Trinidad and Tobago Dictionary

Part 1:  Useful vocabulary for visitors...

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Who needs a Trinidad and Tobago dictionary? Standard English is the language of education and choice in Trinidad, where there is a 98% literacy rate. Consequently, you won't have a language barrier to be concerned about when you visit. However, Trinidad and Tobago has its unique colloquiums, as does any country that speaks English.

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 Language is a Living Thing 

Language is a living thing and Trinidadian English is an exciting, lyrical version of the mother tongue that has absorbed words from each nationality that has ruled, visited and lived there, a fact that makes our Trinidad and Tobago Dictionary a useful, sometimes insightful and often enlightening tool for visitors.

Understanding a few common phrases will, we guarantee, enhance your vacation experience. There is nothing Trinidadians love more than someone who is interested in, and understands a bit about, Trinidad culture.

 Crash Course in Trini Creole English 

The most important Trinidadian words you can learn are "fete" and "lime". A fete is a super-sized party that must include loud music, dancing and good food. A lime is a casual gathering of friends for the propose of doing nothing in particular. To lime is to hang out, to pass the time, to chill. More exotic words can be found in the Trinidad and Tobago Dictionary below...

Trinidad and Tobago Dictionary – Part 1

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An expression of surprise or indignation, spoken either very slowly in a questioning manner for effect, or quickly as an exclamation.

Accra (pronounced Ah, crah)
Fried saltfish fritter. From Yoruba word Akar(a).

A substitute for both the first person singular "I" and the article "A". For example, ah going to get ah cokes - I am going to get a coke.

Ah Chuts!
A expressing of annoyance, vexation, exasperation, disappointment or disgust, similar in meaning and use to "Oh shucks". An expression that drives from the West African language heritage.

Ah Eh Able
An expression of exasperation, literally, I am not able. Give me patience. I can't keep up with you.

Ah Fine So
Literally, "I agree", "I am of the same opinion". Wholehearted support. Usually said after a statement.

All Now So
Presently, at the present time, at this moment. Tomorrow, all now so, we in Trinidad - tomorrow, at this time, we'll be in Trinidad.

Alloo Pie
East Indian delicacy, a soft fried bread filled with seasoned and spiced potato. A popular Trinidad festival food and appetizer.

All of you. This group. Similar to American idiom "you-all". Also expressed as, all'a all-yuh - every last one of you, everyone, everybody. An expression that drives from the West African language heritage.

Ask, as in to ax ah question. Same word and meaning but different pronunciation.

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Baby Doll
Costumed carnival character, died out by 1930s. Gaily dressed baby with bonnet, frilled dress and white wire masked face, which accused male spectators of being their father.

1: Scandal, confusion, loud quarreling that can be overheard. 2: The merrymaking and noisy confusion associated with all carnival events.

Bachac (pronounced Bah-chak)
Large red, leaf-cutter ants, but sometimes any large ant. From the Spanish-Conquistador word Bachaco.

1: To reverse, to step back. Doh back-back on meh – don't reverse into me. Back-back de car - reverse the car. Also expressed as, reverse back. 2: A suggestive dance in which the female dancer's bottom is pushed back against the front of the male dancer, and vice versa.

Back Chat
Insolent answer, especially from a child to an adult. Argumentative and cheeky response.

Bad Drive
To drive recklessly. To swerve a vehicle inconsiderately between moving traffic. To drive with complete disregard for others. To cut someone off in traffic.

Ba' John, Bad John
A gangster, a dangerous person with a violent reputation who pushes their weight around, and may have been to prison.

East Indian for melongene, egg-plant.

Fried or roasted flat bread, made with flour, water, salt and baking powder. Add coconut for coconut bake. See Shark and Bake.

Balisier (pronounced Bal-ee-zay)
An exotic, red, tropical flower, that last for weeks. Heliconia species, belonging to the banana family. Flower used as symbol for the Peoples National Movement, one of Trinidad's political parties.

Posterior, rear end, behind, backside, bottom, buttocks. Often replaced by bumper in soca lyrics.

Barra (pronounced Ba-rah)
East Indian fried bread used to make doubles.

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Costumed carnival character, died out in early 2000s. A realistic portrayal in either brown, gray, black or white with large movable wings, and head resembling either a Vampire or Mavis bat. Presented with unique dance movements.

A descriptive synonym for Dragonfly. The English word "Batty", meaning crazy, odd, eccentric, and the patios word for woman, combined to describe the erratic flying patterns of this common insect.

1: Totally confused, dizzy, giddy, lightheaded. In a state of shock. Disoriented after an accident. 2: A state of confusion caused by the opposite sex, head over heels in love.

Beat Pan, Beatin' Pan
To play a steel-pan by striking the notes in sequence, with rubber-tipped sticks so as to produce a melodious sound. Also, to play pan, playin' pan. See pannist.

Costumed character in devil band, rarely seen after 2000. St. John's seven headed beast. Looked somewhat like a dragon with movable eyes and tongue. Around its waist there were 3 lengths of chain held by imps. Presented with unique dance movements.

Ruling character in devil band, rarely seen after 2000. Keeper of the "Book of Laws", who wore a grotesque mask with horns and a costume made of red velvet or satin.

Behin' God Back
Behind God's back. A very distant place. A remote part of the island, so far away that even God can't see what is going on there. We were behin' god back when we visited an amazing Trinidad villa in Blanchisseuse.

Benay Balls
Tobago candy made from sesame seeds, honey and molasses. Benay or Bennee is a word of African origin.

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East Indian for Spinach, a word now commonly used in Trinidad.

Black Puddin'
Very similar to black pudding, blood pudding or blood sausage from the United Kingdom, except Trinidad black puddin' is well seasoned and spicy.

Blue Food
1: Dasheen, a root vegetable that has a blueish color when cooked. 2: Any Creole dish made with root vegetables (ground provisions like dasheen, eddoes, tanya, cassava, dumplings etc.), similar in meaning to "soul food".

Bol' Face
Bold Face. A pushy, unreasonable and shamelessly demanding person.

Calabash bowl. Word of African origin.

Large round green fruit with a high carbohydrate flesh that must been cooked like a potato to be edible. Brought to the Caribbean from the East Indies by the infamous Captain Bligh of "Mutiny on the Bounty" fame, as an inexpensive way to feed slaves; it has since become a delicacy. See Oil Dong.

Break Away, Break 'Way
1: To dance wildly to a calypso tune. 2: A piece of music that is jumpy or up tempo, usually a fast moving portion of a calypso or soca tune.

Upbringing, conduct, character, manners.

Word of African origin. 1: Matter in the eye. 2: Stupid, dumb.

Buljhol, Buljol
A breakfast or brunch dish, made from shredded salt-fish, onions, tomatoes, pepper, olive oil and sometimes avocado.

Bush Bath
A bath made with the extract of certain plants, the application of which is supposed to stop a period of bad luck, or cure a sickness.

Costumed carnival character of Spanish origin, died out as street mas by 1960s. Donkey and rider in one; decorated horse or donkeys head protruded from a frame work worn around the waist of masquerader, with a long skirt to conceal legs - possibly a carnival costume that predates the 1783 Cedula of Population.

A descriptive synonym for Paratha Roti, a shredded roti that resembles a ripped up shirt.

Buh Wait Nah
But wait a moment, but hold on now, let me get this straight, be patient won't you.

Bus' Yuh Tail
1: To fall in an undignified manner, see catspraddle. 2: A very bad beating, to be thrashed either physically or in a sporting event.

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Caccachat (pronounced Ca-ca-shat)
Periwinkle. Common garden plant, usually with pink or white flowers.

A small tree with low spreading branches, which bares a hard shell gourds that were used extensively to make drinking utensils and bowls. The gourd can be shaped when young to produce different types of vessels.

1: A thick soup made from pureed dasheen leaves. 2: An unusual blend of ingredients, as in mix-up like callaloo.

1: A lyrical and often topical musical commentary that is usually composed for, but not limited to, the Carnival season. Trinidadian folk music.
2: A musical beat indigenous to Trinidad and the West Indies that is of West African origin, and which was made internationally famous during the 1950s by Harry Belafonte, the Andrew Sisters and others. See David Rudder's Calypso description.

A person who composes and sings calypsos.

Calypso Tent
A venue featuring new calypsos and soca. Originally, a tent supported by a bamboo frame.

Carnival (pronounced Cah-na-vaal)
Farewell to the Flesh. The final indulgence before giving up wine, women and song for the 40 days of Lent. A pre-Lenten festival that begins almost immediately after Christmas in Trinidad. Actual celebrations start on Carnival Monday (Shrove Monday) with Jouvert and run for two days, ending with Las' Lap late on Carnival Tuesday (Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday). During Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, costumed bands parade in the streets of Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Scarborough and other cities throughout the islands.

Carnival Band, J'ouvert Band
1: A group of Carnival revelers united by a theme; a troop, a group of masqueraders, people united in purpose (as in, a band of brothers) for the purpose of playing mas'. 2: An organization that produces and sells Carnival costumes to the public at Carnival time.

A relatively small, freshwater catfish with very large scales. Legend has it that those who eat Cascadoux will return to Trinidad.

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Manioc root. A root vegetable. A ground provision that was grown and eaten by the Caribs and Arawaks, the original Trinidadians; Amerindians who lived in the Caribbean region for millennia before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. A tasty alternative to potato.

To fall in an undignified manner, an embarrassing fall, to loose ones balance completely, to bus' yuh tail.

The bright red, orchid-like national flower of Trinidad and Tobago.

Chickpea. A large pea used in the preparation of doubles and other East Indian dishes.

Very small, a tiny portion.

Butterfly Shells, small wedge shaped clams of assorted colours and patterns, usually found at low tide on the Trinidad East Coast beaches of Mayaro, Manzanilla and Balandra during chip-chip season, February through April. Make excellent cocktails and shellfish dishes. See chip-chips on Mayaro Beach House Vacation Tips.

Chip, Chipppin'
To step or walk in time with calypso and soca music, a dance-like shuffling march, an energy efficient gate used at carnival when dancing in a carnival band. As in, ah chippin' dong de road.

Chook, Chookin'
1: To stick, prod, poke, or puncture something. Ah picker chook meh – I've been stuck by a thorn. To chook someone' eye out – to take advantage of someone. To chook fire – to egg on someone in an argument, to add fuel to the fire in an argument. 2: To thrust your waist in a suggestive manner when dancing or winin', usually, to chook yuh wais'.

Chunkay, Chunkaying
The act of frying aromatic herbs and spices in oil for addition to a recipe. An East Indian word now commonly used in Trinidad.

A stupid person, a fool, a bubu.

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Cigal (pronounced See-gall)
Cicada, an insect that produce a shrill noise by rubbing the edges of it's wings together. The males are famous for their shrill chirping at night, which Trinidad and Tobago folklore interprets as the insects callin' for rain.

The coconut forest, made up of a collection of old coconut estates, that stretchs along Cocos Bay, from Manzanilla to Mayaro.

Coco Lilly
A small, orange sub species of Heliconias, which grow in wild profusion under the coconut trees of the Cocal.

Cocoa Panyol, Cocoa Payol
Person of Creole and Venezuelan mix. Comes from patois word for Spanish, "espagnol", and historical association between this group and the growing of cacao.

Cocoa Tea
A beverage made from cocoa, usually consumed at breakfast. Sometimes also coffee tea, bush tea. A tea is made by seeping any edible plant in steaming water. A tea made with orange peel is sometimes used as a cooling, to cleanse the blood.

Cocoyea, Coki-Yea
The woody shaft of the leaves from a coconut tree branch. The dried shafts are used to make yard brooms, handcrafts, carnival costumes and kites.

Cocoyea Broom
A bunch of cocoyea tied together to make a hand broom that is used for sweeping yards and in certain rituals.

Rufus Vented Chacalaca. Tobago's National Bird. See Our Tobago Villa experience for an encounter with a Coc'rico. See our Tobago Villa.

Coki-Eye (pronounced Co-key-eye)
1: Cross-eyed, cock-eyed. When the pupils of both eyes focus on the bridge of the nose. 2: Can't see straight.

Confusion, controversy and bacchanal associated with arguments and gossip.

Cornmeal and okra pudding. Originally Fu-Fu, a dish of direct West African origin made from yams.

Corbeaux (pronounced Co-bow)
Black Turkey Vulture. A common turkey-sized scavenger. We met some Corbeauxs while beachcombing on Manzanilla Beach.

Flamboyant. To dress in outlandishly coloured clothes. To have weird, strange or bizarre tastes in colors, clothing or decor.

Cote Ce Cote La (pronounced Co-tay-see Co-tay lah)
Patios meaning, to quote them. To spread a rumor, to pass along hearsay, rumor has it that...

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Cow Band
Costumed carnival character, extinct by 1960s. Originally played by abattoir employees. Monday mas consisted of banana leaves around the waist and cows horns attached to the head. Tuesday consisted of Matador jackets, hats and pink stockings along with bulls with wiry tails.

Cowheel Soup
A delicious soup made from the gelatinous heel bones of a cow.

Crab Back
A local delicacy made with local Blue Back or Mangrove crabs.

Crapaud (pronounced Cra-po)
A large, brown terrestrial species of frog.

Crapaud-foot Writin'
Very poor or illegible handwriting.

1: A person of African heritage. 2: The version of English spoken in the Caribbean.

Creole Food
Hearty food based on African cooking traditions, usually includes root vegetables, ground provisions like dasheen, eddoes, tanya, cassava, and dumplings. See, blue food.

Cuff Dong
To eat heartily or quickly.

Idiot. A stupid or foolish person.

Cut Ass, Cut Tail
A sound beating or trashing.

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Coconut Head Logo Trinidad Vocabulary for Visitors 101 

No, the Trinidad and Tobago Dictionary above is not a complete resource; rather, it is a selection of common, interesting, and unique words that are used in Trinidad and Tobago, a word choice based primarily on their practicality to visitors.
Beach slippers for our guests

Have fun browsing, learn, laugh and lime. Your Trinidad and Tobago holiday can begin today, right here, right now. Relax, kick off your shoes, put on your complementary beach slippers and enjoy...

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         Related Topics...       
Part 2: Trinidad Dictionary - Books about Trinidad Culture
Part 3: Trinidad Dictionary - Travel to Trinidad
Part 4: Trinidad Dictionary - Language Trinidad and Tobago
Part 5: Trinidad and Tobago Dictionary - Facts about Trinidad Creole
Part 6: Trini Dictionary - Everyday Trinidadian

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