How to say love in Jamaican

15 Jamaican patois phrases to know

Jamaican patois, is expressive, colorful and, to a non-Jamaican, often confusing. The Jamaican language is largely derived from Spanish, English and African influences on the country through its colonial history. Although the official language of Jamaica is English, many Jamaicans use patois in everyday conversations. Here are 15 Jamaican patois phrases to know and use on your next visit to Jamaica.

'Small up yushelf'

Useful expression when using overcrowded buses or taxis. Small on itself literally means making some space.

Jamaican people wait for the bus | © Gabi Luka / Shutterstock

"I am coming soon"

This Jamaican expression literally means: I'll be right there. But if you're told I'm coming soon, don't be fooled. Time on the island is much slower than the rest of the world and this phrase should be interpreted to range from a few hours to a few days.

'Woe yuh ah see'

Literally translated as "What are you saying?" , but actually means "how are you". For example: Weh yuh a seh? Mi deh try call yuh means, "How are you? I tried to call you."

Jamaican man | © Craig F. Scott / Shutterstock

'Inna di morrows'

Used when saying goodbye. The literal translation would be "In the morning hours" which means "see you later".

"Duppy Conqueror"

Bob Marley sang about her in Duppy Conqueror and Ian Fleming mentioned her in Live and Let Die. In a country where superstition rules by day and duppies (ghosts) haunt the night, religion is more than just a prayer before you go to bed in Jamaica. This expression implies a fearless person who overcomes obstacles and difficulties. The literal translation is "conqueror of spirits".

Colonial Church in Jamaica | © KKulikov / Shutterstock

'Mash up'

This term means damage or destroy. For example, Mi mash up mi fone means "I broke my phone". This is a popular expression, and even street signs will advise drivers to put their brakes on. Meaning slow down.

'Bless Up'

Religion peppers all aspects of Jamaican life and wishes people a good day by using the term bless up. Blessings can also be used.

'Wah Gwaan'

Probably the most famous Jamaican greeting, this was even used by US President Barack Obama on his inaugural visit to Jamaica. Wah Gwaan is a casual greeting to find out what someone is like or what's going on.

'Mi deh yah, yuh know'

Impress locals with this handy phrase often used in response to Wah Gwaan. The secret is in the pronunciation, and the trick is to say it quickly - almost like a word. While the literal translation is "I'm here," the implied meaning is "everything is fine" or "I'm fine."

'Guzumba'

Guzumba means Obeah, which is similar to Haiti Voodoo and is the practice of black magic. Obeah men can still be found practicing this outlaw craft in Jamaica. An Obeah man can cast or break a spell, go into a shamanic trance or, as they say, even bring someone back from the dead.

Street performers in Falmouth, Jamaica | © Ozphotoguy / Shutterstock

'Lickkle more'

Meaning see 'you later' or 'goodbye'. For example, I see yuh likkle more den - I'll see you later.

Jamaican woman in St. Ann, Jamaica | © Yevgen Belich / Shutterstock

"John Crow, yuh waan flip a wing"

John-Crow is a Jamaican bird known throughout North America as the turkey buzzard. The phrase Yuh waan flap a wing, which dancehall fans will undoubtedly be familiar with, is a phrase used to make a girl dance.

'Chaka-Chaka'

When something is chaka-chaka, it means bad quality, disorganized and chaotic.

'Raggamuffin'

This is a term used to describe a street-going tough guy. It's also a type of music usually abbreviated as ragga, which is a sub-genre of dancehall music and reggae.

'Kick Up Rumpus'

Doing rumpus means having a jolly time. It was also the title of a hit 1985 song by Colourman and Jackie Knockshot.


Author: Bobby Schwartz

Bobby Schwartz is a 39 year old journalist. Free creator. Pop culture enthusiast. Wannabe Twitter guru. Coffee fanatic. Travel junkie. Incurable TV fan.