Dialect of Barbados

Dialect of Barbados

What Is Bajan Dialect?

While informal settings, British English is both the spoken and written the official language of Barbados, more casual settings see Barbadians speak a unique dialect like no other.

The local language of Barbados is often referred to as the Bajan dialect, or quite simply “Bajan.”

Bajan dialect is a slang version of standard English, or a simplified pidgin English, mixed with very distinctive ‘Bajanisms’ that are unique to the island. Barbadians speak with an accent best described as a combination of the influences of both African and British languages.

Bajans speak in their native dialect using words in a colourful, expressive, fast-paced manner. The Bajan dialect can be a bit tricky to follow at times, especially for visitors to the island. To add to this, each individual speaks their personalized version of the dialect, and new words and expressions are added continuously and accepted as part of the everyday vocabulary of Barbados.

Nevertheless, the Bajan dialect is understood by Bajans and honorary Bajans all over the world and is spoken proudly and freely island-wide

How Is It Spoken?

Firstly, in the Bajan dialect, the sound of ‘the’ is pronounced as a ‘d‘ sound. For example, “that” becomes “dat.” ‘This’ is marked ‘dis,’ ‘the’ is spoken as ‘de,’ and so on.

Individual words also tend to have multiple meanings – ‘dis’ means ‘this,’ as well as to disrespect or to fail to acknowledge someone or something.

What’s interesting about the Bajan dialect is that it’s mainly a spoken language and has no standardization of its written form. Therefore, words and sentences are generally spelled as they are pronounced, and don’t forget to allow for the accent!

As a consequence, Bajan words are commonly shortened versions of their original form. For example, ‘ting‘ refers to ‘thing.’ Therefore, full sentences also often flow into one long word. For instance, “happen” rather than “happened.” “Wha” rather than “what,” lead to the phrase “Wha happen?” as opposed to “what happened?“.

Bajans also seldom use the word “very.” Instead, the word that “very” would be referring to is just repeated. For example, “the sun is scorching hot today!” becomes ‘de sun is hot, hot, hot!‘ in the Bajan dialect.

Another Bajan dialect peculiarity is the use of the words ‘she‘ and ‘he‘ to replace the words ‘her‘ and ‘him.’ For example, ‘pass de drink to she’ means ‘pass her the drink,’ and so on. Being commonly used all over the island, you usually can’t go without hearing this mentioned in any conversation with a local Bajan.

Yuh Wanna Speak Like A True Bajan?

The Bajan dialect contains endless island-specific and often funny sayings and phrases. Read through our selection of distinctive ‘Bajanisms,’ and you’ll be speaking like an honorary Bajan in no time!

For a humorous rundown of more Bajan sayings and phrases unique to our island culture, please read our Ya Know Ya is a Bajan When – Jokes.

Tip: Remember, if in doubt, ask a local – they’ll be more than happy to give you some insider tips and tricks for speaking like a Bajan and will appreciate your enthusiasm to join in the fun of Bajan culture at its finest!

By: Brett Callaghan

Barbados Dialect

Bajan DialectEnglish Meaning
“Pompasettin”Showing off
“Wuking Up”A gyrating, energetic dance often done to Calypso music
“Sea bath.”A swim in the sea
“Ignorant”To be aggressive
“Malicious”Nosy
“Duppie”Ghost
“Lime”To hang around
“Cuhdear”Awww (sympathetic)
“Licking ya mout.”Talking too much
“Sweet fa so.”Very nice
“Tha fa’ lik ya.”Serves you right!
“Trouble don’ set up like rain.”You cannot always see trouble coming
“The sea en’ got no back door.”Once you get into a situation, you might not be able to get back out.
“Pretty-pretty things does fool little children.”Superficial things impress naïve people
“Aight?”How are you?
“Yute”A child/youth
“Vexed”Angry/annoyed
“Butt uppon.”To meet up unexpectedly
“Ga so” (usually accompanied by pointing in a specific direction)Go this way / that way
“Wha gine on?”What’s going on with you? What’s the news?
“Do ya, ting.”Do your thing / do what you have to do
“Cheese on bread/cheese on brothers/cheese onnnnnnn!”Oh, my goodness! (used as an exclamation expression)
“Self-praise ain’t no praise.”Boasting about yourself is not a real complement
“Dun, let nobody jook you in the eye.”Be careful of being ripped off