How To Speak Like A Bajan - The Ultimate Guide

Royal Westmoreland

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

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

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.