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Native Words We Should Use

The English language is a beautiful mix-up of languages. Here is our list of words from Native American languages we should start borrowing.

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The English language is a beautiful mix-up of languages. In any conversation, you can hear a smattering of vocabulary we have borrowed from other languages. For example: schmooze and glitch are borrowed from Yiddish. And how about kindergarten, cafe, plaza, and karaoke?

Here's a list of indigenous words, we think should be incorporated into our everyday conversations!

Koyaanisqatsi [koy-on-iss-KOT-see] - Life out of balance

From the Hopi – This Native American word means “nature out of balance” or a “way of life that is so crazy it calls for a new way of living”.

Iktsuarpok [eekt-SWAR-poke] - Anxious anticipation

From the Inuit (Alaska) - You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for it.

Mamihlapinatapai [ma-mey-LAH-pin-ow-TA-pay] - Special look shared

From Yaghan language of the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego (Chile) - This word refers to the wordless, meaningful look shared by two people who both want to initiate something, but are reluctant to do so.

It also can refer to an unspoken but private moment shared by two people when each person knows the other understands and is in agreement with what is being expressed.

It's a mouthful - but well worth it!

Pana Po'o [pah-nah-POH-oh] - scratching head while pondering

From the Native Hawaiian language.

“Hmm, now where did I leave those keys?” he said, pana po’oing. It means to scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.

Tingo [ting-GOH] - slowly stealing all of your neighbors things

From the Pascuense language of the indigenous people of Easter Island, it means to gradually steal all the possessions out of your neighbor's house by borrowing them and not returning them.

Your neighbor down the street who still has your chainsaw? Yeah, he's tingo-ing you!

Papakata [papa-KAH-tah] - having one leg shorter than the other

The Cook Island Maori use this word to describe a person who has one leg shorter than the other, usually causing a disability. However, it could easily be used to describe a wonky table, chair, or flat tire!

Kilig [KEEL-ig] - butterflies from a romantic experience

In the context of Philippine culture, this Tagalog word refers to the feeling of excitement due to various romantic situations such as making first eye contact with one's crush or watching another person propose to someone.

Want to learn more?

Don't miss our list of "Native Words We Use Every Day":

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