Lagniappe refers to "a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase" (such as a 13th beignet when buying a dozen), or more broadly, "something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure." [cite web | url= | publisher=Merriam-Webster | title=Definition of lagniappe | accessdate=2007-10-29] The word is used in Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Eastern Oklahoma, Southern Arkansas, Charleston,SC, southern and western Mississippi, the gulf coast of Alabama, and parts of eastern Texas. It was also once in common usage by antiquarian booksellers, without regional limitation, and is still used by more old-fashioned members of that tribe.Fact|date=September 2007

The word entered English from Louisiana French, in turn derived from the American Spanish phrase "la ñapa" ('something that is added' ). The term has been traced back to the Quechua word "yapay" ('to increase; to add'). In Andean markets it is still customary to ask for a "yapa" when making a purchase. The seller usually responds by throwing in a little extra. Although this is an old custom, it is still widely practiced today in Louisiana. This custom is also widely practiced in southeast Asia. Street vendors, especially vegetable vendors, are expected to throw in a few green chillies or a small bunch of cilantro with a decent purchase. The Punjabi term for this is "choonga".

History of the American English word

After the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire certain Quechua words entered the Spanish language. The Spanish Empire for a time also included Louisiana so there was a Spanish presence in New Orleans. In his book "Creoles of Louisiana", George Washington Cable comments on the effects of the Spanish presence on Louisiana Creole French:

The Spanish occupation never became more than a conquest. The Spanish tongue, enforced in the courts and principal public offices, never superseded the French in the mouths of the people, and left but a few words naturalized in the corrupt French of the slaves. The terrors of the calaboza, with its chains and whips and branding irons, were condensed into the French tri-syllabic calaboose; while the pleasant institution of ñapa -- the petty gratuity added, by the retailer, to anything bought -- grew the pleasanter, drawn out into Gallicized lagnappe.

Though lagniappe is included in English dictionaries it is used primarily in the region influenced by New Orleans [cite web | url= | publisher=Bartleby | title=Regional Patterns of American Speech | accessdate=2007-10-29] (and therefore Louisiana French) culture and so may be thought of as being more Cajun French or Louisiana Creole French than English. This is especially so since the spelling has been influenced by French. [cite web | url= | publisher=Bartleby | title=Lagniappe | accessdate=2007-10-29]

Mark Twain writes about the word in a chapter on New Orleans in "Life on the Mississippi" (1883). He called it "a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get":

We picked up one excellent word — a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word — "lagniappe." They pronounce it "lanny-yap". It is Spanish — so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the "Picayune", the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a "baker's dozen." It is something thrown in, "gratis", for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop — or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know — he finishes the operation by saying — "Give me something for lagniappe."

The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor — I don't know what he gives the governor; support, likely.

When you are invited to drink, and this does occur now and then in New Orleans — and you say, "What, again? — no, I've had enough;" the other party says, "But just this one time more — this is for lagniappe." When the beau perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too high, and sees by the young lady's countenance that the edifice would have been better with the top compliment left off, he puts his "I beg pardon — no harm intended," into the briefer form of "Oh, that's for lagniappe."

History of the Trinidadian Creole English word


External links

* [ American Heritage Dictionary]
* [$Content/Cajun+French+Glossary?OpenDocument#FL Dictionary of Cajun French]
* [ Diccionario de la lengua española]
* [ Quechua Dictionary]
* [ Some Words From the Dialect of Trinidad and Tobago]

See also

* List of English words of Quechua origin
* Omake

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lagniappe — La*gniappe, Lagnappe La*gnappe , n. [Also spelled {lagnappe}.][Etym. uncertain.] 1. In Louisiana, a trifling present given to customers by tradesmen; a gratuity. [1913 Webster] Lagniappe . . .is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. Mark …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • lagniappe — dividend, something extra, 1849, from New Orleans creole, of unknown origin though much speculated upon. Originally a bit of something given by New Orleans shopkeepers to customers. Said to be from Amer.Sp. la ñapa the gift. Klein says this is in …   Etymology dictionary

  • lagniappe — ☆ lagniappe or lagnappe [lan yap′, lan′yap΄ ] n. [Creole < Fr la, the + Sp ñapa, lagniappe < Quechuan yapa] 1. Chiefly South a small present given to a customer with a purchase 2. a gratuity or the like …   English World dictionary

  • lagniappe — index contribution (donation), grant Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • lagniappe — la·gniappe (lăn’yəp, lăn yăp’) n. Chiefly Southern Louisiana & Mississippi 1) A small gift presented by a storeowner to a customer with the customer s purchase. 2) An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. Also called regionally boot2. See Note at… …   Word Histories

  • lagniappe — noun Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added Date: 1844 a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; broadly something given or… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • lagniappe — noun /ˈlænjæp/ (Louisiana, Mississippi and Trinidad and Tobago) An extra or unexpected gift or benefit , 1973: ‘Call it a little lagniappe, goodbuddy, that’s Duane Marvy’s way o’ doin’ thangs.’ …   Wiktionary

  • lagniappe — /lan yap , lan yap/, n. 1. Chiefly Southern Louisiana and Southeast Texas. a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; bonus. 2. a gratuity or tip. 3. an unexpected or indirect benefit. Also,… …   Universalium

  • lagniappe — Synonyms and related words: Trinkgeld, balance, bonus, bonus system, bounty, bribe, consideration, decoration, dividend, donative, double time, extra, extra added attraction, extra dash, fee, filigree, filling, fillip, flourish, frill, fringe… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • lagniappe —  A small, unexpected gift; pronounced lan yap …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.