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This article has been archived from the now-defunct Black Eagle site ( for educational purposes. I believe the contents (and the attached letter) came originally from Vans Murray's 1792 manuscript, which belongs to the public domain. Please visit our Article Archive Index for further information. If you are the author of this article and would like to make changes to it, or if you are the author of another article you would like us to add to our archives, please contact us.

The Nanticoke Language

Letter from Mr. Murray to Mr. Jefferson:

Dear Sir:
The enclosed little attempt to make a vocabulary of the language of the Nanticokes, may remind you of a circumstance, and promise of mine, which probably have escaped your memory. You gave me the printed list of words last spring. On the reverse of the printed side which is filled up, is added a number of words which occurred to me. The tribe has dwindled almost into extinction. It is still, however, possessed of five thousand acres of land which were reserved to them by the Assembly of Maryland in the first settlement of the Province. The little town where they live consists but of four genuine old wigwams, thatched over with the bark of the Cedar--very old--and two framed houses--in one of which lives the queen, Mrs. Mulberry, relict of the Colonel who was the last Chief. They are not more than nine in number. The others of the tribe, which in this century was at least Five hundred in number, having died or removed towards the Frontiers, generally to the Six nations--perhaps by a comparison of the languages of them and of those a correspondence may be discovered. They went to the Senecas often--you will find that they have no word for the personals he or she. They were much at a loss for all terms to express abstract ideas. It is a little surprising they had a word for Truth. They speak their language exclusively among themselves. A few years must totally extinguish the remains of this Tribe and it will be owing to you, Sir, if a trace is left of their language.
I have preferred the very list which I filled in a Wigwam to any neater copy--and therefore have chosen that to transmit to you.

Nanticoke Vocabulary

AIR ayewash

ARM nickpitq

ARROWHEAD ik-ke-hek

ASH paw-kawque

AUTUMN wee-saw-panu (little or Short)

AXE tummehek

BACK daduck-quack

BACK-CREEK pomamato

BAD mattitt

BANKS (River Banks) lemoack-coi-um

BASKET munnole

BEAR winquipim

BEARD nee-weeghtoniwaah

BEAVER nataque

BED dapp-in

BEECH (Red Beech Tree) Pah!scanemintz

BEES aamook

BELLY nut-ah!

BEND (to bend) ne wawk-kaw-quin-nimon

BERRY mee-eents

BIRD piss-seesques

BITTER wee-suck-un

BLACK oaskag-u

BLACKBERRY munch-qui-suck

BLACKBIRD husquinock

BLOOD puck-cuchque

BLUE puh-squai-loau

BODY no-waw-auh

BONE whis-scan

BONE HOUSE (house to put bones of the dead in) man-to-kump

BOW kullah! ow

BOY wahocki-a-wauntit

BRAVE (not cowardly) matt-whee-saw-so

BREAD app!ow

BREAK (to break) ne poick-shitt-own

BREAST noo-naque

BROAD manckapah-sai-u

BROTHER (my brother) ne-ee-mat

BUCK i-e-ape

BUTTERFLY aumaun-co-hunt


CAT,WILD laa! Waa! quepuss

CEDAR weensquaaquah

CHANNEL an-da-timp

CHESTNUT TREE eh! qua-mintz

CHILD awauntet

CHIN unt-tampquet

CLOUD matchkatquot

COLD tagh!quiow


CRAB tah!quah

CRANE ah!secque

CREEK pamptuckquaskque

CROW kuh!-hos

CRY(to) num-moam

DANCE (TO) zdocumb

DARKNESS samp-oo-somow

DAUGHTER hun tawn

DAY nucotucquon

DAY BREAK (dawn) wawpaney

DEAD (place for the dead) mutz--uck-zumpq

DEATH ungue-lack

DEEP timmoh

DEER attque also called youcat (four legs)

DEVIL matt-ann-tote

DEW quesuppost

DISTANCE wah!sow

DOE noose-at-q

DOG al!um

DOGWOOD ah!laawhunnimints

DOVE weetah-tomps

DRINK (to) minnih

DRY kow-kitt-ow-a

Duck quah!quamps

Additional Reading

 American Indian Tribes
 Nanticoke Indian
 Nanticoke Tribe
 Delaware Indians

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