Thieves' Cant

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Thieves’ Cant

One of the Languages of Azolin

There are two forms of Thieves’ Cant, the formal and the informal. The formal tongue is used by the guilds and the professional rogues in the world. The informal rogue arose from the thugs and street rats of the cities for a useful encoded language using general slang terms. The formal language is detailed on this page, but you can view the informal lexicon here:

Informal Thieves Cant

Pronunciation

Vowel sounds in Cant are sounded the same way as in these Common words: "a" as in bad; "e" as in bed; "i" as in bid; "o" as in lone; "u" as in suit; and "y" as in sly. Optionally, for easier pronunciation by those accustomed to Common, "i" can be sounded like the "e" in see when the "i" appears in the middle or at the end of a word, and the "y" sound is shortened to sound like an "i" if the resulting syllable or word is easier to pronounce that way.

Vowel combinations such as "ai" or "oe" are pronounced by sounding each vowel separately. For instance, the Cant word "laimbo" (twenty) is pronounced la-im-bo and not laym-bo. In speaking the language, all words in Cant are stressed primarily on the first syllable. Many words of four or more syllables will be secondarily stressed on the other odd-numbered syllables if such accenting makes the word more easily distinguished or easier to pronounce.

There is no specific Cant alphabet, because Cant is only rarely encountered in written form. For the purpose of this introduction to the language, the written conventions of the Common language are used to "spell" the Cant words. Note that many letters of the Common alphabet have no representation in Cant; "c" and "d" are two noteworthy examples.

Nouns

Nouns are words that represent things: inanimate objects, living things, or concepts. Articles (a, an, the in Common) do not exist in Cant. All Cant nouns are given in the singular form, and plural forms of those nouns are produced by simply doubling the word.

Example:

box = kal - literally translates to (a, the) box

boxes = kalkal – literally translates to (the) box-box

Modifiers are words that describe other words. In Common, these words are called adjectives and adverbs. Those types do not exist as such in Cant. Instead, any modifier can modify either a noun or a verb, depending on its location within the sentence and with respect to the words around it. In the examples below, note the location of the modifiers and how their placement affects the meaning of the sentences, even though both example sentences contain the same words:

Common Cant Literal Translation
The fast man runs slowly Obok sen koma ark Slowness run speed man
The slow man runs quickly Koma sen obok ark Speed run slowness man

As with nouns, modifiers may be doubled. This indicates an increase in quality or intensity. For example, sio kal means "big box"; siosio kal means "very big box"; and siosio kalkal means "very big boxes."

Numbers

Many numbers, including 0 through 10 and some higher numbers, are included in the accompanying dictionary as separate entries. To create other numbers, simply "add" two or more "number words" together. For example, "seventeen" is imboula, or "10" (imbo) plus "7" (ula); and "seventy" is ulaimbo, which translates as "seven tens."

Ordinal numbers, to show the order of an item in a succession of items, are formed by adding the suffix "nk" to the cardinal number (or "ink," if the number ends in a consonant). Thus, bi (one) + nk = bink (first); lim (five) + ink = limink (fifth). Fractions are formed by adding the prefix "ob" (which literally means "opposite") to the appropriate number: ob + la (two) = obla (one half); ob + lim (five) = oblim (one fifth).

Pronouns

Pronouns are words used to represent nouns. The following pronouns exist in Cant: First person singular, o (I, me); second person singular, e (you); third person singular, i (he, she, it, him, her). First person plural (including the person spoken to), oeo (us, we and you); second person plural, oe (you); third person plural, ii (they, them). First person plural (excluding the person spoken to), oo (us, we but not you).

The word oo is a pronoun form peculiar to Cant, used when the speaker means "us" or "we" to include everyone but the person(s) being spoken to. It has been observed that this pronoun is most often employed in discussions pertaining to the division of treasure.

When a pronoun is used with a verb, it is generally attached to the end of the verb form: ken means "to steal"; keno is "I steal"; kene is "you steal," and so forth.

When a pronoun precedes a verb (sometimes done for clarity or emphasis) or stands by itself, a "t" is placed before the simple form of the pronoun: Ti ken kal means "He steals (is stealing) the box"; keni kal means essentially the same thing, but with less emphasis placed on the "he" and more emphasis on what "he" is doing.

A relative pronoun introduces a clause that describes a noun. In Common, these are words such as "which," "who," and "that." The Cant language has only two relative pronouns: nita, used to refer to persons, and om, used for animals or objects. Examples:

Common Cant Literal Translation
The man who has the helmet is running Sen ark nita tyn tif Run man who has the helmet
That dog that has the helmet is running Sun simar om tyn tif Run dog that has the helmet

Word Order

Word order is extremely rigid in Cant, since only by its position in a sentence can the function or relationship of a word be determined. The following word-order rules apply to clauses, phrases, and complete sentences.

Standard Word Order

time + verb + subject + place + indirect object + direct object

(Note: Nouns used to modify or explain other nouns always precede the word they modify.)

Common Cant Literal Translation
You stole the box yesterday Labne kene kal Yesterday steal-you box

Question Word Order

question particle + question word + standard word order

(The question particle “ste” serves as a verbal question mark and is always used to introduce an interrogative sentence.)

Common Cant Literal Translation
Who stole the box yesterday? Ste tehel labne ken kal?  ? Who yesterday steal box

Command Word Order

subject + verb + time + place + manner + indirect object + direct object

Common Cant Literal Translation
Steal a box! Te ken kal! You steal box!

Verb Tenses

The basic (infinitive) form of a verb in Cant ends in the letter "n." (Note that some words that end in "n" are not verbs.) The basic form does not change, except for the possible addition of a trailing pronoun. Tenses are indicated by placing a time expression at the front of the sentence. Indefinite past and future can be indicated by using the word for future (kar) or past (bir) in front of the sentence. Verbs used without accompanying time indicators are in the present tense. Examples:

Common Cant Literal Translation
I went yesterday Labne bano Yesterday go-I
I will go (indefinite future) Kar bano Future go-I

Modal Auxiliaries

These are verbs used with other verbs to form expressions of mood, such as the words "can," "may," "might," and "should" in Common. Modal auxiliaries in Cant are placed before the main verb.

The Cant word sib (may) expresses permission to do something. Miban (must) expresses compulsion; it may also be used like the word "should" would be used in Common. Beben (can) expresses the ability to do something.

Kutin (might) is used differently from sib (may). Kutin expresses conditional action: something that can be done if something else is done first. Example:

Common Cant Literal Translation
I might go if it rains Kutin bano beti mublini Might go-I if rain-it

Takin (would) is not necessarily related to will or desire. It is used to express determination to do something in a conditional sentence. Example:

Common Cant Literal Translation
If he had a boat, I would go Beti tyni barbo, takin bano If have-he boat, would go-I

The verb Mon: This word is loosely equivalent to the verb "is" or "to be" in Common. Its primary use is as a helping verb in passive sentences. Passive sentences differ from active sentences in that in the former, the action is performed on the subject. In the latter, the subject performs the action. Examples:

Labne keno fuid translates as "I stole the crown yesterday."

This is an active sentence. The subject (I) is doing the stealing. Labne mon keno fuid translates as "The crown was stolen yesterday." This is a passive sentence. The person or thing responsible for the action is not indicated; instead, the sentence indicates that the action was performed on the crown. Mon is also used to denote equivalency between two nouns 36 and/or pronouns: Mone kawabi translates as "You are a cleric." Mon is never used to express the possession of a quality or location. Instead, tyn (to have) and bilin (to stand) are used, respectively, for these purposes: Tyni sio literally translates as "Have-he tallness," and its Common equivalent is "He is tall." Ly lakat bilini translates literally as "In book stand-it," and its Common equivalent is "It is in the book."

Negatives Construction

Cant uses the single word hibni to express negation. The word negates an entire sentence when it is placed at the beginning: Hibni bano literally means "No go-I" or "Not go-I," and its Common equivalent is "I am not going."

To negate individual parts of a sentence, hibni is placed before the word it negates: Keno urtel moky hibni kanab means "I am stealing the diamond but not the chest."

Hibni may also be used to negate an entire clause by placing it at the beginning of the clause: Labne bano moky hibni burono means "I went yesterday but I didn't stay."

Prepositions

Prepositions are words that show relationships between objects. Unless specified otherwise, Cant prepositions are used as in Common.

Ro (of) is used to show possession only: lakat ro ark means "(the) book of (the) man," or "the man's book."

Ka (on) is used with horizontal surfaces, while li (on) is used with vertical surfaces, such as a wall, upon which things are hung or affixed: Bilin lakat ka ruba means "The book is on the table"; Bilin likob li liki ro obark means "The necklace is on the woman's neck."

Word Formations

New words may be formed in Cant by combining two or more simpler words, trimming letters from one word or another if such a shortening does not cause misinterpretation and makes the resulting word easier to pronounce: hunar (death) + hin (room) = hunarhin (crypt), which is shortened to hunahin. Forming a noun from a verb is usually done by simply drop-ping the final "n," and possibly the vowel that precedes it, from the verb form: hunaran (to die) becomes hunar (death); asefan (to drink) becomes asefa (drink).

The opposite of a word can be formed by attaching the prefix ob to the front of the word: ob + ark (man) = obark (woman); ob ine (day) = obine (night).

Vocabulary

Common Cant
about syhi
above fu
across ne
after bira
afternoon salane
against bus
alchemist simikir
alchemy simik
ale ymus
amethyst balolot
amulet binto
animal raoka
any at
anything atbura
anytime atnau
approach, to beslin
arch ahak
arm nakao
armor rokato
armorer rokatin
armory kosohin
around lema
arrest sanili
arrest, to sanilin
arrive, to isimin
arrow tot
arson hinunta
arson, to commit hinuntan
artery fanil
as bina
as soon as kusuo
ask, to esun
assassin bitama
at na
attack, to kalan
aunt toa
back sakam
backpack sakambar
backstab, to uneklin
badness frun
bandit ykanan
bank falsa
banker falsat
barding burfe
barge falaka
barkeep kalakar
barn kiset
barracks kauhin
barrel sahas
basin huso
bat ibit
bath liko
battle tabo
beard inat
because ibli
because of libi
bed nako
bedroom nakohim
beer amus
before moly
begin to fasren
beginning bone
behind obul
believe, to esoan
below nu
belt sintur
bench syili
beneath nu
beside sa
betray rolkon
between flo
bigness sio
bird syt
birth hibar
black koret
blackmail, to barsan
blame, to hisuin
blanket tomuk
blood fanbo
blue nerb
boat barbo
body salarka
bone botu
book lakat
boot telu
booty relbat
borrow, to baylan
boss ukal
bow rafak
box kal
bracelet omban
brain sankot
breath mafit
breathe, to mafitan
bribe madli
bribe, to madlin
brick kilu
bridge hili
broach toka
brown noru
bucket kubak
building kusal
burglar kalinta
burglarize, to kalintan
burial maleto
burn, to balsan
but moky
buy, to kun
by ky
call, to laryn
can (to be able) beben
candle ylo
caravan lusok
cart kest
case mibar
casket hunakal
castle ornek
cat aram
cave kuena
ceiling filu
cell myo
center het
chain sambil
chair yli
charisma lisema
chest (torso) fatib
chest (container) kanab
chief ukal
child berkin
chin banal
choice uha
choose, to uhan
city holyat
cleric kawabi
client hinlyot
climb, to san
climb walls, to sanlum
cloak loab
close, to heryan
clothing mys
cloud kalok
club tufa
cold arot
color lok
come, to tun
consciousness flora
constitution mofit
container sahal
copper krin
correctness bersity
counterfeit, to kartan
country esim
court nio
cover, to kafun
crawl, to nusen
crossbow byrafak
crowd arkar
crown fuib
crypt hunahin
cup bebol
cupboard osalos
curse takali
curse, to totakalin
curtain aoro
custom ibim
cut sya
cut, to syan
dagger ret
danger bylis
darkness ekob
dart tur
date syf
day ine
deal yhy
death hunar
decide, to tisan
defeat koka
defeat, to kokan
demon asin
desert akbun
desk ritin
destroy, to bahelan
detect traps, to rabalan
dexterity tura
diamond urtel
die, to hunaran
discovery fibil
disguise bakre
disguise, to bakren
dishonesty oberabas
distribute, to sinkin
diversion lakana
divert, to lakan
divide, to brokan
division broka
do, to salan
dog simar
door uhob
down nu
dragon fybkes
drawer tiran
dress, to taron
drink asefa
drink, to asefan
drug titani
drug, to titanin
druid kaslil
dungeon ror
during norb
dwarf teko
ear tyna
earliness naltos
earring matybal
earth nusfi
east salif
eat, to safen
eight tulo
electrum bintal
elf ulim
emerald akoy
end une
endurance nabi
engineer inher
enter, to tyhin
entrance mahan
equipment sala
escape unta
escape, to untan
everything faburan
everytime heken
everywhere kontonken
evidence turyas
excerpt tik
expense onbom
experience syto
eye atami
faint, to barbun
fall (season) norsalik
fall, to rakin
farm narak
fight, to kolen
fighter kol
find, to rafen
finger baral
finish, to unen
fire bal
fireplace kanabal
first bink
five lim
flesh kitki
flint bybi
floor ybel
food safe
foot uket
for lit
forehead kuta
forest suso
fork rimnok
fountain enit
four lo
frame, to kaluan
free, to boroban
freedom borob
from bu
future kar
gallery bio
galley teltan
garden amas
garlic os
gate sany
gem isala
set, to feun
gift lyr
give, to lyn
glass sulan
gnome kurbe
go, to ban
goblet siril
god akfur
gold hymur
goodbye syetken
goodness syet
gray solet
green resen
group tek
guardroom sarhin
hair kuho
half obla
half-elf ulimobla
half-orc takobla
halfling mistis
hall sanla
hand sakel
hand, to falabin
handle, to tankan
harness biby
have, to tyn
he, him, she, her, it i, ti
head biak
heart likiha
heartbeat likihyran
heat ortob
heat, to takan
heaviness obtylo
hello syetonta
helmet tif
help, to nafen
hide, to turen
highness bora
highwayman lekel
hijack, to kandon
hill kunsal
hit, to klun
hold hostage, to amon
holdup kontora
hold up, to kontoran
holiness mina
home iro
honesty terabas
honor totak
horse aby
hour lane
house iro
how bihe
how many behebe
how much behebo
however kymo
human rylo
hundred sur
I o, to
idol natuk
if beti
illusion kulat
illusionist kulamak
in ly
in front of ul
incorrectness obsersity
insanity sabit
inspect, to lanin
inspection lani
instead of ab
intelligence sunin
interest, to hyutan
is mon
it i, ti
jaw tara
jewel kem
jug satek
keg rytena
kennel simarhin
kettle sikla
key tirib
kick okob
kid ime
kidnap, to naman
kill, to intan
kitchen nirhan
know, to (a fact) solen
know, to (someone) altan
kobold hamoki
ladder fasan
lake utho
language olarhe
lantern tatobal
lateness nobal
law biho
lawlessness ankat
leather falat
leave, to (a place) tern
leave, to (a thing) aban
leftness (position) resa
leg akto
lend, to fyton
length haba
lesson kutal
letter kargel
library lahin
life har
light (illumination) uta
lightness (weight) tylo
light, to utan
like bina
listen, to tin
littleness tan
live, to (not die) harn
live, to (somewhere) iroen
lock ihil
lock, to ihilin
locket fafet
lock pick tru
look at, to sarhon
look for, ton oroen
loot kilik
loot, to kilikon
lose, to (a thing) obfiken
loudness obykar
lowness obora
magic ker
magic-user mankero
make, to forlin
make unconscious, to belon
mallet ekmel
man ark
map faki
marsh ratik
master ukal
mattress kanoho
may sib
mayor holok
me o, to
mead kural
meal baka
medallion kolnok
medicine tlinkit
merchant forkel
middle albir
midnight hetobne
might kutin
million kisak
minute nebi
mirror lamin
moment orib
money hyman
monk rosati
monster arkoba
month likano
morning nibe
mound iloka
mountain usal
moustache tanina
mouth bibik
move, to otan
move silently, to bin
muscle fonbak
museum sihyres
music siterke
must miban
nail konfa
name lary
near ry
necessity tanol
neck liki
necklace likob
newness hobuli
night obine
nine am
no hibni
noise yran
noon hetne
north bisfi
nose lonek
not hibne
nothing hibmun
now lyrib
number taka
observe, to tulon
of ro
off al
offering fakab
office teltin
oil fyal
oldness huli
on (a wall) li
on (top off) ka
on the contrary kymo
one bi
opal samun
open, to binson
opposite feku
or fy
orange hali
orb hari
orc tak
out baker
over fu
painting rarkan
paladin filta
parapet nekio
park herel
party bislis
pass, to behan
passagae bak
past bir
path byntan
pay, to hinlan
payment lyny
pearl boblin
people banasko
pick lock, to trun
pick pocket, to mun
pile iloka
pilfer kenon
pillage baron
pillar liki
pillow sakana
pin katam
place alub
plains lyket
plan itu
plan, to ituan
platinum sublin
plunder, to kruteln
poach, to ikiban
pocket tolata
poison mala
pole anukit
potion isili
pouch byb
pound sorba
practice, to suon
prepare, to sun
price rub
prince arhobol
princess obarhobol
prison basihin
pull, to sanatan
punish, to erminan
punishment ermina
push, to tambon
put, to kunin
question tanob
question (particle) ste
quietness ykar
quilt buk
quiver tilya
rain riso
rain, to rison
ransom, to haten
rations hira
read, to fehin
rectangle harata
red blon
release obamon
remove, to berosin
repeat, to nabasin
rest, to hintyn
retreat, to kurnan
return, to myban
rightness (position) kolta
ring mabal
road byn
rob, to foren
robe balab
room hin
rope timon
ruby kumba
rug bamat
ruins raiga
run, to sen
sack baim
saddle silkaba
safety tonta
sage balub
salt luset
sanctuary betita
sapphire be
save, to (a life) toran
save, to (conserve) torin
scabbard kamkanab
scholar roal
sconce ybila
screen kufer
sea falati
second (ordinal number) lank
second (of time) nyo
secret huna
secret door unahob
see, to tryn
sell, to lobun
sentence (punishment) asorit
seven ula
shadow eski
she i
sheet sihal
shelf mitaf
shield hantak
ship lulani
shoot, to tlin
shortness yta
shoulder nakaoka
show, to lebon
shrine fysos
sign fikisik
silence robal
silver rubel
since okam
six sito
size rakomo
skeleton akbotark
skin funar
skull akbot
sky morukek
sling haro
slowness obok
snake hiblokni
snitch, to nilinin
snow mubli
snow, to mublin
softness ykar
soldier kaual
something burakan
south lafe
speed koma
spell lam
spider tulokto
spike helu
spring loksalik
spy limenet
square ashi
stab, to klin
stable abyhin
stairway sosan
stand lofon
stand, to bilin
statue emna
stay, to buron
steal, to ken
steel ulof
step, to kaltan
stomach hanfi
stone tato
stop, to ryn
stool fokon
storage bikit
store foryhab
store, to bikitan
strangle, to ronen
strength fatas
string kentis
stronghold tontyha
summer resalik
sun tobalon
swear, to tekenon
swim, to usen
sword kam
symbol biny
table ruba
take, to olon
talk, to fen
tapestry uhasi
target tili
teach, to kuron
teacher kura
tell, to lynin
temple kauta
ten imbo
that sab
that (relative pronoun) om
them ii
then nosa
they ii
thief basim
thieves’ cant basifen
thieves’ tools basisala
thing bura
think, to brun
third (ordinal number) salonk
third (fraction) obsalo
thousand bakat
three salo
throne ruka
through ily
throw, to haron
tie, to seyen
time hek
tinder uhys
to sy
today lyrne
toe kuly
tomorrow sirine
tongue lina
tooth lina
torch uro
torso lak
toward so
tower fysy
town mibet
trail beo
trail, to beon
traitor rolko
trap itak
trap, to esten
treasure kyam
triangle kolibis
troll bart
trip kult
two la
uncle toa
unconsciousness obfora
under nu
unholiness obiha
unlike obinta
until si
up fu
us oeo, toeo, oo, too
use, to bun
valuables konba
vase hliki
vault narko
violet rybun
visit, to maban
wagon enbra
wait, to myn
wake, to ylink
walk, to bosen
wall alun
wand naki
wander, to aron
want, to uon
warrior kaual
wash, to oren
watch, to sarhon
water ros
waterskin roskanab
way ba
we oeo, toeo, oo, too
weapon kosol
weaponer kosolit
wear, to ymasan
weather hos
week lino
well limi
west limok
what laf
when nau
where foram
whether bo
which (relative pronoun) om
while uale
white bysne
who (question) tehel
who (relative pronoun) nita
why sarum
win, to firen
wind ferel
wine kalaf
winter bysalik
wire kenil
witch manka
with ki
without ryki
woman obark
wood kahy
word hal
work hama
work, to haman
workshop hamhin
would takin
wrist lator
write, to sabnolan
wrongness obsersity
year fal
yellow nolt
yes an
yesterday labne
you (plural) oe, toe
you (singular) e, te
zero orni
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