Many of you have told me that you’re learning English with your children. What a great experience! Some of you have also told me that you teach English to kids in your communities. In today’s culture post, I’m going to teach you something you can use with the young English speakers in your life…or with anyone else! It’s a popular children’s word game that most non-native speakers never learn, and it’s called Pig Latin. Keep reading to learn what Pig Latin is and how to speak Pig Latin like a pro! Or should I say… eak-spay ig-Pay atin-Lay ike-lay a-yay o-pray! 🐷
What is Pig Latin?
Pig Latin is a code that children use to make it difficult for people to understand what they’re saying, especially any eavesdropping teachers or parents! Adults use it, too, but normally just to be playful.
Pig Latin is common within the United States, although from what I understand, it’s not widely used in other English-speaking countries.
Imagine how fun it would be to speak this with your children! If you’re not living in the States, no one will understand you, so it could be your secret language! And let’s face it, if you get used to speaking in Pig Latin, going back to normal English is going to be a piece of cake!
Does your native language have something similar to Pig Latin? My husband has told me about vesre in Uruguay and Argentina, and I’m familiar with Cockney rhyming slang in London. If you know of more examples, please share them with us in the comments!
How to Speak Pig Latin: Pig Latin Rules + Examples
The rules of Pig Latin are fairly simple, and the first thing you need to know is that Pig Latin has nothing to do with Latin. That’s a relief, isn’t it? I give you lots of examples in this section, but if you want the short and sweet version, scroll down for an infographic of the Pig Latin rules.
Pig Latin Rule 1: When the Word Begins with a Consonant
When the English word begins with a consonant, you translate it to Pig Latin by (1) removing all of the letters up until the first vowel, (2) placing them at the end of the word, and (3) adding the sound ‘-ay’.
Here are a bunch of examples!
brother ➡️ other-bray
cat ➡️ at-cay
daddy ➡️ addy-day
flutter ➡️ utter-flay
ground ➡️ ound-gray
hello ➡️ ello-hay
Jennifer ➡️ ennifer-Jay
kiss ➡️ iss-kay
lavender ➡️ avender-lay
mother ➡️ other-may
night ➡️ ight-nay
practice ➡️ actice-pray
queen ➡️ een-quay
round ➡️ ound-ray
stupid ➡️ upid-stay
ten ➡️ en-tay
vicious ➡️ icious-vay
weather ➡️ eather-way
xenophobia ➡️ enophobia-xay
yellow ➡️ ellow-yay
zoo ➡️ oo-zay
Sometimes, a consonant might have a soft sound in front of some vowels, but a hard sound in front of ‘-ay’. Pig Latin is based on sounds, not writing, so keep the original sound of the letter. Don’t change it to go with ‘-ay’.
cell ➡️ ell-cay (pronounced ell-say)
Cinderella ➡️ inderella-Cay (pronounced inderella-Say)
cyst ➡️ yst-cay (pronounced yst-say)
gel ➡️ el-gay (pronounced el-jay)
gist ➡️ ist-gay (pronounced ist-jay)
gyrate ➡️ yrate-gay (pronounced yrate-jay)
sugar ➡️ ugar-say (pronounced ugar-shay)
Want some practice? Here are a few words and phrases in English. Try to convert each word or phrase into Pig Latin by yourself, then click on the box to see if you got it right!
You speak really well!
Do you want to play cards?
Sancho Panza wants your steak.
Pig Latin Rule 2: When the Word Begins with a Vowel + One-Letter Words
When the English word begins with a vowel, you (1) pronounce the word normally and then (2) add ‘-ay’ to the end.
In other versions of Pig Latin, you add ‘-way’ or ‘-yay’ to the end, and those are also acceptable. The important thing is to choose the version you are going to use, and be consistent. I personally grew up speaking the ‘-yay’ variation, so that’s what I use.
Ready for some examples?
abs ➡️ abs-ay, abs-way, or abs-yay
air ➡️ air-ay, air-way, air-yay
airways ➡️ airways-ay, airways-way, or airways-yay
apple ➡️ apple-ay, apple-way, or apple-yay
aunt ➡️ aunt-ay, aunt-way, or aunt-yay
awesome ➡️ awesome-ay, awesome-way, or awesome-yay
ear ➡️ ear-ay, ear-way, or ear-yay
Eek! ➡️ Eek-ay!, Eek-way!, or Eek-yay!
egg ➡️ egg-ay, egg-way, or egg-yay
eons ➡️ eons-ay, eons-way, or eons-yay
escalator ➡️ escalator-ay, escalator-way, or escalator-yay
Europe ➡️ Europe-ay, Europe-way, or Europe-yay
ice ➡️ ice-ay, ice-way, or ice-yay
illness ➡️ illness-ay, illness-way, illness-yay
is ➡️ is-ay, is-way, or is-yay
oats ➡️ oats-ay, oats-way, or oats-yay
odor ➡️ odor-ay, odor-way, or odor-yay
Oink! ➡️ Oink-ay!, Oink-way!, or Oink-yay!
over ➡️ over-ay, over-way, or over-yay
udder ➡️ udder-ay, udder-way, or udder-yay
unity ➡️ unity-ay, unity-way, or unity-yay
up ➡️ up-ay, up-way, or up-yay
So what about one-letter words? Simple! Follow the same rule as with other words beginning with vowels!
a ➡️ a-ay, a-way, or a-yay
I ➡️ I-ay, I-way, or I-yay
It’s Pig Latin practice time again! Trying converting these English words and phrases into Pig Latin out loud, then check yourself by clicking on the box. I’m going to use the ‘-yay’ variation because that’s the style I’m used to, but feel free to use any of the three variations here!
I love you.
An elephant never forgets.
Ethel never ever told me that.
Pig Latin Rule 3: When the Word Is Hyphenated
What about when the word is hyphenated? When the English word is hyphenated, Pig Latin treats each element as a separate word.
Here are some examples!
about-face ➡️ about-yay-ace-fay
full-time ➡️ ull-fay-ime-tay
non-stop ➡️ on-nay-op-stay
sugar-free ➡️ ugar-say-ee-fray (pronounced ugar-shay-ee-fray)
upsy-daisy ➡️ upsy-yay-aisy-day
Pig Latin Phrases
Now that you know how Pig Latin works, it’s time to start using it! Here is a mini Pig Latin “phrase book” to get you started. An audio clip for each phrase follows the visual!
Pig Latin in Pop Culture
Two Pig Latin words have become so common that they’re now slang words in their own right, ‘ixnay’ and ‘amscray’.
In fact, you may remember ‘ixnay’ from The Lion King!
Pig Latin pops up in TV shows and the movies all the time, but my all-time favorite example of Pig Latin in the movies is from the comedy classic, Robin Hood: Men in Tights! 😁
urray-Hay or-fay ig-Pay atin-Lay!
Whether you use this amongst friends as a “secret language” or teach it to your kids as a fun new word game—or however you choose to use it—I hope you have lots of laughs with Pig Latin! And let me tell you, this is something that native speakers don’t expect you to know. So… igh-Hay ive-fay, epper-Stay! ou’re-Yay oing-day eat-gray!