Jamaican Language
Powerful, Colourful, Expressive

Trying to get a grasp of Jamaican language is a challenge which many visitors to our island attack with gusto, much to our entertainment. Yeah mon!

It's hard to sound like a Jamaican unless you've lived here for many years, and even then it's dicey.

But you don't have to worry about communicating, English is our official language and we do understand when it is spoken to us. We just don't always speak it back!

Whether you call it Jamaican English, Jamaican Dialect or Jamaican Patois, Jamaican language is engaging, expressive and entertaining.

As you can see from the sign below, we also tend to write words as we pronounce them.

Interested in Jamaican proverbs? Click here.

Here are some Jamaican words in common use, which I've tried to divide into categories. There are many, many more expressions in the Jamaican language than I can write about.

Jamaican Language - Exclamations

  • Backfoot! Expression of surprise
  • Blouse an skirt! Expression of surprise or wonder
  • Ca ca faat! Expression of surprise (incredulous)
  • Cho/Cho man Expression of annoyance or frustration
  • Gweh! Go away!
  • Kiss mi neck! Expression of surprise or wonder
  • Ku deh! Look at that!
  • Move frah ya! Get out of here!
  • Massi mi Gad/Lawd a massi! Lord have mercy!
  • Rahtid! Expression of surprise
  • Tan deh! Stay there (sarcastic)

Terms of Address

  • Auntie Aunt, or any female of childbearing age
  • Bona fide Good friend
  • Bredren A male friend, or any adult male
  • Empress Adult female
  • Daddy A father figure, or any older male
  • Granma/Granpa Grandparents, or any elderly person
  • Mommy/Mammy A mother figure, or any woman of chilbearing age
  • Missa/Miss Chin Chinese, Japanese or anyone resembling them
  • Princess Adult or teenage female
  • Ras Rastaman
  • Sistren Female friend, or any adult female
  • Soldier Young adult male
  • Uncle Used to address an uncle, or any mature male

Describing People

  • Bang belly Big bellied
  • Batty man Homosexual male
  • Browning Brown skinned woman (as opposed to really dark skin)
  • Big and So-So Big-bodied and lazy
  • Bruk-pocket Broke, someone who has no money
  • Coolie Of East Indian extraction (may be offensive to some people)
  • Cry-cry Easily upset, cries a lot
  • Dundus Albino
  • Facety Feisty, saucy
  • Fatta/Fatty boom boom A fat person
  • Fenkeh-fenkeh Weak
  • Fluxy Flaccid, squooshy
  • Fool-fool Stupid
  • Force ripe Unnaturally mature - often used to describe young girls, or fruit picked too early
  • Fraidy-fraidy Cowardly
  • Frowsy Bad smelling
  • Ginnal Trickster/dishonest person
  • Gravalicious Always wanting something/greedy
  • Green arm Having a bad body odour
  • Kumoochin Stingy, mean
  • Langu-laa-la Tall and skinny
  • Licky licky A suck up/greedy
  • Lenky Lanky
  • Lyad Liar
  • Maama man Homosexual male
  • Mampy A large woman
  • Mawga Thin, meagre
  • Neva si come si Someone not yet used to wealth or prosperity
  • Pretty hair Naturally straight or curly hair, not kinky
  • Round Curvacuos/sexy (applies to women)
  • Salt Unlucky
  • Skettel Woman who looks loose/behaves loosely
  • Sneaking Sneaky, underhanded
  • Tooku tooku Short and squat
  • Trying Someone who works hard (e.g a trying girl)
  • White liver Nymphomaniac
  • Wukliss Worthless

Body Parts

  • Bumper/Batty Backside
  • Cubbitch hole Depression at nape of neck - depth tells how mean you are
  • Ears corner Area behind the ear
  • Farrid Forehead
  • Foot Leg, or any part of it
  • Foot bottom Sole of the foot
  • Hand Arm, or any part of it
  • Hand middle Palm
  • Head top Crown of head
  • Nose hole Nostril

Food

  • Bickle Food
  • Cliding Cloying (e.g. Di cake nice, but it cliding)
  • Craven Greedy
  • Eat good Tastes nice (e.g. Di bread eat good.)
  • Food/Hard Food Yam,potatoes,dumplings etc.
  • Fresh Not having enough sugar or salt (e.g. Dis drinks too fresh)
  • Ital Natural/Containing no salt/Containing no meat
  • Junjo Mould
  • Long Watery (used to describe drinks or soup)
  • Long Belly Very greedy
  • Moreish So good you want more
  • Mutton Goat meat
  • Niggeritis/Naygaritis Feeling of sleepiness after eating
  • Nyam Eat/Eat a lot (e.g. Dat man can nyam!)
  • PawPaw Papaya
  • Pear Avocado
  • Raw Smelling or tasting like eggs, fish or raw meat
  • Ride Cause indigestion (e.g Di stew peas will ride mi if mi eat too late!)
  • Sleep up Coagulate (e.g. What a way di gravy sleep up)

Animals/Nature

  • Alligetta Crocodile, alligator
  • Anansi Spider
  • Bat Moth
  • Bud Bird
  • Cricket Croaking lizard/cricket
  • Cubby Young donkey
  • Dawg Dog
  • Flowers/Flowers plant Plant
  • Forty leg  Centipede
  • Gallawas Galliwasp
  • John Crow Vulture
  • Patoo Owl
  • Peenywally Firefly
  • Ratbat Bat
  • Roses Flower(s)
  • Swims/Swimps Shrimps

Jamaican language - General Words

  • Brawta Extra
  • Bringle Get angry
  • Bruk Break/Broke
  • Bun Infidelity to a sexual partner (Gi bun - you are being unfaithful; Get bun - your partner is being unfaithful to you)
  • Crawp Scrape
  • Crawses (crosses) A problematic situation/someone who causes problems
  • Deh There/Is/Are (See it deh - see it there; Whe she deh? - where is she?)
  • Duppy Ghost
  • Dung Down
  • Dutty Dirty
  • Ganja Marijuana
  • Gwaan Go on
  • Jook Poke, stick
  • Macca Thorn
  • Memba Remember
  • Nah Not (She nah come - she's not coming)
  • Pickney Child
  • Sake a Because
  • Sensi/ Sensemelia Marijuana
  • Shuub Shove
  • Spliff Rolled marijuana joint
  • Strive Thrive
  • Tek Take
  • Wuk Work
  • Yah Here (Come yah - come here)
  • These are a few of the many established words in the Jamaican language. There are also many unique Jamaican phrases which perfectly can sum up a situation or an express an opinion or emotion.

    For newer Jamaican slang, click here. And just so you know, any expression ending with the word claat (cloth) is very, very impolite. I hope you enjoy the lingo!



    Return from Jamaican Language to Real Jamaica Vacations

    Other Great Pages

    History of Jamaica

    Christmas in Jamaica

    Jamaican Animals

    Jamaica People

    Jamaican Climate 



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