"Learn Navajo one word at a time"

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light sunlight

ud din ni deen

This is the Navajo term for “sunlight” or, in a more general sense, simply “light.” Why does it sound a lot different from “lightning” (atsiniltł’ish)? That’s because the word for lightning references the accompanying sound of the flash of light. The more general word for light is used to refer to a more constant source of light.

However, the Navajo word for lighting is also the word for electricity, as you may remember. So using the previous word (of the day), you can say the following phrase to refer to electric light:

atsiniltł’ish bee adinídíín


clock, timepiece, watch

nah ole kih lth-ih

The English approximation of ná’oolkiłí is “the long hand that rotates.” The colloquial meaning is “clock” or in some cases, a “timepiece.”

Here is a simple sentence to demonstrate usage:

Jerry éí ná’oolkiłí bee hólǫ́. Jerry – clock – his/it (variation of bí- suffix) – exists. Jerry has a clock.# November 2012

béégashii bitsį'


beh gah shee bih tsih

English translation: beef. The word actually translates to “a cow – its meat.” So this is more like two words.

Béégashii is the Navajo word for cow, or cattle. The latter part of the phrase, bitsį’, uses the bi- suffix to mean “he” or “it” along with the word -tsį’, which means meat (atsį’).

Here’s a quick info-bit: the Apache language and the Navajo language share similar words for cow — the Apache word using the “maa” sound in place of the Navajo “béé” sound.



nahl tsoh hs

This Navajo word refers to paper. It also refers to books of all varieties, and is used in conjunction with other descriptive words to name specific things. For instance, the word for mailman uses naaltsoos, and also the word for certain treaties — which were contained within paper binders.



tah chill

So begins a new month: T’ą́ą́chil. Even though April is characterized as the start of the very windy season (níyol), the word itself is actually a reference to sprouting greenery. Additionally, the Navajo summer is considered to be in full swing (see dąą if you’re looking for Spring).

Growing plants are being nourished by the moisture from winter snow (yas) and Navajo people (Diné) will be headed out to make their fields (dá’ák’eh) ready for planting.