When planning a vacation in Jamaica, it’s a good idea to learn some of the phrases, sayings and slang Jamaican people use in their daily conversations.
Ideally, you should do this whenever you’re traveling to a destination where the locals speak differently than you. Learning a few Jamaican sayings will help you interact with local people and have more positive experiences as you travel. Even if you learn the local way to talk about simple things, like ordering from a menu, it can go a long way.
The idea doesn’t need to be to master the local language so you can speak it fluently. The effort you put into respecting the local way of speaking can come across as courteous to the local people you meet and interact with during your trip.
The fact that Jamaica’s official language is English means that English speaking visitors won’t have any problems communicating with the local people, in general. However, learning a few Jamaican Patois phrases will help you interact with and relate to the locals.
The literal translation of this Jamaican saying is, “What are you saying?”. The English translation of the phrase is “How are you doing?” At times the phrase can be shortened to “weh yaw seh.”
Picture: Heart shaped Over-The-Water Bungalows at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Boonoonoonoos is Jamaican slang for someone, or something you love. In plain English, it translates to "special person". When you have a loved one with you on vacation, you might want to refer to them as a "boonoonoonoos friend" to express your feelings. It is often used to refer to things or objects that you like as well.
When moving around and visiting different sites in Jamaica, you may need to board a bus or taxi. However, there are times when these are crowded and there’s inadequate space. This is where this Jamaican saying becomes useful. "Make room" is what the phrase means, and when you want to have some space so you can pass, it’s what you might want to say: “Small up yourself!”
If you listened to Former U.S.President Barack Obama’s speech when he visited Jamaica before the end of his second term, you may have heard him greet his audience using this Jamaican slang. It’s a casual greeting which means “What’s up?” or “How are you?”
The Jamaican saying "irie" is often used to mean "everything is alright and fine." Note that Jamaica has numerous sayings used to greet someone. When someone asks “How are you feeling?” or “How yuh stay?” an appropriate response would be, “Mi irie.”
If you want to use this phrase in Jamaica, you’ll have to learn to pronounce it properly and say it fast. That’s where the trick lies. You have to say it almost as one complete word. The expression is often used as a response to "wah gwaan, and it means "Everything is okay." It may also mean "I’m doing well."
Picture: Color party at Sandals Ochi - a vibrant all-inclusive resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Impress the locals with this Jamaican saying that is often used when greeting a friend. The phrase means “What are you up to?”, and it’s what you might want to say if you meet a local relaxing in the same all-inclusive resort as you.
"Mon" is a Jamaican word that’s particularly important to the locals and is often used when talking to anyone, whether it's a child or adult. The English translation for the Jamaican saying "ya mon" is “no problem” or “okay.” When someone offers you a rum runner, for example, you might want to say: “Ya mon!”
During your time on vacation in Jamaica, you’re sure to meet funny people who will make you laugh uncontrollably. Dying with laughter is what this Jamaican phrase means, and when you come across something funny, you’d want to say, mi dead wid laugh.
This is what you should say every time you part with your local tour guide - or favorite bartender, when you know you will see each other the next day. The Jamaican expression means see you tomorrow. Whenever you’re leaving, consider telling the other person, "Mi a leff, inna di morrows."
Picture: Guests can enjoy unlimited free drinks at the Over-The-Water Bar at Sandals South Coast in Jamaica.
After having a great time with the locals at the beach or any other place, it’s a good idea to show your appreciation for their time. That you appreciate something is what the phrase "inner luv" means, and when you’re happy about a particular service or moment in Jamaica, saying, “mi have inner luv fi your time” will leave the locals impressed.
While we're here, why not learn a few funny Jamaican slang phrases and sayings as well?
"Blabba mout" is an expression that’s often used to describe someone who talks too much. Chatterbox is the most common English translation of the phrase. “Talk and taste your tongue” is a funny Jamaican saying often used to mean “think before you speak.” “Every hoe have dem stik a bush” is the equivalent of “there’s someone out there for every person,” while “de olda de moon, de brighter it shines” is often used to mean “the older the person, the wise he or she is.”
In conclusion, it’s important to note that Jamaican slang and sayings are mainly based on the English language. The only difference lies in the use of grammar and pronunciation.
Now that you’ve learned and know some of the more common Jamaican phrases, it’s time you started meeting and interacting with the locals. You’ll get to learn more from the locals themselves as you have first-hand conversations.