Some Unique Words of Guyana By Dmitri Allicock


By Dmitri Allicock  –  for Guyanese Online

In a country originally occupied by native tribes, (aboriginal tribes now called “Amerindians”), speaking several distinct tongues and conquered by Dutch, French and Englishmen who in turn brought the Africans, East Indians, Chinese and Portuguese, it is only reasonable to expect a survival of many strange words, which by degrees will become obsolete and unknown.

Many words used for hundreds of years have survived in various degrees depending on geography and travel. Some words are spelled and pronounced a little different but continue to convey the same meaning. Many of these words are unique to Guyana however some of them are also well known in the West Indian Islands.                 

  • Accourie{ Dasyprocta Leporina} a kind of guinea pig
  • Ant-bear, great ant-eater
  • Antiman, {derogatory} homosexual
  • Assays, drink made from the manicole palm
  • Awarra, fruit of the Awarra palm {Astrocaryum}
  • Ballahoo, small punt
  • Banjo-man, a kind of Hassar
  • Baridi, a small hawk
  • Batteau, a round-bottom boat
  • Battel, round wooden or metal used by gold-seekers
  • Bawakatta, a large armadillo
  • Bee-bird, humming-bird
  • Beltierie, drink made from the purple yam
  • Benab, hut built of poles, with a palm-thatched roof
  • Benaboo, small Benab
  • Bête rouge, red grass tick
  • Bill-bird, toucan
  • Bottlebrush, a splendid climber with scarlet flowers like brushes
  • Boviander, originally meant cross between a Dutchman and a Native Indian but now used from a cross between an African and Native Indian
  • Buck, {derogatory} aboriginal Indian
  • Buckeen, female aboriginal Indian
  • Buckshell, Indian canoe
  • Buck- shot, seeds of a caladium
  • Bunduri, species of crab
  • Bush-cow, tapir
  • Bushmaster, venomous snake
  • Bush ropes, illianes
  • Butter-fish, a kind of smelt [fish}
  • Callaloo, kind of spinach
  • Cama, tapir
  • Camahead pine, a large wild pine-apple
  • Camoodie, boa constrictor
  • Carra- Carra, a beautiful scarlet climber
  • Carrion Crow, a common vulture
  • Carrion Crow bush, wild senna
  • Cartaback, a flat shaped river fish refer to as {Cataback}
  • Casirie, drink made from sweet potato
  • Cassareep {Cassereep} boiled juice from the bitter cassava and major ingredient in pepper pot
  • Cayman, a large alligator
  • Chokabawt {Choka} miners mess: dumplings, salt pork and rice
  • Chuck, blow, push
  • Coffin Trimmer, a bush-owl
  • Colony doctors, vampire bat
  • Comb- fish, saw fish
  • Conquintay, a plantain meal
  • Coolie {derogatory} East Indian immigrant
  • Coonacooshie, bushmaster
  • Corial, canoe {derive from Korjaal- a Dutch word}
  • Corio, fruit of the Corio Pimpler palm {Akuyuro Astrocaryum}
  • Corn coo-coo, boiled sweet maize
  • Crab-dog, kind of fox
  • Creole, born in the colony
  • Cuffum, tarpon, large fish like a herring
  • Cuirasse, a skin fish
  • Cuttee-cuttee, a vegetable soup
  • Dallibanna, palm, used for roofing
  • Dam, dyke
  • Darree, a river fish
  • Double-lay, stripping of soil before you come to pay-dirt
  • Dursquarra, a bird like partridge
  • Eddoes, kind of yam
  • Etaboo, waterway, forming a short cut through a bush
  • Ematubboh, a portage round a rapid
  • Expression, bad abusive curse word
  • Fat pork, a kind of plum
  • Fire, to strike” he fire a kick a me”
  • Foo-Foo, boiled plantains, pounded
  • Foot, used for the whole leg
  • Four eyes, a small fish found in brackish water
  • Four- foot, trench of that width
  • Gallery, verandah to a house
  • Gallinipper, a large mosquito
  • Gaulding, white ibis
  • Gilbaker, a large skin-fish
  • Gill, a penny
  • Gill bread, a small loaf of bread
  • Grenadilla, a fruit of the passion flower’
  • Groo-groo worm, caterpillar out of the groo-groo palm
  • Guana, Iguana, large edible lizard
  • Guffy, a gullible person
  • Hackia stick, stick made of hackia, any long stick
  • Hand, used for the whole arm
  • Hard back, black beetle
  • Hassa, fish, fish covered in armour
  • Hiaree, plant used by Indian to poison fish
  • Hook, point of a river
  • Howrie, fresh water fish
  • Ituritie, used in making baskets
  • Jew, or June fish, a large sea fish
  • Jiggers, sand-fleas
  • Johnny cake, flour, water and salt baked
  • Johnny crow, turkey buzzard
  • Juke, poke: “He juke me wi’he stick”
  • Jumbi, ghost
  • Jumbi fowl, sensa, or Dominique
  • Jumbi ochro, bush-mallow fowl
  • Kapoorie, {Arawak} abandoned field
  • Karouni, wild boar
  • Keenah, dislike to some person
  • Kiskadi, bird: shrike
  • Kockabay, a kind of leprosy
  • Kokerit, fruit of the Kokerit palm
  • Konkee, made from corn flour, sugar spice, grated coconut etc and wrapped in banana leaves.
  • Krumi, a kind of cuffum
  • Kush-kush, slush of megass in cane-piece
  • Kyderkooree, small armadillo
  • Labarria, poisonous snake
  • Labba, the hollow cheeked paca
  • Lazy-bird, cuckoo
  • Logie, shed
  • Low-Low, large fresh water fish
  • Maam, wild bird, rail
  • Mahouka, sort of buzzard with spurs on wings
  • Maiwarree, a fresh water fish
  • Mammee apple, large brown fruit
  • Mamoorie, strong fiber used for rope
  • Manatee, sea-cow: dugong
  • Mandram, an appetizer, made of chopped cucumber and fresh pepper
  • Mannish, saucy: impudent
  • Marabunta, wasp
  • Maroudie, wild turkey
  • Mascuitte, uncured sugar
  • Mash, crush: “she mash me fut”
  • Maswah, climbing palm
  • Matapie, cassava strainer
  • Maullies, bobs of hair on the back of woman’s head
  • Megass, sugar cane refuse
  • Mucco-mucco, wild arum
  • Monkey syrup, a small green fruit
  • Mortar stick, club used for pounding foo-foo
  • Mosquito worm, large parasitic grub
  • Mucuroo, kind of basket
  • Mynap {Carib} abandoned field
  • Mypourie, tapir
  • Numb fish, electric eel
  • Obeah, witchcraft
  • Old witch, black cattle bird
  • Ouistti, squirrel monkey
  • Paal, a boundary stake
  • Pacoo, a fresh water fish
  • Patwallah, palm rib used to make pawee
  • Paripi {Parapee}, fruit of the Paripi palm {Guilielma Speciosa}
  • Pawee, stop-off to catch fish {used as a gate at the mouth of a small creek}
  • Peerai, fresh water shark
  • Pegall, Indian basket
  • Pegass, peat
  • Picaninny, pickney, children
  • Pimpler, thorn
  • Pimpler haag, hedgehog, porcupine
  • Pinder, ground nut
  • Pittee, a strong kind of fiber
  • Piwarrie, intoxicating drink made by Indians from the cassava, a spree
  • Plantain walk, fields of plantains
  • Pond- fly, dragon fly
  • Powis, curassow { Crax Alector}
  • Putta-putta, soft mud
  • Quaak, a sea-coast bird that utters that sound
  • Quackoo, small marabunta
  • Quadrille,-bird, a wild bird that pipes the opening bars of the old quadrilles
  • Quaick, a kind of basket
  • Rain bird, a bird that heralds the rainy season
  • Red howler, baboon
  • Sackawinki, small spectacled monkey
  • Sacki, a small blue bird or grey bird
  • Sawari, nut of the Sawari {Caryocar Tomentosum}
  • Salampenter, large lizard
  • Sand-fly, a small stinging insect
  • Sapadilla, fruit: nazeberry
  • Sea-cow, Manatee
  • Seepage, water oozing from swamp
  • Side- lines, the dams which enclose an estate on each side
  • Silverballi, a native wood
  • Simitoo, fruit of the wild passion flower
  • Snake bird, diver
  • Stelling, wharf {Dutch word}
  • Stingaree, sting ray
  • Stink-bird, hoatzin, canje pheasant
  • Sun fish, fresh water fish, like a trout
  • Tacooba, heart of tree, snag
  • Tannia, kind of yam
  • Tiger, Jaguar
  • Tiger-fish, a handsome striped pike like fish
  • Too-roo drink, {Turu} drink made from the too-roo palm {Aenocarpus Baccaba}
  • Troolie, Broad-leave palm, used for thatching
  • Wabri, a fresh water fish like a small bream
  • Wahdaroh, wild plantain
  • Wahourie, small perai
  • Wallaba, hard wood
  • Warracabra, trumphet-bird
  • Warrambi, cassava sifter
  • Water-haas, capybara
  • Water Mamma, mermaid: syren
  • Wirrebiscere, small antelope
  • Wood skin, Indian bark canoe
  • Wourali, Indian poison for arrows
  • Yam necktie, night- prowling monkey
  • Yarrow, a trout-like fish
  • Yarrow many, a plant, seed deadly poison
  • Yessi, armadillo
  • Yrwarry {Yawarri}, opossum rat
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  • needybad4u  On 05/04/2012 at 4:20 am

    *Adelphi Dream

    One one dutty
    a build dam
    punt trench wattah
    a run go ah koka
    and alligata ah hide
    between muck-mucka
    waiting fuh catch yuh
    while carrion crow
    ah sit pon barb-wyah fence
    watching fuh see
    who guh dead
    gyal a wash claat
    pon de ghat
    and all ahwee
    a listen
    how donkey a bray
    while cane cuttah
    ah come home
    wid he cutlass in he han
    wrap up in ah bag
    and I wake up seeing
    everyting, everyting
    wid me naked eye.

    *Adelphi – East Canje, Berbice.

  • Cyril Balkaran  On 05/04/2012 at 11:53 am

    The Rainbow country that Guyana has evolved into has taken years of inter racial disharmony in the 1960’s and now greater national interracial communication and love are prevailing so that Guyana may become a developed nation for all of us,both at home and abroad. now having said that let’s indulge a little more in the folklore of the land of Guyana. You have heard of these wise cracks as “Moon a run till day catch am” Everyday bucket a go a well, one day he battam must left am.” Me nabel string juk under de mango tree.” Peter go pay fo pal” Play dead fo see wa funeral you go get” Monkey a mek pickani till he spail am.” Wha sweeten goat mouth does sour in de bam bam. Until folks. Continue to enjoy the facility of our visionary and beloved Cyril Byron. God Bless you all.

  • DMITRI ALLICOCK  On 07/03/2012 at 4:00 pm

    A bateau or batteau is a shallow-draft, flat-bottomed boat which was used extensively across North America, especially in the colonial period and in the fur trade. It was traditionally pointed at both ends but came in a wide variety of sizes. The name derives from the French word, bateau, which is simply the word for boat and the plural, bateaux, follows the French, an unusual construction for an English plural. In the southern United States, the term is still used to refer to flat-bottomed boats, including those elsewhere called jon boats.

    • Cyril Balkaran  On 07/05/2012 at 3:30 am

      Talking about flat bottomed boats with shallow draft or bateau, so where does our pointed ends narrow canoes fit in, their bottoms are not so flat but they traverse the entire Amazon even unto this day, These belong to the Arboridginal tribes of the Amazon. They too are available in all sizes. In the hands of the experts they can deliver with great speed. It is a common experience for those visitors to the Orinduik water falls to use these boats to cross the Ireing River that separate Brazil from Guyana to buy Brazilian Coffee and other tourist items available at the border setting.

      • DMITRI ALLICOCK  On 07/05/2012 at 3:49 am

        One of the most fascinating boats was the Buckskin. This boat was usually made from the skin of the Purple Heart. It was light and fast. The thing which was most outstanding was the Amerindians would “sink” this canoe once they meet the shore.
        They would disappear into the bush without a ripple of evidence of their presence. After completing the day’s task, the buckskin would be recovered and they went on their merry way. This was a good way of preventing thief among other things.

  • Jabnaki  On 12/28/2014 at 11:54 am

    The Berbice Dutch grammar has “waban” as a Guyanese English word. It means to hide very long when hunting. I don’t know if it would be spelled like that. Somebody know it? I can’t find out from which language it came into English or if it is original.

  • walter nehaul  On 12/28/2014 at 2:22 pm

    what was (is) the name of the animal that eats the hearts of the coconut palm .sounds like YOW AR IE (gimmie a break eh)

  • Frederick Collins  On 05/23/2016 at 6:54 pm

    It is yawarie (emphasis on last syllable). The other name is the opossum. You left out cachaca (from the border areas near Brazil) – ka-shah-sah- a kind of bush rum. Yuh lef out niggah-man. Ow yuh gat coolie an lef out niggah-man (LOLL). Eh-eh. An Chinee, an Putagee tuh. Don’t you know that there was some column or something in the 50’s called Puttagee Punkus? (You left out punkus too!) Oh well, little by little we can build the good old Guyanese vocab.
    Good idea and good start! By the way korjaal was a great inclusion. I only learned that spelling on a visit to Surinam the other day. Paal is also Dutch and so is koker which you also missed. Koker is specially included in the Oxford Dictionary as a Guyanese word of Dutch origin for koker. And I never heard anyone refer to an ‘Ouistti’ in Guyana. But it would have come from ouistiti or wistiti which some dictionaries recognise.

  • demerwater  On 12/28/2016 at 5:20 am

    Maybe Cyril can edit an “Demerara Lexicon” from our collective efforts.

  • Lisa  On 03/12/2017 at 11:58 am

    I looked for meaning of’cuffum’ and came across your definition. Thank you. As children we would flip our bodies over, head first, and call that ‘throwing cuffum’. I now suspect that action probably mimicked the actions if the cuffum fish.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/14/2020 at 4:18 am

    I did NOT go down the whole list but, The Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage – by Professor Richard Allsopp covers these words.

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