The Cajun Language

You may or may not know this, but I’m 50% Cajun! Here’s a great collection of terms and phrases that were used in South Louisiana (down the bayou, aka “DTB”) when I was young, but from what I understand it’s a dying language and not used nearly as much – especially the French. My parents and sisters still “speak Cajun” (a mostly spoken-only language) and sometimes Cajun French, which is always fun to hear. Reading through the list brings back great memories and reminds me of how much culture my family has.

All text in this post is taken directly from I’m copying it here so the very extensive list isn’t lost if the original site disappears, as websites sometimes do. Although I’m familiar with many of these terms, full credit for this list goes to the author of the original website, Janis Nihart.

UPDATE 11 Dec 2018: I just checked and the original site is gone. Glad I copied it here!



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Although there are other websites with the Cajun language, I wanted mine to include only the words and expressions that are used by Cajuns ONLY. I did not want to include every French word we use. That would take forever, and frankly, would be boring. Those words can be found in any French dictionary. I wanted only those words and expressions that make OUR dialect what it is–so very special, interesting , and even funny. I have done some research to make sure that some of these words are not used by all french speaking people. One thing I have found that I found very interesting is our use of the various forms of the verb “foutre”(I think this is the correct spelling.Anyway our English equivalent is the “four letter word” “f_ _ k”. We use the word foutre to mean”doomed”

The Cajun language is a mixture of French, Indian, African , and English. It is mostly French, but when a French word is not known, the English word is thrown in.( Ou’ est le picture frame?—Actually, we say “Est ou”instead of “ou est”)). Sometimes a French word is thrown in when the English word is not known.( You should have heard the potain(ruckus) next door.) Cajun French is a spoken language mainly. The old cajun people who passed the language down to their descendants rarely went to school, and if they did, they went to school here in America, so only English was taught. Speaking French was discouraged. They certainly were never taught to read and write in French. Unfortunately, since the 1960’s , there has been a drastic decline in children being taught to speak French, although most children have a Cajun accent and know several French expressions and words. Today the children are being taught French, not Cajun French, in the elementary schools,and in many instances by teachers who are not Cajun because we have so few teachers who are fluent in French and qualified to teach it.

Although many residents of Bayou Lafourche and Grand Isle still speak French, the French spoken is slightly different. In Grand Isle, the “r” sound is made with the throat, as in France. On Bayou Lafourche, the “r” sound is rolled with the tongue, as in the Spanish language. Because it is a language that is quickly dying and will be almost non-existant when the baby-boomers are gone, I wanted to compile a list of words and phrases that I remember from having been raised on Grand Isle and because most of my relatives lived along Bayou Lafourche. Some of the expressions are clearly French, but others are either Indian or African. Some of them may even be made up words. I have no way of knowing for sure exactly what their origins are. Most of the words here are Cajun French words only,(some may be used in other French dialects) and are in no way the total amount of French we know. We do carry on conversations completely in French. Another reason for doing this is I became tired of Hollywood’s phony cajun accent. The “Cajun” in Southern Comfort is laughable if you have ever heard a real cajun speak. That guy was either French or Canadian . Then there is”Corky” on Murphy Brown . She talks about being raised on the bayou and eating all that cajun food. Not with that northern Louisiana accent! I don’t know what they eat up there, but judging by what they grow, it must be cotton. And if they do make gumbo up there, there must be cotton in it. Anyway ,the words(mostly slang), and phrases are arranged by category. I have tried to spell them the way they sound.

ALL OF THE WORDS AND PHRASES HERE WERE COMPILED FROM MY OWN KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCES (even the misspelled words)–A FEW (ABOUT 10-15) WERE SENT TO ME FROM PEOPLE IN THE AREA. I have been to a couple of sites, one of them being an online writers resource, that has clearly taken from my site. The writer’s resource site(Online Writers Resource)has almost every word/phrase I have(except for the word “bag dere”-which I don’t have), most of them spelled phonetically the SAME way I have. The source of this information is Karen Marquis and she even copyrighted the information that I put together. I thought writers are supposed to know better than to take someone elses research/experience and claim it as their own. Unless this woman is from Grand Isle and grew up there during the 50’s and 60’s, then she wouldn’t know all of this. My mother is from Golden Meadow, so I knew a lot of the words used there also. The French and slang and the English accents of Grand Isle and the Bayou Lafourche area are very different from one another. I was lucky enough to grow up in one(Grand Isle) and be familiar with the other(Bayou Lafourche) through my relatives there and those who had moved to Grand Isle.

(I almost forgot..We also talk with our hands a lot)

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Grand Beede’———–Big clumsy man
Saleau, Saloppe——–Sloppy,dirty man ;sloppy,dirty woman
Peeshwank, pischouette(little girl)————-runt, little person
Texians——————all people who don’t talk like us(a Grand Isle expression)
Mamere(or Maw maw)—————–Grandma
Papere(or Paw Paw——————-Grandpa
Nanan, Nanny———Godmother
P’tit Boug, boug—–little boy,boy
Couyon—————-A stupid person
Domion——————a peeping Tom
Tahyo——————a big hungry dog
Vieux———————old man
Defan—————“sainted”,demised,passed away,DEAD:What a dead person is referred to as- Example-“Defan Pop”( Dear Sainted Dad “Pauvre Defante(feminine form) Mom”–Poor Sainted Mom
Vielle———————old woman

Vielle fille—-old maid

Neg……..a term of endearment for a (male) person (Negresse is used for females) Cajuns use it when talking to other Cajuns, it isn’t used when talking to black people.)

Bon rien—a good for nothing man, a lazy man(Thanks to one of my second graders, Nolan, who used the expression to describe our librarian))

Bonne a rienne–a good for nothing woman, a woman who sleeps around

Mamere and Papere lived in Grand Isle.


Dos Gris————- a scaup
Pop chock——small brown bird
Poule D’eau——a coot
Gep, seekahsah——————-wasp
Chadron———————thistles(Melanie ,thanks)
des meurres—————blackberries
Quanne– the thick fat on a piece of cooked meat
Mouche a mielle———–honey bee(thanks, Ed ALexander)
The mouse————————- in Grand Isle, we used to believe that the mouse would leave us money under our pillows instead of the tooth fairy. This may be European in origin because the Russians have a similar custom.
Chaoui—————————–raccoon (Indian)
Tooloulou————————-Fiddler crab
Macaque——————————-Monkey(not singe, as the French say)
Fromis—-ants (should be fourmis)
sea bob(from the French SIX BARBES, meaning six whiskers—some small shrimp
Costeau—————————–Male crab
Bigarno—————————–Snail(what the French call escargot)
Chat!——————————–Go away, cat!
Meenoo,meenoo—————–Here, kitty!

Marecage–our word for seafood. I just recently found out that the FRENCH word should be fruits du mer(or fruits from the sea). I got to thinking how we ever started using the word mrecage. Then I realized it sounded exactly like the phrase Mer et cage , meaning sea and cage(or trapping)The French (not cajun)word, as I was told, for swamp or marsh is mare. Just my opinion. Cajuns got food from the sea and from trapping… a lot of seafood and other animals were caught by trapping.

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty
Passe’——————————-Go away, dog!
Faut carot————————–Big, black Grasshopper
boscoyo—————————–cypress knee
muspeulus—————————Japanese Plum trees
Leelahs——————-Little balls from the Chinaball Tree-good object to hit your friends with
Peekon—————————–thorn(the word”thorn”is rarely used)
Rocachah————————–burr on the beach that stick to your socks
gratin—food stuck at the bottom of the pot
Court bouillion—tomato based stew/soup with a lot of onion and bell peppers and made with redfish.
rozoe————————–long thin reed used to make a duckblind
file’———————————-dried, powdered sassafras leaves
piss-au-lis————————-Goldenrods(it is believed that if one picks goldenrods, one will urinate in bed,hence the name Piss au lis
un melon Francais—————– canteloupe
scisseaux——————–a type of insect that has pincers like scissors
schneille—————fuzzy caterpillar that bites and causes fever
castor———-like a schneille

I got a peekon stuck in my foot!

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The following wav is of a little chant I would hear adults say to children when they were upset or had a “bo-bo”. It is a spell or charm(gris-gris). The second part talks about cat sh_t. And the end basically says that By the time you’re married, the pain you experience now will be forgotten. It is in French. Someone in Westwego reminded me of it. I had forgotten about it for about 30 years. Thats what happens when you marry a Redneck.

Make the misere (faire la misere) –to cause trouble. Leave your little brother alone. Don’t make him the misere!
to play Madame—————-to play house
one thirty, two thirty, etc.—-one heure et demi, deux heures et demi(Canadians say one heure et trente, etc)
make a bill—faire des commissions———————buy groceries, making groceries
un transport—unable to sit still
fais do-do———————–go to sleep
fram—should be Ferme, French for close
Gar ici—Look here
Pouponer——————to make yourself look nice, powder your face(Thanks, Melanie)
en colaire(fache’)————to be angry
Te en colaire? Met tes fesse a’ l’aire.
each a one———————–one each
My eye! OR My foot!!————-No way, Jose!
Je vas te passe une callotte—I will pass you a slap(callotte)
Go to bed!————————Get out of here;I don’t believe you!
Cho! Co!——————————-Wow!
Cocain——an adjective for really big
Tete dure————————-Hard Head An escondale—like a potain, lots of noise
possede’———————-a bad ,mischievous,kid(literally,possessed)
alohrs pas———————-of course not
co faire?——————–Why?
moochon———————a knub, a stump
chot,chique————————-a little,short, ponytail
Oo ye yi!————————-Ouch! or I am sad.
Hot, hot————————–very hot( many adjectives are doubled, the first word meaning “very”) (It was cold,cold outside last night) Some African cultures speak this way. This practice may have come from the slaves in this area.)
Make a bahbin—————- to pout
J’ai gros couer—————–to feel like crying (literally means “I have a big heart”) It is the equivelant of the Yiddish “I’m verklempt”(or whatever Mike Meiers would say).
The Island———————Grand Isle, Louisiana
He’s got the gumbo.——– His pants are too big in the seat.
a chic———————–a cleverly disguised insult
He’s got the cabris.—–He has a wedgie.(cabris literally means “goat”.)
Slow the T.V.———–Turn down the volume.
Speed up the T.V.——–Turn up the volume.
Mais—————————–well(usually begins many English and French sentences)
Pass a mop——————–to mop
Pass the vacuum————to vacuum
pick up something———-put something away
(He’s)Canaille——————–sly, sneaky
Motier foux————half crazy
I got the faiblesse———-I feel like fainting
Pass a mop——————–to mop
pick up something———-put something away
Watch the slap,pass a slap————–I am going to slap you.(Grand Isle)

go “to town” or “in town” –the word Town always meant New Orleans. If you bought something in town, that meant you bought it in New Orleans. If you went to town that meant New Orleans. If you were speaking of New orleans in French, New Orleans was ALWAYS called “En Ville” . Ma fille reste en Ville. (My daughter lives in New Orleans.)
Au Bayou–Au Bayou ALWAYS meant the town of Golden Meadow. Ma Grandmere reste ayu Bayou.
I got the Mal au Couer——–I need to vomit
I got the paresse——————–I feel lazy
gate’, pourri————spoiled, as a child is spoiled
arrete toi———-stop, you
mal pris——————–stuck in a bad situation
ca viens?———–How is it coming?
mes pattes———-my paws(feet)
Skinny Mullet————-a skinny person
to play madame———-to play house
I have a “bleue”.————-I have a bruise.
Tawk—————————an onomatopeia; the sound you make when you hit something, usually a person.
Mais, jamais d’la vie!———-Well, never in my life!
Ha!———–“I don’t know.”

a bon couer—to do something wholeheartedly(like give to someone or to eat) en bouts des dents (literally, at the edge of your teeth)—to eat something you find distasteful commes les vieux (like the old people)—a response to Vomment ca vas? (How are you feeling?) T’en cas toi(or t’en cas lui or elle)–This is said when you are aggravated with someone. It’s English equivalent is like sayinf, ‘Why, you!”
Caisse(kess) —–the back of a truck
Crapeau—–a booger
bourick—-belly button
Up the bayou——North
Fait pas une esquandal(sp?)——-Don’t make such a racket!
Down the Bayou—–South(Thanks, Gloria Childers!)
Are you getting down?—–Are you getting out of the car?

Dit mon la verite’!—–(tell me the truth)Thisd is said when one is told something too amazing or unbelievable to be true.

Stop making the bahbin.

in French


chee wees————a Cheetos type snack we used to eat long before there were cheetos.They were made by the Elmers company in New Orleans and still are. Some people still use that word to refer to Cheetos
un champagne—-a basket unit of measure
une piastre————a dollar
porte monnaie——–purse
bouche, jeulle———mouth
Il mouille———It is raining
tremp–wet. Mes mains sont tremp. chambre a bain——-bathroom
chambre a coucher——-bedroom
pupae,catin, or bebelle—-doll
Pochom(pot d’chambre)—chamber pot
a blow————————attic fan
une miche——————–a French bread
Ball, fall—–boil foil
un pain round————-a round French Bread
Boude’————————–to be angry
cro-cros————————big,old, clunky, shoes
blood sausage—————blood sausage(yech!)
garde soleil——————–old-time sun bonnet
sussette, noonie————-pacifier
pomee’————————-to laugh or cry so hard that you can’t catch your breath
freesons, goose pimples—goosebumps
buljoos, shtoons, and peewees—-large, midsize, and little marbles
rahdoht————————boring, never-ending conversation

Well, that’s a rahdot,yea

peeshnick———————-to thump something with your finger
fuh shore, for true————that’s the truth
go play; go to bed————I don’t believe you!
rodee’————————–to run the roads and never stay home
pirogue————————small boat like a canoe (Indian)
porro—————————wart(to get rid of a porro, we would rub it with a raw potato, then throw the potato over our shoulders, without looking back to see where it landed)
de’pouille———————anything or anyone who is a mess
Boo—————–honey, sweetie, darling
En d’oeuille———-to be in mourning
Bonne Homme——————- a drawn figure or a plaything in the form of a human, not a girl doll, a boy figure
make the veiller( vay-yay)————–spend the evening talking with friends
fremeers————–grossed out by something(A squashed roach gives me the fremeers.
dreegailles——————–junk. trinkets
envie————————a craving
cunja————————-a spell put on someone

I want to go to the store with you.

drawz,ste’pin, conson——-underwear
zink—————————-sink(as in kitchen sink)
Beb—————————-Sweetheart, Darling, Honey

Qui C’est q’ca?–Who is that? or What is that?
traversain–pillow case
Par en sous——sneaky .underneath
un p’tit bec—Donne mon un p’tit bec?—A kiss Embrace–also used for the word KISS
begailler–to stutter
hosepipe———————water hose
patrack———————–old run-down truck
poo-yee-yi——————-that stinks
pain pee po—Some kind of game or useless activity. Janis, stop playing pain pee po and clean your room.
toc-toc—-an onomatopoeia and our only word for popcorn
fiank, fiank-o ….. said while sticking your thumb out to someone, meaning NO!!!! uSUALLY TO STRESS THAT YOU WON’T DO SOMETHING OR SOMETHING WON’T HAPPEN.

Poo-ye-yi, that stinks, that.

ax—ask / axes—asks / des—desk/ desses—desks/ nex—next
texbook—textbook (Some consonant combinations are hard to pronounce)


somewheres, anywheres, nowheres—–somewhere,anywhere,nowhere


bebette—-a little monster, a little critter

Mamere is wearing a garde soleil.

Common Surnames in the South Lafourche area

Adams, Allemand, Angellette, Arceneaux, Autin, Badeaux, Barrios, Bergeron, Billiot,Bouzigard, Blanchard, Boudreaux, Bourg, Breaux, Brunet, Bruce, Broussard Callais , Cheramie,Charpentier, Chiasson, Collins,Curole, Dantin, Danos, Dardar, Doucet, Duet, Dufrene Esponge, Eymard, Falgout, Felarise Galjour, Galliano, Gaspard, Gisclair, Griffin, Guidry,Gautreaux, Hebert, Lafont,Lasseigne, LeBlanc,Ledet, Lefort, Martin, Melancon Naquin, Orgeron, Plaisance,Pierce, Pitre, Rodrigue, Rousse, St.Pierre,Savoie, Serigny, Terrebonne, Theriot, Thibodaux, Toups, Vegas, Verdin, Vizier, Williams

Common Surnames in Grand Isle

Besson, Bradberry, Cheramie, Collins, Crosby, Santiny

Cajun Nicknames

T.Paul, T. Sam, T. Boy——any name with the letter”T” in front of it. “T” short for” petit, “meaning “little”
Sometimes the last syllable of a person’s first name is used or is doubled to make up that person’s nickname.
Example: Norma———- “Ma-ma”
Lillian———–“T. Yon”
Lelia————-“T. Ya”

Other men’s nicknames: Be’Be’, Coon, Pookie, Peekon And now for some really strange names: Poochoo, Peeyot, Poot, Mazoo, Mozela, Shine, Dayka, Do-Dor, Bo-bor, Do-Do, Coo-coot, Day-dan,Patate, Noonoo

Here are some place names you will find on the Bayou and Grand Isle:

Grand Bois -the small town and area on the road to Houma

The Houma Shortcut-the road from Highway 1 to Houma- lots of fatal car accidents on this road- When I was young I remember there was a story about a man who had been hung from one of the trees. It is a dark and creepy road at night in a swampy area.

Dos Gris–a group of about 10-15 fishing camps located between Cheniere and Fourchon on Highway 1. It used to be called PARRIOC. During Hurricane Betsy a HUGE tree(the diameter was about 4 feet)was deposited across highway 1 by the tides, making it impossible for us to go back to GrandIsle by car. Many of the men of Grand Isle tried moving it but it was impossible. There are no such trees in our area that are that wide so we don’t know where it came from. I remember we had tried going home. We got out of our car. I stood near that tree and pushed–it was going nowhere. Those who went on to check their homes had to go on foot. Mom brought my sister and I back to Golden Meadow, then went back to Parrioc. People were assembled there and formed groups to go down together. When they got there what they saw made grown men cry–but that is another story.

The Fourchon- a relatively new community between Leeville and Grand Isle. Before it was built up a man had killed 3 people in Berwick Louisiana(or was it the Berwick family from Des Allemands-I don’t remember) in 1965 and dumped their bodies by the”big curve” here. I just love those creepy stories.

The Pointe a Saussis(Sausage Point)- a part of Golden Meadow on the “other ” side, the eastern side, of the Bayou (Highway 308) from the Golden Meadow Junior High School. The Canal Yankee is also part of it.

Cheniere-considered part of Grand Isle but not actually on the island

The Platain- the back end of Santiny Lane on Grand Isle

Bayou Rigaud- The east end of Grand Isle.


Sometimes incorrect word order is used when asking questions. Questions sound like statements or sentence fragments. Some have words omitted.
******** What time it is?(What time IS IT?
******** What you{/she/he/OR they) said? (What DID you say? What did they say, etc.
******** Where you at? (Where are you?)
********* You know what I find? (Do you know what I have observed?–Thanks to Taylor Walker)
******** I will MAKE 21 on my next birthday.(I will BE 21……)
******** I can get a drink of water?(May I get a drink of water)

copyright 1998 Janis Nihart—-

******** Ya Momma’s home? (Is your mother home?)
******** What you was doing last night? (What were you doing last night?)
********* What do now? (What do you want me to do now?) Where go?( Where do you want me to go?) Where put this? (Where do you want me to put this?)

3 Replies to “The Cajun Language”

  1. Love this. Still like to hear “making groceries”. Just makes me smile. Thank you for your time, research and sharing.

  2. My maw maw always used to say, “I got the mal au couer” when she had a stomach ache. I can always say it but I didn’t know how to spell it! Thanks for this, it reminds me of so many things she used to say. She was from Mamou and her accent was tic, tic.