"Learn Navajo one word at a time"

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This Navajo term refers to thirst.

If you take the word nisin, which expressed a want or desire, you would think that the phrase dibáá’ nisin means that you “want thirst.”

But dibáá’ nisin is actually how you express “I am thirsty.”

To understand what dibáá’ means, you can take another Navajo word dibahí and compare. That word roughly expresses something that is devoid of moisture. For example, łeezh dibahí will describe the fine, powdery dust commonly found in dry pond or lake beds during a drought.

Back to thirst, there is also the phrase dibáá’ nishłį́ that translates literally to “I am thirst.” That expression might not fully express what it is intended to mean. But, by using nisin, you’re saying “thirst is on my mind” or “my mind is full of a desire – the kind associated with thirst.”

Hunger works the same way – its Navajo word is dichin.


different or distinct

Separately, different, distinct.

The basic idea behind áł’ąą is “different,” which will often denote a variety of either things or actions.

For instance, áł’ąą dine’é refers to different groups of people (generally, it refers to different racial groups).

Another common grouping is ał’ąą át’éego, and that expression is used to denote more of a variety than saying “there are different [things]…”. It’s probably most commonly used to mean there are either various options, or distinct ways that things are done. It literally means “in this way, there is a difference [in the way it is done].”

It’s a little complicated, but keep your ears open and you’ll soon be able to tell the difference 😉



This one is for the Navajo word for “night.”

Damóo Yázhí


This Navajo word means: Saturday!

It’s literally “the little Sunday,” since Damóo is Navajo for Sunday.

When you think about Yázhí, and how it can mean “the little one,” keep in mind that it’s a word referring to age. For example Dibé Yázhí describes young sheep, typically lambs.

Navajo day names are entirely out of necessity of recent times. The word Damóo is likely a borrowed term from Spanish Domingo, which itself is denoting the Christian holy day.

When you consider the English weekday names – like Saturday – their roots can be references to earlier deities (like the Roman god Saturn). The fact that all Navajo weekday names are relative to “God’s day” in the Christian sense, suggests heavy influences by early missionaries – whose work on transcribing and codifying the Navajo language forms the basis of many Navajo language texts.

But just as we use Saturday without much thought about Roman religious beliefs, the true origin of Damóo remains ambiguous to many, which makes it hard to precisely trace the origins.

One way we can find out more about our sense of time is to ask more elderly Navajo people. Their grandparents were around during a time when Spanish and English were completely foreign.

Yá'át'ééh! Dííjį́ yéego hózhǫ́ dooleeł!

Hello and have a great day!

Hello! Do your best to make today great!

In Navajo, yá’át’ééh is a greeting, but before it became widespread, it was used to mean “it is good”. The full impact of the word comes from yá-, or the skyward direction.

Yéego (yégoh, yéígo) means “with much effort” or “with greater intensity”.

Dooleeł means “it will be” or “make it so” or “it will be made so”. Many times, speakers will use ‘doo’ (dohh) as a shorter way to say it. This can be confusing if the speaker uses a negation, like “doo yá’át’ééh da doo”.

Put it together, and you have “Hello! Have a great day!”, or as close as you can come to it in the literal sense. Culturally, it’s better to remind people that they have control in keeping a good balance in outlook – or hózhǫ́. ‘Wishing’ someone luck or goodness, in the way English intends to, doesn’t quite keep the same sentiment in Navajo since you’d be saying something like “If only you had luck/goodness.”

This is an example that demonstrates how Navajo can sound direct, and possibly offensive, when it is translated directly into English. Hopefully, you’ll have more questions about what Navajo words imply. Feel free to ask!