Haitian Fisherman

Haitian Proverbs

Haiti is a land of great beauty and of great suffering.  Centuries of relative isolation have produced one of the world's poorest countries, yet one of its richest cultures. Read these proverbs and try to image how they may apply to your own experiences and let the collective wisdom of centuries of Haitian thought bring new meaning to your life.

Tanbou prete pa janm fè bon dans.
A borrowed drum never makes good dancing.

Ti chen gen fos devan kay met li.
A little dog is really brave in front of his master's house.

Ti moun fwonte grandi devan baron.
An impudent child grows up under Baron's eyes (Baron Samdi is the guardian of the cemetery in the Vodou religion).

Ravet pa janm gen rezon devan poul.
Roaches are never right when facing chickens.

Sonje lapli ki leve mayi ou.
Remember the rain that made your corn grow.

Moun pa se dra.
A protector is like a cloak.

Nan tan grangou patat pa gen po.
In times of famine, sweet potatoes have no skin.

Ou konn kouri, ou pa konn kache.
You know how to run, but you don’t know how to hide.

Se bon kè krapo ki fè l san tèt.
It is because the toad is too kindhearted that he has no intelligence.

Piti, piti, wazo fe nich li.
Little by little the bird builds its nest.

Konstitisyon se papie, bayonet se fe.
The constitution is paper, bayonets are steel.

Rache manyok bay te a blanch.
Uproot the manioc, and clear the land.

Bel anteman pa di paradi.
A beautiful funeral doesn't guarantee heaven.

Milat pov se neg, eg rich se milat.
A poor mulatto is black, a wealthy black is mulatto.

Bel dan pa di zanmi.
Just becasue someone is smiling at you doesn't mean they're your friend.

Fanm pou you tan, manman pou tout tan.
Wife for a time, mother for all time.

Bondye Bon.
God is good.

Dye mon, gen mon.
Beyond the mountains, more mountains.

Sak vid pa kanp.
An empty sack can't stand up.

Neg di san fe.
People talk and don't act.

Bondye fe san di.
God acts and doesn't talk.

Pal franse pa di lespri pou sa.
Speaking French doesn't mean you are smart.

Bourik swe pou chwal dekore ak dentel
The donkey sweats so the horse can be decorated with lace.

Makak pa janm kwe petit-li led.
A monkey never thinks her baby's ugly.

Si travay te bon bagay, moun rich la pran-l lontan.
If work were a good thing the rich would have grabbed it a long time ago.

Li pale franse.
He speaks French (so is likely to be deceiving you).

Kreyol pale, kreyol komprann.
Speak plainly, don't try to deceive.

Mapou mouri, kabrit manje fey li.
When the mapou (oak-like tree) dies, goats would eat its leaves.

Manman pa janm mode pitit li jouk nan zo.
A mother never bites her child to the bone.

Sel pa vante tèt li di li sale.
Salt doesn’t boast that it is salted.

Pise gaye pa kimen.
Spread piss doesn’t foam.

Se nan chimen jennen yo kenbe chwal malen.
If you want to catch a wild horse, find a tight corral.

Sa ki pa touye ou, li angrese ou.
That which doesn't kill you makes you fat.

Kreyol pale, kreyol comprann.
Creole Spoke is creole understood.

Santi bon koute che.
Smelling good is expensive.

Bay kou bliye, pote mak sonje.
The giver of the blow forgets, the bearer of the scar remembers.

Woch nan dio pa konnen doule woch nan soley.
The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

Bwe dio nan ve, respekte ve.
(If you) drink water in the glass, respect the glass.

Si se Bondye ki voye. Li peya fre ou.
If it is God who sends you, he'll pay your expenses.

Sa ou fe, se li ou we.
What you do is what you see.

Se met ko kiveye ko.
It is the owner of the body who looks out for the body.

Bondye do ou. fe pa ou, M a fe pa M.
God says do your part and I'll do mine.

Ou we sa ou genyen, ou pa konn sa ou rete.
You know what you've got, but you don't know what's coming.

Famn se kajou. plis li vye, plis li bon.
Woman is like mahogany, the older the better.

Lanne pase toujou pi bon.
Past years are always better.

Sa k rive koukouloulou a, ka rive kakalanga tou.
What happens to the turkey can happen to the rooster too.

Nanpwen lapriye ki pa gen "Amen."
There is no prayer which does not have an "Amen".

Anpre dans tanbou lou.
After the dance the drum is heavy.

Men anpil chay pa lou.
Many hands make the load lighter.

Le yo vle touye chen yo di'l fou
When they want to kill a dog they say its crazy.

Kreyon pep la pa gen gonm.
The peoples pencil has no eraser.

Kay koule twompe soley soley men li pa twompe lapil.
A leaky house can fool the sun, but it can't fool the rain.