Klahowya Tillicum

Have you ever given much thought to where many of the place names for our mountains, rivers and other natural features were derived from? Contrary to what many hikers think–these place names are not of Native American origin (entirely), but of Chinook Jargon. Not an actual language, Chinook Jargon is a collection of several hundred words drawn from various Native American Tribal languages–mainly Coast Salish as well as English and French. It was used as a trade language among Native peoples, Europeans and European-Americans in the Pacific Northwest throughout the 19th century. A unique part of our Pacific Northwest Cultural Heritage, our landscape is sprinkled with Chinook names. Below are some Chinook words you will encounter in the Cascades and Olympic mountains and their meanings in English.

Chuck- water, river or stream

Cultus-bad or worthless

Elip-first, in front of

Hyas- big, powerful, mighty

Illahee-the land, country, earth, soil

Ipsoot- hidden

Kimtah-following after, behind

Klahanie- outdoors

Klahowya-greeting, “how are you?” or welcome

Klip- deep, sunken


Kloshe Nanitch-take care, stand guard

La Push-the mouth (of river)

Lemolo-wild, crazy


Mesachie-bad, evil, dangerous

Moolock- elk

Muckamuck- food


Pil- red, therefore Pilchuck = red stream

Potlatch-give, gift

Saghalie-above, high, on top, sacred

Sitkum- half of something, part of something

Skookum-big, strong, mighty

Tatoosh- woman’s breasts

Tenas-small, weak, children

Tillicum-friend, people

Tupso-pasture, grass

Tyee-chief, leader

Kloshe Nanitch is Chinook jargon for stand watch or guard.

I am somewhat of a Chinook jargon geek and have spent some time studying this language. If anyting you can have lots of fun

around the campfire with your friends telling  stories of Kalakala, Puss Puss, and Melakwa (that would be birds, cougars and mosquitos!) Interested in learning more? The Fort Langley National Historic Site in Langley, British Columbia has compiled an excellent phrase book and dictionary.







Find plenty of Chinook place names on 100 of the most spectacular hikes throughout Washington.

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