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 Early Canadiana Online:

At Wawa Press:

Journal Articles:

Scanned page images:

At University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections:

  • Jacobs, Melville, "Texts in Chinook Jargon," University of Washington Publications in Anthropology, Vol. 7 No. 1 (Nov. 1936), 1-27 [NOTES]

At Early Canadiana Online:


  • 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.


  • Duane Pasco described many of the various Jargon works in two "Tenas Wawa" articles, both of which are presented in "Tenas Wawa" On-Line: "A brief history of Jargon dictionaries," and in the letter sent to his subscribers upon ceasing publication of his Jargon magazine in 1995, presented here as "Epilog to the Tenas Wawa."
  • Pilling's 1893 Bibliography of the Chinookan languages (including the Chinook jargon) may be viewed at Early Canadiana Online (The listings for Chinook Jargon begin on page 16, or the 33rd image of the fiche at Canadiana).


  • Our Roots: Canada's Local Histories Online, hosted at the University of Calgary, is a collaboration of two dozen Canadian libraries and archives. Includes some materials not in Canadiana.

Introduction and General Notes:

These materials and several similar works may be found in most U.S. university libraries or in larger or older city libraries in the Pacific Northwest. A couple historic Jargon references are available in reprint (such as Shaw's facsimile edition from Coyote Books; Thomas and Shaw intermittently appear in reprint from Binfords and Mort in Portland and the Shorey Book Store in Seattle, respectively). But for the most part, Jargon materials must be obtained by means of photocopying reference desk copies in libraries or by scouting for used editions. Therefore the most commonly cited materials are collected here for ease of retrieval and reference, and for the benefit of the student or distant researcher.

Format: The materials offered in this section are presented in two formats: HTML conversion and scanned page images. On this site, Gibbs, Shaw and Phillips have been converted to HTML, and Chinook Rudiments is necessarily presented as scanned page images. Documents on other sites linked from this page are also in scanned image form.

Copyright: All the materials presented on this site or via the Canadiana links are in the public domain today, the copyrights having long since expired. Feel free to print them out for personal or classroom use, but do not copy these files (i.e., the HTML or scans) to your own Web site, nor link directly to image files..

Printing: These dictionaries and articles may be printed by means of clicking on the text body (the right frame) and then selecting "print" from your Web browser's "File" pull-down menu.

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.

I have seen references to a Cramoisy Press (New York) edition, also of 1863. I am told this work was published simultaneously by them. However, 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.

Good: This book was arranged so that the Chinook (Jargon) lexicon appeared on each left page, and the Nitlakapamuk ("or Thompson tongue") appeared beside it on the right page.

T.N. Hibben & Co.: Page images scanned by Marv Plunkett and presented at his 1st-hand-history Foundation Web site. While this is a late and derivative Jargon dictionary, it remains of historical interest as it was a very popular book; it is probably the Jargon dictonary most often seen north of the border or the only one known to many Canadians (as Edward Harper Thomas' oft-reprinted work is here.) No author is attributed; probably compiled by the publisher. Many slightly differing editions of this work were printed by Hibben over the years; one of which may be seen at Canadiana.

"Hudson Bay Employee": A very short but apparently original work. The name of its author is doubtless lost, but any clues or information regarding this work would be appreciated.

Melville Jacobs' translated and phonetically transcribed stories told by several native Jargon speakers in the early 1930s are of both cultural and linguistic interest.

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.

Le Jeune's Practical Chinook Vocabulary (1886): An earlier work by Fr. Le Jeune. This is a booklet set in type (Roman characters), though also appearing at this time were several readers and writing tutorials composed almost entirely in the "Kamloops Wawa" script. 16 pages (images) at Early Canadiana Online.

Chinook and shorthand rudiments: with which the Chinook jargon and the Wawa shorthand can be mastered without a teacher in a few hours (1898): This is a tutorial in the Duployan-based Kamloops Wawa script. 15 pages (images), also at Early Canadiana Online.

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.

Image scans of the original may be viewed at

NEW 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. (The Newberry catalog card indicates their copy had in fact been owned by Pilling.)



HTML rev. 7/2/09. Copyright © 1999-2009 by Jeffrey Kopp. Please cite linked works directly.