Proverbs are an important element in folk tradition… used in everyday conversation. They serve an educational and social function. Proverbs are used to teach, inspiring caution, courage and (common) sense. Many of Jamaica’s proverbs show parallels with those of the two main sources from which they originate: the Asante culture of West Africa and the European (influences); however, many of our proverbs are purely Jamaican in origin, and reflect the innate wit and wisdom of the Jamaican people, as well as the colour and vitality (of any regional vernacular within Jamaican Patois itself).  

Olive Senior

Every hoe have dem stick a’ bush, and every proverb has its partner.

The practical wisdom of traditional local sayings, as described in Olive Senior’s quote above, is an endearing and integral part of Jamaican culture, and though the quote acknowledges parallels with non-Patois proverbs, each local proverb often has its like-minded local counterpart.The proverbs organically give well-heeded guidance, while reflecting and encouraging the people’s resourcefulness and resilience.

For avid collectors of clever colloquialisms, here are some proverbs with their meanings in English.

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