Nanticoke language

Nanticoke is an extinct Algonquian language formerly spoken in Delaware and Maryland, United States.[3] The same language was spoken by several neighboring tribes, including the Nanticoke, which constituted the paramount chiefdom; the Choptank, the Assateague, and probably also the Piscataway and the Doeg.

Native toUnited States
RegionDelaware, Maryland
EthnicityNanticoke people
Extinct1840s, with the death of Lydia Clark[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3nnt


Nanticoke is sometimes considered a dialect of the Delaware language, but its vocabulary was quite distinct. This is shown in a few brief glossaries, which are all that survive of the language. One is a 146-word list compiled by Moravian missionary John Heckewelder in 1785, from his interview with a Nanticoke chief then living in Canada.[4] The other is a list of 300 words obtained in 1792 by William Vans Murray, then a US Representative (at the behest of Thomas Jefferson.) He compiled the list from a Nanticoke speaker in Dorchester County, Maryland, part of the historic homeland.[5]

Nanticoke color words

oaskagu (black) waappayu (white)
psquaiu (red) weesawayu (yellow)
ahskaahtuckquia (green) puhsquailoau (blue)

Nanticoke vocabulary

Air- ayewash

Arm nickpitq

Arrowhead ik-ke-hek

Back daduck-quack

Bad mattitt

Bear winquipim

Crane ah!secque

Creek pamptuckquaskque

Crow kuh!-hos

Modern Nanticoke

With the assistance of a native speaker, Myrelene Ranville née Henderson of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba Canada, who speaks a similar language, Anishnabay, a group of Nanticoke people in Millsboro, Delaware, assembled to revive the language in 2007, using the vocabulary list of Thomas Jefferson. It had been "more than 150 years since the last conversation in Nanticoke took place."[6]

See also


  1. "History", Nanticoke Tribe, accessed 8 Oct 2009
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nanticoke". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Raymond G. Gordon Jr., ed. 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  4. Heckewelder, John (2003). Heckewelder's Vocabulary of Nanticoke. American Language Reprints. 31. Evolution Pub & Manufacturing. ISBN 9781889758305. Retrieved 2012-09-23.
  5. Jefferson, Thomas (2003). Minor Vocabularies of Nanticoke-Conoy. American Language Reprints. Evolution Pub & Manufacturing. ISBN 9781889758459. Retrieved 2012-09-23.
  6. Rachael Jackson (2007-04-29). "Nanticoke try to bring tribe's ancient tongue back". News From Indian Country. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
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