What is Pig Latin?

In Blog by Rafael Morel

Ello-hay ere-thay! Ah? What language is that? It’s called Pig Latin. And no, it hasn’t anything to do with Latin. Latin is mentioned here because, when using this pseudo-language, you might have similar effects as speaking Latin, either in terms of secrecy or due to the sound of the language.

Pig Latin is not a true language: it’s a coded way of speaking based on English. It’s not in vogue these days, but children still use it to speak ‘privately’ in order for adults not to understand them. 

Let’s dive deeper into the history of Pig Latin and the ways of speaking and learning it. Ave-hay un-fay!

The History Of Pig Latin

No one knows for sure when Pig Latin was first used, but there are a few assumptions. The first traces of the pseudo-language date back to Shakespearean England in the late 1500s. At that time, it was known as Dog Latin. A perfect choice for philosophical turns of phrase, fun plays on words, and corrupting well-known or memorized poetry verses. Back then, it was widespread and was even mentioned in Shakespeare’s masterpiece “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

In the mid-1800s, Pig Latin reappeared in English periodicals. It was highly popular among kids during those times, who created their own secret code, which by 1866 was called Hog Latin. 

In 1919, what we know as Pig Latin broke into popular culture in Arthur Fields’ song “Pig Latin Love.” An American singer popularized the unique language among children and made more people start noticing it.

Soon after that, an American vaudeville and comedy team, the Three Stooges, made the language famous in the 1930s by using “am-scray” produced from scram and “ix-nay” produced from nix in their short comedy films. Even if you’re not a fan, you might have heard these Pig Latin words earlier.

The word “ix-nay” means “nothing” as a noun, and as a verb, it is a way to reject something. And the Pig Latin “am-scray” means to escape from a certain place as quickly as one’s legs can carry. 

Who Uses Pig Latin Now?

As we’ve already mentioned, Pig Latin is a coded way of communicating, where one must use a formal technique to alter English words. Nowadays, it’s commonly used by kids who believe that this approach allows them to speak without being understood by others. Parents whose youngsters don’t know Pig Latin also use it to speak “privately” in their children’s presence. 

You can also encounter this playful language when working in translation, advertising, or other areas where words are crucial. 

Of course, Pig Latin language isn’t as popular as English, Mandarin, Spanish, or French. First of all, it’s a pseudo-language. Still, some cultures use it or variations of it.

For instance, the French have loucherbem initially used by butchers. They also have an argot called verlan, where the syllables of words are transposed. Germans call their coded language Kedelkloppersprook. In Argentina, there’s a similar pattern known as “vesre.” The principle is the same as in Pig Latin: one must move the first syllable to the end of the word.

How to Learn Pig Latin?

There are several methods and rules for speaking Pig Latin, and while some elements are rather standard, others may vary. The formal rules of the playful language will give you a solid foundation in the language game and also help you understand its usage. 

To learn Pig Latin, you must get acquainted with the process of forming words beginning with vowels and consonants, as well as forming words containing the letter “Y” and dealing with more complicated, compound words.

As for capitalization, it’s the same as in English, for the first letter of sentences, the first letter of proper nouns, and other customarily capitalized words.


Learning how to form words beginning with vowels is easy. All you have to do is leave the words as they are and just add “yay” at the end. Some Pig Latin speakers went further and added “-way” or “-ay” to the words’ endings. Here are a few examples:

  • Ask becomes ask-yay.
  • Old becomes old-yay.
  • Art becomes art-yay.
  • Opt becomes opt-yay.


Regarding consonants, the situation is more difficult. If Pig Latin words begin with a consonant (like mail) or consonant cluster (like black), you need to move the consonant or the whole consonant cluster to the end of the word and add the suffix “ay.” For example:

  • Red becomes ed-ray.
  • Feed becomes eed-fay.
  • Child becomes ild-chay.
  • Gray becomes ay-gray.

Words Containing the Letter “Y”

When words contain the letter “Y,” it can be challenging to determine whether you treat the letter “Y” as a consonant or a vowel. Changes depend on where the letter appears in the word.

We apply the normal consonant rule if we have a two-letter word where “Y” is the second letter. For example, “by” becomes y-bay in Pig Latin.

The same rule works when “Y” is the first letter in the word. For instance, “yeast” becomes east-yay.

But when the letter “Y” appears at the end of a consonant cluster, we treat it like a vowel and don’t move to the end of the word. For example, the word “thyme” becomes yme-thay.

Compound Words

Now that you know the basic rules of Pig Latin, it’s time to try something more complicated: compound words. By the way, it’s up to you whether to make them sound complicated. For example, take the word “boardwalk.” You can make it as oardwalk-bay or oard-bay alk-way. The last will seem completely incomprehensible for non-Pig Latin speakers.

How to Start Speaking Pig Latin?

Mastering a new language always demands a bit of effort. If you follow the useful tips below, be sure the learning process will become much faster and easier.

  • Make up your own code book for each commonly used word. You can start by adding some everyday items or places that surround you. For instance, it can be a bathroom, table, window, TV set, speakers, towel, etc. The more you write and translate, the easier the process is.
  • After practicing with single words, start writing phrases. These can be some simple conversations at first. For example: Hello! How are you? How was your day? What are your plans for tomorrow? How about going to the cinema together? note them down and translate them as well.
  • It’s time to practice. After gaining fluency with some common words and phrases, try to find a partner to take it to the next level. Which of your friends or family would like to have fun with such a captivating language? Start with primitive conversations before you reach full-blown discourses.
  • Don’t be in a hurry when you speak Pig Latin. Try to do it carefully and slowly. Even if you’ve learned all the rules, it might be challenging to comprehend the language at first. While speaking to someone else, be sure to pronounce every word clearly. Thus your interlocutor will be able to understand you better, and you will prevent repeating yourself all the time.
  • Start recording your translation efforts. It’s an excellent way to evaluate your progress during the learning process. While listening to your recorded clips, it will be easier to notice and improve your weaknesses immediately. Over time, you will feel the result and find it easier to translate any word into a new language. 
  • If you want to go further and dive deeper or even make a career in Pig Latin translation, research the language. You can join various forums for Pig Latin users, listen to audio or learn different variations of the language.

The Bottom Line

Pig Latin is a made-up language that English-speaking people use in a world where creativity is in high demand, as a great instrument for creating secret messages and just having fun. 

The methods and rules for speaking the language are pretty coherent. If a word begins with a consonant, move it to the end of the word and add the suffix “ay.” If you deal with a vowel, leave the word as it is and simply add “yay” at the end. 

Pig Latin is a perfect choice for word play game lovers to diversify everyday communication with like-minded individuals. The more you practice, the more fluent a Pig Latin speaker you become. By the way, have you already picked a notebook for your own vocabulary? Enjoy and ave-hay a ice-nay ay-day!