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HAITIAN PROVERBS: AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE CREOLE LANGUAGE

Here are some of Haiti's most popular proverbs...

About 50% of the Materials used in this page are from discoverhaiti.com

Haiti is a mosaic of
cultureOf all the Languages of this world, Haitian Creole is perhaps the one that relies the most on proverbs, metaphors, and great imagery. Surely, without proverbs, Creole would still survive as a language; however, the language owes its musicality and images, its cadence and strength to its proverbs. It must be understood that we are not talking of the Creole being spoken in Port-au-Prince. That Creole has been altered by too many foreign influences and is replete with French and English expressions. We are rather referring to a somewhat purer version of the language, one that is spoken in the still mostly unadulterated rural Haiti, or to some degree by members of the older generations.

If you ever take a trip in the countryside, and engage some of the locals in conversation, you will notice how those Haitians speak in riddles and images that capture the strength of any idea or morals pertaining to their lives. Even to the urban or young Haitian it is sometimes difficult to comprehend the real meaning of those expressions. That beautiful form of expression is menaced and may be bound to disappear though, through the effects of urbanization and foreign culture and as the younger generations are turning their backs on that way of speaking. Here on DiscoverHaiti, we have chosen to feature some of the most beautiful of those proverbs and provide you with their literal and real meaning.
- If you’re a Haitian, we hope that you will rediscover them and enjoy once again their beauty.
- If you’re of Haitian descent, this is an opportunity to rediscover an essential part of your identity by reconnecting to your roots.
- And finally, of course, all non-Haitians are welcome to appreciate these delights of the Creole language.

--------------------------Proverbs regarding good manners and good breeding----------------------

Mapou mouri, kabrit manje fey li:
When the mapou (oak-like tree) dies, goats would eat its leaves.
Meaning: This proverb is said in Creole to recall the scene of old age. It is also said to compare the prime and the declining days as well as abundance and poverty. If a youngster has been disrespectful to an old man mapou who is past his prime, that proverb would be an appropriate remark.
Note: the mapou has a special meaning in Haitian culture. It is a sacred tree for the believers of Vaudou.

Manman pa janm mode pitit li jouk nan zo:
A mother never bites her child to the bone
Meaning: The equivalent of this proverb in the English language would be “there is nothing like a mother”. In Haiti, this proverb is used to show or recall the goodness of a mother to her children. Even when she is inflicting the worst punishment on her children she is not doing it out of hate or to deliberately hurt her progenies but to discipline them

Moun pa se dra:
A protector is like a cloak
Meaning: This proverb is used when someone encounters difficulties or is in an embarrassing position and a friend or a protector comes along and saves the day.

Nan tan grangou patat pa gen po
In times of famine, sweet potatoes have no skin
Meaning: This is a proverb said in times of disaster or great calamity. It means that when one is starving to death, they will eat anything; thus “patat pa gen po”: even the skin of a potato would be eaten.

kouri.jpgOu konn kouri, ou pa konn kache:
You know how to run, but you don’t know how to hide.
Meaning: It is said of someone who leaves a bad impression behind him after a bad deed or a crime.

Pise gaye pa kimen:
Spread piss doesn’t foam.
Meaning: A rolling stone gathers no moss. For Haitians this proverb raises the question of unity and disunion in accomplishing a goal. Is also said of people squandering their money on many worthless ventures: None will ever be successful.

Sel pa vante tet li di li sale:
Salt doesn’t boast that it is salted
Meaning: Similar in meaning to the French saying "A bon vin, point d’enseigne" (good wine needs no advertising). Let others say how good you are. Said to ridicule someone who speaks hightly of himself, who praises himself.

krapo: frogSe bon ke krapo ki fe l san tet:
It is because the toad is too tenderhearted that he has no intelligence. Meaning: Said of a person who goes to someone’s help and becomes victim of the helped. Said of someone who was formerlyvery rich and who becomes poor because he is too tenderhearted and gave his whole fortune away.

Se nan chimen jennen yo kenbe chwal malen:
if you want to catch a wild horse, find a tight corral
Meaning: One says that about a person who usually escapes embarassment but who will eventually fall into a more elaborate trap.

Sonje lapli ki leve mayi ou:
Remember the rain that made your corn grow
Meaning: One says that to remind someone that he must show gratitude to God or to someone who did him good.

Haitian DrumTanbou prete pa janm fe bon dans:
A borrowed drum never makes good dancing
Meaning: Said when one uses something borrowed and before finishing with it the owner comes to take it. Usually one is not comfortable with a borrowed object.

Ti chen gen fos devan kay met li:
a little dog is really brave in front of his master’s house.
Meaning: The meaning of this proverb is that a weak person doesn’t attack away from his home but will defend himself as a lion against everybody in his territory. Also said of poltrons and weak persons who will become lions in defending their interests or when they have the backup of someone stronger.

Ti moun fwonte grandi devan baron:
Litterally: An impudent child grows up under Baron's eyes( Baron Samdi is the guardian of the cemetery in the Vaudou religion)
Meaning: Said of an impudent, insolent child, meaning that they won’t live long enough because of their insolence.

--------------Proverbs Regarding Tact- Cleverness - Action---------------

Ravet pa janm gen rezon douvan poul:
Roaches are never right when facing chickens (Chickens would pursue any roach in sight)
Meaning: Whenever there are disagreements between two parties, Justice will always be on the side with the stronger one of them.

Bouch pale sa jieux woue:
The mouth speaks what the eyes see
Meaning: It means that one only speaks base on the observation around him or her.

Jieux we bouch pe:
The English equivalent to this proverb will be "you see nothing you know nothing."
Meaning: if you witness something you not suppose to you are ought to remain silence or else.

Roche nan dlo pa kon doule roch nan soleil:
The wealthy is never aware of the hardships of the poor.
Meaning: This proverb is used to see the distinction between the poverty and wealth.

Moun ki di men koulev la se li ki tue'l:
The first one to say look! a snake is the killer even if some one else comes and kill it.
Meaning: The best example of this proverb is when a when a killer is executed because a witness testified against him or her. Eventhought it is the justice system's final decision to inflict the death penalty to the killer it is because of the witness testimony.

Les yo pa vle we'ou yo ba'ou panye pou'al prand dlo.
Meaning: When you are dislike by others they will create difilculties for you.

Tro prese pa fe jou l'ouvri.
Meaning: One shouldn't be in a hurry in life because that will not make the days go faster to bring you fast success without a cause.

Mache cheche pam jam domi san soupe:
This proverb is the same as "you will get what you deserve."
Meaning: if a person is always looking for trouble he will always meet his or her match.

Toute anmerdan gen ti nat yo:
Every pest has its resting place.
Mean: If one enjoys bothering others one day he or she will get it.

Mouin piti mouin pa pitimi san grado:
I may be tiny but I'm not weak and vulnerable.
Meaning: This proverb is used to warn others who may want to take advantage of you because of your smaller size.

Pitit tig se tig:
A tiger's cub is also a tiger.
Meaning: One's behavior is only a reffelction of those who breed it. Another similar one is: Joumou pas grandi calbas.

Se an jouet yo abillei jwif:
It is also by joking around one takes the opportunity to speak his or her mind out.
Meaning: Some times a person want to find a way to speak his or her mind out to another. That opportunity may come for instance when everyone is in a group joking and laughing around. There he or she would speak his or her mind of to the other without the other realizing the real meaning of the message.