Jamaican Patwa Influences: Where Patwa Comes From

By now, you’ve heard about Jamaican Patois. Patois is the quasi-language used alongside English by Jamaicans.

Jamaican Patois, or “Patwa,” is the language that is used by most Jamaicans in non-professional everyday conversation. It’s a unique language because it has so many loan words and influences from many different languages, and at the same time, sounds similar to Jamaican English. The language, if it can be called that, can be traced back to how Jamaica got started as a country. Because of the diversity throughout history, there have been many different people with different cultures in Jamaica. That is the primary reason our motto is “Out of many, one people.”

Jamaican Patwa Influences from all over the world

First Jamaican Patwa Influences

The first people who would influence Jamaican Patwa as we know it today would be the Arawak or the Taino Native Americans. These indigenous tribes were the peace-loving people who were living in Jamaica and a few other Caribbean Islands before the arrival of the Europeans. There are a few words that they use that can be found in modern-day Jamaican Patwa.

How the Spanish and Africans Influenced Patwa

Then, as time went on, the Spanish came and made the island of Jamaica their colony, and for a while, all seemed well. They imported Africans and those Africans added to the production of the country. The Spanish added words to the Jamaican Patois language and so did the Africans. In fact, the Africans had arguably the most influence on the language itself. The many different tribes that came here added a different word. For example, the Jamaican Patois Word for eat, which is nyam, can be traced back to the African language called Wolof. The Spanish had the word pickney, which is a small child. This can be traced back to the word pequeno, which is small in Spanish.

British Patwa Connection

After the British conquered the island, they themselves brought their English language, and with that, more influence on the Jamaican patois language. The British brought with them Irish indentured servants, and that’s why sometimes people say that Jamaicans have an almost Irish way of speaking English. The British and the Irish started bringing over indentured servants after the slave trade stopped, and so that is why you can find many Indians, Chinese, Lebanese, and even continental Europeans today in the country. Each of them brought their culture and mixed it with the local Jamaican culture, and they each also brought their language, which was mixed into Jamaican patois.

So whenever you hear Jamaican patois, either from a Jamaican on the street or through reggae or dancehall music. Try to find where the words they are saying originated from. I think you might be surprised! Please drop me a comment to tell me what you thought of this article.