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Sayings

Konso village, Ethiopia. Photo: Jens Klinzing

Ethiopian Proverbs (Amharic/Semitic)

የቸኰለ አፍስሶ ለቀመ።
yechekolle afs’so leQeme
He who hurried gathered what he spilled.

በቅሎ ግዙ ግዙ አሞሌ ጨው ላያግዙ።
beQlo g’zu g’zu amo Le chaw layagzu
They say, “Buy a mule, buy a mule,” but don’t help with a grain of salt.

አጥብቆ ጠያቂ የናቱን ሞት ይረድዳል።
aT’b’Qo TeyyaQi ye’nnatun mot y’rreddal
Keep asking and you’ll soon learn of your mother’s death.

መጫር ያበዛች ዶሮ መታረጃዋን ቢላ ታወጣለች።
mechar yabezach doro mettaRejawan taweTallech
The chicken that went on scratching the ground uncovered a carving knife.

ቀስ በቀስ ዕንቊላል በእግሩ ይሄዳል። 
Qas baQas ‘nQulal be’g’ru y’hédal
Gradually an egg will be up on its own feet.

አንድ ዐይን ያለው በአፈር አይጫወትም።
Aand ayn yallew baAfar ayyChawet’m
A one-eyed person should not play with dirt.

አንበሳ ሲያረጅ የዝንብ መጫወቻ ይሆናል።
Anbassa siaraj yez’nb mechawacha y’honal
An old lion becomes a plaything of the fly.

ከሩቅ ዘመድ የቅርብ ጐረቤት።
keruQ zemed yeQ’rb gorabet
A neighbor is preferred to a far-off relative.

ሊበሏት ያሰቧትን አሞራ ዥግራ ናት ይሏታል።
libaLwat yaSebwat’n amora žeGra nat yLwatal
The kite they want to eat is now a guinea hen.

ሰዶ ማሳደድ ቢያምርህ ዶሮህን በቆቅ ለውጥ።
seddo masaded biamr’h doroh’n beQoq leww’T 
If you are looking for something to chase, trade your chicken for a quail.
 
ጅብ ከማያውቁት አገር ሄዶ ቊርበት አንጥፉልኝ ይላል።
Jib kemayawQut agar hido qurbat ant’fulign y’Lal
The hyena travels to where he is little-known and requests a hide for bedding.

ሲሞቱ ገመድ፣ ሲሾሙ ዘመድ አይጠፋም።
simotu gamad sishomu zamad ayTTafam
Upon death a rope, upon appointment friends.

ላም ባልዋለበት ኩበት ለቀማ።
lam balWalabut kubat leQama
No cow, no manure.

ተስፋ መስጠት እዳ መግባት
tesfa masttat eda magbat
To promise is to be bound.

ለተቀማጭ ሰማይ ቅርቡ ነው።
leTeqemach seMai q’rbu naw
The sky is near to the indolent.

ተንጋለው ቢተፉ ተመልሶ ባፉ።
tengalaw bitafu tamal’so bafu
Spit comes back to those who spit lying on their back.

ተዋጊ በሬ ተጭድ ይጣላል።
tewaGee baRRe teChidd y’TTalal
A goring bull gored the haystack.  

ቀልድና ቅዘን ቤት ያበላሻል።
Qald'na q'zan bet yabalashal
Idle chatter and diarrhea do mess up a household. 
 
ሃምሳ ሎሚ ለሃምሳ ሰው ጌጡ ነው፤ ለአንድ ሰው ሸክሙ ነው።
Hamsa lommi lamsa sau geTTu nau, land sau shakmu nau 
Fifty lemons in fifty hands are an adornment; in one hand a burden.

አሳ በልቶ ውሃ መጠጣት፣ መልሶ ከነበረው ማግባት።
Asa balto wuha maTTaTTat, mal'so kanabarau magbat 
Drinking water after a fish dinner returns the fish to its water.

፨ ፨ ፨

Ethiopian Proverbs (Afaan Oromoo/Cushitic) 

አኩመ ጫባኒት ኦኮሉ።
Akkuma cabannitti okkolu.
One limped according to one’s break.

ቢሺንጋን ኦቱ ጉ-በ-ቱ ኮፈልቲ።
Bishingaan otoo gubattuu kofalti.
Maize (sorghum) bursts out into laughter even as it is getting roasted.

ዽርሳፍ ኒቲን ሙከ ቶኮራ ሙረሙ።
Dhirsaa fi niitiin muka tokko irraa muramu.
Husband and wife are cut from the same tree.

ገዋን ቢሻን ኬሳ ኢጃጄ ዼቦታ
Gowwaan bishaan keessa ijaajjee dheebota.
The fool stands in the middle of a river thirsty.

ሃርካ ናማቲን ኢቢዳ ቃባ ሂንሶዳታን።
Harka namaatiin ibidda qabaa hin sodaatani.
No one fears grabbing a burning coal in someone else’s hands.

 Translation Copyright 2021 by Mitiku Adisu. All Rights Reserved.

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