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 Essential & Widely Used Rastafarian Words & Phrases…

Rasta Speaks!

I-yaric, Livalect, Dread-talk or I-talk is a unique dialect of West Indian English in wide use among members of the Rastafari movement.

African languages were lost among Africans when they were taken into captivity as part of the slave trade, and adherents of Rastafari teachings viewed English as an imposed colonial language.

The Rastamon’s remedy for this situation was the creation of a modified vocabulary & dialect that reflected a desire to take spoken language forward and to own it in their own way, as well as to confront what was seen as the confusion, corruption & decadence of colonial society, widely referred to in biblical terms as  ‘Babylon’.

This is accomplished by intentionally avoiding words and syllables seen as negative, such as “back”, and changing them to positive ones.

Many Rastafarians choose not to use certain words in the English language that have Babylonian or ‘devil-like’ connotations.

For example the word “Hello” is not used because it contains the word “hell” and “lo” referring to “low”. Instead words such as ‘Wa Gwaan’, ‘Yes I’ ‘Cool Nuh Iyah’ are used because they are words that uplift people.

At a Rastafarian Church the brethren often use more formal greetings. For instance, the Rastafarian ‘house’ known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel would say, “Greetings in the Divine Name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who revealed Himself in the personality of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie the first”

I-yaric is sometimes also referred to as Wordsound — a name derived from the Rastafari principle of ‘Word, Sound, & Power’, which several scholars compare to West African concepts regarding a power or mystic essence being encapsulated within the pronounced sound of a name or word, much like the ancient Vedic concept of a ‘Mantra’.




  • I replaces “me”, which is much more commonly used in Jamaican English than in the more conventional forms. Me is felt to turn the person into an object whereas I emphasises the subjectivity of an individual.
  • I and I (also spelled I&I, InI, or Ihi yahnh Ihi) is a complex mystical term, referring to the oneness of Jah (God) with every human.
  • I and I is an expression of embracing the concept of true oneness – ‘I and I’ being the oneness of two or more persons, where God is actually within us and we’re all truly one people/being. I and I litterally means that God is within all men (and all living things).
  •  Ras Tafari represents the bond of God & Man. The term is often used in place of ‘you and I’ or ‘we’ among Rastafari, implying that both persons are united under the Love of Jah.
  • I-tal is spiritually blessed natural foods that are untouched by modern chemicals, and are served without preservatives, condiments, or salts. Alcohol, coffee, milk, and flavored beverages are generally viewed as not being I-tal. Most Rastas generally follow the I-tal proscriptions, and many are vegetarians or vegans.
  • I Mon is the inner person within each Rastafari believer.
  • Irie or Iree (lit. higher) refers to positive emotions or feelings, or anything that is true or good. Specifically this term refers to high emotions & peaceful vibrations.
  • Ites abbreviation derived from the English word ‘heights’, means “joy” and also the color red. It can also be short for ‘Israelites’.
  • Irator replaces ‘creator’ and Iration replaces ‘creation’.
  • Idren, or Bredren & Sistren refer to the oneness of Rastafari and are used to describe one’s peers (male – “bredren”, female – “sistren”).
  • Itinually replaces continually. It has the everlasting/everliving sense of I existing continuously.
  • Inity replaces “unity”, demonstrating a general pattern of replacing “you” and similar sounds with “I”.
  • Iya (higher): Rastafari vocabulary is full of references to the “iya man”, “stepping higher and higher”, etc. It’s not a specific reference to the high normally associated with smoking ganja, but rather to stepping into higher realms of reality, as in higher awareness.
  • Iya is also used to refer to a friend. As in “Yes Iya”, or “Cool (no) Iya”.
  • Iwa replaces “time” or more accurately, “hour”: “Inna this ya iwa.”



Because of the natural tightly curled nature of black African hair the wearing of dreadlocks is easily accomplished, particularly compared to the naturally straighter hair of Europeans, once again distinctly setting the Rastamon physically apart from the legacy of European overlords who were viewed as perpetrators of injustice during the era of slavery.

Anyone without dreadlocks is frequently and derisively referred to as a Baldhead, or a Lack (a more respectful term).

However as a common Rasta refrain points out, “It’s not the dread upon your head that makes you Rasta, but the love in your heart ” – meaning that while many of the Rastafarian faithful may lack dreadlocks, while some non-Rastas, (‘wolves inna sheeps clothes’) may wear dreads only as a fashion or personal preference.

Dreadlocks that are induced artificially or with additives rather than being allowed to take their natural course over time are known as bathroom locks.


Babylon is a crucial Rastafari term referring to both human governments or to any institutions that are seen as being counter to the Rule of Jah (God).

This term is further used specifically to refer to politicians – the ‘politricksters’ – who are seen as having oppressed the black race for centuries through physical and economic slavery.

In a more general sense Babylon refers to any system that oppresses or discriminates against all peoples.

Rastafari stands in defiance of Babylon – which is sometimes also referred to as Rome- partly because of the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia when it was being ruled by Rastafari’s ‘Living God,’ Haile Selassie I.

‘Babylon the Great’, and ‘Whore of Babylon’ are apocalyptic terms from the Book of Revelation that may have been used to describe the pagan Roman Empire, which origonally persecuted Christianity.

Babylon is also commonly used by Rastas to descatiribe the ploice/law engforment -insofar as they are seen as executive agents of Babylon’s will.

Most specifically however, ‘Babylon’ represents the corruption & perversion of the Word of God. Anything that is a lie regarding the truth of Jah, is the actual root of what is considered “Babylon” by Rastafarians.


Apprecilove replaces “appreciate” because of it’s sounding similar to the word hate.

Downpression replaces “oppression”, because oppression holds man down instead of lifting him up. Similarly “downgression” = “violence” (from aggression). Downpressor n.

Everliving replaces “everlasting”, particularly in the context of Life Everliving.

The ‘last’ in the word everlasting, although actually implying survival (to “last” is to “survive” or “bide through”), is seen by the Rastafarians as implicative of an end (as in the term “at last”), and as the life the Rastas have will never end according, they being immortalists.

Often used in the phrase “…I and I is Everliving, Everfaithful, Eversure. Ras Tafari.”

H.I.M. this is the abbreviation for the phrase His Imperial Majesty, pronounced normally is the word him, yet always referring to Haile Selassie I.

Know replaces “believe”. Rastafari would not say they “believe” Haile Selassie is Jah and that they, the Rastas, are the chosen people. They would say they “know” these things.

Livication replaces “dedication”, to rid itself of a connotation of death. adj. Livicated. v. Livicate.

Livity –  Livity is the concept of a righteous ever-living lifeforce conferred by Jah Almighty (God)  that exists within us, and flows through all people and all living things. (Similar to the Vedic concept of Prana, or of the Taoist concept of Chi). Rasta seek to preserve and revere Livity, or to find it in the natural world. replaces “invention”, because mechanical devices are seen as outward; it is the inner experience of being Rastafari that is invention.

Overstanding (also “innerstanding”) replaces “understanding”, referring to enlightenment that raises one’s consciousness.

Zion refers to either Ethiopia or the whole continent of Africa, after the Day of Judgment, as well as a state of mind one can enter through Rastafari.