1. A non-technical term for a DIALECT, especially if it has low status in relation to a STANDARD, literary language: peasants speaking a local patois. Although it is strongly associated with French, the term has been used for such a variety of any language, often to suggest low, mixed usage: ‘“Alas” cried she, in a patois dialect, between French and Spanish’ ( Charlotte Smith, Ethelinde, 1789); ‘To ascertain that she had nothing patois in her dialect’ ( Hannah More, Female Education, 1799).
2. The SLANG or JARGON of a particular group: a criminal patois.
3. Also sometimes Patwa. A common name for a Caribbean CREOLE, especially Jamaican Creole (usually without the definite article): ‘She said something in patois and went on washing up’ ( Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark, 1934). The meaning varies according to location. In Dominica, St Lucia, Grenada, and Trinidad, it refers to the French-based Creole of the Lesser Antilles. In Guyana, the term is not popular, Creolese being preferred. In those countries where French-based Creole is the major VERNACULAR (St Lucia and Dominica), there is a growing feeling that the term is pejorative and Creole or Kweyol is often used instead. Compare ARGOT, BRITISH BLACK ENGLISH, CANT, LINGO.
pat·ois / ˈpaˌtwä; ˈpä-/ • n. (pl. same ) the dialect of the common people of a region, differing in various respects from the standard language of the rest of the country: the nurse talked to me in a patois that even Italians would have had difficulty in understanding. ∎ the jargon or informal speech used by a particular social group: the raunchy patois of inner-city kids.