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Things Jamaicans Say
Words & Phrases To Prepare You For Your Trip

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Things Jamaicans SayThings Jamaicans Say

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

Food is a delicious place to begin learning about Jamaica, and there is no sweeter introduction than Jamaican snacks and desserts. We have had many delicious creations over the years, all credited to the unique blend of ethnic backgrounds found on the island.


New! For Authentic Jamaican products, from my very own handsvisit my Etsy store here.


These are some of our favourite Jamaican snacks and desserts on the island:

Jamaicans are always coming up with new words to express themselves, what are the most popular things Jamaicans say?

Jamaicans are known for the words and phrases they come up with. Patois plus a rich and diverse culture leads us to multiple new words and phrases to express the way you feel, whether it is happiness, excitement, anger or whatever else. But of all the Jamaican words, what are our favourite things to say? This is it!

  1. Wa gwaan - Let’s start simple, I’m sure you know this one. In more common terms it is used as a greeting or “hail” and simply translates to “what’s up” or “what’s happening”. However, it can also be used to voice suspicion or confusion, in which case you’ll try to find out “wa gwaan?”

  2. Mi deh ya - The most common answer to “wa gwaan” is “mi deh ya” which means, “I’m here”, “I’m ok” or “I’m good”. Nothing na gwann could mean the same thing, or in the case of finances, it could mean “I am broke”.

  3. A wa dis - “A wa dis?” is simply, “what is this?”, often asked when someone gives something to you that you aren’t sure about. A wa dis is also used to express disbelief. “A wa dis!”. In this case, you aren’t asking a question, you are very much aware of what is happening, but it might be so ludicrous that they just ask it as a rhetorical question.

  4. If a dirt, a dirt - Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be - the same concept. Lots of people take to the saying which means you’ve accepted the consequences of your actions and you are ready for whatever happens.

  5. Anything a anything - Similarly “anything a anything” also means you’ve accepted the consequences and will deal with them later, but for now you will do what you must (these words are often used in a fight setting).

    But oddly enough, anything a anything may also mean, you have no preference between two things, whichever goes you are fine with the choice either way.

  6. Yuh a crassiss - “You are a problem!” is maybe a kinder way to say this but it expresses the same feeling. It can be used in many contexts, from parents to children and between friends are usually the two ways that you can use the phrase. It is not always said affectionately. Sometimes it is said with a long-suffering expression or shouted in anger or frustration.

  7. Mi spirit nuh take you - There is something about a Jamaican’s spirit, that warns them about people from the very first instant they meet, and more often than not, they are right. Mostly though, I think it’s just a nice way to say you aren’t particularly fond of someone.

  8. Cya mek blood/dust out a stone - You can’t do any better with the situations you have.

  9. “Brawlin” - This has two meanings. In one instance it is used to describe a vulgar person the other, describes the way you are going to do something, if you plan to be extravagant, then you’ll be doing it “brawlin”

  10. “You know the vibes/You know the Shrwepps” - Either one can be used to say you already know what is going to happen. Or put differently this is what usually happens.

  11. Ray tay tay - Just a filler in a conversation, like “X,Y,Z”

  12. Respect - “Respec” is a greeting that was originally used by the Rastafarians but, it quickly caught on to the entire population. It also means hello but a more “respectful” hello than “wa gwaan”.

  13. Braffing - “Braff we a braff”, “braffings” same thing. if you are in the company of a Jamaican and you hear these words, be prepared to spend an obscene amount of money, usually in a very braggadocious manner. This is usually for fun, entertainment or food.

  14. Everything a everything - “Everything is everything” means all is well or you’re welcome. It is often used in response to someone showing you gratitude for something you did.
  15. “Nawmal, a lie” - I am trying to translate this to English but I am stuck, the literal translation is “Normal, a lie?”. Anyways, it means this happens normally. It is asked in the form of a question as you are seeking confirmation (but not really). The person you are speaking to will seh “neva lie” or never tell a lie in response. Which means “no you didn’t lie”.
  16. “Fully dunce” - If a person is not very street smart, or sometimes academically as well, the person is called “fully dunce”.

  17. Choppa - It is no secret that scamming is quite prevalent in Jamaica. A choppa is a person who scams. And so to “chop the line” is the act of scamming.

  18. Rhatid - To show excitement or shock, this is similar to Mi Rahh.

  19. Bun - The act of cheating is called bun in Jamaica. Also, if someone does something aggravating, you might say, “it bun mi fi yuh”. But I think you would like the Jamaican bun (snack) better, it’s delicious.

  20. Mi guh so, boom - The beginning of a very interesting story being told by a Jamaican, there is no telling where this could go.

  21. Dem Dead - No, not literal death, we will get into those shortly. Dem dead means to put someone to shame or to outdo someone. It can be used if you won an argument or if you’ve done something better than others. Friends usually use it to hype up a friend, especially if they have dressed well or achieved something significant.

  22. Worlian - This one is popular among the Christian denominations and is used to describe an unbaptised person who is still “of the world”

  23. Small up yuhself - The absolute last thing you want to hear on a taxi. It usually means the car was full two persons ago, but the driver is insisting on adding another passenger and therefore requires that you try to scoot over so they can fit.

  24. Touch dung - If you’ve ever been to Jamaica, then you’ve done this without even knowing. Don’t worry it isn’t something bad. When Jamaicans have travelled overseas and finally make it bake home, this is what they call the landing. The conversation with their friends will go something like “ yeah man, mi just touch dung”.

  25. Trouble deh deh - A warning that danger is imminent. But it is hardly ever anything detrimental. If a man is flirting with a woman who is known to cause problems, then his friends might say, “trouble deh deh” to alert him of the fact.

  26. Drop out - used when telling someone that another person has passed on.

  27. Dead lef - the worst thing you can give a Jamaican is hand-me-downs from a deceased person. Family and friends who have rows when it comes time to split the items left behind when someone has died are said to be “fighting over dead lef”.

    Less tastefully, the small children of persons who have passed away, are called dead lef (rather than orphans) as well.

  28. Barrel pickney - A barrel pickney is a child whose parent or parents live abroad and sends items including clothes, school supplies and food for their child in barrels to Jamaica.

  29. Do road - To go out, usually to parties or on fun adventures. You can also give your friends a gauge as to just how much you will be doing on the trip or how much you plan to go out over a period of time, to do road rough or to handle the “road rough” means you will be doing quite a bit of partying/outings usually over a short period.

  30. Festive/ Buzzy - Both have the same meaning. Either the party is going well or the situation or outfit is very interesting.

  31. Goodie/Goodaz/Goodz - An attractive woman. Many Jamaicans use it as a term of endearment or empowerment amongst themselves, and if your outfit does not garner at least one “Yes, goodie!”, then it’s best you change to something else.

  32. Mi na look nobody - The Jamaican who says this didn't put much effort into their appearance that day and find comfort in these words as they are not going out with the intent to draw attention to themselves that day.

  33. Bleach - Bleaching has two meanings. It is the process of lighting one's skin or in Jamaica, it also means staying up all night.

  34. Wash belly - a mother’s last child is the wash belly. These children, no matter how old they get, will be spoilt, especially if there is a considerable age gap between them and their older siblings.

  35. Big man ting/Big woman ting - They can be used interchangeably by both genders as they both convey the same thing. This can either mean “I am very serious” or “are you serious?”

  36. Bill - to relax. If you are having a relaxing day at home, you could tell your friends that “mi just a bill back today” or, if there is a dispute and you need people to calm down, you can say “just bill”.

  37. Shell - It shell or shellings means we had a great time or we will have a great time.

  38. Earthstrong - This was made popular by the Rastafarians and is used to replace the term birthday.

  39. Cho - a simple but effective way to make your annoyance, frustration or indifference known.

  40. Brawta - A little extra. Jamaicans love this so if you bought 6 mangoes you may get/ask for a brawta. You could get one more.

  41. Jacket - A jacket, is a child who has not been given to another man rather than to his biological father. The man who is named the father is said to have been given a jacket. Usually, only the mother and keen-eyed family/friends are aware of this. The child and father are usually the last to know.

  42. Jah Know - Another phrase popularised by the Rastafarians, It simply translates to “God Knows”. However it has more than one meaning, it can convey shock or seriousness.

  43. Fayvah - To be comparable to. Persons who look similar to a family member hear this quite often. It can also be used as an insult when if a person says “you fayvah idiot” (you look like an idiot).

  44. You see the pree - Do you understand?

  45. Deh suh it deh - The literal translation is “that is where it is at” and, it can be used for exactly that. However, it can also be used when updating someone on life events, usually when they aren’t going well, in which case “a deh suh it deh” or, “a suh it set’ is used.

  46. Soon faawud - I’ll be there soon. Usually, the person will not in fact, be there soon. You might not see them at all

  47. Mi wi mek you know - If you pitch something to a Jamaican, a sure way to know whether they are interested or not is whether they utter this phrase or not. If they do, don’t hold your breath. Be wary of “Mi wi link you” as well.

  48. Hol’ it dung - I’m going to tell you something but don’t tell anyone or I am going to show you something, don’t make it obvious. Contrastingly, to “loud up the thing” is to let everyone know what we are discussing or to share plans prematurely.

  49. Frass - You have partaken in Jamaican rum or marijuana and now the effects are setting in.

  50. Trace - Jamaican women are often caught in a heated exchange of words or a spirited conversation filled with colourful words, this is called a trace.

  51. Hol’ a medz - To take time and think or reflect on something that has happened. It is also used to describe having a smoke.

  52. Bringle - To make or get someone bringle, is to get to the final level of anger, this might lead to a heated exchange at the bare minimum.

  53. U zeemi - The literal translation would be “do you see me” but that isn’t what it means. “U zeemi” means “do you understand what I’m saying?”

  54. Brinks - You might know Brinks as the armoured truck bringing money from businesses to banks or vice versa. We have those similar trucks operated by other companies here too. However, here on the island, Brinks refers to a person who is very well off financially and willingly supports his side chick/s’ lifestyle.

  55. Babylon - The Rastafarians also loaned us this word. Any governmental system or person representing it can be referred to as Babylon. Though it usually is used when talking about police officers in most cases. If you know about Babylon mentioned in the Bible, then you will understand the analogy.

  56. Jesam Piece/Jesus Piece/Almytious Piece/Sas Christ - All variations of these phrases mean Jesus Christ. They can be used to express shock, sadness, excitement or happiness.

  57. Big up yourself - This can be used as a greeting or to congratulate someone on recent successes.

  58. Robot - An illegal taxi. Easily identified by the absence of a red licence plate on the vehicle.

  59. Sheg up - This can describe an unfortunate situation or a person who selfishly did something to benefit only them.

  60. Sweet talk - A Jamaican man trying to woo his way into a relationship with a woman.

  61. Salt - An unlucky person. If your life seems to be a series of unfortunate events you are “salt’. And someone may say you need to visit a river to wash the saltness away.

  62. Bait up the thing - To expose plans prematurely to persons who might try to thwart said plans or to set up failures for someone else.

For many of these Jamaican words and phrases, there are no clear ways to translate them. And again, for most, they can be used to convey more than one emotion depending on the tone that is used. How many of these did you already know?

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References & Sources For Things Jamaicans Say?

  1. Jamaican Language and Words, https://www.my-island-jamaica.com/jamaican-language-and-words.html
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