Don’t let a Jamaican call you…



Butu, gyal clown, mowly, pretty-dunce– these are just a few of the (sometimes hilarious) terms that Jamaicans use to describe people unfavourably, and if any of them is directed at you, it means you might have gotten on our wrong side. Don’t know where that is? Let’s just say it’s somewhere you don’t want to be 🙂

Jamaica’s official language is English; however if you touch down in Jamrock on any given day you will hear most people talking in Patois, our colourful dialect that has an English base but a strong African influence. It’s a mix that has produced a very unique language that people of other countries love to imitate; and you know what? We don’t mind at all; we actually love to hear someone with a different accent talking in Patois.

Today, just for fun, I have compiled a list of terms that we use in Jamaica when we are upset with someone. I have intentionally left out the more colourful expressions- or what we call bad words- of the, ahem, textile variety, ha ha. Truth be told, we just might use some of these when we’re playfully messing around with someone who is close to us. I hope you try some of these out, bearing in mind that Patois isn’t even about correct pronunciation- it’s all about channeling the right attitude- that Jamaican vibez that we inject into everything we do.

If you’re a novice, use the comment box below to let me know how you did and which word/ phrase is your favourite, or if you need more examples and explanations. For all my Jamaican readers, let me know if I left any off the list. Respeck!


Bafhan’ (n)= person who is extremely clumsy/ clutzy

Bafhanded (adj)= used to describe a bafhan’ (see above)

Babylon (n/ adj)= Rastafarian term for the police; anyone/ anything that is of the Babylon system (i.e. anything that’s not Rastafarian)

Beggy-beggy (adj.) = loves to beg

Bright (adj)= out of order (eg. Yuh bright an’ feisty!); bright is also used positively to describe a very intelligent person.

Butu (n)= person who is beyond dumb (see dark below)

Chatty-Chatty (adj)= very talkative

Krassis i.e. Crosses (n)= problems, woes, troubles, calamity (eg. Wah kina krassis dis?)

Cruff (n)= person who doesn’t try to develop any type of skill; lazy person, person who doesn’t want to work (see wukliss below)

Dark (adj)= illiterate; uncultured (eg. Yuh too dark an’ fool-fool)

Eedi-boo (n)= idiotic/ stupid person (eg. Whappen to you eedi-boo?)

Fool-Fool (adj)= no explanation needed 🙂

Force ripe (adj.)= used to describe a child who acts like an adult

Gyal Clown (n)= man who is easily manipulated by women

Green (adj)= extremely offensive underarm odour

Heng pon nail (n) = lol, I honestly don’t know how to describe this one but it’s basically used for someone who doesn’t even deserve your attention

Johncrow= extremely repulsive person (johncrow= vulture)

Labba-Labba (adj)= loves to talk (see chatty chatty above)

Liad (n)= liar

Lickey-Lickey (adj)= greedy (for food and material things)

Maama man (n)= man who behaves effeminately- he watches, talks and complains about everything.

Mowly i.e. Moldy (adj)= smelly, musky

Nyammi-Nyammi (adj)= greedy, loves to eat (nyam= eat)

Old wicked/ old tief/ old murderer/ old criminal/ anything preceded by the word “old”= old in this sense has nothing to do with age, it’s simply used to exaggerate the quality in the person described

Pissin’ tail bwoy/ gyal (n)= person (mostly child) who has passed his her place. The term alludes to a child who still pees his/ her bed.

Pretty-Dunce (n)= female who has beauty without brains

Renk i.e. Rank (adj.)= smelly, as in smelling of pee; sometimes used to describe someone who is out of order/ who has crossed the line. (eg. How yuh so renk?)

Ripe (adj)= used to describe something or someone that’s smelly BUT in a case where the smell has really fermented 🙂

Sketel (n)= woman with loose morals; promiscuous female

Sloppy tidy (adj.)= extremely unkempt (mostly female); describes a person who does not care about personal hygiene/ looks at all

 Wukliss (adj)= worthless (eg. What a likkle bwoy wukliss!)



5 responses to “Don’t let a Jamaican call you…

  1. Hi, Is there a difference between Jamaican, Bajan, or Trinidadian English? What about the Guyanese? Tell me, would there be a difference between calling Jamaican Creole, Jamaican English? The English speaking people of the Caribbean are native English speakers and English is the most important language in the world.

    I live in London where there are a variety of native English accents, Cockney, Irish, West Indian, Geordie etc.. (in England, being West Indain still pays homage to the great West Indian cricket team’s of the 70’s/80’s who revolutionised cricket!).

    The strength of the English speaking Caribbean relies on it’s shared history, heritage and continued unity… linguistically, politically and culturally… The notion of one people goes well beyond the social and political construction of one nation…

    Love and peace from London…

    I look forweard to a response.


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