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pick it up

nh dee ah

Today we’re tackling a part of Navajo that is perplexing to many new Navajo speakers. It has to do with actions, and the objects towards which they are to be directed.

Ńdii’aah means commonly “pick it up (for me)”.

Here, the -‘aah stem implies that the thing that needs to be picked up is solid-bulky. There are other stems for open containers, living objects, mushy stuff, flat objects, slender and stiff, slender and flexible, and more.

The ńdii- part is the prefix for managing an object, as well as a way to determine who is being talked about.

The complexity begins when you need to recognize the different type of objects by listening to the end of the word. For example, ńdiikaah refers instead to pretty much any open container.

It gets more complicated when the prefix changes, thereby changing who the directive applies to. Ńdoh-, instead of ńdii-, is second-person dual - “you two pick it up”.

Then, you must rely on context to pin-point the actual meaning. Ńdii’aah could also refer to choosing or finding something. And, the ńdii- prefix is also the first-person dual form - “you and I pick it up”.

If you’re looking for a bigger challenge, take into account that the -aah stem is only the imperfective form (i.e. in the process of or “present tense”) The perfective (i.e. “past”) and the future forms of these stems remain (-ą́ and -‘ááł, respectively).


many a lot

lah ih

The Navajo word lą’í is similar to t’óó ahayóí in that they both refer to a large amount.

Lą’í is similar in sound to lą́’ąą’, which is used as a casual “yep” or “alright then” (in a dismissive manner). It’s important to distinguish between the two.

A common usage is “lą’í nááhai” or “many years”. In a similar vein is “lą’í nááhaiídą́ą́’” which you’ll recognize as “many years ago”.


scary or frightening

yeeh yhuh

Yíiyáh is a Navajo expression that ranges in meaning from ‘scary’ to ‘dangerous’, and is often said in jest as part of the (very many) ways of teasing relatives or members of other clans.

Most of the time, it has the slight connotation that something is “going to come after you” if you continue to meddle. In the broader sense, it’s the idea that something unpleasant will come of a behavior.

“Yíiyáh, she’s your cousin.” Is an example of something one might say to another that acts romantically towards someone who shares a subset of clans - even if they are not directly related. In this sense, it indicates more a taboo.

In all of these cases, it’s a less formal way of saying “You should stop”.




This is a Navajo word for sleepiness, or drowsiness.

This form of bił, in contrast to the similar sounding shił, nił, bił, and nihił (which mean “with me”, “with you”, and so on), can be considered a noun that does not change with the point of view. It can refer to anyone.

Use this word the same way you use “dichin” (hunger) and “baa ahééh” (about it thankful…), with the verb “nisin” (I want it; it is on my mind; etc.). You should begin to notice how useful it is to know the “nisin” verb forms.

Da’ bił nínízin? Are you are sleepy?

Bił nisin. I am sleepy.


hunger, hungry

dih chin

This is the Navajo word for hunger, or hungry.

To state “I am hungry”, you would need to say “dichin nisin”.

The word ‘nisin’ typically means to ‘desire’ something, but in this context, as with “baa ahééh nisin” (“I am thankful”), it refers to what’s on your mind.

Use the ‘nisin’ conjugation to change the statement from “I am hungry” to “you are hungry” with the verb ‘nínízin’ to create the statement “dichin nínízin”.

Ask if someone is hungry with the simple “Da’ - “ question identifier: “Da’ dichin nínízin?” (“Are you hungry?”).