Abeng means an animal horn or musical instrument in the Twi language of the Akan people of Ghana.
The abeng has had two historical uses in Jamaica. It was used by slaveholders to summon slaves to the sugar fields. It was also used by the Maroon army as a method of communication. In a recent lecture at the University of St. Thomas, Cliff said that the title was a reference to both of these uses, though neither appears in the novel's text; they are referenced in the book's foreword. She further explained that the title is an attempt to "take back" Jamaican history.