Bahamian proverbs

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A Proverb is a short, well known clever saying, stating a general truth or piece of advice. It is usually one or two lines. Proverbs are commonly used in everyday English; many native speakers used them without even being aware of it. Bahamian proverbs can tell you a lot about the traditions and culture of the country. These proverbs have their origins in both the African and British culture and history of Bahamians. The similarity of some of the proverb to those found other former British colonies and Souther American states is a reminder that slaves brought to the Bahamas have a shared history to relatives who were taken elsewhere.

Powles (1888)[edit]

Many of the Proverbs recorded by L.D Powles in his book "The land of the pink pearl" that was published in 1888 are also found in Jamaica.

  • Come see me is nothing, come live with me something"
  • follow fashion break monkey neck"
  • Goat say him hab wool; sheep say him hab har [hair]"
  • Greedy choke puppy"
  • Have money, have friend"
  • "Hog run for him life, dog run for him character"
  • "Hungry fowl wake soon".
  • "If you see fippence [three pence] you know how dollar made"
  • "John Crow never make house until rain come"
  • "Lizard no plant corn but him hab plenty.
  • "Man can't whistle and smoke one time"
  • misfortune never throw cloud"
  • No ebry ting you yerry [hear] good fe talk"
  • Dog eat ya lunch
  • No throw away dirty water before you have clean"
  • Ole firestick no hard fo catch.
  • one tief no like see other tief carry long bag.
  • Parson christen him own pickaninny first.
  • rain nebber fall at one man door.
  • Stone at sea bottom no know sun hot.
  • Shoe know if stocking hab hole"
  • Trouble nebber blow shell"
  • "Stranger no know when de deep water."
  • "Sleep hab no massa"
  • "Spider and fly no make bargain."
  • “when a man say him no mind, den he mind”
  • "When hand full, him hab plenty company"
  • "You shake man hand, you no shake him heart"
  • "time longer than rope."
  • "when fowl drinky water him lift up him head and say, tank god, but man drinky water and say noting."
  • “when eye no see, mout' no talk"
  • "When man no done grown, him nebber should cuss long man"
  • "Cuss cuss [calling names] no bore hole in skin."
  • "Cunning better dan strong"
  • "de rope you pulling, no de rope i cutting."
  • "ebbery day fishing day, but no ebbery day catchy fish"
  • "Hot needle burn thread."
  • "Big blanket make man sleep late."
  • "When cockroach gib dance, him no ax fowl"
  • "cockroach nebber so drunk he no crossy fowl-yard."
  • "dead hog no fear boiling water"

H.H Finlay[edit]

H.H Finlay recorded these proverbs on the Island of Eleuthera in 1925.

  • When man dead, grass grow to 'em door.
  • Yer play with puppy, him lick you mouth.
  • Mad dogs bite the hand that feed them.
  • A boaster and liar are first-cousins.
  • Don't trust people who talk much.
  • Fool talk much, wise men talk less.
  • Clean you door mouth first, then tell you neighbor 'bout dem own.
  • Some man bu'n dem hand when they only mean to warm dem.
  • In time of prosperity, friends will be plenty;
  • In time of adversity, not one in twenty.
  • Don't hang yer basket higher than you can reach 'em.
  • Don't hollow out "fried fish" til you catch 'em.
  • Long o' long, short o' short, we die.


  • "See like you ain't see, and hear like you ain't hear"
  • "When you listen you learn, and when you learn you listened".
  • "Hand go, hand come."
  • "Wha sweeten yu mouth goin bitter yu tail.
  • "Fisherman never smell he own basket"
  • "Hog know where to rub he skin"
  • "Fattening frog for snake"

Basil Peek compiled and arranged these proverbs in his book Bahamian Proverbs published in 1949

  • When han' full him hav' plenty company
  • Big blanket make man sleep late
  • Cunning better than strong
  • Misfortune nebber t'row cloud
  • Shoe know if stockin' hab hole
  • Erry day Fishin day but not erry day catch fish
  • Follow fashion break monkey neck
  • Stone at bottom of sea no know sun hot
  • When eye no see, mout' no talk
  • Hog run for him life; Dog run for him character
  • Man can't whistle and smoke one time
  • Coakroach nebber so drunk, he no cross fowl yar
  • Rain nebber fall at one man' door
  • Sleep hab no massa
  • no thro away dirty water befo' you hab clean
  • Seven year no nough to wash speckle off guinea hen' back
  • Lizard no plant corn but him hab plenty
  • You shake man' hand: you no shake him heart
  • The rope you pullin' no de rope I cuttin'
  • Spider an' fly no make bargain
  • When fowl drink water him lif' up him head and say 'Tank God" but man drink water and no say not'ing
  • Hungry fowl wake soon
  • Time longer dan rope.