The Kif

The alphabet, language, and culture of the kif species, in the Merchanter Compact, as depicted in the Chanur novels in the science fiction universe created by C. J. Cherryh.

The kif are a tall, thin, dark-skinned species with some amount of velvet-short fur and bristles. They have prominent snouts, somewhat like anteaters or alligators or crocodiles, with narrow long jaws and nostrils. They have long tongues and more than one set of teeth. Their eyes are red-rimmed. They are completely colorblind, a fact which the mahendo’sat initially exploited for comedic effect. They code their wires and pipes with varying line patterns or textures. Their homestar is weak and distant. They are dark-adapted. They have an ammonia smell and are fond of the odd glow of sodium lights. They eat live food, called Dinner. Kif are supremely conscious of position and face, or sfik. Their society thrives on it. Low-ranking kif are miserable-looking, stooped and nervous. Higher-ranking kif are not. They assassinate to advance. Kifish princes may display the heads of their enemies prominently on staves or pikes. Lesser kif may abandon a leader they lose faith in, or they may turn and prey upon him. It is possible they are cannibals on occasion. They universally wear black robes. Higher status kif have better cloth. Those of the highest status may have a silver piping trim on their robes. They have been described as shadows given life. Their trade is often piracy. They seek revenge. They plan and plot, and generally seek to escalate and to take control of a situation. Their leaders are often keen of intellect, including fluency in other species’ languages. However, their understanding of other cultures is flawed by their psychological and philosophical outlook. Kif remain active during jump.


(noun) Kifish term for a powerful leader, such as a prince, in its most general sense, or a general. See also: mekt-hakkikkt.
(noun) A very great or supreme hakkikkt. See also: hakkikkt.
(noun) Kif-thought, a concept of status, position, face, or honor.
(noun?) Kif-thought, apparently a word for a hunt, not revenge.
(noun) Slave or servant.


A hakkikt, captain of Hinukku.
A minor kif who learns Pyanfar’s way and becomes a moderate (for a kif) and an ambassador of sorts.


Kif ship.
Kif ship under the hakkikt Capt. Akukkakk.
Kif ship.
Kif ship.
Kif ship.
Kif ship under Capt. Ikkkukkt.
Kif ship.
Kif ship.
Kif ship.
Kif ship.
Kif ship.

Places: Stations, Worlds, Jump Points