The distinctive language of the Rastafarians is strange & beguiling to the untrained ear, but it holds withing it a hidden logic & beauty that becomes apparent when one finally manages to crack the code and discover its deeper meanings.

Rastafarian lingo is a unique version of the classic Jamaican/West Indian dialect, but one that takes the English language and turns it on its head in a inspired balancing act that is simultaneously a secret spiritual dialect and a cultural/political protest.

And yet it’s also full of beautiful innuendo and spiritual power, all hidden behind the curtain of its lilting cadence & seemingly simplistic structure.

It’s easy to pick up the common phrases  because they’re repeated throughout the lyrics found in all forms of Jamaican music – and this is the path  by which most people are originally introduced this unique form of the English language.

Interestingly enough, every island nation within the Caribbean has its own unique dialect. And on each of those islands there are different dialects spoken depending on what part of the island you’re from, or where you live.

And in the case of English, which is the foundation language of most of the island nations  of the Caribbean, including Jamaica, it’s very easy for West Indians to immediately recognize different dialects. To the untrained ear it all sounds much the same, but if someone from Antigua or Barbados were visiting Jamaica the Jamaicans  would immediately know what other island they’re from.

To compound the trip through this musical vocal labyrinth of the odd patios of West Indians comes the  Rastafarians knack for altering words to represent deeper spiritual concepts.

The main foundation of this is the Rasta concept of ‘I’ – the replacing of the self-centered me/mine designation that egotistically separates us from each other with a simple verbal concept of a shared single unity of consciousness & being, were all of us inhabit the singular persona of I.  It’s still personal, but suddenly becomes all inclusive.

This has a parallel in the in the ancient Indian Sanskrit concept/word Namaste, which is a common greeting across the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms of Asia, and symbolizes the recognition that you’re looking past an individual’s personality and recognizing within him that which is eternal.

This portion of the Rasta Reef website is dedicated to the delightful & unique dialect employed by the Rastafarians of any nation. We’ve included it because there may be some that are still unfamiliar with these terms or their meaning & origins.

We find language a fascinating aspect of Rasta culture, and it’s certainly one that needs to be included in any presentation that honors the traditions we love.

There’s a lot of information here, so we’ve divided into two different parts/pages; the first being a large Glossary/Word list of common Rasta and West Indian terms. The second is a page on the uniqueness of Rastafarian’s Vocabulary and the origin and etymology of keywords and phrases. Either one makes for interesting reading, so dive right in and lively up your cultural education!