Carnival Guide: Lingo to Learn Before Hitting Di Road

By: Shana-Kay Hart

Bacchanal: (v).  To behave in an unruly or careless manner; to have no regards for ones behavior during a fete or mas. 

: 1. (n). A series of organized parties held by promoters. The parties are usually a build up to one big celebration (carnival). Some of the parties have different themes depending on when they are held (Ex. Easter fete, Summer fete)  2. (v). A French derivative meaning to gather and celebrate.

Jump Up: (v.) Get up and dance

Leh Weh Go: (v.) “Let’s go.” To entice your “Limin partna” to partake in the bacchanal that will follow.

Get on Bad: (v.) To have a good time 

Lime/Liming: (v.) To hang out, to party, to chill.

Limin Partna: (n.) Your partner in crime for a party

Mas: (n.)  Short for “masquerade.” The term dates back to the tradition that began when French plantation owners held masquerade balls before Lent. The enslaved were prohibited from participating, so they held their own masquerade. This tradition is a composition of French, African, Asian and Arawak traditions. 2. The act of displaying the portrayal of the theme of the mas band; parade of costumes

Play Ah Mas: (v.) To participate in a carnival event which includes dressing up in a costume and dancing

Masqueraders: (n.) Carnival participants dressed in costumes

Mas Camp: (n.) The meeting point for carnival bands. This is where carnival customers come to register for costumes, make payments for costumes, and pick up their costumes when it is distribution time

Carnival Band: (n). A carnival band is your source for an authentic carnival experience. A “band” is a collection of carnival goers/customers who register for costumes offered by the band in various sections. Each band is a collection of DJs and live bands that follow masqueraders along the carnival route with their truck.

Wine/Winin: (v.) A sexually suggestive dance involving the rhythmic gyration of the waist, hips and butt. Best done to calypso, soca or dancehall music. The movements are sensual but innocent, which can lead to it being mistaken for loose behavior. Both men and women can wine. 

Soca: (n.) A genre of music indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago. It is derived from Soul Calypso and developed by Lord Shorty in the early 1970s.

Dancehall: (n.) A genre of music originating from Kingston, Jamaica in the late 1970s. Has stylistic origins in Reggae, Ska, Rocksteady, Dub, R&B and Toasting. 

Iron: (n.) Steele and metal instruments used to create music. This includes steel pans, triangles, pots, pans and even spoons. It is a musical instrument originating from Trinidad and Tobago.

Last Lap: (n.) This signals to masqueraders that this is the final party, fete or jump of the season. It entices the masqueraders to get on bad one last time.

Tabanca: (adj.) The reminiscent feeling of sadness or even depression that follows once carnival has ended. Usually isn’t cured until one participates in another carnival.

Wuk/Wuk Up: (n.) This form of dancing involves a rotation of the hips and waist to the music. Must be done in time and on beat with the music and is usually a faster paced wine/whine

Photo by: @genxcarnival

Frontline: (n.) The most elaborate portrayal of the desired section’s costume. Tends to have a wire bra and a larger backpack of feathers.

Backline: (n.) A scaled down option of a section’s costume. This costume typically has a smaller backpack of feathers and is less extravagant. 

Collar: (n). Feathers. An addition to your costume that attaches to the back of your head/neck with your costume. 

Backpack: (n). Feathers. Usually an addition to your costume that attaches like a backpack to your shoulders/back with your costume

Ducking: (v.) Usually what one does in order to attend or recover from carnival the next day. To “duck” is to skip or hide from something. 

Jouvert: (n). A large street party preceding carnival celebrations. In many Caribbean islands, it signals the start of carnival. It is am Antillean Creole French adopted term of jou ouvé  which means “dawn” or “daybreak.” Jouvert is typically held at this time of day. 

Photo by: @kacifen 

Monday Wear: (n). This is the outfit, typically a unique swimsuit, Caribbean designers offer as an option for Carnival Monday, instead of wearing a full carnival costume. 

Jab Jab: (n.) In a Caribbean carnival, it is a person dressed up as a devil-like character and carries a whip used for hitting other “devils.” Also can be armed with ropes, chains and snakes to frighten carnival spectators. The word “jab” has origins in the French word “Diable” meaning devil. This practice is used as an acknowledgement to slavery and the emancipation of slaves. 

Shell Down/Dung: (adv.) A term originating from Jamaica that means to do something fantastic or to take by storm. (Ex. Di DJ shell Dung di place). It is derived from vocabulary involving a gun. 

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