Early settlers took from Chinook jargon some words like potlatch (gift-dispensing feast), skookum (strong), and tillicum (friend). Other language influences came from the many Indian tribes inhabiting Washington, especially such place-names as Chehalis, Walla Walla, Puyallup, Humptulips, and Spokane. Northern and Midland dialects dominate, with Midland strongest in eastern Washington and the Bellingham area, Northern elsewhere. In the urban areas, minor eastern variants have been lost; in rural sections, however, older people have preserved such terms as johnnycake (corn bread) and mouth organ (harmonica). One survey showed Northern quarter to dominant in the state with 81%, with Midland quarter till having only a 5% response; Northern angleworm (earthworm) had 63%, but Midland fishworm and fishing worm only 17%. The north coast of the Olympic Peninsula, settled by New Englanders who sailed around Cape Horn, retains New England /ah/ in glass and aunt . In Seattle, fog and frog are Midland /fawg/ and /frawg/, but on is Northern /ahn/; cot and caught sound alike, as in Midland; but the final /y/, as in city and pretty, has the Northern / ee/ sound rather than the Midland short /i/ as in pit.

In 2000, English was the language spoken at home by 86% of Washington residents five years old and older, down from 91% in 1990.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "Other Pacific Island languages" includes Chamorro, Hawaiian, Ilocano, Indonesian, and Samoan. The category "Other Slavic languages" includes Czech, Slovak, and Ukrainian. The category "African languages" includes Amharic, Ibo, Twi, Yoruba, Bantu, Swahili, and Somali. The category "Scandinavian languages" includes Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish.


Population 5 years and over 5,501,398 100.0
Speak only English 4,730,512 86.0
Speak a language other than English 770,886 14.0
Speak a language other than English 770,886 14.0
Spanish or Spanish Creole 321,490 5.8
Chinese 48,459 0.9
Tagalog 41,674 0.8
Vietnamese 39,829 0.7
German 39,702 0.7
Korean 39,522 0.7
Russian 31,339 0.6
Japanese 24,055 0.4
French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 22,385 0.4
Other Pacific Island languages 16,199 0.3
Other Slavic languages 15,596 0.3
Mon-Khmer, Cambodian 14,559 0.3
African languages 12,420 0.2
Scandinavian languages 10,695 0.2