The Kalinago Language, Words & Expression

by Prosper Paris


Language is the primary means of perpetuating culture.

Its presence is a living representation of a people’s way of life. The disappearance or destruction of a language usually signals the replacement of one cultural system by another.

The most devastating impact on the Kalinago culture by the invasion of the European was on the Kalinago language. Within four decades of Columbus’ landing, the entire Caribbean had been renamed. The flow of European immigrants, along with forced labour imposed on the indigenous people, helped diffuse the language and culture. Until the 1920s, few Kalinago could speak or remember the language, while much emphasis was placed on learning the white man’s strange behavior. The Kalinago language was rapidly replaced by French Kwéyol and, to a lesser extent, English.

Today, most Kalinago say they can’t speak a word in their native language. But many Kalinago names and words are in common use today.

Village Names

Many villages in Waitukubli have retained their Kalinago names:

  • Barakua
  • Bataca
  • Calibishie
  • Layou
  • Coulibistrie
  • Toucarie


Additionally, Kalinago words are used for plants, fruits, animals, and everyday objects.

Traditional Kitchen Utensils



  • Couis – Calabash
  • Cou-Cou – Type of calabash
  • Kaim Bouk
  • Pikan – Small stick used to take out from the Canari
  • Ajoupa
  • Mwena
  • Karbet
  • Cachiman
  • Papaya



Trees & Plants



  • Coulirou
  • Cacador
  • Humma
  • Book
  • Lipi
  • Chato
  • Laursh
  • Té Ta
  • Acajou
  • Balata
  • Cachibou
  • Manioc
  • Simarouba
  • Mapou
  • Cacao
  • Karata
  • Agouti
  • Manicou
  • Anoli
  • Mabouya
  • Fou-Fou
  • Gli-gli
  • Si Si Zeb
  • Si Si Rou



Kalinago Word List (Body)

Common Expressions

  • My Body – Na Nocobou
  • Head – Ichie
  • Nose – Icherie
  • Ear – Aricae
  • Hair – Itibouri
  • Face – Isubu/Icibou
  • Teeth – Ari
  • Eye – Acou
  • Mabpwika – Greeting
  • Ni Lamaha Tina – I am hungry
  • Ita Bia – How are you
  • Aitina Kalinago – I am Kalinago
  • Irufu Tina – I am Good
  • Ka Yamatetina – I have a basket
  • Itali? – What is the matter?
  • Tiamatu Teiha – She is pretty



Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Youtube Events Search Home(EN) Home(FR)