The Caribbean Dictionary

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Jamaica proverbs and sayings

duck nu lay egg before fowl
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You can achieve success regardless of your origin or background.

Play stone kill bud
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One person's fun and games may have serious consequences for another.

Black bud say fi im pickny fus
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Attend to your own affairs before the affairs of others.

Cockroach neva right before chicken
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One will never be judged fairly by one's enemies.

Ants follow fat, fat drown im
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Excessive greed will hurt you.

If yu mash ants yu fine im guts
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People reveal their true colours when faced with pressure or hard times.

Wen yu gwine knock anansi memba di wall
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When you try to hurt another be sure you aren't hurting yourself.

Anansi rope tie him maasa
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Be careful that you are not caught in the traps you set for others.

A faas mek anansi de a house top
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It is dangerous to meddle in the affairs of others.

All mout nu set fi tell di same lie.
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If everyone says the same thing, there may be truth behind it.

Pick an pick until yu pick shit
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The excessively pickny end up making poor choices

Nu tek ugly mek laugh
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Don't laugh at the misfortunes of others

Ben di tree when it young, when it ole it wi bruk
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It is easier to train children when they are young than when they are older

Victory nu come fram lie dung inna bead
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Success requires hard work

Saltfish de pan counta a wait pan bread an butta
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Lazy people wait for rewards instead of working for them

Parson christ'n him pickny fus
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People look out for themselves before others

Pudd'n cyaa bake widout fyah
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You need the right tools for each job

Poun a fret cyaa pay ounce a debt
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Worrying doesn't solve problems

Teef neva love fi si teef wid long bag
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Unscrupulous people begrudge the successes of other unscrupulous people

Def ears gi liad trouble
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Be certain of what you have heard before you choose to repeat it

Nyam some, lef some
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Plan for tomorrow; Don't consume everything all at once.

Craven choke puppy
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Greed will hurt you

Bucket go well every day, one day di bottom ago drop out
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If you repeatedly take the same risks, eventually it will end in disaster

One finga cyaa ketch lice
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Sometimes it is necessary to cooperate in order to achieve a goal

Haad ears pickny nyam rockstone
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Disobedient children often learn the hard way

Good friend betta dan pocket money
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True friends are better than money

Clear conscience sleep a tunda
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Those with a clear conscience can sleep well through the stormiest nights

Trouble nu set like rain
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Problems often arrive without warning

Nu betta herrin, nu betta barrel
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Don't expect children to be better than, or different from, their parents.

Tumuch callaloo mek peppa pot bitta
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There can be too much of a good thing

Hang yu basket whe yu can reach it
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Keep your goals within your abilities and means

Duppy know who fi frighten
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Bullies know exactly who they can abuse.

Rain a fall but dutty tough
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Income is coming in, but not enough to meet all needs

Wise monkey know wha tree fi climb
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Choose your goals or battles carefully

Day longa dan rope
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Time will right or avenge all wrongs

Teef Teef from feef, God laugh
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God laughs at poetic justice

Every day yu goad donkey, one day him gwine kick yu
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Everyone has their limits

Willin pickny belly full, unwillin pickny belly empty
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Children who are helpful and willing are better rewarded

Yu cyaa ride cow an cuss cow kin
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You shouldn't criticise those on whom you depend.

When coco ripe it mus bus
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All will be revealed when the time is right.

Dawg say 'if im ave money', im woulda buy flea
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Some people spend money on useless or necessary things.

Mawga cow a bull mumma
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Someone who appears weak or vulnerable may have powerful allies.

Annu every kin teet a laugh
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Someone who smiles to your face does not necessarily mean you well

Nu dash whe stick before yu done cross riva
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Don't be too quick to discard or reject things because you may need them in the future

Nubady neva kick dead dawg
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The successful are criticised

Humble calf suck di most milk
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Humility is more rewarding that arrogance

Di house whe shelta yu when a rain, look fi it when sun hot
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When you become successful, look out for those that helped you during your hard times.

Nu cuss alligator long mout til yu cross di riva
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Don't provoke people while they are in a position to retaliate.

Tek kin teet kibba heart bun
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Laughter is the best medicine

Peel neck fowl bawl fi life, im nu bawl fi fedda
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Outward beauty isn't the most important thing

Every day devil help teef. One day god wi help watchman
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Good people should not be discouraged by the successes of unscrupulous people

Di hotta di battle, di sweeta di victory
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Success is more rewarding after hard work and struggle

Di olda di moon di brighta it shine
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Age brings wisdom

If yu cyaa walk faas, tek time run
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Master the basics before you attempt more difficult activities

If yu cyaa walk faas, tek time run
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Master the basics before you attempt more difficult activities

If you bawn fi heng, yu cyaa drown
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Your destiny will be fulfilled

Cyaa bury a man an lef out him foot
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Be sure to properly complete the task at hand

Quattie bread full monkey belly
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The poor or disadvantaged are easily satisfied

Yu neva si pop gun kill alligator
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Don't expect success if you set someone a task that is beyond their ability

Bud fly too faas, pass him nes
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Excessive ambition puts one in danger of missing their goals

Bit bit mek poun
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Small amounts will eventually add up

Nu jus one way fi heng dog
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There is more than one way to accomplish a goal

Di man mek outa honey, fly wi nyam him
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People take advantage of the goodnatured.

If yu fraid a yeye yu cyaa nyam head
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One must be willing to put up with unpleasant things in order to be successful

Anyting stay too long serve two masta
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Take advantage of what you have before someone else takes it away from you

When cloud shado come, sun nu set
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One rough time does not mean all hope is lost

'Tank yu' nu buy half bit bread
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Payment is more useful than expressions of gratitude

Play fool fi ketch wise
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Feign ignorance to one's advantage

When bull foot bruk, im nyam wid monkey
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Misfortune or harsh time creates unlikely companionships

Fowl gwine fat im begin fram him toe
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Adult behaviours begin in childhood

Hungry mek monkey blow fire
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People are forced to become innovative and resourceful under harsh conditions

A nu same day leaf drop it rotten
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One bit of misfortune does not mean total destruction

If yu cuss Johncrow peel head turky wi bex
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People resent when you criticise others that are similar to them

Belly full, pitata ave kin
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Contented people can afford to be choosy

If yu see everybody a run tek time
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Don't be too eager to follow others

Gi a man a haas him want saggle to
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Help someone once and they'll always want more

Yu nu know how parson get him gown.
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Don't envy the success of others when you don't know what it cost.

Before dawg go widout suppa, im nyam cockroach
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Make do with what is available to you.

Crab say im nu trus nu shadow afta dark
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Don't make assumptions in uncertain situations.

If speech wort shillin, silence worth pound
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Sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut. Silence is golden.

Cause parrot mek noise, dem say a him one nyam banana
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The loudest and most obvious always gets blamed.

If yu nu go unda fowl coob, fowl cyaa shit pan yu
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People abuse you or take advantage of you unless you put yourself in a position for them to do so.

Nutt'n beat a trial but a failure.
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You can't succeed if you don't try.

Dance a yard before yu dance abroad
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Practice good behaviour at home before you go outside.

If yu waa good, yu nose affi run
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Success requires hard work

People nuh stone mango tree when it naw bear.
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People attack you for your successes

Man nu dead, nu call dem duppy
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Don't underestimate people

Dawg a sweat and long hair hide it
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Things are not always as they seem

Thief neva like fi see thief with long bag
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Those who prosper by illegal or crooked means dislike those who are more successful than themselves via the same means

Betta belly buss dan good food waste
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It is better to overeat than to waste great food.

Jackass seh di worl nu level
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Life isn't fair.

Fyah de a mus mus tail, him tink a cool breeze
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Some people are happily oblivious to the trouble or dangers hanging over them.

Fowl whe feed a yard nu hard fi ketch
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It is easy to catch up to someone who is avoiding or running away from you when that person depends on you for something essential.

Igle jackass follow cane trash go a poun
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People who have nothing to do, or are bored do stupid things to kill time

Fus laaf anno laaf
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He who laughs last, laughs best

Before monkey buy trousers, him affi know whe fi put him tail
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Make sure the fashions of others suit you before you rush to adopt them.

Di ola di moon di brighta di shine
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Age brings widsom

Sick nu care, doctor worst
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If you don't care about your own problems, don't expect anyone else to care

Every mickle mek a muckle
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Every little bit adds up

If yu want half a bread beg it, if yu want one, buy it yuself
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If you want a job done right, do it yourself

Puss belly full him say rat batty stink
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Only contented people can afford to be choosy.

When jackass smell corn him gallop
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Use the appropriate encouragement for each person

Sorry fi mawga daag dem tun roun bite you.
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No good deed goes unpunished.

Crab walk too much lose him claw
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If you overuse a thing you will break or lose it.

When rat like ramp roun puss jaw, one day him gwine en up in puss craw
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If you continually flirt with danger you will eventually get hurt.

Nu matta how boar hog hide unda sheep wool, him grunt betray him
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People's true colours will always come to the surface

Yu shake man han, yu nu shake him heart
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Appearances can be deceiving

Alligator lay egg, but him nu fowl
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Things are not always as they seem.

Pepper bun hot but it good fi curry
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Harsh advice may be good for you

Young bud nu know storm
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The young and inexperienced don't understand true troubles or hardships.

Rockstone a riva bottom nu know sun hot
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Sheltered persons don't know true hardship or troubles.

Bucket wid hole a battam nu have no business a riverside
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Don't criticise others when you have faults of your own.

Hog say the fus water im ketch im walla
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Take advantage of the first opportunity.

Wha nu kill fatten
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That which does not destroy you makes you stronger

Howdy an tenk yu nu bruk no square
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It never costs anything to be polite.

Empty bag cyaa stan up
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A hungry person cannot work

Want all, lose all.
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Excessive greed puts one in danger of losing everything.

Mischief come by di poun and go by di ounce
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It only takes a little effort or few words to start a lot of trouble.

Poun a fret cyaa pay ounce a debt
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Worrying does not improve a bad situation.

If yu cyaa get turkey, satisfy wid John Crow.
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Make the best of a bad situation, and be content with what you have.

Ole fyah stick easy fi ketch
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It's easier to rekindle a romantic relationship than to start a new one with someone new.

Cock mout kill cock
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Choose your words with care lest you draw unpleasant or unwanted attention to yourself.

Peacock hide him foot when him hear 'bout him tail.
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A proud person hides his weaknesses when praised.

Finger neba say look ya, him say look yonda.
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People never point out their own faults.

So much mout cyaa set fi tell di same lie
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If everybody makes the same accusation then there must be some truth in it.

Every tub affi sit on it own bottom.
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Every person will have to take responsibility for his own life and actions.

We don't play hockey, we eat hockey -- Shabba Ranks
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One one coco full basket
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Little by little the task will be completed

Chicken merry, hawk de near.
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Danger lurks wherever there is too much merriment and excitement.

Alligator shouldn't call hog long mout.
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You shouldn't belittle or criticise others when you have the same faults.

Likkle alligator tun big alligator
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Children invariably adopt all the bad attributes of their parents.


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