Kriol Mini Dictionary

This mini-dictionary is only a small sample of the vocabulary of Belize Kriol. The primary focus for choosing these words is to show the variety of languages from which the language has been built, and also to further amplify the fact that Belize Kriol is different from English. The abreviation etym. stands for etymology ‘where the word comes from’. The code in paranthesis at the end of many entries refers to the sources from which additional information was gathered. The sources are listed at the end of the page.

A

 

abak
ago, reference to a previous time

agen
in addition to the current standard English meaning of ‘another time’, when following a negative it can also have the 17th century English meaning of ‘any more’; as in “Ah noh lov ahn agen” ‘I don’t love him any more’ (H2)

aks
to ask, this pronunciation was an early English variant that was regulary found into the 17th century and it was still found in Ireland and Scotland even at the beginning of the 20th century (H2) (A)

Anansi / Hanaasi
the trickster hero of many traditional stories, etym. Twi ananse ‘spider’ or character in traditional stories (H2)

B

 

bambam
a food made with cassava, etym. possibly from Ngwa-Igbo gbam-gbam meaning ‘a plate for eating’ (A)

bami
a cassava bread, etym. Gã-Adangme bami (A)

beanz an rise
a traditional dish in which the rice and kidney beans are cooked separately, different from rise an beanz in which they are cooked together

Belize
the name of the country, or may refer to Belize City; etym: may come from a corruption of either the name Wallis or a Maya word Baliz meaning ‘muddy water’

bilam
a small river fish (tetra), etym. Miskito bilam (H)

Bileez
an optional spelling for Belize

bail op
a dish of boiled ground foods, such as cassava, cocoa, sweet potatoes, ripe plantains, boil cake, and boiled fish or pigtail

bram
a dance party or festival, traditionally held at Christmas; a type of dance done at parties; a type of song sung at parties; to engage in dance party activities

bribri
a species of pod-bearing tree (Inga edulis), etym. Miskito bribri (H)

brokdong
a traditional style of folk music

C

 

chaaly prise
a very large rat, thought to have been brought to Jamaica by Sir Charles Price, an 18th century planter and Speaker of the House of Assembly in Jamaica (C)

chimoaleh
a blackened chicken soup served over rice, etym. Mexican Spanish chimole

chinchi
tiny, a small amount; etym. possibly from Old English chinch ‘a stingy person’ (C)

cho
exclamation of disgust, annoyance, etym. Ewe tsoo ‘exclamation of surprise’ (A)

D

 

da
is, am, are, “Ih da di teacha.” ‘He/she is the teacher.’ etym. similar forms are found in Ewe, Igbo, Twi, and Yoruba (A)

da
at, on, in, to, etym. Ewe de (A)

da
it is (focus), “Da hihn weh shub ahn.” ‘It was he who pushed him/her.’ etym. several Africa languages use a similar form for similar functions, for example Igbo de and Twi da (A)

deh / di
am, is, are (located) , “Ih deh pahn di boat” ‘He/she is on the boat’; etym. probably developed from similar words in several African languages (A)

deh
there, etym. English there

dehn
them, they, their, etym. English them, however its use as a multi-functional pronoun probably is related to similar usage in several W. African languages (A)

dehn
(post-noun plural marker), “Di bwai dehn” ‘The boys’, etym. English them, however its use in forming the plural is probably related to similar usage in several W. African languages (A)

di
the, etym. English the

di
(pre-verbal marker for progressive aspect) “Yu muma di luk fi yu.” ‘Your mother is looking for you.’ etym probably developed from similar words in several African languages, Igbo de is a preverbal marker to make present progressive, it expresses the continuance of an action rather the time of the action (A)

doary
a small dugout canoe, etym. Miskito dori (H)

duki
a chart with a picture of a skeleton which is numbered used for interpreting dreams by lottery ticket buyers, etym. possibly Spanish duque meaning ‘duke’ or Miskito duki or dukia meaning ‘property, affair’ (H)

dukunu
a food of steamed corn mash wrapped in a leaf, etym. Twi dokono meaning ‘boiled cornbread’ (A)

E

 

eskabaycheh
a soup made with pickled onions and chicken or fish, etym. Spanish escabeche meaning ‘pickled’ (A)

 

F

faysi
impudent, shameless, etym. 17-18th century English, found in some dialects even into the 20th century (A)

fi / fo
to, for, “Ah gaan fi sell janny kake.” ‘I went to sell johnny cakes.’ etym. possibly a convergence of English for and African forms like Twi and Yoruba fa and Mandinka fo having similar uses. (H2)

 

G

gaalin
a type of egret or heron, etym. Scottish gawlin (A)

ganja
marijuana, etym. Hindi ganjha (A)

garnaaches
crispy tortillas served with beans and rice on top, etym. Mexican Spanish garnaches?

gibnat / givnat
a small rodent (Cuniculus paca), etym. Miskito ibina (H)

gombeh
a goat-skin drum played with the hands, etym. any of several Bantu languages of Africa, for example Kikongo ngoma meaning ‘drum’ (A)

 

H

hooyu
a night bird, variously identified as Pauraque, spot-tailed nightjar, goatsucker, night hawk, Santa Maria bird, whip-poorwill, or dwarf owl, etym. Miskito kuyo, kuyu, kyuyu (H)

 

I

ih
he, she, it, etym. English he, however its use as a multi-functional pronoun probably is related to similar usage in several W. African languages (A)

 

J

jankro
any of several kinds of vultures, (Cathartidae sp.), ‘King Jan Kro’ or ‘Red Nek Jan Kro’ is the King Vulture, ‘Dakta Jan Kro’ is the Turkey Vulture, etym. English carrion crow, with pronunciation /kyarinkro/ > /kyankro/ > /chankro/ (A)

jankunu
a costumed dance, different versions are found in Jamaica and Bahamas, in Belize the costume and dance originate from a comical ridicule of slave masters, etym. possibly Ewe dzon meaning ‘sorcerer’ + kunu meaning ‘something deadly’ (H), or Yoruba jo meaning ‘dance’ + n-n-kon having a general meaning of ‘things, spells, feats’ (A)

janny kake
a fried or baked bread usually eaten at breakfast, etym. possibly English journey cake or from the use of john in naming of things such as jankunu, jan kro, janny fidla, etc. (A)

janny fidla
a species of fiddler crab

 

K

kimbo
a defiant stance with hands on hips, etym. possibly Old English kimbo meaning ‘hips’ (A)

kiskis
wooden tongs for handling hot coals in a cooking fire, etym. Rama kiskis (H)

konkas
housefly, etym. Miskito kingkas, kukas (H)

kot aiy
a gesture of contempt, deliberately clossing the eyes while turning the head away from somebody, etym. English cut + eye, however, putting the meaning of those two words together for the same gesture is common through West and Central Africa (A)

kotobrute
a candy made with sugar and coconut, etym. English cut + French brut meaning ‘unrefined’ and referred to sugar (C)

kraabu
a fruit tree, the yellow berries of the tree (Brysonima crassifolia), etym. Miskito krabo (H)

kuhune
a species of palm tree, the nut of the kuhune (Orbignya cohune), etym. Miskito ohom, uhum, ohung (H)

kunjai
a form of dance

kunku
small size or amount, etym. Yoruba konko (DMY:380)

kwam
a turkey-like fowl, the guan (Penelope sp.), etym. Miskito kwamu (H)

L

lab
a porridge made with any of a number of ingrediants, cassava lab, flour lab, plantain lab, etc., etym. Yorkshire dialect of British English loblolly (A)

M

maklala / makala
a small lizard species (Sp lagartillo copetudo), etym. Miskito mahklala (H)

mi
me, may be used as a object or subject pronoun, etym. English me

mi
pre-verbal anterior tense marker, “Ah mi si dehn” ‘I saw them’, etym. English been, with pronunciation bin > min. Note that ‘anterior’ tense is different from ‘past’ tense, it refers to action previous to a point of reference. (H2)

moal
the soft spot on a baby’s head

N

no
no, negation, “No man! Ah noh need taxi tideh.” ‘No! I don’t need a taxi today’, etym. English no

no
any, no amount, “Ah noh gat no food.” ‘I don’t have any food.’

noh
don’t, isn’t, pre-verbal negation, “Noh mek dehn get weh.” ‘Don’t let them get away.’

noh
Isn’t it so? Don’t you agree?, a sentence-final tag used to add friendly persuasion to a statement or request, etym. in Twi a phrase-terminal no is used to point out that the sentence is factual; an African source is more likely than a Spanish phrase-final no, or French non since this Creole no is found even in Caribbean Creole languages that had no contact with French or Spanish.

O

opstayz hous
The traditional style of Creole house with the living quarters built at least 8 or 10 ft off the ground on posts. This construction provides an outside shaded area underneath for daytime activities, greater security upstairs, and escape from low flying insects, snakes, and high water.

P

panaades
a food, minced fish wrapped in a fried soft tortilla, etym. Spanish empañada (A)

papta
a species of palmetto or fan palm (acoelorrhaphe wrightii), etym. Rama papta (H)

pataki
a large rectangular basket constructed with double walls, wide leaves are layered between the walls to make the basket water-proof and able to float, etym. Miskito pataki meaning ‘basket’ (A)

piss-a-bed
an herbal remedy for bed-wetting, hence the name. It may be the wild coffee plant.

pitpan
a long flatbottom dugout canoe, a flatbottom boat, etym. Miskito pitpan (H)

provision bark
a bark used to make medicinal tea (Pachira aquatica).

punta
a vigorous dance accompanied by drumming and singing, to dance the punta, genrally associated with Garifuna, etym. Spanish punta (A)

pyampyam
a bird species, the Central American magpie or brown jay (Psilorhynus mexicana or morio), etym. Miskito piampiam (H)

R

raati
a large species of sea crab (Callinectes sp.), etym. Miskito rahti (H)

rekaado
a red, pasty spice made from anatto seeds (Bixa orellana).

reyeno
a chicken soup made with chicken stuffed with ground pork, boiled eggs and seasoned with black ricardo (rekaado), etym. Spanish relleno meaning ‘stuffed’ (A)

rise an beanz
a traditional dish with rice made with kidney beans and coconut milk

rij
a forested area, as in ‘pine rij’ or ‘kuhune rij’ (it is not a reference to elevated terrain), etym. English ridge influenced by Miskito or Sumu asang meaning forested, hilly area (H)

rompopo
an eggnog-like drink

rusho
a style of dance

S

salbootes
a type of food

sambai
a fertility dance done during a full moon

sandunga
a type of dance

soopa
a tall palm tree species, the starchy orange-colored fruit (Culielma utilis or Acromia mexicana), etym. Miskito supa (H)

sorosi
a slender spreading vine with a bumpy, ribbed, yellow-skinned fruit, the fruit has red, sticky, sweet seeds inside, the fruit and leaves are used for a number of folk-medicinal purposes (Momordica charantia or M. balsamina (Cucurbitaceae)), etym possibly from Africa (A)

strech-mi-gots
a candy like taffy

T

taapong
tarpon, a large marine fish (Tarpon atlanticus), etym. Miskito tahpam (H)

tablayta
a candy made with coconut, etym. French tablette meaning ‘cake, slab (of chocolate) (A)

tamales
a food made of chicken and corn meal wrapped in a plantain leaf and boiled, etym. Latin American Spainsh tamales < Nahuatl tamalii meaning ‘a corn flour dough mixed with meat and peppers wrapped in corn leaves (A)

Tata Duhendeh
a mythical short man who lives in the bush, his feet are backwards and he has no thumbs, etym. probably Latin American Spanish tata meaning ‘father’< Nahuatl tlatla + duende meaning ghost (A), however there may have been convergence with a common Bantu term taata meaning ‘father’ (H2)

tuba
a species of river fish (Chichilasoma spp), etym. Miskito tuba (H)

U

uman
woman, female, etym. pronunication follows Old English oman, however there may have been convergence with Efik uman meaning ‘female’(H2)

unu
you all, 2nd person plural, etym. Igbo unu (A)

V

vex / bex
angry, the pronunciation with b- is generally found more often in rural areas, etym. 17th century English vex meaning ‘to be distressed in mind, to fret’ (A)

W

waari
the white-lipped peccary, a wild pig (Tayassu tajacu), etym. Miskito wari (H)

waata daag
the river otter (Lutra felina), etym. while the words are English the formation may be influenced by Miskito li yula meaning literally ‘water’ + ‘dog’ (H)

waawa
cowardly, childishly foolish, etym. Hausa wawa meaning ‘foolish’ (H)

waika
a Creole name for the Miskito Indians, extended to any non-Maya Indian, etym. Miskito waika meaning ‘brother-in-law’ (H)

waha
a species of broad-leaf plant (Calathea insignis), leaves are used for wrapping and serving food items, etym. Miskito waha (H)

wangla
sesame seed, a candy made with sesame seeds, etym. Kikongo waangila meaning ‘sesame seed’

weewi aants
a species of leaf-cutting ant (Atta cephalotea), etym. Miskito wiwi (H)

wine op
a vigorous dance, especialy with swinging of the hips, etym. Old English wind meaning ‘to turn this way and that, to wiggle or writhe’ (A)

wowla
a species of snake, boa constrictor; a long snake-shaped basket used for processing cassava for breadmaking. etym. Miskito waula ‘boa’. (H)

X

Except for modern borrowed words like ‘x-ray’, there is no word that begins with an ‘x’. However, the letter ‘x’ is used in words like: six, vex, nex, ex

Y

yaiy waata
tears, etym. English eye + water, however the process of putting those two words together to mean ‘tears’ comes from Africa, such as Igbo anya mmili, eye + water meaning ‘tears’ (A)

yerriso
gossip, etym. “Ah yer so.” ‘I hear such a thing.’, yer < English hear (A)

Z

zink
corrugated galvanized metal sheets used for roofing and fences, etym. metal that is galvanized is covered with zinc (English)

 

References

(A) Allsopp, Richard.1996. Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press

(C) Cassidy, Frederic G. 1961. Jamaica Talk: Three Hundred Years of the English Language in Jamaica. London: Macmillan

(DMY) Abraham, R.C. 1958. Dictionary of Modern Yoruba. London: University of London.

(H) Holm, John. 1977. Miskito words in Belize Creole. Belizean Studies 5:6, p.1-17.

(H2) Holm, John A. 1978. The Creole English of Nicaragua’s Miskito Coast: Its sociolinguistic history and a comparative study of its lexicon and syntax. University of London, unpub. Ph.D. diss.

Belize Kriol Mini-Dictionary