ESAN PROVERBS AND MEANING [Part One] By Ehi Ogbeide

Esan, like many of the tribes south of the Sahara, is rich in proverbs. ‘Itan’ is the Esan word for proverb (plural: ‘itanh’) Being a polysemous word, ‘itan’ also means insinuation or innuendo. To differentiate which one is being employed in a speech, the verb that precedes the Esan noun would always be the deciding factor: “kpa itanh” means “speak in proverbs” while “fi itan” means “insinuate, make allusion.”

This collection of Esan proverbs is by no means exhaustive, since the use of proverbs is a common feature among nearly all Esan. So Feel free to share the proverbs you know in the comment section below:

  1. A hungry man is an angry man – onin ohan mhen gbe ele ekele kholo
  2. Cut your clothe according to your size – sukpon be ja rhe guae
  3. Whoever has not left this world should never laugh blind person – onon bha yien agbon fo ole a je oruelolo
  4. White teeth don’t laugh at me – akon ne fua bha ye jie mhen
  5. Bird with the same feather – afianmen elebi igen non sole okpa non
  6. Make hast before the sun shine – bha tuabe okuese ovonlen mhuhen aze
  7. What you soul is what you shall harvest – ebu uwe kole uwe ane
  8. What goes up must surely come down –ebe dio bho okhulun di vae bho otor
  9. A young man’s beauty is never without defects –Ose ii gba ni usẹnbhokhan
  10. People resemble where they live – Eji Aah nyẹlẹn ọhle Aah khọ. 
  11. A missile that one sees coming does not blind one – Udo ni Aah daghe ọ’ vade ii degbi ọrhia bhi ẹlo
  12. A native doctor disappears only where he is used to -Eji ọboh da gui otọ ọhle ọle da horiẹ.
  13. You don’t tempt a dog with something to lick, since dog is an avid licker – Aah ii ri ebi Aah nanọ bui awa re
  14. Clothing a corpse is simply to beautify it – Aah gheghe yọ ni olimhin kha mhẹn bhi ẹlo, ọhle Aah da ri ukpọn bhọ
  15. Do not go hunting for squirrel while you have an elephant as a catch – Aah ii fi ini bhi otọ kha khin oha-ọtan
  16. You don’t change to a tiger in the presence of one who can change to an elephant – Aah ii di isira ọnọ khin eni khin ẹkpẹn. Or, Aah ii khin ẹkpẹn man ọnọ khin eni
  17. The water one would drink can never flow past one – Amẹn ni ọrhia la muọn ii gbera ọle a
  18. Do not ask a mad man to chase fowls away, since he would do it madly – Aah ii yi ọbhẹnbhẹn khui ọkhọh.
  19. What would they say who slept outside if those who slept inside complained of harassment? – Ene wwue bhi uwa kha yyọ ele mmin okpodu, ?bi ene wwuẹ bhi ole ki da ta yẹ.
  20. Death is impervious to appeal – U’u ii ji Aah gui na.
  21. Killing a rat that is holed up inside an earthen pot requires wisdom – Ẹwa’ẹn Aah rẹ gbi efẹn nọ ribhi ẹkẹ akhe.
  22. When the arrow from a child’s bow travels far, an adult is suspected to be responsible – Ufẹmhẹn si obhokhan kha na, Aah ki yọ owualẹn kkani ọhle ni ọle
  23. In a funeral each mourner mourns the fate that befalls him, not the deceased’s – Ọnọ gbi ọnọdeọde ọhle ọnọdeọde viẹ bhi itolimhin
  24. It is the deceased child that is always the prettiest – Ọmọn nọ yyu ọle mhọn ose nẹ.
  25. Fury does not know its owner’s strength otherwise a weakling’s rage would be tempered with restraint – Ohu bha lẹn ebialẹn si ọhle
  26. It is human beings that do disguise as supernatural forces – Agbọn khi ese
  27. It is the absent one whose yam would always be kept beside the fire – Ọnọ ii ribhi eni, ọle Aah ri enyan si ọle tọn bhi egbi era’ẹn
  28. No matter how hairy the head becomes, the forehead remains distinct – Eto kha rẹ re, Aah yẹ lẹn eji ukẹhae nae
  29. A call to gather together is not an invitation to muddle together – Aah kha yọ ni Aah sikoko, Aah bha yyọ ni Aah simama
  30. After changing to a tiger, you simply have no other thing to change to – Aah kha khin ẹkpẹn fo, ebi Aah khiẹn ki fo
  31. The king need not tiptoe in order to peep at a dance coming to be staged at his palace – Aah kuẹ ri ikhilẹn khin ẹgua’e ọba, ọba kuẹ nyẹn uge
  32. The one who is carried on one’s back cannot back someone else – Ọni Aah bbhobholo ii bhobhi ọrhia
  33. In a palm oil dish, you take one step at a time – Oẹ ọkpọkpa Aah zẹ bhi okọ-ẹdin
  34. But for forbearance, the chicken would have taken into eating birds – Irẹlobhegbe zzẹ ni ọkhọ bha da lli afiamhẹnh
  35. Beauty is more painful than infirmity – Ose ba ni emiamhẹn
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