Glossary of Traditional Caribbean Craft Materials

Caribbean artisans have used similar natural resources in fashioning traditional crafts and preparing local foods. Yet these materials are often known by different names throughout the region.

Scroll through this glossary or use the search box at right to find out more about regional craft materials and recipe ingredients. You can filter the glossary by the first letter of the term using the alphabet below. To reset the alphabet filter, click “All” to the right.

Term
Agave
Agave americana Forest & Kim Starr [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Synonym
Country
Antigua Pride
Antigua
Cactus
Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica
Century Plant
Barbados, Trinidad
Coratoe
Jamaica
Dagger-plant
Antigua, Dominica, St. Vincent
Lang-béf
Dominica, St. Lucia
Maypole
Barbados
Rope-bush
Guyana
Sisal
Bahamas, Barbados
Definition

One of a family of succulent plants (Agavaceae) with long, thick, fibrous, stiff and spine-tipped leaves radiating from the root; they are often used as barrier hedges…. This plant is a source of fibre familiarly known as sisal.

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Term
Alpargatas
Synonym
Country
Alfagats
Barbados, Guyana
Poor-donkeys
Barbados
Saphats
Barbados
Sampats, sapats, zapats
Caribbean region
Shampata
Jamaica
Definition

A type of sandal of plaited rope, or cut from a piece of motor-car tyre or wood; its toeless upper is a broad instep strap made of canvas, leather, or other suitable material….

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Term
Balata
Harvesting bulletwood in Guyana
(Manilkara bidentate or Mimusops albescens (Sapotaceae))
Caribbean region
Synonym
Country
Bullet Wood tree
Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad
Definition

A large evergreen forest tree with abundant, leathery leaves and small edible fruit, producing a very heavy, hard and durable timber and a thick, white gum for which its bark is tapped or ‘bled’;

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Term
Ball-bush
(Leonotis nepetifolia)
Barbados, Jamaica
Synonym
Country
Ball-and-thread
Anguilla
Ball-head bush
Jamaica, St. Vincent, Tobago
Ball-head cashier, Bird honey
St. Vincent
Candle bush
Dominica
Chandilyé, Chandelier
Trinidad
Christmas candlestick
Bahamas, Jamaica
Governor-balls
Barbados
Gwo-ponpon
St. Lucia
Gwo-tèt
Dominica
Hop-bush
St. Vincent
La-lavinton
Antigua
Lion bush
Guyana
Lion’s tail
Barbados
Man-piaba
Barbados, Guyana
Pomp-pomp
St. Vincent
Rabbit food
St. Kitts
Definition

A wild herb growing to about 4ft in height, erect with a four-sided stalk but no branches, having leaves almost entirely on the lower stalk and a few ball-like spiky, reddish-brown inflorescences spaced along the rest of its length; the weed is used both for medicinal and ornamental purposes;

This plant is frequently used in dried flower arrangements

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Term
Barbados Ebony
(Albizia lebbeck)
Synonym
Country
Lang-fanm
St. Lucia
Monkey shack-shack
Guyana
West Indian ebony
Trinidad
Whistling bean
Bahamas
Woman-tongue
Caribbean region
Definition

A tree about 30ft. tall that flourishes in Barbados with wood that is dark and close-grained and polishes well.

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Term
Candle-wood
(Cupania Americana)
Synonym
Country
Barbados
Guyana
Jamaica
Definition

A light-brown hard wood used in construction and boat-building

In Guyana, candle-wood is a heavy and very tough ‘yellowish-pinkish’ wood useful for saltwater piling, sleepers, bridges etc.

In Jamaica, candle-wood is a light, easily split wood that burns readily

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Term
Cast-net
Caribbean region
Synonym
Country
Seine
Guyana
Sprat net
Antigua, Belize, Jamaica, Nevis
Throw net
St. Lucia
Definition

A fisherman’s circular net about 12ft. in diameter, carrying lead weights around its circumference and controlled by a long cord at the centre by which it is thrown over a shoal of fish in shallow water.

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Term
Casuarina
(Casuarina equisetifolia)
Caribbean region
Synonym
Country
Beef wood
Bahamas
Mile tree
Barbados
Needle-and-thread
Guyana
Whistling pine/willow
Grenada, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Trinidad
Willow
Jamaica
Definition

A very quick-growing tree assuming a tall narrow shape resembling a conifer; 18-36m high, ending in a conical spire which waves to and fro in the wind.

The fruit/pine needles of this tree are used in doll-making and jewellery-making.

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Term
Coconut-broom
Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad
Synonym
Country
Cocoyea-broom
Grenada, Tobago, Trinidad
Pointer-broom
Guyana
Definition

A yard broom home-made from the dried spines of the leaf of the coconut branch, tied in a tight bundle.

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Term
Conaree
Synonym
Country
Buck-pot
Barbados
Karahi
Guyana
Definition

Originally, an open, round-bottomed, iron basin 15 ins in diameter for cooking or for potting pork. Now a locally made clay pot of similar size as a traditional heritage vessel.

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