Silly Spinach…The Devil’s Lettuce…..Giggle Bush – there are hundreds of classic euphemisms for cannabis, varying from place to place. Green, ganja, weed…… these names are well-known in many English-speaking parts of the world and are widely-used and widely-accepted terms for sticky green bud, but how do they stack up in other countries and cultures?
Now that travel is opening up again, it might be nice to know how natives refer to cannabis. Is a joint still a joint in Italy? Will they understand “grass” in France? Does ganja mean something different in Polish?
Here’s a list of just some of the terms for cannabis from around the world.
Most of the typical Western terms are understood down under – “grass,” “weed,” etc. But to the old-timers in Australia, “hooch” is the moniker of choice. This may appear mildly confusing at first – in other parts of the world, hooch is a given name for the kind of homemade alcohol that could drop an elephant with one sip – but it’s slang for your favourite smoke in Australia.
It’s said that part-time smokers refer to cannabis as “choof” in some parts of Australia – which is an identifier for both the plant and the smoking of it, as in “meet me outside later for a quick choof.”
Portuguese is the native language in Brazil, and the Portuguese word for marijuana is “maconha” (pron. maconya). Similarly, “erva” is the word for herb, and “beck” is slang for joint.
“Ma” or “Dama” are the ancient Mandarin words still used to name cannabis to this day. Although cannabis is illegal, hemp is grown and used in China. Historical medical texts through to contemporary medical writings refer to individual terms including “mafen,” “mahua,” and “mabo”. Which describes specific parts of the cannabis plant with differing cannabinoid ratios.
“Tjald” is the term for cannabis here, popular since the 1970s when Copenhagen-based rock band Gasolin‘ came up with the name so they could discuss cannabis without being understood in public. The story goes that they saw a ship docked in Copenhagen harbour named Tjaldur, which is the Faroese word for an oystercatcher. They decided that “Tjald” would make an ideal codename for cannabis. Sadly, the Hendrix-influenced four-piece did not release a Jimi cover titled Voodoo Tjald – but it would be a lot cooler if they did.
In Germany, people refer to cannabis simply as “Gras”. It’s easy to pronounce and remember, just like another German name, “Hasch”. “Hasch Kekse” refers to edibles such as brownies or cookies with a secret ingredient you may enjoy. Reassuringly similar to words we all know.
If you ever decide to visit Amsterdam for its rich cannabis culture, rest assured the language barrier will not be too big of a problem. You only need to know one word – “Wiet,” which looks like “weed,” sounds like “weed,” and I’ll wager it even smells like weed, too.
The most popular term for cannabis in South Africa is “Dagga,” an Afrikaans term dating back to the 1600s used to describe the cannabis plant. However, don’t pronounce it as it reads. However – the double ‘g’ in dagga should be softened and pronounced like the ‘ch’ in “loch.” There’s even a Dagga Party in South Africa, which sounds like a great night out but is, in fact, a political party dedicated to the legalisation of their beloved plant. It’s also referred to as a “zol,” which gave us this incredible tune during lockdown:
“La beuh” is essentially “bud” to French stoners, and “Petard” is the native French term for a joint. “Le Shit” is a term used for cannabis resin. If you want the good stuff, ask for “Le Shit,” – but how do you tell someone it’s really good? “Le Shit is Le Shit”?
“Mota” and “Hierba” are among the most common names for cannabis in Spain. Hierba is relatively self-explanatory as the word for “herb,” whereas Mota is essentially “mote,” meaning a speck or small amount of cannabis for personal use. Enjoy a mota before your afternoon siesta. Safe in the knowledge these terms will also help you get by in Mexico.
When in Rome, “Erba” is an easy one to remember, but “Spinello” is another Italian word for cannabis, translating to “reefer” but essentially referring to a joint in Italy. Does anyone fancy a spinello of Gelat.OG?
Bango is the quite fabulous name for cannabis in Egypt. It literally means “weed” and is smoked by the Bedouin people in the Sinai Peninsula and some of the poorer people in the cities (presumably after the Bingo) as it’s easy to grow and therefore cheaper than the relatively expensive hashish. Sounds a lot like the Indian/Hindu term for cannabis.
The Sanskrit word “Bhang” may be the oldest term for weed. In India, it refers to the seeds and leaves more precisely. Natives make an edible paste made from the buds, leaves, and flowers of the marijuana plant, which is then incorporated into drinks such as bhang lassi and bhang thandai, a milkshake-type drink containing ground-up cannabis plant extracts.
And Finally, a Note About “Ganja”
While many people associate the term “Ganja” with Jamaican origins, it entered the English vernacular from Hindi and roots in Sanskrit. Many Hindu holy texts are written in Sanskrit, several of which regard cannabis as sacred – in fact, it’s been said that cannabis is to Hinduism what wine is to Christianity, so much so that bhang-infused drinks and foods are offered during religious ceremonies.
In the 19th century, Britain began trafficking enslaved people from India to Jamaica to work in the sugar cane plantations. They brought with them a knowledge of cannabis that would go on to become synonymous with Jamaica until this day.
What’s cannabis called in your country? Did we miss any nicknames out? Let us know below!