[pat-wah, pah-twah; French pa-twa]

noun, plural pat·ois [pat-wahz, pah-twahz; French pa-twa] /ˈpæt wɑz, ˈpɑ twɑz; French paˈtwa/.

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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for patois

dialect, argot, idiom, vernacular, lingo, slang, cant

Examples from the Web for patois

Historical Examples of patois

  • 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.


    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.”

British Dictionary definitions for patois


noun plural patois (ˈpætwɑːz, French patwa)

an unwritten regional dialect of a language, esp of French, usually considered substandard
the jargon of particular group

Word Origin for patois

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

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