Jamaican Proverbs
and Sayings

There are many timeless Jamaican proverbs and Jamaican sayings that have been handed down through generations. Here you will find some of the more popular proverbs, along with a few priceless, more obscure sayings. After each, I have attempted to give an equivalent English proverb, or an explanation.

Please forgive me if the translations sound clumsy - some things just can't be expressed in Standard English!

Jamaican Proverbs

  • When trouble ketch yu pickney shut fit yu
    Any port in a storm. A person in trouble will undertake menial actions that he/she would not do otherwise.

  • What a fi yu, cyaan be un fi yu
    What is meant to be yours will always be yours

  • Di higher monkey climb, di more him expose
    The higher your status, the more your vulnerabilities are exposed

  • When puss belly full im seh rat batty bitter
    When people rise in status they often forget their humble backgrounds

  • If fish deh a river bottom an tell yu seh alligator have gum boil, believe him!
    Listen to the voice of experience

  • Cockroach nuh business inna fowl fight
    Don't meddle in things that don't concern you

  • Young bud nuh know storm
    Experience teaches wisdom

  • One one coco full basket
    Every little bit adds up to a whole lot

  • Wha sweet nanny goat a go run him belly
    You can have too much of a good thing

  • Play wid puppy, puppy lick yu mout/nose
    Familiarity breeds contempt

  • Who born fi heng cyaan drown
    You can't escape or control destiny

  • Man nuh dead nuh call dem duppy
    Never underestimate people, even when they are down

  • Every dawg have him day an every puss him 4 o'clock
    Every dog has his day

  • Dawg a sweat an long hair hide it
    All that glitters is not gold. You can't judge someone's troubles by her/his positive appearance.

  • Rock stone a river bottom cyaan know sun hot
    He who feels it knows it

  • Every hoe ha dem tick a bush
    There's that perfect mate out there for everyone, even the most unlikely person

  • Puss and dawg nuh have di same luck
    Some people are luckier than others

  • Chicken merry, hawk deh near
    Danger is often looming when you're having fun

  • Duppy know who fi frighten
    People tend to take advantage of those who will allow it

  • Ole fire stick easy fi ketch
    It's easy to rekindle an old romance

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