner, 


ann subba 

man coat. 



weave man. 



boat man. 

Our own horseman, milkman, and Hindustani pani- 
wallah, punkahwallah, etc., are very similar. 

Mai., then, has the signification of man, and it may 
perhaps be found that there is some common root con- 
nected with the words H^^-j^, m^c-ticm, ma-clie^ ma-tay 
mu-tane, ma-za.^' 

Ma-su is the same word made plural by the addition 
of su. Mai is sometimes pronounced ma before a 
word beginning with a long syllable as ma-saka, a 
weaver, where it is desired for some reason to keep that 
syllable long. 

112 Proverbs in the Hausa Language 

Other instances are ma-dahi, ma-hafoj ma-yahij 
ma-hauka, etc. 

A similar word or prefix ma is in very common use 
with the signification to, place of. 

Ansa masa kaia, a load has been put on him. 

Ataya masu aiki, help them work. 

Ya gaia masu, he said to them. 

Kadda a hivache ma yaro galma, don't steal his hoe 
from the boy. 

Its use has been further extended, and in proverbs, 
songs, etc., it is commonly used instead of the more 
clumsy wurin, as : — 

Ma-tsaya instead of ivuri'n tsaya, place of stopping. 

Ma-hauta, instead of u-urin hauta, slaughter house. 

Ma-fufa instead of uurinfuta, resting place. 

Kanuri has a similar word, na, with the same signifi- 

Lene na reehramah hero, go to the tailor's. 

Na hushaa todduh he, by that tree. 

With such words as mafahha, sanctuary, masallatclii, 
mosque, etc., the ma is probably due to Arabic in- 
fluences, and the extended use mentioned above may 
also owe something to the same language. 


The original dialect of Hausa probably had no gender 
formation, and so we find that the sex of such indivi- 
duals and animals as have always been familiar to him 
are distinguished by separate words. In the majority 

Gender Formation in Hausa. 113 

of words if a feminine is used at all, it is formed in two 
ways : — 

(1) By adding nia, 

(2) By adding ua, (weh). 

These terminations are directly borrowed from SoNG- 
HAi, in which language nia means " mother producer," 
as, — 

you nia 


I.e. producer ( 

of honey 

touri nia 


, fruit bearing 



which iveh means woman, as, — 

boro = 


boro wey = 


fegi = 


f egi wey = 


The first termination nia is merely added to the 

The second weh is more usually used with adjec- 
tives, and becomes '?^a. 

The following are examples : — 





















dogua (dogo weh) 

Nearly all words ending in a are feminine, but 
this is probably due to the influence of Aeabic, and 
also to a desire to assimilate all words to a common 



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