The Chabacano Mai and Pai

In this post from a Facebook group, somebody asked what the difference is between the words tio, tia, pai, and mai. The conclusion in this discussion was that all these words mean the same thing but that pai and mai are used by Chabacano speakers who live in the countryside or rural areas.

The same words (with the same pronunciation) exist in Portuguese and they mean father (pai) and mother (mae).

In this article about Puerto Rican Spanish, it is said that "Puerto Ricans also often shorten words by eliminating whole syllables. A good example are the words paramadre, and padre ("for", "mother", and "father"): Puerto Ricans may pronounce para as /pa/, madre as /mai/, and padre as /pai/.

If you ask me, I think the original meaning of these words are mother and father (originating from Spanish or Portuguese) but somehow the meaning just got obscured. How it got obscured though is beyond me. Sadly, this is one of the many lexical items that are slowly disappearing from the Chabacano language. Personally, I haven't heard anyone aside from the people in my father's family use these words.


  1. It looks like it has a Portuguese origin, even if its origin is way obscure. I think that, at one point, the Portuguese spread some of its culture around the country, including words from our language. I know that in at least one dedicated work from a Portuguese bishop in a Filipino branch of languages, Bikol. And there people uses pai and mãe to refer to their parents. So, that could be one way to explain its origins.

    Another theory lay on the evolution from both words. "Pai" and "mãe" are cognates from "padre" and "madre", and such evolution is observed in the Portuguese and in few languages spoken in Spain, like in the Galician language, for example, whereas in Spanish language doesn't. Here you can look at it more closely, note how these words are written in the Portuguese-based creole languages:

    Pai -
    Mãe -

  2. El "Kuya y Ate" na Zamboangueño Chavacano es "Manóñg y Manáñg".

  3. Actually, in some Galician dialects the words mai and pai do exist (Standard Galician: nai and pai). They also exist in some Astur-Leonese dialects (Mirandese in Portugal, Leonese and Western Asturian in Spain ... but Standard Asturian has ma and pa). They also exist in Aragonese. Finally, in Gascon Occitan (spoken in a small part of Catalonia in Spain and mostly in Southern France), these words are written mair and pair, but pronounced exactly the same way (final Rs are silent). That's to say that it's a very common result in the Iberian Peninsula and surrounding areas...