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[pij-uh n] /ˈpɪdʒ ən/
an auxiliary language that has come into existence through the attempts by the speakers of two different languages to communicate and that is primarily a simplified form of one of the languages, with a reduced vocabulary and grammatical structure and considerable variation in pronunciation.
(loosely) any simplified or broken form of a language, especially when used for communication between speakers of different languages.
Also called contact language.
Origin of pidgin
1875-80; extracted from pidgin English
Can be confused
pidgin, pigeon. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for pidgin
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But "pidgin" English is fast giving way to pure English, spoken most commonly with a marked American accent.

    Changing China William Gascoyne-Cecil
  • This is not Braithwaite's pidgin but Woodward's and there was no help for it.

  • His wife, obedient creature though she was, spoke almost no pidgin—business—English; and besides that, she was a poor bargainer.

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • Soosie, he told in his pidgin English, had been given to him by her uncle.

    Tropic Days E. J. Banfield
  • Him smokee too much opium pipe; he no mind his pidgin plaupa, he smokee alla day.

    The Truth about Opium William H. Brereton
  • I was waited on mostly by a lad named Chung, one of the professors of "pidgin."

    Under the Dragon Flag James Allan
  • pidgin or pidgin-speech may be defined as that variety of a language which is used exclusively by foreigners.

  • And I thought for once that her lapse into pidgin had been deliberate and not accidental.

    Tales of Chinatown Sax Rohmer
  • I therefore not only cautioned him myself in pidgin English, but instructed my Chinese clerk and interpreter to do so also.

    The Truth about Opium William H. Brereton
British Dictionary definitions for pidgin


a language made up of elements of two or more other languages and used for contacts, esp trading contacts, between the speakers of other languages. Unlike creoles, pidgins do not constitute the mother tongue of any speech community
Word Origin
C19: perhaps from Chinese pronunciation of English business
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for pidgin

1876, from pigeon English (1859), the reduced form of the language used in China for communication with Europeans, from pigeon (1826), itself a pidgin word, representing a Chinese pronunciation of business. Meaning extended 1891 to "any simplified language."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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