"Learn Navajo one word at a time"

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rug or weaving

dih yoh gih

Diyogí is the Navajo name for rug.

Authentic Navajo rugs, of course, are famous for being woven from the painstaking labor of sheering the wool of a sheep, cleaning, carding the wool, dyeing, and spinning it into thread. The dyes must sometimes be collected from far-away places, making the process even more involved. Looms must be made, as well as the tools for the weaving.

Navajo rugs are highly abstract; designs convey ideas through patterns and shapes, as well as colors. Skilled weavers know the different styles based upon regional designs, and can create unique rugs that stay true to the style.

béeso (examples)

money or dollar(s)

beh soh

We’ve introduced béeso back in March, which means money.

We’ve also introduced the first 20 numbers [1-10, 11-20].

Today, we’ll give you the words for penny, nickel, dime, quarter, 50 cents and 75 cents, and also tell you how to use them to form an amount of money. [Note: some of the following words describe the coin’s color.]

  • penny - łichíí’í or tsindao
  • nickel - łitso
  • dime - dootł’izh
  • 25 cents - naaki yáál
  • 50 cents - dį́į́’ yáál
  • 75 cents - hast’ą́ą́ yáál

Now, suppose you wanted to by the Navajo Times for $1.50. In Navajo, you would pay t’ááłá’í béeso dóó ba’aan dį́į́’ yáál.

And, you also wanted $10 in gas, which would be neeznáá béeso.

Cheii (maternal grandfather) wants three Big Hunk candy bars at $3.83. This is how it would be said: táá’ béeso dóó ba’aan hast’ą́ą́ yáál dóó ba’aan łitso dóó ba’aan táá’ łichíí’í.

Notice how whole dollars are are followed by béeso, and if there are any coins (change) dóó ba’aan is added (which approximates to ‘and then’ or ‘and more’). You continue adding dóó ba’aan for every additional coin. Take some time to practice different amounts up to $20!

tsin sitá

mile post

tsihn sit uh

This is an old word for “mile” or “mile post.”

You’ll recognize tsin from March, meaning wood or post in this case.

Sitą́ is one of the position words, which in the Navajo language are specific to the object’s characteristics. Since the post is a slender and stiff object, sitą́ is appropriate. It is a declaration that the object is “in place” or “it is set there.”

So together, the phrase literally means wood (post) that is set. Some parts of the Navajo Reservation actually have kilometer posts now, so this may be confusing in some parts of the rez.

łid dóó bilid


lth-ih dh

Arid summers around the neighboring states of the Navajo Reservation have sadly been plagued by massive wildfires, which produce łid, or smoke.

In fact, some of you may be downwind from these fires today.

But łid is not just specific to wildfires. It may be applied to smoke from a chimney, exhaust from an engine, or sometimes a burning brush (tobacco, etc.). If you were to say “its smoke,” in reference to a smoldering object, the word will change to “bilid.”

doo ... da

no-not negation

doh … dah

This is an introduction to negation in the Navajo language. So far, we have described words that tell you how something is, as opposed to how something isn’t.

Take, for example, “shił yá’át’ééh” (from an earlier word of the day). This means roughly “it is good with me” or “I like it.”

Suppose you didn’t like it, though, in which case you negate that statement with doo .. da. Here’s how it works: “Doo shił yá’át’ééh da” which means “it is not good with me” or “I do not like it.”

This is a very common example. Browse through the archives and see if you can find words and phrases to negate!