Directory to on-line Jargon dictionaries and other referencesTo Home Page

Jargon Dictionaries:

In HTML on this site:

  • Gibbs, George, Dictionary of the Chinook Jargon, or Trade Language of Oregon. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1863. [NOTES]
  • Phillips, W.S. (Walter Shelley) ("El Comancho"), The Chinook book; A Descriptive Analysis of the Chinook Jargon in Plain Words, Giving Instructions for Pronunciation, Construction, Expression and Proper Speaking of Chinook with All the Various Shaded Meanings of the Words. Seattle: R.L. Davis Printing Co., 1913. [NOTES]
  • Shaw, George, The Chinook Jargon and How to Use It: A Complete and Exhaustive Lexicon of the Oldest Trade Language of the American Continent. Seattle: Rainier Printing Co., 1909. [NOTES]

Scanned page images:

On this site:

  • Coombs, S.F. (Samuel F.), Dictionary of the Chinook jargon as spoken on Puget Sound and the Northwest: with original Indian names for prominent places and localities with their meanings, historical sketch, etc. Seattle; Lowman & Hanford, [1891]. (Cover title: Chinook dictionary and original Indian names of Western Washington.) [NOTES]

At Wawa Press:


  • Extensive instructional excerpts from Duane Pasco's 1990s semimonthly newspaper, "Tenas Wawa." Includes the 16-chapter adventure saga "Moola John" written in Chinook Jargon alongside literal English translation (30,000 words). Book with cassette also available from the author.
  • Chinook Jargon - The Hidden Language of the Pacific Northwest is a history and tutorial with extensively researched new lexicon. Preview the text or order the book at author Jim Holton's web site.

Best regards,
Jeffrey Kopp

Notes regarding individual documents:

Gibbs: This slim volume was perhaps the first Jargon dictionary published, about halfway through the pioneer era, and is considered one of the best references on the Jargon, as it was carefully and thoughtfully compiled and accurately reproduced. At the time of this book's publication, Mr. Gibbs had resided in the Oregon country for a dozen years and also acted as interpreter to the Washington Territory's governor Isaac Stevens.

Also printed by Cramoisy Press (New York) in 1863. Do not confuse this dictionary with Gibbs' limited lexicon of the Chinook language proper ("old Chinook"), entitled, "Alphabetical Dictionary of the Chinook Language," published by Craimoisy in 1863.

Le Jeune's Chinook Rudiments (1924): Fr. Jean Marie Le Jeune was a missionary, and very prolific writer in and about the Jargon. His remarkable "Kamloops Wawa" newspaper appeared irregularly but quite frequently for decades.

Bishop Durieu and Fr. Le Jeune developed a method of writing the Jargon in Duployan script, a French phonetic shorthand (sténographie Duployé). It was reported Indians who knew the Jargon were taught to read this method in just three months. The Kamloops Wawa was printed mostly in this script.

(Duployan is similar to Gregg; its relationship to other shorthands is described in the French Wikipedia.)

Fr. Le Jeune produced several dictionaries, the first presented here being his latest and most comprehensive work, from near the end of the Kamloops Wawa era in 1924.

Phillips (El Comancho): This colorful and eccentric dictionary appears original in composition and may therefore make a useful reference to compare to with other Jargon dictionaries, so many of which are of an apparent Gibbs-Shaw-Gill lineage.

The alphabetical organization of entries in the main lexicion (by initial letter only) was confusing, so for this presentation I have correctly alphabetized the entries according to the author's spelling. (Otherwise the edition appears verbatim, except for correction of obvious typesetting errors.) An appendix lists the original word order for those interested.

Shaw: While Gibbs' dictionary is presented verbatim, including the very few typographical errors in the original, putting Shaw's on-line presented a very different situation, as the typography of the original is quite erratic. To enhance readability, I have liberally adjusted the punctuation to conform the document to a consistent style throughout. Several minor and obvious typographical errors have also been corrected.

The original does not contain a table of contents; one has been added to this on-line version solely for ease of navigation. Also, the original work divides the vocabulary into two sections, the main Lexicon and a Supplemental Vocabulary of "Less Familiar Words--Not Strictly Jargon--or of Only Local Use." These two vocabularies are also presented merged in an additional "Combined Vocabulary" here for ease of reference.

Coombs was found without its cover tucked inside another Jargon dictionary acquired at an estate sale near Olympia by Kathleen Houts, who hoped it could be identified, and graciously loaned it for scanning. It was added to this site in 2004 as a "Mystery Dictionary" with a request for information. In 2007, Mike Curry of Aberdeen wrote that he had spotted it on a short exhibit page of the Newberry Library, Chicago. One inside page (p. 10) was displayed there, which matches the corresponding page in the copy I was loaned, so it is a fairly safe assumption they are the same.

As the cover was missing, I don't know if the author was identified in the book; it appears he was not, as the Newberry's catalog card includes the note: "Attribution of authorship and date of publication from: Pacific Northwest Americana / C.W. Smith. 3rd ed., no. 2016." I would presume the full title was shown on the inside cover or front page missing from the copy available to examine.

This dictionary might have been developed for or with a view toward government use; note the testimonial oath and legal thrust of the "Interrogatories" at 33 and 34. Its author was apparently familiar with other Jargon dictionaries, but the orthography used is unique, and the selection of words has some quirks, perhaps reflecting local usage of the day. A list of place names in Native languages is credited to Eells (pp. 35-38).

Knowing the author and year of publication, this dictionary could then be located in Pilling's Bibliography at 33.



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