Torres Strait Everyday Words

There are two traditional languages of the Torres Strait Islands, Miriam Mir and Kala Lagaw Ya.

Meriam Mir (also written as Miriam Mer) is the Language of the Eastern Islands of the Torres Strait. Linguistically, it is connected to the Papuan languages of the Austronesian family of languages. There are two regional dialects:

  • Mer dialect – Mer (Murray), Waier, Dauar.
  • Erub dialect – Erub (Darnley) and Ugar (Stephen).

Kala Lagaw Ya (also written as Kalaw Lagaw Ya) is the traditional language owned by the Western and Central islands of the Torres Strait. It is linguistically connected to the Aboriginal languages of the Australian mainland and has four distinct regional dialects derived from this language:

  • Mabuyag – The dialect of Mabuiag, Badu and St Paul's Village.
  • Kalaw Kawaw Ya – The dialect of the top western islands of Saibai, Dauan and Malu Ki'ai.
  • Kawrareg – The dialect of the south western islands of Kubin, Kaiwalagal, Muralag (Prince of Wales), Nurupai (Horn), Giralag (Friday), Waiben (Thursday Island), Keriri (Hammond), Maurura (Wednesday), Moa (Banks). It is also known as Kawalgau Ya.
  • Kulkalgau Ya – The dialect of the central islands of Aurid (Aureed), Damut (Dalrymple), Iama (Yam or Turtle-backed), Masig (Yorke), Mauar (Rennel), Naghir (Mt Earnest), Poruma (Coconut) and Warraber (Sue).

The dialects are determined geographically and developed over time with influences by traditional trade, visits, inter-marriage and kinship ties.

Torres Strait Creole

The contact with missionaries and others since the 1800s has led to the development of Torres Strait Creole. It has developed from a Pidgin and now has its own distinctive sound system, grammar, vocabulary, usage and meaning. Torres Strait Creole (also known as Ailan Tok or Yumplatok) is spoken by most Torres Strait Islanders and is a mixture of Standard Australian English and traditional languages. It is an English-based creole; however each island has its' own version of creole. Torres Strait Creole is also spoken on the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) following the movement of people there to Seisia and Bamaga.

Note: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages were oral-based; there may be several variations in spelling and pronunciation. The following list should be seen as a guide – check with local language speakers as to the preferred local pronunciation.

Torres Strait Islander Languages Wordlists

The following list is a selection of everyday words for the two languages of the Torres Strait and Torres Strait Creole.

Download Torres Strait Everyday Words  (PDF 286.0 KB)

Learn more about Torres Strait Islander languages

Listen to Retold! A collection of stories from Margaret Lawrie’s Myths and Legends of the Torres Strait, retold by community members

Further details

For more information on the languages of the Torres Strait, the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) has administrative responsibility for the region and is working towards a language centre and currently supports language activities in schools and communities.
TSRA coordinated a second Torres Strait Island Language Symposium in May 2017 - further details on the event can be found at the Symposium website

Contact details

Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA)
Address: Level 1 / 46 Victoria Parade, Thursday Island. Qld. 4875.
Postal: PO Box 261, Thursday Island. Qld. 4875.
Phone: (07) 4069 0700
Email: info@tsra.gov.au
Website: www.tsra.gov.au

SAIMA Torres Strait Islander Corporation
Based in Rockhampton, SAIMA provides support for Torres Strait Islander languages and Creole in the region.
Address: 229 Bolsover Street, Rockhampton. QLD. 4700.  
Phone:  (07) 4922 9280 Fax:  (07) 4921 3514 Email:  annieg.saima@bigpond.com

State Library of Queensland

For further information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages at the State Library of Queensland, please contact:
Queensland Memory, State Library of Queensland
Stanley Place, South Brisbane Qld. 4101.
PO Box 3488, South Brisbane Qld. 4101.
Telephone: (07) 3840 7666            Fax: (07) 3842 9126

SLQ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages
SLQ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Blog

English Kala Lagaw Ya Meriam Mir Torres Strait Creole
Anchor Iadi Par Angka
Axe Aga Tulik Tamyok
Book Thusi Ziau-wali Buk
Child Kazi Werem Piknini
Church Yoewth Zogometa Soes
Cloud Zia Baz Klaud
Coconut Tree Boey U Koknat tri
Crocodile Koedal Kodal Algida
Drum Warup Warup Dram
Dugong Dhangal Deger Dugon
Ear Kaura Laip Talinga
Eye Purka Poni Ai
Father Thathi Abe Baba
Fire Mui Ur Paya
Fish Wapi Lar Pis
Fish Hook Tudi Mekek Pis uk
Foot San Teter Thraik
Frog Katube Gowai Prog
Girl Ngawaka Neur Gel
Ground Apa Geseb Graun
Hand Geth Tag An
Head Kuik Kirim Ed
House Mudth Meta Aus
Island Lagua or Lag Kaur Ailan
Kangaroo Usar Usar Kangru
Knee Kulu Teter-au-kok Ni
Lizard Iku Zirar Gwana
Mat Waku Papek Mat
Moon Kisal Meb Mun
Mother Apu Amau Ama
No Launga Nole Launga
Octopus Sugu Arti Sugu
One Urapun Netat Wan
People Garkazi Gaire-le Pipel
Rain Ari Irmer Ren
Sea Malu Gur Solwata
Shark Baidham Beizam Sak
Sky Dapar Kotor Skai
Snake Tabu Tabu Sneik
Spear Dagul Baur Spiya
Spider Enti Seber Spaida
Stingray Thupmul At Thingari
Stone Kula Baker Ston
Sun Goega Lim San
Today Kaib Abele-gereger Tidei
Tomorrow Batainga Iobaru Thumara
Turtle Waru Nam Totol
Two Ukasar Neis Tu
Water Nguki Ni Wata
Wind Gub Wag Win
Yam Gabau Lewer Yam
Yes Wa Aa Wa
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