Ojibwe Language | Lessons
lessons »
resources »
connect »

Word of the Day

Updated: 1-14-2014 10:55 PM

Each morning employees of the White Earth Reservation Tribal Council receive an email with the "Word of the Day".  In the afternoon, another email is distributed adding gramatical information to the word. Employees enjoy the learning experiences throughout the work day.

 Special thanks to Laurie Clark & Dana Goodwin for providing employees such valuable learning lessons on a regular basis!

Anami’aa - (Uh-nuh-mih’aaw)


Ah-nah-mih ‘ aah is a VAI meaning she or he is currently praying.  Or, he or she is currently being a christian (both are verbs). 

That is to say that labeling something as a noun or subject changes the word, so the “one who prays;” or “one who is christian” is an augmented/changed form of the VAI word.    enami’aad                  This is a singular term – one person.

The anam- portion of the word denotes a form of praying.  You may have heard it as part of our word for Sunday, anama’e-giizhigad, or aname-giizhigad:  praying day.

I am praying:       indanami’aa.    The long vowel at the end does not get dropped.

You are praying:    gidanami’aa


Jaachaamo - (jaw-chaw-moh)


Jaah-chaah-moh is a VAI, meaning he (or she) is sneezing (alone, present tense).

I(singular) am sneezing:               injaachaam

You(singular) are sneezing:        gijaacham

Do you remember how to add a prefix to change some words to past-tense?  Gii-

I(singular) sneezed:   ingii-chaachaam

You(singular) sneezed:    gigii-chaachaam

She/he(singular) sneezed:    ogii-chaachaamo

Did you notice any changes to the word for first and second person (I and you) usage? 

Eya’! Yes! Mii-gwayak, that is correct, the “o” was dropped at the end of the word! 

This is done for short vowel sounds when the VAI is changed to first or second person singular terms.  It sounds confusing, but you WILL get the hang of it, if you so desire. 

 Short vowels are:   a, i, o              so when you see these vowels at the end of a VAI (although I cannot recall any ending with an a) and you want to say that “I am doing X,” drop the short vowel at the end and add in- or nin- or nind- nim-  to the beginning of the word.

 More examples:

Inwewiibiz          I am in a hurry     the VAI is wewiibizi, but we dropped the last  vowel (i)

Nindanweb        I am resting       the VAI is anwebi, but we dropped the last vowel (i)

Nimbimishim     I am dancing (along)       the VAI is bimishimo, but we dropped the last vowel (o)

You noticed another change?  Mii-gwayak igaye!  Excellent, that is correct, also!

 When we add a past-tense to a verb, we have something called “initial consonant change.”  This won’t be found in the Nichols and Nyholm dictionary, but does occur subtly in our language.  For example:

 J changes to ch

Z changes to s

G changes to k

There are more, but we don’t need any more boggles to our minds today?  We can address them as they appear in our Word of the Day gifts. 


 Anokiiwin - (uh-no-key-win)


Ah-no-kee-win is an inanimate noun (NI).   It means the singular noun work; or the singular noun job.   It is not a command, nor a question.

Do you remember how to pluralize an inanimate noun? 

Eya’, mii gwayak, yes, that is correct: we add the –n suffix:  anokiiwinan means jobs.  The a is a vowel connector.

Indanokiiwin:  my job.                   Gidanokiiwinanyour jobs

Anokii is the root word.  It is a VAI, a verb indicating he or she is presently working, alone.            Anokii, Ann.       Ann is working.


Giiwosewasim - (gee-wo-say-wuh-sim)

Hunting Dog

Ghee-wo-say-wuh-sihm is an animate noun (NA). 

Therefore, we add the –g suffix to make it plural:  giiwosewasimoog, hunting dogs.  The –oo- sound is a vowel connector. 

To take ownership of this smart dog, we add the in- or nin- prefix for my or mine:  ingiiwosewasim, my hunting dog.

If the dog belongs to your hunting buddy, then you would say “your hunting dog,” gigiiwosewasim. 

Giiwose is a VAI which means hunt: he or she (alone) is currently hunting. 

Giiwosewinini is an animate noun (NA) and means hunter (male). 

Giiwosewikwe is an animate noun (NA) which means a female hunter.


Aagade - (awh-guh-day)


 Aah-guh-day is a VAI, so it is one person currently burping! 

Usually, a burp is a surprise, right?  So when we use this word, we are usually asking to be excused because we burped.  To say this:

 “Gaawiin onjidaa, ingii-aagade!”    “Gaah-ween ohn-jih-daah, in-ghee-aah-guh-day!”   “I didn’t mean to do that, I burped!”          

 Gaawiin onjidaa or Gaa onjidaa is a way to apologize, perhaps for interrupting or bumping someone accidentally, etc.  It’s like saying “Oops, I didn’t mean to do that; I did not do that on purpose.”

 The ingii- part of the word above means “I did” something. 

In- is the singular form meaning I, me or my.  It can be In- or Nin-; both are correct.

 The gii- prefix indicates that something happened in the past; past tense. 


 Giziiyaabika’igan - (gih-zee-yaw-bik-uh’ih-gun)

Dish towel

Gih-zee-yaah-bih-kah ‘ ih-gun is an inanimate noun (NI). 

To make plural, we add –an, giziiyaabika’iganan:  dish towels.   

A small dish towel (DIM, diminutive) is giziiyaabika’igaans.

Gizii- or giziin is the root of this word, and in this case it means to wipe something in order to clean it. 

Some related nouns (all inanimate) are:

Giziingwe’on:  bathroom towel.  The –ngwe- portion refers to the face.

Giziiyaabide’on:  toothbrush.  The –bid- portion refers to a tooth.

Giiziindime’on:  toilet paper.   This perhaps goes without saying.

Giziininjii’on:  napkin.  Ninjy- or ninj- refers to hand.

Remember when we have the “on” at the end, it doesn’t sound like the English word “on,” it is more like saying “oh” and adding a shortened “n” sound. 


 Miigwechiwendam - (mee-gwech-ih-wen-dum)

Be Thankful

Gimiigwechiwendam.  You are thankful.  This is not a command, nor is it a question.  it is a simple statement.   

Ojibwemowin is a complex language, but as with any language, there are parts of the words, changes to a root word, that differentiate meaning.


Oodena - (oo-day-nuh)


Oodena is a NI, inanimate noun.  Therefore, to make it plural, we add the –an ending.  However, because it ends in a vowel, we add a connector consonant W to separate the vowel sounds:  Oodenawan.  Towns. 

A small town or village, is a DIM in the dictionary, meaning diminutive:   oodenaans    oo-day-naahnce,  or oodenawens  oo-day-nuh-waynce   (check for your dialect)

To use the LOC form, the locative or word as a location (in town, at town), we say:  oodenaang                  oo-day-naahng

A city is a big town, so we add the prefix gichi- to the word(s):    gichi-oodena   city

gichi-oodenaang                              in the city, at the city

Gichi-oodena is also used as our name for the city of Brainerd, MN.


Mashkikiiwikwe - (mush-kih-key-wik-way)

Nurse (female)

Mush-kih-kee-wih-kway is a NA, animate noun. 

Do you remember how to say the plural, nurses?  We add the –g sound as a suffix for pluralizing animate beings.  

Mashkikiiwikweg.  We may also hear “mashkikiiwikwewag,” in some dialects, which is also absolutely correct. When said quickly, we almost lose that extra syllable, anyhow. 

This word is derived from the two words for medicine “mashkiki,” and woman “ikwe.”   The “w” sound is to connect the two vowel sounds between the words.


 Aniibiish - (uh-nee-beesh)


 Ah-nee-beesh is an inanimate noun (NI), so the plural is denoted by adding the –n suffix/sound:  aniibiishan: leaves.

Aniib is an elm tree, but aniibiish is used for almost any variety of leaf.

Aniibiishens:  A tiny or small leaf               ah-nee-beesh-aynce

Aniibiish is also sometimes used to denote tea.


Wiingashk - (ween-gush-k)

 Sweet grass

Ween-gahshk is an inanimate noun (NI). 

It is a sacred item, and is part of our traditional life. 

Imbiidoon wiingashk.   I am bringing sweetgrass.


Mashkodewashk - (mush-koh-day-wushk)


Mah-shkoh-day-wushk is an inanimate noun (NI).    It is another of our sacred items.

This descriptive word comes from the word mashkode, another inanimate noun, meaning prairie. 

The –washk part of the word indicates plant or grass, as in wiingashk, which is sweetgrass.


Ganabaj - (guh-nuh-budj)


Gah-nuh-budge is a PC.  This means it is a stand-alone word, so it can be used all by itself or to denote uncertainty in statements.  

“Maybe.”  “Perhaps.”  “Ganabaj.”  All the syllables are pronounced with the same intonation; without emphasizing any particular syllable. 

“Giwii-manoominike na?”   Will you/Do you want to harvest wild rice?  “Ganabaj.”  Perhaps.


ayaabe - (uh-yaw-bay)


Ah-yaah-bay is an animate noun (NA).  

Ayaabeg is the plural, adding the –g suffix.          Ah-yaah-baygk

Ayaabens is small or young buck.                        Ah-yaah-baynce

 Nashke! Ayaabe awedi!       Behold, a buck is over there!                 

 Ahhh, venison heart sandwiches…. Pretty soon! 





Imbaap!  I am laughing!  What a perfect picture to follow up our busy weekends. 

Ish-kwaah - ah-nuh-muh ‘ ay  ghee-zhih-gud is a VII.  A descriptive “it is” word.  It is Monday.

Ishkwaa-is a preverb-4, meaning it is a  prefix added to a verb indicating that “it happens after.”  Our descriptive language is telling us that this day (Monday) is the day that happens after “praying day” (Sunday for some of us, but easiest to remember for all of us).

Remember one of the Ojibwemowin words for Sunday is anama’e giizhigad.  Remember! 

If you want to say that something will happen on Monday, the last letter of the word changes to indicate that information:  ishkwaa-anama’e-giizhigak.

Gigawaabamin ishkwaa-anama’e giizhigak.  I will see you (when, if or as it is) on Monday. 

Howah!  Ikidon!  Say it! 



deer meat

Waah-waah-shkay-shih-wih wee-yaahs is an inanimate noun (NI). 

Therefore, to talk about it, we use VTI or VII words – verbs that describe an action relating to an inanimate object

Think Vince (someone does something) To It.   VTI in the dictionary; or VTI+O, plus an object (deer meat in this case).

Think (verb) “It Is,” for VII in the dictionary. 

Minomaate is a VII, a verb that describes what an inanimate object is doing, per se.  In this case, minomaate means it smells good burning, or cooking:

“Minomaatemagad waawaashkeshiwi-wiiyaas.”                               “Mih-no-maah-tay-mah-gud waah-waah-shkay-shih-wih wee-yaahs.”

Geget, sa!  For sure!  It certainly does!   Gay-get sah!


Miiziiwigamig - (mee-zee-wig-uh-mig)


Miiziiwigamig is an inanimate noun (NI) 

Miiziiwigamigoon             plural                     bathrooms

Miiziiwigamigong             locative                in or at the bathroom

Our descriptive language is using our word for defecate: miizii (VAI), meaning she or he is defecating  PLUS our suffix for an inside place/room:  -wigamig.

To say, “I am going to the bathroom,” as in the room itself, say “Indizhaa miiziiwigamig.”  I am currently moving toward the bathroom.

To say, “I am going to use the bathroom/toilet,” the colloquial (informal) term refers to going outside, as in going out to the out-house:

“Inzaaga’am.”  I am going out (side to use the outhouse).”  This is also how we say, “I am going outside.”  So it’s not always in reference to using the toilet.


Bagesaan - (buh-gay-sawn)


Buh-gay-saahn is an animate noun (NA).

Bagesaanag                        plural                     plums

Plum trees are called bagesaanaatig.  The –tig  prefix denotes tree or stick-like. 

obagesaan-baashkiminisige is a VAI:  she or he is making plum jam.

Giwii-pagesaan-baashkiminisige naWill you make plum jam?   Ghih-wee-puh-gay-saahn-baah-shkih-mih-nih-sih-gay nah?

The gi- prefix means that you are doing (something) (second person singular)

The wii- prefix means (someone) wants to or will (do something)

The b changes to a p – initial consonate change following a wii- or gii- prefix.  It is not necessary and is more heard than written.

The na which follows the verb indicates that the statement has become a question


Ashigan -  (uh-shih-gun)

largemouth bass

Uh-shih-ghun is an animate noun (NA).

Ashiganag           plural                     the –g suffix denotes plural of animate beings, the vowel sound is the connector

 Ashigan ominopogozi.  The large mouth bass tastes good.

Waakaa’igan  -  (waw-kaw’ih-gun)


Waah-kaah-‘-ih-gun is an inanimate noun    (NI)

Waakaa’iganan is the plural – more than one house or building    (-an suffix denotes pluralization of an inanimate item) 

Chi-waakaa’igan is a large or big house or building    (chi- prefix denotes large, big, great, etc.)

Waakaa’iganing means in, or at the house or building   (-ing suffix denotes LOC-locative, location)

Maajiibi’igan  -  (maw-jee-bee’ig-on)

a letter

Maah-jee-bee’-ih-gahn is a NI, noun inanimate.  It is the written correspondence/letter. 

We can pluralize it by adding –an: maajiibii’iganan, which would mean letters.

To write a letter, as in s/he is presently writing a letter, is maajiibii’ige.  It is a VAI verb, meaning a third person (not you nor I) is performing an action, right now. 

It can also be said omaajiibii’ige:  She is writing a letter.  The o- prefix also indicates a third person (she or he), alone.

Nimaajiibii’ige:  I am writing a letter.  Ni­ – is the prefix indicating first person (I or me), alone.

Gimaajiibii’igan:  You are writing a letter.  Gi- is the prefix indicating second person (you), alone.

Odaabii’iwe  -  (oh-daw-bee’ih-way)

S/he is presently driving

Odaabii’iwe is a VAI meaning s/he is (presently) driving.  It could be a draft animal or a car. J 

Indoodaabii’iwe:  I am (currently) driving.

When we talk about the small piece of paper that says we are legally able to drive, our descriptive language says it almost exactly like that. 

The “s/he is driving/drives small piece of paper:”   odaabii’iwe-mazinaa’igaans.  It’s an inanimate noun (NI). 

Mah-zih-naah’ih-gaahnce is what the last part sounds like.  A small piece of paper or small book (booklet).  It is inanimate so the plural would be denoted by adding –an

The ‘ is called a glottal stop.  As we say the word, when we get to the  ‘  ,  our voice stops or catches briefly, then we continue with the remaining syllable(s).  It’s a soft sound, but a definite stop within or at the end of a word.  It sounds nice.

Bolded syllables represent stressed or accented syllables. 

Akakanzhebwe  -  (uh-kaw-kawn-zhay-bway)

Grill something

Akakanzhebwe is a VAI + O, which means s/he is currently cooking/grilling something over coals or hot ashes.  The “+ O” means plus object. 

So it could be wiiyaas (meat), fish (giigoonh) vegetables (gitigaanensan), or anything else s/he likes to grill.

Akakanzhebwe wiiyaas, miinawaa gitigaanensan:  He is grilling meat and vegetables. 

Ah-kah-kahn-zhay’-bway  wee’-ahs  mee-nah-waah   gih-tih-gaah-nayns’-uhn.

Indakakanzhebwe giigoonh.  I am grilling fish. 

Ind-ah-kah-kahn-zhay’-bway   gee-goo. (it’s a nasal sound - try almost swallowing an n at the end: don’t fully/actually say the “n” sound)

The ind- prefix denotes first person singular (I am) doing something right now.   Just like nin- or in-, but with the “d” added because the action word begins with a vowel sound.

Genwaabiigigwed  -  (gen-waa-bee-gig-wed)


 Ginwaabii- describes something long,as in string-like, and I am told that the -igwe part of the word refers to the neck.  Our language is very descriptive!  So, when these two illustrative pieces are put together, and we change the word to become a noun, we get:

Gayn-waa-bee-gig-wayd: genwaabiigigwed, is an animate noun (NA-PT) derived from a verb by making an initial vowel change and adding a suffix.

We do it all the time in English without thinking about it.  We take the action of doing something and in conversation we use that verb to describe the one who is doing it. 

S/he is gardening (gitige is a VAI, a verb/action that someone is doing alone;  not to any other animate or inanimate being) becomes gardener, or the one who tends a garden (getiged is a participle – PRT – which loosely means it is a noun or name or label used for a person that performs the action). 

This type of initial vowel change and suffix are used only for VAI words whose first vowel sound is either an “i” or an “a.”  Of course, there are exceptions! 

The suffix –d denotes a single (third) person being described. 

Again, it’s best to ask an elder or speaker, or to peek at your Ojibwemowin dictionary, notes or grammar book for clues. 

The way we were given to sound may seem complicated, but it is absolutely beautiful.  It is ours to care for, so thank you for any effort toward learning and keeping it. 

Noomininjiiwin  -  (noo-min-in-jee-win)

 Hand Lotion

Noomininjiiwin is an inanimate noun (NI).  Therefore the plural would be made by adding the –an suffix: noomininjiiwinan. 

Ni-noomininjiiwin: my hand lotion.

Gi-noomininjiiwin: your hand lotion.

For pronunciation purposes, the stress is usually placed on the long vowels: ii, aa, e, oo, but not always.  Respectfully listen to a speaker to know how it may be said in their (YOUR) community.

Noomininjii is the verb (VAI) meaning s/he is putting lotion on her/his hand(s). 

Ni-noomininjii: I am putting lotion on my hands.

Ni-wii-noomininjii:  I want/wish to put lotion on my hands.

Omashkoos  -  (oh-mawsh-kooz)


Omashkooz:  O-mah-shkooz’ is an animate noun (NA in the Ojibwemowin dictionary -very obvious, right?) J 

So, to pluralize it we can –ag or ­–wag it, as we say:  Omashkoozag:  more than one elk.

This suffix is added to animate singular nouns to make them a plural noun:

Ikwe (woman) becomes ikwewag (women).  Inini (man) becomes ininiwag (men).  The “w” is used as a connecter between the vowels/sounds.

With some words, and in some dialects, the “g” sound is simply added at the end of a noun to denote a plural:  Anishinaabeg.

Let’s use  two words from our recent vocabulary learning:  omashkooz (elk) and gabeshiwin (campsite). 

We will say “The elk is in/at the campsite” (present tense):  “Omashkooz ayaa gabeshiwining.”  Or simply, “omashkooz gabeshiwining.”

Ayaa in this case is a VAI, meaning someone (the elk) is; as in exists there, is in a certain place, or to be

The suffix –ing or ng denotes the campsite as a location,  (in the Ojibwemowin dictionary it is called a locative). 

Zhooniyaake  -  (zhoon-ee-yaw-kay)

Earn money

 Zhooniyaake is a VAI, which means it is a verb – action - that someone is doing, right now, alone. 

It means S/he is earning money (or actually making money, as in making the money from paper – don’t get any ideas!)

Inzhooniyaake: I am earning money.  Present-tense, and  in- or ­nin­- prefix means “I.”

Gizhooniyaake: You are earning money.  Also present-tense, and the prefix gi- means “you.”

Ingiishooniyaake:  I earned money.  The zh becomes sh when the past-tense prefix gii- is added.