Jamaican people use a lot of sayings and expressions in daily life which offer advice and even sometimes have hidden meanings.
Check out these Jamaican proverbs and quotes below to gain some insight into Jamaican beliefs and ways of thinking.
Below I’ve listed famous Jamaican quotes, inspiring Jamaican sayings and common Jamaican proverbs and meaning.
Table of Contents
Famous Jamaican Proverbs & Jamaican Sayings
Below I’ve listed the most famous Jamaican proverbs and their meaning as well as some common Jamaican sayings. These are used often in day to day life.
- Finger neber say ‘look here’, him say ‘look yonder’ – The finger never says ‘look here’, it says ‘look yonder’.
This Jamaican proverb means that people do not usually point out their own faults.
- Peacock hide him foot when him hear ’bout him tail – The peacock hides his foot when he hears about his tail.
This Jamaican proverb teaches us that a proud person doesn’t like their weaknesses being exposed and will try to hide them.
- Cack mowt kill cack – The rooster was killed by his own mouth.
This Jamaican proverb teaches us not to boast or speak out of turn as it could lead to our own downfall.
- Rocka ‘tone a ribba bottom no feel sun hot – A stone at the bottom of the river nevers feels the heat of the sun.
This proverb means that those in easy circumstances do not understand the hardship of others.
- Pit inna de sky, it fall inna yuh y’eye – If you spit into the sky, it falls back into your eye.
This proverb teaches us that when we do things to hurt others, we only end up hurting ourselves.
- Poun’ ah fret cyaan pay ownse ah dett – One pound of fret cannot pay an ounce of debt.
This Jamaican proverb teaches us that problems are not solved by worrying. The time spent worrying isn’t helping to solve the problem.
- Good frien’ betta dan packet money – A good friend is better than money in the pocket.
This Jamaican proverb about friends means that true friends are more important than money or any other material possession.
- If yu noh mash ants, yu noh fine him guts – If you do not smash an ant, you won’t find its guts.
This proverb means that you have to get close to someone and see them when they are angry to see their true colors.
- If you get your han’ in a debil mout’ tek it out – If you put your hand in the devil’s mouth, take it out carefully.
This proverb in Jamaican patois teaches us to act cautiously when we get into difficult situations.
- You ‘fraid fe yeye, you neber nyam head – If you are afraid of the eye, you will never eat the head.
This Jamaican saying means that you shouldn’t care too much about the opinions of others because it will hold you back.
- Cowad man kip soun’ bone – A cowardly man keeps sound bones.
This Jamaican proverb means that it is better to be thought of as a coward than to put yourself into danger and get hurt.
- Wa de goat du, de kid falla – What the goat does, the kid follows.
This Jamaican proverb highlights how children often copy the behavior of their parents. We should set good examples for our children.
- Chicken merry, hawk deh near – The chicken makes merry whilst the hawk is near.
This Jamaican proverb teaches us that danger is everywhere and we should always be prepared for it.
- Fishaman neva seh him fish tink – A fisherman never says that the fish stinks.
This Jamaican proverb about money teaches us that a salesperson will never point out the faults of their merchandise.
- Wha sweet a mout’ hat a belly – What tastes sweet in the mouth burns the belly.
This proverb means that things that appear good are not always good for us and could cause us pain or trouble later on.
- Ebry day da fishing day, but ebry day no fe catch fish – Every day is a fishing day but you won’t catch fish every day.
This Jamaican proverb about life means that you won’t always be rewarded for your actions and you need to be consistent.
- Payshent man ride danki – A patient man rides a donkey.
This Jamaican proverb about patience teaches us the value of patience. We must be patient to reach our goals.
- Wan han wash de oda – One hand washes the other.
This proverb is similar to the English version ‘one good turn deserves another’. It means that if you do something good for someone, they will likely return the favor.
- De more yu luk, de less yu si – The more you look, the less you see.
This Jamaican proverb means that it is impossible to know every single detail about something. The more you find out, the less you know.
- No matta how kokkuch junk, im noh waak pass fowl yaad – No matter how drunk the cockroach becomes, he will never walk past the fowl’s yard.
This proverb teaches us to not put ourselves in situations where we will likely get hurt.
- Yu nebba see sumoke widout fiyah – You never see smoke without fire.
This Jamaican proverb about life means that there is usually some truth to all rumors.
- Tek whey yuh get tell yu get whey yu want – Take what you can get until you can get what you want.
This proverb teaches us to take every opportunity and use it as a stepping stone to get your ultimate goal.
- Ef yu cyaan get turkey, yu haffi satisfy wid Jancro – If you can’t get turkey, you have to be satisfied with John Crow.
This proverb in Jamaican patois means that we should be prepared to accept a situation that may not be to our liking if we cannot get what we truly want.
- Bifoe gud food pwile, meck belly bus – Before letting good food spoil, make the belly burst.
This old Jamaican saying means that you should make the most of every opportunity and not let anything go to waste.
- Tu much ratta nebba dig gud hole – Too many rats never dug a good hole.
This proverb is similar to the English version ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. It means that a task cannot be completed effectively if too many people are trying to help.
- Cry-cry picney neber hab him right – A crybaby never gets his rights.
This proverb means that those who are always complaining, never get what they want and are never listened to.
- Stranger no know where da deep water in de pass – A stranger doesn’t know where the deep water is in the road.
This proverb is used as a caution against doing something you know little about.
- Bruk calabash, bring new one – Broke the calabash, bring a new one.
This Jamaican proverb teaches us to always replace something if we break it.
Jamaican Quotes & More Jamaican Proverbs
Below I’ve listed a range of famous and inspirational Jamaican quotes in Jamaican patois as well as more interesting Jamaican proverbs.
- Big blanket mek man sleep late – A big blanket makes a man sleep late.
This Jamaican quote means that if a person has too many luxuries in life, they become complacent and take life for granted.
- Ebry dyay debble help teef; wan dyah Gad wi help watchman – Every day the devil helps the thief, one day God will help the watchman.
This Jamaican patois quote means that we shouldn’t be upset when bad people get away with things as one day we will be rewarded for being good.
- No wait till drum beat before you grine you axe – Do not wait until the drum beats before you grind your ax.
This Jamaican patois quote means that you should be prepared for everything.
- A no want a fat mek nightingale foot ‘tan’ sol – It is not for the want of fat that the nightingale’s legs stand so.
This quote in Jamaican patois means that you shouldn’t judge people by their appearance.
- Dawg no hol ef im ha bone – The dog does not howl if he has a bone.
This Jamaican quote means that people don’t become upset or angry if they have what they need.
- Waant aal, lose aal – If you want it all, you lose it all.
This proverb means that if you want everything then you will eventually lose everything.
- Yu cyaan sidung pahn cow bak cuss cow kin – You cannot sit on the back of the cow and curse the cow’s skin.
This Jamaican quote is similar to the English saying ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’. It teaches us to be grateful to those who have helped us.
- Yu shake man han, but yu noh shake im hawt – You can shake a man’s hand but you cannot shake his heart.
This saying means that it is hard to tell if someone is a good person by just shaking their hand. You need to get to know them properly.
- Fiyah deh a muss-muss tail, in tink a cool breeze – There is a fire at the mouse’s tail but he thinks it’s a cool breeze.
This famous quote in Jamaican patois means that we can be naive, often ignoring signs of danger until it is too late. Interpret signs of danger and act sooner.
- Yuh pred yuh bed haad, yu haffi liddung pan i’haad – If you spread your bed hard, you must lie on a hard bed.
This Jamaican patois quote means that you must accept responsibility for your actions.
- When chubble tek yu, pikney shut fit yu – When you find yourself in trouble, a child’s shirt will fit you.
This Jamaican quote means that when in trouble, we should accept any help that we are offered even if it’s not the best option.
- Yu cyaan ketch Quaku, yu ketch im shut – If you cannot catch Quaku, catch his shirt.
This quote in Jamaican patois means that it isn’t always possible to get everything you want.
We should be satisfied with what we can get i.e. if we can’t get Quaku, we should be satisfied with getting his shirt.
- Wanti wanti cyaan getti, an’ getti getti noh wanti – He who wants it, can’t get it and he who gets it, doesn’t want it.
This quote means that we should appreciate everything we have and recognise that many things we have are luxuries and we shouldn’t take them for granted.
- New broom sweep clean, but owl broom noe dem cahna – The new broom sweeps clean but the old broom knows the corners.
This Jamaican saying is all about finding a happy balance between the old and the new. We should try to combine the freshness of new things with the experience of the old.
- Mischiff kum by de poun’ an’ go by de ownse – Mischief comes by the pound and goes by the ounce.
This saying means that mischief can be created by just a few words or one action but this leads to more mischief.
- Wah drap offa head, drap pan shoulda – What drops off the head, drops onto the shoulder.
This saying means that from every act, someone will derive some benefit.
- Quatti buy chubble, hunjed poun’ cyaan pay farri – A penny-halfpenny buys trouble, £100 cannot pay for it.
This Jamaican quote means that one small mistake can lead to difficult situations that we may find it hard to rectify.
- Lang run, shaat ketch – Long run, short catch.
This quote means that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing bad things for a long time, you will be caught eventually.
- No mug no bruk, no cawfee no dash weh – The mug isn’t broken so no coffee was wasted.
This proverb means that we should count our blessings and not blow simple matters out of proportion.
- Wen coco ripe, im mus buss – When the cocoa ripens, it bursts.
This proverb means that it is easy to tell someone’s intentions by their actions.
- Wen man belly full, im bruck pat – When a man’s belly is full, he breaks the pot.
This Jamaican proverb means that when someone is satisfied or has what they need, they often forget what hunger or need is.
- Self praise a no no rekumendayshan – Self praise is not a recommendation.
This Jamaican patois quote teaches us not to boast too much.
- A no ebryting kum fram abuv a blessen – Not everything that comes from above is a blessing.
This proverb means that we should enjoy blessings that come from above but should realize that people in superior positions often use their positions only for themselves.
- Hungry hungry and full full no trabel same pass – The hungry person and the full person don’t walk along the same road.
This Jamaican proverb about life means that poor people and rich people go different ways and rarely meet.
- Goat deh sweat but long hair cover it – The goat sweats but its long hair covers it.
This Jamaican patois quote means that a person may be suffering but they won’t always show it.
- No mek one donkey choke you – Don’t let one donkey choke you.
This saying teaches us to not be misled by a fool.
- So cow a grow so him nose hole a hoppen – The more a cow grows, the more its nostrils open.
This quote in Jamaican patois means that the more you grow, the better you become with knowledge and experience.
Best Jamaican Idioms & Jamaican Expressions
Below I’ve listed the most well-known Jamaican patois idioms and expressions. Many of these have hidden meanings.
- Me come yah fe drink milk, me noh come yah fe count cow
This Jamaican idiom literally means ‘I came here to drink milk, not to count cows’. This saying is actually used to say ‘mind your own business’.
- Ole fiyah tick easy fe ketch
This Jamaican idiom literally means ‘old fire sticks are easily re-kindled’.
This saying is used to say that if a relationship has previously existed between 2 people, it’s easier to rekindle this relationship than start again with someone new.
- Nuh draw mi tongue
This Jamaican idiom literally means ‘don’t draw my tongue’ however it is actually used to say ‘don’t provoke me’ or ‘don’t argue with me’.
- Tek milk out a cawfe
This idiom literally means ‘take milk out of a calf’ however it is actually used to describe someone who is a skillful thief.
- Wha gawn bad a maanin, cyaan kum gud a evelin
This idiom literally means ‘what went wrong in the morning can’t become good in the evening’.
This Jamaican saying is used to tell someone to not worry too much about problems they cannot solve as it does nothing.
- Willful was’e bring woeful waant
This Jamaican saying literally means ‘willful waste brings woeful want’.
It means that you shouldn’t willfully waste what you have or you may regret it later.
- Noh buy puss inna bag
This idiom literally means ‘do not buy a cat in a bag’. It’s used to tell someone to examine whatever they want to buy carefully and not just assume it is genuine.
- Hag nyam wha im myne gi im fah
This Jamaican idiom literally means ‘the pig eats whatever his mind gives him’. It is used to say ‘to each his own’.
- Anancy rope tie anancy
This Jamaican saying literally means ‘a spider’s web traps himself’. It is used when someone has tried to get others into trouble but ends up in trouble themselves.
- Alligator lay egg, but him no fowl
This idiom literally means ‘the alligator lays eggs but he is not a fowl’. It is used to say that you shouldn’t view someone from just one angle.
- Sleep hab no massa
This Jamaican saying literally means ‘sleep has no master’. It’s used to say that sooner or later, you must sleep.
Check out the videos below which feature a range of famous Jamaican patois quotes and well-known Jamaican sayings & proverbs.
Thanks for reading this post on the best Jamaican quotes about life, famous Jamaican sayings and fascinating Jamaican proverbs.
These Jamaican quotes & sayings give an interesting insight into the Jamaican beliefs and language.
“Talk and taste your tongue” is a funny Jamaica expression often used to mean “think before you speak.” “Every hoe have dem stik a bush” is the equivalent of “there's someone out there for every person,” while “de olda de moon, de brighter it shines” is often used to mean “the older the person, the wise he or she is.”What are some Jamaican proverbs and their meaning? ›
“Chicken merry, hawk deh near” – This simply means that amidst our excitement, we should keep a watchful eye for trouble. “One one cocoa full basket” – This means that we should take things one step at a time and eventually we will get where we want to.What does Bloodclaat mean? ›
Literally, "blood cloth" -- traditionally, a sanitary napkin.
This is probably the most well known Jamaican greeting and was even used by US President Barack Obama during his inaugural visit to Jamaica. Wah Gwaan is a casual greeting to enquire how somebody is or what's up.
Interjection. bumboclaat. (Jamaica, by some in both MLE, MTE, vulgar) an expression of anger or frustration.What does kiss my teeth mean in Jamaican? ›
Imitative of the act of sucking one's teeth as a gesture of annoyance or disapproval. Native to the English-speaking West Indies, e.g. Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago etc. In Jamaica, the term "kissing teeth" is used instead.What do Jamaicans always say? ›
Some of the most common Jamaican sayings you may want to learn include: Wah gwaan – Meaning something similar to “what's up” and “how are you?” it is a casual greeting that you will hear almost as soon as you arrive in Jamaica. Irie – Irie in Jamaica is a commonly used phrase and can mean a few things.What is our Jamaican motto? ›
The Jamaican national motto is 'Out of Many One People', based on the population's multiracial roots. The motto is represented on the Coat of Arms, showing a male and female member of the Taino tribe standing on either side of a shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples.What was Jamaica's first motto? ›
The original Latin motto, “Indus Uterque Serviet Uni” has been changed to one in English: “Out of Many, One People”. The arms show a male and female Taino (Arawak) standing on either side of the shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples superimposed on it.Why do Jamaicans say I and I? ›
I and I means that God is within all men. The bond of Ras Tafari is the bond of God, of man." The term is often used in place of "you and I" or "we" among Rastafari, implying that both persons are united under the love of Jah.
powerful, strong, tough.What part of Africa are Jamaicans from? ›
Most Jamaican slaves came from the region of modern day Ghana, Nigeria and Central Africa, and included the Akan, Ashanti, Yoruba, Ibo and Ibibio peoples.What does Wagwan mean? ›
Interjection. wagwan. (Jamaican creole, MLE, MTE) Greeting equivalent to what's up or what's happening.What does Wagwan blood mean? ›
Wagwan is a way to say What's going on? in Jamaican English, used throughout the Jamaican diaspora (or where Jamaican people live outside of Jamaica), especially in South London.Is it okay to say Bomboclaat? ›
Conversation. I kind of want to remind everyone that 'bomboclaat' or 'bumboclaat' is a Jamaican curse word and can be very offensive. So if you are not jamaican - stop using it.What is the Jamaican word for beautiful? ›
Criss: Jamaican expression meaning “Pretty;” “fine;” or “okay.”What do rasta call each other? ›
Rastas refer to adult males as “bredren”. Female adults are called “sistren”. A Rasta man will refer to their wife or girlfriend as their “empress” or “queen”.What does rude mean in Jamaica? ›
C20: originally Jamaican slang, from rude in the sense of coarse, vulgar, or uncouth.What does YUTE mean in patois? ›
Noun. yute (plural yutes) (Jamaican Patois, MLE, MTE, derogatory, slang) A youth, a young person, often a young black person.What does bloodclot mean in Jamaica? ›
The true meaning of the word Bloodclot, when used in Jamaica, came from blood cloth, but when Jamaicans say cloth it comes out as clot. A blood cloth is a feminine hygiene product. So in essence, when the word is used in anger towards someone, you're basically calling them a tampon.
terms employed by writers, or those who live in the particular society to. describe women and men of mixed race. At present the mulatto woman is. referred to as 'browning' in Jamaica, the 'red woman' in Trinidad, the. 'mulata' in Latin societies and the 'woman of colour' in the USA.What is dirty in patois? ›
(Jamaica, colloquial; MLE and MTE, slang) dirty quotations ▼What is cowboy kiss? ›
Cowboy Kisses are Silver Tongue Foods version of Candied Jalapeños. This pickle is a combination of Spicy and Sweet that mellows with age like a fine wine, but chances are you won't be able to keep it around long enough to find out! Pairs well with cream cheese, eat it on a cracker or whip it into a spread.How do Jamaicans say no problem? ›
Everyone worries a little now and then, but is there stress in Jamaica? Every time you talk to someone in Jamaica they tell you, “No problem mon”. This is how it should be.How do Jamaicans greet each other? ›
The most common greeting is the handshake with direct eye contact, and a warm smile. Use the appropriate salutation for the time of day: "good morning", "good afternoon", or "good evening". Once a friendship has been established, women may hug and kiss on each cheek, starting with the right.What does goodie mean in Jamaica? ›
If you're a woman aged 15 to 40 then expect 'Whaa Gwaan Goodie? ' ('what's going on lovely lady', the latest way Jamaican women affirm each other). The correct response is 'Me De Yah Good Gyal'. If you're over 40 then you are an 'Auntie' or a 'Mummy' (especially used as a marker of respect by younger men).What do Jamaicans say for cheers? ›
Ya mon! It means 'Cheers' in Jamaica.What is the Jamaican word for peace? ›
Gullah (Geechee) Georgia / Sourth Carolina sea islands (USA) Peace. cpe. Jamaican Creole (Rasta, Jam Dung)What is Jamaica national fruit? ›
Ackee (Blighia Sapida) is the national fruit of Jamaica as well as a component of the national dish – ackee and codfish. Although the ackee is not indigenous to Jamaica, it has remarkable historic associations. Originally, it was imported to the island from West Africa, probably on a slave ship.What animal represents Jamaica? ›
The Official National Animal of Jamaica. The red-billed streamertail is the national bird of Jamaica. A member of the hummingbird family, the streamertail is also known as the scissor-tail or doctor bird. This is a beautiful, multi-colored creature found among flowering plants in closed forests.
National Flower- Lignum Vitae
Lignum Vitae(Guiacum officinale) is indigenous to Jamaica and was found here by Christopher Columbus. It is thought that the name “Wood of Life” was then adopted because of its medicinal qualities.
Yu welkom; long welkom. Yes. No. I'm sorry.What do Rastas say when they greet each other? ›
'Yes King,' 'Bless,' and 'Up Up' are common Rasta to Rasta greetings.How do Jamaicans say three? ›
In jamaican patois the number three is pronounce "tree" | Jamaicans, Jamaica culture, Makeup fails funny.What does Pom Pom mean in patois? ›
The term “pum pum,” in Jamaican patois, cheekily refers to a woman's “lady parts” and is used liberally in the bombastic lyrics of dancehall's biggest male artists.What does Badman mean in patois? ›
Badman is a word that was originally used in Kingston, Jamaica in the 1980s ska and Jamaican dancehall cultures. It was used to describe an anti-social youth who was non law-abiding and was feared by others. They were often gang members.What does talawa mean? ›
The name Talawa comes from a Jamaican patois saying "Me lickle but me talawa", meaning to be small but strong.What African are Jamaicans? ›
Jamaicans are the citizens of Jamaica and their descendants in the Jamaican diaspora. The vast majority of Jamaicans are of Sub-Saharan African descent, with minorities of Europeans, East Indians, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and others of mixed ancestry.What percentage of Jamaica is black? ›
Race & Ethnicity
The largest Jamaica racial/ethnic groups are White (95.2%) followed by American Indian (2.8%) and Black (1.9%).
What is Jamaica known for? Jamaica is known to be the birthplace of reggae, Bob Marley, world's fastest sprinters, Blue Mountain coffee, Red Stripe beer, Jamaican rum, beautiful beaches, jerk dishes, luxurious all-inclusive resorts and majestic waterfalls.
The Jamaican national motto is 'Out of Many One People', based on the population's multiracial roots. The motto is represented on the Coat of Arms, showing a male and female member of the Taino tribe standing on either side of a shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples.What do Rasta people say? ›
Iyaric, also called Dread Talk, is a pseudo-dialect of English consciously created by members of the Rastafari movement. African languages were lost among Africans when they were taken into captivity as part of the slave trade, and adherents of Rastafari teachings believe that English is an imposed colonial language.What slang do Jamaicans speak? ›
Jamaican Patois (/ˈpætwɑː/; locally rendered Patwah and called Jamaican Creole by linguists) is an English-based creole language with West African influences, spoken primarily in Jamaica and among the Jamaican diaspora.What does Raas mean in Jamaican? ›
Interjection. raasclaat. (Jamaica, vulgar) Used to express anger, annoyance or surprise.What does Wag Wan mean in Jamaican? ›
(Jamaican creole, MLE, MTE) Greeting equivalent to what's up or what's happening.What is a very powerful quote? ›
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” — Reinhold Niebuhr.How do Rastas say thank you? ›
In Rastafarian, you do not pronounce “h” in English words. So “thanks” becomes “tanks”, “three” becomes “tree”, etc.What do you call a female Rasta? ›
Last updated 2009-10-09. The role of Rastafarian women, who are called Queens, and the rules that apply specifically to women.How do Rastas call God? ›
Rastas are monotheists, worshipping a singular God whom they call Jah. The term "Jah" is a shortened version of "Jehovah", the name of God in English translations of the Old Testament.What is I love you in Jamaican? ›
Do you come here often? I miss you. Mi miss yuh. I love you. Mi luv yuh.