Language of the Pamunkey

One visiting Indian town at the present day would not find a vestige of the Pamunkey language even in the names of persons or things. In 1844 Rev. E. A. Dalrymple collected the following seventeen words 1 which so far as the writer can ascertain are all that remain of the language of the Pamunkey Indians proper:

Tonshee= son.
Nucksee= daughter.
Petucka= cat.
Kayyo= thankfulness.
O-ma-yah= O my Lord.
Kenaanee= friendship.
Baskonee= thank you.
Eeskut= go out dog.
Nikkut= one.
Orijak= two.
Kiketock= three.
Mitture= four.
Nahnkitty= five.
Vomtally= six.
Talliko= seven.
Tingdum= eight.
Yantay= ten.

The vocabulary recorded by Captain John Smith 2 as that of the Powhatan people is of interest in this connection. This vocabulary with its original title is as follows:

Because many doe desire to know the manner of their Language I have inserted these few words.

Kakatorawines yowo= What call you this.
Nemarough= a man.
Crenepo= a woman.
Marowanchesso= a boy.
Yehawkans= Houses.
Matchcores= Skins or garments.
Mockasins= Shooes.
Tussan= Beds.
Pokatawer= Fire.
Attawp= A bow.
Attonce= Arrowes.
Monacookes= Swords.
Aumoughhowgh= A target.
Pawcussacks= Gunnes.
Tomahacks= Axes.
Tockahacks= Pickaxes.
Pamesacks= Kniues.
Accowprets= Sheares.
Pawpecones= Pipes.
Mattassin= Copper.
Vssawassin= Iron, Brasse, Silver any white mettall.
Musses= Woods.
Attasskuss= Leaues weeds or grasse.

Chepsin= Land.
Shacquohocan= A stone.
Wepenter= A cookold.
Suckahanna= Water.
Noughmass= Fish.
Copotone= Sturgeon.
Weyhshaughes= Flesh.
Sawwehone= Blond.
Netoppew= Friends.
Harrapough= Enemies.
Maskapow= the worst of the enemies.
Mawchick chammay= The best of friends.
Casacunnakack peya quagh acquintan bttasantasough= In how many daies will there come hither any more English Ships.

Their numbers.
Necut= 1.
Ningh= 2.
Nuss= 3.
Yowgh= 4.
Paranske= 5
Comotinch= 6.
Toppawoss= 7.
Nusswash= 8.
Kekatawgh= 9.
Kaskeke= 10. They count no more but by tennes as followeth.
Case= how many.
Ninghsapooeksku= 20.
Nussapooeksku= 30.
Yowghapooeksku= 40.
Parankestassapooeksku= 50.
Comatinchtassapooeksku= 60.
Nussswashtassapooeksku= 70.
Kekataughtassapooeksku= 90.
Necuttoughtysinough= 100.
Necuttwevnquaough= 1000.
Rawcosowghs= Dayes.
Keskowghes= Sunnes.
Toppquough= Nights.
Nepawweshowghs= Moones.
Pummahumps= Starres.
Osies=, Heavens
Okees= Gods.
Quiyoughcosoughs= Pettie Gods and their affinities.
Righcomoughes= Deaths.
Kekughes= Lines.
Mowchick woyawgh tawgh noeragh kaqueremecher= I am very hungry? what shall I eate!
Tawnor nehiegh Powhatan= Where dwels Powhatan.
Mache nehiegh yourowgh Orapaks.= Now he dwels a great way hence at Oropaks.

Vittapitchewayne anpechitchs n e-kawper Werowacomoco= You lie he stayed ever at Werowacomoco.
Kator nehiegh mat tag h neer vttapitcheicayne= Truely he is there I doe not lie.
Spaugktynere keragh werowance mawmarinough kekate wawgh peyaguaugh.= Run you then to the King Mawmarynough and bid him come hither
Vtteke, e peya weyack wighwhip= Get you gone and come againe quickly.
Kekaten Pokahontas Patiaquagh niugh tanks manotyens neer mowchick rawrenock audowgh= Bid Pokahontas bring hither two little Baskets and I will giue her white Beads= to make her a Chaiue.

For purposes of comparison the meager vocabulary of the Pampticough (Pamlico) Indians collected by Lawson may be introduced. The Pamticough tribe were the southernmost tribe of the Algonquian stock in the middle Atlantic slope. The list5 (excluding the “Tuskeruro” and “Woccon”) is as follows:

One= Weernbot.
Two= Neshinnauh.
Three= Nish-wonner.
Four= Yau-Ooner.
Five= Umperren.
Six= Who-yeoc.
Seven= Top-po-osh.
Eight= Nau-haush-shoo.
Nine= Pach-ic-conk.
Ten= Cosh.
Rum= Weesaccon.
Blankets= Mattosh.
White= Wop-poshaumosh.
Red= Mish-cosk.
Black or Blue= idem Mow-cotto-wosh.
Gunpowder= Oungue.
Shot= Ar-rounser.
Knife= Rig-cosq.
Ax= Tomma-hick.
Tobacco= Hoohpan.
Hat= Mottau-quahan.
Fire= Tinda.
Water= Umpe.
Goat= Taus-won.
Awl or Needle= Moc-cose.
A Hoe= Rosh-shocquon.
Salt= Chuwon.
Paint= Mis-kis-‘su.
Ronoak= Ronoak.
Peak= Gau hooptop.
Gun= Gun tock seike.
Gun-lock= Hinds.
Flints= Rappatoc.
A Flap= Maachone.
A Pine Tree= Onnossa.
Englishman= Tosh-shonte.
Indians= Nuppin.

The most extended known vocabulary of the Indians of the Powhatan confederacy is that of Strachey published in the Hakluyt collections; but like that of Smith it includes various dialects.Citations:

  1. Historical Magazine (New York) first series 1858 Vol. II p. 182.[]
  2. Travels etc. Richmond 16 1819 Vol. I pp. 147 148.[]


Pollard, Jno. Garland. Pamunkey Indians of Virginia. Bureau of Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1894.

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