pid·​gin | \ ˈpi-jən How to pronounce pidgin (audio) \

Definition of pidgin

: a simplified speech used for communication between people with different languages

Other Words from pidgin

pidginization \ ˌpi-​jə-​nə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce pidgin (audio) \ noun
pidginize \ ˈpi-​jə-​ˌnīz How to pronounce pidgin (audio) \ transitive verb

The History of Pidgin

The history of pidgin begins in the early 19th century in the South China city of Guangzhou. Chinese merchants interacting with English speakers on the docks in this port adopted and modified the word business in a way that, by century's end, had become pidgin. The word itself then became the descriptor of the unique communication used by people who speak different languages. Pidgins generally consist of small vocabularies (Chinese Pidgin English has only 700 words), but some have grown to become a group's native language. Examples include Sea Island Creole (spoken in South Carolina's Sea Islands), Haitian Creole, and Louisiana Creole. The word pidgin also gave us one particular meaning of pigeon—the one defined as "an object of special concern" or "accepted business or interest," as in "Tennis is not my pigeon."

Examples of pidgin in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But Amazon expects this person to be well connected with the Nigerian film industry, already boasting relationships with top creators, fluency in Nigerian pidgin and one or more indigenous languages. Alexander Onukwue, Quartz, 11 Apr. 2022 Ed Sheeran takes over the second verse with lyrics peppered with upbeat pidgin and interlaced with words from Yoruba which forms the lyrics of the original song. Nelson C.j., Rolling Stone, 27 Dec. 2021 Japanese immigrants who worked in pineapple fields and on sugarcane plantations introduced their ice-cold kakigori to Hawaii in the late 1800s, where it became known as shave ice in Hawaiian pidgin. Omar Mamoon, Janelle Bitker, San Francisco Chronicle, 14 Sep. 2021 This relationship between the Portuguese and Edo people in the region shaped the pidgin spoken in the Niger Delta region today and also—what may be a surprise to many—Portuguese creole. Uwagbale Edward-ekpu, Quartz, 23 July 2021 The creoles emerged from a first-contact language or pidgin resulting from the contact between the Portuguese colonizers and the slaves from the kingdom of Benin in Sao Tome. Uwagbale Edward-ekpu, Quartz, 23 July 2021 Speaking in a pidgin of French and English, and switching back and forth sometimes within the same sentence, Delphine's story comes out in jagged rambles, which are often heartbreaking. Piers Marchant, Arkansas Online, 21 May 2021 As with his totemic travel writing, exotic settings and a flair for adventure invigorate the otherwise workmanlike prose, and the scenes flash with surfer’s lingo, snatches of Hawaiian pidgin and odes to the ocean. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 7 May 2021 Blending several local languages and named after a mixed fruit salad, the pidgin can often be heard in places like street markets. Beh Lih Yi, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 Nov. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pidgin.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of pidgin

1869, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pidgin

pidgin English

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Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pidgin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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