Wednesday, April 5, 2017


What is the Chamorro word for "treasurer?"

Languages change because the people who speak languages change.

Today, people are far, far removed from the Spanish influence that molded the generation of our grandparents. English now has a greater opportunity to influence people.

The above example shows the influence of English on modern-day Chamorros. The temptation is to take an English word like "treasurer" and give it a Spanish-sounding end, like ending it with "-årio."

Like kalendårio (calendar), or miyonårio (millionaire) or nesesårio (necessary).

Treasurer + årio = Trisurårio

Treasurer. Trisurårio.

Trisurårio shows the influence of BOTH languages, Spanish (the ending -årio) and English (the word treaurer).

It shows how we turn to Spanish influence when we want to make something English sound Chamorro.


But, two generations ago, our mañaina did not have the English language to infuence them. Their outside influence was the Spanish language.

The Spanish word for "treasurer" is TESORERO and this is what our mañaina used for the word "treasurer."

Here are a few examples from early dictionaries :

Von Preissig's 1918 English to Chamorro dictionary gives tesorero as the Chamorro word for "treasurer."

Påle' Román's 1932 Chamorro to Spanish dictionary gives tesorero as the Chamorro word for "treasurer," also.

It comes from the Spanish word for "treasure," which is tesoro. A tesorero is the one in charge of the tesoro.

The word tesorero did not get passed down to modern generations of Chamorro speakers. It wasn't used enough in ordinary, daily speech because only rarely do we ever deal with treasurers. So, tesorero was lost on many Chamorro speakers.

So, when heavily Americanized Chamorro speakers asked themselves the question, "How to say 'treasurer' in Chamorro?" they turned to the English word "treasurer" and tried to make it sound Chamorro by adding the Spanish ending -årio. "Treasurer" became "Trisurårio."


Påle Román suggested a possibly purely Chamorro word for "treasurer," not borrowing from Spanish at all.

Mangugu'ot salåppe'.

Gu'ot means "to hold on to." Salåppe' is "money."

The one who holds on to the money. Treasurer. Mangugu'ot Salåppe'.

It just remains an open question whether salåppe' is indigenous or whether it was borrowed from Filipino salapi (money). A question for another day.


  1. I think the person to whom the Govt of Guam turned for the word should correct it to Tresorero. Frankly, Trisurarion sounds like a trio of something (of sorts).

  2. I came across the online Chamorro dictionary, and I could not find the word "salåppe'/salåppi'" in it.
    I did, however, find the word "sååpe'".
    I personally have never heard it used that way (sååpe'), though.

    1. It seems that is a clerical/typographical error? A missing L. But that dictionary also has the issue of misplaced lonnat (the o over some a's.....å). It puts a lonnat (å) over many a's where it should be plain a).