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10 Most Popular Jamaican Proverbs With Translations and Meanings

by Kay Grant | Associate Writer

The Jamaican populace is most certainly a colourful group of people. This is not only evident in our food or the way we dress, but it is also very evident in our language and the way we express ourselves. Jamaicans have so many proverbs that it would take writing a book to document them in their entirety. Whether they are used to warn others of impending doom or used to encourage and motivate us, Jamaican proverbs are as dynamic and creative as their creators. Here are some of the more popular ones.
  1. ‘Chicken Merry, hawk deh near’
    Translation: The chicken is merry, but a hawk is nearby - This saying means that a person may be happy in a bad situation, but there is impending doom or bad news on the way while that person is blissfully unaware. This saying is often used to caution children who are playing in a manner that could result in them getting hurt.

  2. ‘Mout’ deh smile but heart a leap’
    Translation: While the mouth is smiling, the heart is leaping - In other words, a person may display happiness on the outside but on the inside, they are going through tough times. In days gone by, when many Jamaicans were asked ‘how yu doing’(how are you doing?), many would use this as their reply.

  3. 'A Nuh everything good fi eat good fi talk'
    Translation: It’s not everything that is good enough to be eaten is good to speak about - Not everything you know, see or hear needs to be spoken of. In other words, it is wise to keep some things to oneself.

  4. 'Wah gone bad a morning can’t guh good a evening’
    Translation: What has gone bad in the morning cannot go well in the evening - A situation that has already gone bad cannot have a good outcome.

  5. ‘Sorry fi mawga dog and it will tun roun’ and bite you’
    Translation: Feel sorry for a skinny dog and it will turn around and bite you - This means that at times when you help someone, those same persons come to harm or sabotage you in some way.

  6. ‘The higher di monkey climb, the more him expose’
    Translation: The higher the monkey climbs the more exposed he becomes - This means that the more powerful someone becomes, the more they should expect persons to be curious about their lives and even dredge up things that they would rather remain hidden.

  7. 'New broom sweep clean, but old broom know the corners'
    Translation: New brooms sweep well, but old brooms know the corners’ - Younger persons may bring fresher ideas, but elders and their traditional ideas have proven, just as or even more effective that than those of the younger persons.

  8. 'Ano wan day monkey wah wife'
    Translation: A monkey does not only need a wife for one day – This means that one must think of the impact one’s current actions can make on their future.

  9. 'A nuh same day leaf drop inna wata it rotten'
    Translation: It is not the same day that a leaf falls to the bottom of the water that it decays – This means that things can fall apart over time. You may not immediately see the effects, but one day it will.

  10. 'You will soon find out how water walk guh a pumpkin belly'
    Translation: You will soon find out how water walks to a pumpkin’s belly – This simply means that you will one day find out the consequences of your actions.
There are many others that continue to make the rounds in contemporary Jamaica, proving that our culture is still alive and well. What are some of the Jamaican Proverbs that you are familiar with?

I also recommend you read, Jamaican Folklore Exposed! 53 Surprisingly Common Beliefs & Practices.


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