Definition of pidgin in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpijən/


[often as modifier]
1A 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 (sense 2 of the noun).
Example sentences
  • Only at a later stage in its development does the pidgin develop productive internal resources for expanding its lexicon.
  • There is, however, some disagreement among scholars over the number of languages in sufficient contact to produce a pidgin.
  • Creolization can take place at any point during the pidgin's life cycle, ranging from a jargon to an expanded pidgin.
1.1 (Pidgin) another term for Tok Pisin.
Example sentences
  • Brenner also supported the use of pidgin in the classroom.
  • In Taiwan, it's Chinese; in Papua New Guinea, it's pidgin.
  • Now known as Tok Pisin(" talk pidgin "), Melanesian Pidgin is spoken throughout Papua New Guinea.
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
More example sentences
  • The staff was very friendly - went to a great deal of effort to understand our pidgin Japanese!
  • Monica Ali tells Hasina's part of the story through her letters to her sister in pidgin Bengali, rendered into pidgin English.
  • The peddler approaches the narrator adopting a pidgin English.


Late 19th century: Chinese alteration of English business.

  • A pidgin is nothing to do with a pigeon, but is a simplified form of a language used for communication between people not sharing a language. It originally represented a Chinese pronunciation of the English word business, and with the meanings ‘business, occupation, or affair’ became part of the simple language used between European and Chinese traders from the 1820s. By the 1850s people were also using pidgin to describe the language itself, especially in the fuller form pidgin English.

Words that rhyme with pidgin

pigeon, smidgen, wigeon

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pidg·in

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