Papiamentu Language

Papiamentu is a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, and it also has some Arawak Indian and African influences. Papiamentu is one of the few Creole Languages of the Caribbean that has survived to the present day.

Papiamentu is predominately a spoken language among the local people of Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba. The official language is Dutch, and the written Papiamentu is limited to some local newspapers and literature. Also the schooling system is Dutch, and people typically don’t get any formal training in their language. There have been some discussions about introducing Papiamentu to be taught at schools as well.

Compared to other languages, Papiamentu is spoken by very few people: less than one third of a million in total. Papiamentu is also a fairly simple language, and it is quite common that certain expressions or more complicated grammatical constructs have to be simplified in order to be translated into Papiamentu.

From island to island, small variations in Papiamentu mainly in spelling and vocabulary can be observed. Some efforts have been made to standardize Papiamentu and its orthography, however, Aruba decided for a spelling that is closer to Spanish, whereas the other islands tried to stay closer to the roots in that respect. As a result, some words may still have more than one way of spelling it, e.g. Papiamentu – Papiamento, Korsou – Korsow, kwater – cuater, sinku – cincu, etc. In general, words are spelled exactly as they are pronounced, e.g. “flet tair” for flat tire.

Basic papiamentu phrases and vocabulary

Papiamentu English
Bon Bini Welcome
bon dia good day (before noon)
bon tardi good afternoon
bon nochi good evening; good night
danki thank you
por fabor please
di nada you are welcome
mi number di telefon ta … my phone number is … (see numbers)
bél mi call me
kon ta bai ku bo how are you?
kon ta ku bida how is life?
hopi bon very good
tremiento very good
trankilo calm, everything ok
terible terrible
den gran forma in great shape (said among young/cool people)
hopi kalor/caliente very hot/warm
ata aki / ataki here is the (the second “a” is not pronounced)
mi tin hamber I am hungry
mi ke kome I want to eat
lihe, pura, rapido fast, quick
yufrow Miss
señora Misses
mai very old lady (used instead of Miss)
mener Sir, Mr.
flet tair flat tire
sigur sure
pakiko why? (as in “what for?”)
dikon why? (as in “what is wrong with you?”)
di cón why
i and
awe today
ayera yesterday
pan bread
na cas at home
awa water
paña nobo new cloths
casá, esposa, señora spouse, wife
casá, esposo spouse, husband
cuá which
what
nada nothing
cu mi with me
pa mi for me
tur cos everything
tur hende everybody
tur caminda everywhere
mainta morning
merdía noon
tramerdia afternoon
ningun hende nobody
sin without
si if
bon good
malu bad

Here are some basic things to say:


Numbers

Number Papiamentu Ordinal Number in Papiamentu
0 zero, nul, nada
1 unu prome(r), di prome(r)
2 dos di dos
3 tres di tres
4 kwater, cuater (and so on)
5 sinku, cincu
6 seis
7 shete, siete
8 ocho
9 nuebe
10 dies
11 diesun
12 diesdos
13 diestres
14 diescuater
15 diescincu
20 binti
30 trinta
40 cuarenta
50 cincuenta
60 sesenta
70 setenta
80 ochenta
90 nobenta
100 cien
1000 mil
9000 nuebe mil

Days of the week

English Papiamentu
Sunday dia domingu
Monday dia luna
Tuesday dia mars
Wednesday dia rason
Thursday diaweps
Friday diabièrne
Saturday dia sabra

Month names (like in Dutch)

English Papiamentu
January januari
February feruari
March maart
April april
May mei
June juni
July juli
August augustus
September september
October october
November november
December december

Colors

English Papiamentu
red còrá
white blancu
blue blou
yellow geel, gel
brown maron
pink ros
black pretu
grey shinishi
green bèrdè
purple lila
orange orañe, oraño

Animals

Papiamentu English
kachó dog
piska fish
tribon shark
buriku donkey
palomba dove
karné sheep
porko, hochi pig, hog, pork
kakalaka cockroach
(h)araña spider
maribomba wasp
abeha, bei bee
sangura mosquito
muska, muskita fly
barbulèt, barbulètè butterfly
galiña chicken
patu duck
lagadishi lizard
gai cock
pushi cat
para, parha bird
vruminga small ant
badjaga, bashaka large ant
abeha, bei bee
olifante elephant
falki falcon
bulladóe flying fish
dori, sapu frog
gazè gazelle
zjiraf giraffe
kabritu, kabrito goat
gans goose
kabai horse
yuana iguana
insecto insect
leon lion
kref lobster
makaku monkey
abestrus ostrich
pelikan, ganshi pelican
konènchi, koneu rabbit
tortuga di laman sea turtle
slak snail
strea di laman star fish
oyevar stork
zwan swan
tiger tiger
chuchubi tropical mockingbird
kalakuna turkey
walrús walrus
lobo, wòlf wolf
yak yak, ox from tibet
zebra zebra
chògògò, flamingo flamingo

Some useful verbs

Papiamentu English
ta to be
tin to have
haci to do
bai to go
bini to come
traha to work
come to eat
skirbi to write
duna to give
kumpra to buy
bende to sell
bebe to drink
drumi to sleep
sinta to sit
biba to live
huma to smoke
drenta to enter
gana to earn
hari to laugh
gaña to lie
lesa to read
perde to lose
hiba to take away
tresa to bring
laba to wash
retené to hold back
prohibí to forbid
canta to sing
causa to cause
yega to arrive
descansá to rest
gasta to spend
para to stop
ristra to search, to test
calculá to calculate
salba to save
traha pan to bake bread
corda to remember
deseá to wish
ke to want
pidi to ask
permití to promise
suplicá to request
encargá to blame
nenga to denie
impidí to prevent
consehá to advice
sonreí, smail to smile
bula to fly
landa to swim
haña to find, to get
tene to hold
spera to hope

Persons

Papiamentu English
yiu homber son
yiu muhé daughter
mucha homber boy
mucha muhé girl
homber man
muher woman
ruman brother, sister, sibling
ruman homber brother
ruman muhé sister
tanta, tía aunt
omo, tío uncle
primu cousin (male)
prima cousin (female)
mayo(r)nan parents