Pig Latin

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This article is about the language game. For the programming language, see Pig (programming tool).
Pig Latin
Igpay Atinlay
Spoken in English-speaking world
Classification Language game
Spoken with English
See also: Language games

Pig Latin is a language game in which words in English are altered. 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. A youthful Thomas Jefferson wrote letters to friends in Pig Latin.[1] 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 jargon 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."


For words that begin with consonant sounds, all letters before the initial vowel are placed at the end of the word sequence. Then, "ay" (some people just add "a") is added, as in the following examples:

  • "pig" → "igpay"
  • "banana" → "ananabay"
  • "trash" → "ashtray"
  • "happy" → "appyhay"
  • "duck" → "uckday"
  • "glove" → "oveglay"

For words which begin with vowel sounds or silent letter, one just adds "yay" to the end. Examples are:

  • "eat" → "eatyay"
  • "omelet" → "omeletyay"
  • "are" → "areyay"

Another less common way some speakers may use a different ending for words starting with vowels is adding "way" (or "wa") to the end. Examples are:

  • "egg" → "eggway"
  • "inbox" → "inboxway"
  • "eight" → "eightway"

This is to avoid having for speakers to disfavor pronouncing otherwise hard words which either sounds awkward, the human tongue cannot articulate, or both. As opposed to the last three examples above, the avoided words are:

  • "egg" → "ggeay"
  • "inbox" → "nboxiay"
  • "eight" → "ghteiay"

Some people also follow this rule with words that begin with vowel sounds: only the first letter is moved to the end of the word, and then one just adds "way" after.


  • "egg" → "ggeway"
  • "apple" → "ppleaway"
  • "I" → "Iway"

Some people who speak Pig Latin follow an alternate second rule; this version of the rule dictates that if a word begins with a vowel (either a, e, i, o, or u) only the first letter is moved and the phrase added to the end is "i"; however, this form is fairly uncommon. Another form of Pig Latin is to add an "ag" in front of the vowel.. (i.e. pig latin will read as "pagig lagatagin") Found in Lancashire.


  • "apple" → "ppleai"
  • "end" → "ndei"
  • "i" → "ii" pronounced like "ee" in "eek"
  • "ocelot" → "celotoi"
  • "under" → "nderui"

In other languages[edit]

In the German-speaking area, varieties of Pig Latin include Kedelkloppersprook, which originated around Hamburg harbour, and Mattenenglisch that was used in the Matte, the traditional working-class neighborhood of Berne. Though Mattenenglisch 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 Fikonspråket ("Fig language" – see Language game § List of common language games).

French has the loucherbem (or louchébem, or largonji[2]) coded language, which supposedly was originally used by butchers (boucher in French).[3] 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.

Another equivalent of Pig Latin is used throughout the Slavic-speaking parts of the Balkans. 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"; the 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 former Yugoslavian countries.


  1. ^ Hailman, John R. (2006). Thomas Jefferson on Wine. University Press of Mississippi. p. 12. 
  2. ^ "LARGONJI : Définition de LARGONJI". Cnrtl.fr. Retrieved 2014-03-10. 
  3. ^ 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. 


  • 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.
  • 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]