7 Which Animal Sleeps For Only Five Minutes A Day Do You Speak Taino? 7 Indigenous Taino Words You Probably Already Know

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Do You Speak Taino? 7 Indigenous Taino Words You Probably Already Know

The Taino people were a peaceful people with a complex society who lived in the Greater Antilles Islands of Hispaniola (modern-day Dominican Republic and Haiti), Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. The Taino language was a soft and sweet melodious language that lacked harsh gutturals. It flowed quickly and contained many sound effects. The Taino language is part of the Arawakan language family that was widespread throughout South America, the Caribbean and parts of Florida.

Other Arakan languages ​​are still spoken today, but most scholars agree that no one alive today is fluent in Taino. Therefore, it is considered an extinct language. However, there are those who are trying to revive it. At least one professor is teaching his students the “extinct” Taino language! More power to him!

The Taino people, including their language and culture, were the first to be destroyed by the Spanish who arrived in the New World beginning in 1492. Their methods of conquest were often cruel. As such, they would not allow the Taino to speak their native language.

Well, you know how they say “a good thing never dies!” This is certainly true of the Taino language. Many Taino words were adopted by the Spanish and other Europeans. These adopted words are called “loanwords” in linguistic circles, and many are in very common use in English, Spanish, and French. There are many English words, especially American English, that are anglicized versions of Spanish or French versions of Taino words that they phonetically incorporated into their language since the Taino had no written language.

Here are 7 indigenous Taino words that are so common in the English language, now I bet you use them all the time:


Meat and potatoes are nice to cook the American dinner at home, right? Wrong! The word “potato” comes directly from the Taino language. When the Spanish arrived in the New World, they had never seen or eaten a potato. The Taino were skilled farmers, and they shared their sweet potato, which they called “batata,” with the Spanish. Columbus himself presented the “batata” to Queen Isabella after his first voyage. In later voyages, Columbus and his men discovered the white potato in Peru called “papa” by the indigenous people. Somehow the “p” from “papa” was added to “batata” and the Spanish word for potato became “patata” with the anglicized version becoming “patate”. Well, the rest is history as they say, because we all know how popular the potato is today.

For a long time, the white potato took second place to sweet potatoes in Europe. In fact, the white potato was called the “bastard potato” for a long time. Anyway, the next time you order mashed potatoes or microwave a large potato for a quick meal, remember Taino. Instead of calling the fries “freedom fries,” maybe you could call them “taino fries” out of respect for those who lost their freedom.


Okay, let’s stick with food for a minute. The origin of the term “barbeque,” which is often spelled differently in American English, is disputed with passionately opposing viewpoints. However, most linguists seem to agree that the term, or something very similar to it, originated in the Taino language.

According to Peter Guanikeyu Torres, President and Chief of the Council of the Taino Indigenous Nation of the Caribbean and Florida, the Taino word “barabicu” meant “sacred fire pit.” The American English word “barbeque” is likely derived from this. It describes a structure for very slowly cooking animal meat, which traditionally consisted of a wooden platform supported by the branches and green leaves of the pimento tree.


When Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, the Taino were being attacked by another Arawakan people, now called the Caribbean. The Taino told Columbus and the other Spaniards about another group of people who lived mainly in the Lesser Antilles, who were wild and had captured and eaten them. They referred to these people as caribal which loosely meant wild and brave. The Spanish corrupted this to “Canibales” which later became “cannibals”. The Taino may have pronounced “caribal” more like “cannibal” because in Arakan languages ​​the consonants el, n, and r are sometimes interchangeable. It should be noted that the Caribbean people called themselves something closer to “Kalinago”.

Many historians have found that Columbus had little or no evidence that the Caribs were actually cannibals—certainly not as much as he described them. The Caribs were fierce warriors who put up much more resistance to European invaders. It is thought by some scholars that Columbus used the word “cannibals” as a derogatory term to paint them as monsters and discredit them by making it easier for his men to conquer them. Unlike the Taino, there are some full-blooded Carib still alive today – but very few.


After seeing how the Taino lived on his first voyage to the New World, Columbus wrote in his journal, “…for beds, they had cotton nets, stretched between two poles.” Later in his journal he wrote, “…many Indians in canoes came to the ship today for the purpose of exchanging cotton and the hammocks or nets in which they slept.” There is little dispute that the English word “hamak” is an anglicized version of the Taino word, “hamacas,” as the Spanish spell it phonetically in Spanish.

Before Columbus arrived in the New World, cotton was little known. It is thought that seeing how strong and durable the hammocks were that were woven from cotton twine sparked their interest in cotton for clothing and other goods that soon followed.


Columbus had never seen a manatee before when he arrived in the New World, so he didn’t have a name for it. This is why the Spanish almost immediately adopted the Taino word for manatee, “manatee.” This often happens when someone from another culture encounters something new for the first time. “Manatee” is the English version of “manatee”.

The gull must have looked like a strange creature indeed. At first, in fact, Columbus mistook the cow for a mermaid, half woman and half fish. In fact, in his journal after seeing the manatees, he wrote that mermaids were not as beautiful as they were made out to be! Manatee means “breast” in the Taino language because manatees have mammary glands that resemble those of females. The idea that the word manatee is a corruption of the Spanish word for hand, “mano,” because the manatee’s front flippers look like hands, has been shown to be false, and the resemblance is purely coincidental.


Like the manatee, Columbus and the other Spaniards had never seen anything like a hurricane. In fact, they missed seeing a hurricane on their first trip to the New World, where they enjoyed near-perfect weather. However, on their second and third voyages to the New World, severe hurricanes hit. In fact, the new settlement, Isabella, that Columbus had recently established was completely wiped out. Needless to say, these Caribbean hurricanes left a lasting impression.

Because they had never seen a weather pattern like a hurricane before, they adopted the Taino word for it and pronounced it phonetically as “hurricane.” Of course the anglicized version of this is “hurricane”. The Taino word hurakan was used not only to describe the actual weather event, but also the path of destruction it left in its wake such as downed trees and other destroyed landscapes. I like this concept and tend to think of hurricanes this way as well. In the Arawakan tradition, the Taino called their storm God Hurakan and both feared and revered him.


The word “canoe” is the English version of the Taino word written phonetically in Spanish as canoe. Early English spellings of this word varied widely: cano, canow, canoa. However, by about 1600, canoe had come to be the most accepted spelling.

The word canoe is a good example of a “ghost word,” which is a word whose meaning or origin is inaccurately recorded in an authoritative reference. Thus, it becomes widely accepted and it is difficult to correct the false perception once it has permeated a society. For a long time, most people thought that the word “canoe” originated from a word used by one of the native peoples of what is now the United States. However, this turns out to be false and was caused by a transcription error by a scribe in the late 15th century.

So there you have it, 7 common English words that you’ve probably used most of your life: potato, barbeque, cannibal, hammock, manatee, hurricane and canoe. It’s heartwarming to think that the words of a language that has been declared extinct live on as everyday words spoken by so many. Every time you speak these 7 Taino words, you honor the Taino people who were forbidden to speak their language as a means of conquering them.

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