I am attempting to find the origin or source of this proverb:

“If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”

Most sources say that this is a translation of an African proverb, but this article from NPR implies that there's a bit of confusion regarding whether this is actually genuinely from Africa:

One Twitter user, Christiana A. Mbakwe, said, "If someone starts an aphorism with 'there's an African saying' it's probably a mythical quote misattributed to a whole continent."


Here at Goats and Soda, African countries are part of our beat. So we wondered: Are these both examples of proverbs from African countries?

What we found is that it takes a lot of phone calls to track down the origins of a proverb. And in the end, the answer might be: We just don't know.

(It refers to it in the plural because there's another proverb also being discussed)

Is this genuinely an African proverb? If yes, what is the original? If not, where did it first come from?

  • The first usage Doyle and Mieder give is in a 1917 speech by a Cyrus McCormick, published in The Harvester World. andrewwhitby.com/2020/12/25/if-you-want-to-go-fast
    – Gio
    Apr 18 at 19:19
  • There is some breakdown here: andrewwhitby.com/2020/12/25/if-you-want-to-go-fast. I especially like the quote: “That’s probably not an African proverb.” — African Proverb
    – jimm101
    Apr 18 at 19:36
  • 1
    Is that a proverb, though? I've never heard it before. While that may be true, to be a proverb, it has to be in general use, something people hear and recognize as a common saying. By the way, it contains a comma splice. Apr 18 at 21:25
  • 1
    This seems like a better question for Literature or History. Just because it's written in English doesn't make it a quesiton about the English language.
    – Barmar
    Apr 18 at 21:35
  • 1
    And if it does have African origin, it probably wasn't in English at the time, and this is merely a translation.
    – Barmar
    Apr 18 at 21:37

1 Answer 1


"99% of quotes described only as 'ancient African proverbs' are just made up."

— Ancient Chinese proverb

All joking aside, an NPR investigation found that, while the phrase "does hold true to the spirit of some African cultures," there is no clear evidence of an African origin. The Andrew Whitby article linked in the comments introduces some evidence of similar proverbs in African cultures, but the evidence seems weak.

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