Cajun Dictionary

Here are a few words and phrases you may hear in Cajun Country that you may not be familiar with.


Andouille (ahn-do-ee)

A spicy country sausage used in Gumbo and other Cajun dishes.

Bayou (bi-yoo)

The streams crisscrossing Louisiana.

Beignet (ben-yea)

Delicious sweet doughnuts, square-shaped and minus the hole, lavishly sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Sometimes served with café au lait (coffee with chicory and milk).

Bisque (bis-k)

A thick, cream or milk-based shellfish soup, usually made with crawfish, shrimp or oysters.

Bon Appetite! (bon a-pet-tite')

Good appetite - or "Enjoy!"

Boucherie (boo-shuh-ree)

A community butchering which involves several families contributing the animal(s) --usually pigs -- to be slaughtered. Each family helps to process the different cuts of meat, like sausage, ham, boudin, chaudin, chops, and head cheese. Each family gets to take home their share of the yield. This process was done in late fall to provide meat throughout the cold months.

Boudin (boo-dan)

Hot, spicy pork mixed with onions, cooked rice, herbs, and stuffed in sausage casing.

Bourre (boo-ray)

French for "stuffed”, it is the name of a Cajun card game which requires the loser of a hand to stuff the pot with chips.

Café au Lait (kah-fay-oh-lay)

 Coffee with steamed milk.

Cajun (cay-jun)

Slang for Acadians, the French-speaking people who migrated to South Louisiana from Nova Scotia in the eighteenth century. Cajuns were happily removed from city life preferring a rustic life along the bayous. The term now applies to the people, the culture, and the cooking.

Cayenne (ki-yan)

A hot pepper that is dried and used to season many Louisiana dishes.

Chicory (chick-ory)

An herb, the roots of which are dried, ground; roasted and used to flavor coffee.

Coonass (koon-ass)

A controversial term in the Cajun lexicon: to some Cajuns it is regarded as the supreme ethnic slur, meaning "ignorant, backwards Cajun"; to others the term is a badge of pride, much like the word Chicano is for Mexican Americans. In South Louisiana, for example, one can often see bumper stickers reading "Registered Louisiana Coonass". The word originated in South Louisiana, and is derived from the belief that Cajuns frequently ate raccoons. It is proposed that the term contains a negative racial connotation: namely, that Cajuns were "beneath" or "under" blacks (or coons, as blacks were often called by racists).

Couche-Couche (koosh-koosh)

A popular breakfast food, made by frying cornmeal and topping it with milk and/or cane syrup.

Courtbouillon (coo-boo-yon)

A rich, spicy tomato-based soup or stew made with fish fillets, onions, and sometimes mixed vegetables.

Crawfish (craw-fish)

Crawfish, sometimes spelled "crayfish," resemble lobsters, but are much smaller. Locally, they are known as "mudbugs," because they live and grow in the mud of freshwater bayous. They can be served many ways: in etouffees, jambalaya, gumbos or, simply boiled.

Creole (cree-ol)

The word originally described those people of mixed French and Spanish blood who migrated from Europe or were born in Southeast Louisiana and lived as sophisticated city or plantation dwellers. The term has expanded and now embraces a type of cuisine and a style of architecture.

Dirty Rice

Pan-fried leftover cooked rice sauteed with green peppers, onion, celery, stock, liver, giblets and many other ingredients.

Etoufee (ay-too-fay)

A succulent, tangy tomato-based sauce. A smothered dish usually made with crawfish or shrimp. Crawfish and Shrimp etouffees are New Orleans and Cajun country specialties.

Fais do do (fay-doe-doe)

The name for a party where traditional Cajun dance is performed. This phrase literally means "to make sleep," although the parties are the liveliest of occasions with food, music, and dancing..

File (fee-lay)

Ground sassafras leaves used to season, among other things, gumbo.

Fricassee (free-kay-say)

A stew made by browning then removing meat from the pan, making a roux with the pan drippings, and then returning meat to simmer in the thick gravy.

Gumbo (gum-boe)

A thick, robust roux-based soup sometimes thickened with okra or file'. There are thousands of variations, such as shrimp or seafood gumbo, chicken or duck gumbo, okra and file' gumbo.

Jambalaya (jum-bo-lie-yah)

Louisiana chefs "sweep up the kitchen" and toss just about everything into the pot. A rice dish with any combination of beef, pork, fowl, smoked sausage, ham, or seafood, as well as celery, green peppers and often tomatoes.

Joie de Vivre (zhwa-d-veev)

An attitude towards life

King Cake

A ring shaped oval pastry, decorated with colored sugar in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, purple, green, and gold, which represent justice, faith, and power. A small plastic baby is hidden inside the cake. Tradition requires that the person who gets the baby in their piece must provide the next King Cake.

Lagniappe (lan-yap)

This word is Cajun for "something extra," like the extra donut in a baker's dozen. An unexpected nice surprise.

Laissez les bon temps rouler
(lay-zay lay bon ton rule-ay )

Let the good times roll!

Levee (le-vee)

An embankment built to keep a river from overflowing; a landing place on the river.

Maque Chou (mock-shoo)

 A dish made by scraping young corn off the cob and smothering the kernels in tomatoes, onion, and spices.

Mardi Gras (mardi graw)

Commonly known as Fat Tuesday, it is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Roman Catholic season of Lent. It's also the day of the Biggest Party on Earth!

Pain Perdu (pan-pear-doo)

Means "lost bread"; a breakfast treat made by soaking stale bread in an egg batter, then frying and topping with cane syrup or powdered sugar.

Pirogue (pee-row)

A Cajun canoe.


A sandwich extravaganza that began as a five-cent lunch for poor boys. Always made with French bread, po-boys can be stuffed with fried oysters, shrimp, fish, crawfish, meatballs, smoked susage and more.

Praline (praw-leen)

The sweetest of sweets, this New Orleans tradition is a candy patty made of sugar, cream and pecans.

Red Beans & Rice

The traditional Monday meal in New Orleans, red beans are cooked with ham or sausage and seasonings, and served over rice.

Roux (rue)

Base of gumbos or stews, made of flour and oil mixture.

Sauce Piquante (saws-pee-kawnt)

Means "spicy sauce"; is a spicy stew.

Tasso (tah-soh)

 Strips of spiced pork or beef which are smoked like jerky and used to flavor many dishes; a sort of Cajun pepperoni.

Vieux Carre (voo ca-ray)

French, meaning "old quarter," and referring to the French Quarter.

Zydeco (zi-de-co)

A relatively new kind of Creole dance music that is a combination of traditional Cajun dance music, R&B, and African blues.


home.gif (4800 bytes)  Home

Last updated 10/14/06