A saying or proverb can convey a very important meaning for life. It can caution regarding morality and imbibe values set by our age-old social system. We list out famous Jamaican sayings along with their meanings, some of which may sound funny and casual but have profound wisdom.
“Proverbs are short sentences drawn from long experience.”
― Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1605
In the rich Jamaican culture proverbs are an amalgamation of African and European influences; Jamaica being the potpourri of various colonies. Majority of the Jamaican sayings reflect wit and wisdom of the people over a period of time. Also, many of its phrases carry animal characters to make proverbs sound more vivid and unique. The language is heavily induced by Patois (pronounced patwa) or ‘Jamaican talk’, a mix of English and African dialects. Following are some pearls of wisdom one can use to quote in daily life.
Jamaican Sayings for Life
Jackass seh di worl nu level
Life isn’t fair.
Alligator lay egg, but him now fowl
Things are not always as they seem.
Rockstone a riva bottom nu know sun hot
Sheltered persons don’t know true hardship or troubles.
Chicken merry, hawk deh near
Danger lurks nearby when there is too much merriment and excitement.
If yu cyaa get turkey, satisfy wid John Crow
Make the best of a bad situation, and be content with what you have.
Hog say,’de first dutty water mi ketch,mi wash
Make use of the first opportunities that comes your way.
Wanti wanti can’t get it, getti getti no want i
Have-nots covet what the Haves take for granted.
Every dawg has his day and every puss his 4 o’clock
Today for me, tomorrow for you.
Cockroach nuh business inna fowl fight
Don’t get involved in things that don’t concern you.
Every hoe ave dem tik a bush
There’s someone out there for everyone.
What sweet nanny goat ago run eeh belly
That which appears too good, can hurt you.
Di fus wata hog pass him wash himself
Always choose the first opportunity.
Heel nevah go before toe
Deal with important matters first.
Every lang lane ave a turning
Nothing lasts forever.
Jamaican Sayings Pertaining to Behavior
Wah di use yuh dah shawl up when yuh characta gone?
It is no use pretending to be something you are not as the true you will always show.
Dry ‘tump a cane-piece nuh fi laugh when cane-piece ketch a fyah
Do not take pleasure in the misfortunes of others as the same could happen to you.
Yuh cyaan carry two face undah one hat
Practice what you preach.
Kreeshie mannahs before yuh linen yellow
Make good manners a regular part of your life.
Ef yuh cyaan tan bun, cut an run
Get out of any situation in which you feel threatened or pressured into doing anything against your will.
Yes yes’ neva carry man ova mountain
Words are never enough to get through difficult situations. Offer practical solutions and not just mere talk.
Nuh everyting you yearry good fe talk
Be discreet in what you communicate to others.
Nuh all foot inna boot a good foot
Never judge by outward appearances alone.
One, one coco full basket
Do not expect to achieve success overnight, take it slowly.
Fingah nevah say”look’ere,”‘im seh “look deh
People tend to point out the faults in others than their own.
Doan listen to di naise, watch di sale
Do not be misled by others’ excitement; use the facts to judge something for yourself.
Same bird weh carry news come, a de same bird tek eh back
The person who brings gossip to you is the same one taking it back.
Talk and taste your tongue
Think before you speak.
Jamaican Sayings on Love, Marriage and Family
What a fi yu, cyaan be un fi yu
What is yours will always be yours.
Ole fire stick easy fi ketch
It’s easy to rekindle an old romance.
Blood ticka dan wata
The bond between blood relatives is very strong.
Mi old, but mi nuh cold
Do not underestimate the value of the elderly.
Finga ‘tink, yu cyaan cut it t’row ‘way
You should not cast off a member of your family who gets into trouble.
Fe see mi is one ting, fe come live wid mi is anodda
You will never know someone just from casual acquaintances. Take time to know someone.
Marriage a nuh food truck
Do not rush into a marriage, or any intimate relationship, but wait until the time is right.
Ebry jackass sey ‘im cubby ah race hass
Parents always think that their children are destined for greatness.
Funny Jamaican Proverbs
Mi mouth a mi market
I’m free to say what I want.
Yu too fenkay, fenkay
The person is too slight.
Never si come si
When someone behaves in an overly enthusiastic manner.
A no all who go a church go fe prayer
Not everyone goes to church for the same reason, some just go to gossip.
Every poppy show have them own a gang
You tend to stick to people of the same nature.
No trouble trouble, until trouble trouble yu
Don’t go looking for trouble.
When Eskimo have money him buy fridge
When some people find themselves with a little extra cash, they spend it on things that they don’t even need.
These tongue-in-cheek sayings cleverly put in the shortcomings of the human nature and teach valuable lesson. They provide a cultural grounding and often show that there is always more than one way to express a particular experience in life.