"Learn Navajo one word at a time"

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sunlight or sunshine

shah nh deen

The Navajo word sháńdíín means sunlight, or sunshine, in English.

It shares the same root (-díín) with adinídíín, but it specifically refers to the sun’s light – its beams or rays.

It’s the shared root that refers to something that is emitting light.

Sháńdíín is also used as a first name when it comes to naming newborn girls.



nih-lth chih tsoh sih

The Navajo word for November is níłch’its’ósí.

There are two main parts to this word.

The first is níłch’i, which you’ll recognize from our post for television (níłch’i naalkidí). It refers to the air. In contrast to yesterday’s word (ch’į́įdii), níłch’i can also refer to more benevolent spirits. Níłch’i diyinii are considered sacred, or holy, spirits.

The next part of the word, -ts’ósí, generally means small, in the slender or lean sense of the word. The Navajo word for August also describes something lean (Bini’anit’ą́ą́ts’ósí).

Together, they form the description “the slender/lean air” in reference to the highly noticeable colder winds that pierce through small openings. We are moving into winter.

November is also Native American Heritage Month in the U.S.



chee dee

In the spirit (heh) of Halloween, the Navajo word ch’į́įdii (English loanword: chindi) means ghost or spirit (malevolent).

It is widely held in Navajo tradition that ch’į́įdii leaves the body after death, taking all that was unbalanced and ‘bad’ from the individual. Navajos that maintain this understanding do not linger around the deceased’s possessions or body – unlike the ch’į́įdii. So much as uttering the name of the deceased can bring the ch’į́įdii looking to infect the living with it’s spirit of unbalance.

In the Christian bible translated to Navajo, ch’į́įdii may refer to demonic spirits. It is understood to also be a form of evil in Navajo churches.

Some Navajo use ch’į́įdii as if to say, “Don’t say that!” in response to anything ranging from the playful to the genuine and serious.


name, I am called

yin nish yeh

Today’s Navajo word is yinishyé. In English, it’s part of a verb group that means “to be named” or “to be called.”

For example, if my name were Fenton I would introduce myself like this: “Yá’át’ééh, shí éí Fenton yinishyé.”

There are also the words yinilyé and wolyé, the former being used in the second person and the latter the third person.

For example, if I wanted to ask you what your name is, I would say: “Haash yinilyé?” Or, if I wanted to point out someone else’s name in the third person, I could say: “Larry bimá éí Patty wolyé.”

These are arguably some of the first phrases all Navajo language curriculums teach.

shił łikan

tastes good to me

shih-lth lth-ih kahn

The Navajo words shił łikan together mean roughly “…it tastes good to me” or “I like it” in reference to something that you eat or drink.

The first word, shił, translates to “with me” and is used to point the word it precedes towards an individual or group. Other words like this include nił (“with you”), bił (“with him/her/it”), and nihił (“with us” or “with you two/three/etc.”).

Otherwise, the word łikan alone would simply mean sweet, tasty, or palatable without any indication of who experiences the sensation.

You could say, “Bilasáana bitoo’ éí shił łikan.” (In Navajo, éí is a filler word, like the English um or uh, and not at all frowned upon).

Or, you can negate it and say something like, “Atoo’ éí doo shił łikan da,” which means “I do not like mutton stew.” Of course, it is impossible to dislike mutton stew so you’ll never hear nor say that phrase. It was just an example.