Kahta Mamook Kopa Chinook Wawa – How to speak Chinook
Money, Trade, & Travel
Chickamin pe Huyhuy pe Klatawa
As Chinook’s origins lay in trade and communications between tribes of radically differing linguistic roots, and the jargon developed in the course of trade between native peoples and non-natives, it is only natural that words for trade and commerce were important and common parts of the vocabulary, as were words used in the course of travel. Most words here for buying and selling products and modes of travel;
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for effective bargaining, of course, numbers would be needed, as would common greetings and courtesies. and the usual interrogatives and interjections. Sample phrases for doing business or asking directions will be found towards the bottom of this page.
Dolla, tolla, tollah – dollar, money
Pil dolla – gold. Chickamin dolla – silver. Dolla seahhost – spectacles.
Sitkum dolla, etc. – half-dollar, fifty cents
Kwatah, kwahtah – quarter, two bits
Bit, pit, mit – a dime or shilling (i.e. “one bit”)
Chickamin, Chickaminnie – metal (esp. iron) money, valuables
Pil Chickamin, Chickamin Pil – gold (“red metal”), money, also copper. T’kope Chickamin – silver. Chickamin lope – wire, chain
Klikwallie, Klokewallie – brass, brass wire, or an armlet or braclet of brass wire.
Kunsih, kunjih, kunjuk, kunjie – how many (also when)
Kwunnun – a count, numbers
Mamook kwunnun – to count
Mamook kunsih – to count (“to make how many”)
See also Numbers.
Hiyu, hiu, hyiu – many, lots, a multitude, enough (to go around), plenty
Gibbs notes that Jewitt gives hyo as meaning “ten” at Nootka Sound. Tenas hiyu – some, a few. Wake hiyu – not many, not much.
Huy-huy, hui-hui – exchange, bargain, trade, do business
Mamook huyhuy – to strike a deal
Mamook – do, work
See Mamook Compounds.
Kumptus, kumtux – to know, to understand, to sympathize
See Kumtux Compounds.
Tumtum – to feel, to believe, to think, to know
Also means “heart”, and may also be used for sympathy. See Tumtum Compounds.
Mahkook – buy, sell, trade (usually “buy”; means “do business”)
Hyas mahkook – expensive, a high price
Mahish, mahah – sell, let go, to leave
Iskum – hold, possess, take, receive
Tikegh, tikke, ticky – to want, to desire, to love, to wish, to like, to need
Potlatch – give, to share (as a verb)
Also “a gift”, but also the great gift-feasts that were central to native society and economics, especially on the Coast.
Kapswalla – steal
Kliminawhit – lie, liar. Klimmin (“smooth”) by itself can also mean “lie”, but properly it is an adjective.
Moola, moolah – mill (from Fr. moulin).
The latter syllable may or may not be accented. This word may be the origin of the English slang meaning of “moolah” as “money”, as mills are even today equated with income in the Northwest Stick moola – a lumber-mill. Chickamin moola – a mine mill. Pehpah mill – paper or pulp mill.
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, laboat – boat
Laboat is 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. Boat Opoots – a rudder, the stern.
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 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 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. NB canim stick – cedar, the wood from which the great split-log canoes of the coastal peoples were most commonly made.
Isick – paddle
Laham, lahahm– oar, paddle
Lapehsh – a pole, the sitting-pole of a boat or canoe, from la perche (“the perch”)
Itlan, it-hlan – a fathom, the length of an extended arm
This latter phrase is Gibbs’. In my estimation a fathom would be the length of both extended arms, that of one being a cubit.
Chuck – water, river, stream
Saltchuck – salt water, the ocean. Solleks chuck – rough sea (“angry sea”). Chuck chako – the tide/river rises. Chuck kalapi – the tide/river falls. Saghalie chuck – high tide. Keekwillie chuck – low tide.
Halo chuck – dry, dried out, desert, also thirsty
Dely, dly – dry
Liver – river
Skookumchuck – “big water”, “powerful water”, i.e. rapids, maybe hot springs
There are three placenames in British Columbia using this word. Skookumchuck Narrows at the outlet of Sechelt Inlet is the site of a large tidal rapid, nearly a salt-water waterfall at high-tide. Skookumchuck Hot Springs is south of Pemberton and due east of Whistler, although this native community and large ghost town may be derived from the town’s hot spring, rather than from the nearby river. Skookumchuck Rapids, or Skookumchuck, is located at a large rapids in the Rocky Mountain Trench section of the Columbia River near Invermere. Its name was first recorded by fur company explorer David Thompson (who got to Astoria two or three weeks after Lewis and Clark).
Hyak – fast, swift
Klahwa – slow, slowly
Klah – free and clear, in sight
Klip – deep
Klip chuck – deep water. Klip sun – sunset.
Laplash – wide, broad
This word is from the French la planche, for a plank or floor-boards, and also for a floor, a concept that is easily translatable into “broad” or “spread out”.
Hahlakl – wide open
Delate – straight, direct
Enati – across
Enati chuck – across the river, across the water.
Mime, mimie – downstream
Mahtlinnie – offshore
As a command – “keep off” (i.e. in boating). If on land, the meaning is “towards the water”.
Mahtwillie – inshore, shoreward
As a command – “keep in”. On land, means “towards the woods” or “the interior”.
Nauits – off shore, on the stream
Gibbs comments that Anderson says this was not properly a jargon word. It is of Chehalis origin.
Katsuk – middle, in the middle of
Nose – a promontory, a point of land
Also means “nose”, as on the face.
Delate – straight, direct
Lope – rope
Kow– tie, fasten
Sail – sail, cloth, flag
Wind – wind, breeze, etc
Also breath, breathe, life. NB Halo wind – dead, out of breath. See Time and the Elements.
Siah – far
Jewitt gives this as meaning the sky in Nootka, which perhaps conveys its true context – “beyond the sky” or (as in English) “the wild blue yonder”. Comparative distance is expressed by intonation or repetition – siah-siah. NB Wake siah – near, not far.
Koosah, kosah – sky (only on the Lower Columbia)
Tsil-tsil, chil-chil, dil-dil – stars
Latleh – train
Mamook latleh – make a lot of noise, i.e. “make like a train”. The word tren or tlen was also used.
Wayhut, Ooakut – road, way, path
Tsik-tsik wayhut, chickchick wayhut – wagon-road. Also pronounced weehut, hwehkut, etc.
Chickchick, tsik-tsik – wagon
Kishkish – drive
Lewhet, lawhet – whip
Klatawa kopa kiuatan or klatawa kopa cayoosh – to ride a horse, to travel by horseback
Lasell, lasill – saddle
Lableed – bridle
Lapishemo – saddle-blanket and trappings of a horse
Leseeblo – spurs
Sitlay, sitliay – stirrups
Lolo – carry, lift
Haul – haul, pull, lift
Lazy – lazy
Till – heavy, tired
Sick – sick
Help – help
Elann, elahan – aid, assistance
Mamook elann – to help
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”)
Olo – hungry, hunger
Dly, dely – dry, thirsty
Also halo chuck or olo chuck – “without water”, “need water” and tikke chuck – “want water”, “need water”. Chako dly – to dry out.
Moosum – sleep
Olo moosum – sleepy. also tikegh moosum – sleepy. Naika hyas moosum – I slept very sound. Hyas naika tikegh moosum – I really need some sleep.
Illahee – land, countryside, the earth
Lamonti – mountain
Klahanie – outside, the out-of-doors
Nanich, nanitch – see, look, watch out, behold
Mitwhit – stand, also wait
Mitlite – stay, remain, sit, have, were at, wait
Kalapie – to return, turn, upset, turn over
Ko – reach, arrive at, get to
Klatawa – go, walk, travel
Cooley – run, hurry
This is usually credited as being from Fr. coulir or courir, but may also be a borrowing of the English word “coolie”, itself a borrowing from Hindi.
Chako – come, come here
Cheechako – newcomer, tenderfoot
Sikhs, siks, seeks – friend
Musket – musket, gun
Pish stick– rifle, gun (“fire stick”)
Wawa – talk, say, tell, haggle, language
Attributed to Chinookan origin, but identical to the Chinese “wawa” – words, speech. Nesika wawa – “let’s talk”, but also “our language”. Huy-huy wawa – haggle, bargain.
Lalang – language, tongue
Boston wawa, Kingchauch wawa or Boston lalang, Kingchauch lalang – the English language
Pasiooks wawa, or Pasiooks lalang – French
Chinaman wawa, China wawa or Chinaman lalang – the Chinese language
Kanaka wawa, etc. – the Hawaiian language
Dutchman wawa, etc. – German
May also have referred to Swedish and Dutch, both of which were spoken in the Northwest.
Mamook Kingchauch wawa? – “Do you speak English?”
There do not appear to have been Chinook words for Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian, all of which were spoken in the Northwest by colonists. There must have been Haida and Tlingit words for Russian, but I have not found these out yet.
See also People.
Muckamuck – food, to eat, dinner, to bite
Mamook muckamuck – to cook, to prepare food, to serve dinner. See Mamook Compounds.
Glease – grease
Also laklay from Fr. la graisse , but this could be confused with lakleh – key. Although the English loan-word became a generic term for greases, it also became used for “oolichan grease”, the highly-prized rotten-mash preserve made from oolichans was one of the most widely-traded products in the native economy. Trade routes were often marked by grease drippings as a result of centuries of deposition. One of these, traversing the Chilcotin Plateau, is now a heritage hiking route and was used by explorer Alexander Mackenzie to travel from the Fraser to the coastal inlets. The oolichan runs in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet were so large that the city’s mills ran for years using oolichan grease as their sole lubricant.
Lum – rum, booze in general
Chuck – water, fluids
Pahtl chuck – wet
Polallie – gunpowder, sand, flour, dust
Pish polallie – gunpowder. Klimmin polallie – fine flour, fine sand.
Pish stick, piah stick, kalapeen, callipeen – rifle, carabine
Musket – musket
Label, laball – bullet, ball-shot, pellet
Shot – shot, a shot-ball
Poo – the sound of a gun
Moxt poo – double-barreled rifle or shotgun. Taghum poo – six-shooter. Opoo – to break wind.
Opitlkegh – a bow
Kalitan – an arrow, shot, or bullet
Kalitan lesak – a quiver
Poh – blow, a puff of breath
Lesak, lesac – sack, bag
Lapel – skin, fur, pelt, hide
Skin – skin, hide, pelt
Lapeep, lepeep – a pipe. Also to share a pipe, i.e. Mamook lapeep – have a meeting or chat
Lagome – gum, pitch
Kilitsut – a flint, bottle, glass
Opitsaht – knife, something sharp
Also means “beloved” or sweetheart, perhaps the original meaning; as in a knife-owner naming his instrument “my little sweetheart”. Or in the sense that love “cuts to the heart”.
Paseese, paseesee – blanket, woolen cloth
Ik-kik – fish hook
Blanket – blanket
Capo – coat
Seahpo – hat
Paint – paint
Salt, sel – salt
Suk, shugah, shukwah, lesuk – sugar
Lawen – oats, grain
Sapolill – flour
Lawen sapolill – oat flour. Lice Sapolill – rice flour, etc. Klimmin sapolill – fine flour.
Sapolallie, sopalallie – a type of berry bush, usually the soapberry (xoosum).
Lice – rice
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.
Kamosack, kamosuk, camosun – beads
Tyee kamosack – the highest-quality blue beads, which were much prized in trade.
Pepah, pehpah – paper. Also contracts, documents, writing
Law – law
Court – court (law court)
See also Food & Domestic Life.
As with most Chinook conversation, simplicity was the general rule of grammar, although meaning might seem ambiguous in some cases. Tone of voice and inflection is everything. Please see Grammar for more examples of Chinook phraseology.
Maika mamook moolah? – Do you work at the mill? Literally “do you do the mill?”
Maika mamook mahish? – Are you selling something? or Are you a salesman?
Potlatch – wake mahish. – It’s a gift, I’m not selling it. Also Naika Potlatch – “I give” or Potlatch maika – “give to you”.
Potlatch – wake mahkook. – Give it to me, I don’t want to buy/pay for it. Also Maika Potlatch or Potlatch naika (as above).
Naika iskum – wake mahish. – I’m keeping it, it’s not for sale. Maika iskum (I keep) – wake mahkook (no buy) – Keep it, I’m not buying it.
Tumtum huyhuy? – do you want to bargain? Feel like making a deal?
Mamook huyhuy. – Let’s make a deal, let’s do business. Mamook mahish – Sold, it’s sold (“the sale is made”).
Kunjih rice? Kunjih sapolillie? – How much for rice? How much for flour?