Haitian Proverbs

PWOVÈB AYISYEN

One of the most characteristic expressions of Haiti’s culture: the proverb.  Each is uniquely revealing as a general truth, but also as insight into many of the underlying attitudes of the people here.  Proverbs remind me of parables: more than one meaning can be valid.

Bondye di ou fe pati ou ak mwen pral fe m’
God says you do your part and I’ll do mine

Bondye bon.
Whatever God does is for the best.
Whatever is, is good.
(Haiti’s eternally optimistic fatalism.)

 Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.
After one sorrow, more sorrows.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
There’s more than meets the eye.

Sak vid pa kanpe.
No work gets done on an empty stomach.
You get out what you put in.

 Santi bon koute chè.
A big front doesn’t come cheaply.

 Kreyon Bondye pa gen gòm.
God makes no mistakes.
What God promises He will give.
What’s traced for you is forever traced.

Bèl fanm, bèl malè.
A beautiful woman means trouble.

Nèg di san fè, Bondye fè san di.
Man talks, God acts.

 Pale franse pa di lespri pou sa.
Fancy talk doesn’t mean brains.

 Bèl larivyè, nanpwen rad.
A beautiful situation, wasted.
All dressed up and no place to go.

 Milat pòv se nèg, nèg rich se milat.
Money is everything.

 Prese bon, dousman bon.
There’s more than one right way.

 Grangou dimanch pi rèd.
Hunger is worse when others are feasting.

Bon mache koute chè.
Bargains are expensive.

Tan ale, li pa tounen.
We can never recapture the past.

Fanm se kajou: plis li vye, plis li bon.
Women, like wine, improve with age.

 Sa nèg fè nèg, Bondye ri.
God does not trouble Himself with what man
does to man.

 Tout moun se moun.
Everyone deserves to be treated as a human being.

 Anpil bèl bagay anmè.
Appearances can be deceiving.

Si ou bay pòv, se Bondye ou prete.
Charity has its rewards.

Nanpwen kòb, nanpwen manje.
You get what you pay for.

Pitit tig, se tig.
The tiger’s cub can be dangerous too.
(Jean-Claude Duvalier, 1975)

 Ti nèg fè sa l kapab, grannèg* fè sa l vle.
Money and power are everything.

Tande pa di konprann pou sa.
Hearing is one thing, understanding is another.

Grannèg se lalwa.
Might makes right.

Pitit se richès pòv malere.
A child is the poor man’s consolation.

Piti piti zwazo fè nich li.
Everything takes time.

Lanne pase toujou pi bon.
The grass is always greener on the other side.

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

 Pise marengwen ogmante larivyè.
Every little drop counts.

Lè ou krache an lè, li tonbe sou nen ou.
What goes around, comes around.

 Apre dans, tanbou toujou lou.
After the excitement is over, life can be a drag.

Kreyòl pale, kreyòl konprann.
Creole (as opposed to French) means straight,
honest talk.

Kouri lapli, tonbe larivyè.
In avoiding one thing, we fall into something

Bay kou bliye, pote mak sonje.
The culprit forgets, the victim remembers.

Po tè pa goumen ak po fè.
Know thyself.worse.

 Entelijan twonpe ‘leve bonè’.
The smart person figures the angles.

 Fanm se zanj, fanm se denmon.
Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.

CHITA PA BAY.
Sitting around won’t get you anywhere.

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