"Learn Navajo one word at a time"

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it is said, to be said

hah nih

As a verb, this Navajo word functions the same as “to say” or “to be said.”

It’s not specific, meaning that it’s most commonly used to refer to anyone, or a society or people in general. “They say” is probably a good approximation.

The way a verb in Navajo functions is more or less a matter of completion of an act. So there’s always a state, and ha’ní happens to be one of those that is called a neuter verb (remember nishłį́). There is little expectation for the condition of the verb to change immediately.

Kinłaní doo ayóo deesdoi da łeh ha’ní. (Flagstaff is not very hot usually it is said.)


dirt or earth

lth-eh zh

Łeezh is the Navajo word that means soil, or dirt, or sand.

It’s commonly used to refer to the fine, dusty sand that gets kicked up by the wind and by running really fast down a dirt road.

Navajo pronunciation and grammar notes

Things you may notice as a student of the Navajo language

Today we’ll shed light on a few things you might notice in reading Navajo.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the Navajo language was somewhat thoroughly documented. Written Navajo still has a few differences stemming from these early efforts, mainly in style.

Glottal mark

Vocally, words that begin with a vowel, like e’e’aah, automatically have a glottalized pronunciation. This means that you cannot slur your words into each other. Some texts will remind you by inserting the glottal mark on every vowel-leading word, like so: ‘e’e’aah. The pronunciation stays the same between both styles, but depending on the author of the Navajo text, it can vary.

ni- vs. n- (ní- vs. ń-)

This is another style choice introduced to ease new speakers into Navajo. Take nít’éé’ (meaning it was, or it used to be). Some texts will shorten this word to ńt’éé’. It may be confusing, at first, but the latter spelling and vocalization is common when speaking smoothly, or fast. The ‘í’ becomes less vocalized in cases like this. Which leads us to our next point..

i and a, weak

In certain words with i and a as a first vowel (following a consonant), speaking quickly can change how they’re vocalized. Remember bíhoosh’aah? If a speaker chooses, it can also be bóhoosh’aah. You’ll notice that the í morphed into an o to fit the flow of the following oo. In this case, the í was weak and the oo was dominant. So, you may see verb forms that are written as such.

aa-, ee-, ii-, oo- followed by a consonant

Long vowels followed by a consonant have a nasal quality, automatically. They could have nasal tones in such cases. For example -aan could also be -ąąn. For the word asdzaan, asdząąn is also acceptable. This is simply an understanding of how long vowels interact with consonants like n, so it’s likely that you’re already nasalizing those vowels without the extra marks.


and then

in dah

This Navajo word means “and then,” or simply “then.”

For example, someone tells you “take out the trash, and then go feed the horses.”

Or, you’re getting directions in Navajo: “Take the first left and then when you get to the big water tank go right and then keep going until…” and so on and so forth.

This is completely acceptable usage of the word, even if it results in what seems like a run-on sentence.

In Navajo, sentences don’t necessarily end with a period, but can always continue with words like “dóó” and “ndi”.



bill lug gah nuh

The idea behind the origin of the Navajo word bilagáana is not entirely clear. It’s meaning is, though. It’s the Navajo name for white people, or people of Caucasian descent.

Irvy Goosen, an author of Navajo language teaching texts, posits the idea that it evolved from the word “Americano.” Since spoken Navajo has a history of adopting words, and since it doesn’t actively use “m” and “r” it’s plausible that it went through an intense adaption process to get the word we have today.

The English language is referred to as “bilagáana bizaad” in Navajo.

Written out pronunciation: “bill-la-gáa-na” with the tone starting high and falling through the long vowel after the g.