Chinook Jargon Phrasebook
Kahta Mamook Kopa Chinook Wawa - How to speak Chinook

People

Chinook-English
English-Chinook

Identity & Ethnicity | Status | Family & Relationships | Pronouns
 

Identity & Ethnicity

Tillikum, tillicum - people, person, friend, used to signify a nation, tribe or band
Has an optional plural form with "-s", as in Hiyu tillikums - many people, a gathering.  Cultus tillikums - ordinary people, insignificant people, nobodies.  Huloima tillikum - a stranger.  Naika tillikum - my relations, my people.  Elip tillikum - the first people, those who inhabited the world before the Indians. Konaway tillikum - everyone, everybody.

Sihks, Seeks, shikhs - a friend
Used only towards men (historically).  I await the debate in the emerging Chinook internet community as to whether this can be used as a form of address for or term used to refer to a woman; I propose klootchman sikhs as a compromise.

Man - man, male
Used generally, but more in reference to a non-native than a native, for whom the term siwash would have been used. An optional plural form ending in "-s" was also occasionally used.

Siwash - man, a male
From the French "sauvage", but widely used by natives in frontier times as a self-descriptive.  Generally an Indian male, although could refer to men as a general concept.  Technically a male human, in the sense of "human being" as an identity, as common in other native languages.  Potentially (even usually) derisive in modern usage (although only old-timers would know the word), this was originally a neutral descriptive despite its context in the original French.  Its best-known use today is in the name of Siwash Rock in Vancouver's Stanley Park, which legend attributes as a man turned to immortal stone in reward for his virtue.

Klootchman - woman, a female. Technically a female of any species, but normally by itself an Indian woman
Klootchman would generally mean "woman", and could also mean "women", although an "-s" might be added for the plural sense as with words like tillikum(s) and whiteman(s).  Klootchman generally only meant an Indian woman, unless combined with another word, such as itwsoot klootchman - she-bear; King george klootchman and/or Boston klootchman for a white lady, perhaps, but there weren't many in the old days. NB do not under any circumstances use the word "squaw" to refer to an Indian woman; its modern meaning is highly derogatory and its etymology is a descriptive vulgarity in Cree for vagina. Klootchman may have its source in the word kloosh for "good", as in "a good 'man' to have around", or "someone who makes you feel good". This may be wrong and I stand to be corrected by another etymology, if someone has one.

Kingchauch, kingchauchman - Britisher of any species, also written King George Man
This term remained in use during Victoria's reign although it was coined during the era of George III. On the British/Canadian side of the border, the Chinook term for the English language was King george wawa or King George lalang. The Chinook term for England or Britain was King George Illahee.

Boston, Boston Man - American
Most fur-trade era Americans were Bostonian, and the first American ships in the region were all Boston traders.  The town of Boston Bar in the Fraser Canyon, which was the main American encampment north of Yale and Emory Bar during the 1858 Gold Rush, owes its name to this Chinook usage.  The Chinook term for the United States was Boston Illahee.  On the US side of the border, the Chinook term for the English language was Boston wawa or Boston lalang. In British Columbia, this same term would have meant double-talk, or the loud and drawling dialects and manner of speech of American miners and cowboys.

Dutch, Dutchman - German
Conceivably used for Scandinavians and Netherlanders also, for whom there were no separate words in the jargon, although Scandinavians in particular were omnipresent in the early history of colonization on both sides of the border.

China, Chinaman - Chinese person
Also this term is now considered derogatory in English, it had no such associations in Chinook, as is the case with Siwash (similarly derogatory in English), Dutchman (mildly derogatory in English), and Boston (sometimes mildly derisive in Chinook).  Chinook derisives were formed by the addition of pejorative adjectives, such as cultus, tamanass, or mesachie.  Although this is no longer politically correct and its modern usage is condemned, many Chinese of long residence in North America still use this word for themselves.  It had its origin as a neutral descriptive coined either by natives or by the Chinese themselves, but acquired derogatory overtones late in the 19th Century, although natives and many non-Chinese continued to use it casually into the later 20th Century until it became controversial after the heightening of ethnic sensitivities in BC with the massive influx of Chinese immigrants in the 1980s and 90s.  Although held in regard by long-time British Columbians of all races as a quaint term, and even an archaic one almost abandoned by the time of the controversy, which caused the replacement of obscure frontier-era placenames with new ones by substituting "Chinese" for "China".  Similar revisions of the toponymy in Alberta and the adjoining states are on the agenda.  The Chinook terms for the country of China were China Illahee or Chinaman Illahee, for the Chinese language China wawa or Chinaman wawa, or China lalang or Chinaman lalang.

Kanaka - Hawaiian person
This Hawaiian word is part of the BC landscape and was part of the argot of early BC; some Chinook dictionaries include it as a regular part of the jargon, indicating its early provenance in the fur trade and the gold rush era rather than a non-Chinook import into the provincial dialect.  Usually given in Chinook lexicon publications as meaning "local" in Hawaiian, this is incorrect, as I have been informed by Leilani at the Hawaiian Language Page  that the correct meaning is "human being, man, person, individual, party, mankind, population" - i.e. the Hawaiian equivalent of the native connotation of siwash.  Leilani, in informing me of the correction, went on to say "Just as it is culturally-incorrect, in these enlightened times, to refer to an Asian as an Oriental, which is a European appellation, culturally-aware Hawaiians refer to themselves (ourselves) in the language of the land...as kanaka maoli...fig., true Hawaiians, to distinguish them/ourselves from the immigrant-descended and Hawaiians-at-heart. Indigenous Hawaiian and native Hawaiian would be English approximations of the term, kanaka maoli.  Literally, it translates then to: true humans (!).  Nothing like an improved
self-concept (s)!".  Kanaka Bar, Kanaka Creek, and the now-vanished Kanaka Rancherie on Vancouver's Lost Lagoon all indicate areas of Hawaiian activity and settlement in the old colony; Kanaka Creek is across the Fraser from Fort Langley and Derby, and would have been the domicile of the HBC's Hawaiian employees (1820s). There are still many old family links to Hawaii in BC, especially among the natives, with whom BC's Kanaka population readily intermarried.

Pasiooks - French
This term is derived from the word paseese (blanket or woolen cloth), one of the most culturally important trade goods introduced to the region by the French-speaking voyageur employees of the fur companies.  The "-ooks" ending denotes a living being, i.e. "clothmen".  Gibbs notes that this term was applied to all fur company employees on the Interior side of the Cascade Range/Coast Mountains, but on the Coast it was exclusively used in reference to the French Canadian voyageursPasiooks wawa or pasiooks lalang - the French language.

Scotchman - a Scot
This has survived as a family name in the Lillooet region.

Klale man, klale siwash - a black person or a mulatto.
As in other parts of North America, blacks were easily accepted by native societies.  Most blacks and mulattos in the Northwest were British subjects, usually West Indian, including the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island's first Governor and first troops/police.  There were extremely few blacks, if any, in the American part of the Northwest until after the American Civil War.  One of the first ships in the region, the Venus, had an all-African crew composed of "negroes of Lolo"; the Venus' fate is unknown, as there is no record of her after her presence in the area of the BC coast around 1790.  Pictures of goldrush-era native graveyards in the Fraser Canyon feature black mortuary statues, with West Indian-style head-bandanas and polka-dotted knee-breeches.

Shama - White man.
Not strictly a Chinook word, but in wide use in many variants throughout Salishan and adjoining areas. Emphasized or otherwise mutated vowels indicate derision and hostility, and probably menace.

Whiteman - White man or whites in general.
Whiteman was used mostly by natives; it is not common among them today; means any person of European extraction. Whitemans is an alternative plural, but can also be the genetive.  Unlike King george man, Boston man, Scotchman, and Dutchman, which are nationality-specific, this term would have been used when speaking of white people in general, or in the aspect of an individual being white, or typically white.  Although not specifically a derisive, it was commonly used in combination with pejoratives like cultus and mesachie.   Pronounced as one word, with vowels more or less the same as in English but with an emphasis on the first syllable. The "a" in "man" is still an audibly broad "a" rather than a neutral vowel as in the English pronunciations of "Dutchman" or "Englishman". Usually had a derogatory meaning, and was most common in the forms tamanass whiteman (evil or wicked white man) and cultus whiteman (bad whiteman, worthless whiteman, idiot), either of which in the plural would have referred to the general iniquity of white people as a whole. This colourful usage is unfortunately virtually extinct even among the natives. The most common modern native term in the region is shama (Salishan spelling "sama7", the "7" being a glottal stop), which can also have derogatory meanings especially if the vowels ar changed or lengthened; this is not properly a Chinook jargon word, but was probably in wider use among native speakers of Chinook in BC than was King George man or Boston man, especially in Salishan-speaking areas and/or when the context made no distinguishment of Americans and Brits was intended. In such cases where no national affiliation was meant or relevant, whiteman was likely more often used in speech by natives with non-natives because of the impolite tone of the more purely native term shama. NB the plural of this and other "-man" terms was not made in the English way but by the addition of numerical or other modifiers; e.g. hiyu whiteman (many white men). The optional use of a final "-s" in addition to the modifier was also acceptable ("hiyu whitemans"), but the addition of a final "s" was more generally used for the possessive as in English. Most nouns were the same in the plural as they were in the singular, especially for words of pure native origin such as those for animals.

Sitkum siwash - half-breed.
The term "Métis" (pron. "maytsee") was not used in historic BC except in reference to fur company voyageurs, who would more commonly have been referred to as "Canadien", which was often their own word for themselves.  Most fur company Canadien employees would have been of Métis stock, and technically sitkum siwash although not generally regarded as such, but the latter term would have been reserved for people whose native ancestry/culture was local.

Cultus whiteman - evil white man, worthless white man, dishonest white man.
NB cultus - also means flawed, broken, nothing.

Cultus siwash - bad Indian, untrustworthy Indian, lazy Indian.
Obviously cultus can be used to generate other derisives, but these two were the most common historical usages, along with cultus boston. A truly evil, malicious individual would have been described or accused as tamanass whiteman, tamanass siwash, tamanass boston, etc. or as mesachie whiteman, mesachie siwash, mesachie boston; mesachie means crooked, untrustworthy, or malign, whereas tamanass indicates evil, malice, crazy viciousness. All of these derisive forms would have been used commonly as expletives and/or to-the-face denunciations. The same derisives applied collectively would tend to use a plural form, if available - cultus whitemans ("whites suck"), tamanass boston mans ("damn Yankees").

Lemolo - wild, crazy. Lemolo boston - crazy American, etc.
Pelton - a fool, foolish, insane, stupid

 

Status

Tyee - Chief, King.
A common coastal word and generally reckoned as of Indian origin, but note the Cantonese homonym "tai" - great or mighty. Indian oral tradition says that there were Chinese visiting the coast long before Cook or Vancouver.  Tyee is also used in the Campbell River area to refer to a large Chinook salmon of extraordinary size - although technically meaning "king salmon", the latter term is used by Americans to refer to the prized salmon variety known to Canadians as sockeye.
Hyas tyee - Great Chief, King
This was the title used by Maquinna and Wickanninish, the two principle chiefs of the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) at the time of explorers Vancouver and Bodega y Quadra.Theis was also the title of the famous chiefs Khatsahlahno (of the Squamish) and Cumshewa (of the Haida), etc. and also of the British king or local governor. In later years, it could also mean a high company or government official or chief military officer. Unofficial social status without (necessarily) command authority or formal hierarchy was designated by high muckamuck, although this term could readily have been used for someone who was also a hyas tyee, although the latter is a title, the former more having the context of social standing.
Hyas muckamuck, high muckamuck - bigshot, bigwig, official ("someone who sits at the head table").
This word is still in wide use in English in the Pacific Northwest, especially in British Columbia, where it is even heard in news reporting
Doctin - doctor (usually an Indian doctor, i.e. medicine man)
Tamanass man - medicine man, sorcerer.
The word tamanass also refers to black magic, spirits, and Indian medicine.
Tsiatko - witch, sorcerer, demon
This word comes from the name of a nocturnal demon, something like a Sasquatch, which was much feared by natives throughout the region.  Gibbs says that the Skagits used this for a tribe of Fraser River natives named the "Couteaux", which I believe is a reference to the Nklapmx or Thompson (known in frontier times as the Hakamaugh), but may have been the Sto:lo or Katzie.
Lamedsin, Lametsin - doctor
Usually a white doctor or priest, but also medicine in general
Laplet, lapret - priest
Oleman, oloman - old man, old (as adj.).
Used as an adjective for "old" for objects and male animals, e.g. hyas oleman kiuatan - a very old horse.  Concerning objects,it is used in the sense of being "worn out", rather than in terms of age or provenance.  The alternate spelling of this word suggests that it may come from "hungry man", as elderly natives were often destitute in hunter-gatherer societies and dependent on others for their food.  Like Scotchman, this is a family name in the Lillooet region.
Lammieh, lummi, lummieh - old woman
Could be used as an an adjective for "old" for female animals, e.g. hyas lummi kiuatan - a very old mare, although hyas oleman klootchman kiuatan may have been more likely a construction.
Mistchimas - slave
In the original Nootka a common person or of low origin.  It acquired the meaning slave upon its adoption into the jargon, common people being the sort most commonly taken in slave raids or otherwise turned to servitude.  The slave-trade of the Northwest was a major component of society and the economy, and potlatches often involved brutal and wanton killing of slaves as a demonstration of the chief's wealth.
Elite - slave
Of Chinook derivation. Pronounced "ehlight".
Burdash - Hermaphrodite, gelding, mule.
The lexicons state this word is of French origin - possibly from "bourru" for "rude, surly, peevish" although probably via a Metis/Mechouf variant) - although "berdache" is the more direct etymology. How such a concept as hermaphroditism would have been necessary in the region seems a mystery until the introduction of livestock and horses into the region in the early 19th Century is considered, along with the fact that the Metis were the main influence on the lexicon of Chinook in that period, especially for objects and concepts that none of the contributing native languages had terms for. Hence burdash cayoosh - mule or gelding - and burdash moos-moos - a steer. It is unlikely that there were many human hermaphrodites in the region during the frontier era as neither the slave trade nor ritual societies of the natives are recorded to have involved the creation of eunuchs, although burdash has obvious derisive applications for effeminacy, cowardice, celibacy, or gutlessness.  Sexual dualism as known among Plains peoples and others was relatively unknown in the Northwest, although burdash could have been used for a homosexual or transvestite within native culture if any existed.
 

Family & Relationships

Papa - father
Mama - mother
Naha - mother. Note nah! - "look here!"
Chope - grandmother
Chitsh - grandfather
Kahpo - older brother, sister, or cousin
Ow - younger brother
Ats - younger sister
Kwalh - aunt
Tot - uncle
Other relations, or specific ones, are formed by compounding, e.g. nika mama yaka ats - a maternal aunt.

Siks, sihks, seeks - friend
Tillikum, tillicum - friend
May also mean "people", especially if in plural form with "-s"
Tenas, tenas tillikums - children ("little people")
Tenas means the young of any species.  Moxt naika tenas - I have two children. Mitlite tenas - to be with child.  Mahsh tenas - to give birth.
Self - self. Nika self - myself, mesika self - yourselves.
Huiloma, huloima - other, another, someone else, a different one
Huloima tillikum - stranger
Cheechako - newcomer, stranger, literally "just came"
Cheechako can also mean "tenderfoot", although this mild derisive context is later and more regional, being associated with the Klondike gold rush.

 

Pronouns

As modifiers of nouns, these could come before or after the word modified.  If used with verbs, they generally came before the verb in the nominative and after in the accusative or dative/ablative.
 
Naika, nika - I, me, mine
Maika, mika - you, yours (sing.)
Nesaika, nesika - We, us, ours
Mesaika, mesika - You, yours (pl.)
Yaka, yahka, yokka - him, her, they and his, hers, theirs
Klaska - they, them, theirs
Okook klaska, oke klaska - they, those present.
Yaka could also be used for the 3rd person plural.
Okoke, okook, oke - this, that, here
Ka, kah - what, that
Also where, whither, whence. NB kah-kah - here and there, wherever .  Konaway kah - everywhere.
Klaksta - who, someone, which one
Oke klaksta, okook klaksta - he who.
Na, nah - who, which one
Na was used in both interrogative and pronomial senses.  It was also used as an interrogative particle to turn a phrase into a question, or as a querying interjection.  Gibbs says that in Yakima it is used as the vocative.  See also interjections.

Halo klaksta - no one, nobody
Konaway tillikum - everyone, everybody
Kunamoxt - both, both of them
Kunamoxt kahkwa - both alike, "they are the same", "they are equal"
Ikt-ikt - someone, someone or other, whatever, something "here and there"
Whit, wid - used as a suffix meaning "one who is"
Not exactly a pronoun; used as in kliminawhit (liar), chee whit ("new one"), and klee whit ("laughing one"). This particle could be very useful in the coining of new words - e.g. mesachie whit - evil bastard, cooley whit - runner, hyak whit - fast one

 


English-Chinook
Chinook-English

Under Construction!!!!  Currently identical to the Chinook-English section above!!
Identity & Ethnicity | Status | Family & Relationships | Pronouns
 
 

Identity & Ethnicity

Human being, person - tillikum(s), man, siwash
People - tillikum(s)

Male, man - man, siwash
Siwash was used only in reference to Indian men, and has over time acquired a somewhat derogatory tone if used by non-natives.  With the exception of Kanaka, other masculine ethnicities were formed using the "-man" suffix.  Man by itself would also generally refer to non-Indians.

Female, woman - klootchman
American woman - Boston klootchmanEnglishwoman - Kingchauch klootchman - .  Doe - Mowitch klootchmanFemale dog, bitch - Kamooks klootchman, dog klootchman. etc.

British, English - Kingchauchman, kingchauch, king george man, king george
English language - kingchauch wawa, king george wawa, kingchauch lalang, king george lalang.  These terms were used on the British side of the border.

American - Boston, Boston Man (most fur-trade era Americans were Bostonian)
English language - Boston wawa, Boston lalang.  These terms could also refer to the American dialect or manner of speech.

German - Dutch, Dutchman
Dutchman was conceivably used for Scandinavians and Netherlanders also, as there were no separate words for these ethnicities in the jargon.   The term Dutchman was widely used throughout North American in reference to Germans (who use Deutsch to describe themselves), rather than to Netherlanders for whom the English usage is reserved.  The German language - Dutchman wawa, dutchman lalang.

Chinese person - China, Chinaman
Also this term is now considered derogatory in English, it had no such associations in Chinook, as is the case with Siwash (similarly derogatory in English) and Dutchman (mildly derogatory in English). Chinook derisives were formed by the addition of pejorative adjectives.  The Chinese language - China wawa, chinaman wawa, china lalang, chinaman lalang - more particularly Cantonese (other dialects of Chinese being rare in North America in those days).

Hawaiian - Kanaka
From Hawaiian kanaka for "human being"; kanakamaoli - "true human being", i.e. a native Hawaiian. The Hawaiian language - kanaka wawa, kanaka lalang.

French, a Frenchman - Pasiooks
The French language - Pasiooks wawa, pasiooks lalang.

Scottish, a Scot - Scotchman
There was no "Scotchman lalang", Gaelic being largely unspoken in the Northwest despite a large Scots population, especially on the British side of the border.  There was no term for Irishman, except, perhaps for Irishman or Irish.

Klale man, klale siwash - a black person or a mulatto. As in other parts of North America, blacks were easily accepted by native societies. Most blacks and mulattos in the Northwest were British subjects, usually West Indian, including the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island's first Governor and first troops/police. There were extremely few blacks, if any, in American part of the Northwest until after the American Civil War. One of the first ships in the region, the Venus, had an all-African crew composed of "negroes of Lolo"; the Venus' fate is unknown, as there is no record of her after her presence in the area of the BC coast around 1790.

Shama - White man. Not strictly a Chinook word, but in wide use in many variants throughout Salishan and adjoining areas. Emphasized or otherwise mutated vowels indicate derision and hostility, and probably menace.

Whiteman - White man or whites in general. Whitemans is an alternative plural, but can also be the genetive. Pronounced as one word, with vowels more or less the same as in English but with an emphasis on the first syllable.

Sitkum siwash - half-breed. The term "Metis" (pron. "maytsee") was not used in historic BC except in reference to fur company voyageurs

Cultus whiteman - evil white man, worthless white man, dishonest white man. NB cultus - also flawed, broken, nothing.

Cultus siwash - bad Indian, untrustworthy Indian, lazy Indian. Obviously cultus can be used to generate other derisives, but these two were the most common historical usages, along with cultus boston. A truly evil, malicious individual would have been described or accused as tamanass whiteman, tamanass siwash, tamanass boston, etc. or as mesachie whiteman, mesachie siwash, mesachie boston; mesachie means crooked, untrustworthy, or malign, whereas tamanass indicates evil, malice, crazy viciousness. All of these derisive forms would have been used commonly as expletives and/or to-the-face denunciations. The same derisives applied collectively would tend to use a plural form, if available - cultus whitemans ("whites suck"), tamanass boston mans ("damn Yankees").
Lemolo - wild, crazy. Lemolo boston - crazy American, etc.
 
 

Status

Tyee - Chief
A common coastal word and generally reckoned as of Indian origin, but note the Cantonese homonym "tai" - great or mighty. Indian oral tradition says that there were Chinese visiting the coast long before Cook or Vancouver.
Hyas tyee - Great Chief, King
Hyas muckamuck, high muckamuck - bigshot, bigwig, official ("someone who sits at the head table")
This word is still in wide use in English in the Pacific Northwest, especially in British Columbia.
Doctin - doctor (usually an Indian doctor, i.e. medicine man)
Tamanass man - medicine man, sorcerer
Tsiatko - witch, sorcerer, demon
Lamedsin, Lametsin - doctor (usually a white doctor or priest), but also medicine in general
Laplet, lapret - priest
Oleman - old man, old (as adj.)
Lammieh, lummi, lummieh - old woman
 

Family & Relationships

Papa - father
Mama - mother
Naha - mother
NB nah! - "look here!"
Chope - grandmother
Chitsh - grandfather
Kahpo, kahp-ho - older brother, sister, or cousin.
Gibbs says Hale's account of likpo or likpuhu is "only a corruption" of kahpo and that it was not used in jargon.  To me, however, it seems it may be of French-Chinook hybrid origin, i.e. le kahpo - the older sibling, in other words the one that would come after you in a dalliance, i.e. the elder sister (esp. in a matriarchal society), or simply a third-person deferential by way of politeness.  Given the existence of separate terms for younger brother and younger sister, I would like to suggest that the use of likpo for elder sister be employed by modern Chinook speakers so as to avoid gender confusion with kahpo.
Ow - younger brother
Ats - younger sister
Ek-keh - brother-in-law
Kwalh - aunt
Tot - uncle
-
Other relations and specific relationships are formed by compounding, e.g. nika mama yaka ats - a maternal aunt.
Siks, sihks, seeks - friend
Tillikum, tillicum - friend. May also mean "people", especially if in plural form with "-s"
Tenass tillikums - children ("little people")

Huiloma - other, another, someone else
Cheechako - newcomer, stranger (also tenderfoot)
 

Pronouns

 


Greetings & Salutations | Common Phrases | Money, Trade, & Travel | Time & the Elements
Food & Domestic Life | Fun & Games | Critters & Livestock | People

The Body | Numbers | Interrogatives, Prepositions, & Interjections

Verbs & Concepts | Adjectives & Adverbs | Grammar & Pronunciation
 
French loan-words | English & other loan-words
Chinook-English reference (by category)
Kamloops Wawa Word List - NEW
 
Jim Holton's Chinook Jargon Book (draft)
George Lang's Chinook Jargon Website
Dakelh (Carrier) Chinook Jargon Website
Jeff Kopp's Chinook Wawa Website
Duane Pasco's Tenas Wawa On-Line
 
Chinook Night Before Christmas
Chinook Lord's Prayer & Hymns

E-mail  |  Chinook Jargon Main Page
Bridge River-Lillooet Country | BC History & Scenery | Clevens & Periards | Poetry