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Dialect of Barbados

What is Barbados dialect?

In formal settings, British English is both the spoken and written official language of Barbados, in more casual settings Barbadians speak a unique dialect.

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

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

Bajans speak in their native dialect using words in a colourful, expressive, fast-paced manner. This means that Bajan can be a bit tricky to follow at times, especially for visitors to the island.

To add to this, each individual speaks their own personalised version of the dialect and new words and expressions are constantly added and accepted as part of the common vocabulary of Barbados.

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

How is it spoken?

Firstly, in Bajan dialect the sound of 'th' is pronounced as a 'd' sound. For example, 'that' becomes 'dat', 'this' is pronounced '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 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 example 'happen' rather than 'happened' and 'wha' rather than 'what', lead to the phrase 'whahappen?' as opposed to 'what happened?'

Bajans also seldom use the word 'very'. Instead, the word that 'very' would be referring to is simply just repeated. For example, 'the sun is very hot today!' becomes 'de sun is hot, hot, hot!' in 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.

This is very commonly used all over the island and you normally can't go without hearing this mentioned in any conversation with a local Bajan.

You 'tink you is a real Bajan?

The Barbados dialect contains endless island-specific and often comical sayings and phrases. Simply read through our selection of distinctive 'Bajanisms' and you'll be speaking like an honorary Bajan in no time.

Tip: Remember, if in doubt, just 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 Dialect English 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
C'dear 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 li'l children Superficial things impress nave people
Aight? How are you?
Yute A child / youth
Vexed Angry / annoyed
Butt up pon To meet up unexpectedly
Ga so (usually accompanied by pointing in a certain direction) Go this way / that way
Wha gine on? What's going on with you? What's 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

Feedback and Reviews
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Visitor Rating: 9.00 from 0 users
Information Assumed Accurate On: Sep 7, 2014
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Visitor Comments:

By: vicki
Does anyone know the term " i hard mean seed like oats and gip off the hill "
Date: Oct 21, 2015

By: jd
"white in your eyes' usually refers to fear. I could see the 'white in your eyes" . I could see that you were afraid. see :http://barbadosdialect.page.tl
Date: Jun 22, 2008

By: CA
Thank you for your answers. I have one last doubt. What does the expression "white in your eyes" mean?
Date: Jun 13, 2008

By: KW
In answer to CA the correct term is to " unpick muh teet' this means to have nothing to say to the person
Date: Jun 10, 2008

By: jd
the expression is "unpick ones teeth". Example: "I in unpick my teeth to she". = I did not say a word to her or I did not speak to her.
It also means, I did not say a word; I kept my mouth shout.
Date: Jun 10, 2008

By: CA
Does anyone know what the expression "pick my teeth to someone" means?
Date: Jun 5, 2008

By: jd (author)
There is a new book out called "From Bajan To Standard English". Anyopne interested in Bajan dialect should get one. It is available in Pages and Days Book Stores.
Date: Apr 14, 2008

By: Baybee
I have a Bajan boyfriend...now I can understand when he is talking to me
Date: Jan 21, 2008

By: JBailey
Its a really good short article to let people know abit about colorful Barbadian words and phrases.
Date: Mar 10, 2007

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