Confirmed! “Picayune” was Chinuk Wawa


A word that I found in the Lushootseed Salish dictionary, s-pikyud, most likely is a survival from Chinuk Wawa.

The word represents English picayune, a coin technically worth 6.25 cents in the early United States. (Like much of our first money, it wasn’t minted here but was Spanish in origin.) If you haven’t heard of picayunes, it’s because they stopped circulating generations ago.

picayune coin

(Image credit:


I just found this in Father St Onge’s Chinook Jargon dictionary manuscript:

Nickel, a: sit-kom-mit, pikaiun

sit-kom-mit is ‘half a bit’; it’s old news to Jargon people that the frontier American ‘bit’ — formerly half a quarter, i.e. 12.5 cents — was actually a ‘dime’ of 10 cents.

This pikaiun being defined as a ‘nickel’ of 5 cents shows us that it was understood as the lowest-value silver coin then in use.

Interesting to see how the values of coins can fluctuate, along with the words denoting them.

Very interesting to keep on discovering new words of Chinuk Wawa.