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Following up on Valentine’s Day, today’s word is awéé’.

Awéé’ is the Navajo word for “baby”.

She’awéé’ means “my baby” and awéé’ yázhí means “little baby”. Although most Navajo babies are born like every other baby, they typically weren’t given names until they have their first laugh.

Names for babies describe the qualities parents want for their child, like strength, happiness, or beauty (as in sunshine). But why wait until they laugh?

Navajos are great observers, so when it came to newborns – and this is supported to modern data on infant mortality – the period between birth and the first laugh is most critical. Without prenatal care or modern monitoring technology, the first laugh was the best marker for Navajos to judge survival. When baby laughs, it’s a sign that she has found a very important lifeline – laughter itself.

Of course, when baby first laughs, a celebration – or ceremony – is held. The one to make baby laughs has the responsibility of making the event happen, because it is said that baby will inherit qualities of that person – and there’s no better trait than generosity.

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