Haitian Proverbs


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 breast.
  • Ayisyen swiv kouran.
    • Haitians follow the flow.
  • Ayiti se tè glise.
    • Haiti is a sliding land (quicksand).

B

  • Bab pi long, men sousi pi vye.
    • The beard is longer, but the Eyebrows are older.
  • Baton ede pye.
    • The stick helps the foot.
  • Bay kou, bliye; pote mak, sonje.
    • [You] give a blow, [you] forget; [when you] leave marks, [they] remember.
  • Bay piti pa chich.
    • Give little is not [being] cheap.

Giving Small thing doesn’t mean stingy. (It’s just what you have)

  • 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 lasante.
    • Pretty and in shape do not mean healthy.
  • Bèl antèman pa vle di paradi.
    • A nice funeral does not mean access to paradise.
  • Bèl cheve pa lajan.
    • Nice hair is not money.
  • Bèl dan pa vle di zanmi : dan pa kè.
    • Beautiful smiles do not mean friends: smiles are not the heart.
  • Bo nan bouch, men pè dan.
    • Kiss the mouth, but fear the teeth.
  • Bondye bon.
    • God is good. (God willing)
  • Bondye pa bòpè.
    • God is not a father-in-law.
  • Bonjou w se paspò ou.
    • Your greeting is your passport.
  • Bouch granmoun santi, sa k ladan se rezon.
    • Old folk’s breath may stink, what comes out though 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 has 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 prese pa rive.(ou byen: Twò prese pa fe jou louvri)
    • In a hurry will not arrive.
  • “”Byen pre pa lakay.””
    • Being close to home is not the same as being home.

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 seek the dog on it.
  • 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 of a pimple is the road to sores.
  • 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 chimen.
    • 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 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.
  • “Chak pain gen fromagge li”
    • Every bread has it’s cheese.

D

  • Dan pouri gen fòs sou bannann mi.
    • Rotten teeth only have power over (can only bite) ripe plantains.
  • Dan griyen se 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 mèg 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 (Guinea), [negros] hate [negros] (We can never forgive those who sold us as slaves)
  • 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.
  • Di djab bonjou, lap manje w. Pa di l bonjou, lap manje w.
    • Greet the devil, he’ll eat you. Don’t greet the devil, he’ll eat you.
  • Djòl fè dèt, dèyè peye.
    • The mouth makes debt, the behind pays back.
  • Dlo pa janbe trou.
    • Water does not cross over holes. It must first fill the hole, before it can move on.
  • Doktè pa janm trete tèt li.
    • The doctor never treats himself.
  • 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 miseries.
  • Dwèt ou santi, men ou pa koupe-l jete.
    • Your finger may smell, but you do not cut it and throw it away.
  • “Deye mòn gen mòn”
    • Behind mountains there are mountains.
  • ”Di merci, se lizay!”

E

  • Envite miyò pase mande padon.
    • To avoid is better than to ask forgiveness.
  • En mangeant, l’appétit vient

Se lew goûté, wap konnen sil bon.

F

  • Fanm pa dra.
    • Women are not bed sheets.
  • 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 ripe.
  • 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 worriness.

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 vini se jan an yo resevwa ou.
    • The way you come is the way people will receive you.
  • Je wè, bouch be.
    • The eyes see, the mouth is silent.
  • 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 pot without cover does not hold water.
  • Kat je kontre, manti kaba.
    • face to face we meet, no lies. ( you can lie in from of me.
  • Kay piti, ou prann nat ou anba bra ou.
    • [When] the house is small, you hold your bedding under your arm.
  • Kay koule tronpe soley men li pa tronpe lapli.
    • A leaking roof may fool sunny weather, but cannot fool the rain.
  • 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 grangou, kabrit pa mouri nan kòd.
    • Where there is hunger, 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.
  • 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 kabrit gen twòp mèt, li mouri nan solèy.
    • When a goat has too many masters (owners), it dies (tied) in the sun.
  • Lè labouyi cho, ou manje-l a rebò.
    • When the porridge is hot, you eat it on the side.
  • Lè pyebwa jwe ak van, li pèdi fèy li.
    • When the tree plays with the wind, it loses 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 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 mezi.
    • The merchant at the market has two 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 brave heart.
  • Malè avèti pa touye kokobe.
    • A foreseen disaster does not kill the fool.
  • 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.
    • The mosquito bites you on the nose, but you cannot hit it hard.
  • Memwa se paswa.
    • Memory is a strainer.
  • 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.
  • Mèt do pa grate do.
    • You cannot scratch your own back.
  • Mezire avan ou koupe.
    • Measure before you cut.
  • Mouch pa bezwen vyann, men li gate-l.
    • The fly does not need the meat, but it will spoil it.
  • 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.
  • 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 can grow anywhere.

N

  • Nan bay kout men, ou jwenn kout pye
    • You give a hand, but [you may] get kicked out.
  • Nan mitan diri, ti wòch goute grès.
    • In the middle of [cooked] rice, a little pebble will taste grease.
  • Nan mitan avèg, bògn se rwa.
    • Among the blind, the one-eyed is king.
  • Nanpwen cho ki pa vin frèt..
    • There is nothing hot that will not get cold.
  • Nanpwen metye ki pa nouri mèt li..
    • There is no craft that will not feed the craftsman.
  • Nèg fè lide-l, Bondye ba-l dwa.
    • The man gets the idea, God authorizes it.
  • Nen pran kou, je kouri dlo; je pran kou, nen kouri dlo.
    • The nose is hurt, the eyes water; the eyes are hurt, the nose runs.
  • “” Nou léd, nou la.”
    • We are ugly, but we are here.

O

  • Ou bat tanbou epi ou danse ankò.
    • You beat the drum and you dance again.
  • Ou granmoun sèlman lè ou lakay ou.
    • You are an old man only when you are at home.
  • Ou konn kouri, men fòk ou konn kache.
    • You [may] know how to run, but you must know how to hide.
  • Ou konn sa w’ap kite; ou pa konn sa ou pral jwenn.
    • You [may] know what you leave behind; you do not know what you will get.
  • Ou pa fouye zo nan kalalou.
    • You do not dig up bones in akra.
  • Ou pa dwè dekouvri Sen Pòl pou kouvri Sen Piè.
    • You must not undress Saint Paul to dress Saint Peter.
  • Ou pa ka fè san sòti nan wòch.
    • You cannot have blood flow from a rock.
  • Ougan pa janm geri maleng li.
    • The ‘ougan’ (Medecine Man) never cures his own illness.
  • Ouvriye vann zouti-l, men li pa vann metye-l.
    • A carpenter [may] sell his tools, but he [cannot] sell his skills.

P

  • Pa bay bèf la babokèt lè l’ap rale kabwèt.
    • Do not put the harness on the ox when it is going to pull the kart.
  • Pa jete vye chodyè pou chodyè nèf.
    • Don’t throw away the old pot for a new pot.
  • Pa kroke makout twò wo, men kote men ou ka rive.
    • Do not hang the basket too high, but where your hand can reach it.
  • Pa pale sa ou pa we ak prop je ou.
    • Never talk about something that you have not seen with your own eyes.
  • Pa pèdi founo pou yon sèl pen.
    • Do not lose your oven over just one bread.
  • Padon pa geri maleng.
    • Forgiveness does not cure illness.
  • Pale franse pa di lespri pou sa.
    • To speak French does not mean wits.
  • Parese pa gen kay.
    • Lazy people do not have a house.
  • Paròl gen zèl.
    • Words have wings.
  • Parol pa chay.
    • Words are not a load.
  • Paròl two fò, machwè gonfle.
    • Too false words [make] the jaw swell.
  • Pè pa preche de fwa.
    • Fear does not preach twice.
  • Pitit ki pa kriye pa bezwen tete.
    • The baby who does not cry does not need to be breast-fed.
  • Pitit tig, se tig.
    • A tiger cub is a tiger.
  • Pito ou mize ou nan wout, ou pote bon nouvèl.
    • Better to take your time on the way, if you bring good news.
  • Pòt tè pa goumen ak pòt fè.
    • The clay pot [must] not wrestle with the iron pot.
  • Pousyè pa leve san van.
    • Dust does not lift without wind.
  • Premye so pa so.
    • The first fall is not a fall
  • Pye pa gen rasinn : tout moun ka tonbe.
    • Feet have no roots: everyone can fall.
  • Pye poul pi bon pase bwadann.
    • A hen’s foot is better than a donkey’s hoof.
  • gro non tué ti chien

R

  • Rad pa janm fè moun.
    • Clothes do not make a person.
  • Rad sal lave nan fanmi.
    • Dirty clothes are [to be] washed in the family.
  • Rann sèvis mennen chagren.
    • To give a hand leads to sorrow.
  • Rat anpil, trou pa fon.
    • Lots of rats, the hole is not deep.
  • Rat konnen chat konnen barik mayi-a rete la.
    • The rat knows, the cat knows: the corn barrel is safe.
  • ” Rat mode, souffle”
    • Rats bite then blow.
  • Rayi chen an, men di dan li blanch.
    • [You may] hate the dog, but [you must] admit that its teeth are white.
  • Rebwè se nòs.
    • Drinking again is [like] a wedding.
  • Regle jis pa gate zanmi.
    • A fair deal does not spoil friendship.
  • Responsab se chay.
    • [To be] responsible is a load.

S

  • Sa je pa wè, kè pa tounen.
    • What the eyes do not see does not make the heart grow fonder.
    • What you don’t know can’t hurt you.
    Out of Sight out of Mind.
  • Sa ki rete nan kè-m dòmi lakay.
    • What is still in my heart sleeps at my home.
  • Sa ou pa konnen pi gran pase ou.
    • What you do not know is bigger than you.
  • Sa ou t’ap chache antè, ou jwenn li atè.
    • What you are searching underground, you find it on the ground.
  • Sa-k pase nan kizin, lakay pa bezwen konnen.
    • What goes on in the kitchen, the house does not need to know.
  • Sak vid pa kanpe.
    • An empty sack cannot stand up.
  • Se aprè batay nou konte blese.
    • It is after the battle that you count the injured.
  • Se chat kay k’ap manje poul kay.
    • It is the cat of the house that will eat the hen of the house.
  • Se de bon ki fè bonbon.
    • It’s two ‘good’ that makes candy.
  • Se grès kochon an ki kwit kochon an.
    • It is the pork’s grease that cooks the pork.
  • Se kouto sèlman ki konnen sa ki nan kè yanm.
    • Only the knife knows what is in the yam’s heart.
  • Se lakizin ki di-m ki jan lakay ye.
    • It is the kitchen that tells me how the house is.
  • Se lè koulèv mouri ou wè longè-l.
    • It is when the snake dies that you can see its size.
  • Sè lè van soufle ou wè dèyè poul.
    • It is when the wind blows that you can see the hen’s behind.
  • Se mèt kò ki veye kò.
    • It is the owner of the body who watches his body.
  • Se nan chemen ou konnen sa-k pase nan chanm.
    • It is on the road that you learn what goes on in [your] room.
  • Se nan chemiz blanch yo wè tach
    • It is on the white shirt that one can see the stain.
  • Se pa nèg ki voye wòch ki te tiye koulèv-la, se nèg ki te wè’l
    • It is not the man who threw the stone who killed the snake: it is the man who saw it.
  • Se siro ki rale foumi.
    • It is the syrup that attract ants.
  • Se sou pye mango chaje yo voye wòch.
    • It is on the mango tree full of fruits that they throw stones.
  • Se soulye ki konn si chosèt gen twou.
    • It is the shoe that knows if the sock has a hole.
  • Si bòt la tro jis pou ou, mache pye atè.
    • If your boot is too tight, walk barefoot.
  • Si m’te konnen toujou dèyè.
    • ‘If I had known’ is always behind.
  • Si ou gen yon sous k’ap ba ou dlo, ou pa koupe pyebwa kote-l.
    • If you have a well that can give you water, you must not cut the tree near it.
  • Si ou kouvri dife, w’ap gen dife.
    • If you cover a fire, you [still] have a fire.
  • Si ou manje bouji, fòk ou poupou mèch.
    • If you eat a candle, you must poop the wick.
  • Si ou vle gen rezon devan kras, se benyen p’ou benyen.
    • If you want to win over dirt, you need to bathe [thoroughly].
  • Sòt pa touye-w, men li fè ou swe.
    • Stupid does not kill you, but it makes you sweat.
  • Souke tèt pa kase kou.
    • [You can] shake your head, [but] do not break your neck.

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.
  • Twou bounda’w won… ou bizwen pete kare.
    • Your anus is round… you [need to] fart square.
  • Toujou gen retay kay tayè.
    • [There are] always leftovers at the tailor’s house.
  • Tout bèt jennen mòde.
    • Any strain animal [will] bite.
  • Tout moun se moun, tout moun pa menm.
    • All people are people but not all people are the same.
  • Two prese fè ou bo sou nen.
    • Too much hurry makes you kiss the nose.
  • Two 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.
  • Wòch nan dlo pa konn doulè wòch nan soley.
    • The stone in the water does not know the pain of the stone in the sun.
  • 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.
  • Yon jou pou chasè, yon jou pou jibye
    • The hunter has his day, but the prey has his day as well

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.

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