English is spoken everywhere in The Bahamas, but when you travel here, you’ll notice right away that locals speak with a pleasing Island dialect. You certainly won’t need to bring your Rosetta Stone to Nassau Paradise Island in order to communicate, but it’s fun to brush up on a bit of the local language before you visit!
While British English is the first language of The Bahamas, you’ll also hear accents influenced by various African languages. With a rich history and blend of different cultures, The Bahamas enjoys a dialect that’s truly unique to this part of the world.
Here are some commonly used terms and phrases that you might encounter in The Bahamas.
WHAT DA WYBE IS?: This is a popular greeting used primarily among younger Bahamians that means “What’s up?” or “What’s going on?” However, if you hear reference to someone “wybin’”, they’re having a disagreement or argument, and a “wybe” is a problem or bad situation.
EEN NOTHIN’: A common reply to “what da wybe is?”, this means “nothing much!”
SWITCHA: If it’s a hot day and someone offers you a glass of switcha, don’t refuse! “Switcha” is the Bahamian word for lemonade. In The Bahamas, it’s commonly made with limes instead of lemons. Either way, it’ll be delicious and refreshing!
WELL MUDDA SICK!: Bahamians use this phrase to express surprise or excitement, similar to saying “you’re kidding!” Often it’s also shortened to “Mudda Sick!”
DEM: This is a word Bahamians may use to refer to a group of people. For example, if you hear “David’s eating at the Fish Fry with Johnny dem”, it would mean David’s eating with Johnny and others.
JITNEY: Hop on the jitney to get from one part of the island to another – “jitney” is the slang term for the bus. You can ask the driver to let you off the jitney at any time. The public jitney costs $1.25 for adults and $1 for children. Don’t look for a bus timetable – they run every few minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., but there’s no set schedule. It's worth noting that the jitney does not go to the airport or over the Paradise Island Bridge.
JAM UP: If the restaurant is “jam up” you might not get a seat! This is a Bahamian slang term for crowded or full.
POTCAKE: A potcake isn’t an after-dinner treat, as you might expect, but rather a stray dog. Potcakes are generally mixed breeds and got their nickname from being fed leftovers or scraps from the cooking pot at the end of a meal.
TINGS: “Tings” means “things”, “tanks” means “thanks” – in Bahamian dialect, the “h” often gets dropped.