50 Jamaican Patois Words and Phrases

Welcome to the vibrant, rhythmic language of Jamaica – Patois. In this guide, we’ll traverse through 50 common Jamaican Patois words and phrases that are as colorful as the island’s rich culture and history. These jamaican expression, infused with the island’s unique spirit, offer more than just a linguistic exploration.

Jamaican Patois words and phrases are popular throughout the island of Jamaica | David's Been Here

They provide a glimpse into the heart of the island, its people, and their captivating way of life. Prepare yourself to embark on a linguistic journey that’s as spicy and flavorful as a pot of Jamaican jerk chicken. Whether you’re a language enthusiast or preparing for a trip to this Caribbean paradise, this guide will have you chatting like a local in no time.

Jamaican Patois is much more than just "broken English" and is a dialect spoken among Jamaicans around the world | David's Been Here

Get ready to delve into the colorful world of Patois, where every word is a melody, and every phrase is a testament to the island’s remarkable cultural tapestry. We’re going to embolden your conversations with a dash of reggae vibes, Jamaican warmth, and Patois charm! Let’s dive in, exploring some Jamaican sayings, “mek wi begin!”

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What is Jamaican Patois?

Jamaican Patois, also known as Patwa, Creole, Jamaican Creole or Jamaican slang is a language primarily spoken in Jamaica and among the Jamaican diaspora. It’s much more than just “broken English,” as some may describe it. Jamaican Patois is an English-based Creole language with West African influences. It combines elements from colonial languages like English, Spanish, and Portuguese, with Akan, a language spoken in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

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Much like the local food, Patois is vibrant and colorful and reflects the heritage of Jamaica | David's Been Here

Patois is not a written language or Jamaica’s official language. It is primarily used in informal settings like everyday conversations, music, and literature to capture the vibrant and unique culture of Jamaica. Despite its widespread use, it is not officially recognized, and English remains the official language of Jamaica. But you’ll hear it everywhere in Jamaica! Let’s dive into the 20 jamaican patois phrases and words (and their translations) you must learn before visiting the island!

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50 Jamaican Patois Words and Phrases

Let's learn some Jamaican Patois words and phrases | David's Been Here
  1. Wah gwaan – What’s going on? ( casual greeting)
  2. Everyting criss – Everything is okay
  3. Irie – Cool/okay/nice
  4. Mi love yuh – I love you
  5. Nyam – To eat
  6. Earthstrong – Birthday (typically used by men to wish male friends a happy birthday)
  7. Broughtupsy – Manners
  8. Butu – Someone who lacks manners
  9. Stush – Someone who is not humble or down to earth
  10. Bangarang – Trouble or a disturbance
  11. Zimmi – Do you understand me? (often used to punctuate discussions, similar to “you know?” in English)
  12. Mi soon come – I’ll be right back
  13. Jamrock/Jamdown/Yard – Jamaica
  14. Yardie/Yard Man – a Jamaican person
  15. Pickney – a kid or child
  16. Mawga – small/scrawny
  17. Plekkeh-plekkeh/plakka-plakka – Soggy
  18. Chakka-chakka – Messy/disorganized
  19. Suss – Gossip/rumors
  20. Pretty dunce – a dumb woman
  21. Foo-fool – Foolish
  22. Bredren – a male Jamaican friend
  23. Sistren – a female friend
  24. Mampy – an obese person
  25. Maa-Ma Man – a lazy man/man who is stingy in relationships
  26. Joe Grind – a woman’s male sidepiece
  27. Gyalis – a ladies man
  28. Zutupeng – an insult reserved for people, typically men, that you dislike
  29. Dry land tourist – a Jamaican person who pretends to be cultured
  30. Wash belly – the youngest child in a family
  31. Dash weh – to throw something away
  32. Pyaaw-Pyaaw – Weak or unappealing
  33. Fenke-fenke – Weak
  34. Tallawah – Brave/strong
  35. Mi deh yah – I am here
  36. Mi nuh know – I don’t know
  37. Mi feel irie – I feel good
  38. Mi a guh – I will go
  39. Mi nuh care – I don’t care
  40. Mi tired – I’m tired
  41. Mi soon reach – I’ll be there soon
  42. Mi hungry – I’m hungry
  43. Mi nah – I’m not
  44. Mi madda – My mother
  45. Mi mout nuh licence wid church – My mouth is not licensed with a church
  46. Brawta – Getting something extra
  47. Pree – to think about something/to watch something closely
  48. From mi eye de a mi knee – Since I was a kid
  49. Weh yuh deh – Where are you?
  50. Likkle more – See you later
  51. Deh pon di beach – I’m at the beach
  52. Dead wid Laugh – Dead wid laugh means “I’m laughing really hard”
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Learn more words and phrases

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg regarding Patois words and phrases. As you can see, they range from serious to funny to straight-up insults! I heard many of these phrases when I visited the island in July of 2023, which made me want to learn even more.

Learning some basic Jamaican Patois words can help you communicate with locals on the island | David's Been Here

I hope this guide helps you the next time you visit Jamaica. And if you speak Jamaican Patois, please drop some more phrases and their translations in the comments below!

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