Jamaican Proverbs From A – Z

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Check out our listing of Jamaican proverbs and take heed, learn, or laugh!
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A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
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A
A faas mek anansi de a house top.
A faitful pramise mek fool glad.
A good conscience is better than a big wage.
A greedy mek fly follow coffin go a hole.
A lawyer looks at you with one eye, but he looks at your pocket with two.
A little axe can cut down a big tree.
A little pepper burns a big man’s mouth.
A man with trousers that are too short should wear long suspenders.
A no evryting kum fram abuv a blessin.
A no want a fat mek nightingale foot stan’ so.
A noh every mango got maggige.
A nuh all bush hate rabbit.
A nuh every chain you hear is rollin’ calf.
A nuh every fish a sea a shark.
A nuh every kin teet a laugh.
A nuh every thing good fi eat, good fi talk.
A nuh every thing soak up waata a sponge.
A nuh lack a tung mek cow nuh talk.
A nuh one day monkey waan wife.
A nuh same day leaf drop a river bottom it rotten.
A pound a fret can’t pay an ounce a debt.
Ackee love fat, okra love salt.
Ah nuh all roof a shelta.
All kind of fish eat man, only shark get blame.
All mout nu set fi tell di same lie.
Alligator lay egg, but him not fowl!
Alligator shouldn’t call hog long mout.
An old debt is better than an old grudge.
Anancy rope tie anancy.
Anansi rope tie him maasa.
Ants follow fat, fat drown im.
Any dutty wata can cool hot iron.
Anything tan too lang serve nedda masta.
Anyting stay too long serve two masta.
Anywey it mawga it bruck.
Ask paas yu cyaanh laas paas.
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B
Bad fam’ly beta dan empty pig sty.
Bad luck wos dan Obeah.
Bad tings nuh ave no owner.
Bakra wuk neva done.
Barking saves biting.
Beautiful woman, beautiful trouble.
Beauty widout grace like rose widout smell.
Before dawg go widout suppa, im nyam cockroach.
Before good food spwile, mek belly bus.
Before monkey buy trousers, him affi know whe fi put him tail.
Before you married keep you two eye open; after you married, shut one.
Beg waata cyaan bwile cow ‘kin.
Beggar beg from beggar him neva get rich.
Behind the dog it is ‘dog’, in front of dog, it’s ‘mister dog’.
Belly full, pitata ave kin.
Ben di tree wen it young, wen it old, it wi bruk.
Big blanket mek man sleep late.
Bit bit mek poun.
Black bud say fi im pickny fus.
Black fowl ah noh fi yuh, you call him John crow.
Blood follow vein.
Blood ticka dan waata.
Boastin’ man brudder a de liar.
Book learnin a nuh intelligence.
Bowl go, packy come.
Brite like four fiyah side.
Bucket guh well evryday wan day di battam mus drap out.
Bucket wid hole a battam ave no business a rivaside.
Bud fly too fass pass im ness.
Bull buck and duppy conqueror.
Bull horn never too heavy for im head
Bush ave ears, an wall ave eye.
Butta nuh melt eena im mout.
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C
Calabash never bear pumpkin.
Cap no fit you, you no tek i’ up.
Carry go bring, come.
Cause parrot mek noise, dem say a him one nyam banana.
Chatty chatty pickney pay im pupa debt.
Chicken merry, hawk deh near.
Chiga toe ‘fraid a gravel.
Chip never fly far from de block.
Clear conscience sleep a tunda.
Clothes nuh cover up character.
Cock mout kill cock.
Cockroach neva right before chicken.
Cockroach nuh business inna fowl fight.
Cotton tree fall dung ram goat jump ovah it.
Cow nuh kno di use ah im tail til it cut off.
Coward man kip soun’ bone.
Cows ave no business in horseplay.
Crab eena barrel climb pon wan aneda.
Crab say im nu trus nu shadow afta dark.
Craven choke puppy.
Cry-cry pickney never ave him right.
Cunning better than strong.
Cuss cuss noh bore hole a mi skin.
Cyaa bury a man an lef out him foot.
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D
Dankey seh dis yah werl nuh level, hill an gully yahso, hill an gully deh so.
Darg among doctor, cockroach among shaver.
Darg-flea tell him pickeny him mustn’t say him dead till him ketch pon finger nail.
Dawg a dawg, puss a difahrent sinting.
Dawg a sweat an long hair hide it
Dawg ave money nyam cheese, wen im bruk im chaw ole rag.
Dawg ave shine teet laaf afta butcha.
Dawg know who fi bite
Dawg mawga but im head big.
Dawg no howl if im ha bone.
Dawg nyam yuh suppa.
Dawg say ‘if im ave money’, im woulda buy flea.
Dawg wid to much massa sleep widout suppa.
Day langa dan rope.
Daylight sho t’rough lilly keyhole.
De wisest man sometime tun fool.
Def ears gi liad trouble.
Dem come in like black crab inna barrel.
Dem give yu basket fi carry water.
Dem short fe singer when dem put peacock in a choir.
Di bass sen monkey, monkey sen im tail.
Di bes’ a field mus hav weed.
Di daakes part a di night, a when day soon light.
Di higher monkey climb, di more ‘im expose.
Di hotta di battle, di sweeta di victory.
Di house whe shelta yu when a rain, look fi it when sun hot.
Di man mek outa honey, fly wi nyam him.
Di more yuh look, di less yuh si.
Di nearah di bone, di sweeta di meat.
Di olda de clock, de faster it wine.
Di olda de moon, de brigher it shine.
Di tune you playing no de one I dancing.
Di wise monkey know wha tree fi clime.
Di yeye of di massa fatten di ears.
Dog hate to min’ owner im sleep widout supper.
Don’t mek goat watchman fe breadfruit tree.
Duck nu lay egg before fowl.
Duppy know who fi frighten.
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E
Eat fam’bly bittle but no cut fam’bly ‘tory.
Eat with the devil but give him a long spoon.
Empty bag cyaa stan’ up.
Empty barrel mek de most noise.
Empty pot will neva bwile over.
Every bess friend have a bess friend.
Every cave-hole have him own duppy.
Every dawg have im day, an every puss im 4 o’clock.
Every day a fishing-day, but no every day fe ketch fish.
Every day devil help thief, one day God will help watchman.
Every day yu load donkey, one day him gwine kick yu.
Every dog knows his dinnertime.
Every hoe have im stik a bush.
Every jackass seh ‘im cubby is a race hass.
Every John crow tink him pickney white.
Every man honest till de day him ketch.
Every man know whe him own house de leak.
Every mickle mek a muckle.
Every sun hot have shady tree.
Every tub affi sit on it own bottom.
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F
Far pass mek ockra pwoil.
Farm fowl ave size, comman fowl ave taste.
Feel like Gumbeh drum widout a goat-skin.
Fill your basket one item at a time.
Finger never say ’look here’, him say ‘look yonder’.
Finger stink you caan cut it off an thro it weh.
Fire deh a mus-mus tail him tink a cool breeze.
Fish bone no lodge in a pickney troat alone.
Fool mi one time shame on you, fool me two times, shame on me!
Fool-fool pickney mek fowl get away from him two time.
Fowl can’t hear Ssheee, fowl hear bam!
Fowl gwine fat im begin fram him toe.
Fowl weary, hawk catch im chicken.
Fowl weh nyam out a han ezzi fi ketch.
Fowl whe feed a yard nu hard fi ketch.
Fram mi yeye deh a mi knee.
Frog never gargle him troat till him tas’e fresh water.
Fry de bigh fish fust, te lilly one after.
Fus laaf anno laaf.
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G
Gi a man a haas him want saddle to.
Gi di devil im due.
God Amighty mek man straight, a rum mek him can’t ‘tan’ up.
Going to bed without dinner is better than waking up in debt.
Good frien’ betta dan packet money.
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H
Hag nyam wha im mind gi im fah.
Han’ go, paki come.
Hang yu basket whe yu can reach it.
Han’some face and good luck don’ travel de same pass.
Hard ears pickney bun inna sun hot.
Hard ears pickney guh to market two time.
Hard ears pickney nyam rockstone.
Hat needle bun tred.
Hell an powda ouse bruk loose.
High seat, kill Miss Thomas puss.
Hog a sweat but lang hair kibba eeh.
Hog pikney ask im mumma, ‘wah mek yuh mouth so lang?’ Mumma seh, ‘Nuh mine mi pickney, yuh a grow yuh wi know.’
Hog run fi him life, dawg run fi him character.
Hog seh di fus dutty water him ketch, him walla.
Horse dead and cow fat.
How wata waak go eena pumpkin gut?
Howdy an’ tenk yu, noh brok noh square.
Humble calf suck di most milk.
Hungry hungry and full full no travel same pass.
Hungry mek monkey blow fire.
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I
‘Im don’t know im ears fram im ass.
‘Im nah cough but yuh a vomit.
‘Im never gi mi zinch.
‘Im wouda chat di tail affa cow.
Idgle jackass follow cane trash go a poun.
If ‘How are you?’ cost a cent, few would hear it.
If a egg, we haffi inna di red. *
If a flea had money, it would buy its own dog.
If alligator seh fish mout tink, believe im.
If chickens were judges, cockroaches would be sentenced.
If cow did know how him troat hole tan, him wouldn’t chance pear seed.
If cow nuh dead him wi shake him tail.
If ears grow ever so big they can’t pass head.
If fish deh a river bottom an tell yu seh alligator have gum boil, believe him!
If speech wort shillin, silence worth pound.
If stars were loaves, many people would sleep out.
If you can’t ketch Kwako, yu ketch im shut.
If you cannot dance, you will say the drumming is poor.
If you crape gourdy, you fin’ worm-hole.
If you don’t take it, you don’t have it.
If you follow a fool, you’re a fool yourself.
If you go a tump-a-foot dance, you must dance tump-a-foot.
If you hang clothes pon line, u no haffi look fi rain.
If you hear di devil a come, clear de way.
If you saw what the river carried, you would never drink the water.
If you want half a bread, beg summady buy it but if you want a whole one, buy it yourself.
If you want to know who your friends are, lie by the roadside and pretend to be drunk.
If yuh bawn fi heng yuh cyaan drown.
If yuh cuss John crow, peel head turky wi bex.
If yuh cyaa tek di heat, get out a di kitchen.
If yuh cyaa walk faas, tek time run.
If yuh cyaan git turkey, yuh haffi satisfy wid John crow.
If yuh de shit, an’ si certain people a come; sidong inna it.
If yuh fraid a yeye, yu cyaa nyam head.
If yuh fraid fi frog you run from crab.
If yuh get yuh hand inside a lion mouth, tek time tek it out.
If yuh lie wid dawg, yuh git up wid fleas.
If yuh mek yu sail too big fi yu boat, yu sail wi capsize yu.
If yuh nu go unda fowl coob, fowl cyaa shit pan yu.
If yuh nuh ave good fe sey, nuh sey nuh bad.
If yuh nuh mash ants, yuh nuh fine im guts.
If yuh see everybody a run tek time.
If yuh waan good yuh nose haffi run.
It’s better fi lose yu time dan yu character.
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J
Jack Mandora mi nuh choose none.
John crow never make house till rain come.
John crow tink him own pickney white.
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K
Keep your secret in your own gourdy.
Keep your shop and your shop will keep you.
Kibba yuh mout.
Kitchen claat tun table claat.
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L
Laaffy laaffy , love lay down.
Lang run, shaat ketch.
Learn fi creep before yuh walk.
Learn fi dance a yaad before yuh dance abraad.
Lickle bit a ram goat have beard an big bull noh have none.
Lightning nuh strike di same place twice.
Likkle alligator tun big alligator.
Likkle pig ave big ears.
Lilly axe can cut down big tree.
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M
Make a friend when you don’t need one.
Man ave cow him look fi milk.
Man dat carry straw no fe fool wid fire.
Man no ave gourdy, him satisfy wid bottle.
Man noh done climb hill noh trow wey yuh stick.
Man noh done cross riva, noh fi cuss alligator long mout.
Man nuh dead, nuh call him duppy.
Manners mek di man.
Manners tek yu thru di world.
Marriage has teeth and it bite hard.
Me neva bawn wen mi maddah guh a maaket.
Me no call you no come.
Meat that the cat brings in never gets to your plate.
Mek one jackass bray!
Mi come here fi drink milk, mi noh come here fi count cow.
Mi nah buy no puss inna bag.
Mi nuh come yah fi hear horse dead an cow fat.
Mi old, but mi nuh cold.
Mi throw mi corn, but me no call no fowl.
Mi throw mi stone inna pig pen, the one what squeal, a im it lick.
Mischief come by di poun and go by di ounce.
Monkey mus know weh im gwine put im tail, before im order trousiz.
Monkey sey ‘wha in yuh mout not fi yuh’.
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N
Nanny goat never scratch him back till him see wall.
Neva si, come si.
Nevah tun duck outta ness.
Never mek you sail too big fe you ship.
New broom sweep clean, but ole broom kno di canah.
No mug no bruk, no coffee nuh dash wey.
Nobady neva kick dead dawg.
Nuh all foot in a boot a good foot.
Nuh betta herrin, noh betta barrel.
Nuh buy puss inna bag.
Nuh call alligator long mouth till you pass him.
Nuh care how boar hog try fi hide under sheep wool, ‘im grunt always betray ‘im.
Nuh cuss alligator long mout til yuh cross di riva.
Nuh every ting dat ave sugar sweet.
Nuh expect nuttin fram ah pig but ah grunt.
Nuh fatten cockroach fi fowl.
Nuh hang you clothes all pon one nail.
Nuh hide yuh ‘tick an Iick a man.
Nuh jus one way fi heng dog.
Nuh matta how cockroach drunk, him nuh walk pass fowl yaad.
Nuh mek one donkey choke you.
Nuh mek yuh lef han kno wha yuh right han a do.
Nuh mine how teacha crass im mus gi recess.
Nuh put youself in a barrel when match box can hol you.
Nuh put yu cap whe’ yu cant reach it.
Nuh romp wid mawga cow, a cudda bull mumma.
Nuh stone mango tree when it naw bear.
Nuh tek ugly mek laugh.
Nuh thro wey yuh ‘tick before yuh dun cross di riva.
Nuh trouble trouble, til trouble trouble yuh.
Nuh wait till drum beat before yuh grine yuh axe.
Nutt’n beat a trial but a failure.
Nyam some, lef some.
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O
Oily tung nuh mus tell di truth.
Ole file cyaan shaap’n new machete.
Ole fire stick easy fi ketch.
One eye man a king in blind man country.
One finga cyaa kill lice.
One han wash di oddah.
One hand can’t clap.
One one coco full basket.
One time a mistake, two time a purpose.
One time fool no fool, two time fool im dey fool.
Ooman luck deh a dungle heap, fowl cratch eeh out.
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P
Parson christen him own pickney first.
Patient man ride dankey.
Pay the doctor, praise the Lord.
Peacock hide im foot wen im ear bout im tail.
Peel neck fowl bawl fi life, im nu bawl fi fedda.
Peppa bu’n hot, but ih good fi curry.
Pick an pick until yu pick shit.
Plantain whe ripe can’t green again.
Play fool fi ketch wise.
Play stone kill bud.
Play with puppy, puppy lick yu mouth.
Poun a fret cyaa pay ounce a debt.
Prayer from de mout’ alone is no prayer.
Pretty roses gat macca fi juck yu.
Pudd’n cyaa bake widout fyah.
Puss and dawg noh ha di same luck.
Puss bruk coconut in a yuh eye.
Puss gone, rat take charge.
Puss no ave hand, im use im foot wipe im face.
Puss nuh business inna dawg fight.
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Q
Quatti buy trouble, hundred poun caan pay fi it.
Quattie bread full monkey belly.
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R
Rain a fall, but dutty tuff.
Rain never fall a one man door.
Rat belly full, potato have skin.
Rock stone a riva battam noh kno’ sun hot.
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S
Sake a mout fish get ketch.
Saltfish de pan counta a wait pan bread an butta.
Same knife tick di sheep tick di goat.
Sarry fi mawga dawg, mawga dawg tun roun bite yuh.
Save money and money will save you.
Scawnful dawg nyam dutty pudd’n.
See and blind, hear and deaf.
See mi a one thing, come live with me another.
See mi an come live with mi a two different thing.
Self praise a nuh nuh recommendation.
Sensa fowl no want fedder, but him want carn.
Shoes alone know if stocking ave hole.
Shut mout no catch fly.
Sick nu care, doctor worst.
Silent river run deep.
Sleep has no master.
Sleepy turtle never catch up with the sunrise.
Snake bite you, you see groun lizard yuh run.
So much mout cyaa set fi tell di same lie.
Some a dem come in like snake under grass.
Some people clean a tap an dutty underneath.
Sometimes you haffi suck salt through wooden spoon.
Spit inna de sky, it fall inna yuh eye.
Spread yuh bed haad, lie dung pan eh haad.
Stiff starch an dutty blue.
Stranger no know where de deep water in de pass.
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T
Talk and taste your tongue.
Tan an si, nuh pwile di dance.
‘Tank yu’ nu buy half bit bread.
Teeth and tongue mus meet.
Tek kin teet kibba heart bun.
Tek time mash ant yuh fin im belly.
Tek whe yuh get tell yu get whe yu want.
That which you do not know is older than you.
The hungry fowl wakes early.
The nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat.
The olda di moon, di brighta it shine.
The spider and the fly can’t make a deal.
The Stone that the builder refuse, will be the head corner stone.
Thief neva like fi see thief with long bag.
Thief thief from thief, God laugh.
Those who can’t dance say the music is no good.
Time langa dan rope.
Tired feet always say that the path is long.
To eat an egg, you must break the shell.
Today can’t catch tomorrow.
Today for you, tomorrow for me.
Too much callaloo mek peppa-pot stew bitter.
Too much ratta neva dig a good hole.
Too much si’-dun bruk breeches.
Trouble deh a bush Anancy carri cum a yaawd.
Trouble never blow shell.
Trouble nuh set like rain.
Two bull cyaan rule eena wan pen.
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V
Victory nu come fram lie dung inna bead
Virtue never goes far without the company of idleness.
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W
Walk better dan si-dun.
Want all, lose all.
Wanti wanti cyaan getti, an getti getti noh wanti.
Warn jackass before yuh lick im.
Wat doan kill will fatten.
Wata more than flour.
We run t’ings, t’ings noh run we.
Wha a joke to yuh, a death to mi.
Wha costs nutting give good weight.
Wha di goat duh, di kid fallah.
Wha dog see an bark all night, ramgoat see an it no trouble im.
Wha drap affah head drap pan shoulda.
Wha eye nuh see, heart nuh leap.
Wha gone bad a mawning, caan come good a evening.
Wha noh poison, fatten.
Wha nuh dead nuh call it duppy.
Wha nuh dead, nuh dash wey.
Wha sweet nanny goat a go run him belly.
Wha yuh nuh know olda dan yuh.
What a fi yu, cyaan be un fi yu.
What de good a education if him got no sense?
When ashes cole darg sleep in dey.
When bull foot bruk, im nyam wid monkey.
When bull ole im feed a fence side.
When bull ole, yuh tek string tie im.
When cloud shadow come, sun noh set.
When cockroach get in a trouble, him well glad fi hide inna fowl house.
When cockroach mek dance im no ask fowl.
When coco ripe it mus bus.
When cow can’t get wata fe wash im pickney face, im tek im tongue.
When crab walk too much, im lose im claw.
When fiyah an wata mek fren’ anybody can lib.
When herring mawga him bone show.
When jackass back strong, dem overload im hamper.
When jackass smell corn, im gallop.
When kitchen dresser tumble dung, maaga dog laugh.
When lie teck plane and gone, truth a walk a come.
When man belly full, him bruck pot.
When man live well, im tell cow ‘howdy’.
When mawga plantin want fi dead, im shoot.
When poor ah git up, im tun trouble to di world.
When puss belly full, him sey rat belly bitter.
When rat ketch eena trap im part wid im tail.
When rat like fi romp ‘roun puss jaw, one day im gwine en up inna puss craw.
When six eye meet story dun.
When towel tun tablecloth dere’s no bearin wid it.
When trouble tek yuh, pickney shut fit yuh.
When visitors come a wi fireside, wi mek wi pot smell nice.
When water trow weh i’ cyaa pick up.
When you a dig hole, dig two.
When you buy beef, you buy bones; when you buy land, you buy rocks.
When you go a jackass yard, you nuh fi chat bout big ears.
When you point your finger at someone, look where the other fingers point.
When your own funeral is approaching, you don’t pick and choose your grave diggers.
When yu go a fireside an see food, eat half an lef half.
When yu gwine knock anansi memba di wall.
When yuh kill yuh own hog, you get more meat.
Wherever there are bones, there are dogs.
Who ave teet’ fe nyam corn, it nuh grow a dem door.
Who born fi heng cyaan drown.
Who ha’ fingernail no ha’ itch, and who ha’ itch no ha’ fingernail.
Willful waste bring woeful want.
Willin pickny belly full, unwillin pickny belly empty.
Willing pickney belly high, unwilling pickney belly empty.
Woman mout’ an fowl a one.
Words die and men keep on living.
Words in mouth, no load upon head.
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Y
Young bud nuh know storm.
Yuh a swap black dawg fi monkey.
Yuh can say anything to a man with a full stomach.
Yuh cannot tie up a dog with a chain of sausages.
Yuh can’t have two faces under one hat.
Yuh can’t take the milk back from the coffee.
Yuh cyaa ride cow an cuss cow kin.
Yuh cyaan tap crow fedah fram drap pan yuh but yuh can hinda im fram mek nes pan yuh head.
Yuh cyaan teach ole dawg new trick.
Yuh cyan tan so far an thro salt inna pot.
Yuh life lang but yuh cayliss wid it.
Yuh neva see smoke widout fiyah.
Yuh neva si pop gun kill alligator.
Yuh never see empty bag stan up.
Yuh never see kicking cow widout kicking calf.
Yuh nu know how parson get him gown.
Yuh nuh fi eat hat rice.
Yuh shake man han’, yuh noh shake ‘im heart.
Yuh too big fi yuh boots.

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