Friday, January 25, 2013

The Words in the World of Rasta

I'd like to introduce Rastafari first by the vocabulary that is widely used in the culture. In popular music there are often reggae remixes featuring an island accented artist that repeats phrases connected to Jamaica and/or the Rastafari movement (depending on how commercial the track). Not all Jamaicans are rasta and not all rastas are Jamaican. Still, the dialect most commonly used with the following terms is Rasta Patois. I will do an overview of commonly used terms Perhaps next time you hear them used in context, you will be able to identify the speaker as either a Rasta or in the least a student of the movement.

Save the fact that the Rastafari Movement originated in a country and region with a distinctive dialect, the language used truly expresses some of the core values and beliefs of Rastafari. When a Rasta speaks one hears the tone of a rebel, of a fighter, along with the voice of oneness.

Armageddon- the final battle between the forces of good and evil according to the Bible.
Babylon- all encompassing title of the corrupt establishment. Institutions (religious, political, military, etc.) that restrict and/or retard the progress and freedom of the people. Also, commonly used in reference to police.

Balmyard- a place where pocmania rites are held, healing is done, spells cast or lifted.

Bald-Head-someone operating in the interests of Babylon/ someone without dreadlocks.

Banton- A storyteller.

Bashment- A great event or happening; dancehall; party. Also the same as bashy.

 Big up- This is a popular term for saying what’s up and a gesture of tribute.

Binghi- meaning wise.

Bloodclot- Strong curse word.

Bloodfire- meaning Hell.

Bobo dread- A certain sect of Rastas that wear turbans and carry brooms to signify cleanliness. They are of the Bobo Shanti order and are true followers of Prince Emmanuel.

Braa/Bredda- meaning brother.

Breddren- Brothers. Used to reference one's fellow Rastas.

Bumboclot- King of curse words. Derives from bumbo, meaning ones backside. A bumbo-clot is an insult referencing a period before toilet paper was in common usage.
Cerace- a ubiquitous vine used for boiling medicinal tea, and for bathing.

Chalice/ Chillum/ or Chalewa- a pipe for smoking herb, usually made from coconut shell, used ritually by Rastas.

Cool Runnings- usually used at a time of departure on a long journey meaning have a safe trip.

Crosses- problems, trials,; bad luck, misfortunes.
Deaders- meat & meat by-products.

Dinki- a kind of traditional dance at funerals or "nine nights".

Downpressor- preffered term for "oppressor" (Downpress- Oppress)

Dread- 1). a person with dreadlocks 2).  a serious idea or thing 3). a dangerous situation or person 4. the "dreadful power of the holy"

Dreadlocks- Hair that is neither combed nor cut. Also used to describe a person with dreadlocks.

Dready- a friendly term for a fellow dread
Ease Up- to forgive, to lighten up, to relax.

"Everything Cook & Curry"- all is well, all is taken care of.

Forward- future, or to move on. 

Fuckery- A maljustice, something wrong and unfair; this is not considered a curse word.
Ganja(ganga)- Marijuana, herb.

Give tanks- A expression of gratitude.

(Don) Gorgon- 1) Outstanding person and very well respected. 2) Outstanding dreadlocks. 3) Dragon

Grounation- large, island-wide meeting and celebration of Rastas on April 21st celebrating Haile Selaissie I's visit to Jamaica in 1966.

Herb- marijuana. The same as ganja(ganga)

Honor (hon-nah)- A Rasta word; greeting or good-bye
I an I- Rasta term for me, myself, and I. Also can be used for we or us.

I-cense- Rasta word for ganga, which is taken from the Biblical word “Incense.”

I-ditate- Rasta word for “Meditate.”

I-dren- Rasta word for bredren, which is taken from the Biblical word “Brethren.”

I-man / I-mon - Refers to the self. Rasta for: Me or you.

I-ney- A classic Rasta greeting.

I-ree- Rasta word for “Irie”, which means to be happy.

I-sire- Rasta word for “Desire”

I- thiopia- Ethiopia

Irie (I-ree)- Means everything is alright. Expression of feeling great.

Ises/Izes/Isis- Praises to the almighty given by Rasta when calling on the name of Jah for strength and assitance for achieveing progress in life.
Ja/ Jamdown/ Jamdung- Words used to reference Jamaica.

Jah- Lord; God; possibly derived as a shortened form of Jahweh or Jehovah.used to reference Jah Rastafari, Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, conquering lion of Judah.

Jah guide- A Rasta farewell and good-bye. Literally saying “God shall guide.”

Jah know- Lord or God knows; an expression of agreement.

Kumina-  Lively dance for the purpose of communicating with ancestors.
Lambsbread-  A Rasta term for high-grade ganja.

Legsus- A spoof on the luxury car, Lexus, but expresses the walking power of the legs. 

Lion- a righteous Dread or a great soul. 
Mas- An old and wise master; a old-timer who deserves respect.

Mon- Perhaps the single most important Jamaican word, “Mon” can represent every person in Jamaica—man, woman, and child.  
Natty/ Natty Dread/ Natty Congo- dreadlocks or person having dreadlocks.

Nazarite- Ancient Hebrew meaning to "separate", consecrated, set apart by choice and devotion.

Nyabinghi- 1) The traditional and orthodox Rastafarian movement of black supremacy 2) East African warriors who resisted colonial domination. 3) Large Rastafarian meeting and spiritual gathering.

Obeah- Traditional African "science", relating to matters of the spirit and spirits, spells, divinations, omens, extra-sensory knowledge, etc. Viewed as a voodoo in Jamaica.

One Love- a parting phrase, expression of unity.

Overstand- Rasta word for “Understand”.
Poco/Pocomania- Christian revival distinctive drum rhythm.

Polytricks(Polytricksters)termed coined by Peter Tosh in describing politics and politicians. 
Q (see soruces)

Ragga- A style of reggae that uses digital rhythms exclusively. A term sometimes used interchangably with dancehall, since the latter music has become heavily digitized as well. 

Rasta/ Rastafarian- a follower of Marcus Garvey who worships the Almighty Jah in the manifestation  of Haile Selassie I. 

Reespek- meaning respect.

Sa- meaning Sir.

Sata- to rejoice, to meditate, to give thanks and praise.

Shepherd- leader of revivalist cult; general a balmyard owner, healer and prophet.

Sight- A Rasta term for, “Do you see or understand?” 

Sinsemilla (Sensie)- popular, potent, seedless, unpollinated female strain of marijuana.

Sister/Sistern- a woman, a friend, woman Rastafarian.

Skank- to dance to reggae music.

Spliff- A very large cone-shaped marijuana cigarette.

Sufferation (suf-fa-ray-shun)- Major suffering, poverty, and trials.
Tam- a large oval-shaped Rasta hat used to cover dreadlocks.

Tata- meaning father. Affectionate and respectful title for an old man.

The I- you, yourself, yours.
Uno/ Unu- the plural form of you, you all, the all of you. Similar to "y'all"
Upful- Positive feelings.

Uphill- righteous or positive.
V (see sources)
Wa’ppun- What’s happening? This is the most popular greeting used.Similar to "what's up?".
Wolf- non-rasta with dreadlocks. 
X (see sources)

Yeyewata- To shed tears, cry.
Zed- The letter Z. 

ZION- Rasta title for Ethiopia, Africa, the Rastafarian holy land.

**The use of the letter I in the Rasta culture symbolizes oneness and unity. It conveys an understanding that the power and intent of the individual directly correlates to the outcome of the whole.

The above is not an exhaustive list of terms or phrases used within the Rastafari culture. Instead, it is a select few terms that I believe will give clearer insight to the vocabulary of the movement. I myself plan to use several of the terms referenced throughout my blogging. You can always reference back for definitions. Also, as I progress in my studies I will add terms and definitions to the list. The current terms are a collection and compilation of terms found from multiple sources. I highly suggest checking out these sources for vocabulary, phrases, and even proverbs not mentioned here in this post.


Pewka, Mike. "Rasta/Patois Dictionary and Phrases/Proverbs". Dec. 1992. Internet. 21 Jan. 2013.

Shakur, Assate. "Dread Dictionary, Rasta words, expressions, and slang". Assate Shakur Forums. 2008.    Internet Thread. 21 jan. 2013.

"Patois". 2002. internet. 22 Jan. 2013.



  1. This was a very helpful post. But my main suggestion here would be to make a notation with each source when used. This will differentiate your definitions from the definitions created by others. Or you can consider a smaller definition list from words you actually use, or even have a "definitions" section at the end of each post?

  2. I cant express enough tanks to you mi brotha.

  3. I cant express enough tanks to you mi brotha.