Chinook Jargon Phrasebook
Kahta Mamook Kopa Chinook Wawa - How to speak Chinook
English & other loanwords
English loan-words | Not Quite
English Loan-Words | Onomatopaeoia | Loan-Words
from Other Languages
Ship - ship or vessel
As distinct from boats and canoes. NB Stick
ship - sailing vessel (i.e. with masts; large sailing vessels in the
inland waters of Puget Sound and Georgia Strait were generally under tow
and did not have their sails unfurled), piah ship or pish ship
- steamer, ship-man - sailor, ship stick or mitwhit stick
Boat - boat
Also as laboat, from the English-French hybrid
"la boat". This word would originally have referred to the giant
canoe-like "York boat" or the fur company voyageurs, and eventually was
used to refer to dinghies, dorys, etc. and other small craft. See
also Canim (below in Not Quite English Loan-words).
Boat nose - the prow or bow of a boat.
Sail, sill - sail
Lope - rope
Tenas lope - cord or twine. Skin lope
- a leather or rawhide thong or lariat.
Liver - river
Haul - haul, pull, lift
As opposed to lolo, to carry, to lift. Haul
was often used in the combination mamook haul, especially in the
Paint, pent - paint
As a noun. The verb is mamook paint.
Stick - stick, wood, firewood.
NB Canim stick - cedar, the wood most used for
making dugout or split-log canoes. Isick stick - ash-wood,
the ash-tree i.e. "paddle stick". Kahnaway stick - oak, i.e. "acorn
wood". Lagom stick - pitch pine, i.e. "pitch wood".
Eena stick - willow ("beaver wood") or (conceivably) a tree
or branch that has been gnawed by a beaver.
Ship stick - mast. Pish stick or
piah stick - rifle. Stick shoes - boots or shoes made
of leather (not moccasins)
No - no
The native words wake and halo were also
Help - help
Spose - if, what if, may I, from suppose Kloshe-spose
- may I, please ("good if...")
Nem - name
Book - book. Sagalie book - the Bible
Pepah, pehpah - paper, a book, a contract, any writing
Court - court, i.e. a law court
Law - law, justice, police
Mahlie - marry
The French form mahliay (marier) was also
Doctin - doctor
Used for an "Indian doctor" or "medicine man" as well
as for a practitioner of modern medicine (such as it was in the 19th Century).
The French loan-word lamedsin or lametsin was also used,
and also referred to medicine in general.
Man - man
Used generally, but more in reference to a non-native
than a native, for whom the term siwash would have been used. When used
by a woman or in relation to one, refers to a husband, e.g. yaka man
- "her man". Tenass man - boy, young man
Whiteman, Klootchman, Boston man, King George man,
Chinaman, Dutchman, Scotchman, Klale man, Oleman, Tamanass man - please
see the People page.
Dolla, Tolla - dollar, money
Kwatah, kwahtah - quarter, two bits
Bit, pit, mit - a dime, a shilling (as in "one bit")
Klee - happy, happiness, from glee
Cly - cry, be sad, from cry
Sick - sick
Piah sick - venereal disease, fever ("fire sick").
Cole sick - the ague, the flue. Sick tumtum - grieved/to grieve,
saddened/to sadden, jealous/to be jealous, unhappy/to be unhappy.
Itlwillie sick - bruised or sore flesh or muscles.
Moon sick - the waning moon.
Lazy - lazy
Shem - shame, dishonour, blame
Halo shem - no blame, without shame.
Dly, dely - dry, thirsty
The terms halo chuck ("no water") or olo chuck
("hungry for water") might also be used.
Tanse - dance
This may also be a French loan-word, from danser.
This word referred to British/American/Canadien style dancing, rather than
to traditional native dances, for which the proper names would have been
Shantie, shauntie - song, to sing, from shanty
This may also be a French loan-word, from chanter.
It is probable that the shantie prononciation replaced the French-style
shauntie version over the course of time, as French influence on the jargon
House - house
Skookum house - prison, jail. Hyas house
- courthouse, "big house" in a company fort. Tenass house -
cabin, outhouse, shed. Hee-hee house - a place of amusement,
e.g. a tavern, bowling alley, perhaps a whorehouse. Mahkook house
- a store. Iskum house - a storehouse. Boston house
- an American-style house, as opposed to a native lodge-house. Keekwillie
house or Quiggly house - the native pit-house lodge of the Interior
and Plateau peoples; Keewulllie or Quiggly were also used
without the "house" ending, particularly by English-speakers.
Window - window
Bed - bed
Get-up - get up, to arise, to wake up
Wash - wash
Comb - comb. Mamook wash - to comb one's hair
Bloom - broom
Kettle, ketling, kitling - kettle
Stocken - stocking, socks
Shut, shoot - shirt
Nose - nose
Skin - skin, as in human skin.
Lapel would normally be used for an animal skin
or hide/fur, especially in terms of a trade-good. NB Skin shoes
- moccasins; stick skin - tree-bark.
Hand - hand
The French loan-word lamah (le main) was
Stone - rock, stone, bone, horn, testicles
Waum - warm, summer
Cole - cold, winter, year
As with most North American languages, years were counted
in winters. There were no words for autumn or spring in Chinook because
these seasons are not markedly pronounced in the climate of the Northwest.
Wind or win - wind
Hyas wind, mesachie wind, tamanass wind - storm,
gale. NB Wind also means breath, life, to breathe.
Sun - sun, sunlight, day, days
Moon - moon, month
Week - week
Sunday - Sunday
This is the only day of the week that would have had
importance in the frontier era and so is the only one that has a formal
jargon word. As the region changed, jargon speakers would have begun
to introduce the names of other days of the wee, which in "pure jargon"
were counted numerically as ikt, moxt, klone, etc.
(as in Portuguese). The term would also probably have been used in
reference to the occasion of a church service, as it does in English.
Gibbs notes that a flag hoisted on a pole on a given day would also mark
a "Sunday", in other words a holiday.
Tomollah - tomorrow
By-by - soon, i.e. "in the by and by".
Sometimes used for "goodbye".
Smoke - smoke, clouds, fog, steam
NB - Big Smoke is still in use in the local English
dialect for Vancouver, and may refer to the heavy fogs that once cloaked
Burrard Inlet and the Lower Fraser for weeks on end as much as to the smoke
from the sawmills that were the city's hallmark.
Snow - snow
The terms cole snass ("cold rain") and makah
were also used.
Salt - salt
The French loan-word sel or lasel was also
Shugah, shukwah - sugar.
The French loan-words suk (sucre)
and lesuk (le sucre) was also used.
Tsee - sweet.
This may not be an English loan-word, but appears to
be an attempt to pronounce sweet.
Glease - grease
Lum - rum
Kaupi, kopi - coffee
Tee - tea
The French loan-word latay (la the) was
Spoon - spoon
Bannock - bannock, a pan-fried bread
Bannock was introduced to the region by fur-company employees
and now a staple among native peoples. Originally a Scots word.
Lice - rice
Pish - fish
This word may also be a French loan-word, from la
peche. Can also mean "fire".
Tabako - tobacco.
The French loan-word tabak was also used, as were
the Indian loan-words kinoots, snoos, and the French loan-word
lahb (l'herbe or l'arbre). The latter words
referred to "Indian tobacco" and other herbal smokeables, while tabako
and tabak were used for tobacco proper. Snoos remains
in the regional dialect of English today as the word for chewing tobacco
and snuff. Tobacco was cultivated at Lillooet
and other regions of the dryland Interior.
Pish stick - rifle, gun
Piah - fire, from English
Piah olallie - ripe berries ("fire berrries",
from their colour). Piah sick - veneral disease, fever ("fire
sick"), sagalie piah - lightning ("sky fire")
Musket - musket, rifle
Stick musket - a bow
Kalapeen, Calapeen - rifle, from carabine
Also considered a French loan-word, but occurs in Russian
Blanket - blanket
Hakatshum - handkerchief
Moose - moose
Actually a Cree word, the proper plural of which is moosoutch.
but introduced to the region by the voyageurs.
Camel, camoo - camel
See the Critters page for an explanation
of why the jargon had a word for this animal.
Lamel - mule
This is a French-English hybrid construction, from "la
Dog - dog
The Indian word kamooks and the French loan-word
lashen were also used.
Puss-puss - cat. Hyas puss-puss - cougar, lynx,
or bobcat. Tenass puss-puss - kitten, kitty-kat
Samman, sammin, salmon - salmon
The French loan-word variant was saumo, with the
accent on the latter syllable.
Stutchun - sturgeon
Noseeum - a type of near-invislbe biting fly common in many
parts of the Interior and alpine country
This is not historically a jargon word according to the
published lexicons, but is so much a part of the native and frontier dialects
today that it must have been.
Not Quite English Loan-Words
Hee-hee - laughter, humour, joke, happy
Not strictly an English loan-word, perhaps, as it can
also be perceived as onomatopoeic. Like tumtum, its origins as a
loan-word are in a pidgin-type usage.
Cooley - run, hurry
Most jargon lexicons interpret this as an adaption of
the French coulir or courir, but it may have its origin in
the English term "coolie", for labourer (originally Hindi).
Laball - ball, a ball-game, also a shot-ball
An English-French hybrid term, from "la ball", as in
French Canadian dialects and Michif.
Box - to box, boxing
i.e. an organized bout, or the sport of pugilistics.
Not technically a jargon word, at least not in the lexicons, but one that
would have been in use among jargon-speakers. Would also have been
used in later decades for a box, which earlier would have been described
by the French loan-word lacasset.
Canim - canoe
An Indian log dugout, or one of the great cedar canoes
of the coastal tribes. The birchbark or skin stick-frame canoes of the
eastern part of the continent were largely unknown west of the Rockies,
except for the giant York Boat, which was the hallmark of the fur company
voyageurs and would have been referred to by "laboat" or hyas
canim. The latter term could also describe a "great canoe" -
one of the giant war canoes or chiefly canoes of the ocean-going peoples.
The published lexicons give the Chinookan language as the source for this
word, but it bears close resemblance to canoe, which is a Cree or Algonkian
word adopted into English. The mutation from the "-oe" ending
to "-im" would be similar to the change from "-or" to "-in"
in doctor to doctin. NB canim stick - cedar,
the wood from which the great split-log canoes of the coastal peoples were
most commonly made.
Pelton - foolish, stupid, crazy
Gibbs says that this word derives from the name of a
deranged individual, an Archibald Pelton (or Felton), who was found en
route and taken to Astoria by a Wilson P. Hunt.
Kullaghan, kullagh - a corral or stockade, a fence, a fenced
Kullagh stick - fence rails.
Gibbs gives the Salishan Chehalis and Lummi as the source
of this word, noting that it meant the stockade with which Indian houses
and villages were often surrounded. However, I will venture a guess
that, like pelton, it is a name-borrowing from an individual, perhaps
the first in the region to build a British/American-style fence, i.e. a
Mr. Callaghan or a similar name, or of a Gaelic word such as currach or
corac (a fortification?).
Klook - crooked
Also Klook teahwhit - broken legged, lame.
Not given as of English derivation in the published lexicons, but the similarity
to English crook is too close to not be pointed out.
Stoh, sto - to loose, to untie, to undo
Possibly from "stow", which in English normally means
put it away into a storage-place, but on board ships means to get rid of
something holding (or so it would appear to someone not familiar with the
Pottle, pahtl, pahtlum - full, bottle, from bottle
In the context of "full", this may not be an English
loan-word, but would be of native origin. Most jargon lexicons give
the source here as the Chinookan pahtl ("full")
Papa - papa, father
Mama - mama, mother
Both these words may also be interpreted as French loan-words.
Kopasetty, copascetic - doing jes' fine, sitting pretty.
Jeff Kopp contributed this, which I have used for a long
time without ever considering it to be of Chinook origin. But now that
he's pointed it out, the "kopa-" beginning is a hallmark of Chinook
phrases - I just can't think what "setty" would mean.
Tickety-boo - perfect, in place, etc.
I am only including this because it may be of
jargon origin, given the ticke- beginning (from "to want" or "to
have") and the formation of such words as mucketymuck (from muckamuck).
The possible origin here may have been a Chinook-French hybrid, tikke
p'ti beau - "I have a little beauty", i.e. "everything's nice".
This is only a speculation......
Tumtum - heart, stomach, feelings, to feel, to think
Anderson says this word, which has a resemblance to English
pidgin, is onomatopaeic from the beating of the heart. See Tumtum
Compounds on the Verbs
& Concepts page.
Poh - a breath, to blow out or to extinguish (a candle)
This may be a corruption of English blow.
Poo - the sound of a gun, also the gun itself
Mamook poo - to shoot. Moxt poo -
a double-barreled gun. Tohum poo or taghum poo - a
six-shooter. In Nisqually on Puget Sound, Opoo was to break
Piu-piu - to stink, to smell badly
Not strictly onomatopaeoia, and technically from French
puer. perhaps in a pidgin-like corruption as with tumtum.
Humm - a bad odor, an unpleasant smell.
As if savouring the air, this word seems to be a way
of saying politely "hey! - someone farted!". Equiv. to English "Whew! that
Puk-puk - a blow with the fist, to strike (someone), to box.
Not exactly onomatopaeoia, but descriptive.
Toh - the act of spitting, a gob of spit. Mamook toh
- to spit
This was an invented word, but no less valid or useful
than any other, and altogether rather descriptive..
To-to - to shake, sift, or winnow
Gibbs says this word's origin is onomatopaeoic.
Hoh-hoh - a cough, to cough
Ko-ko - to knock, a knocking sound
Onomatopaeoic, but also from ko - to come ("someone
Tsish, chish - to sharpen, sharp, sharpened
In imitation of the sound of a grindstone. NB Tshiss,
tshis - meant "cold" in the Chinook language area on the Lower Columbia.
Some animal names are onomateopaeoic - e.g. skwis-skwis (squirrel),
ka-ka (crow), skwah-kuk (frog) and haht-haht (duck)
Loan Words from Other Languages
By "other languages" I am referring here to languages
other than English, French, and the native languages of the Northwest.
Exceptions here are those words from other native languages known to have
come into the Northwest via English or French (such as tobacco/tabak).
Kanaka - Hawaiian
The original Hawaiian meaning of this is "human being",
with the term kanakamaoli used to describe a person native to Hawaii
or with Hawaiian lineage.
Wawa - Language, Speech, Word(s)
This is generally credited with being a word of the original
Chinook language, but is identical to the Cantonese "wa", plural
"wa wa", for words, specch, language. Although there are no
historical records of Chinese contact with the Northwest coast, oral legend
among natives says that the Chinese were here "before the white men", and
it is certainly possible that some may have settled in among the natives
of the region, with this word being a remnant of that absorption.
The other alternative is that it was picked up from the Chinese aboard
the earliest trading and exploration vessels; these were chiefly British
vessels and frequented the Nootka Sound region more than the Columbia,
Kayooti, Kayote - Coyote
This is - if I recall correctly - a derivation from a
Nahuatl (Aztec) word (coyoacan) that became adopted into English
and Spanish and was known among the tribes of the Interior Plateau of BC,
although whether it came there via English or Spanish or came overland
from Mexico tribe-to-tribe is not clear. The second spelling is pronounced
"kay-oat", as is still a common prononcation in Interior BC and throughout
the West, and appears to be of English derivation/corruption.
Moose - moose
Actually a Cree word, the plural of which is moosoutch,
this is generally considered to be an English loan-word introduced by the
voyageurs. If it were introduced by French-speakers, however, it
should thus be considered a French loan-word. It may, however, have been
transmitted across the Rockies prior to the advent of non-natives in the
region, possibly from contact between Athapaskan-Dene speaking peoples,
and is therefore included here.
See also French loan-words
Salutations | Common
Phrases | Money, Trade,
& Travel | Time
& the Elements
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| Critters & Livestock
The Body |
Numbers | Interrogatives, Prepositions,
Verbs & Concepts
| Adjectives & Abverbs
| Grammar & Prononciation
| English & other loan-words
Kamloops Wawa Word List
Jim Holton's Chinook Jargon Book (draft)
George Lang's Chinook Jargon Website
Dakelh (Carrier) Chinook Jargon Website
Jeff Kopp's Chinook Wawa Website
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