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How To Speak Like A Bajan - The Ultimate Guide



Bajan is a fascinating language and, if you’re lucky enough to visit Barbados, you’ll definitely have a lot of fun listening to the locals talk! 


However, it can be difficult to understand Bajan, especially when it’s spoken quickly, so here’s the ultimate guide to speaking like a Bajan so that you can chatter like the best of them.


The origins of Bajan

In Barbados, the official language is English and the majority of residents speak ‘Bajan’ (pronounced as BAY-jun), an English-based creole, heavily influenced by West Africa. 


While standard English is used in print and in formal settings on the island, Bajan is a widely spoken language which does not have a standardised written form; Bajan words are often spelt as they sound phonetically, but spelling can vary widely from person to person.


Although Bajan isn’t standardised, it is the Caribbean creole which most represents standard English and, with some practice, English-speaking visitors to the island will be able to understand the language. However, many Bajans will happily slow down their speech or switch to standard English if visitors to Barbados are struggling to understand them.


It is said that the Bajan language came about when West African captives were taken to Barbados and enslaved. During this time, they were forced to speak English but learnt it imperfectly and Bajan became a way for the slaves to communicate with each other without the slaveholders always being able to understand them.


Despite its historic origins, there are more and more features being added to the Bajan language frequently, such as new idioms, jargon, expressions, and terminology.


As well as it being largely unstandardised, there is also plenty of dialectal variation of Bajan across the island and those Barbadians who practice Rastafari are more likely to speak Bajan with a more Jamaican accent.


The basics of Bajan

  • The plural you is wuna. 
  • They, them, their is dem.
  • You, yours is yu.
  • In many cases, d replaces th.
  • Questions often come in the form of statements featuring a rise in intonation at the end. For example: ‘Wuna eat the fish?’ would mean ‘Did you eat the fish?’.


Common Bajan words, phrases, and expressions

Expression

Meaning

Bashment

A party

Bassa-bassa

A fight

Busylickum

A busy body

Cutter

A sandwich

Dead house

A mortuary

Do-fa-do

Tit-for-tat

Ecky-becky

A poor Caucasian

Evah

Every

Flim

A film

Fortyleg

A centipede

Fuzz-out

To be tired from strenuous activity

Gap

A road or street

Goat head

An idiot

Government juice

Water

Hobby class

Something free of charge

Igrant

Ignorant

Jah

God

Jill

A pint

Kiboes

Hips

Lick

To hit

Mout

Mouth

Muster

To save (especially money)

Nain

Nothing

Nuse

To eat

Odd cents

Loose change

Out it out

Turn off the light

Ovadayso

Over there

Pickney 

A child

A plaster for every sore

An excuse for every situation

Pocket pistol

Roasted corn on the cob

Reckon

To count change

Rockinengine

A steamroller

Run de route

Let us go

Sea cat

A squid

Trildren

Children

Vise

To understand

Whax- palax- bruggadown-brax

A hard hit followed by a fall

Wizzy wizzy

Whispering

Yute

A child or youth

ZR (pronounced ‘Zed-R’)

A privately owned route taxi




Popular Bajan Proverbs

Proverb

Meaning

De higher de monkey climb, de more he show he tail.

The more you show off, the more you show people your faults.

Gol’ teet doan suit hog mout.

Fancy things don’t suit people who aren’t used to them.

Cat luck ain’ dog luck.

What one person can get away with, another may not.

Wuh ain’ see you, ain’ pass you. 

Something that you got away with may catch up with you later.

Ef greedy wait hot wud cool.

Your patience will be rewarded.



Visiting Barbados soon? Check out our blog post on 10 of the Best Free Days Out in Barbados.