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

Critters & Livestock

NB: Terms for animals may also refer to their meat and fur/hides.

Wildlife & Game

Itswoot, ikswoot, chetwoot - bear
There are many potential variant prononciations and spellings for this word.  NB Man itswoot - male bear.  Klootchman itswoot - she-bear.  All animal genders may be designated via man and klootchman.
Hyas itswoot - grizzly bear.  i.e. "great bear", "chief of bears" or "powerful bear"
Siam, shayam - grizzly bear
This term appears to be more southern in origin and usage (it is of Chinookan origin), as hyas itswoot was the common term for a grizzly in British Columbia and there might be some confusion with the Halqemeylem/Hulquminum si:yam - chief.

Mowitch, mowitsh - deer, venison, sometimes mountain goat or mountain sheep
Mowitch is a Chinook term that is so widespread that most other language groups think it originates with them; moolock is similarly widely-adopted but not as far widespread.  NB can also mean wild animals in general; e.g.  huiloma mowitch - a strange or different kind of beast. Man mowitch - stag. Klootchman mowitch - doe.
Moolock, moolack, mooluck, moolask - elk
Like mowitch, moolock is a word so widespread that most language groups think it is their own, although this is not so widespread throughout the region as mowitch.Nonetheless, the usage of this word (and of mowitch) ranged from Humboldt Bay in what is now northern California all the way to Tlingit territory in the Alaska Panhandle, and it was widely known in the Interior and Plateau despite its origin in the Nootka language.
Hyas moolock - moose.  i.e. "great elk"
Moose - moose
This word probably came more into use because of the ambiguity of hyas moolock, which could simply mean a large elk, or a bull elk (which might also be man moolock). Moose is originally a Cree word, apparently brought to the region by the voyageurs, and its proper plural (in Cree) is moosoutch. This word does not appear to be related to moos-moos (cattle), although Anderson says that moos-moos comes from the Cree moostoos, for buffalo.  See moos-moos and hyas moos-moos below.

Olehiyu, olhyiu - seal
The etymology of this may be pure jargon - "used to be lots", although Gibbs gives a Chinook language source-word, olhaiyu.  I await correction on my guess at this etymology.
Siwash cosho - seal
Literally "Indian pig", the meat of the seal being somewhat similar in appearance, if not in taste, to that of swine.  This is a purely jargon word, unlike olehiyu which is Chinookan in origin.
Ehkoli - whale
This is a Chinookan word.  In other coastal regions, the local language word for whale would most likely have been used because of the importance of whaling in coastal society..
Kwahnice - whale
Of Klickitat origin.  The Klickitat are upriver on the Columbia, well beyond tidewater; why they would have a word for whale at all is an interesting question.  Dolphins and orca have been known to roam up the Fraser River on occasion, so it is possible that whales may have swum up the Columbia to Klickitat territory..
Eena, ina - beaver
The English loan-word beaver was also used, especially in reference to furs.  This was a usage adopted from the voyageurs, for whom the beaver-skin was a unit of currency; the French word castor was not used.
Nemamooks - otter (not the sea-otter)  Inamooks is also given with the same meaning, but may refer to otter-like creatures like the fisher, marten, weasel, muskrat etc.
Suwelel, sukwellel - mountain beaver, also known as a boomer; once common and now extremely rare, this is a burrowing rodent similar to a beaver in appearance but without the broad tail.
Kwitshaddie - rabbit, hare
Humm-opoots - a skunk ("stinks behind")
Kwis-kwis, Skwis-kwis - squirrel

Curiously there don't seem to be any words for raccoon, porcupine etc.


Horses & Horsemanship

Kiuatan - horse
Stone kiuatan - stallion ("testicle horse"). Cooley kiuatan - race horse.  Klootchman kiuatan - a mare. Oleman kiuatan - old horse. Oleman klootchman kiuatan orlummi kiuatan - old mare, nag.  Kiuatan seems to have been used more in southern regions; this word is Yakima in origin.
Cayoosh, cayuse - horse
Cayuse or cayoosh is also applied to a specific breed or type of horse, especially in the Interior of BC where the word means the strain of the Chilcotin mountain pony. This small extremely hardy and brave breed is still common in the Chilcotin district of BC. Its particular genetic line is often found in quarterhorses and other breeds in the Cariboo, Fraser Canyon, Shuswap, and Okanagan and is known somewhat in Alberta and the adjacent United States. The placement of the accent varies between the first and second syllables, and the "oo" may either be an accented "uu" or "oo" or a more relaxed sound as in "hook". Either is acceptable.  Cayoosh was the original name of the frontier town that became Lillooet.  Cayoosh is more a word of Interior peoples (it is not even listed in Gibbs), kiuatan being derived from the coastal Chinookan language; the Cayuse tribe are one of the principal nations of the Washington interior. The compounds using kiuatan above would also apply to cayoosh.
Burdash cayoosh/cayuse, burdash kiuatan - mule, gelding
The term burdash by itself could probably convey the same meaning if the reference was obviously a horse or mule.
Tenass cayoosh, tenas kiuatan- pony, colt, filly
Lamel- mule

Siskiyou - bob-tailed horse
Pil kiuatan, pil cayoosh- a bay or chestnut horse, i.e. red horse
Lablow, leblau - a sorrel horse, or chestnut-coloured
Laclem, leklem - a cream-coloured or light dun horse
Lagley, laglee- a gray horse, from le gris, i.e. the grey
Also as an adjective for the colour grey.
Lekye, lakai - a piebald horse, an appaloosa, from la caille.
Also used in the jargon to refer to the speckled salmon, or dog salmon.
Sandelie, sandelee - a roan-coloured horse, from cendre, or from English sandy.
Also used as an adjective for roan or ash-colour.

Teh-teh - to trot
Kwalal-kwalal - to gallop
NB Kalakala - bird.  There may be an etymological link between these words - a horse "flying" as it gallops.
Klatawa kopa kiuatan or klatawa kopa cayoosh - to ride
Youtl - spirited, frisky
Kiuatan yaka kumtux cooley - racehorse, lit. horse he knows (how to) run.

Lasell, lasill - saddle
Lableed - bridle
Lapishemo - saddle-blanket and trappings of a horse
Leseeblo - spurs
Sitlay, sitliay - stirrups
Tupso, tipso - hay



Moos-moos, musmus - cow, cattle
Anderson says this word is derived from the Cree moostoos (buffalo), but Pandosy says it is of Yakima origin.  Since hyas moos-moos was the term used for buffalo, the Cree derivation seems unlikely.  See moose above.  Gibbs says that moos-moos can also mean buffalo. Tenas moos-moos - calf or heifer.
Hyas moos-moos - buffalo
The presence of a term for buffalo in Chinook seems surprising, as there were no buffalo west of the Rockies until modern times (except perhaps in the southern Rocky Mountain Trench), but buffalo hides would have been rare and extremely valuable trade goods brought to the region in the earlier native trade era as well as by the HBC and its Metis employees and by American settlers and traders arriving from the Plains via the Oregon Trail or from California.
Burdash moos-moos - steer
The term burdash by itself could probably convey the same meaning if the reference was obviously a steer. Shaw also gives tenas man moosmoos - little male cattle, i.e. not quite male cattle - for steer, but this could simply mean a male calf.
Lemooto, lemoto - sheep, mutton
Cosho, gosho, legosho, lecosho- hog, pig, swine, pork
Camel, camoo - camel
Camel were in experimental use in the Interior of BC during the mid-19th Century because of the dry climate and relatively waterless landscape typical of many areas.   There is a creek flowing into the Bridge River near Lillooet called Camoo Creek, and the mountain range lying in the angle of the Bridge and Fraser Rivers is the Camelsfoot Range.  Some of the camels were said to have gone wild, and there are apocryphal stories of people seeing camels in their vegetable gardens for some decades after the gold rush, when the camels were introduced by entrepreneur and hotelier Frank Laumeister.  The last surviving camel of this enterprise died in the Kelowna area in the 1930s.



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. It is recorded as part of dialogue in jargon between one of the "Wild McLean Boys" gang of outlaw halfbreeds and the Grand Chief of the Nicola during deliberations over an aborted uprising in the 1880s.
Talapus - coyote, wolf.  Hyas talapus - wolf.  In the Lower Columbia, t'alapus was used, with t' denoting an "ejective" consonant.  E-t'apalus means "the coyote", i.e. the Coyote, the Trickster spirit/deity, in many Columbia basin languages.
In areas where kayooti was used for coyote, talapus appears to have been used for wolf, but I am uncertain if there is any hard and fast rule about this.
Lelou, leloo - wolf
From the French "le loup". There are a couple of score French words adapted into Chinook, and other French or Mechouf words may have also been recognizable to Chinook speakers; most of the French words in Chinook are also found in Michif and among prairie natives.  But one has to wonder why a French word was used for wolf, rather than an Indian one, other than talapus or hyas talapus, the root-word of which can also refer to coyote.  Some early fur company records also use the Spanish term "lobo", although this was not known as a part of Jargon speech (but probably would have worked).  Perhaps also hyas leloo, for timberwolf.  There is a terrifying tale from a Northwest Company outpost in the Shuswap Lake area from 1815 concerning a pack of giant white wolves leading a troop of coyotes, wild dogs and other varmints (raccoons, weasels, etc.) in a rampage across the Interior, killing horses "in the hundreds".  When the pack reached the NWC outpost, the head trapper helped exterminate the half-dozen timberwolves, whereupon the "army" of other animals dispersed; in what might be a self-aggrandizement, the chief trader's journal claims he shot one of the wolves with a muzzle-loader musket at a range of 400 yards.
Kamooks -dog
This is the origin of the place and tribe name Comox on Vancouver Island, apparently implying a totemic dog legend - or simply a large number of canines in the community.
Lashen - dog
NB also used for "chain".
Dog - dog
Interestingly, the natives of the entire region raised a certain species of dog as livestock for wool and meat (this species is extinct) but there is as far as I know there is no word for this breed of dog in Chinook lexicons I have reviewed. As with other words, the older native term was slowly replaced by the French and then the English loan-words, and usage may have varied regionally and with the generation and ethnicity of the speaker.


Puss-puss - cat, also used for cougar, lynx, bobcat, etc.
This was pronounced on Puget Sound as pish-pish.
Hyas puss-puss - cougar, mountain lion.  i.e. "big cat", "chief of cats", "powerful cat".  Specifically the cougar, although puss-puss by itself can have the same meaning, even as "cat" in modern-day rural BC can mean cougar.  Hyas puss-puss could also be conceivably used for a lynx or a bobcat, but probably in the context of a large one.
Tenas puss-puss - kitten, kittycat



Kalakala, kullakala - bird
NB difference from kalal-kalal - to gallop, although perhaps this latter's meaning originates in the sense of a horse "flying" at full gallop.
Tenas kalakala - swallow, sparrow, any small bird
Kah-kah, ka-ka - crow
Onomatopaeoic.  NB kah-kah also means "here and there", "wherever", from kah - where, what. Hyas kah-kah could conceivably mean raven, although the importance of the raven in the mythology of nearly all peoples in the region suggests that the local word for raven would be preferred over a term meaning great crow.
Ko-ko stick - woodpecker
From ko-ko - "knock".
Waugh-waugh, kwel-kwel - owl
Chak-chak - the bald eagle
Hyas chak-chak - the thunderbird.  Also Sagalie chak-chak.
The thunderbird was a mythical giant eagle that was regarded among the most powerful spirits, or even as an incarnation or emissary of the Sagalie Tyee or Great Spirit.  Its English name derives from legends associating it as the source of thunder - large enough to seize whales out of the water, it would drop them from great heights; the impact of the whale hitting the water was the thunder.  The thunderbirds wings and eyes flashed with lightning, and the beat of its wings could cause great storms.  The occasional epic thunderstorms in the region were believed to be caused by the passage of the thunderbird.  The thunderbird occurs as a decorative motif throughout the art and handcrafts of the Northwest Coast peoples.
Lapeep kullakala - the band-tailed eagle, whose feathers were used to ornament smoking pipe-stems
Haht-haht - duck
Kalakalahma - goose, on the Lower Columbia.  Accent on the penultimate syllable.  May be the source of the Washington placename Kalama.
Kehloke - swan.  Used on the Lower Columbia only
Tepeh - quills, the wings of a bird
Lemah tepeh, kalakala yaka lemah tepeh - wings


Vermin & Varmints

Hoolhool - mouse
Hyas hoolhool- rat
Skwah-kuk - frog
Inapoo, Eenapoo - louse, lice
Sopen Inapoo - flea
Means jumping louse.  Chotub was used on Puget Sound.  The English loan-word flea was also used.
Melakwa, malakwa - mosquito
Noseeum - a type of near-invisble 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.
Andialh - wasp
Klemahun opoots - bee (stabber behind, stabs behind.)
Oluk, olook - snake
There are no poisonous snakes or major constrictors in the coastal Northwest, but the common garter snake often grows to extraordinary size, especially in rainy summers when frogs, slugs and other wet-land food sources are abundant.  I remember seeing whole communities of gigantic garters, some up to two inches thick and a yard or so long, coiled up amid fields of wild broom near our house.  Not poisonous, but not even my dog felt like messing with one. This term would have described a wide range of snakes in addition to the garter snake, of course, especially in the Interior regions where there are a wider range of species.
Shugh-Opoots, shukopoots- rattlesnake (rattle-behind)
There are two varieties of rattle snake in the Interior Plateau regions of the Northwest - the timber rattler, a smaller, more aggressive species found in the high country, and the more common regular rattler, found in the warm valleys.  Neither species is found in the coastal regions, although the range of the timber rattler is often quite moist.  I have heard tell of water moccasin in the Northwest, but do not know of any documentation of this.  The rattler species are the only poisonous snakes in the Northwest.


Fish & Seafood

Samman, salmon, saumo- salmon.  The last of these three variants would have been pronounced the French way, with the accent on the last syllable, but this is probably a much-older usage that faded out early in the history of the jargon.  Salmon was the major trade good and food staple of coastal and plateau society. Tyee salmon - chief salmon, king salmon (the most highly prized); used in the Campbell River area to refer to an extremely large spring salmon. Mesachie salmon - dog salmon, a winter species ("bad salmon"). Salmon tzum - trout ("spotted salmon").  Other varieties of salmon are called chinook, coho, and sockeye in British Columbia; these usages presumably originated in the Chinook-speaking era, but are not listed in the published jargons so cannot be formally considered "jargon" (as if the jargon were formal and limited in any way).  Another specifically Jargon word is lekay, for the speckled or dog salmon; the same word is used for a spotted horse, i.e. an Appaloosa.
Stutchun - sturgeon. The now-rare and still-mysterious giant green sturgeon of the NW rivers were once abundant and a common food and trade-good.
Oolichan, eulachon, ooligan - the candlefish. A sardine-like fish that is so oily it can be burned like a candle. Dried, smoked, or turned into a rotted-mash pickle confection, it was (and is) among the most highly prized staples of the NW tribes.  Oolichan grease, or glease (used in the jargon), the aforesaid rotted-mash pickle, varies in its recipe from tribe to tribe and family to family, and is fabulously rancid.  Few non-natives can stomach it, but natives regard it as a choice delicacy, and recipes are jealously guarded.
Chinook - one of the major species of salmon. Not technically a Jargon usage, but a common English dialect word in coastal BC in the Chinook-speaking era in the past and today.
Pish - fish, generically. NB: pish is also "fire"; there may be an etymological connection here given the interrelationship of the main food staple and fire, as often linked in myths concerning the origin of the use of salmon as food; the Chinookan word for fire is opitshka, of which pish in its fire meaning may be a corruption.
Kokanee - A kokanee is a land-locked freshwater salmon.
Strictly speaking not a jargon word, but one that would have been use in trade.  I am uncertain what of the language of origin of this term, though suspect it to be of Salishan derivation (probably Secwepemc/Shuswap or Okanagan)..
Katake - a sucker-fish
This may only be a lower Columbia term; it appears in Shaw's English-Chinook reference.
Chetlo, Jetlo - oyster, on the lower Columbia
Words for this important food-source may have varied with the language groups speaking the jargon, with Salishan words on use in the Puget Sound-Georgia Strait region, and Wakashan words being used on the outer Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island regions.
Klog-klog, klogh-klogh, klo-klo - a more widespread word for oysters
Coop-coop - the dentalium shell, shell-money
The original loan-word here was from the lower Columbia.  This word was used for smaller shells or small collections thereof.
Hykwa, hyakwa - the dentalium shell, shell-money
The original loan-word here was from the Wakashan Nootka-Makah territories.  Dentalium shells were collected in strings up to six feet long, and were a major item of barter trade and potlatch as far south as California and as far east as the Blackfoot country beyond the Rockies.
Ona - clams, the razor-fish or solen
Toluks - mussel (Puget Sound)

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