Cree Interjections: Arok Wolvengrey

It seems like we’ve been using emoticons forever in our texting and online communication to express emotion. Of course, the images themselves are very 21st-century, but equivalent verbal expressions have been around since the first human stubbed their toe, or took delight in a baby’s first smile. Linguists call these words “interjections.” Not all of them are easily recognized as “words” (which is probably why emoticons evolved in the first place!)

As I read through Arok Wolvengrey’s 2013 lesson on Cree interjections (originally posted as a file in the Nêhiyawêwin (Cree) Word of the Day FaceBook group), I 🤣’ed to recognize them as verbal emoticons. Arok’s lesson also coincides in time with FaceBook’s update of “Finch” with the help of Pixar animator Matt Jones. (Who knew that yellow circle-face had a name!?) The image shown above captures some of Jones’s original sketches for the update, and is borrowed from the article linked here.


Interjections are single words or set phrases used as entire utterances on their own. They do not usually occur otherwise as part of large sentences (unless someone is being quoted (ex. “awas,” itwēw.  ” ‘go away,’ s/he said”). Interjections can be divided into two main types: expressives and interactives. The following collection focuses on expressive interjections.

Speakers use Expressive Interjections to “express” his or her own feelings. They don’t have to be addressed to anyone in particular, they are just expressions that a speaker can use even when he or she is alone.  They give linguistic form to feelings or emotions.


  • You may notice that some of these forms differ in meaning and intention depending on context, and that their emotional tone may give them more than one shade of meaning. Some can also be used sarcastically.
  • Dialect: unless otherwise specified, these are Plains Cree/y-Dialect forms, but may be used across the dialects.
  • A larger selection can be found by searching for “interjection” in the itwêwina online dictionary.
  • Links are provided for the handful of forms that appear with audio in the itwêwina online dictionary. Additional audio recordings have already been made, an are awaiting integration into the dictionary. Links will be added as recordings are added to the dictionary.

Emotion(s)CreeAlso heardEnglish equivalentComment
angerāh! “agh, och”
angerstā“oh for Chrissakes!”compare with: wācistakāc
anger, displeasuretakay! “prick!”compare with: -takay- NDI “penis”
anger, displeasurewīnt! “dirty!” compare with: /wīn-/ “dirty” + -[…], as a clipping of longer words such as wīnitakay! wīnicisk!, etc.
disgustwisk!“”Woods Cree; compare with: wiskāthiwāk
disgust, sadnessiskāthowākwiskāthiwāk “”Woods Cree
disgust, surprisecah! ca, cāh, cēh, cwā, inc, nc“geez!”
disgust, surprisenc inc “oh for goodness sakes!”
displeasure, angertakay! “prick!”compare with: -takay- NDI “penis”
displeasure, angerwīnt! “dirty!” compare with: /wīn-/ “dirty” + -[…], as a clipping of longer words such as wīnitakay! wīnicisk!, etc.
fearēyahē“oh no!”
fearī or īh "ah!"
fearīhay“oh no!”compare with: wāhay.
fearīhī “oh no!”this is also how the word for “yes” is written in Woods Cree, but it has a different intonational pattern when used to express fear
happinesstāpwē kihci“truly great!”
happinesstāpwī īsa kihci“truly great!”Woods Cree
happinessyahē “YESSS!”
happiness, surprisewahwā“oh my!”
happiness, surpriseyahow “yahoo!”
paināwiyā āwiya, āwiyaaa“ow, ouch”
painayayā(perhaps) ayāyoc “ow, ouch”Woods Cree
sadnessāhīhi“”Woods Cree?
sadnesswīspinac “”
sadnesswiyakācoyakāc “too bad; unfortunately; sadly so”can be an interactive expression of sympathy
sadness, disgustiskāthowākwiskāthiwāk “”Woods Cree
sadness, sympathy, cute, pitifulāmī āmīc “aww”
surpriseānakacāānakacay, nakacā “oh, my word!”Woods Cree: nakaci
surpriseānakacayānakacā, nakacā “oh, for goodness sakes!”
surpriseayiwāk “more”
surpriseayiwāk ihkin “too much!”
surpriseayiwāk ihkinopan “too long a time!”Note: -pan; old preterite
surpriseiyaw yaw “well, well now; oh come on!”
surprisewācistakācstakāc, wācistak, wācistakāt, kwācistakāc“what the …; holy shit!”
surprisewīpihkāc “will wonders never cease!”
surprise, disdainwāhay “oh for goodness sakes!”
surprise, disdain, disgustmāmaskāc“wow! wondrous, amazing”used sarcastically to express disdain or disgust
surprise, disgustcah! ca, cāh“geez!”
surprise, disgustnc “oh for goodness sakes!”surprise at being cheated
surprise, happinesswahwā“oh my!”
surprise, happinessyahow “whoa!”

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