Zvirahwe| Riddle me these 30 Shona riddles

Why a riddle?

Riddles are sometimes considered a form of folklore. Their function ranges from education to entertainment, revealing the thoughts and expressions of a people.

Below are 30 common Shona riddles (zvirahwe), with some context to help you get the gist.

1. Mangwanani chinofamba namakumbo mana, masikati maviri, manheru matatu.

Munhu (Human)

No other animal that exists today is known to switch locomotion modes with age, from crawling on all fours to walking on two legs. The few other species thought to have made this kind of transition are dinosaurs.

In old age, most people need walking sticks to maintain balance and reduce the risk of falling.

2. Mbuya vangu kutsvuka kutsvuka havo asi havabviri kuroya.

Mhiripiri (chili pepper)

Chili peppers originated in Mexico and are widely used in many cuisines as a spice to add heat to dishes. A common variety of chili pepper ripens from green to red. The intense heat and discomfort that results after consuming chili peppers is likened to the torture inflicted by witchcraft.

3. Mbuya yekwedu inopfeka bhachi rutivi rumwe.

Chigunwe nenzara (finger with fingernail)

Fingernails cover the tips of fingers and toes on only one side.

4. Mombe dzababa vangu chena dzoga dzoga.

Mazino (teeth)

A mouthful of teeth is likened to a herd of white cattle.

For traditional communities, livestock is not only a means of subsistence, but is interwoven into different aspects of people’s everyday lives. As a result, men generally aspire to have their own livestock.

5. Mombe yababa vangu inokamwa yakabatwa muswe.

Mukombe (drinking gourd)

A mukombe is a hollowed-out gourd with a long handle used for drinking

6. Murume ndebvu, mukadzi ndebvu.

Mbudzi (goats)

Both male and female goats have beards.

7. Mutumba unorira usina ura.

Ngoma (drum)

A drum is made from a hollowed-out piece of tree trunk.

Traditionally, the drum is made of wood – a piece of trunk taken from specific tree types. A hide or skin of an animal is used to make the drumhead, which is stretched over one end of the hollowed-out trunk.

Mutumba is ‘a big-bodied object’, and ura is ‘bowels.’ The wood removed from the trunk is considered to be its bowels.

8. Mwana anozvarwa aine mvere, asi kana akura haachina.

Chibage (maize/ corn)

Corn silk is simply one of the female parts of the corn plant.

Corn silk is the long, thread-like strands of plant material that grow underneath the husk of a fresh ear of corn. This riddle likens this to hair. These shiny, thin fibers aid the pollination and growth of corn,When the cob is full size the strands darken and dry out.

9. Mwana wamai vangu asingadi kusiyana neni.

Mumvuri (shadow)

Our shadows seem to chase us.  Opaque objects, such as our body, block light. When this happens, a shadow is formed. When the object is moving, the shadow moves as it is formed where the moving object blocks light.

Our shadows seem to chase us.

10. Ndaenda ndakakotama, ndikadzoka ndava nhungamakore.

Chirongo (earthenware pot used for carrying and storing water)

The word nhungamakore refers to a very tall object. Consider the two words tunga which means prod and makore which means clouds.

Going to the well, an empty pot is carried in one’s hands. When it has been filled with water, it is carried on the head, above which it towers.

11. Ndaenda ndasiya dziriko.

Matsimba etsoka (footprints)

Our feet leave impressions or marks when we step on surfaces that yield to the pressure they exert.

12. Ndagona kuburuka, kukwira handichagoni.

Shizha (leaf)

Seasonal changes trigger changes in trees that cause leaves to fall. The fallen leaves eventually decompose.

13. Ndamupa, ndamutorera.

Mutariko (clothes line)

Wet clothes are hung up on a clothes line, and taken down when dry.

There is another possible answer.

Dura (grain bin)

This is a traditional grain storage method. Surplus grain is deposited into the bin, and drawn out later when it is required.

14. Ndamusiya akakombwa, hameno akapona.


In some households, sadza is served in a shared bowl, and the same thing is done for the side dish. This was especially common in olden days. This means that those sharing the meal sit gathered round the dishes.

15. Ndinde aenda, amai vasara vachichema.

Uta nemuseve (bow and arrow)

When shooting with the bow and arrow, the bow string vibrates and makes a sound after it is released to propel the arrow forward.

16. Ndoshuva hama yangu iri pedo pedo.

Gotsi (back of one’s head)

Long before there were any mirrors, there was no way for one to see the back of their head.

17. Nzira mbiri dzinopinda mugomo.

Mhino (nose)

The nostrils are likened to two paths that lead to a mountain. The head is the mountain.

18. Pota neko tisangane.

Mbariro (thin or split poles that go round binding together the upright roof poles of the traditional hut), or

Bhande (Belt)

The two ends of a belt will meet when it encircles something.

19. Rakazvirova rikazhamba.

Jongwe (rooster)

Roosters often flap their wings before crowing.

20. Rirove rikupe kudya.

Nwiwa/ Vise (watermelon)

The watermelon is a fleshy fruit of the gourd family consisting mostly of water. The fruit is easily split open by smashing it onto something, or hitting it with an object.

There are other possible answers to this riddle.

Uyu (baobab fruit):
This fruit has a hard pod which is cracked open for its edible sour powder.

Damba (monkey orange):
This is a sweet-sour yellow fruit encased in a hard shell.

21. Sekuru vangu vatema tema, asi huro yavo yakachena.

Gunguo (pied crow)

This bird is black all over except for a large area of white feathering from the shoulders down to the lower breast. 

22. Shumba mbiri dzakarinda gomo.

Nzeve (ears)

Animals and people have two ears, one on each side of the head.

23. Simuka tienzane.

Derere (okra)

The okra plant is eaten as a vegetable. It is commonly cooked to become gooey, glutinous and stretchy.

24. Tamukomba. Tamuparadza.


In some households, sadza is served in a shared bowl, and the same thing is done for the side dish. This was especially common in olden days. This means that those sharing the meal sit gathered round the dishes.

25. Tiringindi anopinda muna torongondo asi torongondo haapindi muna tiringindi.

Mukombe nechirongo (drinking gourd and earthenware pot for water)

Mukombe nechirongo

Tiringindi and torongondo are ideophones, which are probably used to express the sound and interaction between the gourd and the pot. Tiringindi refers to the drinking gourd and torongondo to the pot.

26. Tsotso munzira, tsotso musango.

Imbwa (Dog)

Dogs generally seem very excited when out hunting. A dog will, from time to time, stray from the path and disappear into the bushes, and then reappear.

Tsotso tsotso is an ideophone of walking on dry twigs and grass, or following a spoor.

Dogs generally seem very excited when out hunting.

27. Tukara tunoburana.

Minzwa (Thorns)

It is quite common to use a thorn for removing a thorn stuck in the flesh.

28. Tupe tupe mvura waiwanepi?

Nwiwa/ Vise (watermelon)

The watermelon is a fleshy fruit of the gourd family consisting mostly of water.

29. Vhara musiwo tione kutamba ngoma dzamashave.

Sadza riri kukwata (Thick porridge spluttering as it cooks in a covered pot)

The cornerstone of cooking sazda right is ensuring it cooks to satisfaction at the thin porridge stage (kukwata).

30. Zvachenerana.

Sadza nemukaka (Sadza served with sour milk)

Sadza is commonly served with sour milk as a side dish, both of which are generally white or whitish.

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25 thoughts on “Zvirahwe| Riddle me these 30 Shona riddles”

  1. Wow, this is an amazing article and website! Well done.

    I’d suggest translating (transliteraring) zvirahwe zvacho as well as they sometimes include uncommon words. It would cement the riddle part for those who don’t have exposure to some of the things referred to.

    • Good to hear from you Farai,

      Thank you so much for the positive feedback. I will sure take that into account. As a native speaker, sometimes it’s not easy to tell that something is not obvious.

      Thank you once again for the feedback.

    • Hi Nduna Smart.

      Here is what I found:

      1. Dzakafa dzinosunga mhenyu. – Chitirobho (Strop). This is a leather strap used to secure a neck yoke placed on oxen.
      2. N’ombe yababa vangu inokuma yaona musha. – Chitima (Train). Trains sound a horn when approaching a passenger station.
    • Hi Mercy,

      So here is what I found.

      1. Chipako chizere ndarira. – Mukanwa (muzere mazino) (mouth)Ndarira are leg ornaments, which when worn, any motion would result in jingling and clanking sounds.
      2. Mukuta wekwedu unogara dzasunama. – chiremwaremwa (bat) – During the day bats hang themselves upside down in caves or hollow trees, with their wings draped around their bodies like cloaks. Note: I’m not familiar with the word ‘mukuta’, instead I know the word ‘mukunda’ which means ‘mwanasikana’. So the riddle would read ‘Mukunda wekwedu anogara akasunama.’
      3. Amai handei munozvarira mberi – Munhanga (pumpkin plant) – Pumpkin vines can sprawl quite far, easily reaching anywhere between 5 – 10 metres.

      Hope this helps.


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