20 African Proverbs On Friendship Explained

Did you know that there are 1,500 – 2,000 languages spoken in Africa? However, out of all these languages,  English is the most dominant across the continent. Another thing that’s so common in many African countries is proverbs, especially on friendship and relationships. You will find that most of these proverbs are worded quite uniquely. Deciphering the meaning requires some reflection. Besides, proverbs are known to have literal and figurative meanings. To fully understand a proverb, you need to know both its literal and symbolic meanings. Therefore, we have outlined the meanings of 20 African proverbs on friendship for you.

1. Honest advice doesn’t destroy true friendship.

african youth

Friends look out for each other no matter the situation. Therefore, it is the duty of your friend to be honest with you and for you to take it positively. After all, what is a friend if they mean harm to you?

2. In good times friends know you, and in bad times you know them.

Friends are supposed to be there for each other no matter the situation. In this case, you should strive to help during adversities. Then again, you should celebrate with them in times of joy.

3. If you choose to make friendship with a pig, you must be prepared to live in the mud.

Just as any choice has consequences, so does that of choosing friends. Here, this African proverb implies that we are more likely to have to put up with whatever our friends do. Therefore, you should be deliberate about what you want in life because friends will influence a certain degree of it. 

4. Show me your friend and I will show you your character.

This proverb means that a huge part of your behavior is derived from those you associate with the most. Ever heard of the quote that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with? In other words, no matter how much you try to conceal your behavior, it can be demystified by looking at your friend.

5. Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you.

Real friends are the only people who will tolerate your situation without question. In friendship, the moments you share, the plans, and the memories you make last forever. Friends are willing to forgive each other and continue or start over as if nothing happened.

6. Hold a true friend with both hands.

Forging a genuine connection with a person you are not related to by blood is special. Therefore, these people—your friends—you need to care and respect them unconditionally. To hold by both hands means to show them love wholly.

7. The friends of our friends are our friends.

friends thumbs up

Even though it’s recommended to pick your friends carefully, showing love and respect for others has no boundaries, especially with friends of friends. This proverb means that when you commit to someone as a friend, you should acknowledge their friends as well.

8. A small house will hold a hundred friends.

Think of the house in this proverb as your heart. You can accommodate as many friends as possible. In reality, where there is peace in the form of friendship, people can live in harmony. Choose the right friends, and you will live together regardless of your accommodation capacity.

9. There is no better mirror than a best friend.

Best friends are the friends who are closest to us of all. Provided that they know you more than the rest of your friends, they are in the best position to define you. Furthermore, it implies that best friends will be honest with you whenever you need an opinion.

10. To be without a friend is to be poor, indeed.

This African proverb shows us the power of friendship. Since friends provide in times of need, friendship can be equated to wealth. In today’s world, your network matters a lot. That is, the more the network, the higher the net worth.

11. Between true friends, even water drunk together is sweet enough.

The relationship between friends is not quantified by possession but rather the little moments shared together. This African proverb means that the moments you spend with people you love is more valuable than everything else. 

12. Bad friends will prevent you from having good friends.

There are good friends and bad friends, and we are responsible for involvement with either. Bad friends will often prevent you from associating with good friends. The reason is simply that a good friend is not afraid to tell the truth. Therefore this can often mean exposing the bad friend.  

13. A married couple is neither enemies nor friends. 

This proverb shows us that even relationships such as marriage are not perfect. Inasmuch as your spouse should be a true friend, animosity between you can arise. Love is never perfect, and such is life. 

14. He who loves you loves you with your dirt.

happy kids

Genuine love goes beyond the physical self. How you dress, your skin color, or your social status should not define your relationship with others. Otherwise, true friends will focus on your value to their lives in terms of emotional support, opinions, and commitment. 

15. Ceremony is the smoke of friendship.

Smoke was used to signify communications in the early days in some African traditions. To allude from that, this proverb means that ceremonies or celebrations represent success efforts of friendship. In other words, where there is friendship, there is joy and celebration.

16. Kidole kimoja hakivunji chawa 

This African Swahili proverb originates from East Africa. It translates to one finger does not kill a louse. Literally, you will need to squeeze a louse with two fingers to suffocate it. In life, when you do something as a group, your success is more guaranteed.

17. Cheko la rafiki lina bei ghali. 

african proverbs friends

This is another Swahili proverb here, which translates to the smile of a friend costs dearly. Friendships are built on love and respect. When you are going through a rough time, you need friends to cheer you up and make you smile. Additionally, when you accomplish something, and your friend is happy about it, it gives you satisfaction.

18. Teeth are all friends among each other.

This proverb borrows from the idea that teeth are always grinding over each other, yet they stay together. In friendship, quarrels may arise, and that should not mean the end of the relationship. 

19. Search for a friend with no faults, and you will remain with no friends.

To expect that your friend will be just as you imagined might disappoint you dearly. It’s therefore advisable to avoid focusing on the flaws that your friends have and focus on their bright sides. More so, the saying that, “To err is human, to forgive divine,” sums up this African proverb perfectly.

20. In times of difficulty, friendship is on trial.

Remember how we say that a friend in need is a friend indeed? Well, the message in this African proverb is not vastly different. Conversely, this should not be mistaken with friends are evaluated only in times of uncertainties. If anything, friends should always be there for each other.

Care to Share?

What we shared here with you is just a handful of the many African proverbs out there. In fact, most of the interesting and thought-provoking ones have not been translated into English. So, we’d love to know; which proverb among these is your favorite? Or do you know an interesting friendship proverb that we left out? Please let us know in the comment box below.


  • kelvin

    Kelvin is a freelance content marketer with a specialty in content writing. He writes articles about technology, business, travel, home improvement, and other topics that pique his interest.

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