Haitian proverbs

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Ralph Waldo Emerson
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A

  • "Men anpil, chay pa lou."
    • Many hands [make] the load lighter.
  • "Anpil ti patat fè chay."
    • A lot of small potatoes make a load.
  • "Aprè dans, tanbou toujou lou."
    • After the dance, the drums are always heavy.
  • "Avan ou ri moun bwete, gade jan ou mache."
    • Before you laugh at those who limp, check the way you walk.
  • "Avek pasyans, w’ap wè tete foumi."
    • With patience, you will see an ant's breasts.
  • "Ayisyen swiv kouran."
    • Haitians follow the flow.
  • "Ayiti se tè glise."
    • Haiti is a sliding land.

B

  • "Bab pi long, men sousi pi vye."
    • The beard is longer, but the worries are older.
  • "Baton ede pye."
    • The stick helps the foot.
  • "Bay kou, blye; pote mak, sonje."
    • [You] give a blow, [you] forget; [when you] bear marks, [you] remember.
  • "Bay piti pa chich."
    • To give little is not [being] cheap.
  • "Bèf a-ke pa janbe dife."
    • An ox with a tail does not walk over the fire.
  • "Bèf dèyè bwè pi bon dlo (si rete dlo)."
    • The ox that comes last drinks better water (if there is still water).
  • "Bèf pa di savann mèsi."
    • The ox does not thank the field.
  • "Bèf san ke, Bondye pouse mouch pou yo."
    • The ox with no tail, God will clear the flies for it.
  • "Bèl anfòm pa vle di la sante."
    • Pretty and in shape do not mean health.
  • "Bèl antèman pa vle di paradi.
    • A nice funeral does not mean the paradise.
  • "Bèl cheve pa lajan.
    • Nice hair is not money.
  • "Bèl dan pa vle di zanmi: dan pa kè."
    • Nice teeth do not mean friends: teeth are not the heart.
  • "Bo nan bouch, men pè dan."
    • Kiss the mouth, but fear the teeth.
  • "Bondye pa bòpè."
    • God is not a father-in-law.
  • "Bonjou se paspò ou."
    • Hello is your passport.
  • "Bouch granmoun santi, sa’k ladan se rezon."
    • The old's mouth stink, what's in there is wisdom.
  • "Bouch manje tout manje, men li pa pale tout pawòl."
    • The mouth eats all food, but does not talk all words.
  • "Bourik fè pitit pou do-l ka poze."
    • The donkey makes offspring so that its back may rest.
  • "Bourik toujou aji bourik."
    • A donkey always acts like a donkey.
  • "Bout kouto miyò pase zong."
    • A piece of a knife is better than nails.
  • "Bwè dlo nan vè: respekte vè."
    • Drink water in a glass: respect the glass.
  • "Byen mal pa lanmò."
    • Not well is not death.
  • "Byen prè pa lakay."
    • Very close is not home yet.
  • "Byen prè pa rive."
    • Very close is not there yet.
  • "Byen prese pa rive."
    • In a hurry will not arrive.

C

  • "Chaj ou pa ka pòte, ou mete-l atè dousman."
    • The load you cannot carry, you put it down carefully.
  • "Chak chen pipi jan li konnen."
    • Every dog pisses his own way.
  • "Chak kochon gen samdi pa-l."
    • Each pig gets his own Saturday.
    • (Pigs are usually slaughtered Saturdays)
  • "Chanje mèt, chanje metye."
    • Trade the boss, trade the job.
  • "Chat mande swe, ou mete chen deyè-l."
    • If the cat wants to sweat, you get the dog behind him.
  • "Chay sòti sou tèt, li tonbe sou zepòl."
    • The load that you bear on your head falls on your shoulders.
  • "Chemen bezwen pa janm long."
    • The road to need is never long.
  • "Chemen bouton se chemen maleng."
    • The road to a stud is the road to sickness.
  • "Chemen lajan pa gen pikan."
    • The money road has no thorns.
  • "Chemen long pa touye moun."
    • A long road does not kill people.
  • "Chen gen kat pye, men li ka mache nan yon sèl chemen."
    • A dog has four legs, but it walks in only one path.
  • "Chen grangou pa kouche."
    • A starving dog does not lie down.
  • "Chen ki gen zo nan bouch li pa gen zanmi."
    • A dog with a bone in his mouth has no friends.
  • "Chen ki jape pa mòde."
    • The dog that barks does not bite.
  • "Chen ou fè byen, lè li anraje, se ou li mòde."
    • The dog that you took care of will bite you when enraged.
  • "Chen vòle tabak menm si li pa fimen."
    • The dog steals tobacco even if it does not smoke.
  • "Chodyè ou pa monte, ou pa desann li."
    • The pot you did not put up, you do not put down.
  • "Chwal ki gen dis mèt mouri nan poto"
    • A horse with ten masters will die [tied] to its post.
  • "Chwal konn longè kòd li."
    • The horse knows the length of its rope.

D

  • "Dan ri danje."
    • The teeth laugh, beware.
  • "Dan se zo."
    • Teeth are bones.
  • "De kòk kalite pa rete nan menm baskou."
    • Two good cocks do not stay in the same farm-yard.
  • "De nèg pa fri."
    • Two skinny people don't fry. (Two poor people shouldn't marry, for even together they won't have enough to get by)
  • "De toro pa rete nan menm savann."
    • Two bulls do not stay in the same field.
  • "Degaje pa peche."
    • To get by is not a sin.
  • "Depi nan Ginen, nèg rayi nèg."
    • Since Africa, man hates men.
  • "Depi ou nan labatwa, fòk ou aksepte san vole sou ou."
    • If you are in the slaughterhouse, you must accept to get blood on you.
  • "Dèyè mon gen mon."
    • Behind the mountain, there are mountains.
  • "Djòl fè dèt, dèyè peye."
    • The mouth makes debt, the behind pays back.
  • "Doktè pa janm trete tèt li."
    • The doctor never treats his own head.
  • "Doktè pran swen ou, men li pa Bondye."
    • The doctor takes care of you but he is not God.
  • "Dòmi se ti frè lanmò."
    • Sleep is death's little brother.
  • "Douz metye, trèz mizè."
    • Twelve trades, thirteen misery.
  • "Dwèt ou santi, men ou pa koupe-l jete."
    • Your finger may smell, but you do not cut it and throw it away.

E

  • "Evite miyò pase mande padon."
    • To avoid is better than to ask forgiveness.

F

  • "Fanm se kajou: plis li vye, plis li bon."
    • A woman is like mahogany: the older she is, the better she is.
  • "Fè zanmi ak kouto avan zabriko mi."
    • Make friend with the knife before apricots are ripped.
  • "Fèy mapou sanble fèy manyòk."
    • The 'Mapou' leaf looks like the manioc leaf.
  • "Fizi tire, nanpwen aranjman."
    • [When] the guns fire, there is no [possible] agreement.
  • "Fòk de klòch sonnen pou konn verite-a."
    • [You must hear] two bells ring to learn the truth.
  • "Fòk gen maladi pou gen lanmò."
    • There must be illness so as to have death.
  • "Fòk ou bat tanbou-a pou tande son li."
    • You must beat the drum to hear its sound.
  • "Fòk ou pèdi tan pou ou gen tan."
    • You need to lose time in order to have time.

G

  • "Grangou se mizè, vant plen se traka."
    • Hunger is misery; a full stomach is trouble.

I

  • "Ipokrit se kouto de bò."
    • Hypocrites are two-edge knifes.

J

  • "Jan chat mache, se pa konsa li kenbe rat."
    • The way the cat walks is not the way it holds the rat.
  • "Jan ou bat tanbou, se konsa nou danse."
    • The way you beat the drum is how we dance.
  • "Jan ou ranje kabann ou, se jan ou kouche."
    • The way you make your bed is the way you will lie on it.
  • "Jan ou vini se jan an yo resevwa ou."
    • The way you come is the way people will receive you.
  • "Je wè, bouch pè."
    • The eyes see, the mouth is scared.
  • "Jijman Bondye vini sou bourik."
    • God's judgment comes on a donkey.
  • "Joumou pa donnen kalbas."
    • A pumpkin does not bear gourds.
  • "Jwe ak makak, men pa manyen ke-l."
    • [You may] play with the monkey, but don't play with its tail.

K

  • "Kalbas gran bouch pa kenbe dlo."
    • A large-mouth gourd does not hold water.
  • "Kay piti, ou prann nat ou anba bra ou."
    • [When] the house is small, you take your mattress under your arm.
  • "Kòfrefò pa swiv kòbiya."
    • The safe does not follow the hearse.
  • "Komansman chante se soufle."
    • The first steps of singing are breath.
  • "Konmisyon pa chaj."
    • An errand is not a load.
  • "Kote fil fini, se la kouti fini."
    • Where the thread ends is where the seam ends.
  • "Kote ki gen granmoun, kabrit pa mouri nan kòd."
    • Where there are elders, goats do not die tied to their ropes.
  • "Kote ki gen granmoun, kay pa boule."
    • Where there are elders, the house do not burn.
  • "Kote ki gen kou pa gen chenn, kote ki gen chenn nanpwen kou."
    • Where there are blows, there are no chains; where there are chains, there are no blows.
  • "Kote y’ap plimen kòdenn, poul pa ri."
    • Where they pluck turkeys, chickens do not laugh.
  • "Koulèv ki vle gwo rete nan trou-l."
    • The snake that wants to get big stays in its hole.
  • "Kouto pa janm grate manch li."
    • A knife never scrubs its own handle.
  • "Krapo fè kòlè, li mouri san dèyè."
    • A toad gets angry, it dies without its buttock.

L

  • "Labou rete kouran."
    • The mud stops the flow.
  • "Lafimen pa janm leve san dife."
    • Smoke never rises without fire.
  • "Lajan al ka lajan."
    • Money only goes to money.
  • "Lajan kase wòch."
    • Money breaks rocks.
  • "Lamepriz vo mye ke larepons."
    • Contempt is better than an answer.
  • "Lane pase toujou pi bon."
    • 'Last year' is always better.
  • "Lang pa lanmè, men li ka neye-w."
    • The tongue is not the sea, but it can drown you.
  • "Lè pyebwa jwe ak van, li pèdi fèy li."
    • When the tree plays with the wind, it sheds its leaves.
  • "Lè setan ou echi (lè ou fin’ fè tan ou), se ale p’ou ale."
    • When your seven years are over (when your time is done), you [must] go for good.
  • "Lè w’ap bwè nan yon sous, pa chye ladan."
    • When you drink at a spring, do not shit in it.
  • "Lè w’ap neye, ou kenbe branch ou jwenn."
    • When you are drowning, you hang to the branch you reach.
  • "Lè yon chodyè cho, ou pa desann li ak men."
    • When a pot is hot, you do not take it down with your hands.
  • "Lespwa fè viv."
    • Hope makes one live.

M

  • "M’pat manje pwa, m’pa ka poupou pwa."
    • I did not eat beans, I cannot poop beans.
  • "Machann nan mache gen de mizi."
    • The merchant at the market has to measures.
  • "Mache dousman, ou pòte bon nouvèl."
    • Walk slowly [when] you bear good news.
  • "Madichon ou bay bèlmè ou se manman ou li rive."
    • When you curse your stepmother, your mother will be the victim.
  • "Maladi pa konn vanyan."
    • Illness does not know vaillant heart.
  • "Maladi veni sou ou a cheval, men li kite ou a pye."
    • Illness comes to you on a horse, but leaves you by foot.
  • "Malè avèti pa touye kokobe."
    • A foreseen disaster does not kill the handicapped.
  • "Malè pa gen klaksonn."
    • Misfortune has no horn.
  • "Vye nèg pa vye chen."
    • An old man is not an old dog.
  • "Manje kwit pa gen mèt."
    • Cooked food has no master.
  • "Mapou tonbe, kabrit manje fèy li."
    • When the 'Mapou' [huge tree] is down, the goats eat its leaves.
  • "Marengwen mòde-w sou nen, men ou pa ka ba-l kou fò."
    • [When] the mosquito bites you on the nose, you cannot hit it hard.
  • "Memwa se paswa."
    • Memory is a strainer.
  • "Men anpil, chay pa lou."
    • Many hands make a load lighter.
  • "Menm nan lanfè gen mounpa."
    • Even in hell, there are people from your clan.
  • "Mennen koulèv al lekòl pa anyen; se fè-l chita ki rèd."
    • To take the snake to school is nothing; it is to make it sit that is tough.
  • "Merite pa mande."
    • Deserve, don't ask.
  • "Mèt do pa grate do."
    • You cannot scratch your own back.
  • "Mezire avan ou koupe."
    • Measure before you cut.
  • "Mouch la pa bezwen vyann la, men li gate-l."
    • The fly does not need the meat, but will spoil it all the same.
  • "Moun ki bezwen deyò chache chemen pòt."
    • He who must go out search for the door.
  • "Moun mouri pa konnen valè dra blan."
    • The dead does not know the value of white sheets. (Funerals are for the living.)
  • "Moun mouri pa pè santi."
    • The dead is not afraid to smell.
  • "Moun pa konn achte chat nan sak."
    • People don't buy a cat in a bag.
  • "Moun pa-w se dra."
    • Your clan is sheets.
  • "Move zèb ka leve toupatou."
    • Weeds grow anywhere.

N

O

P

  • "Pise krapo ogmante larivyè."
    • The frog's pee adds to the river. (Every little counts.)
  • "Piti piti zwazo fè nich."
    • Little by little the bird makes his nest.
  • "Pito ou mize ou nan wout, ou pote bon nouvèl."
    • Better to take your time on the way, if you bring good news.

R

S

  • "Sak vid pa kanpe."
    • An empty sack doesn't stand up. (A hungry person cannot do anything.)

T

  • "Tan ale, li pa tounen."
    • Time goes, [but] does not come back.
  • "Tande ak wè se de."
    • To hear and to see are two [different] things.
  • "Tande pa di konprann pou sa."
    • To hear does not mean to understand.
  • "Tete pa janm twò lou pou mèt li."
    • Breasts are never heavy for their owner.
  • "Ti bwa ou pa wè, se li ka pete je-w."
    • The small stick you do not see is the one that may puncture your eye.
  • "Ti chen gen fòs sèlman devan kay mèt li."
    • A puppy is strong only before his master's house.
  • "Ti kou ti kou bay lanmò."
    • Light blows [again and again] bring death.
  • "Ti koulèv k'ap grandi se anba wòch ke li rete."
    • Little snakes need to grow in hiding.
  • "Ti kouri kenbe tete; gwo kouri, lage tete."
    • For a little run, hold your breast; for a big run, don't hold your breast.
  • "Ti mapou pa grandi anba gwo mapou.
    • Little 'mapou' [big tree highly respected in Haiti] do not grow at the foot of big 'mapou'.
  • "Ti pil ti pil fè chaj."
    • A little amount plus a little amount make a load.
  • "Toro ki begle pa gra."
    • The bull that lows is not fat.
  • "Toujou gen retay kay tayè."
    • [There are] always leftovers at the tailor's house.
  • "Tout bèt jennen mòde."
    • Animals in poor shape [will] bite.
  • "Tout moun se moun, tout moun pa menm."
    • All people are people, [but] all people are not the same.
  • "Tro prese fè ou bo sou nen."
    • Too much hurry makes you kiss the nose.
  • "Tro vit pa rive."
    • Too fast does not arrive.

V

  • "Vant plen pa gwòs; gwo tèt pa lespri.
    • A big belly does not mean pregnancy; a big head does not mean wits.
  • "Volè pa janm renmen volè parey li.
    • A thief never likes a thief like him.
  • "Vwazinaj se fanmi
    • Neighborhood is family.

W

  • "Wè jodi-a, men sonje denmen.
    • See (live) today, but think about tomorrow.
  • "Wè pa wè, lantèman pou katrè.
    • See [it] or not, the funeral is at four o'clock.
  • "Wont pi lou pase sak sèl.
    • Shame is heavier than a bag of salt.

Y

  • "Yo pa achte chat nan sak."
    • You don't buy a cat in a bag. (Make sure you know what you are buying.)
  • "Yo pa voye wòch sou mango vèt."
    • You don't throw rocks at a green mango. (You wait until a mango is ripe before you try to knock it down from the tree.)
  • "Yon bon zanmi pi bon pase frè.
    • A good friend is better than a brother.


Z

  • "Zafè kabrit pa zafè mouton."
    • The goat's business is not the sheep's business.
  • "Zanmi prè se kouto de bo; zanmi lwen se lajan sere."
    • Close friends are [like] a double-edge knife; far away friends are saved money.
  • "Zanno kase nan sak, grenn li pa pèdi."
    • [When] the necklace [is] broken in a bag, its pieces are not lost.
  • "Ze ki kale tro bonè, ti poul la p’ap viv."
    • [When] eggs hatch too early, chickens will not live.