"Learn Navajo one word at a time"

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to exist, to have

hole loh

Literally: she/he/it exists; they two exist.

The Navajo word hólǫ́ is a verb, so in the Navajo language, it will follow the noun and the appropriate prefixes.

Besides meaning that something exists, the word also implies possession. This means that the nouns, or objects, which directly precede hólǫ́ are in the possession of the subject that precedes those objects.

Here’s a simple example:

Benjamin mą’iiłitsxoo’í hólǫ́. Benjamin has a fox.


car, truck, vehicle

chid dih

Literally: truck, or vehicle.

Remember the word for lighting/electricity (atsiniltłish)? If you can imagine the tłish as the sound of a loud crash, then imagine chid as the sound of an engine chugging.

That’s precisely how trucks, and engine-operated vehicles, are commonly described. Back in the day, the sound that loud engines produced became their defining characteristic for Navajo speakers. So, they simply adopted that characteristic to form the word itself.

You may also hear chidii in some places, or in a more relaxed setting.


east or sunrise

hah ah ah

In English, ha’a’aah is commonly translated into ‘east.’ In the Navajo way, it refers to the sunrise – a consistent reminder of the underlying symbolism of the four directions.

If you’re familiar with the Navajo culture, then you’ve probably noticed that the number four is a recurring value, such as the four sacred mountains, the four types of corn, the four original clans, and so forth. The four cardinal directions follow in much the same fashion, with every quarter part representative of an important aspect of Navajo cultural understanding.

Navajo people will rise before the sun to witness the dawn, as it provides Navajo with the reminder that creativity and the senses lay the foundation for strong ideas and a better life. The light nurtures this mindset in a way that encourages personal development, and is attributed to be white light (white being one of the four colors).

So, if you think of east, think of sunrise. Then think of ha’a’aah to remind yourself that creativity and free-thinking are essential parts of Navajo cultural thought process.


the people or man

din neh

Literally: the people.

If you were to take a survey of the world’s languages, you’d find that not a small majority of them have a word for ‘the people,’ and that word would most likely also function as the common name for the people of that culture. Which is just a way of saying that Diné is what you call a Navajo in the Navajo language.

You can also say Dine’é to refer to the Navajo Nation, or to the Navajo people as a tribe or group rather than as an individual. Apart from using Diné as a word for Navajo, there is a more general diné that can be used to describe other groups of people.

For example, Naakai dine’é is a clan (dóone’é) that refers to the Mexican People, which denotes an ancestor of that heritage.

You will also see the word dineh written instead to avoid pronouncing it as “dine.”


wind or it is windy

nih yole

Here in northern AZ, yesterday was quite windy.

Yesterday didn’t start out windy, but towards the mid-day and to the afternoon the wind started to pick up. When the wind blows, some places on the reservation experience dust storms and dust devils (twisters) because it’s so windy. That’s what wind does when wind blows I guess.

Wind sounds weird to me after I use it a lot, so that’s why I prefer the Navajo word for wind: níyol. You can use níyol as either a noun or a verb in the same way you would use either wind or (it is) windy, respectively.