It takes a village

  • It takes a village is an idiom popularized in the West in the 1990s. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying it takes a village, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


    It takes a village is an idiom that means many people must cooperate to achieve a goal. Usually, quoting the idiom it takes a village is used to indicate that one is acknowledging other peoples’ roles in the success of a project. The expression it takes a village is an abbreviated form of a proverb: It takes a village to raise a child. This expression is generally considered an African proverb common to many African cultures. For instance, the Nigerian Igbo proverb is “Oran a azu nwa,” which means “It takes a community to raise a child.” In Tanzania, the Bahaya say, “Omwana taba womoi,” which means “A child belongs not to one parent or home.” Many other African cultures have similar proverbs. The expression it takes a village was popularized in Western culture in the 1990s, when Hillary Clinton published her book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us.



    It takes a village: Second Mesa Day School celebrates students, community during Native American Heritage Month (The Navajo-Hopi Observer)

    “And, the problem is way too big, and it takes a village to come together — from areas like education and police — to help these people who are suffering every day and learn about it. (The Tulsa World)

    It takes a village, and I am grateful that our village understands the gravity of the current situation and is willing to join together for the students and staff of Dell Rapids Schools. (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader)

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