Pig Latin

Pig Latin is an English language game in which the initial consonant sound of an English word is placed at the end and an ay is affixed (Ex.: "banana" would yield anana-bay), to both obfuscate the encoding and to indicate for the intended recipient the encoding as 'Pig Latin'. The reference to Latin is a deliberate misnomer, used only for its English connotations as a 'strange and foreign-sounding language'. The origins of Pig Latin are unknown.


Pig Latin is usually used by children for amusement or to converse in (perceived) privacy from adults or other children. Conversely, adults sometimes use it to discuss sensitive topics they do not want very young children to overhear. A few Pig Latin words, such as ixnay (nix), amscray (scram), and upidstay (stupid), have been incorporated into English slang.

Rules and variations

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

  1. For words that begin with consonant sounds, move the initial consonant or consonant cluster to the end of the word and add "ay." Examples:
    • beast → east-bay
    • dough → ough-day
    • happy → appy-hay
    • loser → oser-lay
    • question → estion-quay
    • star → ar-stay
    • three → ee-thray
    • trash → ash-tray

For words that begin with vowel sounds (including silent consonants), simply add the syllable "ay" to the end of the word. In some dialects, to aid in pronunciation, an extra consonant is added to the beginning of the suffix; for instance, Eagle could be eagle'yay, eagle'way, eagle'hay, or something similar.

Transcription varies. A hyphen or apostrophe is sometimes used to make retranslation to English easier; for instance: ayspray is ambiguous, but ay-spray means "spray" and ays-pray means "prays."

Other languages

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 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.

Sweden has Fikonspråket ("Fig language"), which is similar to Pig Latin. In Fikonspråket, speakers split each word after the first vowel, switch places of the two parts, put "fi" before the second part and "kon" after the first part. The word "kallingar" thus translates to "fillingar kakon".

French has the loucherbem coded language, which supposedly was originally used by butchers (boucher in French). In loucherbem, the leading consonant cluster is moved to the end of the word (as in Pig Latin), and then an l is added to the beginning of word, and a em to the end of the word

See also



  • 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.

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