Skip to Content

What is the word for green in Navajo?

What is the word for green in Navajo?

Green is a color that is often associated with nature, growth, renewal, and the environment. In the Navajo language, which is spoken by the Navajo people of the Southwestern United States, there are a few different words that can be used to describe the color green.

The Navajo Language

Navajo, also sometimes called Diné, is a Native American language that is spoken primarily in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. It is part of the Athabaskan language family, which includes languages spoken by Native American tribes in the Western parts of North America. Navajo is the most widely spoken Native American language in the United States today. It has around 170,000 speakers, most of whom live on the Navajo Nation reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

The Navajo language is considered very difficult for English speakers to learn. It has a complex verbal system, complex consonant clusters, and tonal accenting. However, it is a fascinating language that is deeply connected to Navajo history, traditions, and view of the world.

Navajo Words for Green

In Navajo, there are a few main words that can be used to describe the color green:

  • Chííl – This word refers to the green color of vegetation, trees, plants, and herbs.
  • łizhin – This word means pale green or yellowish-green.
  • dootł’izh – This word refers to the color blue-green, like the color of turquoise.

The most common general word for green is chííl. This word is used to describe the green color found abundantly in nature – trees, plants, forests, etc. It is related to the Navajo word ch’ííl which means a plant, herb or vegetation. So chííl refers to the green color of growing, living plants.

The word łizhin refers to paler, yellow-tinged shades of green. It is sometimes translated as yellowish-green. This word may be used to describe pale or faded greens found in nature.

The word dootł’izh specifically refers to shades of green that are blue-tinted, like the greenish-blue color of turquoise. It relates to the Navajo word for turquoise. So this word may be used when describing green minerals, stones, or the green-blue color of water.

Green in Navajo Culture

The color green has cultural symbolism for the Navajo people. It is associated with the East, dawn, and springtime. These are considered positive things in Navajo culture. The green world of plants and life is blessed by the Navajo gods and signifies renewal.

Here are some of the main symbolic associations with green in Navajo culture:

East Green represents the eastern world, the direction the sun rises from. The East symbolizes beginnings, birth, and starting life’s journey.
Dawn The pale green light at dawn is a time of hope and ritual. Navajo dawn ceremonies use green cornmeal.
Spring The greening of the world in spring brings new life and sustainance when plants start to grow again.
Mountains The green forests and meadows of high mountains are considered sacred spaces.
Rituals Green is used in Navajo rituals like the Blessingway ceremonial, representing harmony with nature.

So the color green has many positive associations in Navajo culture. It is tied to ideas of life, healing, wholeness and peace. The green world represents the beauty provided by the Navajo Holy People for the benefit of mankind.

Use of Green Words in Navajo

The main Navajo words for green are used in everyday speech as well as traditional songs, prayers, and ceremonies. Here are some examples:

  • When speaking about the color of plants, trees, grasses or foliage, the word chííl is commonly used.
  • Someone may refer to the chííl mesa to describe a mesa covered in green trees and vegetation.
  • The pale green word łizhin is used to describe things like a łizhin corn stalk or a łizhin valley.
  • When referring to turquoise or mineral colors, dootł’izh would be used – like describing dootł’izh beads or jewelry.
  • Navajo prayers and songs may reference dawn’s chííl light spreading over the land.
  • Ceremonial sand paintings often feature the color chííl to represent plants, forests, and herbs.

So these green words are woven into the Navajo language and expressions. They reflect the great respect the Navajo culture has for the green world that surrounds them. Knowing the words for colors like green gives insight into a culture’s values and worldview.


In summary, the main Navajo terms that mean “green” include:

  • Chííl – general green, the color of vegetation
  • łizhin – yellowish or pale green
  • dootł’izh – blue-tinted green like turquoise

The most common word is chííl, referring to the green of living plants. The color has significance in Navajo culture, symbolizing spring, dawn, mountains, and life. Green represents the natural world provided by the Holy People. The words for green frequently appear in everyday Navajo, as well as songs, prayers, and rituals.

Learning Navajo terms for colors like green provides insight into a culture’s values and beliefs. The Navajo language reflects a deep connection to the natural landscape. Understanding words like chííl sheds light on the Navajo people’s outlook and perceptions.