Jamaican Quotes, Their Translations and Meanings

Dive into the vibrant wisdom of Jamaica with our curated collection of favorite quotes and proverbs. These expressions carry the spirit of Jamaica, reflecting the resilience, humor, and shared values of its people. Grouped into various themes, each saying is a nugget of wisdom, offering a window into the heart of Jamaican culture. Enjoy this journey through Jamaican wisdom, and as we say in Jamaica, “Walk good!”

Awareness and Ignorance

“Weh eye nuh see, heart nuh leap.”
Translation: “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t leap.”
The proverb means that people often don’t worry about things they aren’t aware of or can’t see. It’s similar to the English saying “out of sight, out of mind.”

“Yu cyaan hide an buy land.”
Translation: “You can’t hide and buy land.”
The meaning behind this saying is that you cannot keep secrets if you are involved in public affairs. Some actions are too noticeable or significant to be kept hidden. For example, if you purchase land, it’s a public record, and it would be hard to keep that a secret. The proverb underscores the idea that some activities inherently attract attention or scrutiny.

“Hog say, ‘de first dutty water mi ketch, mi wash.'”
Translation: “The hog says, ‘the first dirty water I find, I wash.'”
It means that one should seize the opportunities that come their way, even if they are not perfect, because there might not be another chance. The implication is that one should make the best of what they have at the moment rather than waiting for an ideal situation that may never come. It carries a similar message to the English saying, “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”

“Fire deh a mus-mus tail him tink a cool breeze.”
Translation: “There’s fire at the rat’s tail, but he thinks it’s a cool breeze.”
The meaning of this proverb is that someone is in danger or in a problematic situation but is oblivious to it. They are unaware of the imminent trouble that’s coming their way, similar to the English phrase “like a lamb to the slaughter.”

Patience and Persistence

“Every mickle mek a muckle.”
Translation: “Many small amounts accumulate to make a large amount.”

This proverb emphasizes the importance of recognizing that small actions or contributions can add up to a significant result over time. It’s similar to the English saying, “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”

“One, one coco full basket.”
Translation: “One by one, the coconuts fill the basket.”

This proverb underscores the value of patience and perseverance, suggesting that great things can be achieved gradually over time. It’s a reminder that steady, consistent effort, even if it seems small or insignificant at the time, can lead to substantial results in the long run. The English equivalent could be “Slow and steady wins the race” or “Every little bit helps.”

“Time longer than rope.”
Translation: “Time is longer than rope.”
The meaning of this proverb is that patience can outlast any challenge and that time will often bring solutions or outcomes that one cannot currently see. It may also suggest that over time, truths will be revealed or justice will be served. An English saying that carries a similar sentiment is “Time will tell.”

“Step by step the ladder is ascended.”
Translation: “Step by step the ladder is ascended.”
This proverb emphasizes the idea that progress is made gradually. It’s a reminder that every large task, no matter how daunting at first, can be accomplished by taking it one step at a time. It’s very similar to the English proverb “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

“Today fi you, tomorrow fi mi.”
Translation: “Today for you, tomorrow for me.”
This proverb suggests that life is cyclical, and fortunes can change quickly. It may be your turn today, but tomorrow could be mine. It promotes patience and understanding that everyone will get their chance or have their moment. It shares similarities with the English phrase, “Every dog has its day.”

Guilt and Accusations

“If yuh throw stone inna hog pen, de one dat squeal a de one yuh hit.”
Translation: “If you throw a stone into a pig pen, the one that squeals is the one you hit.”
This proverb means that the person who reacts (often negatively or defensively) to accusations or criticisms is likely the one who is guilty or at fault. It is similar to the English saying, “Throw a stone into a pack of dogs, the one that yells is the one who got hit.”

“Thief from thief, God laugh.”
Translation: “Thief steals from thief, God laughs.”
This proverb suggests a form of poetic justice where wrongdoers experience wrongdoing. The idea is that when a person who does wrong is wronged, it brings a sense of cosmic balance or divine retribution. This is similar to the English concept “What goes around, comes around.”

“Yu cyaan ketch Quaco yu ketch him shut.”
Translation: “If you can’t catch Quaco, you catch his shirt.”
This saying means that if you can’t get exactly what you want, you get what you can. In other words, if you cannot achieve your primary goal, you should try to achieve a secondary or related goal. The English equivalent might be “If you can’t get the one you love, love the one you get.”

Purpose and Priorities

“Mi cum yah fi drink milk, mi no cum yah fi count cow.”
Translation: “I came here to drink milk, I didn’t come here to count cows.”
This saying essentially means that one is focused on their main objective and not on the details or the process. It implies that a person is more interested in the result or the benefit, rather than the work or effort that goes into producing it. It’s similar to the English saying, “Don’t miss the forest for the trees.”

“Learn fi dance a yaad before yu dance abraad.”
Translation: “Learn to dance at home before you dance abroad.”
This saying emphasizes the importance of mastering skills or understanding your own culture and customs before showcasing them elsewhere or in a different context. It encourages practicing and gaining competence in a safe and familiar environment before venturing out. An English equivalent might be “Learn to walk before you run.”

“Mouth open, ‘tory jump out.”
Translation: “When mouth opens, story jumps out.”
This saying refers to the idea that when someone begins to speak, they often reveal more than they initially intend to, especially if they’re being unguarded or careless. This can result in the truth coming out, often in the form of personal stories or secrets. It’s akin to the English saying, “Loose lips sink ships.”

Luck and Destiny

“Puss and dog nuh have the same luck.”
Translation: “Cats and dogs don’t have the same luck.”
This proverb means that different people have different experiences and what works out for one person may not necessarily work out for another. It emphasizes the variability of individuals’ circumstances and fortunes. There’s not an exact English equivalent, but it conveys a similar sentiment to “Different strokes for different folks.”

“Duppy know who fi frighten.”
Translation: “Ghosts know who to frighten.”
This proverb means that people (or problems) tend to target those who are most likely to be affected or intimidated. It suggests that bullies or oppressors often pick on those they perceive as weak or vulnerable. The English equivalent could be “Bullies know who to pick on.”

“Every day bucket a go well, one day the bottom mus drop out.”
Translation: If a bucket is constantly going to the well, one day the bottom will drop out.”
This proverb warns against overuse, overdoing, or over-reliance on something or someone, suggesting that this can lead to ruin or failure. It’s a reminder that nothing lasts forever, especially if it’s strained or taken for granted. It’s similar to the English saying, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” but with an emphasis on the consequence of overuse or over-expectation.

Interference and Involvement

“Cockroach nuh business inna fowl fight.”
Translation: “A cockroach has no business in a chicken fight.”
This proverb means that individuals should not involve themselves in situations or disputes where they don’t belong or where they are at a clear disadvantage. It’s a reminder to know your place and stay out of other people’s conflicts, especially if you have nothing to gain or if it’s likely to end badly for you. An English equivalent might be “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

“See an blind, hear an deaf.”
Translation: “See and be blind, hear and be deaf.”
This saying suggests that sometimes it’s best to play ignorant – to see and not see, to hear and not hear. It means that there are times when you should overlook what you see and ignore what you hear, either to avoid trouble or because it’s none of your business. It’s similar to the English phrase “Turn a blind eye.”

“When trouble tek yu, pickney shut fit yu.”
Translation : “When trouble takes you, a child’s shirt will fit you.”
This proverb means that when you are in desperate situations, you lower your standards or expectations and make do with what is available, even if it is less than ideal. This is similar to the English saying “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

“Nuh put yuh hat whe yuh cyaan reach it.”
Translation: “Don’t put your hat where you can’t reach it.”
This proverb advises against setting goals or expectations that are beyond your capabilities or means. It cautions against reaching for things that are beyond your grasp, both literally and metaphorically. It promotes the idea of being realistic and not overreaching. An English equivalent might be “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

“Di ol’ fire stick easy fi ketch.”
Translation: “The old fire stick catches easily.”
This proverb implies that it is easier to rekindle a previous habit or behavior than to start something new. It suggests that old habits die hard and that familiarity often leads to easier and quicker results. The English equivalent might be “Old habits die hard” or “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Age and Wisdom

“De olda de moon, de brighter it shines.”
Translation: “The older the moon, the brighter it shines.”
This proverb suggests that wisdom and understanding tend to increase with age. It implies that as one grows older, they become wiser and more knowledgeable, shining brighter in their insights and understanding of life. It emphasizes the value and significance of experience and accumulated wisdom. An English equivalent might be “With age comes wisdom.”

“Wisdom is bettah dan silva and gold.”
Translation: “Wisdom is better than silver and gold.”
This proverb underscores the value of wisdom and knowledge, emphasizing that intellectual and practical understanding is more valuable than material wealth. It highlights the idea that true wealth lies in the possession of wisdom and the ability to make sound judgments and decisions.

“Ole time sumting come back again.”
Translation: “Old-time something come back again.”
This proverb suggests that trends, practices, or situations from the past often resurface or repeat in the present or future. It conveys the idea that history has a tendency to repeat itself, and that lessons or patterns from the past can be relevant and applicable to the present. It’s similar to the English saying “What goes around comes around” or “History repeats itself.”

“Age bring wisdom.”

Translation: “Age brings wisdom.”
This proverb highlights the notion that as people grow older and accumulate life experiences, they tend to become wiser and gain a deeper understanding of the world. It emphasizes the value and importance of age as a source of wisdom and knowledge. The English equivalent might be “With age comes wisdom.”

“No matter how yuh throw the dice, the six is always on it.”
Translation: “No matter how you throw the dice, the six is always on it.”
This proverb conveys the idea that certain outcomes or results are inevitable, regardless of the efforts made or the approach taken. It suggests that some things are predetermined or destined to happen, regardless of the specific circumstances. It’s similar to the English saying “The writing is on the wall” or “What’s meant to be will be.”

Hardship and Resilience

“Trouble never set like rain.”
Translation: “Trouble doesn’t come predictably like rain.”
This proverb expresses the idea that problems or difficulties in life often arise unexpectedly and without warning, much like a sudden rain shower. It emphasizes the unpredictable nature of challenges and suggests that one should be prepared to face difficulties at any moment. It’s similar to the English saying “Trouble comes when you least expect it” or “Trouble has no schedule.”

“A nuh same day leaf drop it rotten.”
Translation: “It’s not the same day a leaf falls that it rots.”
This proverb conveys the notion that negative consequences or deterioration doesn’t always happen immediately. It suggests that there is often a time delay between an event or action and its negative outcome. It serves as a reminder that the consequences of one’s actions may not be immediate, but they will eventually catch up. The English equivalent might be “You reap what you sow” or “Actions have consequences.”

“Rock stone a river bottom nuh know sun hot.”
Translation: “A rock at the bottom of the river doesn’t know that the sun is hot.”
This proverb signifies that individuals who are comfortable or unaffected by certain circumstances might be unaware of the challenges or difficulties faced by others. It highlights the idea that those removed from a particular situation may lack awareness or understanding of the realities faced by others. The English equivalent could be “You never know someone else’s struggles until you’ve walked in their shoes.”

Humility and Pride

“High seat kill Miss Thomas puss.”
Translation: “A high seat kills Miss Thomas’s cat.”
This proverb conveys the idea that arrogance, pride, or reaching beyond one’s station can lead to downfall or negative consequences. It warns against overestimating oneself and getting involved in situations that are beyond one’s capabilities or appropriate position. The English equivalent might be “Pride comes before a fall” or “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

“Yu can’t be two place one time.”
Translation: “You can’t be in two places at one time.”
This proverb expresses the concept that it is impossible for an individual to physically occupy or be present in two different locations simultaneously. It serves as a reminder that one must prioritize and make choices regarding where they invest their time and attention. The English equivalent might be “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” or “You can’t be in two places at once.”

“Self praise is no recommendation.”
Translation: “Self praise is no recommendation.”
This proverb implies that boasting about oneself or promoting one’s own achievements or qualities does not hold much weight or credibility. It suggests that true recognition and validation come from others, not from self-proclamation. It aligns with the English saying “Actions speak louder than words” or “Let others speak for you.”

Relationships and Interactions

“One han’ can’t clap.”
Translation: “One hand can’t clap.”
This proverb signifies that cooperation and mutual effort are necessary for success or accomplishment. It emphasizes the idea that working together or involving multiple parties is essential to achieve a desired outcome. It serves as a reminder that collaboration and unity are often needed to make progress. The English equivalent might be “It takes two to tango” or “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

“Mi throw mi corn but me no call no fowl.”
Translation: “I threw my corn but I didn’t call any fowl.”
This proverb conveys the idea that one can make a statement or take action without directly accusing or implicating anyone specific. It implies that while someone may be aware of a situation or wrongdoing, they do not explicitly point fingers or assign blame. It’s similar to the English saying “Don’t beat around the bush” or “Actions speak louder than words.”

“Man nuh dead, no call him duppy.”
Translation: “If a man isn’t dead, don’t call him a ghost.”
This proverb advises against prematurely judging or labeling someone based on rumors or assumptions. It emphasizes the importance of giving individuals the benefit of the doubt and not making hasty conclusions without concrete evidence. It’s similar to the English saying “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” or “Don’t jump to conclusions.”

“When spider web unite, dem can tie up lion.”
Translation: “When spiderwebs unite, they can tie up a lion.”
This proverb highlights the power of unity and cooperation. It suggests that even small and seemingly insignificant entities, when they come together and work collectively, can achieve significant outcomes or overcome formidable challenges. It emphasizes the strength that can be found in unity, regardless of individual size or strength. The English equivalent might be “United we stand, divided we fall” or “Strength in numbers.”

“Finger never say, ‘Look here, it is here the ring is.'”
Translation: “The finger never says, ‘Look here, it is here the ring is.'”
This proverb implies that one should not draw attention to their own troubles or shortcomings. It suggests that individuals should avoid highlighting or pointing out their own faults or weaknesses. It’s a reminder to maintain humility and not draw unnecessary attention to oneself. An English equivalent might be “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public” or “Don’t advertise your flaws.”

These categories are not fixed and a proverb may fit into more than one category depending on the context. Remember, these proverbs can have different interpretations based on how they’re used.