a (prep.) - to, as in, "go a store." From Spanish.
a go (aux. w/v) going to do, as in "You a go speak to her."


Babylon (n.) - corrupt society, government and institutions, as an oppressive force; the police, as agents of.

batti (n., familiar slang) - buttocks.

boasie (adj.) - proud, conceited, ostentatious. Combination of English "boastful" and Yorubi "bosi" proud and ostentatious.

bredrin (n.) - brothers or brother. From Biblical "brethren."

cepes (n.) - beard

chalice (n.; see chillum) - sacramental; a chillum passed ritualistically between bredrin becomes a chalice.

chant (v.) - to sing, especially cultural or spiritual songs.

chillum (n.) elaborate water pipe for smoking ganja. From Hindi "chilam."

collie (n.; urban slang) - ganja.

cutchie (n.) - clay pipe for smoking ganja.


deh (pron.) - there. dereso, deso (pron., place; emphatic) - there, as in "Look dereso" - "Look there."

dey (v.) - to be, exist, as in "No yam no dey" - "there is no yam." From Ewe "de," or Twi "de" - to be.

dey 'pon (aux. v.) - to be engaged in action or continuing activity. "I dey 'pon haste" - "I am in a hurry"; "I dey 'pon dying" - "I am dying."

dread (n.) - a person wearing dreadlocks; also a serious concept or idea.

dreadlocks (n.) - the tangled, uncut or uncombed hair of a Rastafarian. The wearer of such hair; also, "nyaman" or"locksman."

dub (n.) - bare rhythm (see riddim) track, usually drums and bass, with a minimum of other parts, if any.

dungle (n.) - legendary West Kingston slum surrounding a garbage dump, now cleared. From English "dunghill."

duppi (n.) - the spirit of the dead capable of returning to help or harm people. Subject to the power of "obeah" and its practitioners. From Bube "dupe" - ghost, spirit.


faastie (adj.; see faastiness)- impertinent, rude, impudent.

faastiness (n.) - effrontery, impudence. From Surinam Creole "fiesta" - nasty, unpleasant.

fe - the infinitive "to," as in "Have fe go" - "Have to go." "Look fe it" - "Look for it." "Him ready fe kill" "He is ready to kill."

fi - possessive. "Fi me" - mine; "fi you" - yours.


Garvey, Marcus - prophet of black repatriation; founder of Black Star shipping lines; national Jamaican hero. Disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1940.

ganja (n.) - dried buds and leaves of female plant of cannabis sativa. From Hindi "ganja"; also, herb, weed, collie, kaya.

ginnal (n.) - trickster, con-man.


I an' I (pron.) - first-person singular; Jah and myself, or me and the God within me. Replaces the accusative "me" which Rastas consider an expression of subservience, i.e., "I an' I house" - "my house.'; Also, me and you.

i-dren (n.)- male Rastafarian.

iris (adj.) - literally, "highly," valuable, exalted, even sacred.

irie (adj.) - literally, "higher," as in "irie ites" or "higher heights"; powerfully pleasing; cool.

i-tal (adj.) - vital, natural. Also, noun - food and diet of Rastas, pure, mostly fruit and vegetable.


Jah (n.) - short for "Jah Ras Tafari," common way to refer to the divinity. - from Hebrew "Jahweh" - God. Also refers to Haile Selassie King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of Judah.

jancro (n.)- literally, John Crow. Buzzard.

Jamdung (n., urban slang) - name for Jamaica; literally, "Jam" - to press, dung, down. Ironic reference to social and economic condition of the masses.


kass kass (n.) - quarrel or contention. From combination of English "curse" or "cuss" and Twi "kasa kasa" - to dispute verbally.


maas (n.) - from master or massa. Now freed from its class origin, a respectful and affectionate form of address to an older man.

mash up, mash down (v.) - to destroy.

myal (n.) - a form of benign magic, as opposed to "obeah," hence, myalman. From Hausa "maye" wizard, person of mystic power.


nah (adv.) - will not. Emphatic, as in "Me nah do that."

natty dread (n.) - general term for a Rastaman, as in "Hey, Natty Dread!"

nuh - interrogative at end of sentence; literally, "Is it not so?" "Not true?" Also, imploring, literally, "please," as in "Do it for me, nuh?"

nyahbhingi (n.) - legendary worldwide secret society of blacks alleged to be led by Haile Selassie and devoted to the ending of white domination by war. Said to mean "death to black and white oppressors." A group of Rastafarian warriors - Nyamen. Also, ancient chants, Rasta dance and song ceremony.

nyam (v.) - to devour, eat ravenously. Apparently African in origin, especially in double (emphatic) form "nyam nyam."


obeah (n.) - the practice of, the art of, using the power of duppies to influence human events. The practice of malign magic. From Effik "ubio" - a charm buried in the earth, or Twi "obayi" - magic or sorcery.

one love (n.)- a parting phrase, expression of solidarity.


patois (n.) - a type of provincial or local dialect.

pocomania (n.) - ecstatic, revivalist, Afro-Christian religious movement usually attributed to Spanish "pocomania" - little madness. This derivation is questioned by some scholars who attribute it to Twi origins: "po" - small, and "Kumina" - dance of ancestral possession, therefore, "small Kumina."


quashie (n.) - peasant, country bumpkin, coarse and stupid person; racially pejorative generic term for blacks; originally Twi name of a boy born on Sunday.


raas (expletive) - extremely impolite. From the English "your ass." Ras Tafari (n.) - original title and name of Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, crowned November 2, 1930, hence, Ras Tafarian, member of the faith holding Haile Selassie I to be God incarnate.

rasta (n.) - follower of Selassie.

reggae (n.) - Jamaican form of music whose origins are found in the African Kumina drums, ska and rock. Reggae is most easily identified by its driving bass rhythms and culturally and/or politically relevant lyrics.

rhygin (adj.) - spirited, vigorous, lively, passionate with great vitality and force; also, sexually provocative and aggressive. Probably a form of the English "raging."

riddim (n.) - rhythm; also, rhythm track, as in "dub."

rude boy (n.) - a delinquent.

rhythm style (v.) - bass and drums playing together.


samfie (n.) - a confidence man, formerly one who tricked the gullible by pretending to occult power. Probably African.

sound system (n.) mobile discotheque.


tam (n.) - wool cap.

the I (pron.) you, yourself, yours.

toast (v.) - to rap or sing spontaneously over a dub track.

toaster (n.) - one who toasts.

trod (v.) - to travel.


unu (pron.) - you, plural. In usage close to Afro-American "y'awl." From Ibo

"unu," same meaning.


vank (v.) - to vanquish, conquer.

vex (v.) - to get angry, agitate.


yaah (expletive) - emphatic conclusion. "You hear me," as in "Don't do it, yaah."

yah (adv.) - here, as in "Come yah!"

youth (n.) - children; anyone younger than person speaking, as in 40-year-old man to 35year-old man: "Youth, c'mere!"


Zion (adj.) - positive, good. Also, noun - heaven on earth, found in Ethiopia; the opposite of Babylon.