How to say “Halloween” in Chinuk Wawa

You didn’t know how to say “Halloween” in Chinook Jargon? I have a treat for you.

Look here:

halloween kw NOT

Which says:

Okt. <29>, <30>, <31> [etc.] … Kopa No. <1>, iaka Ol Sins Di[,] kanawi tlus tilikom kopa sahali ilihi klaska son.
…October 29, 30, 31 [etc.] … On November 1, it’s All Saints Day, the day of all the good people in heaven.
— (Kamloops Wawa #102 (29 October 1893), page [173])

So, really nothing about Halloween. Gotcha! 🙂

But I showed you the above clipping for some needed background information. Now onward.

vigil of all saints

<31. O.> Sat. | Vishil kopa kanawi sahali ilihi 
[October] 31. [Holy day of] O[bligation]. Sat[urday]. | Vigil for all the heaven(ly) 

— (Kamloops Wawa #203a (December 1902), page 168)

There it is. Seeing as how our source of information is a Catholic missionary newspaper, the way to say “Halloween” in Jargon is vishil kopa kanawi sahali ilihi tilikom (in Grand Ronde pronunciation, something like vishil kʰapa kʰánawi sáx̣ali-íliʔi-tílixam). “The vigil for all the heaven(ly) people.”

In Catholic tradition, a vigil is a night prayer. The term is typically used for a night when you’re “keeping watch” — the original meaning of the word — until an important observance on the following day. That observance, in this case, is November 1st, All Souls’ Day, which you may also know as the Day of the Dead.

I have no indication that Halloween as we now know it was celebrated in the British Columbia Native communities of the Kamloops Wawa world. In the zillions of pages of that newspaper I’ve found no mention of shenanigans or sweets in connection with today’s date.

That doesn’t stop us from celebrating the fact that we’ve discovered another useful “new word” in Chinuk Wawa!

Here is a little more info: for short, you can call Halloween just vishil…


<31.> Vishil.
[October] 31. Vigil.

— Kamloops Wawa #207 (December 1903), page 108

…or make it one of the many Chinook words with “le” at the beginning, livishil:

<31> M. <I> Livishil.
[October] 31. Monday. [I = an ordinary day.] Vigil.

— Kamloops Wawa #50 (30 October 1892), page [69]

There are other vigils in the year, for a practicing Catholic, and really this vishil is equivalent to the ‘eve’ of a holiday. You can say things like vishil kopa Noil (the vigil for Noel = Christmas Eve).

But if you as a Chinuk Wawa speaker use this word (li)vishil, at this time of year, you’re safe in considering it to mean Halloween.


Bonus: in the mixed Cree-French language Michif that seems to have played a role in forming Chinuk Wawa “Halloween” is quite a similar concept: la swayree avawn La Tou Sayn ‘the evening before All Saints Day’.

Bonus bonus: latusa is Chinuk Wawa for All Saints Day; it’s borrowed into some of the Pacific Northwest’s indigenous languages also.