Jamaican Patwah: The Story Behind Jamaicanpatwah.com

Jamaican Patois is a language spoken by many Jamaicans. In 2012, we noticed that there weren’t many good resources available for people who wanted to learn Patois. So we created jamaicanpatwah.com, a website for people who love Patois.

The Challenges of Writing Patois

Our initial endeavor was to compile a Jamaican Patois dictionary. The challenge? Patois is traditionally spoken, not written. There isn’t one way to spell Patois words. Despite Fredrick Cassidy’s efforts to standardize it, many Jamaicans found his system unfamiliar compared to their personal writing styles.

The Linguistic Hurdles

It was challenging to create a Patois dictionary because of a few reasons:

  • No standard spelling: There is no one way to spell Patois words.
  • Doubts about Patois: Some people don’t believe Patois is a real language.
  • Formal Settings: People don’t use Patois in formal settings, even though it’s an important part of Jamaican culture.

Jamaican Patois: A Language of Identity

Jamaican Patois, a vibrant blend of African, English, and indigenous influences, serves as the primary mode of communication for many Jamaicans.

Despite its prevalence in everyday life, Patois hasn’t always enjoyed widespread respect. Some have dismissed it as simply “Broken English,” a less proper way of speaking compared to Standard English. This perception unfortunately led many Jamaicans to feel pressured to avoid Patois in formal settings like schools and workplaces, limiting its use primarily to casual conversations.

However, this view fails to recognize the rich linguistic heritage of Patois. It’s far more than a derivative of English. Patois possesses its own distinct grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, forming a complete and complex language system.

The global influence of Patois is undeniable. Its infectious rhythms and colorful expressions permeate music genres like reggae and dancehall, captivating audiences worldwide.

Making a Dictionary Everyone Can Agree On

Louise Bennett-Coverley –  Jamaican poet and activist.

Creating a standardized writing system for Jamaican Patois has been a challenge for a few reasons

Varied spellings

There’s no single agreed-upon way to spell many Patois words. Take “Patois” itself. You might see it written as “Patwa” or “Patwah,” all representing the same spoken language. This can be confusing for both readers and writers.

Regional variations

Patois isn’t monolithic. Different parts of Jamaica have their own vocabulary and pronunciations. The word for “yesterday,” for instance, can be “yestideh,” “yestodeh,” “yesideh,” or even “Yestiday,” depending on the region. This makes creating a one-size-fits-all writing system tricky.

Non-standard vs phonetic approaches

Some prefer a more phonetic approach, trying to capture the sounds of Patois in writing. Others use a system based on standard English spelling, even if it doesn’t perfectly reflect how the word is spoken. Finding the right balance can be tough.

Our Solution: Jamaicanpatwah.com

Standardizing Patois spelling has proven tricky, but that’s where Jamaicanpatwah.com comes in! We envision it as a vibrant online hub – a one-stop shop for everything Patois. Here’s the exciting part: it’s a community-driven effort, meaning you play a vital role!

Think of Jamaicanpatwah.com as a giant collaborative dictionary project. You can contribute your knowledge and help shape how Patois is written. Here’s how it works:

Share Your Patois Wisdom

Got a favorite Patois word? Uncertain about the spelling of that tasty dish, “ackee and saltfish”? Head on over and share your take! Add the word, its definition, and how you think it should be spelled.

The Power of the Crowd

Here’s where things get interesting. Other community members can weigh in! They can vote on the spelling option that resonates most with them, ensuring the most widely used and understood variations rise to the top.

A Dictionary for the People, by the People

Through this democratic process, we’ll gradually build a comprehensive Patois dictionary that reflects how the language is actually spoken and understood across Jamaica. It won’t be a stuffy rulebook, but a living document that captures the vibrant essence of Patois.

This is more than just about standardizing spelling. It’s about celebrating Patois and giving it the recognition it deserves. We want Patois to shine not just in our lively conversations, but also on the written page.

So, what are you waiting for? Join the Jamaicanpatwah.com community, share your Patois words, and help us create a dictionary that truly represents the richness and soul of this amazing language!


So there you have it, the story of jamaicanpatwah.com. It’s not just a website; it’s a rallying point for Patois speakers and learners everywhere. It’s where we come together to give our language the spotlight it deserves, in writing, just as much as in speech.

We’re creating a space that’s by the people, for the people, and all about the people’s voice. Whether you’re a native speaker or just starting out, your words and your vote matter in shaping the Patois dictionary that we can all call our own. 

So let’s keep this conversation going, keep those submissions coming, and keep celebrating our language with every click and every word. One love, one language, one incredible journey – that’s jamaicanpatwah.com for you!

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