1 n. — historical, West Coast, British Columbia and Pacific Northwest
a person or people; (one's) people.
Type: 1. Origin — Tillicum is a lexical transfer from Chinook Jargon, a pidgin language that was used in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest to facilitate communication between trade communities. George Lang (2008: 32, 49), in Making Wawa: The Genesis of Chinook Jargon, suggests it may have been based on a pre-contact trade language centred on the mouth of the Columbia River. It is based on Lower Chinook, Nootka, French and English, with some influence from other Aboriginal languages (see Canadian Encyclopedia reference, s.v. "Chinook Wawa"). DARE, s.v. "tillicum", lists an Oregon quotation with the variant "fillicum" as the earliest American use, dated to 1843. According to OED-3 (s.v. "tillicum"), tillicum derives from the Chinook word tilxam, meaning 'village'. Though the term may be used to denote people in general, it may also take on a sense of belonging or camaraderie, a meaning similar to 'someone of my band or people' (see, e.g., the 2002 quotation). This interpretation likely led to the semantic extension to 'friend' or 'buddy', as shown in meaning 2. Tillicum is most frequently used in Canada (see Chart 1), with regional hits being focused in BC (see Chart 2).
See also: Chinook Jargon
- 1855  (a1956)  . . . a woman who happened to be in the canoe, bawled out to the men, "Alke, Alke, Tilla-kome, Tilla-kome" "Stop, stop, a man! a man!"
- 1869  The Indians fully bear out Price's own story in relation to stealing the gold, and the rescue from the courthouse at Kootenay, by his tillicums, of the Indian taken there by the Prices when caught in the act of robbing their sluices.
- 1889  Tilikum, people. Nika tilikum, my people, or my relations. Huloima tilikum, strangers.
- 1913  "Tillicums," he said facing the crowd, "this boy has danced no tribal dance . . . " "Bring ten dollars of the white man's chicamin (money). . . ."
- 1922  I saw her graceful, high-bowed canoe heading for the beach that is the favourite landing-place of the " tillicums" from the Mission.
- 1930  It is a legend dealing with the Indians of Vancouver, and one which was told to Miss Johnson by an old tillicum as she sat on deck watching a typical Northern sunset on one of her cruises among the countless islands of the Pacific. The tillicum pointed to a dim speck in the distance and asked Miss Johnson if she saw it.
- 1984  Chief Jefferson, charged with the attack on the Laurel, told authorities in Victoria that the whisky sold to him and his "tillicums" (people) by traders had been adulterated with salt water.
- 1999  Just as the men of the second launch "were on the point of landing, A-chee-wun and his two tillicums were caught and handed over to Lt. Pusey's command and conveyed to the gunboat."
2 n. & adj. — rare
friend, buddy, pal.
Type: 1. Origin — See meaning 1. The term has fallen out of use since the mid-20th century, when Chinook terms were still widely known, especially in rural regions (see, e.g., the 1948 quotation). Today the term is often used, if it is used at all, to humorous effect (see the 2009 quotation).
- 1890  On learning that his old friend and tillicum Tom Barrett had become a benedict, Mike Driscoll, proprietor of the Palace Hotel at Rykert's custom-house, bethought himself that he should go and do likewise.
- 1903  The Provincial Government has appointed Walter B. Cochrane, lawyer of Grand Forks, stipendiary magistrate for the county of Yale and magistrate under the small debts court act. Walter is an old tillicum of the premier.
- 1922  Six old "tillicums" were gathered in Jordan's cabin on Gold Run.
- 1948  Also, at each place was a printed card of greeting from Diana Gray, Vancouver Venturist, who is "Tillicum" editor of the Vancouver Daily Province. Tillicum, as anybody who has lived on our Pacific coast will know, is a Chinook word meaning friend.
- 1962  I had come to know him when he worked at Holmwood, for he and Rupert Duck were tillicums from away back.
- 1994  Mr. Johnson, don't take it so hard, because whenever one of the Big Bar pilgrims comes along and gets so full he just can't feel his backside if he took both hands, and leaves his card in your bed, it's a sure sign he loves you and wants to be good tillicums.
- 2002  My father, wise in the ways of his Tsimshian tillicums, did not urge him. He raised the rewards for the undertaking twice, but as Harvey was the best hunter and trapper in Port Simpson, he already owned a fine house and a fine boat and was long past worrying about the material aspects of life.
- 2009  Today, the commemoration of Chinook language has become a sort of left-wing pet project in BC. A Facebook group dedicated to Chinook jargon has, as of this writing, 114 members; I'm sure you can send a tillicum request to any one of the administrators.
Chart 1: Internet Domain Search, 15 Jul. 2014
Chart 2: Regional Domain Search, 15 Jul. 2014