Jamaican Names: A Comprehensive Guide

Jamaica is one of the island countries found in the Caribbean Sea and is the largest after Cuba and Hispaniola (Island of Haiti and Dominican Republic). It is one of the first islands that Christopher Columbus discovered in his 1494 exploration, his second voyage. It became a center point for docking and settlements of the Spanish Conquistadores after the entire island was conquered by Columbus and his men.

The Arawaks are the first inhabitants of the islands that came from South America around 2,500 years ago before the Spanish conquest. They named the island Xaymaca which means “land of wood and water”. Originally, the Arawaks were peaceful people who minded only their territories and agriculture. However, they became hostile against Western voyagers as they experienced stealing and maltreatment from the strange visitors. After they were conquered in 1494, they were oppressed and forced into slavery until they eventually went extinct in less than a decade, thus starting the Spanish and Western influence on the island in the following years. This transformed the tradition, the way of life of the locals, and their naming convention.

In this article, you’ll find out some of the awesome facts about the uniqueness of Jamaican names. Get to know some of the popular and traditional Jamaican Boy Names and Jamaican Girl Names, and learn the influence of Jamaican culture in naming people. Let’s get started.

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Understanding Jamaican Names

The indigenous Arawak people failed to leave much of a mark on the young Jamaica before the Spanish utterly conquered it. Much of the local languages of the Arawak were erased and forgotten, and no local naming convention can be retrieved from Arawak’s influence. Because of this, most Jamaican during the Spanish occupation were named with Spanish names and Spanish surnames.

Around 150 years after the establishment of the Spanish colony in 1509, an English Privateer Admiral William Penn, and General Robert Venables attacked the island of Jamaica. The Spaniards, having too few defenses due to lack of prioritization and support from the Spanish Crown, surrendered the entire island to the English privateer and fled northwards to Cuba.

With the island as their trophy, the English privateers and buccaneers started to dwell on the island and made Port Royal a center of trade for pirates and buccaneers. Gold and other forms of wealth flourished in Port Royal due to the relentless buccaneering and raids of the English privateers against Spanish and Dutch ships. English influence became abundant on the island and their rule lasted until the 18th century.

English landowners in Jamaica started to concern themselves with in-demand crops that they could easily grow on the island and sell in mainland England. Soon, the infamous tobacco, cocoa, tropical fruits, and indigo were replaced by sugar plantations. Due to the demand for labor in processing and cutting sugar cane, English settlers resorted to purchasing imported enslaved Africans as laborers in the colony. They were impressed with the hard-built bodies of the Africans and more demand for African slave laborers grew, or the so-called Open Slave Trade.

In the late 18th century, most settlers of the island were a mix of local Jamaicans from former Spanish colonies, English landowners, and African slave laborers. That is why, in modern-day Jamaica today, we will most likely see names with English, Spanish, and African influences or origins.

Jamaican Last Names

Despite having three different possible external influences for the name, Jamaican last names are primarily English origin. This is because of the mass migrations of merchants, sailors, privateers, clergies, and artisans from England to Jamaica when Port Royal started to prosper. Also, it was the British who colonized Jamaica for more than 250 years which made most of their surnames dominantly based on English surnames. However, the huge importation of African slaves from the past 2 and a half centuries made most Jamaicans today an African descent.

Jamaican names

Jamaican Boy Names

As a general rule of thumb, the most basic idea behind Jamaican names, in general, is their influence from English, Spanish, and African names. This means any names coming from these influences are commonly used by local Jamaicans. Not only that, Christianity also played a significant role in Jamaican Boy names, which means biblical names both in English, Latin, or Jewish are also considered.

Jamaican Names for Boys Example

Jamaican Boy Name

Origin or Basis of the Name

Abisai (/a-bi-say/)

A Jamaican version of the Hebrew name Avishay. It is one of the most commonly used Jamaican boy names today. This name means “My father is a gift”.

George

The name George has a different origin and is a common name from the English language influence. It is the top-used Jamaican name with a ratio of at least 1 George per 124 Jamaican.

Adio (/a-dee-yo/)

A Jamaican name for boys which means “righteous”. This name’s influence came from both Italian and African (Nigerian) which means almost the same thing, “being righteous”. 

Ajani (/a-ja-ni/)

A Jamaican boy name of Nigerian origin meaning “the victor”.

Usain (/yu-sayn/)

This name has its Arabic influences and is commonly given to Jamaican boys. The meaning of this word is synonymous with “beautiful” and “good”.

 

Usain St. Leo Bolt is a famous Jamaican sprinter who is considered the greatest sprinter of all time.

Bob

The name “Bob” is one of the simplest names used not only in Jamaica but in different parts of the world. The name is always associated with a “shortened cut”, thus the term “Bob Cut” for ladies’ hairstyle.

 

The most popular Jamaican with this name is Bob Marley, a Jamaican singer-songwriter who made reggae music popular in the 1970s.

Sean

The name Sean has its roots in the Irish culture which somewhat means “God is gracious”. It is a mix of the John in Hebrew and Jean in French.

 

Sean Paul is a famous Jamaican rapper hailed as one of the prolific artists who modernized the reggae genre. He is also famous for his pop-friendly party music theme called the dancehall.

Joseph

Derived from the Hebrew name Yosef which means “God will give”. Joseph is one of the most commonly used Jamaican names in Jamaica, attributed to the wide influence of Christian religion in the country.

Jimmy

The Jamaican boy named Jimmy is a pet name based on the English name James. It is also one of the common names in Jamaica and other parts of the world with English influence.

 

One of the popular Jamaicans bearing this name is Jimmy Cliff, one of the instrumental people to introduced the concept of reggae to the international audience.

Marcus

The name Marcus is the Latin version of the name Mark. It is derived from the name of the “God of War”, Mars in Roman mythology. Despite this, the name is most inspired by the name of one of the Gospel writers, Mark. 

 

Marcus Garvey is a famous Jamaican nationalist leader who organized the first Black Nationalist movement in the United States. He encouraged Black Americans to be proud of their identity and to embrace their culture and color.

Did You Notice?

Most of the famous Jamaicans are associated with singing and reggae. That is because the Reggae music genre originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s and quickly became popular in the international music industry by the 70s! Most of the iconic people of the reggae genre will most likely originate from Jamaica.

Jamaican Girl Names

Just like with boy names, Jamaican Girl Names have influences with Spanish, English, and African names. Not only that, names coming from the bible are also common among Jamaican names.

Jamaican Names for Girls Example

Jamaican Girl Name

Origin or Basis of the Name

Louise

The feminine version of the male French name Louis, which means “loud”. This Jamaican girl name is one of the popular choices among Jamaicans, having at least 1 out of every 354 Jamaicans bearing this name.


Louise Bennett-Coverley, also known as Miss Lou, is a famous Jamaican poet, writer, and educator. She became a prominent figure for her pioneering and promotion of the use of the Jamaican dialects and way of life.

Veronica

This Jamaican girl name has its Latin origin and was derived from the words vera (true) and eikon (image). Despite its unusual origin, it is still a commonly used name both in European countries and America.


Veronica Campbell Brown is another famous Jamaican woman known to be an 8-time Olympic medalist in 100 and 200 meters Track and Field. She holds an amazing 10.76 seconds for 100 meters and 21.74 seconds for 200 meters. Wow!

Grace

Grace is an English-influenced name derived from the Latin term gratia which means “thankful”. It is also one of the commonly used Jamaican girl names with an average of around 3800 per 68000 Jamaicans today.


Perhaps one of the iconic personalities with this name is Grace Jones, a Jamaican-American model and actress known for her androgynous appearance. 

Gloria

Gloria is the Spanish and Latin version of the word Glory, bearing the same meaning as is. There are approximately 12000 known individuals in Jamaica bearing this name. However, its usage is in a steady decline as newer and more modernized Jamaican girl names are being used by new parents today.

Kaleisha (/ka-ley-sha/)

A local Jamaican girl name which means “strong-willed”. It is exclusively given to girls as this describes women with strong and independent nature.

Eralia (/e-ral-ya/)

This name roots its origin from the Greek word Eulalia which means “well-spoken”. The inspiration for this name is from the nature of Jamaican women being outspoken about their feelings and desires.

Jalissa (/ja-lee-sa/)

The name Jalissa is somewhat associated with being “noble” due to its resemblance to the European name Alissa. Regardless, it is a popular name among Jamaican teenagers and was widely picked by parents in the early 90s.

Linda

The name Linda has its German roots which came from the word “lind” meaning “tender”. Linda is a common name used not only in Jamaica but in other parts of the world, mostly with Spanish influences.


Chinsea Linda Lee, also known as Shenseea, is a Jamaican dancehall artist famous for her unique vocal styling and rap. She became more famous after collaborating with popular hit artists such as Sean Paul and Christina Aguilera. 

Kyndall (/kin-dal/)

A modernized variation of the name Kendall. The name somehow refers to a “royal valley”, pointing to the county Kent located in Southeast England. Both the names Kendall and Kyndall are popular name choices for girls not only in Jamaica but also in other Caribbean countries.

Yendi

This Jamaican girl name has its African origins which means “beautiful flower”. The most iconic Jamaican woman bearing this name is Yendi Phillips, the winner of Miss Jamaica World 2007, and the representative of Jamaica in the Miss World 2007 pageant. 

The Influence of Jamaican Culture on Naming

Despite the Western and African influences in names, Jamaicans still use British surnames because most of their families already possess them and are passed on to the current generation. When it comes to first names, Jamaicans most likely use names depending either on religion, relation to their family, or days of the week (traditional). Additionally, it is also a customary Jamaican tradition for parents to give double middle names to their children. The selected extra middle name is a personal preference chosen by parents and can come from any line of surnames from the family.

Nicknames are also a common thing in Jamaican naming culture. These nicknames are called “yard names” and they are more used than the original formal name. Lastly, one of the most important Jamaican cultures that has influenced naming is the use of the so-called “identifiers” on acquaintances and strangers. These identifiers are unique and may involve devolving the words into something else but meant the same in context. To understand this further, take a look at some of the examples of popular Jamaican nicknames that influenced modern-day naming today.

Popular Jamaican Nickname Examples

  1. Blacka – or Black, used to identify any people with dark skin tone.
  2. Bigga or Biggs –or Big, refers to a person who is round and huge.
  3. Mumma – a nickname given to a mother or an influential woman in the city.
  4. Bugsy – based on the teeth of Bugs Bunny, used to name a person with buffed front teeth.
  5. Cutie – or Cute, used to nickname a pretty or attractive man or woman.

Jamaican culture is also known for the so-called “Jamaican Patois Phrases” which are basically English dialects that sprouted in Jamaica. Below are some examples.

Jamaican Patois Phrases

  1. Nuh Badda Mi – “Don’t bother me”
  2. Jus a toops – “Just a little”
  3. A beg yuh – “I beg you”
  4. I hir ya mon – “I hear you, man”
  5. Tek Mi Picha – “Take my picture”

Wrapping Up!

Jamaican names are some of the most interesting names around in terms of influences and their origin. They are influenced by either Spanish, English, or African names due to their past history of being involved with the colonists and the surge of African slaves being imported into the island.

A lot of popular Jamaicans were well-known due to reggae music—one of the greatest contributions of Jamaican culture in the entirety of the modern music industry. In terms of naming, Jamaican names are popular for giving nicknames based on appearances that are devolved from the English language. These are called Jamaican Patois and are also used to create Pataois phrases.

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Hello, folks! I am James Gillen a.k.a. the Master of Fantasy, I am a smuggler · From The Santa Claus & His Old Lady Commune, also I am one of the writers here, on generator1.net. I am an RPG player, reviewer and dreamer in the spirit. “I bring you greetings, reviewer of games! I am Bodor son of Todor, breaker of chains, slayer of dragons!" I hope you find my posts informative enough to help you with you name selection.