Definition of pidgin in English:



  • 1[often as modifier] A grammatically simplified form of a language, used for communication between people not sharing a common language. Pidgins have a limited vocabulary, some elements of which are taken from local languages, and are not native languages, but arise out of language contact between speakers of other languages.

    Compare with Creole
    • ‘Other investigators argue that only in cases where more than two languages are in contact do true pidgins spring up.’
    • ‘In diverse, stratified Hawaii, we all designate each other by race, using references that evolved from sugar plantation pidgin dating back to the late 1870 s.’
    • ‘So far, none of the gang appeared to speak any English, but now he uttered a few words in a broken pidgin.’
    • ‘This theory asserts a common origin for all European-based pidgins.’
    • ‘There is, however, some disagreement among scholars over the number of languages in sufficient contact to produce a pidgin.’
    • ‘The author's brief and unhelpful comments make it sound like a pidgin.’
    • ‘Pidgins, especially early in their development, rely primarily on nouns and verbs.’
    • ‘Another characteristic of pidgins is lexical impoverishment.’
    • ‘For them, a pidgin is a marginal language which arises to fulfil certain restricted communicative functions among groups with no common language.’
    • ‘Creolization can take place at any point during the pidgin's life cycle, ranging from a jargon to an expanded pidgin.’
    • ‘One characteristic of pidgins is the lack of inflectional morphology.’
    • ‘Kriol is also a pidgin, but has evolved into a separate language with its own structures and methods of orthography.’
    • ‘Only at a later stage in its development does the pidgin develop productive internal resources for expanding its lexicon.’
    • ‘Pinker and Jackendoff argue that modern language may have emerged from an ancient pidgin through evolutionary fine-tuning.’
    • ‘Some linguists classify the Gullah language, spoken in the North Carolina islands, as a pidgin that is based on West African syntax.’
    • ‘A creole is a nativized pidgin, expanded in form and function to meet the communicative needs of a community of native speakers.’
    • ‘Although the plantation setting was crucial for the emergence of pidgins in both areas, in the Pacific laborers were recruited and indentured rather than slaves.’
    • ‘We mess up the English language with ebonics, Spanglish, Yiddish, Tagalog, and pidgin.’
    • ‘A pidgin adopts the vocabulary of the dominant language in the area, which is then grafted onto a local grammar.’
    • ‘Pidgin, a mix of African languages and English, also is common throughout southern Nigeria.’
    language, dialect, patois, vernacular, mother tongue, native tongue, jargon, argot, cant, pidgin, creole, lingua franca
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1
      another term for Tok Pisin
      • ‘Brenner also supported the use of pidgin in the classroom.’
      • ‘Now known as Tok Pisin(" talk pidgin "), Melanesian Pidgin is spoken throughout Papua New Guinea.’
      • ‘In Taiwan, it's Chinese; in Papua New Guinea, it's pidgin.’
    2. 1.2[as modifier]Denoting a simplified form of a language, especially as used by a nonnative speaker.
      ‘we exchanged greetings, communicating in pidgin Spanish’
      • ‘No matter that Pa's knowledge of Japanese was confined to mostly pidgin from the Occupation a little over a decade earlier.’
      • ‘They would sit around the table at night playing cards, nattering away in Italian and Anglo-Italian " pidgin ".’
      • ‘After a meal of chicken and fries, I asked the waiter, in my pidgin Arabic, "Where is the disco?"’
      • ‘Her ridiculous pidgin English dialogue made her seem like a complete fool.’
      • ‘Hollywood westerns regularly compel Native American characters to stammer their thoughts in pidgin English, even when conversing among themselves.’
      • ‘They will speak pidgin science much as they now speak pidgin French.’
      • ‘I have heard well-meaning Bengalis complain that Vilayat Khan only spoke pidgin Bengali despite having spent a good part of his life in Kolkata.’
      • ‘Yiddish is considered a combination of Hebrew and German - a sort of pidgin language.’
      • ‘With hundreds of traditional languages, literacy levels are low, including in the third official language, Bislama, a form of pidgin English.’
      • ‘Monica Ali tells Hasina's part of the story through her letters to her sister in pidgin Bengali, rendered into pidgin English.’
      • ‘A few of the authors transliterated carelessly, even incorrectly, into a sort of pidgin German.’
      • ‘He also admits that his pidgin English was a serious handicap.’
      • ‘The staff was very friendly - went to a great deal of effort to understand our pidgin Japanese!’
      • ‘It is as sophisticated as pidgin English can be.’
      • ‘It was comical, I have managed with my pidgin English and Polish keep both parties happy.’
      • ‘I am worried that I will end up speaking a variant of pidgin English, because so few people at work understand proper English.’
      • ‘Why do we spend six years learning French in schools to emerge in adulthood with pidgin Franglais?’
      • ‘The peddler approaches the narrator adopting a pidgin English.’
      • ‘Many residents understand and/or speak a pidgin English, which has become a lingua franca in the west-central Pacific.’
      • ‘However, the masses of the people prefer pidgin (popular) French, called Dioula.’


Late 19th century: Chinese alteration of English business.