Cannabis Ruderalis

The word GANJA written in graffiti in Seville, Spain

Ganja is one of the oldest and most commonly used synonyms for marijuana in the English language. Its usage in English dates to before 1689.[1]


Ganja is borrowed from Hindi gāñjā (IPA: [ɡaːɲd͡ʒaː]), a name for cannabis, which is derived from Sanskrit gañjā, referring to a “powerful preparation from Cannabis sativa”.[2][3][4][5][6] The word was used in Europe as early as 1856, when the British enacted a tax on the “ganja” trade.[7]

One academic source places the date of introduction of ganja in Jamaica at 1845.[8] The term came with 19th century workers whose descendants are now known as Indo-Jamaicans.[9]

Contemporary use of the term ganja[edit]

GANJA written in graffiti in California

English use[edit]

Ganja is the most common term for marijuana in Jamaica.[9][10]

In popular culture[edit]

In 1975, Peter Tosh defended the use of ganja in the song “Legalize It”.[11] The hip hop group Cypress Hill revived the term in the United States in 2004 in a song titled “Ganja Bus”, followed by other artists including rapper Eminem in the 2009 song “Must Be the Ganja”.[7][12]

The artist Nicki Minaj has a reggae and hip-hop infused song called "Ganja Burn", serving at the opening track of her fourth studio album Queen.


  1. ^ "10 Words From Hindi & Urdu". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 2019-04-15. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Martin (2008). "Iranian L, and Some Persian and Zaza Etymologies". Iran & the Caucasus. 12 (2): 281–287. doi:10.1163/157338408X406056. JSTOR 25597374.
  3. ^गाँजा&searchhws=yes
  4. ^ Torkelson, Anthony R. (1996). The Cross Name Index to Medicinal Plants, Vol. IV: Plants in Indian medicine, p. 1674, ISBN 9780849326356, OCLC 34038712. CRC Press. ISBN 9780849326356.
  5. ^ Kranzler, Henry R.; Korsmeyer, Pamela (2009). Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol & Additive Behaviour. Gale. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-02866-064-6.
  6. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (April 20, 2017). "420 Day: Why There Are So Many Different Names for Weed". TIME. Archived from the original on August 12, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Linder, Courtney (April 19, 2015). "Pot patois: A comprehensive etymology of marijuana". The Pitt News. Archived from the original on April 3, 2019. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  8. ^ Mansingh, Laxmi; Mansingh, Ajai (1999). Home Away from Home: 150 Years of Indian Presence in Jamaica, 1845-1995. I. Randle Publishers. p. 127. ISBN 9768123397.
  9. ^ a b Lisa Rough (May 14, 2015). "Jamaica's Cannabis Roots: The History of Ganja on the Island". Leafly. Archived from the original on April 11, 2019. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  10. ^ Courtwright, David T. (2009). Forces of Habit. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674029-90-3.
  11. ^ Pieter Coertzen; M Christiaan Green; Len Hansen, eds. (2015). Law and Religion in Africa: The quest for the common good in pluralistic societies. African Sun Media. p. 186. ISBN 978-1-919985-63-3.
  12. ^ Rafael Pérez-Torres (2006). Mestizaje: Critical Uses of Race in Chicano Culture. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-0-8166-4595-4.

Leave a Reply