What Is Jamaican Patwa?

Jamaican Patwa, is known locally as Patois (Patwa or Patwah) is an English-based creole language with West African influences. It is spoken primarily in Jamaica and the Jamaican diaspora. Additionally, it is called Jamaican Creole by linguists.

Jamaican Patwa / Patois refers to the local dialect – a rough form of speech that developed back from the 17th century. Slaves turned the slaveholders dialect and vernacular on its head, forming their own language.

It sounds like English, but is not fully-formed due to Jamaican pronunciation and vocabulary are significantly different. Yes – there’s a lot of English derivatives and words, but mix it all up with West Africa’s creole and pidgin languages – and you get some idea.

So – now it’s the new school term, we’re taking a brief look at the lingo to see how much you know!

First – let’s do the alphabet phonetically, as pronounced in the language:


Forming Sentences:

Yes – there’s a subject, a verb and an object, but they don’t agree like they do in English.  The verb doesn’t change with the subject. For instance, we have given a few examples:

Mi run (I run)
Im run (he runs)
Dem run (they run)
Eyah run (it runs)


In English, when there’s more than one of something, the ending changes of the word. Baby – babies; bag – bags; sheet –sheets  etc.

In patois, you pluralise something by adding ‘dem’ to the start of the word, or adding ‘nuff’ at the beginning.

Plate dem (plates)
baby dem (babies)
Nuff banana (many bananas)


There’s no difference between he and she in Jamaican Patois. Someone could say ‘im frack look good’ – and it means her frock (dress) looks good.
Or ‘im fada gaan’ – his father’s gone.

You’re unlikely to speak convincing patois unless you spend years with the locals. But, it’s a fun introduction if you’re planning to go on holiday there soon. And there’s lots more resources out there. Here’s some helpful links to continue your linguistic journey.


Expressions and sayings:

Explanation of the language:


Island Delight | Jamaican Patties

Take a look at our previous blog on the history of the Jamaican Pattie. There you can read about the evolution of the Pattie and Island Delight. Additionally, if you enjoyed this blog, why not check out another post on Vegan Food and Vegetable Patties.


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