10 Famous Jamaican Sayings And Proverbs With Their Meanings

1. “Monkey mus know weh him gwine put him tail, before him order trousiz.”

“Monkey mus know weh him gwine put him tail, before him order trousiz.”

Translated: The monkey must know where he is going to put his tail before he orders the trousers.
Meaning: Be clear of how you are going to carry a thing through before you initiate the process.
AND One must know one’s self before doing what others are doing.

2. Rockstone a riva bottom nuh know sun hat

Translated: The rocks at the bottom of the river do not know that the sun is hot.
Meaning: If you are in a sheltered situation, you don’t know what hardship is.

3. Alligator lay egg but him a nuh fowl.

Translated: The alligator lays an egg, but he is not a hen.
Meaning: Even though people or situations may seem similar on the surface, they might not be so in reality.

4. If cow did know how him throat hole tan or how him batty part, him wouldn’t chance pear seed.

Translated: If the cow knew the size of his throat or butt, he wouldn’t take a chance eating a pear seed.
Meaning: We do not always realise our limitations.

5. Peacock hide him foot when him hear 'bout him tail.

Translation: The peacock hides his foot when he hears about his tail.

Explanation: A proud person does not like his little weaknesses exposed

6. Nuh wait till drum beat before you grine you axe

Translation: Do not wait until the drum beats before you grind your axe.

Explanation: Be prepared for all eventualities.

7. Cack mowt kill cack

Translation: The rooster was killed by his own mouth. (The butcher would not have known where to find him if he had not opened his mouth to crow.)

Explanation: One should never boast, nor should one speak out of turn.  We should choose our words with care, lest we by our own tactlessness, cause ourselves unhappiness.

8. Cowad man kip soun’ bone

Translation: A cowardly man keeps sound bones. 

Explanation: It is better to be thought of as a coward than to give away one’s life through impetuous behaviour.  It is certain that, as in the old Chinese proverb, “The man who fights and runs away, will live to fight another day”.

9. Ole fiyah tick easy fe ketch

Translation: Old fire sticks are easily re-kindled.

Explanation: It is much easier to light coals which have been burnt before, than to get a fire going with fresh logs.  Similarly if a relationship has previously existed between two people, it is easier to rekindle the flames of love than to start a new relationship with someone else.

10. Chicken merry, hawk deh near

Chicken merry, hawk deh near

Translation: The chicken, unaware of the danger posed by the hovering hawk, makes merry.

Explanation: Danger can lurk in some of the most unexpected places.  We should temper, therefore, our most light-hearted moments with a little sobriety.