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Chinook Jargon originated as a pidgin trade language of the Pacific Northwest, and spread quickly up the West Coast from modern Oregon to the regions now Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. It is related to, but not the same as, the aboriginal language of the Chinook people, upon which much of its vocabulary is based.

Many words from Chinook Jargon remain in common use in the Western United States and British Columbia and the Yukon, in indigenous languages as well as regional English usage, to the point where most people are unaware the word was originally from the Jargon. The total number of Jargon words in published lexicons only numbered in the hundreds, and so it was easy to learn. It has its own grammatical system, but a very simple one that, like its word list, was easy to learn.


Overview and history

The Jargon was originally constructed from a great variety of Amerind words of the Pacific Northwest, arising as an intra-indigenous contact language in a region marked by divisive geography and intense linguistic diversity. The participating peoples came from a number of very distinct language families, speaking dozens of individual languages.[1]

After European contact, the Jargon also acquired English and French loans, as well as words brought by other European, Asian, and Polynesian groups. Some individuals from all these groups soon adopted The Jargon as a highly efficient and accessible form of communication. This use continued in some business sectors well into the 20th century[2][3] and some of its words continue to feature in company and organization names as well as in the regional toponymy.

In the Diocese of Kamloops, British Columbia, hundreds of speakers also learned to read and write the Jargon using the Duployan Shorthand via the publication Kamloops Wawa. As a result, the Jargon also had the beginnings of its own literature, mostly translated scripture and classical works, and some local and episcopal news, community gossip and events, and diaries.[4]

According to Nard Jones, Chinook Jargon was still in use in Seattle until roughly the eve of World War II, especially among the members of the Arctic Club, making Seattle the last city where the language was widely used. Writing in 1972, he remarked that at that later date "Only a few can speak it fully, men of ninety or a hundred years old, like Henry Broderick, the realtor, and Joshua Green, the banker."[5]

Jones estimates that in pioneer times there were about 100,000 speakers of Chinook Jargon.[6]


Most books written in English still use the term Chinook Jargon, but some linguists working with the preservation of a creolized form of the language used in Grand Ronde, Oregon prefer the term Chinuk Wawa (with the spelling 'Chinuk' instead of 'Chinook'). Historical speakers did not use the name Chinook Wawa, however, but rather "the Wawa" or "Lelang" (from Fr. la langue, the language, or tongue). NB Wawa also means speech or words – "have a wawa" means "hold a parley" even in idiomatic English today, and lelang also means the physical bodypart, the tongue.

The name for the Jargon varied throughout the territory in which it was used. For example: skokum hiyu in the Boston Bar-Lytton area of the Fraser Canyon, or in many areas simply just "the old trade language".

ISO language code

According to the ISO 639-2 standard, the alpha-3 code chn denotes the Chinook Jargon.[7]

Origins and evolution

There is some controversy about the origin of the Jargon, but all agree that its glory days were during the 19th century. During this era many dictionaries were published in order to help settlers interact with the First Nations people already living there. The old settler families' heirs in the Pacific Northwest sent communiques to each other, stylishly composed entirely in "the Chinook". Many residents of the British Columbia city of Vancouver spoke Chinook Jargon as their first language, even using it at home in preference to English. Among the first Europeans to use Chinook Jargon were traders, trappers, voyageurs and Catholic missionaries. Hawaiians and Chinese in the region made much use of it as well; in some places Kanakas married into the First Nations and non-native families and their particular mode of the Jargon is believed to have contained Hawaiian words, or Hawaiian styles of pronunciation; similarly the Jargon as spoken by a Chinese person or a Norwegian or a Scot will have been influenced by those individuals' native-speaker terms and accents; and in some areas the adoption of further non-aboriginal words has been observed. The Chinook Jargon naturally became the first language in mixed-blood households, and also in multi-ethnic work environments such as canneries and lumberyards and ranches where it remained the language of the workplace well into the middle of the 20th Century. During the Gold Rush, Chinook Jargon was used in British Columbia by gold prospectors and Royal Engineers. As industry developed, Chinook Jargon was often used by cannery workers and hop pickers of diverse ethnic background. Loggers, fishermen and ranchers incorporated it in their jargon.

A heavily creolized form of Chinook Jargon (Chinuk Wawa or Tsinuk wawa) is still spoken as a first language by some residents of Oregon State, much as the Métis language Michif is still spoken in Canada. Hence, the Wawa as it is known in Oregon is now a creole language, distinct from the widespread and widely-varied pronunciation of the Chinook Jargon as it spread beyond the Chinookan homeland. There is evidence that in some communities (e.g. around Fort Vancouver) the Jargon had become creolized by the early 1800s, but that would have been among the mixed French/Metis, Algonkian, Scots and Hawaiian population there as well as among the natives around the Fort. At Grand Ronde, the resettlement of tribes from all over Oregon in a multi-tribal agency required the development of an intertribal language, and so the Wawa was augmented by the addition of Klickitat and Wasco words and sounds and "more Indian" modifications of the pronunciation and vocabulary.

No studies of British Columbia versions of the Jargon have demonstrated creolization and the range of varying usages and vocabulary in different regions suggests that localization did occur, although not on the pattern of Grand Ronde where Wasco, Klickitat and other peoples adopted and added to the version of the Jargon that developed in Grand Ronde. First-language speakers of the Chinook Jargon were common in BC, both native and non-native, until mid-20th Century, and it is a truism that while after 1850 the Wawa was mostly a native language in the United States portion of the Chinook-speaking world, it remained in wide use among non-natives north of the border for another century, especially in wilderness areas and working environments. Local creolizations probably did occur in British Columbia, but recorded materials have not been studied since they were made due to the focus on the traditional aboriginal languages. Most Chinookology ignores non-native use of the Jargon, and there is a current in Jargon studies to purge or otherwise creolize the English and French words out of it, to "Indianize" it.

Some believe that something similar to the Jargon existed prior to European contact, but without European words in its vocabulary. There is some evidence for a Chinookan-Nuu-chah-nulth interlingua in the writings of John Jewitt and also in what is known as the Barclay Sound word-list, from the area of Ucluelet and Alberni. Others believe that the Jargon was formed within the great cultural cauldron of the time of Contact, and cannot be discussed separately from that context, with an appreciation for the full range of the Jargon-speaking community and its history.[8]

Current scholarly opinion holds that a trade language of some kind probably existed prior to European contact, which began "morphing" into the more familiar Chinook Jargon in the late 1790s, notably at a dinner party at Nootka Sound where Capts Vancouver and Bodega y Quadra were entertained by Chief Maquinna and his brother Callicum performing a theatrical using mock-English and mock-Spanish words and mimicry of European dress and mannerisms. There evidently was a Jargon of some kind in use in the Queen Charlotte, but this "Haida Jargon" is not known to have shared anything in common with Chinook Jargon, or with the Nooktan-Chinookan "proto-jargon" which is its main foundation.

Many words in Chinook Jargon clearly had different meanings and pronunciations at various points in history, and continued to evolve into interesting regional variants. A few scholars have tried to improve the spelling, but since it was mostly a spoken language this is difficult (and many users tend to prefer the sort of spelling they use in English).


Pacific Northwest historians are well acquainted with the Chinook Jargon, in name if not in the ability to understand it. Mention of Chinook Jargon, and sometimes phrases of it, were found in nearly every piece of historical source material before 1900. For everyone else, the fact that Chinook Jargon ever existed is relatively unknown, perhaps due to the great influx of newcomers into the influential urban areas. However, the memory of this language is not likely to fade entirely. Many words are still used and enjoyed throughout Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. Old-timers still dimly remember it, although in their youth, speaking this language was discouraged as slang. Nonetheless, it was the working language in many towns and workplaces, notably in ranching country and in canneries on the British Columbia Coast where it was necessary in the strongly multiethnic workforce. Place names throughout this region bear Jargon names (see List of Chinook Jargon placenames) and words are preserved in various rural industries such as logging and fishing.

The Chinook Jargon was multicultural and functional. There was no Official Chinook Jargon, although the past (and present) publishers of dictionaries would have had you believe otherwise. To those familiar with it, Chinook Jargon is often considered a wonderful cultural inheritance. For this reason, and because Jargon has not quite died, enthusiasts actively promote the revival of the language in everyday western speech.

On the Grande Ronde reservation in Oregon there is a full immersion head start that conducts itself entirely in Chinuk Wawa. They are doing a wonderful job of reviving their language.

An art installation featuring Chinook Jargon ("Welcome to the Land of Light" by Henry Tsang, translated into Chinook by Duane Pasco) can be viewed on the Seawall along False Creek in Yaletown, in Vancouver, British Columbia (at the foot of Drake Street).

English-language speakers

Pacific Northwest English and British Columbian English have several words still in current use which are loanwords from the Chinook Jargon. Skookum, potlatch, muckamuck, saltchuck, and other Chinook Jargon words are widely used by people who do not speak Chinook Jargon.


Jargon placenames are found throughout the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States, although the source language for a given place name is difficult, since Chinook Jargon borrowed many of its words from the Salishan languages.

A small collection of Jargon words:

  • nika or naika — I, mine or anything first-person (spellings are optional, pronunciation is the same. In Grand Ronde Chinuk-Wawa the 'k' is unaspirated, unlike in British Columbia versions of the Jargon.
  • hyak — fast, swift. This word, in its variant spelling hyack, is the nickname for the New Westminster regiment of the Canadian Forces, who annually set off a 21-anvil salute during the Victoria Day weekend every year. It was also the name of one of the Vancouver Aquarium's orcas.
  • hyas — big, important.
    • hyas tyee — king, high chief (see tyee below).
  • cultus — bad, worthless, inconsequential, unimportant. Or just "ordinary" or "nothing special", and also "idle". Cultus Lake is the name of a large and popular resort lake near Chilliwack, British Columbia; the meaning comes from the bad spirits native tradition says live in the lake.
    • cultus klatawa — going for a walk, ambling about, wandering.
    • cultus mitlite — not doing much, hanging out (e.g. in response to watcha doin?).
    • cultus ikta
    • cultus iktas — junk, "common stuff", garbage, offal/feces, something broken or useless.
    • cultus potlatch — just a trifle, a gift (i.e. with no debt of prestige or obligation attached, as with some potlatch give-outs).
  • iwash — penis[9]
  • kloshe or kloosh — good, correct, right.
    • kloshe nanitch — a byword meaning "watch yourself", "take care", literally "watch well". It was the official motto of the Kamloops-based militia regiment the Rocky Mountain Rangers during World Wars I and II.
    • kloshe mamook — to fix, to mend, to heal, to become healed, to get better, and a host of other potential meanings. If followed by another noun or verb which makes mamook into an auxiliary, kloshe in that case gives the sense of the conditional or obligational - "you should do this....". Kloshe mamook klatawa - "you'd better go". Kloshe serves the same function with other verbs as well: Kloshe chako — "please come", "it'd be good if you come".
  • mahsh — send, throw, put, eject, get on with it, get out (command). Thought to be from the French marcher via an expression used by the voyageurs to move goods on and off their boats and in and out of storehouses, but the meaning of the verb was misconstrued and is used in the Jargon with the altered meanings listed. It can also be used to mean sell, especially when used in combination with mahkook which means to trade.
  • hui-hui — a sealed bargain or a done deal (from Fr. oui-oui). NB difference from mahkook, which is to sell (or buy, depending on context).
  • memaloose — dead, corpse, or death.
    • memaloose illahee — graveyard, cemetery ("death land").
    • mamook memaloose — kill.
  • puss-puss — cat, house cat. In the Puget Sound area puss-puss was rendered "pish-pish".
  • kamuks or comox — dog. This would have originally referred to a now-extinct breed of domestic dog once common in the region, which was raised for its wool and meat. This breed is often depicted in drawings and paintings from the earliest eras.
  • talapus — coyote. In Grand Ronde Chinuk-Wawa the initial t is plosive.
    • hyas talapus — wolf, "big coyote"
  • leloo or lelu — wolf. Presumably from Fr. le loup.
    • hyas leloo — timberwolf, "big wolf", (also hyas talapus).
  • lemolo — wild, dangerous, from the backcountry. From Fr. le marron, a runaway slave or renegade (as in French, accent on last syllable). Lemolo infers savagery as well as rebellion, but an animal may also be lemolo, with the sense leaning towards loco as well as dangerous.
  • cayuse — a horse or pony, in some areas also a coyote; the variant cayoosh is found in British Columbia and has special meaning there as a bloodline of Indian mountain pony. Originally from the Spanish caballo. The more usual word for horse was kiuatan:
  • kiuatan — horse. This was the more usual word for horse than cayuse, and is also an adaptation (via Sahaptian) of the Spanish caballo.
    • stone kiuatan — stallion ("horse with testicles")
    • klootchman kiuatan — mare ("female horse")
    • burdash kiuatan — gelding ("neutered horse")
    • tenas kiuatan — colt, pony ("young horse")
    • lemolo stone kiuatan — stallion gone loco (i.e. not just a mustang, which was lemolo kiuatan or, in west-central BC, lemolo cayoosh).
  • moos-moos — cattle. This word may be a corruption of the Cree Mistah' moostoos for buffalo (it is not believed to be onomatopoeic).
    • tenas moos-mooscalf ("young cattle")
    • klootchman moos-moos or tatoosh moos-mooscow ("female cattle" or "milk cow")
    • tenas klootchman moos-moosheiffer ("young female cattle")
    • man moos-moos or man stone moos-moosbull ("male cattle" or "male testicle cattle")
    • burdash moos-moossteer ("neutered cattle")

Many equestrian terms are from French:

  • lasell — saddle; from Fr. la selle
  • lagley — a grey horse. from Fr. le gris (the grey [horse])
  • lekay or lekay — a piebald or appaloosa horse, from Fr. la caille (the quail).
  • leblow or leblau — from fR. le bleu a chestnut-coloured or sorrel horse. Such a horse may also be a pil cayoosh or pil kiuatan - a red horse.
  • sandelie or sandalee — a roan-coloured horse, either from Fr. cendre - ash - or from Engl. sandy.
  • lableed — bridle, from French "la bride"
  • Leseeblo — spurs, from French
  • Sitlay or sitliay — stirrups, from French "l'étrier"
  • Sitlay, sitliay - stirrups
  • lamelmule (but note burdash kiuatan).
  • burdash — neuter. From Fr. berdache, this word specifically refers to accidental or incidental hermaphroditism or lack of gender, such as by castration or unusual birth. In Chinook, it is not known to have referred to effeminacy, transsexuality or homosexual tendencies as other adaptations of berdache did in other aboriginal languages in North America, or the original French.
    • burdash kiuatanmule, "neuter horse".
    • burdash cayooshgelding, "neuter horse".
    • burdash moos-moossteer, "neuter cow".

Many religious terms are from French:

  • leplet — priest, also used for non-Catholic preacher or parson
  • lekleese — church
  • malakwa — mosquito, from Fr. maringouin (accent on first syllable)
  • hooch — homemade liquor. Not found in the Columbia and Grand Ronde versions of the jargon, this is a northern word ascribed to the Tlingit village group the Xootsnoowu which was current throughout northern and upper coastal usages of the Jargon, and of course has become part of standard English vocabularies, at least throughout Canada and the US.
  • lapishemo — saddle-blanket and trappings of a horse. Not from French, but believed to be from Ojibway, apparently brought to the Northwest via the voyageurs or other fur company employees.
  • eena or ina — beaver
  • suwellel — the mountain beaver or "boomer". This word for this animal is current in English (for those who know of its existence).
  • nenamooks — otter (but not the sea otter), also a term of endearment or exasperation for rambunctious children.
  • hum opootsskunk (lit. "stinky butt"), also an insult, the same as "you skunk" in English.
  • piu-piu — very stinky (from Fr. piu).
  • mowitch — deer, game. Mowitch is extremely common throughout the Plateau and the Coast in use by natives as well as non-natives, and is found as far southeast as Shoshone territory and up into Alaska.
    • hyas mowitch — "big game", can be a moose or an elk, although elk is usually moolack or moolock.
  • moolack or moolock — elk or wapiti. Like mowitch, the word moolack is fairly well-known, but not to the same degree.
  • lemooto or lemoto — sheep, mutton.
    • tenas lemooto — lamb ("young sheep").
    • man lemooto — ram ("male sheep").
    • klootchman lemooto — ewe ("female sheep").
  • cosho or lecosho — pig or swine, also pork. From Fr. le cochon (accent on second syllable).
    • tenas cosho — piglet.
    • klootchman cosho — sow.
    • siwash coshoseal (lit. "Indian pig", i.e. as much a staple of Indian life as pork was to Europeans and Britons. Note also olehiyu.
  • olehiyu or olhyiuseal.
  • olallie — berry. Olalla, Washington and the Okanagan town of Olalla, British Columbia get their name from this word. The prevalent common name in British Columbia for the berry-bearing bush Shepherdia canadensis is soopolallie, Chinook for 'soap berry' (see Wikipedia entry under prairie provinces common name for the same plant, Canada Buffaloberry).
  • laboos or labush — mouth (from Fr. la bouche). This is origin of the name of La Push, Washington
  • illahee, illahie, illahe (GR Chinuk Wawa ili'i) — land, earth, ground.
    • kloshe illahee — good land, bottom land pasture. Can be used to mean a plot of land, a farm or a ranch.
  • tatoosh — milk, butter. Also means breasts, or the chest.
  • tupso — grass, greenery.
    • tupso illahee — pasture (grass land).
    • tsee tupso — sweet grass (good grazing grass for horses)
  • yakso — hair.
  • lapel — a fur, from Fr. la pelle
  • labooti — bottle, from Fr. la bouteille (pron labooTAI, not laBOOtee)
  • lapool — chicken, fowl, poultry
  • lacock, lekok — rooster, cock
  • lezep, lesap — eggs
  • lasac or lazack — sac, bag
  • itliwillie — flesh, meat, muscle
  • lakalatcarrot;
  • lamonti — mountain, from Fr. la montaigne (pron lamonTAI).
    • hyas lamonti — the high mountains
    • hyas hyas lamonti — the deep mountains, remote faraway mountain country.

Note hyas hyas stone illahee, meaning the "greatest and biggest land of stones", or "the great barren high country" in Paul St. Pierre's novella Breaking Smith Quarter Horse. The context of the title is the vast and diverse inland alpine areas of the Coast Mountains, flanking the Chilcotin district where the action of the novella takes place. The possible subreference stone, "testicles", may be to the power and ruggedness of the lands described by the phrase.

  • stone — in orthodox Chinook Jargon is usually "testicles"

Speakers from Grand Ronde consider stone a rude word, unless in combination forms like stone kiuatan - "stallion" (horse still with its testicles, i.e. not a burdash kiuatan, which is a gelding). In British Columbia usages, stone can also simply mean rock, or stony country.

  • pepah — paper, book, something written
  • law — the law, authority, judges. Law man is not a policeman, but a lawyer or judge.
  • sojer — one of several adaptations of the English word soldier;

The term sojer was mostly used on the American side of the border, as troops in BC were known (in English) as Marines and Voltigeurs, and military deployments to quell native populations were virtually unknown (the Lamalcha War of 1863 being one of the exceptions, and it involved marines and sailors, not soldiers).

  • skookum — big/strong, powerful, awe-inspiring; monster or monstrous (obsolete). Opposite of cultus. Used as a verb auxiliary for "can" (to be able) or "powerful at". In names for individuals skookum is sometimes shortened to skook, as in Mount Skook Jim in the Lillooet Ranges, or Mount Skook Davidson west of Lake Williston.
    • skookum house — prison, jail ("the strong house").
    • skookum lakasett — strongbox.
    • skookum tumtum — brave, strong-hearted, loyal.
    • skookumchuck — rapids, whitewater, rough water.
    • skokomish — compounded from skookum ish, "brave people" (known in their original language as the Twana).

The word skookum remains a common component of English for long-time residents, for whom it means something strongly-built, or someone genuine, honest, reliable. It can also simply mean "impressive", as in "That's a pretty skookum bicycle you've got there!" (British Columbia). Also "I think that this rope isn't quite skookum" (southwest Washington).

  • hyas muckamuck(s) — the chief, the big boss, management (modern usage). In modern blue-collar usage, this word is one of many mildly sarcastic slang terms used to refer to bosses and upper management (British Columbia). Var. "High Mucketymuck".
  • chuck — water or river. This word is still well remembered, though less frequently used (except by weathermen giving sailing reports and marine forecasts).
    • saltchuck — "salt water", ocean, fijord, inlet.
    • skookumchuck — rapids, whitewater, rough water.
  • mitwhit — to stand erect.
  • stick — stick, wood, firewood, tree.
    • hyas stick — big tree or log, big/great woods/forest.
    • mitwhit stick — ship's mast, spar ("standing tree/timber")

Some have suggested the North American phrase "out in the sticks" may have originated in Chinook Jargon usages, adopted by Klondike-era travellers and transmitted to other parts of the continent, as were hooch and hyas muckamuck (or high muckamuck; usually high mucketymuck if heard outside the Northwest, however).

  • mitlite — to be, to exist, to rest. Cultus mitlite — jes' hanging out.
  • tillikum — friend; also means people, kin (emphasis on first syllable), sometimes pluralized but not required.
    • Skookum tillikums — hard to translate efficiently, but a certain "grand old man" of the high frontier and great old days, someone capable of hiking from northeastern BC to Wyoming if they wanted to, and able to defend himself in the bar, or in the bush. Used in Paul Saint Pierre's novella Breaking Smith's Quarter Horse.
  • tyee — leader, chief, a really big chinook salmon (Campbell River area) (emphasis on second syllable).
    • hyas tyee — king, big boss, important ruler. e.g. "He was the undisputed hyas tyee of all the country between the Johnstone Strait and Comox" This was also the common title used for the famous chiefs of the early era, such as Maquinna.
    • Hyas Klootchman Tyee — "Great Woman Ruler", roughly "Her Majesty".

The word tyee was commonly used and still occurs in some local English usages meaning "boss" or someone in charge. Business and local political and community figures of a certain stature from some areas are sometimes referred to in the British Columbia papers and histories by the old chiefly name worn by Maquinna and Concomly and Nicola. A man called hyas tyee would have been a senator, a longtime MP or MLA, or a business magnate with a strong local powerbase, long-time connections, and wealth from and because of the area.

The title Hyas Klootchman Tyee was used to refer to Queen Victoria in public proclamations during her reign. In theory, this title also applies to Queen Elizabeth II but it is no longer used by the BC government. Conceivably, Lieutenant-Governor Iona Campagnolo may be styled that way, since she speaks Chinook Jargon, but the proper form of address in English for a Lieutenant-Governor is "Your Honour". A possible Chinook equivalent might be Hyas Chutch (great judge/authority), or in Campagnolo's case, Hyas klootchman chutch.

  • tenas or tenass — child, small, little, young. In Grand Ronde Chinuk-Wawa, the distinction between ten'-ass and dun'-uss (not GR spellings, just approximations of pronunciations) is between small/little and child/young. Klootchman tenas — little girl, young woman. Tenaschuck — lake, pond.
  • cheechako — newcomer (emphasis on second syllable). This word is relatively common, especially in frontier regions and historically throughout (Alaska, Yukon and northwestern B.C. in particular. Chee means "new" and chako means "come". Ko means "arrive" (although when doubled it means "knock"). An example comes from Fairbanks hostess Eva McGown: "I never had any children of my own, but as someone once said, I am the mother of all the cheechakoos."[1]
  • saghalie — up, high place, above.
    • saghalie tyee — God. This term was coined by evangelists and as a result of its use saghalie also came to mean "sacred" and "holy".
    • saghalie illahee — sacred ground, but not a graveyard, which is memaloose illahee.
  • potlatch — in ordinary Jargon usage this means "to give", or anything given, a present. It became the standard word used to describe the great gift-feasts which underlay the Pacific Northwest Coast people's economic and political systems. Potlatches were ceremonials of giving away or destroying one's possessions to gain social status, often accompanied by lavish theatricals and conspicuous consumption (and destruction, to show more wealth could always be acquired). The goal was to earn prestige, as well as humiliate one's rivals into poverty by forcing them to spend more on a feast to outshow your own. In Chinook Jargon, the word potlatch simply meant "give" or "a gift", although a gift with no reciprocal obligation expected at all is a cultus potlatch - just an ordinary gift.
  • alki — (rhymes with "pie) "someday", "whenever", "In the by and by", i.e. the future or near future. Alki is the state motto of Washington and a neighborhood in West Seattle. In ordinary use somewhat equivalent to the Mexican mañana, meaning sometime in the near future, or an indeterminate time away, perhaps never. It can be used as a verb auxiliary indicating the indefinite future tense.

The present, the here-and-now, is alta, the past ahnkuttie or ankate (emphasis on first syllable in all these words). Another, perhaps in a more immediate sense, word for "soon" is winapie. Ahknuttie and alki can all be changed in meaning by the lengthening of the initial vowel, and by the addition of the auxiliary laly (LAH-ly) and the lengthening of its initial vowel, e.g. laly ahnkuttie, meaning "long ago" becomes laaaaa-ly ahnkuttie, the ancient past, mythical times. Aaaahnkuttie would mean more something like "a considerable while ago", either by hours, days, weeks, or months, i.e. as in a recent or relatively recent event, or perhaps in response to Klatawa latleh elip? (has the train gone already?) Aaaahnkuttie - "yep, it's long gone". Laly by itself can also mean "soon", and tenas laly means "in just a little while", if not quite "right away", which would be alta (said with emphasis to add the exclamation point).

  • klahanie — Outside, outdoors. This became the name of a longtime popular program on the CBC's TV service.
  • konaway — everything, all, the whole shebang
  • kunamoxt or konamoxt — both, together. Contracted from konaway moxt (all two).
    • hiyu konamoxt — a big gathering, as does big hiyu or hyas hiyu, though those tend to infer a party as opposed to a conference or other parley or rendezvous, which may be the case with chako kunamoxt and hiyu kunamoxt. Tenas hiyu means "several, a few", and in BC may also mean a small party or gathering. Both "big hiyu" and "tenas hiyu" were common in frontier English, as were many other Chinook borrowings.
  • kumtux — "think" in the sense of to understand, know, comprehend. Apposite to tumtum.
  • tumtum — heartbeat, or heart. Tumtum also means to think, but more in the sense of finding out how you feel about it, or what you believe.
  • cooley — "run" spelled that way to distinguish it from "coolie", but pronounced the same way. Used in the construction kiuatan yaka kumtux cooley, most easily translated "fast horse", but literally "that horse he really knows how to run well", "that horse he understands running"
  • klahowya — the common and universal greeting, identical in sound to "I'm hungry", which for differentitation in print is klahowyum. Klahowya sikhs - "hello, friend"; Klahowya tillikums (Hello, people; greetings, my friends/family).
  • kopa — nearly all-purpose preposition meaning in, at, of, to, from, by way of. Generally used only when not implied.
  • ikt — "one"; while ikta is "it, that thing, this", and iktas is "stuff" or belongings, as in "my stuff", naika iktas.
  • tumwater — a waterfall, "heartbeat-water" (tum is shortened from tumtum, q.v. above). Note that this would be expected to be tumchuck instead, and indeed that form is found in Grand Ronde Wawa.
  • house — a room or any building (from Eng. house).
  • smoke — could mean fog or cloud, as well as smoke (from Eng.).

The English plural form was sometimes applied in Jargon formations, hiyu tillikums but also cultus Boston mans or cultus Bostons (rough translation: "Damned Yankees"), or hiyu whitemans. The use of the plural form is, however, not mandatory or regular.

  • man — can mean a man, of any origin, but also indicates the male of anything — tenas man lemooto, baby ram.
  • klootchman — woman or female, long common throughout the Northwest to mean a native woman, but without the derisive sense of "squaw".
    • tenas klootchman — girl, "young woman".
    • klootchman mowitch — female deer, doe.
    • klootchman itswoot — female (sow) bear.


  1. ^ Holton, Jim. 1999. Chinook Jargon: The Hidden Language of the Pacific Northwest.
  2. ^ Early Vancouver, Maj. J.S. "Skit" Matthews, City of Vancouver, 1936.
  3. ^ A Voice Great Within Us, Charles Lillard with Terry Glavin, Transmontaus Books, Vancouver
  4. ^ Holton, Jim. 1999. Chinook Jargon: The Hidden Language of the Pacific Northwest.
  5. ^ Jones, Nard (1972). Seattle. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. p. 94 et. seq.. ISBN 0385018754. . Quotation is from p. 97.
  6. ^ Jones, op. cit., p. 97.
  7. ^ Library of Congress search results page
  8. ^ Holton, Jim. 1999. Chinook Jargon: The Hidden Language of the Pacific Northwest.
  9. ^ 64 Years as a writer.,M1. 

See also

External links

Note: The Incubator link at right will take you to the Chinuk Wawa test-Wikipedia, which is written in the modern creolized Grand Ronde OR-derived of the Jargon, not the normal historical forms encountered outside of Lower Oregon as is not relevant to or reflective of the Jargon as used at Warm Springs, Colville, or in British Columbia:

Published - February 2009

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