Tjiliwirri: A Language of Opposites

The Warlpiri people, a group of Indigenous Australian, teach a strange language called Tjiliwirri to their boys who go through an initiation rite. Tjiliwirri literally means “funny’ or “clown”. The peculiar thing about this language is that it expresses every idea as its opposite. For instance, if you want to say “It’s hot”, you have to say “It’s cold”. It can quickly get complicated. Saying “I bought an apple” would mean “You sold an apple”.

SpongeBob would have been thrilled to know that the boys of Warlpiri celebrate “Opposite Day” every day:

Reference (Click to Show)

Harold Koch & Rachel Nordlinger (2014). The Languages and Linguistics of Australia: A Comprehensive Guide

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

9 thoughts on “Tjiliwirri: A Language of Opposites

  1. Is this a variation of Cockney backslang where the front of the word is moved to the back in an effort to confuse any outsider eavesdropping. Before that they had rhyming slang which has now seeped into the mainstream, so isnt as effective in keeping the outsider out.


  2. Reminds me of a game my mates used to play, which they called Dormal Nominoes. It was essentially Dominoes, but you played a right domino on the wrong end. It got confusing very quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

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