"Learn Navajo one word at a time"

Thumbnail preview of the Navajo Starter Kit Companion E-Book.

Learn Navajo

We made the Navajo Starter Kit to help you learn Navajo.

Learn more



t-lth ihz zih

The Navajo word tł’ízí refers to a goat in English.

In addition to sheep, some Navajo people keep goats. Goats are more inquisitive and daring than sheep, and also sometimes more aggressive.

They have mustaches.

There is a Navajo clan that is called Tł’ízí łání (like Kinłání), which means “Many Goats”. ‘Manygoats’ is a surname you’ll come across when meeting Navajo people.


youngest child

loh kesh chah hi

Few people have the honor of being called Lók’eeshchąą’í, which includes this author.

When a family grows and the children are numerable, there is a distinct term for the youngest child. While all newborns can be called awéé’ – the Navajo word for the baby – only one gets to keep that title in the form of lók’eeshchąą’í. The last to be born is the youngest, or “the baby” of the family.

It’s nearly always a way of teasing the youngest, even when they are in their elderly years, simply because they tend to be spoiled by their parents and grandparents. Elder siblings tend to become envious of those of us who are youngest.

It’s easy, when you’re the youngest, to be discouraged by constantly being referred to as “the baby” of the family. But, it’s endearing at the same time.

There is also the word nák’eeshchąą’í which is a sort of play on words. The simple shift turns the word into something like “the one who has crumbs on his eyes/nose”.



behl dlay

Here’s something you’re likely to use everyday: a blanket.

These can be the more common blankets that you may buy in a store, like a comforter or quilt (but they also have the word golchóón to describe thicker blankets).

The more traditional type of blanket, usually woven, is called diyogí (or diyógí).

Some people have sheepskin bedding, and these are called yaateeł.

Blankets and rugs were commonly cleaned in the winter months by burying them in snow, where they would sit for a time and then later dried.

You might also hear beeldládí in place of beeldléí.

kin ya'áanii

towering house clan

kin yah ah knee

In Navajo tradition, it is accepted that the clan system began with four primary clans. One of these clans is Tódích’íí’nii (Bitter water), which we briefly discussed in an earlier post.

Kin Ya’áanii is another of these clans. Notice Kin (from Kinłání), meaning ‘house’. The latter part of the clan is something like “that which goes upward into the sky.” The clan is translated commonly as “Towering House.”

The creation stories say that these clans were created by Changing Woman herself. Changing Woman is a central entity in many creation stories. In adulthood, she could be found in the West with the Sun, tending to the western light. After some time, she and her people (spirits and animals from the many worlds) were lonely in the far away west.

Those who were with Changing Woman persuaded her to let them return to the homeland, where there was many that also missed those who had left. It was at this point that Changing Woman rubbed places on her body, and using this essence she crafted the ancestors of the four groups from mud. To these she gave each a clan, and she gave them an animal protector.

The long journey the whole group made to the homeland, and perils they faced, are retold in songs and chants. They say that these four clans protected the boundaries of the Diné homeland for those that Changing Woman left. Over time, these clans would mix with the understanding that they should never produce offspring from a pair within the same clan.

Today, there are dozens of clans. And as numerous as these clans have become, there are complications, such as interracial marriage (keeping the clanship system intact) and inter-clan marriage (some clan families are too big).

Kin Ya’áanii is also sometimes pronounced Kiya’áanii.

Wááshindoon Aląąjį' Dahsidáhígíí

President Of Washington

wah shin done ah lah jih dah sih dah ig ee

The Navajo word aląąjį’ (also, alą́ąjį’) is literally “ahead” or “in front” as in “up in front.”

Wááshindoon is one word you’ve seen before (wáshindoon), and if you haven’t, you can probably guess that it means Washington.

The last word can be broken down like this: dah + sidá(h) + ígíí. Dah, same one from a few days ago, means elevated or suspended. Sidá, from the same post as dah, means “he is sitting down.” And -ígíí is an extended form of the -í nominalizer. It seems like this would be another word for chair, but it’s not exactly the same. It’s more “he is the one that is sitting (elevated).”

Aląąjį’ Dahsidáhígíí (also, Alą́ąjį’ Dahsidáhí) together is a phrase that refers to a Chapter House President (any president actually, but you’d have to specify the organization). Since Chapter House Presidents actually sit in front, commonly on platforms, they inherit this description.

Now, Wááshindoon Aląąjį’ Dahsidáhígíí is like specifying the Governmental President of Washington. And this, of course, is the President of the United States of America, currently President Obama.