I’d heard my husband use the expression ‘chi-iking’ ever since I’ve known him; although born in London, he was brought up in Cornwall, then lived in Surrey, studied in Portsmouth and then moved to Oldham, so he has acquired a lot of interesting and unusual phrases and sayings, and is very well-known for his expressive language! I guess I thought chi-iking came from the Surrey time of his life, and it means back-chatting or being cheeky, or chatter in general, like a lot of children coming into a classroom chi-iking with each other. I heard David Jason used it the other day in an interview on the radio, and he was born and brought up in London, so I began to wonder where the word originated. When I thought about it, I wondered if my dad might have used it occasionally, when I was young… I don’t remember him using it later. he grew up in Cambridge in the 20’s and then was in the army during the war, so if he did use it, he could have picked it up anywhere!

Sometimes it is pronounced chiaking, or chayaking, but there seems to be no standard form or ‘correct’ spelling! It apparently originates in Australia (I’d thought it might be Romany in origin) and I found that it can also be chyaking; in Australia it seems to mean more like banter or joking, a cheeky chatting, rather than having a rude or insolent overtone as it does in English. It can also be pronounced shyaking, I guess like most words there are regional variations!  It maybe comes from ‘chi-hike’ a greeting, but I can’t quite imagine that…. “Chi-hike, mate!” I wonder if it comes from Australia whether it might be a corruption of an Aboriginal word, or even a Maori word as Alfred George Stephens uses it and links it to Maori women. The novelist Jeannie Gunnn uses it in 1908 in her book ‘We of the Never Never’.

But wait one minute! It apparently also appears in ‘ A dictionary of modern slang, cant, and vulgar words’ published in 1874 by John Camden Hotton, and apparently was a hearty and maybe sarcastic greeting. So had the word gone to Australia and stayed there, or had it come back from Australia when early settlers returned to the old home country? Maybe it was a Romany word after all? Maybe it will never be known!

It’s a great word… but I’m not sure I’ll use it, but I’ll be listening out for other people!


  1. anne54

    Yeah, I didn’t ergogenic it until you spelt it as ‘chayaking’. Maybe I need the Aussie accent to draw out the ‘a’ sounds! It is not a word I have heard as I have got older, but I do remember my Dad using it. It’s great. I will have to take it up myself! Thanks for doing some research into its origins.


  2. Trevor Dawson

    My mother, born in 1911, was brought up in East London but moved to North London with my father before I was born. She used this word every so often when I was growing up and there was no question of her using the ‘a’ vowel, it was definitely ch(eye)- (eye)king in sound using the long ‘i’ vowel.
    As she used it the word meant something like an attention-seeking, complaining, rather annoying noise perhaps made by children arguing with each other.
    I hadn’t heard it for years until a friend used it today and I looked up the word.
    Thanks to Lois for the interesting etymology.

    Liked by 1 person

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