18 Essential Jamaican Patois Phrases & Sayings You Should Know

Located down south in the Caribbean, Jamaica makes a fantastic spot for your much-awaited vacation. While the sound of waves at beaches and reggae music ring in your ears as soothing as you can imagine them to be, the use of patois phrases in Jamaican may sound strange to any non-speaker. These sayings are a part of the colloquial language used to interact with the locals. Here are a few Jamaican patois phrases you can use on your dream Caribbean holiday.


Meaning: This Jamaican slang is used to refer to a special someone.  

Use: If you’re on a trip to Jamaica with your loved one, this expression will come in handy, and you can call your boo ‘Boonoonoonoos friend’ and shoot your shot. When in Jamaica, do it the Jamaican way! 

Small up yuhself 

Meaning: This is the Jamaican equivalent of ‘make room’ or ‘make space’.  

Use: When people need space to move and pass, this phrase is used. Whether you’re stuck in a crowded bus or are struggling to walk and need some space in the crowd, this phrase will come to your rescue.  


Meaning: This phrase means ‘everything will be fine’.  

'Jump On In', Jamaica, Negril, Ricks Cafe Sunset

Use: Apart from the food, music, and serene locations, the island is well-known for its diverse patois phrases, and there are plenty of them used for greeting people around. This expression acts as a perfect reply when one is asked, “How yuh stay”.  

Weh Yuh Ah Seh

Meaning: Although it translates to “what are you saying”. 

Use: This expression is used to ask, “how are you doing?” If Joey from Friends visited Jamaica and wanted to use his iconic line, he would have to say, “Weh yuh ah seh”. This Jamaican phrase can be further shortened to “weh yaw seh”.  

Mash Up 

Meaning: This word from the Jamaican phrases dictionary refers to damaging or destroying.  

Use: In case you need to tell the locals about you breaking the phone, say “mi mash up mi fone”. If seen on road signs as “mash up yuh breaks”, it means to slow down.  

Duppy Conqueror 

Meaning: This phrase translates as ‘ghost conqueror’.   

Use: Remember the Bob Marley song that goes like “yes mi friend..”? Or the novel Live and Let Die by British author Ian Fleming? Both these references use one word in common — Dumpy Conqueror. This is used to describe a  fearless soul that overcomes all challenges.  

Wah Gwaan 

Meaning: An expression that acts as an alternative for “what’s up”.  

Use: In fact, this expression was used by the former US President Barrack Obama on his official trip to Jamaica. If you had heard his speech, you would definitely be aware of this one. It is a perfect word to crack a conversation with the local folks. 

Weh Yuh Deh Pon 

Meaning: This phrase translates to “What are you up to”! Like most other patois phrases, this one, too, is used casually to catch up with locals.  

Use: When you’re planning your trip or preparing its itinerary, you can ask yourself, “Weh Yuh Deh Pon”. 


Meaning: It is the form of black magic that is still in practice.  

Use: Similar to Haiti’s Voodoo, Guzumba to Obeah, a form of black magic still in practice. Jamaica being an extremely religious country, people still believes in supernatural powers. As the sayings go, Obeah men continue to behold powers to cast and break a spell and even bring back the dead.  

Mi Deh Yah, Yuh Know 

Meaning: Although this popular saying means “I am here”, it is used to convey “I’m doing well” or “everything will be fine”.  

Painted house in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. (33032978752).jpg
By Ralf Steinberger, CC BY 2.0, Link

Use: This Jamaican slang also works as a reply to ‘Wah Gwaan’. Of all the Jamaican patois phrases that you will come across, this one might be tricky. So say it in one quick go, like “Mi Deh, Yuh Know”.  

John-crow, yuh waan flap a wing 

Meaning: The turkey buzzard, as it is known in North America, is called the ‘john-crow’ in Jamaica.

Use: This word is used to ask out a girl for a dance. After you have said ‘Boonoonoonoos’ to your bae, you know which one among the many phrases to use! 

Ya Mon 

Meaning: It means “alright”, “okay”, or “no problem”. This is one of the most common phrases you will come across.  

Use: In the set of Jamaican phrases, the term ‘mon’ is important for the local people and can be used while talking to both adults and kids.  


Meaning: This phrase literally translates to street smart.  

Downtown Kingston Jamaica is quiet as people fear gun battles between the people protecting so-called don man Dudus and the police

Use: If you wish to talk about a tough boy who is also street smart, someone similar to Noah Jr. from The Notebook, this is the Jamaican slang you should use. It is also a subgenre of reggae music that comes from the Carribean Island. 


Meaning: This patois phrase is an adjective used to refer to something that seems of bad quality, unpleasant, and is disorganized. 

Use: If you have any complaints to make to the locals or your place of stay, this is the one to go for.  

Dead Wid Laugh 

Meaning: If you wish to appreciate someone’s humor or find something extremely funny, this exaggerated expression means “I’m dead with laughter”.  

Use: Using “Mi dead wid laugh” would be the ‘Jamaican phrases version’ for a laugh out loud.  

Kick up Rumpus 

Meaning: This word means to have a riotous time.  

Use: Have you heard of the popular reggae song by Colourman And Jackie Knock Shot that was released back in 1985 and was titled ‘Kick up Rumpus’? This term can be used when you have a riotous good time.  

Inner Lev 

Meaning: This expression means to show admiration for the place and people around you.  

Use: If you wish to appreciate your stay or the people you met there, sayings like “Mi have inner luv fi your time” will convey your appreciation for the experience you enjoyed.  

Inna Di Moros 

Meaning:  If you say “Mi a leff, inna di moros” it indicates “see you tomorrow”.  

Use: So far, you already know the ways to greet, but what about saying goodbye? Along with the alternatives for “hello, how are you”, the language has words used while bidding adieu, as well. Yes, this is the one. 

Now that you have a list of essential phrases to take along with on your trip to Jamaica, interacting with the locals will be easier than you can imagine. Be it a greeting or a goodbye, you know it all!