Chinook Jargon Phrasebook

Kahta Mamook Kopa Chinook Wawa - How to speak Chinook

English & other loanwords

English loan-words | Not Quite English Loan-Words | Onomatopoeia | Loan-Words from Other Languages

English Loan-Words

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 - mast.
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 imperative.
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 used.
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 used.
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 used.
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 waned.

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 also used.
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 used.
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 also used.
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 as well.
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 mule".
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-invisible 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 yard.
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 language.
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 wind.
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 smells".
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 has come").
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, speech, 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, however.
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 pronunciation 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


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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