©Photographe|LIONEL GHIGHI

Creole Glossary

Spoken on Reunion Island

Words like pictures

The official language on Reunion Island is French; the same French spoken and written in metropolitan France. However, the population also speaks Creole, a language that has developed since the island was settled. It has inherited linguistic traits from all the different populations that make up the population of Reunion Island including French, Malagasy, African and Indian.
Creole was the language of the Maloya during slavery. The need to understand one another has produced a language laden with images. Nevertheless, Reunion Creole was named a regional language in 2014 and is taught in schools and studied at the Université de la Réunion.
French-speaking visitors to the island can’t escape their local title: they are called “zoreys”* (pronounced “zorey”).
*”zorey”: French from Metropolitan France

A few words and expressions in Creole with translation into English

Some Creole proverbs from Reunion Island

  • La lang na pwin le zo(the word has no bones) Words have little value.
  • Goni vid i tyen pa standing(an empty bag can’t stay standing for long) You can’t go for long on an empty stomach.
  • Fé pa la bou avan la pli(you don’t make mud before it rains) Don’t put the horse before the cart.
  • Kan i koz ek boukané, sosis res pandiyé: (when you talk to smoked meat, the sausage stays on the hook) When you talk to Jack, Paul doesn’t interrupt.
  • Bondié i puni pa le roche(God doesn’t punish stones) Misfortune only happens to those who deserve it.
  • Dann oui na pwin batay(there’s no battle in yes) It’s easy to say yes to avoid discussion.
  • Gro poison i bèk si le tar(big fish bite late) Everything comes to those who wait. 
  • I geyn le pus a fors frékant le sien: (If you hang around dogs, you catch fleas) Hanging around bad influences is dangerous.
  • An atendan, kabri i manz salad(Meanwhile, the goat eats the salad) A problem without a solution persists.
  • La pasians i géri la gal: (patience heals scabies) Patience cures everything.
  • Na in zour i apèl demin(tomorrow is coming) The wheel turns.
  • Fourmi i mars sous la tèr, domoun i koné(Everyone knows ants walk underground) When you try to hide something, it always ends up becoming public.
  • Zanfan i plèr pa i gyen pa tété
    (a child who doesn’t cry will not get their milk)  If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  • Ou donn in pié, i pran le karo(if you give a plant, you lose the whole field) If you give a finger, they take an arm.
  • Ti ash i koup gro bwa(a small axe can cut a large log) Everything comes to those who wait.