Barbados Pocket Guide

Local Terms and Phrases

Local Terms and Phrases

The island of Barbados is certanly one remarkable island. The culture, the people, the history, the climate and the way in which they speak and express themselves are all unique aspects of Barbadian culture.


Local terms and phrases used in Barbados are as a result of a break down in the original English Language, somewhat of a short cut to say something without having to use too much effort. (rather lazy you may think) Those on the receiving end are more often than not in tune with this level of speech and can usually interpret what is said or rather, what should have been said.


We don't expect you to get this right so we have compiled a list for you to refer to should there be a need.



A pint pot can hold a gill, but a gill can't hold a pint pot

Not all situations are reversible


A eyeful en' a bellyful
Seeing is one thing, having it in your possession is another thing. This has sexual overtones


Bucket gine up and down in well evah day, de bottom boun' tuh drop out

Sustained pressure and exertion will eventually lead to a breakdown


Better fish in de sea dan wha' ketch
There is always someone that will make a better lover than the current one


Coward dog keep whole bone

Avoiding confrontation can keep you out of trouble


Crow does fly high, but when 'e come down, de ants does still eat out 'e eye

Some people may enjoy great prosperity and be excessively proud of it,
but should bad luck surface, they may endure disgrace equal to or greater
than the wealth they once possessed


Cut pumpkin can' keep

Used in a sexual context, this means that once virginity is lost it is impossible to abstain thereafter


Crave all, get none at all

A warning against covetousness


Cheap tings nuh good

Beware when things come too easy


Cat luck en' dog luck

What one person may get away, may cause problems for another


Common dog does bark in church
Uncivilized individuals will conduct themselves in an uncouth manner irrespective of the situation


Dead man can't run from he coffin

It is impossible to run from your responsibilities


De tongue dat does buy yuh does sell yuh

The same person who talks nicely to you, will betray you later


De sea ain't got nuh back door

The sea is not that safe a place; take every precaution necessary


Don't tek a six for a nine

Do not misunderstand a person's real intentions


Don't rush de brush and throw away de paint

Do not allow haste to create problems for you


De berry don' drop too far from de tree

Children inherit traits and attitudes from their parents


De dog dat bring a bone will kaah one

The very person who gossips with you about other persons may also gossip with them about you too.


De higher de monkey climb, de more 'e show 'e tail

The more you show off, the more your faults are brought to the open


De las' calf kill de cow

Attempting to repeat the same action too often may result in disaster


Donkey got long ear, but 'e don' like to hear 'e own story

People do not like to hear or accept their own faults


Don' wait till de horse get out de stable to shut de door

Don't wait until the situation gets out of control then to take corrective action


De devil does find work fuh idle hands to do

People with nothing to do, get themselves into mischief


De more yuh peep, de less yuh sih

Spying on others is a waste of time, as they will soon devise ways to out maneuver the spy


Dirty water does cool hot iron

Once aroused, almost any woman, whether good or bad, can quench a man's lust


Don't heng yuh hat wih yuh hand can' reach

Don't strive for positions that are beyond your reach


Don' rush de brush and trow 'way de paint

Don't let haste create problems for you


Don' ship all yuh sugar in one vessel

Do not risk all your resources in a single venture


Don' leh nuhbody rub shit in yuh mout and tell yuh it is pudding

Don't let anyone do or say anything harmful or insulting, under the guise that they are being nice


De same mout dat court yuh, don' marry yuh

He who encourages you to do certain things is, never around when you desperately need their help


De tongue dat buy yuh does sell yuh

The one who flatters you now, may deceive you later


Don' court Robin fuh 'e rags

Don't encourage a friendship only for what you can get out of it


De blacker de berry, de sweeter de juice

The darker the woman, the more sexually exciting she is


De closer de bone, de sweeter de meat
Thinner women make better lovers


Every fool got he sense

No matter how dull and ignorant, everybody is knowledgeable in one area or the other


Every man yuh see in a shirt and pants en neider man

Do not expect all men to act responsibly


Eat soldier food, tek soldier blows

If you share in the benefits you should be prepared to share in the problems


Egg ain't got no right ay rock-stone dance

You should avoid situations which can be harmful to you


Evah bush is a man

Be careful how you talk about people because you never know who might be eavesdropping


Ef yuh wuking wid paint you got tuh get daub (dirty)

If you are working in a particular situation, at some point you will become affected


Evah pig got a Saturday

Everyone will pay for his deeds at some point


Evah fool got 'e sense

Everybody is knowledgeable in one area or the other, no matter how dull and ignorant they may seem


Evah skin-teet en' a laugh
Not all outward signs of friendliness should be taken as genuine


Fire one (usually used at rum shops and casual social settings)

Have a drink


Fus trick en' nuh trick

Having fool somebody once does not mean you can fool that person again


Fisherman nevah say dat 'e fish stink

A person will never give a bad report about himself


Force ripe fruit don' got nuh taste

This is used metaphorically to show disapproval of clever behaviour in children


Force medicine good fuh mad horse

Nothing, even if it is helpful, should be forced upon anyone


God don't like ugly

Disapproval of injustice


Give jack he jacket

Give credit where credit is due


Good looks can' kaah tuh de shop

Having physical beauty in itself does not offer any practical benefits


Gold teet don' suit hog mout

Elegant accessories are inappropriate when used or worn by those who are not accustomed to such


Hard ears yuh won't hear, by and by you gine feel

If you do not take heed to good advice, you will feel the negative effect of it


Head en' brain

Not everybody is wise


High wind know where ole house live

Advantage is often taken of those who are weak


Hurry-hurry never done

Do not do things in a hurry, you may have to re-do it all


Home drum beat first

Before taking on someone else's problems, you should first look after your family interest


Hungry mek cat eat salt

Necessity often causes people to act contrary to their regular way of life


Halfway en' nuh warning

It's no use warning a person to be careful without telling him what it is he should be careful about


Hold de light fuh de devil tuh sih, and when yuh get a chance, blow it out in 'e face

When you know that somebody has bad intentions but is pretending they mean well, you should play along with them until the opportunity comes when you can
foil their plans


Hurry-hurry nevah dun (done)
Anything done in a hurry is never done properly


If greedy wait, hot will cool

Your patience in a situation will be rewarded


If you didn't at de christening, yuh shouldn't be at the wedding

Do not get involved in something if you do not know how it started


If black bird fly wid pigeon he will get shoot

If you associate with the wrong people you will get the same treatment that they do


If rain water en' full yuh barrel, dew water can' full it

If you did not successfully convert the opportunities offered in your life, it is unlikely that when there are less or no opportunities available, that you will find success


It en' de gun dat does kill yuh, it is de shot

It is usually the small problems, not the big ones that cause the most difficulty


It don't tek a big axe tuh cut down a big tree

Size, or lack of it, does not limit capabilities


If greedy wait, hot wud (would) cool

Patience will be rewarded


If crab don' walk 'bout 'e won't get fat

You accomplish nothing by staying at home


It en' fuh lack o' tongue dat horse can' talk

You must learn to control what you say


It does tek one hand tuh feel a lice, but two tuh tek it out

Co-operation is essential if anything worthwhile is to be achieved


"If ah did know.." does come too late

It is better to think before taking unwise or rash action, which you will later regret


If yuh can' beat a man yuh got tuh 'gree wid 'e
If you can't beat them, join them


Leh we fire one

Let's have a drink


Lime juice can' spoil vinegar

An individual can't be corrupted by another who is less corrupt


Loose goat don't know wha' tie goat sih (see)
One has to be in someone else's shoes in order to understand what he is going through


Mek sure better than cock-sure

It is better to make absolutely sure that everything is all right rather than assume that all is well


Monkey sih, monkey do
A mild reprimand for imitating the behaviour of others


News don' lack a carrier

There is always someone ready to spread anything newsworthy, especially if it's gossip


Nuh name, nuh blame, nuh lock up

If no names are called, no one can be accused


Never eat and forget

Do not show ingratitude by forgetting the hand that feed you


Night talk and day talk should 'gree wid Christian

Christians or self-respecting persons should show consistent behaviour


Never wuk (work) ground fuh monkey run pon (on)
You should not exert great energy on a venture knowing that some unworthy person will benefit


One smart dead at two smart door

There's always someone ahead of you in the game


One hand can't clap

Team-spirit and co-operation is required


One-one blow does kill ole cow

What may seem like a trivial irritation may create a catastrophe if repeated often enough


Only a dog does return to he vomit

Once free of an offensive situation, you should avoid returning to it.


Ole coachman nevah forget de snap o' de whip

You rarely forget a skill which you have learnt and practised for a long time


Ole stick a fire don' tek long tuh ketch back up

Once two people have been lovers, it takes very little for them to become lovers again


Pretty things does fool little children

Only naive people are impressed by mere show


Play wid puppy an' 'e lick yuh mout
To be overly familiar with those of a lower status creates an atmosphere for them to treat you with scant respect


Rat mout does sell he head

Careless talk can be dangerous


Respect due to a dog

Respect others regardless of their race, gender, religion or status


Rat mout does sell 'e head
A loose tongue can be dangerous


Slam uh dom

Play dominoes


Small pitcher got wide ear hole
Be careful what is said in front of children who might understand far more than you think


Tekking time en' laziness

By taking your time, you can achieve a lot


Tongue and teet does got words

The most loving couples may quarrel on occasions, so don't be overly upset by a little spat


Two poor cow does mek good dung

A couple can overcome their poverty by pooling their resources together


Two smart rat can' live in de same hole

Two tricksters can't get along with each other


Talk does mek talk
When somebody tries to pick a quarrel, it is best to remain silent


Who de cap fit, leh he draw de string

The person who knows he is guilty about something will react accordingly


When a bird fly too fast he does fly pas he nest

It is never wise to be overly ambitious


Wuhever pun de ground is fuh de cat and de dog

Finders keepers


Whoever got clothes hang out does look for rain

When people get defensive, it usually means that they have something to hide


Water does run, but blood does clot

Relatives should take care of each other


When yuh en' got horse, ride cow

Utilize whatever resources you have available


When yuh keep company wid fowls and dey shit pon yuh table, it is hell to get out de stain

Associating with undesirable people can bring you trouble which could prove difficult to resolve


White mout fowl does eat and den wipe 'e mout in de grass

Some people don't show gratitude


Wait til yuh trough put an' bubble in it

This is a veritable insult meaning mind your own business


Wha' yuh do in de dark does come out in de light

It is impossible to hide all of your actions


Wha' yuh eye en' sih, yuh stomach will tek

What you don't know won't hurt you


When yuh pick corn pon more dan one row, yuh don' know wih yuh get yuh bag full up

If a woman has relations with several men, she will not be sure which one got her pregnant


Wha' hurt turkey don' hurt duck

What may pose a problem for one person may not have that effect on another


Wha' sweeten goat mout does bun 'e tail

A source of great pleasure may turn out to be a problem later on


When a dog does suck egg, 'e does get blame fuh evah ting

Once a person has committed an offensive act, they are automatically blamed
when that offence has been committed again


Who help yuh buy a big guts mule don' help yuh feed it

The person who leads you into trouble is never around to help you get back out


Wha' mout she, han' can' do

It is not always easy to back up your boast with the appropriate action


When yuh see a man fishing in a dry pond, don't call he a fool
Do not scoff at someone's actions if you do not know what he is doing


Yuh can' plant yam and reap eddoe

You are rewarded or punished for your actions


Yuh can' stop yuh ear from hearing but yuh can stop yuh mout from talking

A warning against repeating what one has heard


Yuh got more tricks dan a monkey

You are very clever


Yuh got plaster fuh evah sore

You have an answer for everything


Yuh don' buy cow when yuh can get free milk

Why bother to get married when you are already enjoying the privileges of married life


Yuh got tuh christen yuh own child before yuh can len' out de christening clothes

You must solve your own problems before trying to solve someone else's


Yuh can' be in de church an' de chapel too

You can't be in more than one place at the same time, so you can't know everything. It usually implies that you should mind your own business


Yuh can' want it in de glass and de bottle too

You can't have it both ways


Yuh can' put mangoose tuh watch chicken

Never trust people with things which will be a great temptation to them


Yuh head ain't mek fuh hat alone

You should always used your common sense


Yuh can't want it in de glass and in de bottle too

You just can't have it both ways


Yuh does rust out before yuh wuck out

Hard work can't kill you


Yuh could hide and buy ground but yuh can't hide and wuk it

It is impossible to hide your actions all the time