My name is Joe, but you can call me Al: About Jamaican Names

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I’ve always been fascinated by names. And names are a really fun part of Jamaican culture. Apart from given names, many people also have “yard names” (nick names) that friends and family have always called them (and that sometimes these become so common that no one knows their true first name anymore). Jamaicans also use identifiers or descriptors in the place of names when they’re calling out to people on the street, whether they know the person or not. Below you’ll find examples of the various types of names we’ve heard in Jamaica.

Given Names
Girls:
Cheyenne, Timera, Annielle, Amoy, Sereina, Henry-nique, Dellesia/Delecia, Asheka, Toni-Ann, Keisha-Ann, Shelly-Ann, Shamara, Shanae, Tasha, Soini, Yolande, Tashina, Soini, Yolande

Boys:
Jevaughny, Otis, Omar, Umar, O’Ryan, Jordon, Javasco, Danielo, Renaldo, Renaldeno, Ajauny, Sanjay, Domonick, Roger, Gregory, Justin, Keno, Shamari, Breneil

Sibling pairs:
Kevanique and brother Kavon, Debonique and brother Dominique, twins Tally and Tally-Ann

Variations of the same name:
Jevon, Jevaun, Jovaun, Jevaughn, Jevaughny

Yard Names
Pem Pem, Cheese, Ska, Fireman, Shodee, Monkeyman, Sugar, Which Flava, Moodie, Munchie, Apple J., Rainy, Poochie, Pookie, Bambi, Boody, Twinie… (Sometimes yard names are completely normal names, i.e. Kelly also goes by Alisha. Celia also goes by Angie.)

Identifiers (remember, political correctness has no place here)
Respectful identifiers for men:
Boss, Bossy, Bossman, General, Uncle, Prince, Bredren, Sar

For women:
Empress, Princess, Baby, Mommy, Aunty, Miss

Names based on ethnicity:
Mr. Chin, Chiney Man, Whitey, Brownin, Cooley,

Names based on work:
Teach/Teacha, Nurse, Creamy (sells icecream), Nutsy (sells nuts)

For large men:
Bigga,

For large women:
Fluffy, Champion,

Anyone with dreadlocks:
Rasta,

Someone missing a limb or an eye:
Oney

If you’ve spent time in Jamaica and would like to share some of your favorite names, please add them in the Comments section!

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3 thoughts on “My name is Joe, but you can call me Al: About Jamaican Names

Add yours

  1. Excellent post explaining the Jamaican nicknames/alternate name tradition. Another good one is “mass” for “master,” followed by their name, for instance: “mass Henry. It is also usually applied to a respected family member or elder.

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