Native toCuraçao
Native speakers
"very few"[1] (2021)
Portuguese-based creole languages
  • Afro-Portuguese
    • Upper Guinea Creole
      • Papiamento
        • Judaeo-Papiamento
Latin (Papiamento orthography)
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Judaeo-Papiamento or Jewish Papiamentu is an endangered Jewish language and an ethnolect of Papiamento spoken by the Sephardic Jewish community of Curaçao in the Dutch Caribbean. It is likely the only living Jewish ethnolect based on a creole language.


Judeao-Papiamento is generally mutually intelligible with Papiamento, the main language of most Curaçaoans, locally known as Papiamentu. Papiamento is usually considered an originally Portuguese-based creole language that was subsequently partly relexified by Spanish, but some linguists argue the opposite, viewing it as a Spanish-based creole with a strong Portuguese influence.[2]

Judeao-Papiamento differs from "general Papiamento" (papiamentu komun) as spoken by the non-Jewish population of Curaҫao in having a number of Hebrew loanwords as well as different pronunciation of many words common for all Papiamento varieties. Oftentimes, the Judeao-Papiamento versions of these words are closer to their Spanish or Portuguese counterparts, hinting at a possible process of decreolization. When speakers of any Papiamento variety talk in the more formal registers, they often use certain words from its lexifier languages almost unchanged. However, there is a difference in their choice of specific literary reference languages. Jewish speakers of Papiamento tend to prefer Portuguese and French, whereas non-Jewish Curaçaoans typically use Spanish words in the same settings.[3]

Lexical contrasts

In one of her books, May Henriquez provides a table that shows some of the lexical contrasts between the speech of Jewish and non-Jewish Curaҫaoans.[4]

Judaeo-Papiamento General Papiamento English meaning
afora afó out, outside
arepita repa arepa, round cornmeal pancake
bañu baño bath
bisñetu bisañetu great-grandson
bizjitá bishitá visit (verb)
bizjita bishita visit (noun)
desparesé disparsé disappear
dignitario dignatario dignitary
di repente di ripiento all of a sudden
festehá selebrá celebrate
festeho selebrashon celebration
fopá vupá misdeed
fora (djesei) fuera (djesei) besides that
gora, gwera bora gore, puncture
goza gosa enjoy, amuse
granmèrsi gremesí live on others’ expense
kamina kaminda road, way, where
kusta kosta cost (verb)
lanso laken, laker bedsheet
mata di roza mata di rosa rosebush


  1. ^ Jacobs, Neil G. "Jewish Papiamentu". Jewish Language Project. Retrieved 2023-05-29.
  2. ^ Jacobs, Neil G. (2020). "Curaҫao Sephardic Jewish Papiamentu in the Context of Jewish Languages". In Sutcliffe, Patricia C. (ed.). The Polymath Intellectual: A Festschrift in Honor of Professor Robert D. King. Dripping Springs, Texas: Agarita Press. pp. 103‒128.
  3. ^ Shabashewitz, Dor (2023). "A Jewish creole language in the Caribbean". Forverts (in Yiddish). Retrieved 2023-06-22.
  4. ^ Henriquez, May (1988). Ta asina? O ta asana? Abla, uzu i kustumber sefardí (in Papiamento). Willemstad, Curaҫao: Drukkerij Scherpenheuvel N.V.