Haitian Creole

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Haitian Creole
Native toHaiti
Native speakers
9.6-12 million  (2014)[1][2]
French Creole
  • Haitian Creole
Latin (Haitian alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byMinistère de l'éducation nationale et de la formation professionnelle
Language codes
ISO 639-1ht
ISO 639-2hat
ISO 639-3hat
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
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Haitian Creole
Native toHaiti
Native speakers
9.6-12 million  (2014)[1][2]
French Creole
  • Haitian Creole
Latin (Haitian alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byMinistère de l'éducation nationale et de la formation professionnelle
Language codes
ISO 639-1ht
ISO 639-2hat
ISO 639-3hat
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Haitian Creole (kreyòl ayisyen; pronounced: [kɣejɔl ajisjɛ̃] French: créole haïtien), often called simply creole or kreyòl, is a French-based creole and is one of Haiti's two official languages, along with French. The word creole is of Latin origin and is a Portuguese term that means, "raised in the home." It was first referred to Europeans born and raised in overseas colonies but later used to refer to the language as well.[5] Haitian Creole is spoken by roughly ten to twelve million people.[6] Haitian Creole is the first language of 90-95% of Haitians.[7] It is a creole based largely on 18th-century French with some influences from Portuguese, Spanish, Taíno, and West African languages.[8] Haitian Creole emerged from contact between French settlers and African slaves during the Atlantic Slave Trade in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). Today, Haitians are the largest Creole-speaking community in the world.


Haiti has had constant political turmoil, but despite this there were some significant steps taken and one was to raise the status of the Creole language. In the early 1940s under President Élie Lescot, attempts were made to standardize the language. Lescot brought in two American linguistic experts, Frank Laubach and H. Ormond McConnell, to develop a standardized Creole orthography. However, the orthography was not well received although some regarded it highly.[9] Its official orthography was standardized in 1979. The Constitution of 1979 classified French as the "langue d'instruction" or language of instruction, and Creole was classified as an "outil d'enseignement" or a tool of education. The more recent Constitution of 1987 recognizes Creole as the "sole language that unites all Haitians." It is in this Constitution that Creole and French are both recognized as the official languages of Haiti. [10] The use of Haitian Creole in literature has been small but is increasing. Even without government recognition by the end of the 1800s, there were already significant literary texts written in Haitian Creole such as Oswald Durand's "Choucoune" and Georges Sylvain's "Cric?" "Crac!". [11] Félix Morisseau-Leroy was one of the first and most influential authors to write in Haitian Creole. Since the 1980s, many educators, writers and activists have written literature in Haitian Creole. More recently, on October 28, 2004 on the country's newly instated "Creole Day" Haiti's official newspaper "Le Matin" published its first paper entirely in Haitian Creole. [11] Today numerous newspapers, as well as radio and television programs, are produced in Haitian Creole.

As required by the Joseph C. Bernard (Secrétaire d'État de l'éducation nationale) law of 18 September 1979,[12] the Institut Pédagogique National established an official orthography for Kreyòl, and slight modifications were made over the next two decades. For example, the hyphen (-) is no longer used, nor is the apostrophe. The only accent accepted is the grave accent (à, è, or ò).


There are many theories on the formation of the Haitian Creole language.

The French colony of Saint-Domingue was founded in 1659 and John Singler suggests that Creole was probably formed between this time and 1740. It was during this period that the colony moved from tobacco and cotton production to a mostly sugar-based economy, which created a favorable setting for the Creole language to form. At the time of tobacco and cotton production, the Haitian population was made up of colonists, the engagés (employed whites), people of color and slaves in relatively balanced proportions, with roughly equal numbers of people of color and engagés. Singler estimates the economy shifted into sugar production in 1690, and radically reconfigured the early Haitian people as "the big landowners drove out the small ones, while the number of slaves exploded." Prior to this economic shift, engagés were favored over slaves as they were felt to be easier to control.[13] However, the sugar crop required a much larger labour force, and larger numbers of slaves were brought in. As the coloured slaves had decreasing contact with native French-speaking whites, the language would have begun to change.[14]

Singler's research shows that many African slaves in French ownership were from the Niger-Congo group and particularly from Kwa (Gbe and Akan) and Bantu language families. He also presents documents indicating a large number of these slaves were sent to French colonies. Singler suggests that the number of Bantu speakers decreased while the number of Kwa speakers had increased, with Gbe being the most dominant group. The first fifty years of Saint-Domingue's sugar boom coincided heavily with the Gbe predominance in the French Caribbean. During the time Singler places the evolution of the language, the Gbe population was 50% of the imported slave population.[14]

In contrast to the African languages, a type of Classical French or "Popular French" was used during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Saint-Domingue. Slaves who were seldomly able to communicate with fellow slaves would try to learn French. With the constant importation of slaves, the language gradually became formalized and became a distinct tongue to that of the French. Interestingly enough, the language was also picked up by the whites and became used by all those born in the colony in general.[15]

Over 90% of the Haitian Creole vocabulary is of French origin. However, most French speakers might find it unintelligible at first without any background of the language. This is due to the fact that the two grammars are very different. Creole has kept the Popular French words, whereas the meanings of these words have changed or have been replaced over time in Standard French. An example of this would be in the sentence, "Ki jan ou rele?" (What is your name?); corresponding to the Standard French salutation, "Comment vous appelez-vous?" Although the average French person would not understand this phrase, every word shown is of French origin. The words, qui ("what"), genre (manner), vous (you), héler (to call) or as in "What manner call (yourself)?". The verb "héler" has been replaced by "appeler" in Standard French.[16]

The Fon language, a modern subdivision of the Gbe language that was used in colonial centuries, is often used to compare grammatical structure between Haitian Creole and to relexify it with vocabulary from the French language.[17] The fact that the equivalent of the definite article ("the") also comes after the noun as in Creole, instead of before surely heightens its case. Although to be noted, the usage in Popular French, is similar as well. An example of this would be in the following words denoting the noun using a definitive article:

FrenchPopular FrenchFonHaitian CreoleEnglish
La maisonLa maison làAfe aKay laThe house

Another theory suggests that a creole had already started to develop on West African trading posts before the importation of African slaves into the Americas, and that since many of those slaves were being kept for some amount of time near these trading posts before being sent to the Caribbean, they would have learned a rudimentary creole even before getting there.[citation needed]

Orthography and phonology[edit]

Haitian Creole has a systematic orthography where spelling strictly follows pronunciation, except for proper nouns and foreign words. According to the official standardized orthography, Haitian Creole is composed of the following 32 sounds : a, an, b, ch, d, e, è, en, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, ng, o, ò, on, ou, oun, p, r, s, t, ui, v, w, y, z. Of note is the absence of letters c, q, u and x. Letter k is to be used for the sounds of letters c and q. Letter u is always associated with another letter (ou, oun, ui), while letter i (and its sound) is used to replace the single letter u in French words. As for letter x, its sound is produced by using the combination of letters k and s, k and z, or g and z.

Haitian orthographyIPAExamplesnearest English equivalent
Haitian orthographyIPAExamplesnearest English equivalent

(or à before an n)




(when not followed by a vowel)


(when not followed by a vowel)


(when not followed by a vowel)


(when not followed by a vowel)


Haitian orthography debate[edit]

The first technical orthography for Haitian Creole was developed in 1940 by Ormonde McConnell. It was later revised with the help of Frank Laubach, resulting in the creation of what is known as the McConnell-Laubach orthography.[18]

The McConnell-Laubach orthography received substantial criticism from members of the Haitian elite. Haitian scholar Charles Pressoir critiqued the McConnell-Laubach orthography for its lack of front rounded vowels because of their highly symbolic value in Kreyòl.[18] Another criticism was of the broad use of the letters /w/ and /y/.[18] Pressoir argued that these letters looked “too American.”[18] This criticism of the “American look” of the orthography was shared by many educated Haitians, who also criticized its association with Protestantism.[18] The last of Pressoir’s criticisms was that “the use of the circumflex accent to mark nasalized vowels” treated nasal sounds differently from the way they are represented in French and, therefore, would inhibit the learning of French.[18]

The official creation of the orthography was essentially an articulation of the language ideologies of those involved and therefore brought out political and social tensions between competing groups. A large portion of this tension lay in the ideology held by many that the French language is superior, which led to resentment of the language by some Haitians and an admiration for it from others.[18] This orthographical controversy boiled down to an attempt to unify a conception of Haitian national identity, a highly politicized and controversial topic of which there are many competing views.


Haitian Creole grammar is highly analytical: for example, verbs are not inflected for tense or person, and there is no grammatical gender—meaning that adjectives and articles are not inflected according to the noun. The primary word order (SVO) is the same as in French.

Many grammatical features, particularly pluralization of nouns and indication of possession, are indicated by appending certain markers, like yo, to the main word. There has been a debate going on for some years as to whether these markers are affixes or clitics, and therefore what should be used to connect the affixes to the word: the most popular alternatives are a hyphen, an apostrophe or a space. It makes matters more complicated when the affix itself is shortened, perhaps making only one letter (such as m '​ or w '​).

Although the lexicon is mostly French, the sentence structure is like that of the West African Fon language.[17]

FrenchFonHaitian CreoleEnglish
Ma bécane/becane à moi [in 17th century popular French]

my-SING-f bike

Keke che

bike my

Bekann mwen

bike my

My bike
FrenchFonHaitian CreoleEnglish
Mes bécanes

my-PL bikes

Keke che le

bike my-PL

Bekann mwen yo

bike my-PL

My bikes


There are six pronouns, one pronoun for each person/number combination. There is no difference between direct and indirect objects. Some are of French origin, others are not.

person/numberCreoleShort formFrenchEnglish
1/singularMwenM '​Je, me, moi"I", "me"
2/singularOu (*)W '​Tu, te, vous"thou", "you" (sing.)
3/singularLi (***)L '​Il, elle, on"He", "she"
1/pluralNouN '​Nous"We", "us"
2/pluralNou or Ou (**) Vous"You" (pl.)
3/pluralYoY '​Ils, Elles"They", "them"

(*) sometimes ou is written as w – in the sample phrases, w indicates ou.
(**) depending on the situation. In southern Haiti, zòt is used.
(***) in the northern part of Haiti, "Li" is often shortened to "i" as in Guadeloupe, Martinique and the other Lesser Antilles.

Plural of nouns[edit]

If a noun is definite, it is pluralized by adding yo at the end. If it is indefinite, it has no plural marker, and its plurality is determined by context.

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Liv yoLes livresThe books
Machin yoLes autosThe cars
Fi yo mete wobLes filles mettent des robesThe girls put on dresses.


Possession is indicated by placing the possessor or possessive pronoun after the item possessed. This is similar to the French construction of chez moi or chez lui which are "my place" and "his place", respectively. In northern Haiti, an "a" or "an" is placed before the possessive pronoun.

Unlike in English, possession does not indicate definiteness ("my friend" as opposed to "a friend of mine"), and possessive constructions are often followed by a definite article.

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Lajan liSon argent"His/her money"
"Fanmi mwen" or "fanmi m" or "fanmi an m"Ma familleMy family
Kay yoLeur maison / Leurs maisons"Their house" or "their houses"
"Papa ou" or "Papa w"Ton pèreYour father
Chat Pierre aLe chat de PierrePierre's cat
Chèz Marie aLa chaise de MarieMarie's chair
Zanmi papa JeanL'ami du père de JeanJean's father's friend
Papa vwazen zanmi nouLe père du voisin de notre amiOur friend's neighbor's father

Indefinite article[edit]

The language has two indefinite articles, on or simply yon (pronounced /õ/ or /jõ/) which correspond to French un/une. Yon is derived from the French il y a un, (lit. "there is a/an/one"). Both are used only with singular nouns, and are placed before the noun:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
On/yon koutoUn couteauA knife
On/yon kravatUne cravateA necktie

Definite article[edit]

There is also a definite article, roughly corresponding to English "the" and French le/la. It is placed after the noun, and the sound varies by the last sound of the noun itself. If the last sound is an oral consonant and is preceded by an oral vowel, it becomes la:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Kravat laLa cravateThe tie
Liv laLe livreThe book
kay laLa maisonThe house

If the last sound is an oral consonant and is preceded by a nasal vowel, it becomes lan:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Lamp lanLa lampeThe lamp
Bank lanLa banqueThe bank

If the last sound is an oral vowel and is preceded by an oral consonant, it becomes a:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Kouto aLe couteauThe knife
Peyi aLe paysThe country

If a word ends in "mi" or "mou" or "ni" or "nou", it becomes an:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Fanmi anLa familleThe family
Mi anLe murThe wall

If the last sound is a nasal vowel, it becomes an:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Chyen anLe chienThe dog
Pon anLe pontThe bridge

If the last sound is a nasal consonant, it becomes nan, but may also be "lan"

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Machin nanLa voitureThe car
Telefonn nanLe téléphoneThe telephone
Madanm nan / Fanm nanLa dame / La femmeThe woman

"This" and "that"[edit]

There is a single word sa that corresponds to French ce/ceci or ça, and English "this" and "that". As in English, it may be used as a demonstrative, except that it is placed after the noun it qualifies. It is often followed by a or yo (in order to mark number): sa a = This here / that there (ceci / cela)

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Jaden sa bèlCe jardin est beauThis/that garden is beautiful.

As in English, it may also be used as a pronoun, replacing a noun:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Sa se zanmi mwenC'est mon amiThis/that is my friend
Sa se chyen frè mwenC'est le chien de mon frèreThis/that is my brother's dog


Many verbs in Haitian Creole are the same spoken words as the French infinitive, but there is no conjugation in the language; the verbs have one form only, and changes in tense, mood, aspect etc. are indicated by the use of markers.

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Li ale travay nan matenIl va au travail le matin.He/she goes to work in the morning.
Li dòmi aswèIl dort le soir.He/she sleeps in the evening.
Li li bib laIl lit la Bible.He/she reads the Bible.
Mwen fè manjeJe fais à manger.I make food. (I cook)
Nou toujou etidyeNous étudions toujours.We always study.


The concept expressed in English by the verb "to be" is expressed in Haitian Creole by three words, se, ye and sometimes e.

The verb se (pronounced "say") is used to link a subject with a predicate nominative:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Li se frè mwenIl est mon frèreHe is my brother
Mwen se on doktèJe suis médecin/docteurI am a doctor
Sa se on pye mangoC'est un manguierThat is a mango tree
Nou se zanmiNous sommes amisWe are friends

The subject sa or li can sometimes be omitted with se:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Se on bon ideC'est une bonne idéeThat is a good idea
Se nouvo chemiz mwenC'est ma nouvelle chemiseThis is my new shirt

To express: "I want to be", usually vin "to become" is used instead of se.

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Li pral vin bofrè m (mwen)Il va devenir mon beaufrèreHe will be my brother-in-law
Mwen vle vin on doktèJe veux devenir un docteurI want to become a doctor
Sa pral vin on pye mangoÇa va devenir un manguierThat will become a mango tree
Nou pral vin zanmiNous allons devenir amisWe will be friends

"Ye" also means "to be", but is placed exclusively at the end of the sentence, after the predicate and the subject (in that order):

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
"Ayisyen mwen ye" = "Mwen se Ayisyen"Je suis haïtienI am Haitian
Koman ou ye?Comment êtes-vous?How are you?

The verb "to be" is not overt when followed by an adjective, that is, Haitian Creole has stative verbs. So, malad means "sick" and "to be sick":

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Mwen gen yon zanmi ki maladJ'ai un ami maladeI have a sick friend.
Zanmi mwen malad.Mon ami est malade.My friend is sick.

"to have"[edit]

The verb "to have" is genyen, often shortened to gen.

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Mwen gen lajan nan bank lan.J'ai de l'argent dans la banque.I have money in the bank.

"there is"[edit]

The verb genyen (or gen) also means "there is/are"

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Gen anpil Ayisyen nan florid.Il y a beaucoup d'Haïtiens en Floride.There are many Haitians in Florida.
Gen on moun la.Il y a quelqu'un là.There is someone here or there.
Pa gen moun la.Il n'y a personne là.There is nobody here or there.

"to know"[edit]

There are three verbs which are often translated as "to know", but they mean different things.

konn or konnen means "to know" + a noun (cf. French connaître).

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Eske ou konnen non li?Connais-tu son nom ?Do you know his/her name?

konn or konnen also means "to know" + a fact (cf. French savoir).

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Mwen pa konnen kote li ye.Je ne sais pas où il estI do not know where he/she is.

(note pa = negative)

The third word is always spelled konn. It means "to know how to" or "to have experience". This is similar to the "know" as used in the English phrase "know how to ride a bike": it denotes not only a knowledge of the actions, but also some experience with it.

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Mwen konn fè manje.Je sais comment faire à mangerI know how to cook (lit. "I know how to make food")
Eske ou konn ale Ayiti?As-tu été à Haïti ?Have you been to Haïti? (lit. "Do you know to go to Haiti?")
Li pa konn li franse.Il ne sait pas lire le françaisHe/she cannot read French (lit. "He knows not how to read French.")

Another verb worth mentioning is . It comes from the French faire and is often translated as "do" or "make". It has a broad range of meanings, as it is one of the most common verbs used in idiomatic phrases.

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Kòman ou fè pale Kreyòl?Comment as-tu appris à parler Créole ?How did you learn to speak Haitian Creole?
Marie konn fè mayi moulen.Marie sait faire de la farine de maïs.Marie knows how to make cornmeal.

"to be able to"[edit]

The verb kapab (or shortened to ka, kap or kab) means "to be able to (do something)". It refers to both "capability" and "availability", very similar to the French "capable".

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Mwen ka ale demen.Je peux aller demainI can go tomorrow.
Petèt mwen ka fè sa demen.Je peux peut-être faire ça demainMaybe I can do that tomorrow.
Nou ka ale pitaNous pouvons aller plus tardWe can go later.

Tense markers[edit]

There is no conjugation in Haitian Creole. In the present non-progressive tense, one just uses the basic verb form for stative verbs:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
Mwen pale Kreyòl.Je parle CréoleI speak Creole

Note that when the basic form of action verbs is used without any verb markers, it is generally understood as referring to the past:

Haitian CreoleFrenchEnglish
mwen manjej'ai mangéI ate
ou manjetu as mangéyou ate
li manjeil/elle a mangéhe/she ate
nou manjenous avons mangéwe ate
yo manjeils/elles ont mangéthey ate

(Note that manje means both "food" and "to eat" – m ap manje bon manje means "I am eating good food".).

For other tenses, special "tense marker" words are placed before the verb. The basic ones are:

Tense markerTenseAnnotations
tesimple pastfrom French "été" (been)
t appast progressivea combination of te and ap, "was doing"
appresent progressiveWith ap and a, the pronouns nearly always take the short form (m ap, l ap, n ap, y ap, etc.). From 18th Century French "être après", progressive form
afuturesome limitations on use. From French "avoir à" (to have to), e.g. "il a à parler" - he must speak (so he will speak)
pralnear or definite futuretranslates to "going to". Contraction of French "pour aller" (going to)
taconditional futurea combination of te and a, "will do"

Simple past or past perfect:

mwen te manje – "I ate" or "I had eaten"
ou te manje- "you ate" or "you had eaten"
li te manje – "he/she ate" or "he/she had eaten"
nou te manje – "we ate" or "we had eaten"
yo te manje – "they ate" or "they had eaten"

Past progressive:

mwen t ap manje – "I was eating"
ou t ap manje – "you were eating"
li t ap manje – "he/she was eating"
nou t ap manje – "we were eating"
yo t ap manje – "they were eating"

Present progressive:

m ap manje – "I am eating"
w ap manje – "you are eating"
l ap manje – "he/she is eating"
n ap manje – "we are eating"
y ap manje – "they are eating"

Note: For the present progressive ("I am eating now") it is customary, though not necessary, to add "right now":

M ap manje kounye a – "I am eating right now"

Also, those examples can mean "will eat" depending on the context of the sentence.

M ap manje apre m priye – "I will eat after I pray" / Mwen pap di sa – "I will not say that"

Near or definite future:

Mwen pral manje – "I am going to eat"
Ou pral manje – "you are going to eat"
Li pral manje – "he/she is going to eat"
Nou pral manje – "we are going to eat"
Yo pral manje – "they are going to eat"


N a wè pi ta – "See you later" (lit. "We will see (each other) later)

Other examples:

Mwen te wè zanmi ou yè – "I saw your friend yesterday"
Nou te pale lontan – "We spoke for a long time"
Lè l te gen uit an... – "When he/she was eight years old..."
M a travay – "I will work"
M pral travay – "I'm going to work"
N a li l demen – "We'll read it tomorrow"
Nou pral li l demen – "We are going to read it tomorrow"
Mwen t ap mache epi m te wè yon chen – "I was walking and I saw a dog"

Additional time-related markers:

fèk – recent past ("just")
sòt – similar to fè'k

They are often used together:

Mwen fèk sòt antre kay la – "I just entered the house"

A verb mood marker is ta, corresponding to English "would" and equivalent to the French conditional tense:

Yo ta renmen jwe – "They would like to play"
Mwen ta vini si m te gen yon machin – "I would come if I had a car"
Li ta bliye w si ou pa t la – "He/she would forget you if you weren't here"

Negating the verb[edit]

The word pa comes before a verb (and all tense markers) to negate it:

Rose pa vle ale – "Rose doesn't want to go"
Rose pa t vle ale – "Rose didn't want to go"


Most of the lexicon of Creole is derived from French, with significant changes in pronunciation and morphology; often, the French definite article was retained as part of the noun. For example, the French definite article la in la lune ("the moon") was incorporated into the Creole noun for moon: lalin. However, the language also inherited many words of different origins, among them Wolof, Fon, Kongo, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Taino and Arabic, a testament to the numerous contacts with different cultures that led to the formation of the language.

Being a living language, Haitian Creole creates and borrows new words to describe new or old concepts and realities. Examples of this are "fè bak" which was borrowed from English and means 'to move backwards' (the original word derived from French is "rekile" from reculer), and also from English, "napkin", which is being used as well as the original French word "torchon" said "tòchon" in Creole.


anasi/anasi/(Akan) "ananse""spider"
annanna/ãnãna/(Taino) "anana" (Also the source of the word in French)"pineapple"
Ayiti/ajiti/(Taino)"Haiti (mountainous land)"
bagay/baɡaj/(French) bagage, "baggage""thing"
bannann/bãnãn/(French) banane, "banana""Plantains"
bekàn/bekan/(French) bécane /bekan/"bicycle"
bòkò/boko/(Fon) bokono"sorcerer"
Bondye/bõdje/(French) Bon Dieu /bõdjø/"God" or "God!"/"Good Lord!"
chenèt/ʃenɛt/(French) (Antilles) la quénette"mamoncillo", "chenette", "guinip", "gap" [nb 1]
chouk/ʃõk/(Fula) Chuk – to pierce, to poke"poke"
dekabes/decahbes/(Spanish) dos cabezas - two heads"2 headed win during dominos"
dèyè/dɛjɛ/(French) derrière /dɛʁjɛʁ/"behind"
diri/diɣi/(French) du riz /dy ʁi/"rice"
fig/fiɡ/(French) figue /fiɡ/"Banana"
je/ʒe/(French) yeux /jø/ (plural of "oeil")"eye"
kiyèz, tchok, poban/kijɛz, tʃɔk, pobã/ "hog banana" [nb 2]
kle/kle/(French) clé /kle/, "key""wrench" or "key"
kle kola/kle kola/(French) clé /kle/, "key" + Eng. "cola""bottle opener"
kònflèks/kõnfleks/(English) "corn flakes""breakfast cereal"
kawotchou/kautʃu/(French) caoutchouc, "rubber""tire"
lakay/lakaj/(French) la cahutte /la kayt/ la case"the hut""house"
lalin/lalin/(French) la lune /la lyn/"moon"
li/li/(French) Lui"he/she/him/her"
makak/makak/(French) macaque /makak/"monkey"
manbo/mãbo/(Kongo) mambu or Fongbe nanbo"vodou priestess"
marasa/maɣasa/(Kongo) mabasa"twins"
matant/matãt/(French) ma tante, "my aunt""aunt", "aged woman"
moun/mun/(French) monde"people/person"
mwen/mwɛ̃/(French) moi /mwa/"me","I","myself"
nimewo/nimewo/(French) numéro /nymeʁo/"number"
oungan/ũɡã/(Fon) houngan"vodou priest"
Ozetazini/ozetazini/(French) Aux États-Unis /etazyni/"United States"
piman/pimã/(French) piment /pimã/a very hot pepper
pann/pãn/(French) pendre /pãdʁ/, "to hang""clothesline"
podyab/po jab/(French) pauvre diable or (Spanish) pobre diablo"poor devil"
pwa/pwa/(French) pois /pwa/, "pea""bean"
seyfing/seifiŋ/(English) surfing"sea-surfing"
tonton/tõtõ/(French) tonton"uncle", "aged man"
vwazen/vwazɛ̃/(French) voisin /vwazɛ̃/"neighbor"
yo/jo/(Fon) ye"they / them / their" – plural marker
zonbi/zõbi/(Kongo) nzumbi"soulless corpse / living dead / ghost"
zwazo/zwazo/(French) les oiseaux /wazo/ (frontal "z" kept with liaison)"bird"
  1. ^ The gap between a person's two front teeth.
  2. ^ A banana that is short and fat, not a plantain and not a conventional banana; regionally called "hog banana" or "sugar banana" in English.

Nouns derived from trade marks[edit]

Many trademarks have become common nouns in Haitian Creole (i. e., they have become genericized, as has happened in English with "aspirin" and "kleenex", for example).

Nèg and blan[edit]

Despite similar words in French (nègre, most notable for its usage in a pejorative context to refer to black people and blanc, meaning white person), the meanings they carry do not apply in Haiti. The term nèg from nègre in French is generally used for any man, regardless of skin color (i.e., like "guy" or "dude" in American English). blan is generally used for a foreigner of any color. Thus, a non-black Haitian man would be called nèg—although the circumstances in which this might occur are unclear—while an African American would be referred to as a blan.[19][20]

Etymologically, the word nèg is derived from the French "nègre" and is cognate with the Spanish negro ("black", both the color and the people)

There are many other Haitian Creole terms for specific tones of skin, such as grimo, bren, roz, mawon, etc. Some Haitians consider such labels as offensive because of their association with color discrimination and the Haitian class system, while others use the terms freely.



  • A demen! – See you tomorrow!
  • A pi ta! – See you later!
  • Adye! – Good bye! [Permanently]
  • Anchante! – enchanted (Nice to meet you!)
  • Bon apre-midi! – Good afternoon!
  • Bònn nui! – Good night!
  • Bonjou! – Good day! / Good morning!
  • Bonswa! – Good evening
  • Dezole! – Sorry!
  • Eskize m! – Excuse me!
  • Kenbe la! - Hang in there! [Informal]
  • Ki jan ou rele? – What is your name?
  • Ki jan ou ye? – How are you?
  • Ki laj ou? – What is your age? (How old are you?)
  • Ki laj ou genyen? – How old are you?
  • Ki non ou / ki non w? – What is your name?
  • Koman ou rele? – What is your name?
  • Koman ou ye? – How are you?
  • Kon si, kon sa – So, so
  • Kontinye konsa! - Keep it up!
  • M ap boule – I'm managing (lit: I'm burning) [Response to "sak pase" or "sa kap fèt"] [Informal]
  • M ap kenbe - I'm hanging on [Informal]
  • M ap viv – I'm living
  • Mal – Bad
  • Men wi - Of course
  • Mwen byen – I'm well
  • Mwen dakò – I agree
  • Mwen gen...an – I am...years old
  • Mwen la – I'm so-so (lit: I'm here) [Informal]
  • Mwen rele... – My name is...
  • N a wè pi ta! – We will see later (See you later!)
  • Non m se... – My name is...
  • Orevwa! – Good bye [Temporarily]
  • Pa mal – Not bad
  • Pa pi mal – Not so bad
  • Padon! – Pardon! / Sorry! Move!
  • Padonne m! – Pardon me! Forgive me!
  • Pòte w byen! – Carry yourself well! (Take care!)
  • Sa kap fèt? – What's going on? / What's up? [Informal]
  • Sak pase? – What's happening? / What's up? [Informal]
  • Tout al byen – All goes well (All is well)
  • Tout bagay anfòm – Everything is in form (Everything is fine)
  • Tout pa bon – All is not good (All is not well)

Proverbs and expressions[edit]

Haitian Creole is a very figurative language, and as such uses a lot of proverbs and colourful expressions to illustrate many situations. Speakers of Haitian Creole will use them frequently, showing knowledge of the language and of the Haitian culture.



French-based orthography[edit]

Alongside the usage of a phonetic orthography used to represent Creole, there exists in Haiti a French-based orthography (l'orthographe francisée), or rather several variations of this which were present long before the introduction of the phonetic orthography. There have been arguments against the phonetic writing system of Creole. The main complaint is that it looks nothing like French and so may hinder the learning of French at school.[citation needed] For example, it relies on the Germanic letters K and W, which are seldom used in French.[21] Unlike the phonetic orthography, the French orthography is not standardized: It has no official rules or regulations on spelling, so spelling often varies depending on the writer; some use exact French spelling, others adjust the spelling of certain words to represent the Creole accent, and still others drop silent letters at the ends of words since Creole rarely uses the liaisons of French. The result is that a phrase represented phonetically like "Li ale travay le maten" may be represented many ways using the French orthography.

Usage outside of Haiti[edit]

United States and Canada[edit]

Haitian Creole is used widely among Haitians who have relocated to other countries, particularly the United States and Canada. Some of the larger Creole-speaking populations are found in Montreal, Quebec (where French is the first official language), New York City, Boston, and Central and South Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach). To reach out to the large Haitian population, government agencies have produced various public service announcements, school-parent communications, and other materials in Haitian Creole. For instance, Miami-Dade County in Florida sends out paper communications in Haitian Creole in addition to English and Spanish. In the Boston area, the Boston subway system and area hospitals and medical offices post announcements in Haitian Creole as well as English. North America's only Creole-language television network is HTN, based in Miami. The area also has more than half a dozen Creole-language AM radio stations.

Haitian language and culture is taught in many colleges in the United States as well as in the Bahamas. York College at the City University of New York features a Minor in Haitian Creole. Indiana University has a Creole Institute [4] founded by Dr. Albert Valdman where Haitian Creole, among other facets of Haiti, are studied and researched; the University of Kansas, Lawrence has an Institute of Haitian studies, founded by Dr. Bryant Freeman. Additionally, the University of Massachusetts Boston, Florida International University, and University of Florida offer seminars and courses annually at their Haitian Creole Summer Institute. Tulane University, Brown University, Columbia University, and University of Miami are also offering classes in Haitian Creole. The University of Oregon and Duke University will soon be offering classes as well.


See also: Haitian Cubans

Haitian Creole is the second most spoken language in Cuba, where over 300,000 Haitian immigrants speak it. It is recognized as a language in Cuba and a considerable number of Cubans speak it fluently. Most of these speakers have never been to Haiti and do not possess Haitian ancestry, but merely learned it in their communities. In addition, there is a Haitian Creole radio station operating in Havana.[22]

Dominican Republic[edit]

The language is also spoken by over 150,000 Haitians who reside in the neighboring Dominican Republic,[23] although the locals do not speak it. However, some estimates suggest that there are over a million speakers due to a huge population of illegal aliens from Haiti.[24]

Translation efforts after the 2010 Haitian earthquake[edit]

After the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, international help badly needed translation tools for communicating in Haitian Creole. Furthermore, international organizations had little idea whom to contact as translators. As an emergency measure, Carnegie Mellon University released data for its own research into the public domain.[25] Microsoft Research and Google Translate have implemented alpha version machine translators based on the Carnegie Mellon data.

In addition, several free apps have been published for use on the iPhone & iPod Touch, including learning flashcards by Byki and two medical dictionaries, one by Educa Vision and a second by Ultralingua, which includes an audio phrase book and a section on cultural anthropology.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
  2. ^ "Haitian Creole to English and English to Haitian Creole Translation Services". Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Haitian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  5. ^ Valdman, Albert. Creole: The National language of Haiti. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "Haitian Creole to English and English to Haitian Creole Translation Services". Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  7. ^ À ce propos, voir l'essai Prétendus Créolismes : le couteau dans l'igname, Jean-Robert Léonidas, Cidihca, Montréal 1995
  8. ^ Bonenfant, Jacques L. "History of Haitian-Creole: From Pidgin to Lingua Franca and English Influence on the Language". [2]
  9. ^ Piere-Michel Fontaine. "Language and Society Development: Dialectic of French and Creole Use in Haiti," Latin American Perspectives 8(1981):28-46.
  10. ^ Hebblethwaite, Benjamin. "French and Underdevelopment, Haitian Creole and Development: Educational Language Policy Problems and Solutions in Haiti," Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 27(2012)255-302.
  11. ^ a b DeGraff, Michel. "Linguist's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Creole Exceptionalism," Language in Society 34(2005):533-591.
  12. ^ Joseph C. Bernard (Secrétaire d'État de l'éducation nationale) law of 18 September 1979
  13. ^ Cohen, William (2003). The French Encounter with Africans: White Response to Blacks, 1530-1880. p. 47. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Lefebvre, Clairel (2006). Creole Genesis and the Acquisition of Grammar: The Case of Haitian Creole. p. 53-57. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  15. ^ Valdman, Albert. Creole: The National language of Haiti. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  16. ^ Valdman, Albert. Creole: The National language of Haiti. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  17. ^ a b Lefebvre (1985). A recent research project of the Leiden-based Research School CNWS on this topic concerns the relation between Gbe and Surinamese creole languages. The project is titled A trans-Atlantic Sprachbund? The structural relationship between the Gbe-languages of West Africa and the Surinamese creole languages.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Schieffelin, B. B., and Doucet, R. C. (1998). The ‘‘real’’ Haitian Creole: Ideology, Meta- linguistics, and Orthographic Choice. In B. B. Schieffelin, K. A. Woolard, and P. V. Kroskrity (eds.), Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory (pp. 285–316). New York: Oxford University Press.
  19. ^ "Haiti Marycare". Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  20. ^ West, Cornel & Glaude, Eddie S. (2003). "African American Religious Thought: An Anthology". p. 943. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  21. ^ [3]
  22. ^ Haiti in Cuba
  23. ^ Languages of Dominican Republic
  24. ^ Dr1.com: Illegal Haitians deported
  25. ^ Carnegie Mellon releases data on Haitian Creole to hasten development of translation tools

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]