"Learn Navajo one word at a time"

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Learn Navajo

We made the Navajo Starter Kit to help you learn Navajo.

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uh bin nih

In English, the Navajo word abíní means morning.

So say you wanted to greet people with a “good morning,” you can use the word for “it is good” to create the Navajo phrase, “Yá’át’ééh abíní!”


clanship, clans

doh neh eh

Navajo people use this word to refer to your first clan, specifically, and then to the rest of your clans more generally.

The Navajo clan system is another level in identifying one’s self to new people. Everyone has four clans: the first is inherited from the mother, the second is inherited from the father, the third is from the mother’s father, and then the fourth is from the father’s father.

If you share clans with another person, then that means you are more than likely related – or at least you are considered to be family in the Navajo way. Therefore, you should always ask for another’s clans to make sure you aren’t closely related before you make any move to get with them. Clans also serve a greater purpose.

The clan system has been amazingly effective in fostering a sense of familial belonging and friendliness among Navajo people. Shared clans are great for meeting new relatives and creating new relationships no matter where you travel.


moon bearer

tleh hoh nah ay

I was once told this word meant: the one carried at night. This is a Navajo word for ‘moon.’

There are two common Navajo words for moon, but tł’éé’honaa’éí is the one most commonly mispronounced.

See, in Navajo, if small details aren’t strictly observed (i.e. tł’éé’honaa’éí -> tłeehonaa’éí, as is commonly mistaken) you risk being remembered as foul-mouthed. The latter example just made the conversation somewhat vulgar, and thereby inappropriate in most circumstances.

Maybe another day we’ll feature an example.



twoh nh tyehl

Tónteel translates approximately to ‘water that is wide.’

It is the Navajo name for an ocean.

I’ll break the word down further. ‘Tó’ means ‘water’ and ‘nteel’ (pronounced “ntyehhl” with the “nt” part sounding like the end of “don’t”) means ‘it is wide.’ Both parts of the word are used widely across the Navajo language in conjunction with other words and descriptors to name similar things.


I am

nish-lth ih

Literally: I am.

This Navajo word is considered a type of verb – the type that expresses a state of being (also known as a neuter verb). Navajo verbs nearly always combine the action part with the point of view of the speaker. Since the point of view changes, the form of the verb changes accordingly (a conjugation).

Here, take a look at the forms this verb takes:

  1. nishłį́
  2. nílį́
  3. nilį́
  4. niidlį́
  5. nohłį́
  6. nilį́
  7. daniidlį
  8. danohłį́
  9. danilį́

Here are their English counterparts:

  1. I am
  2. You are
  3. (S)he/it is
  4. We two are
  5. You two are
  6. Those two are
  7. We three are
  8. You three are
  9. Those three are (7+8+9 are also used when speaking of groups larger than three)

So how is the verb used? Simple! Diné nishłį́. I am Navajo. Diné nílį́. You are Navajo. And so on.

As you can imagine, this is used frequently in Navajo conversation to express identity.