A proverb is a saying that gives advice in an obscure way. The following Chamorro proverbs represent the values of the Mariana Islands and the Chamorro people. They are listed with the original Chamorro saying, its literal translation and the message being conveyed.
1. Munga mañuha ni ti gigao-mu.
Literal translation: Don’t remove the catch from a trap that isn’t yours.
Meaning: Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you.
2. Mientras mas meggai libetta-ña, mas meggai babå-ña.
Literal translation: While one has more free time, one has more foolery.
Meaning: It’s easy to find yourself engaging in mischief when you don’t have anything better to do. This is similar to the English proverb Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, which basically advocates for engaging yourself in some occupation so that the devil always finds you busy and less vulnerable to temptation.
3. Facho’cho’ ya un chochu.
Literal translation: Work and you will eat.
Meaning: This is pretty self-explanatory. Work and you will never be hungry. Similar sayings in English are hard work pays off or even no pain, no gain.
4. Un nota na tentasion nahong rason.
Literal translation: A hint of temptation is reason enough.
Meaning: Don’t allow yourself to be tempted to do something you don’t want to or shouldn’t do.
5. Maolekña manggågåo ya ti manå’i, ki manå’i ya ti ma’agradesi.
Literal translation: It is better that someone asks and it is refused than it be given and not appreciated.
Meaning: It is not as disappointing to see someone being refused something they’ve asked for than to see someone get what they ask for and not appreciate it.
6. An meggai sinangan-mu, meggai dinagi-mu.
Literal translation: The more you say, the more you lie.
Meaning: Great talker, great liar. When someone is a smooth talker, then they are probably a quicker liar.
7. Chagi ya munga madagi.
Literal translation: Try it and you will not be lied to.
Meaning: Experience is the best teacher. No one can trick or lie to you about something you’re familiar with.
8. Guse’ña un gacha’ un dakun ki un kohu.
Literal translation: You are more likely to catch a liar than a cripple.
Meaning: Liars always get caught. This comes straight from the Spanish proverb Antes se coge a un mentiroso que a un cojo, the liar is sooner caught than the cripple.
9. Munga mañaluda nu i ti tihong-mu.
Literal translation: Don’t greet someone with a hat that doesn’t belong to you.
Meaning: Do not give away what is not yours to give. This could also be interpreted as “do not take credit for something that isn’t yours”. This act of greeting someone with a hat is a reference to the Western gesture of tipping or doffing one’s hat by men to show respect to or greet someone.
10. I mesngon i manggånna.
Literal translation: The one who can endure will be the winner.
Meaning: Anyone who perseveres will always end up winning in the end. There’s a similar Latin phrase “Vincit Qui Patitur”, which translates to ‘he conquers who endures’.
11. Sångan i guaguan.
Literal translation: Speak what is valuable.
Meaning: The word guaguan is usually understood as expensive or costly, but in this context, it can be understood as valuable. In other words, let your words be worth something.
12. Ti mamaigo’ si Yu’us.
Literal translation: God does not sleep.
Meaning: Don’t forget this if you ever think of doing something bad. God is always watching. There are quite a few references to God being eternally awake in the Bible, so it’s no surprise that this has made its way into Chamorro’s everyday speech.
13. Todu gusto, siempre disgusto.
Literal translation: All pleasures will become displeasures.
Meaning: Like the saying “Too much of a good thing”, an excessive amount of something enjoyable will make you sick or will eventually be the source of your displeasure.