Jamaican sayings are my favourite things in the world. Jamaican Creole is also my favourite language in the world. There is just nothing quite like it. Slang and sayings from Jamaica are expressive, dramatic, graphic, sometimes poignant, and almost always hilarious. Instead of simply saying something like ‘a little bit goes a long way’ or ‘when life hands you lemons, make lemonade,’ Jamaicans will tell you ‘one one cocoa full basket’ or ‘sidung pon crooked and cut straight.’ Below are some of my favourite (and fun) Jamaican sayings that will help keep you moving forward in the toughest of times.
6 Great Jamaican sayings to keep you motivated
1. One-one cocoa full basket / Evri mikl mek a mukl
Meaning: every little bit counts.
When to use it: On days when you feel like your efforts are not significant enough in light of your overwhelmingly big goals
On those days when you feel like you’re going nowhere quickly or anytime soon, this is the perfect saying to keep you going. This saying reminds you that it’s okay to take it one step at a time as you move towards your objectives/goals. Remembering that even the slightest bit of progress is still progress. By adding ‘just one more cocoa’ to your basket, you are one cocoa/step closer to where you want to be. Keep going. A little bit truly goes a long way.
2. Sidung pon crooked and cut straight / Tun yuh han mek fashion
Meaning: use what you have to ‘do the impossible’ and get what you want
When to use it: when resources seem to be limited and unable to be that stepping stone you need to get to your goals
This is one of the most popular motivational Jamaican sayings around. One of the things I love about this saying is the very graphic imagery it immediately evokes of making the impossible possible. When you hear it, or repeat it to yourself, you immediately begin to ask yourself ‘how can I make this happen?’ This is a very good thing. Our actions go in the direction of our thoughts, so this solutions oriented saying is perfect.
3. If you want good yuh nose haffi run
Meaning: sacrifice is a necessary part of achieving what you want
When to use it: When you’re tempted to throw in the towel in the face of necessary, temporary sacrifices in the now, in favour of achieving future or long term gains
Hard work and sacrifice are a necessary part of making progress in your life. Much of the time, growth and achievement requires giving up some things now to experience other things later. This Jamaican saying is a reminder of that. It is also a reminder that the success does come, so keep making the necessary sacrifice. Victory is ahead.
4. Walk good and good duppy follow yuh
Meaning: Do good and good will follow you
When to use it: when life becomes overwhelming and you need to be reminded to maintain your integrity, live well and treat others well in spite of…
A firm believer in karma and entertaining good energies in my personal space, this is one of my favourite Jamaican sayings. It’s a poignant reminder that it’s absolutely necessary to do good and live with integrity toward others – as best as you can. It is especially important when otherwise loving relations become strained, or you are tempted to repay unkindness in equal measure. Finding other healthy ways of expressing the frustration and stress goes a long way in ensuring you continue to ‘walk good’ with others. Never forget that at the end of the day, how you treat and perceive others says far more about you than anything you could ever say about yourself.
5. Wi likkl but wi tallawah
Meaning: Although we’re small in stature, we’re big in impact
When to use it: On days when you are feeling overwhelmed and perhaps like you’ve been working above your pay grade or punching above your weight.
No matter what our abilities are, or how gifted we are, we all feel as if we are out of our element from time to time. Even the most successful people have their doubts and their off days. On those days, it’s important to remind yourself that it happens to the best among us. Remind yourself that your reach and impact is greater than how you’re feeling in that moment.
6. Anyting wa a fi yuh, cyaa be un fi yu
Meaning: what’s yours will always be yours and nobody else’s
When to use it: when everyone else seems to be making progress except you
This is another one of those Jamaican sayings that you will hear often. It’s a needed reminder when everyone else seems to be making the progress you want to make that there’s a season for everything and your time will come. Every dog will have it’s day, including you. So keep on keeping on.
Credits: Photo by Spencer Selover from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/beach-bikini-blur-close-up-428549/