Jamaican Proverbs on Warnings

Do you know what the proverb “A nuh lack a tung mek cow nuh talk” means? Learn its meaning in our Jamaican Proverbs on “Warnings.”

A nuh lack a tung mek cow nuh talk.
TRANSLATION:  It’s not for the lack of a tongue why a cow does not talk.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: You don’t have to repeat everything you see, hear or know.

Any dutti waata kool hat iron.
TRANSLATION: Any dirty water will cool a hot iron.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Not everyone who says they’re your friend is really is a friend.

A nuh ebreeting soak up waata a sponge
TRANSLATION: It is not everything that soaks up water is a sponge.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Don’t take things at face value when making a decision as not everything is as it appears.

Book learnin a nuh intelligence.
TRANSLATION: Book learning is not intelligence.
MEANING: Just because someone is well-educated doesn’t mean they have common sense.

Chiga toe frade a grabble.
TRANSLATION: Chigger toes are afraid of gravel.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Those with an injury know what to avoid to prevent pain and making the injury worse.

Nuh mek yuh lef han kno wha yuh right han a do.
TRANSLATION: Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Keep your own counsel. Not everything you know needs to be told, even to those that are closest to you.

Duppy know who fi fright’n.
TRANSLATION: A ghost knows who to scare.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Bullies always know who the most vulnerable people are and will pick on them first.

A faitful pramise mek fool glad.
TRANSLATION: A promise delights the heart of a fool.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Don’t be fooled by those that make big promises and never deliver.

Ow waata waak go eena pumpkin belly.
TRANSLATION: How water gets inside a pumpkin.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: It’s a mystery that can’t be explained.

Kibba yuh mout.
TRANSLATION: Cover your mouth.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Keep the information to yourself.

Learn fi dance a yaad before yuh dance abraad.
TRANSLATION: Learn to dance at home before you dance abroad.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Perfect your skills before trying to apply them in public.

Nuh dash wey yuh tick before yuh dun crass riva.
TRANSLATION: Do not throw away your stick before you have gone across the river.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Don’t engage in premature celebration. Wait until a victory is confirmed.

Nuh hide yuh tick an Iick a man.
TRANSLATION: Do not hide your stick and hit someone.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Be honest and up front in all your interactions with others.

Tek time mash ant yuh fin im belly.
TRANSLATION: Take time in killing an ant, you will find his belly.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Don’t jump into personal relationships or business deals without performing appropriate investigation and all answers will become clear.

Ole file cyaan shaap’n new machete.
TRANSLATION: An old file cannot sharpen a new machete.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Always use the right tool for the job.

Oily tung nuh mus tell Di truth.
TRANSLATION: An oily tongue does not have to tell the truth.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Be wary of a person who is a smooth talker.

Scawnful dawg nyam dutty pudd’n.
TRANSLATION: A scornful dog eats dirty pudding.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: You could easily find yourself in the same situation you criticized in the past.

Tiddeh fi mi tomorra fi yuh.
TRANSLATION: Today is mine tomorrow is yours.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Life is a series of ups and downs and everyone has problems at different times in their lives.

Yuh life lang but yuh cayliss wid it.
TRANSLATION: Your life is long but you are careless with it.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Don’t give up safety in any form for a risky situation.

Dawg wid to much massa sleep widout suppa.
TRANSLATION: Dawg with too many masters will go hungry.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Use your own mind and abilities to make decisions – don’t be influenced by the opinions of others.

Cack mout kill cack
TRANSLATION: Cock’s mouth kills cock.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: 1.A loose mouth can get you in trouble 2.The statement a person makes may back fire on them.

Hat neegle bun tred.
TRANSLATION: Hot needle burns thread.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Impatience can ruin the outcome of what you want.

Ef yuh get your han inna devil mout tek eeh out. 
TRANSLATION: If you put your hand in the devils mouth, take it out.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Exercise caution in all you do and if you find yourself in trouble, extricate yourself carefully.

A nuh ebryting good fi eat good fi tawk.
TRANSLATION: It’s not everything that is good to eat should be talked about.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Don’t gossip and repeat everything you hear.

A nuh wan day monkey waan wife.
TRANSLATION: It is not for a day that a monkey wants a wife.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Think about the future – today’s decisions will impact the future.

A nuh same day leaf drap it ratten.
TRANSLATION: It is not the same day, a leaf falls, it rots.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: 1. The consequences of a mistake may not be felt for years, but will eventually have an impact. 2. If you’re taken advantage of, you bear part of the responsibility. 3. Nothing remains the same.

Bucket guh well ebryday wan day di battam mus drap out.
TRANSLATION: The bucket goes to the well every day, one day the bottom will fall out.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Every imprudent action will eventually come back to get you in trouble.

Ef yuh bawn fi heng yuh cyaan drown.
TRANSLATION: If you were born to be hanged, you cannot drown.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Everyone has a destiny to be fulfilled, whatever that may be.

Fiyah deh a musmus tail im tink a kool breeze.
TRANSLATION: Fire at the mouse’s tail, he thinks it is a cool breeze.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Examine things carefully. Trouble is often disguised as something good.

Same nife tick di sheep tick di goat.
TRANSLATION: Same knife that sticks the sheep will stick the goat.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: If you find someone that constantly belittles or gossips about others, they’ll do the same to you.

Dawg nyam yuh suppa.
TRANSLATION: Dog will eat your supper.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Take precautions to preserve and care for what you have so others won’t take it from you.

Hell an powda ouse.
TRANSLATION: Hell and powder house.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: A situation will soon become volatile, explosive or potentially dangerous.

Igle jackass guh a poun.
TRANSLATION: Stray jackass is taken to the animal pound.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Those without a purpose or something to do will have no problem finding activities to get them in trouble.

Chobble nuh set like rain.
TRANSLATION: Trouble does not give a forecast it is coming.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: You can plan for contingencies, but no one knows when unexpected problems and situations will arise.

Ef yuh lie wid dawg, yuh git up wid fleas.
TRANSLATION: If you lie with dogs you get up with fleas.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Other people judge you by the people you associate with and you’ll gain the same reputation that they have.

Ah nuh all roof a shelta.
TRANSLATION: Not all roofs can provide shelter.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: What you think is a place of refuge may not be what it appears.

Wha gawn bad a maanin, cyaan cum good a eveling.
TRANSLATION: What went wrong in the morning cannot be remedied in the evening.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: 1. Don’t waste time worrying about problems you can do nothing about. 2. It makes no sense to take precautions against situations that have already taken place.

Wha sweet a mout hat a belli
TRANSLATION: What tastes sweet in the mouth burns the belly.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Everything we think we want isn’t good for us.

Pit inna di sky, it fall inna yuh  y’ye
TRANSLATION: If you spit into the sky, it falls into your eye.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Treat others as you want them to treat you.

Quatti buy chubble, hunjedh poun cyaan pay far eeh
TRANSLATION: A penny half-penny (1 ½) buys trouble, one hundred pounds (£100) cannot pay for it.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Small mistakes and blunders can add up to large and complex problems from which it’s difficult to extricate ourselves.

Wen mawga plantin wan fi ded, im shoot
TRANSLATION: When a meager plantain wants to die, it shoots.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: This references the plantation tree that dies after it bears fruit. If we don’t care about ourselves, our safety or reputation, we’re likely to make irresponsible and detrimental decisions.

Wen coco ripe, im mus buss
TRANSLATION: When the cocoa ripens, it bursts.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: A person’s actions are the best indicator of their character.

A no ebryting cum fram abuv a blessin
TRANSLATION: Not everything that comes from above is a blessing.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Not everything that appears to be a blessing really is.

Wen po-ah git up, im tun chobble tuh di werl
TRANSLATION: When the poor man gets up, he becomes trouble to the world.
MEANINGS AND EXPLANATIONS: Be careful how you treat people. The person you scorned today may be in a position to ruin you tomorrow.