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.

Lipstick, perfume and other casmetics on sale!

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.

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
Gallawas Galliwasp
John Crow Vulture
Patoo Owl
Peenywally Firefly
Ratbat Bat
Roses Flower(s)
Swims/Swimps Shrimps

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!





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Other Great Pages

History of Jamaica

Christmas in Jamaica

Christmas in Jamaica

Jamaican Animals

Jamaican Animals

Jamaican People

Jamaica People

Jamaican Climate

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