Some frequently used Jamaican Patois phrases to know if you’re spending time on the island. They will make communication with natives easier, bridge the communication divide, and cause you less frustration.
- Mi soon com
- Wah Gwaan
- Nuh problem mon/man
- Jus roun de carna/jus up de road
- Yeh man or yeh mon
- Yu gud
- Irie Mon/man
The Jamaican language is colorful and exciting, direct and not discreet as the English Language. There is no gentle way to express some ideas. Certain Jamaican patois phrases might be offensive if you are unfamiliar with the culture. Also, translating some words direct into English might confuse you because they mean different things depending on the speaker, facial expression, situation, and voice tone.
Although the majority of Jamaicans speak Patois, the official language is English. Therefore everybody understands basic English and can communicate with someone using that language.
Here are some patois phrases and what they mean.
‘Mi Soon Com’
“Mi soon com” is a frequently used Jamaican patios phrase on the island.
English translation :
- I will be there shortly.
- I will be back soon.
- I will soon arrive.
- I am on my way.
You will be in a world of frustration if you take this phrase literally. However, “Mi soon com”, in Jamaica could mean just that; I will be there shortly. It all depends on the context and the speaker.
Here are some situations where you might hear this patios phrase and what to expect.
a) Someone owes you money. “Mi soon com”, could mean you will never see them again, the next day or the following year. But, on the other hand, they might be giving assurance or buying time until they can pay you.
b) Waiting for your friend to pick you up at 8 am, call at 8:05 to find out what happened and if they will arrive soon. “Mi soon com” could mean they are just getting out of bed or running an errand and will get to you shortly. Either way, an hour’s wait will be excellent by Jamaican standards.
c) Hiring a repairman or tradesman in high demand, “mi soon com,” could mean days or weeks. It’s just comforting you until he fulfills his contract with other clients he probably told the same days or weeks ago.
“Wah Gwaan?” Translate to “what’s happening.”
It could mean “what’s happening” or “what is going on?”
We also use it as a form of greeting. As in saying, “what’s up” or “how are you?” The speaker is not asking “what’s happening” but just a Jamaican way of saying “hi.” You can respond by saying, “nothing much,” or “mi deh yah.” Which translates to, “I am here” or “I am ok.”
In some situations, this Jamaican Patios phrase could spark a lengthy conversation with a total stranger. They could tell you what is happening in the environs presently or what’s happening to them personally. If you are caring and sympathetic, you could hear a sab story most times just taking advantage of your feelings, hoping to get some material or financial benefit.
‘Nuh Problem Man’ / ‘nuh problem mon’
“Nuh problem man” is probably the most popular Jamaican Patois phrase foreigners know. It was made popular by tourism advertisers and tourists who want to forget about their worries and have a good time.
“Nuh problem man” translates to “no worries or no problem.” It is used as reassurance or saying, “everything is ok.” Sometimes it simply means ” ok. “
In the direst moment, a Jamaican will look you in the eyes with the most reassuring voice and say, “nuh problem man,” and start offering you solutions.
‘Jus roun de carna’ or ‘Jus up de road’
“Jus roun de carna” or “Jus up de road” are misleading Jamaican patios phrases, especially in rural areas. They use it when giving direction. Its English translation is “nearby” or “just around the corner. “
The furthest thing from the truth, “Jus roun de carna,” could have you traveling for miles before reaching your destination.
The country areas seem to have a different metric system for measuring distance. For example, one mile appears to measure five urban miles. So if a person in rural Jamaica tells you “jus up de road,” prepare to travel for miles before reaching your destination.
‘Yeh man’ or ‘Yeh Mon’
“Yeh man” is one of the popular Jamaican Patois Phrases; it is a favorite among tourists and frequently used in regular conversation on the island. Some foreigners might think it’s made-up words tourists use to sound cool, but it is not.
“Yeh Mon,” translated to English, is “yes man”. In Jamaican Patois, it means yes, or you agree.
“Mon”/man” is not peculiar to any age, sex, or gender. It is attached to some patois phrases such as “nuh problem mon” (no problem), “com yah mon” (come here), “luk yah mon” (look here), “irie mon'(everything is ok), and “yeh mon” (yes).
‘Mon or Man’
Jamaicans use “mon/man” in most of our conversations. But it has always been debated whether we are saying “mon or man.” I have observed that some speakers say “mon” while others say “man.”
Male speakers trying to sound cool or masculine tend to say “mon” instead of “man.” On the other hand, tourists often use “mon” when trying to speak like a Jamaican. So tour guides and workers in hospitality perpetuate this because it sounds cool, and they want guests to feel comfortable. But in most instances, we say “man.”
“Yu gud?” is the Jamaican way of asking if you are ok. For example, if you are at a party or just hanging with some friends, someone might come over and ask, “yu gud?” The appropriate response would be, “yeh mon/man”, “mi gud”. If you are ok and “no man/mon” if you’re not.
“Irie mon” is another famous Jamaican patois phrase on the north coast. Everywhere there is some business with “irie” in its name. “Irie mon” is Jamaican, but the Rastafarians mostly use this phrase. It means mellow, feel good, good vibes, or just a way to say “hi” after somebody greets you.
“Irie,” or “irie mon,” started in the sixties and seventies with the rise of Rastafarians. They have a creative way of using different expressions or playing with words to distinguish themselves from the rest of society.
Tourists love saying “irie mon,” which made it popular along the North Coast. Even a radio station is named Irie FM.
Movies and cartoons depicting a chilled Jamaican “irie” or “irie mon” are always in their dialect.
It is funny because the average Jamaican dont use that phrase often in their speaking. I can’t even recall ever using it or people in my environs. But, probably, if you are around Rastas, you would hear “irie mon” quite often.
Although most Jamaicans speak Patois, English is our official language, so we all understand basic English. Jamaicans talk fast but listen keenly, and you will get the gist of the conversation because most Jamaican patio words derive from English. However, knowing some commonly used patois phrases will speed up communication.
While it would be flattering to greet us in our language, knowing what is said and giving the appropriate response is good enough. So need to go overboard trying to talk like a Jamaican; it can come off weird or disrespectful.
Check out this post for helpful travel tips. Then, sign up to receive my best Jamaica travel content.
Want to learn the Jamaican accent and how we pronounce certain words? Check out this video on youtube.