Rastafarian words and phrases are a combination of English dialect and Jamaican Patois spoken primarily by Rastafarians. The Rastafarian language is actually much easier to learn than Jamaican Patois because it’s mostly a play on English words (e.g. “overstand” for “understand”,“downpress” for “oppress”,“ I-ditate” for “meditate” etc…) rather than being an entirely separate dialect as with Jamaican Patois.
Bob Marley (Photo © Kim Gottlieb-Walker, from her book “Bob Marley and the Golden Age of Reggae”)
These play on words are mainly used to reflect the Rastafarian movement beliefs of peace and love by removing negative words such as “hate and death” and superseding them with positive ones such as “love and life”. Below are some of the popular Rastafarian terms you might have heard at one time or another.
- “Give thanks „ English Translation: Thank you Definition An expression of gratitude; a Rastafarian expression. Example Sentences (Patois) Give tanks fi di food weh yuh provide
(English) Thank you for the food that you have provided
- “Babylon„ English Translation: Police man Definition Rastafarian word for the police or the corrupt government system. May also be used to describe any person or organization that oppresses the innocent Example Sentences (Patois) Yow, babylon deh cum, yuh hav nutten pan yuh?
(English) Hey, the police are coming, do you have anything on you?
- “Irie „ Definition Rasta slang use to describe when one is feeling good; everything is alright Example Sentences (Patois) Mi nuh hav nutten fi complain bout, mi life irie
(English) I don’t have anything to complain about, my life is ok
- “Ital „ Definition Rastafarian slang used to describe food that is in its natural state; does that contain any artificial elements. This term is also used to describe food that is cooked with very little or no salt. Example Sentences (Patois) Man a rasta man, mi only nyam ital food
(English) I am a Rastafarian, I only eat natural foods
- “Earthstrong „ English Translation: Birthday Definition Rastafarian slang expression for birthday Example Sentences (Patois) Happy earthstrong mi breddah, mi glad fi si seh yuh still in good health
(English) Happy birthday my brother, I’m glad to see that you are still in good health
- “Fiyah bun „ English Translation: Fire burn Definition Popular Rastafarian expression used to strongly denounce someone or something. Example Sentences (Patois) Fiyah bun babylon kaaz dem eva deh taament poor people
(English) I denounce the police because they are always tormenting poor people
- “I and I „ English Translation: We Definition “I and I” is the representation of One Love, which means that because we (I and I) are the same, we should love one another like we love our own self. Example Sentences (Patois) “I and I plant the corn”
(English) “We plant the corn”
- “Jah Jah „ English Translation: Jehovah Example Sentences (Patois) Jah Jah protect mi fram mi enemy dem
(English) Jehovah protects me from my enemies
- “Rasta „ English Translation: Rastafarian Definition Slang expression used to refer to a persons that wears dreadlocks and is a Rastafarian Example Sentences (Patois) Guh si di rasta dung di river fi sum healing herbs
(English) Go see the Rastafarian down by the river for some healing herbs
- “Iron bird „ Definition Jamaican slang for “airplane” Example Sentences (Patois) It still amazing to mi dat the iron bird can fly inna di sky suh easy
(English) ) It still amazes me that the airplane can fly in the sky so easily
- “Empress „ English Translation: Girlfriend Definition Rastafarian expression used to refer to one’s significant other Example Sentences (Patois) Mi cyaah cum tomorrow, mi a guh spen sum time wid mi empress
(English) I can’t come tomorrow, I’m going to spend some time with my girlfriend
- “Ball head „ English Translation: Bald Head Definition A Rastafarian slang used to refer anyone who doesn’t wear a dreadlocks Example Sentences (Patois) Wi guh chase dem crazy Ball head outta town
(English) “We gonna chase those crazy Baldheads out of town” – Bob Marley
- “Bag O Wire „ English Translation: Betrayer Definition Slang expression for someone who is a betrayer. This term is used in reference to a close friend/relative of Marcus Garvey who betrayed him by giving away a lot of details about his plans before disappearing. Example Sentences (Patois) Mi nuh truss deh bredda deh kaaz him a bag o wire
(English) I don’t trust that dude because he’s a betrayer