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nih-lth tsah

Since the monsoon season is revving up and we’ll be hitting some monsoon season weather, today’s Navajo word, níłtsą́, refers to the rain.

Somewhat similarly, and because you didn’t get a word yesterday, the Navajo word for hail is níló.**

Of course you’ll recall this post for wind (wind, wind?, wind!), which is still somewhat similar - níyol.

But we’re not done there; remember this post for November, and how it uses the word for air? The Navajo word for air is níłchi (or níłch’i - also a word for benevolent spirits).

Guess what the Navajo word for cloud is…nímbus! ha ha! But really it’s k’os. “Wouldn’t it be ník’os,” you may ask yourself. No. People will probably guess that you’re saying “your knee”.

Níłtsą́ bi’áád describes a modern-day bathroom shower.

hazhó'ógo dóó hazhóó'ógo

slowly, carefully

hah zhoh oh go

Dovetailing from the last word example, hazhó’ógo is Navajo for “slowly” or “carefully”. You might recognize part of this word from ‘baa shił hózhǫ́’ through their common root -zhó. They share some meaning relating to great care or balance.

There is also hazhóó’ógo where the pronunciation is drawn out in order to give it more emphasis. This is like drawing “slowly” out by saying “slooowly”.

“Hazhóó’ógo yááłti’” is you saying “I spoke slowly”.

To go the opposite way with the idea of being careful or deliberate, there’s the phrase t’áadoo hazhó’ó. It’s telling you about some thing or some action that doesn’t show proper care from the perspective of whoever is speaking.

By hearing the -go or -ó particles that are also in these words, you can begin to understand how these words help describe the way in which something was done. With practice, you’ll be better able to catch them in regular conversation.


negative, negation

t ahh doh

The basic idea behind the Navajo word t’áadoo is that it serves to negate, much like doo…da. However, t’áadoo seems to impart a more subjective definite type of negative thought than the doo..da construction.

For most verbs, the word comes before the subject, object, and verb (in simple sentences at the very beginning), and the affected verb is nominalized with a -í. So “Don’t do that” (annoyed response) could be said “T’áadoo baa nanináhí!”. Keep in mind that not every instance of t’áadoo should be interpreted as a rankled reaction.

There are a few simple phrases with concrete meanings. T’áadoo le’é translates almost always into “things”. T’áadoo hazhó’ó is like saying “poorly (done)” or “not very well”.

You’ll notice that Navajo words with the t’áá- particle are hard to directly translate into English, due to its being used in many different ways.

góyaa & hóyaa


hoy ah

The Navajo word góyaa describes an action directed downwards or ‘down-along’ (a road), or down into something (like a canyon).

The stem yaa carries the concept of ‘down’, and is in contrast to ‘up’ which is dei.

The pronunciation here is not exact to its spelling. Sometimes góyaa is spelled hóyaa, or hxóyaa, or hwóyaa, or even ghóyaa. All of these spellings mean that the ‘g’ is not hard.

You can practice by keeping your tongue from coming into full contact with the roof of your mouth - as in a hard g. As you go through the motions, air passes through the space between your tongue and the roof of your mouth.

Differences in pronunciation are regional but are understood between the way Navajo ‘g’s, ‘h’s, ‘s’s are emphasized from one area to another.


to sit

seh dah

The Navajo word sédá is an action or condition of sitting. It is not the same as saying “the rock is sitting on the stove” - for that you’d use another ‘resting’ verb with a particle describing the rock. It relates to people, and therefore uses several forms to relate the speaker to the subject(s).

A group of these similar forms are commonly referred to as ‘conjugations’, and is one of the features of the Navajo verb. Here is the conjugation for sédá:

  • séda (1s)
  • sínídá (2s)
  • sidá (3s)
  • siiké (1d)
  • sooké (2d)
  • siké (3d)
  • naháatą́ (1p)
  • nahisóotą́ (2p)
  • naháaztą́ (3p)

Each word is marked with its point-of-view: 1) me, I, we, us; 2) you, both of you, you all; 3) he/she/it, them, they. ‘S’ marks singular (just one), ‘D’ marks dual (two people), and ‘P’ marks plural (three or more).

Here are a few examples:

Bikáá' dahasdáhí bikáá' dah sidá. (She is sitting on a chair)

Kwe'é sédá. (I am seated here)

Hookee sédá ("house-sitting" or taking care of a house)