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[pat-wah, pah-twah; French pa-twa] /ˈpæt wɑ, ˈpɑ twɑ; French paˈtwa/
noun, plural patois
[pat-wahz, pah-twahz; French pa-twa] /ˈpæt wɑz, ˈpɑ twɑz; French paˈtwa/ (Show IPA)
a regional form of a language, especially of French, differing from the standard, literary form of the language.
a rural or provincial form of speech.
jargon; cant; argot.
Origin of patois
1635-45; < French: literally clumsy speech; akin to Old French patoier to handle clumsily, derivative of pate paw Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for patois
Historical Examples
  • Never a moment did that sublime spirit speak in their patois.

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Walter Scott,” said he, “has run to death the method of patois dialogue.

    Lavengro George Borrow
  • He only spoke in the patois, which Frank understood very well.

    The Silver Lining John Roussel
  • There is no mistaking it; it is peculiar to Pont du Sable, and note, too, her patois!

    A Village of Vagabonds F. Berkeley Smith
  • Among Anglo-American hunters, it is called the panther—in their patois, “painter.”

    The Hunters' Feast Mayne Reid
  • For his benefit the Cape patois was promoted to the rank of a language.

  • Their language was a Spanish patois; their voices were sharp and disagreeable.

    The Scalp Hunters Mayne Reid
  • For there is a separate race, with its own patois, in Monaco.

    Riviera Towns

    Herbert Adams Gibbons
  • The man spoke in patois French, the woman in her native Cree language.

    The Buffalo Runners R.M. Ballantyne
  • It was the Spanish language, spoken in the patois of the Aztec Indians.

    The Rifle Rangers Captain Mayne Reid
British Dictionary definitions for patois


/ˈpætwɑː; French patwa/
noun (pl) patois (ˈpætwɑːz; French) (patwa)
an unwritten regional dialect of a language, esp of French, usually considered substandard
the jargon of particular group
Word Origin
C17: from Old French: rustic speech, perhaps from patoier to handle awkwardly, from patte paw
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 patois

"a provincial dialect," 1640s, from French patois "native or local speech" (13c.), of uncertain origin, probably from Old French patoier "handle clumsily, to paw," from pate "a paw," from Vulgar Latin *patta (see patten), from notion of clumsy manner of speaking. Cf. French pataud "properly, a young dog with big paws, then an awkwardly built fellow" [Brachet]. Especially in reference to Jamaican English from 1934.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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