Lapine language

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Created by Richard Adams
Setting and usage Watership Down
Users None
constructed language
  • fictional
    • Lapine
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Glottolog None

Lapine is a fictional language created by author Richard Adams for his 1972 novel Watership Down, where it is spoken by fictional rabbit characters. The fragments of language presented by Adams consist of a few dozen distinct words, and are chiefly used for the naming of rabbits, their mythological characters, and objects in their world. The name "Lapine" comes from the French word for rabbit, lapin, and can also be used to describe rabbit society. It seems to be influenced by the Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Arabic languages.[citation needed]

Adams commented [1] that the motivation for the sound of Lapine was that it should sound "wuffy, fluffy" as in the word "Efrafa".

Fans of the book, including authors and academics, have attempted to expand on the few words and phrases extant in the corpus of Watership Down and develop it into a fuller language.

Within the book, only the rabbits speak Lapine; other animals communicate in a lingua franca known as "hedgerow."

Selected vocabulary[edit]

  • Crixa: The center of Efrafa, at the crossing of two paths.
  • elil: Enemies of rabbits, including fox, stoat, weasel, cat, owl, man, etc.
  • embleer: Stinking, the word for the smell of a fox.
  • flay: Food, specifically grass or other greens.
  • flayrah: Unusually good food, such as lettuce, carrots, etc.
  • Frith: The Sun, viewed by the rabbits as God.
  • Frithrah: "Lord Sun", used as an exclamation. Analogous to "My God!"
  • fu-Inlé: After moonrise.
  • hain: A song.
  • hlao: A depression in the ground formed by a daisy or a thistle, specifically one that can hold moisture. Also used as a rabbit's name.
  • hlessi: A rabbit who lives aboveground or otherwise out of a warren; a wandering rabbit. Plural hlessil.
  • homba: A fox. Plural hombil.
  • hrair: Many, uncountable, any number above four. It also means thousand, a big, uncountable number.
  • hraka: Droppings, excreta. Used as a curse.
  • hrududu: Any type of motor vehicle, such as a tractor, car or train. Plural hrududil
  • Inlé: The moon, moonrise. Also means fear, darkness or death (as in the Black Rabbit of Inlé)
  • lendri: A badger.
  • li: Head.
  • marli: A doe,a mother.
  • m'saion: "We meet them"
  • narn: Nice, tasty.
  • ni-Frith: Noon.
  • nildro: A blackbird.
  • Owsla: An elite group of rabbits, second year or older, surrounding the chief rabbit of a warren. (Not all warrens have an Owsla.)
  • Owslafa: A strong, older group of the Owsla that serves as the Council's police at the Efrafa warren.
  • pfeffa: A cat.
  • -rah: A suffix denoting meaning prince, lord or Chief Rabbit (as in Threarah, Hazel-rah)
  • -roo: A diminutive suffix meaning "little" (as in Hlao-roo or Hrairoo).
  • silf: Outside.
  • silflay: To eat above ground; to graze.
  • tharn: A state of paralyzed fear or confusion. Can also be used to mean "looking foolish", "forlorn", "heartbroken".
  • thlay: Fur.
  • threar: A Rowan or Mountain Ash tree.
  • u: The.
  • U hrair: "The Thousand". The term used by rabbits which refers to all their collective enemies.
  • vair: To excrete, to pass droppings.
  • yona: A hedgehog. Plural yonil.
  • zorn: Destroyed, murdered. A catastrophe.

Selected names[edit]

  • El-ahrairah: The rabbits' folk hero. The literal translation of the full name(Elil-hrair-rah) is "Enemies-thousand-prince"; "Prince with a thousand enemies".
  • Hlao-roo: "Little Hlao", Pipkin's name in Lapine.
  • Hrairoo: "Little thousand". Fiver's name in Lapine.
  • Hyzenthlay: The literal translation is "shine-dew-fur"; "Fur shining like the dew". The name of a doe.
  • Nildro-hain: "The Blackbird's song". The name of a doe.
  • Sayn: Groundsel.
  • Thlayli: "Fur-head"; Bigwig's name in Lapine.
  • Thethuthinnang: "Movement of leaves". The name of a doe.
  • Threarah: "Lord Threar", "Lord of the Rowan tree". The Chief Rabbit of the Sandleford warren.


  1. ^ Watership Down 2005 edition, ISBN 978-0-7432-7770-9, Introduction, page xiv

External links[edit]