Chinook Jargon Phrasebook

Kahta Mamook Kopa Chinook Wawa - How to speak Chinook

Common Phrases & Words
An introduction to using Chinook

Greetings, Salutations & Stuff

Klahowya, Klahowyum - a greeting or salutation, but also used in the context "please help me" or "I'm miserable"
Gibbs notes that use of this word as a greeting may have emerged from a misunderstood whined complaint made to white men by natives; such complaints - made in the course of begging for goods or food - were perhaps so common they were mistaken as the standard greeting.  Please see Greetings & Courtesies.

Kloshe Sun - Good day

Kloshe Konaway
- Hello everybody! (lit. Good to all)

Mitlite tenas - Stay a little, sit a while.  Also Mitlite laly.

Kahta maika? - How are you?

Kloshe mahsie - Good, thanks.

Kloshe nanitch - take care, stand guard, watch out; often used when someone is leaving on a journey, or to a guard riding shotgun on a stagecoach.  Also the motto of the Rocky Mountain Regiment of the Canadian militia (based in Kamloops BC).

Tomollah snass? - Will it rain tomorrow?  w/o question intonation means "it will rain tomorrow".

Kah mowitch - Where are the deer?  Hunting being almost as common a topic as weather in the old days.

Kweesh! - Law man chako  - Jiggers, the cops are coming!  Just for fun.....

- , yes, indeed, right on, that's for sure, certainly
In reply to a negative, it generally affirms the negative.  e.g. Wake mika nanitch?  Nawitka. - Did you not see?  I did not.  Please see Interjections on the Interrogatives, Prepositions, & Interjections page.


UNDER CONSTRUCTION - words on this page are found throughout the other pages of the Chinook jargon.  These are some of the most common, useful, and necessary words in the Jargon.  All of them are found on other pages of this phrasebook.


Illahee, illahie, illi'i -  Land, country, earth, soil - in both physical and political senses; the apostrophe in the last spelling denotes a glottal stop, as may also the 'h' in the other spellings
Chinook Illahee - the Chinook-speaking region, or the land of the Chinook people (the lower Columbia) 

- help

No, Wake, Halo
- the three words used in Chinook for no, not, nothing, or for the negative
Wake and halo are pronounced wah-kay and hah-lo.  They are older words that gradually became superseded by the use of "no" in the same syntactical position, e.g. no mahkook (no sale, no deal; not interested).

- yes, simple assent, often used as an interjection

- a common preposition - to, at, on, with, by etc.
Please see Prepositions.

Konaway, kanawi, k'anawe
- everything, and/or the superlative.  Can be use before or after the modified word
Kopa konaway - The whole damn thing, more than a lot, and still more, the whole way , everything, the whole world. Konaway kah - everywhere.  Konaway tillikum(s) - everyone, everybody.

- speak, say, tell, word(s), speech, language, talk
Also "a speech", although this concept is better expressed by hyas wawa.  A derisive reference to someone's speech would be cultus wawa (worthless talk), or perhaps hiyu wawa (lots of words, lots of talk, i.e. but no substance).  Another word for "language" is lalang, which also meant "tongue"; it had no parallel meanings as "speech" or "talk" or "say".

Hiyu - many, lots of
Could also refer to a gathering of people or a big party, as in Lillooet's one-time annual Big Hiyu, or as in hiyu tillikums ("lots of people", a big party).

- great, mighty, large, auspicious, powerful
Also used as a modifier for "very" or "very well", in which case it usually comes in front of the phrase it is modifying, as in hyas yaka mamook wawa Chinook lalang - he can speak Chinook very well.

Hyak - Fast, swift
Could be used as a command - Hyak! (do it quickly, run, although the term cooley is also available).  Used for the name of the New Westminster Hyak Festival held on the Victoria Day weekend and for members of the "regiment" hosting the event, which commemorates the first held in the old capital.  The responsibilities of the Hyak Regiment include the detonation of the Festival's "anvil battery" - anvils stacked head to head with gunpowder in between - which was the colonial solution to not having any cannon for the royal 21-gun salute usually performed on the Queen's Birthday.

Klahwa - slow, slowly

Tamanass, tamahnous, tamanawaz, tamanawiz
- bad, evil, black magic, sorcery, evil spirit(s)
Can also refer to an "Indian doctor", i.e. a "medicine man". Tamanass/tamahnous is the polar opposite of sagalie and kloshe, although the latter's opposite could also be cultus or mesachie in differing contexts or ideoms.  This term crops up occasionally in the names of modern theatre and dance companies, where its meaning is taken as "spirit" or "magic", and has none of its old-time malign context.  NB Hiyu tamanass - great evil, or great spells or spirit-power.  Hyas tamanass - a great medicine man, or a powerful spell or curse..

- bad, wicked, untrustworthy
While tamanass may refer to magic or spirits in general, mesachie has only a negative meaning.  It has sometimes been translated as "naughty", but this does not seem to embrace the malice and innate evil implicit in the context of this term; perhaps used only for children, i.e. "evil child" as a scold.

- bad, worthless, nothing, broken, unworthy
Can also mean "evil", although this concept is better expressed by tamanass and mesachie.  Cultus is not associated with the malice implicit in mesachie, nor with the supernatural potency of tamanass, and is more of a "benign negative".  It is the usual opposite of kloshe.  See Cultus Compounds in the Verbs & Concepts page for an exploration of the many possible meanings of this common word.

Kloshe, kloosh, klosh, close
- good, correct, right
Hyas kloshe - very good.  Elip kloshe - best, the best.  NB Mamook kloshe - fix it, it's fixed, make it better, doing OK, to make feel good, heal. Kloshe lemah - the right hand ("the good hand")

Skookum, skukum
- Big, mighty, strong, true, genuine, solid; in the Lower Columbia the 'k' is unaspirated, which to English ears sound like a 'g'.
NB Skookum tumtum - brave, courageous, bold.  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.  Skookum is the most common and popular Chinook word and still in popular use in British Columbia.  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.  "Looks pretty skookum" means something looks solid or indestructible, or extremely durable and reliable.  By itself, "Skookum!!" means "like, like, really good, awesome, man!..".

Tenas, tenass - small, little, weak, lesser, few
Opposite of skookum, hyas,  and hiyu in differing contexts.  Often occurs in placenames in BC, as at Tenass Lake, just north of Pemberton, BC.  In the Lower Columbia and Grand Ronde, tunus or dunus is used to specify a child or youngling, with the 'u' denoting a schwa.

Sagalie, saghalie, sagalee, saqalie
- sacred, holy, spiritual, of the spirit world
Can also refer to magic, but of the sacred or "pure" kind.  Sagalie illahee - holy ground, a churchyard, a spirit-place.

Sagalie tyee
- God, the Great Spirit.

Mamook - do, make, perform
Esp. as a verb participle in combination with nouns.  Please see Mamook Compounds on the Verbs & Concepts page.  In Grand Ronde usage, this word is a profanity for copulation; they use "munk" for "to do".

Tumtum, Tumtums
- to feel, think, believe, hope, consider
NB Mamook tumtum - to make think, to cause to feel, as in Maika mamook naika tumtum kloshe - "you make me feel good", "you make me think good thoughts" but also "you give me hope". Tumtum is onomatopaeoic, from the sound of a beating heart.  The "-s" ending is an emulation of the English third-person conjugation, and is unnecessary although authentic - there are no hard and fast rules in Chinook for verb usage and mutation. Tumtum can also be a noun meaning "feelings" or "the heart" or "the stomach", with the -s form the possible (but not necessary) as the plural. Please see Tumtum Compounds on the Verbs & Concepts page.

Kumtux, kumptus
(and variants) - understand, know, feel, believe, think of
Depending on the context, it can be used for "to desire" or "to want", as can tumtum, although the word tikegh or tikke is the more correct usage. NB Mamook kumtux - to make understand, to instruct.  Please see Kumtux Compounds on the Verbs & Concepts page.

- come, come here; used as an auxiliary for "to become"
See Other Compounds on the Verbs & Concepts page.

- to go, to walk, to travel
See Other Compounds on the Verbs & Concepts page.

- hurry up, to run

Mahish, mahsh
- sell, deal
Mahsh tumtum - give orders.

Huy-huy, huihui
- do business, trade, bargain

- buy, sell, or trade
See Money, Trade, and Travel.

- hold, keep, possess, take

Tikegh, tikk
- want, desire, wish, need

Potlatch, patlatch
- give, gift
Also the term for the large gift-feasts that were the main cultural institution and economic system of native peoples.

Please see Verbs & Concepts.

Chickamin, tsikamin, chickmin - Metal, money
Pil chickamin - copper or gold (red metal); still in use among prospectors and miners.  T'kope chickamin - silver.  Please see Money, Trade, and Travel.

Muckamuck, mukmuk
- food, dinner
Mamook muckamuck - cook. High muckamuck - someone who sits at the head table; a bigwig; this last is still in wide use in BC, even among the media.  Also occurs as high muckety-muck, or just plain muckety-muck, with the same meaning as high muckamuck. Please see Food & Domestic Life.

- water, liquids
Skookumchuck - "big water"; a rapids or hot spring; most readiy translated as "fast water" but also (I think) in reference to large or important springs. Saltchuck - salt water, the ocean.  There are three locations in British Columbia that have this as a placename. Sagalie chuck - holy water, magical potion, hot spring.  Cultus chuck - bad water, alkali water, poison

- rum, booze, alcohol in general

Please see Money, Trade, & Travel and Food & Domestic Life.



Kwanesum - Forever, eternity, always

- perhaps, maybe

- if, what if

Laly, L-a-a-aly
- Long, long time
Properly an emphatic adjective, and used with other terms such as ahnkuttie and alki.  As with the prononciation of many Chinook words, lengthening the vowels in this word increases the amount of time referred to.

- the past, Long ago
Commonly used as laly ahnkuttie - long, long ago, "once upon a time", the olden days, antiquity.

- now, the present time, the here and now
Source of name for Alta Lake at Whistler, BC.

- the future, times to come
Pronounced al-kai.  Source of name for Seattle's Alki Point. NB Laly alki - some time soon, the near future.

- lately, new
Hyas chee - entirely new, immediately new/recent, i.e. "just now". The context of the name Chee Whit ("arrived one", "new one") may be of this reknowned person's ability to appear in unsuspected places in the bush. Chee Whit was a Chilcotin woman who was raped and beaten by her husband on her wedding night and fled, never setting foot indoors again. She lived for decades alone as a wanderer in the Chilcotin and Lillooet Wildernesses, and died sometime in the 1960s. A variant spelling of her name used in a recent published biography is Chiwid. 


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.

Tyee - chief or leader
This term is also used for extremely large salmon, especially in the Campbell River-Johnstone Strait region; the term is normally reserved for large spring salmon.  This word resembels toyom, which the voyageurs give as the Inuktitut word for "chief".  Sagalie Tyee is usually translated as "Great Spirit" but literally means "chief above".  Gibbs says this is an invented term for the Deity created by missionaries, although most native peoples of the Northwest did have a concept of a supreme being or "universal spirit".

Hyas Tyee
- Grand Chief, King
The title of the famous "kings" of the early coast: Maquinna and Wickanninish and Khatsahlahno and Cumshewa, etc. and also of the British king or local governor. In later years, and high company or government official or chief military officer. Unofficial social status without command authority or formal hierarchy was designated by high muckamuck, i.e. "Someone who sits at the head table; first at the pot".

Tillikum, tillicums
- people, person, may also mean "friend"
Please see People.

Sikhs, seeks
- friend
Please see Family & Relationships on the People page.

- newcomer, tenderfoot (lit. "just came")
Not necessarily derisive, but often so; can also mean "friend", in the context of a greeting..

Please see Adjectives & Adverbs and People.

Please see Time & The Elements.



Nika, naika - I, me, mine

Nesika, nesaika
- We, us, ours

Mika, maika
- yours (sing.)

Mesika, mesaika
- yours (pl.)

- he/she, him/her, his/hers

- they, them, theirs

Okook, okoke, oke, oak-oak, ukuk, uguk, uk-
- this, that

- who, "they who"

- here, this thing here

Yahwa, Yahkwa
- there, that thing there

Please see Pronouns and Interrogatives, Prepositions, & Interjections.


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

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