"Learn Navajo one word at a time"

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four legged animal(s)

nahl dloh shee

Now that you’re familiar with ch’osh, today we’re introducing the Navajo word for ‘animal.’

The core part of the word, naaldloosh, translates roughly to English as “(it) walks around/about.” Inside that word is -dloo- which can indicate the act of walking.

As a general term, naaldlooshii refers to things that walk around on four legs. But, in some cases humans are spoken of as being a part of that sphere — we need a lot of the same things, like food, water, and shelter, in order to carry on.


bug or spider

ch oh sh

We’re opening up a can of worms with today’s Navajo word, ch’osh.

That is to say, ch’osh is a broad Navajo term that translates roughly to ‘bug(s)’ including worms.

This includes those creepy crawlies that seem to get under people’s skin.

Traditionally, however, Navajos teach that they are part of the family and deserve respect. It is not the mark of leadership to abuse those who may be smaller, and this extends all the way to ch’osh and the like.

An established symbiosis between man and his relatives is key to living a good life in the Navajo way — it is an indication of a balanced mind.

bééshbii'koo'í tsoh


behsh bee koh ih tsoh

What a scary, long word we have for you today! Yeeyah!

Actually, you’ve seen these words before but in various forms.

So can you figure out what it means?

We’ll help you along:

Now, here’s how it converts to English, roughly: the-metal—inside-it—fire—(structure-it-sets)—it-is-big.

You’d probably take a while to guess that it’s the Navajo word for ‘power plant’ or ‘generating station.’ Many coal-powered generating stations are located around Dinétah, and provide jobs for many Navajo people. The idea behind the word is that fire is contained within the big metal structure.


The Area's Happenings

uh dah hoh ni-lth ih gee

This word is Navajo for the-area-happenings (occurrences).

To shed some light on the history of how the Navajo language was documented, we can turn to the publication Ádahooníłígíí. This newspaper was in circulation around Dinétah (widely known then as the Navajo Tribe) and was printed and distributed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the 1940s and 1950s. It was the forerunner for the modern-day Navajo Times — now the Navajo Nation’s largest English-language periodical print publication in circulation.

In the period before Ádahooníłígíí, written Navajo was available in sparsely translated versions of the Christian Bible and parts of a Navajo dictionary. Throughout its circulation, the editors Robert W. Young and William Morgan, Sr. collected Navajo words until the publication’s end. Their collections went on to become part of the definitive Navajo language text _The Navajo Language: A Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary. _

Ádahooníłígíí remains one of the only all-Navajo language periodicals of the previous century.

Tsé Bii' Ndzisgaii

Monument Valley, Utah

tseh bee nh dzis guh ee

Following up with yesterday’s phrase, we have the place name Tsé Biiʼ Nidzisgaii which is Monument Valley.

Remember, in the case that you want to say “at Monument Valley…” you add the -di particle like so: Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaiidi.

Literally, the word translates to rock(s)—within—white-streaks-around, or thereabout. Colloquially, it’s “the streaks that go around in the rocks.” You’ll notice these streaks as the various rock layers in the Valley.

There are similar places described by the “streaks” in the rocks in Navajo, most notably the Grand Canyon.

Here’s another word that uses Bii’.

Here’s more on the word Tsé.

Here’s more on the -di suffix.

Special thanks to Monument Valley Parks and Recreation for help with today’s word.