Vara Kiai
Native toVanuatu
RegionEspiritu Santo Island
Native speakers
450 (2001)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3frt
Kiai is not endangered according to the classification system of the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger

Kiai is an Oceanic language spoken by about 450 people in the central highlands of Espiritu Santo island (Sanma Province), in Vanuatu.[2]


The name Kiai derives from kiai, meaning "no", due to a trend in the area to name languages based on their word for "no", used as a linguistic shibboleth. The language is called vara Kiai (from vara "speech, language"), i.e. 'the language that says kiai [for no]".

The same language has been named Fortsenal, based on the name of the village (locally Vorozenale) where the speakers live.[3]


  1. ^ Kiai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ François, Alexandre; Franjieh, Michael; Lacrampe, Sébastien; Schnell, Stefan (2015). "The exceptional linguistic density of Vanuatu" (PDF). In François, Alexandre; Lacrampe, Sébastien; Franjieh, Michael; Schnell, Stefan (eds.). The Languages of Vanuatu: Unity and Diversity. Canberra: Asia Pacific Linguistics Open Access. pp. 1–21. ISBN 9781922185235.
  3. ^ Clark, Ross (2009). Leo Tuai: A comparative lexical study of North and Central Vanuatu languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. doi:10.15144/PL-603. ISSN 1448-8310.