Top 10 Jamaican Patois Phrases You Should Know

10 Jamaican Patois Phrases

Are you planning to visit Jamaica on vacation soon? Do you have a new Jamaican friend in your hometown? If you want to make a great impression, learn a few patois phrases like these.

1 – Wah Gwaan or Whappen?

When you want to ask, “What’s up?” try one of these patois phrases. Unlike the general US greeting, people may expect an answer to this question. It’s more than hello, it’s how are you, what are you up to, what’s going on… So hit them back with an answer.

This Patois phrase was made popular globally a few years ago when then-President Barack Obama used it in a speech when visiting Jamaica. 

2 – Mi Deh Yah or Everything Criss

If you want to answer the first question (Wah Gwaan) with “Everything is good,” you can say one of these phrases instead. This is a great thing to say if an employee at a hotel, restaurant, or shop asks if you need anything else or extra help.

Just make sure you can pull off the attitude when you respond, because if you get it wrong, it’s going to sound like you’re confused more than happy. 

3 – Mi Soon Come

Are you hanging out with some new Jamaican friends but have to step away for a moment? This patois phrase generally means “I will be right back”, or “hang on a sec”. Maybe you’re going to the bathroom, or you’re stepping out to run to the store, then say mi soon come. 

If you do not intend to return, simply say ‘Likkle more’ or ‘Walk good’ instead of “See you later.” Either way, keep it breezy. 

4 – De Party Tun Up

The next morning when you meet up for a coffee, let people know you had fun with this sentence that means “The party was good!” Bonus points if you’re meeting for brunch the morning after. 

The closest English phrase would be that the party was “turnt up”. 

5 – Small Up Yuhself

Ever get into a bug or train and someone taking up too much space? Well, this Patois phrase is perfect for this situation. 

This is a clever way to tell people to move over or get out of the way. If you want to be more specific, add an ‘Ova deh’ while pointing over there. Just ask them to make themselves small…. small up yuhself. 

6 – Big Up or Respect

The word “Respect” means the same thing in US slang too. And truth be told, this phrase likely originated in the Caribbean and made it’s way into popular American culture. 

These are both phrases a Jamaican may use to let you know you did a great job with something. If you are not quite worthy of respect yet, your Jamaican friend may tell you to ‘Tun up de ting,’ which means to step up your game or try harder.

7 – Badmind

If you do something too well, however, you may hear this patois word. It means “jealous” and is not a compliment of any kind.

The phrase can be used to describe anything who is bitter, vengeful, resentful, spiteful, and malicious. The phrase is pretty descriptive… anyone harboring those feelings have a bad mind. 

8 – Mi Nuh Biznizz

This is the perfect phrase to encapsulate the island attitude. 

While literally translated as “I don’t care,” you could say it when something is not your business too. Avoid saying this to people who are talking with you and make sure you listen for it to make sure you are not boring anyone else.

9 – Jeezum Pees

When you hear this patois phrase, it clearly indicates that you surprised or shocked someone. The loose translation is “Oh my goodness” or OMG.

10 – Bredren or Sistren

These Jamaican patois words do not mean brother and sister as they seem to imply. Instead, these are the male and female versions of “friend.” If someone you met on holiday calls you one of these things, you know you made a great impression.

If you are new to patois phrases in Jamaica, you may find it difficult to understand what people are talking about. Although there are some similarities with English, helps to have a patois translation app on your phone or make friends with locals willing to help you understand.


South Florida Caribbean News

The SFLCN.com Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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