Chinook Jargon Phrasebook

Kahta Mamook Kopa Chinook Wawa - How to speak Chinook

Adjectives & Adverbs

As with nouns, many of these words can be used as verbs or nouns.  Many words here are not necessarily adjectives or adverbs per se, but can act in those functions, and quite often the role of adjective can be taken by an adverb, or vice versa.  As with other sections of this phrasebook, I have attempted to group these words by category rather than alphabetically.  This page will necessarily take a long time to complete and organize.......most of these words can be found on other pages of this phrasebook.


T'kope, kope
white, light-coloured

Klale, klelh, tlale, tlelh*
Pechugh, petsukh, p'chugh
Klale, klelh, tlale, tlelh*
pale green

Klale, klelh, tlale, tlelh*
dark green

Klale, klelh, tlale, tlelh*
shades of blue and green
Klale, klelh, tlale, tlelh*
shades of blue and green
T'kope, kope
white, light-coloured

T'kope, kope
white, light-coloured
Klale, klelh, tlale, tlelh*
shades of blue and green

T'kope, kope
white, light-coloured

T'kope, kope
white, light-coloured

T'kope, kope
white, light-coloured

Lagley, laglee***

Lagley, laglee***

Lagley, laglee***

*The "tl" and "kl" spellings were originally attempts at transliterating the same plosive sound, variants of which are common in native languages of both the Coast and the Interior.    Essentially klale and tlale are the same pronunciation, similarly klelh and tlelh (the final l here is a fricative, like the Welsh double-l).  In some dialects the kl and tl sounds can be separate, especially among non-natives where kl seems more likely as an initial tl is unfamiliar.  There may be no connection, but throughout Eurasia many languages use "kara" and variants of it to mean "black" as well as any darker shade of any colour.  Note that the word  polaklie can also mean black, in the sense of darkness or shadow as well as night or evening.  Use of klale vs. pechugh for varying colours of green is probably a matter of shade of green, just as t'kope can mean light-coloured rather than simply white.

**NB Pil-pil - blood
.  I'm only guessing here about purple and orange being termed "red"; it would depend on the shade, I'd think; some oranges might better be served by kawkawak, some more violet purples by klale.  I've shown a pinkish purple here as pil, but that's only a guess.  Similiarly two objects that were black and blue might be termed relatively; one klale, the other tkope or perhaps pechugh.

*** also means a grey horse, from fr. "le gris"
Please see the horses section of the Critters & Livestock page for colours as applied to horseflesh (mostly French loan-words).


Kloshe, kloosh, klosh, close, cloos, tloos
good, correct, right, healthy 

Hyas kloshe - very good.
Elip kloshe - best, the best. 
Kloshe lemah - the right hand ("the good hand")

NB Mamook kloshe - fix it, it's fixed, make it better, doing OK, to make feel good, heal. 
Chako kloshe - to become healed, to feel better, to become good
Kloshe nanitch - stand guard, stand watch, used as an envoi/parting blessing, i.e. 'watch well"

bad, broken, worthless, unreliable, meaningless, dishonest

In reply to a question such as "what do you want?" or "what are you thinking?", cultus would simply mean "nothing" or "it doesn't matter".  Cultus is not associated with the malice implicit in mesachie, nor with the supernatural potency of tamanass, and is more of a "benign negative" as opposed to "implicitly evil". 

Cultus is the usual opposite of kloshe, and is perhaps the most common and widespread of the words for "bad" (which include mesachie, peshak and tamanass)

See Cultus Compounds in the Verbs & Concepts page for an exploration of the many possible meanings of this common word.

NB Cultus whiteman - shiftless whiteman, dishonest whiteman, "white bastard"
bad, evil, nasty, dangerous, malicious

NB Mesachie wind - gale, storm, bad weather

Big, mighty, strong, true, genuine, solid, able

NB Skookum tumtum - brave, courageous, bold
Skookumchuck - rapids, "strong water"

Also used as a very auxiliary meaning "to be able"
Yaka skookum mamook kloshe - he can fix (it).

Skookum is the most common and popular Chinook word and still in popular use in British Columbia and the Yukon.   Modern usages:

"That's skookum" in reference to a constructed object or a piece of work well done.

"He's skookum" can refer to a person's size, but also to their reliability or honesty even more than to their physical strength.   "Doughty" is a possible translation of this sense.

"Looks pretty skookum" means something looks solid or indestructible, or extremely durable and reliable.

By itself, "Skookum!!" means "like, like, really good, awesome, man!."  

Also may refer to a demon, evil spirit, or ghost; in one part of central Washington the skookum was a sasquatch-like creature with a large single spur on its toe; in the Grand Ronde Chinuk-wawa creole, this meaning of "monster" is pronounced skoo-KOOM
(the 'k' in Grand Ronde is unaspirated and sounds to English ears more like a 'g'; Grand Ronde pronunciation of the "strong" meaning tends to be SKOO-koom rather than Skoo-kum as is more common elsewhere).

Peshak, pishak
bad, naughty

Peshak tenas would tend to mean "naughty child" whereas mesachie tenas would more mean "evil child".
Tamanass, tamahnous, tamanawaz, tamahnawis
bad, evil, black magic, spirits

An invective level one step higher than mesachie, when used to mean "bad",  but mesachie's already pretty bad. 
Tamanass, though, also has a general (and potentially benign) meaning associated with magic or the supernatural that need not convey evil or malice, whereas mesachie has no such supernatural context and is always evil or malicious.

NB Tamanass man, Tamanawaz man
medicine man, Indian doctor, wizard
Tamanass whiteman - damned whiteman, devilish whiteman
Tamanass wind - preternaturally big wind, very bad storm

big, great, mighty, large, auspicious, powerful, important

Also "very" or "very well", in which case it usually comes in front of the phrase or word it is modifying:
hyas yaka mamook wawa Chinook lalang
he can speak Chinook very well.

Hyas Tyee - high chief, big boss, king,
Hyas kloshe - very good
small, few, lesser, or the young of any animal

Note syntax of Moxt naika tenas
I have two children, I have two small ones (of anything).

Tenas hiyu - some, a few
Tenas sitkum - a quarter of something ("small half")
Tenas wind - breeze, light wind
Hiyu, hiu, hyiu
many, lots, a multitude, enough (to go around), plenty, also can mean a party or gathering

Gibbs and Shaw note that Jewitt gives hyo as meaning "ten" in the early Jargon used at Nootka SoundSome Jargon scholars believe that hyas and hiyu share the same origin and only one or the other may have been known/used in certain areas/periods

Tenas hiyu - some, a few
Wake hiyu - not many, not much.

fast, quickly, swift

NB also a command, as in "hurry up!".

NB Kiuatan yaka kumtux cooley
fast horse, race horse (horse he knows how to run)

 In the Fraser Canyon "holaporte" was heard to mean "hurry!"; it comes from "all aboard".

Klah, klak
  open, wide, visible, free, free from,
clear, clear from, in sight, in sight of

Anderson (1842) gives the original meaning of klah as "to open out or appear", i.e. as a verb.  In later times this meaning was rendered by halakl

slow, slowly

May have an etymology related to klah., i.e. perhaps from klah yahwa -" it's in the open there" i.e. be careful, or perhaps easy going
Klahanie, Klaghanie
out of doors, out, without, outside

Mamook klaghanie okook - put that outside. 
Klatawa klahanie - to go outside. 

There was for many years on CBC Television a show whose title was Klahanie; it was about "the great outdoors", also implying "roaming around the country".

  "Without" above is a 19th Century English word found in the lexicons; not to be confused with the modern meaning of same.

NB Inside - Inside

broad, open

This word also means a wooden plank or board, from Fr. la planche.  The meaning above possibly comes from Fr. la plage - the beach.
Klukulh, klakalh
broad, wide, as of a board or plank

NB - halakl - to open, to make open
Delate, dret
straight, direct, truly

From French droit and/or Norman drette.  Often used to mean "very" or "truly", e.g. dret kloosh - really good, right on

Kiwa, keewah
crooked, not straight, bent

Klook teahwhit - broken legged, lame

curled or curly, knotted, crooked

middle, in the middle of

NB distinct from kokshut - smashed, broken


On land, means "towards the woods" or "the interior".  As a command, means "get in" (in boating).


On land, means "towards the water".  As a command, means "keep off" (in boating).

Lowullo, lolo, lo'lo, lu'lu
round, whole, the entire of anything

Lolo sapoleel - whole wheat. 

The apostrophe in the third spelling is a glottal stop, as is probably also the intention of the 'w' in the first, most widely published spelling.  Lo'lo, or lu'lu in Grand Ronde spelling, is used in Oregon to mean a gathering, i.e. "a circle" (of people)  

NB distinction from a similar word lolo meaning "to carry, to haul, to load"

NB Konaway or kanawe means "everything" and would refer to "all of something" in areas where lo'lo was unknown.  e.g. Konaway tillikums - all people

half, half of something, part of something

Sitkum Siwash
- halfbreed
Tenas sitkum - quarter, a small part of something

Elip - first, in front of, more
Kimtah - behind, after

The distinction between kimtah and opoots is that kimtah has the sense of following something; opoots is at the back of something, or the backside of something.
Opoots - behind, in rear of

The distinction between kimtah and opoots is that kimtah has the sense of following something; opoots is at the back of something, or the backside of something.

Keekwullie, keekwillie, kickwillie, keewulee, quiggly
below, under

When this word is commonly heard in modern Interior BC English in reference to a traditional pithouse or its remains - a kickwillie hole - it's generally pronounced "quiggly"
Sagalie, saghalie, sockally
 above, over, on top, high.

Saghalie Tyee - God, the Great Spirit
Saghalie Illahee - Heaven

Also means "sky", "heaven", and "sacred"; originally only mean "up" or "high"
Latet, latate
on top of, the top of something,

 i.e. used as in French - "the head of something".

The distinction between saghalie and latet, when used as an adjective, is that saghalie means "above" - over something, or higher than - whereas latet means the top surface or part of something.

deep, sunken
Klip chuck - deep water.  Klip sun - sunset.
 hidden (also "to hide")

NB difference from Itswoot - bear
 far, a long ways

NB siah-siah
very far
The Nootka source-word meant "sky" - "the far beyond".

Pitlilh, pitlhil
 thick in consistency, as molasses
Pchih, pit-chih
thin in dimension, as a board
thin, like paper

Pahtl, pottle

(possibly originally from "bottle")

Pahtl chuck - wet.
Pahtl illahee - dirty.
Mamook pahtl - to fill.

NB Pahtlum, pahtl lum
- drunk ("full of rum")


Also means "to pour out", esp. as mamook wagh.
See other meanings of wagh in Verbs & Concepts.

NB - weght means more or also;
an important distinction from wagh.
Dly, dely
dry, thirsty

Also halo chuck - "without water", "need water".

 lately, new.

Cheechako - newcomer, tenderfoot

Hyas chee - entirely new, immediately new/recent, i.e. "just now".

Mamook chee - make like new; chee mamook - newly done
Oleman, oloman
old man, old (as adj.), worn out.

NB mamook oleman - to wear out

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" - olo man, as elderly natives were often destitute in hunter-gatherer societies and dependent on others for their food. 
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.


Waum illahee - summer, south

See Time and the Elements.


Cole Illahee - winter, north

See Time and the Elements.

 hot, cooked, ripe

 bright, shining, light

Not in wide use, according to Gibbs/Shaw.  Since it was of Kalapuya origin, its usage was based in the Williamette region.

happy, happiness, laughing (from Engl. "glee")

Possibly root of artist Emily Carr's epithe "Kleewyck" Klee Whit ("laughing one"), but there is a separate Nootka etymology for same.
Kwann, Kwal
happy, glad

Can be used for tame or broken, as in a horse or other animal.  Kwal was used in Nisqually for tame.  Kwann can also mean calm, quiet.

Youtl, Utle
proud, pleased, spirited (of a horse)

Hyas youtl yakka tumtum - "his heart is very glad" or "he is very full of himself".  Kwetlh was also used (Chehalis region).  Skookum tumtum also meant "brave"

fraid, fear, tame

Mamook kwass - to frighten, to tame. 
Kwass tumtum - cowardly, fearful.

 wild, crazy

Lemolo kiuatan - wild horse, mustang
crazy, foolish

The sense here is not dangerous, as may be with lemolo, but hapless; imbecilic

hard in substance, hard to do, difficult

Kull stick - oak ("hard wood")
hard (lit. like a rock)

NB difficulty is expressed by kull

Also means testicles, or manly:
Stone kiuatan - stallion

Note that the name of the southern branch of the Chilcotin people is the "Stone Chilcotin" or "Stoney Chilcotin", perhaps from their fierceness and resistance to colonial incursion, and/or the hardness of their life in one of the toughest parts of the Chilcotin Plateau.

soft, fine in substance, smooth

Klimmin-klimmin - the diminutive (very fine).
Klimmin polallie - fine flour. 
Klimmin illahie
- mud, soft ground, a swamp. 
Mamook klimmin - to soften as by dressing a skin, or to soften up one's resolve or to make someone lie or to make a lie.

Klimmin can also mean a lie, and kliminawhit means a liar ("smooth one") or a lie.

 like, similar to, equal with, as;

used in many constructions to form adjectives and adverbs, and sometimes nouns
 e.g. Kahkwa kamooks - beastly, like a dog.

Man moos-moos - bull
Man kiuatan - stallion
female, a woman

Normally a noun, klootchman can be used as an adjective:
Klootchman moos-moos - cow
Hyas klootchman tyee - queen

Stick, stik

Wooden, or to do with trees or "the bush"

Stick Indian - a backwoods Indian; living in the wilds; "not civilized" (i.e. on a reserve/reservation)

This word is usually a noun, but can function as an adjective, e.g. stick lashase - wooden chair (to coin an example; chairs are usually wooden so this is redundant)

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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

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