The Navajo word ma’ii (or mą’ii) is the coyote. In some literature ma’ii is described as the “Navajo trickster god”, which is a misnomer depending on how you look at it.
Coyote is certainly a cunning figure in Navajo tradition. But tricks are only one facet of ma’ii’s character.
The “god” qualifier is less certain, mainly because ma’ii manifested as a physical being, but shared the knowledge of the spiritual beings (Diyin Dine’é - Holy People). If there were direct “gods” in Navajo tradition, they would have to be the purely spiritual figures that came before the First World.
Diné bahane’ (the People’s story) will sometimes say that Ma’ii was first in the form of a human, who found the wandering group of First Man and First Woman in prior worlds. This is where other names for Coyote come from, like First Thought, First Angry, and The All-Mover.
In Diné bahane’, coyote’s cunning way was put to use against the Black God (or Fire God or Black Man) - himself a kind of trickster - when he stole the way to make fire. (In Navajo tradition, Black, or darkness, borders and contains fire and heat. In this way, it was understood that the stars in the sky were made of fire. Black is also the color associated with Náhookǫs, the northern direction.)
Akin to Prometheus, and a host of other figures in the mythologies of other cultures, it’s fair to say there’s much more to Coyote than is popularly held.
The Navajo word ałk’ésdisí refers to something (a nominalized verb) that has been formed into a twist at either end.
This comes from the period that merchants and traders began to conduct business with the Diné. They brought not only essentials like flour, meat, and clothing, but also some extras like candy.
Ałk’ésdisí refers to candy. It’s hard to say whether all candies back in the day were twisted in shape, but many did have wrappers like today’s bubble gum or hard candies (like peppermints). Candy wrappers are twisted at both ends (or “twisted on top of each other”).
Today, ałk’ésdisí remains a colloquial term for all types of candy, even if they don’t have a twist to them.
Today’s a perfect day for the Navajo word for newspaper.
When you use hane’, you’re talking about either a tale, or story, or else the history of something. For example, you may come across Diné bahane’ which refers to the history, or story of the Navajo people.
And then you have naaltsoos, which is an umbrella term for paper and books. With the third person possessive enclitic (bí-), it become binaaltsoos which is essentially it’s paper.
Together you achieve a word that mirrors the description of a newspaper.
There is also a variant that uses aseezį́ - the Navajo word for gossip - in place of hane’. Nowadays, this would refer to a tabloid or periodicals of that nature.
On the Navajo Nation, the Navajo Times publishes its newspaper every Thursday. Before the Navajo Times was Ádahooníłígíí, which was explained in an earlier post as meaning “the area’s happenings/occurances/current events”.
Similar to yesterday’s word, bééhasin has to do with the knowledge of other people or a skill. In particular, it means ‘to know (either a person or how to do something)’.
This verb is conjugated, so the word alters depending on point-of-view. Here they are:
- bééhasin (also: báhasin, or bééhonisin) (speaking about one’s self)
- bééhonísin (speaking about the person you’re speaking to)
- yééhósin (speaking about someone not in the conversation)
- bééhoniilzin (about one’s self and another person)
- bééhonohsin (about the person you’re speaking to and another)
- yééhósin (about two people not in the conversation)
- béédahoniilzin (about one’s self and two or more other people)
- béédahonohsin (about the person you’re speaking to and two or more people)
- yéédahósin (about a group of three or more people)
In the last three plural forms you’ll notice -da-. This is a pluralizing word particle that’s used for both verbs and nouns (dabilį́į́’, for example, means “those peoples’ horses”; da + bí + łį́į́’).
Richard Ben Shelly yééhósin. (Richard knows Ben Shelly.)
In Navajo bééhózin is a verb that means that something is known, or that knowledge about something exists.
Navajo verbs often change form based on point of view, but bééhózin doesn’t need to change. For example, shił bééhózin becomes nił bééhózin or bił bééhózin when the point of view changes from the first to either the second or third (ie. “I know” -> “you know” or “he/she/it knows”).
You may want to express the opposite, or ‘…do not know’, in which case you negate using doo … da. “I do not know” is “Doo shił bééhózin da”, “You do not know” is “Doo nił bééhózin da”, and “He/she/it does not know” is “Doo bił bééhózin da”.
In general, this is a more respectful way of saying “I don’t know.” Another expression, hóla (hwólah, wólah), is almost like saying “I don’t know and I don’t care”. It’s less formal and should be used when there is absolutely no confusion over connotation.
In Navajo, the word ayóó denotes the same as “a lot” in the English language. But it’s not so much about quantity as it is about magnitude. “Very” is a good word, too.
Ánííníshní refers more literally to someone’s regard for another. It’s nearly the equivalent of “I have a regard for you.” This verb needs context, and with this particular word, stands on its own.
Together, this is how you say “I love you” in Navajo, or “I adore you.”
It conveys the understanding that the person doesn’t just have a regard for another, but a very high regard with much esteem.
Ayóó ánóshní is another commonly used phrase (some say it may be slang, others will say it’s perfectly unadapted).
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Hello Navajo language learners!
Today I am happy to release the first NavajoWOTD book (ebook)!
Nearly a year ago we began posting Navajo word translations. Now, more than 200 posts and 22,000 typed words later, we’re making it easier for you to access all of the information we’ve shared. With this collection, you can take NavajoWOTD with you on your smartphones, laptops, and you can even make printouts that fit nicely onto a regular sheet of paper.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the topics we’ve covered this past year:
- Numbers (to 100)
- Kinship terms
- Geographical locations (eg. “Monument Valley”)
- Verb conjugations
- Colloquialisms (and more…)
Helping you learn Navajo by introducing small pieces of the language at a time is the driving philosophy of NavajoWOTD. We know many people out there want to learn Navajo, but maybe sometime down the road. There are also those who are actively exploring the Navajo language, but have difficulty finding resources to take with them when they’re away from the internet. This NavajoWOTD collection is meant to be a simple companion for both of these types of learners - the casual reader and the devout student - alike.
Best of all, you’re welcome to download this book absolutely free of charge (actually, you can pay whatever you want). You’ll receive any future updates and additions that we make based on feedback from you, our reader, as we expand the collection to include better resources for the Navajo language learner.
Ahéhee’ (thank you) for making this past year a great one for NavajoWOTD.
– Link: https://leanpub.com/nwotdbook
Please help us spread the word by sharing with your friends and social circles, it would mean the world to us.
Here is a Navajo word that reflects the passage of time. It means “year” in reference to the complete passage of one year.
Preceded by a number, such as naadiin ła’ (21), nááhai becomes “years” and, in this case, would mean “(for)
20 21 years”.
Shinááhai is a way to saying “my years” as in “I am 21 years old” (naadiin ła’ shinááhai - 21 [are] my years). Change this to ninááhai or binááhai and you have “your years” or “his/her/its years”, respectively.
"Díkwíí-shą’ ninááhai?" "What about you - how much are your years?"
The word naa’ahóóhai translates to chicken.
"Naa’ahóóhai séłt’é" is how you would say "I cooked chicken."
This word is also used to describe other fowl, for example “naa’ahóóhaiłbáhí” or ‘gray chicken’ means partridge.
Another usage for this word is rodeo.
Chicken pulls, in which a horseback rider races by a buried chicken and attempts to snatch it up, were a popular event at the early emergence of rodeo contests among Navajos.
Used for rodeo, naa’ahóóhai can be truncated to simply ahóóhai.
This is a Navajo saying that means “it’s up to you” or “you decide what will happen/be done”. “You decide if you’ll learn.” “You decide how long to water the grass.” etc.
Generally, this is a way of way of making someone responsible for their own actions, and is a prevalent feature in a family unit.
Táá hó’ájit’éégóó is another way of saying this. You’re most likely to hear this being used from parent to a child, or a leader to the people he serves, or in most cases where a person is being encouraged to make well-rounded decisions.
Note: níláh, in the midst of frustration or irritation, can mean “get away!” or “leave me alone” - you’ll have to take into account the high tones and the context