Pig Latin

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Pig Latin
Igpay Atinlay
Spoken in English-speaking countries
Classification Language game
Spoken with English
See also: Language games

Pig Latin is a constructed language game where words in English are altered according to a simple set of rules. Pig Latin takes the first consonant (or consonant cluster) of an English word, moves it to the end of the word and suffixes an ay (IPA [eɪ]) (for example, pig yields igpay, banana yields ananabay, and trash yields rashtay).

The objective is to conceal the meaning of the words from others not familiar with the rules. The reference to Latin is a deliberate misnomer, as it is simply a form of jargon, used only for its English connotations as a "strange and foreign-sounding language."


The origins of Pig Latin are unknown. One early mention of the name was in Putnam's Magazine in May 1869 "I had plenty of ammunition in reserve, to say nothing, Tom, of our pig Latin. 'Hoggibus, piggibus et shotam damnabile grunto,' and all that sort of thing," although the language cited is not modern Pig Latin, but rather what would be called today Dog Latin.

The Atlantic January 1895 also included a mention of the subject: "They all spoke a queer jargon which they themselves had invented. It was something like the well-known 'pig Latin' that all sorts of children like to play with." Thomas Jefferson wrote letters to friends in Pig Latin (see Hailman in the references below).


Pig Latin is mostly used by people for amusement or to converse in perceived privacy from other persons. A few Pig Latin words, such as ixnay[1] (nix), amscray[2] (scram), and upidstay (stupid), have been incorporated into American English slang.


The usual rules for changing standard English into Pig Latin are as follows:

For words that begin with consonant sounds, the initial consonant or consonant cluster is moved to the end of the word, and "ay" is added, as in the following examples:

  • "happy" → "appyhay"
  • "duck" → "uckday"
  • "glove" → "oveglay"

For words that begin with vowel sounds or silent letter, you just add ay to the end. Examples are:

  • "egg" → "eggay"
  • "inbox" → "inboxay"
  • "eight" → "eightay"

Similar language games[edit]

In English[edit]

Similar languages to Pig Latin are Opish, in which "op" is added after each consonant (thus, "cat" becomes "copatop"); Turkey Irish, in which "ab" is added before each vowel (thus, "run" becomes "rabun"), and Double Dutch, in which each consonant is replaced with a different consonant cluster (thus, "how are you" becomes "hutchowash aruge yubou").[3][4]

In popular culture[edit]

In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Ferb Latin," the main characters have invented a new language titled "Ferb Latin", similar to Pig Latin, but instead of adding "-ay", they add "-erb". The rules don't apply to words like "I" or "It" with fewer than three letters, which stay untouched. There are also many nonverbal gestures involved, such as stomping one's feet to say "hello", and giving a chunk of meat to say goodbye. This is ironic because, in the beginning of the episode, Phineas claims that his language will be "vegetarian friendly".

Among other "languages", Google provides an option for displaying the site in Pig Latin. Images becomes Imagesway, Blogger Oggerblay, and Sign In Ignsay Inway.[5]

Pig Latin is mentioned in the autobiographical novel I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by author Maya Angelou.

The song "Who Gon Stop Me" on the 2011 album Watch the Throne by Kanye West and Jay-Z mentions Pig Latin and includes the lyrics "itch-bay", "ixnay" and "dicksnay".

In November 2013, Microsoft launched a negative advertising campaign against Google promoting their electronic communication services; Outlook, referencing this language with the claim that using it enables you to avoid Gmail's advertisement algorithms.

In the comedic film Polyester_(film) the character Cuddles Kovinsky, a poor maid who has inherited a large sum of money, answers the phone in pig latin.

In Lion king Zazu says "ixnay on the oopid-stay", to warn Simba and Nala to stop talking about the hyenas.

In other languages[edit]

In Bernese German, a variety of Pig Latin called Mattenenglisch was used in the Matte, the traditional working-class neighborhood. Though it has fallen out of use since the mid-20th century, it is still cultivated by voluntary associations. A characteristic of the Mattenenglisch Pig Latin is the complete substitution of the first vowel by i, in addition to the usual moving of the initial consonant cluster and the adding of ee.

The Swedish equivalent of Pig Latin is Allspråket, which uses the same or similar rules but with the suffix "-all." Additionally, the Swedish language game Fikonspråket ("Fig language") is similar to Pig Latin.

French has the loucherbem (or louchébem, aka largonji[6]) coded language, which supposedly was originally used by butchers (boucher in French).[7] In loucherbem, the leading consonant cluster is moved to the end of the word (as in Pig Latin) and replaced by an l, and then a suffix is added at the end of the word (-oche, -em, -oque, etc., depending on the word). Example: combien (how much) = lombienquès. Similar coded languages are verlan and langue de feu. A few louchébem words have become usual French words: fou (crazy) = loufoque, portefeuille (wallet) = larfeuille, en douce (on the quiet) = en loucedé.

The Portuguese language equivalent of Pig Latin is called Língua do Pê (P Language, in Portuguese), which has at least three different variations.

Another equivalent of Pig Latin is used throughout Balkan. It is called "Šatra" (/sha-tra/)or "Šatrovački" (/shatro-vachki/) and was used in crime-related and street language. For instance, marihuana (trava) turns to "vutra", Balkan slang name for cocaine (belo - meaning "white) turns to lobe, a pistol (pištolj) turns to štoljpi, bro(brate) turns to tebra. In the past few years it has become widely used between teenage immigrants in ex-Yugoslavian countries.

In computer games[edit]

Total Annihilation references Pig Latin.[8]

Pig Latin has been used extensively by most characters in Rayman Origins game developed by Ubisoft.[9]


  1. ^ "Definition of ixnay". Allwords.com. Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  2. ^ "Definition of amscray". Allwords.com. 2007-04-04. Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  3. ^ "Secret Languages/Mystery Messages". Face Monster. Retrieved May 4, 2013. 
  4. ^ Herbert S. Zim, Codes and Secret Writing (Morrow, 1948), pages 109-111.
  5. ^ "Pig Latin - Google". Google, Inc. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "LARGONJI : Définition de LARGONJI". Cnrtl.fr. Retrieved 2014-03-10. 
  7. ^ Françoise Robert l'Argenton. "Larlépem largomuche du louchébem. Parler l'argot du boucher" (in (French)). 90 n° 1. Parlures argotiques. pp. 113–125. Retrieved 2014-03-10. 
  8. ^ "TDF Gamedata Data". Units.tauniverse.com. 1997-07-14. Retrieved 2014-03-10. 
  9. ^ "Raymanian - RayWiki, the Rayman wiki". Raymanpc.com. 2014-03-01. Retrieved 2014-03-10. 


  • Barlow, Jessica. 2001. "Individual differences in the production of initial consonant sequences in Pig Latin." Lingua 111:667-696.
  • Cowan, Nelson. 1989. "Acquisition of Pig Latin: A Case Study." Journal of Child Language 16.2:365-386.
  • Day, R. 1973. "On learning 'secret languages.'" Haskins Laboratories Status Report on Speech Research 34:141-150.
  • Hailman, John R. Thomas Jefferson on Wine. University Press of Mississippi, 2006. page 12. Thomas Jefferson on wine. Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  • Haycock, Arthur. "Pig Latin." American Speech 8:3.81.
  • McCarthy, John. 1991. "Reduplicative Infixation in Secret Languages" [L'Infixation reduplicative dans les langages secrets]. Langages 25.101:11-29.
  • Vaux, Bert and Andrew Nevins. 2003. "Underdetermination in language games: Survey and analysis of Pig Latin dialects." Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting, Atlanta.

External links[edit]