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Christmas Day

ke$h mihsh

In the great collection of Navajo-ized words, Késhmish is probably the only holiday that gets to keep some of its American vocal quality.

Késhmish is Navajo for Christmas. If you remember back to the Navajo alphabet post, there is no “CH” (only “CH’-“) because “K” handles the job. There is also no direct “R” alphabet value. So lots of things had to change before it became speakable for many Navajos.

Késhmish will often refer to the time surrounding Christmas only – descriptive in the same sense that a milepost marks distance on a road. So one may use Késhmish in regular speech, without implying that he or she is of any particular faith or belief.

Baa Hózhǫ́ǫgo Nidishchí!

Happy Birthday!

bah hozh oh goh nih dizh chih

Today’s special phrase is Navajo for “Happy Birthday (to you)”.

In the popular English tune (which is copyrighted, amazingly) this phrase would take the place of the first line. In order to fit the tune, most high tones and nasal marks are disregarded, so it would resemble “The Birthday Song”.

There are, of course, various other ways to express “happy birthday”, for example:

  • this video expresses it – “Nidizhchíiji Ánááhoolzhiizhígíí Baa Shił Hózhǫ́”
  • an unfinished entry at the Navajo wiki page says this – “hoʼdizhchínę́ęjį́ anáyííłką́”

Some of you are sure to have had a birthday recently, or will have one soon, or have one today. If not, we’re pretty sure you’ll have one in the next year or so. In which case, happy birthday to you.

hasht'e' nihénil

to save or set it aside

hush teh nih hyeh nil

This is an example of a Navajo colloquialism, and it translates somewhat to “I set it aside.”

The understanding behind this phrase is connected to money (béeso). In this sense, it means “I saved money.” This is a form that refers to something that was done and completed.

If you were to be in the process of saving money, you would need a verb form that is of the imperfective mode, which means something has begun but has yet to be completed.

This form is: hasht’e’ niheshnííł.

An example: Hooghan ła’ nahideeshnih biniiyé béeso hasht’e’ niheshnííł. Here we’re saying: [(a) home] [one] [i will buy] [for this purpose] [money] [prepared] [i am putting it someplace].

Recall that Navajo statements are made in the sequence: Subject -> Object -> Verb.

In contemporary English, it would mean: I am saving money to buy a home. Or: I will buy a home, for which I am saving money.

This is a great example of direct translations of Navajo that don’t quite align to their intended English meaning.

k'os and a'kos



In both winter and monsoon months, níyol is often accompanied by k’os, which is the Navajo word for cloud.

In common usage, the word daak’os is also used to refer to a multitude of clouds.

There is also the word ak’os which is the non-possessive word for “neck,” i.e. “a neck.”

The body part needs shi-, ni-, bi-, etc. to form shik’os (sik’os), nikos, bik’os, etc. to differentiate it from the word for cloud.

So k’os and ak’os are separate terms.



nah kish chee nh

The Navajo word naakishchíín (also known by naakishchiin, in some instances) is the word for siblings that are twins.

If you examine the word, you’ll see a number! Specifically naaki- denotes two (of something). The rest of the word, -shchíín, is derived from the same root that forms the verb deeshchííh (“to give birth”).

Twins are prominent figures in Navajo tradition. They are prominent in early creation stories, and also later on in the form of the warrior twins who laid waste to the big monsters.