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The Navajo Alphabet

Navajo letters á, é, í, ó, ł, and more.

Good Tuesday to you! We hope you had a good weekend.

Today, we’re going to take some time to explain the Navajo alphabet, as well as the various marks you see on Navajo WOTD. The Navajo language uses short vowels, long vowels, dipthongs, extended clusters of vowels, consonants, high tones, nasal tones and glottal marks (glottal stops).

Here are the ‘letters’ of the Navajo alphabet.

  • A
  • B
  • Ch
  • Ch’
  • D
  • Dl
  • Dz
  • E
  • G
  • Gh
  • H
  • Hw
  • I
  • J
  • K
  • K’
  • Kw
  • L
  • Ł
  • M
  • N
  • O
  • S
  • Sh
  • T
  • T’
  • Tł’
  • Ts
  • Ts’
  • W
  • X
  • Y
  • Z
  • Zh

Notice the absence of the following letters: c, f, p, q, r, u, and v.

The vowels (A, E, I, and O) can all carry either a high tone mark or a nasal tone mark, or both. The purpose of a high tone mark is to denote an increase in the pitch of the voice. Nasal tone marks indicate a vocalization of the vowel through both the mouth and the nasal passage. Glottal marks indicate a moment when vocalization (air) must be stopped abruptly using the glottis.

  • Á
  • Ą
  • Ą́
  • É
  • Ę
  • Ę́
  • Í
  • Į
  • Į́
  • Ó
  • Ǫ
  • Ǫ́

Additionally, vowels may be long, in which case they appear as double vowels. Long vowels have a longer duration when spoken. (Note that the long vowel ‘II’ is pronounced like the ‘e’ in ‘be’).

  • AA
  • EE
  • II
  • OO

Long vowels may also be high toned.

  • ÁÁ
  • ÉÉ
  • ÍÍ
  • ÓÓ

Rising vowels are either long vowels or combinations of vowels that rise in tone.

Falling vowels are long vowels that fall from high to low tone.

  • ÁA
  • ÉE
  • ÍI
  • ÓO

Dipthongs are long vowels that combine different short vowels.

  • AI
  • AO
  • EI
  • EO
  • OI

Glottal marks (also known as Glottal stops – the ‘ character) appear anywhere an abrupt stop is required. These stops are characterized as originating at the glottis, so the tongue plays little to no role in stopping air. To demonstrate, try saying the vowels “A, E, I, O” quickly in English and notice how your throat transitions between each vowel. These marks can appear after vowels and consonants both, so stopping the vocalization of the words needs to happen without the tongue getting too heavily involved.

Nasal tones (ą) are harder to execute. Do not confuse these with a drop in tone. To get a sense for the difference, pronounce the word “Bob” and then the word “bomb.” Notice the difference in the quality of the “o” sounds between the two words. The latter is more nasalized. All Navajo nasalized vowels carry this quality.

Diné Bikéyah


kay yah

Today’s word is the singular form for the word “land.”

You’ll often hear the phrase “Diné bikéyah” in public discourse which literally means “land of the People.” In this case, it refers the Navajo Reservation as a whole.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing more places in and around Diné bikéyah. You can see a few places here: (Kinłaní, Tóhajiileeh).


bike bicycle

dzih iz zih

The Navajo word dzi’izí means bicycle, or bike.

Use the -tsoh particle to form the word dzi’izítsoh to refer to a motorcycle, or big bike.

Additionally, dzi’izí bijáád tá’igíí approximates to “bike whose legs number three,” also known as a tricycle. (Can you recognize particles of these words using previous words of the day?)

jóhonaa'éí daaztsą́

solar eclipse

joh hoh nah ay dahz tsah

Literally: the sun is dead

This phrase references a cosmic event known as a solar eclipse. Last Sunday was the most recent sun death, 18 years after the previous visible eclipse.

The first word is the sun, and the second word has a stem that could mean falling, but in this form it means death.

In the Navajo sense, the sun dies and is reborn again as the eclipse passes. Many Navajo observed the eclipse by staying inside and not eating food for either the duration of the event or through the night.

For the word for moon, see tł’éé’honaa’éí.



dah neh eh

Today’s word, daané’é, is the word that refers to a toy, or a plaything.

Some examples of usage might be: chidí daané’é, hooghan daané’é, mósí bidaané’é.

The examples above demonstrate the word’s usage as an object, and they each mean toy truck, toy house, and a cat’s toy, respectively.