Taíno is an Arawakan language that was once spoken throughout the Caribbean. Classic (Eastern) Taíno was spoken mainly in central Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the northern Leeward Islands. The Ciboney dialect, or Western Taíno, was spoken in western Hispaniola, the Bahamas, Jamaica and most of Cuba. It is thought that the language ceased to spoken within 100 years of the Spanish colonisation of the region, which began in 1492. However, Taíno possibly continued to be spoken in a few isolated areas, particularly in Cuba, until the late 19th century.

According to Christopher Columbus, various more or less mutually intelligible dialects of Taíno were spoken from the Bahamas to Cuba, and from Boriquen (Puerto Rico) to Jamaica.

Many Taíno words were borrowed into the Spanish spoken in the Caribbean region, particularly for flora and fauna, place names, geographical names and personal names. Examples include: Boriken, from boriken / boriquen (Puerto Rico - 'native land'), Haiti, from ha-yi-ti ('land of mountains), and Jamaica, from Ya-mah-ye-ka ('great spirt of the land of man'). Some Taíno words ended up in English as well, including: Caribbean, barbeque, hammock, canoe, guava, cannibal, hurricane, maize, potato, tobacco and savannah.

Efforts are currently underway to revive Taíno, and about 30 people have learnt a reconstructed version of the language.

Taíno alphabet and pronunciation

Taíno alphabet and pronunciation

Download an alphabet chart for Taíno (Excel)

A Video in Taíno


Information about Taíno

Arawakan languages

Achagua, Apurinã, Arawak, Asháninka, Ashéninka, Baniwa, Baniwa of Guainía, Baure, Caquinte, Chamicuro, Curripaco, Garifuna, Iñapari, Machiguenga, Nanti, Nomatsiguenga, Palikúr, Paraujuano, Paresi, Pauna, Piapoco, Taíno, Tariana, Terêna, Wapishana, Wayuu, Yanesha', Yine, Yucuna

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 01.05.24


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