14 Taíno Words You Didn’t Even Realize You Knew


Photo: Smithsonian Exhibits, 2017

Taíno is an Arawakan language spoken by the Taíno, Ciboney, Lucayan, and Yamaye peoples of what is now Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and across the Caribbean. It was the first Indigenous language encountered by European colonizers, so it’s no surprise that many Taíno words made it into European languages. These same words, sometimes changed up a bit with time, are still present in the English and/or Spanish languages. You would be surprised to know the number of words you say every day that are actually Taíno in origin.

This is why we have to learn our history and recognize how much of our culture is in fact Indigenous. We have to work to keep Indigenous languages alive and healthy (so many are extinct, in danger of extinction, and many are currently being revived), to encourage Latinxs to learn these languages in order to connect with our Indigenous roots and identities. Here are 14 Taíno words you actually already know. Pass on the knowledge!

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