How Do You Say Mother?

How Do You Say Mother?

With Mother’s Day on the horizon, we queried our tribes and other language experts on how to address female family members in their Native languages.  (We extend warm thanks to everyone who helped contribute to this and all our indigenous language posts.)

How many ways do you know how to say mother?:

Tunica, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana
igachihchi Mother

‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian Language), Hawai‘i
Makuahine Mother
Kupunawahine Grandmother
Kaikamahine Daughter/Girl
Kaikuahine Sister (generally, and to a brother)
Kaikuaʻana Older Sister (to a sister)
Kaikaina Younger Sister (to a sister)
ʻOhana Keiki Niece (or Nephew)

Arapaho, Wyoming
Neinoo Mother
Notoone Daughter
Nei Sister, Elder
Neesebi Niece
Neheihoo Aunt
Neiwoo Grandmother
Neisii Grandchild

Choctaw, Oklahoma
ishki Mother
ushi tek Daughter
i tek Sister
ibihtek Niece
hokni Aunt
ippokni Grandmother
ipok tek Granddaughter
Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Alaska
Eenaa’e Mother
seyots’aa’e My daughter (mother’s daughter)
setlaa’e My daughter (father’s daughter)
sode My older sister
sedaadze’ My younger sister
seyots’aa’e My niece (woman’s daughter or niece)
setlaa’e My daughter (father’s daughter or niece)
sokk’ʉye My aunt (mother’s sister)
sebaats’e, semaats’e My aunt (father’s sister)
setsoo My grandmother
sekoye, sechoye My granddaughter
Gwich’in, Alaska
Note: In the Gwich’in language, we cannot have kinship terms without possession (my, your, his or hers, etc.)
Shahan My mother
Nahan Your mother
Vahan His/her mother
Diihan Our mother
Nakhwahan Your (plural) mother
Goohan Their Mother
Shiyeets’i’’ My daughter
Niyeets’i’’ Your daughter
Sheejii My older sister
Neejii’ Your older sister
Shijuu’ My younger sister
Nijuu Your younger sister
Shakhoo My niece
Nakhoo Your niece
Sheek’aii My maternal aunt
Neek’aii Your maternal aunt
Shitsuu My paternal aunt
Nitsuu Your paternal aunt
Shitsuu My grandmother
Shitseii My granddaughter (said by grandmother)
Nitseii Your granddaughter (said to grandmother)
Nitsuu Your grandmother
Hualapai, Arizona
jitha Mother
misi’ Daughter
ginya Sister, Younger
niya Sister, Older
wisa Niece
nithi Aunt (Mother”s Side)
goda Grandmother (Mother’s Side)
monya Grandmother (Father’s Side)
ko’ Granddaughter

Mohawk, New York
Ka’nisténhsera Mother
Kheién:’a Daughter
Khe’kén:’a Sister, Younger
Aktsi’:’a Sister, Older
Kheienhwatén:’a Niece
Ake’nisténha Aunt
Akhsótha Grandmother
Kheiatere’:’a Granddaughter

Ojibwe Language
Nimaamaa(yag) Mother(s)
Nindaanis(ag) Daughter(s)
Nimise(yag) Sister(s), Older
Ninzigos(ag) Aunt, Father’s Sister(s)
Ninoshenh(yag) Aunt, Mother’s Sister(s)
Nookomis(ag) Grandmother(s)
Niijikwe Female Friend(s)
Niwiiw(ag) Wife (Wives)

Paiute, Nevada
beah Mother
budduh Daughter
hummah Sister, Older
buneh Sister, Younger
bedduh Aunt, Mother’s Side
buhwuah Aunt, Father’s Side
hootzee Grandmother. Father’s Side
mooah Grandmother. Mother’s Side
hootze Granddaughter/Grandson, Father’s Side
mooah Granddaughter/Grandson, Mother’s Side

Pyramid Lake Paiute, Nevada
Pea Mother
Padu Daughter
Hamma’a Sister, Older
Punne’e Sister, Younger
Hooza Niece, Father’s Side
Nanakwa Niece, Mother’s Side
Pedoo’o Aunt, Mother’s Side
Pa’wa Aunt, Father’s Sister (man speaking)
Medo’o Aunt, Father’s Sister (woman speaking)
Hootse’e Grandmother. Father’s Side
Mooa’a Grandmother. Mother’s Side
Hoobe’e Granddaughter

Tlingit, Alaska
Tláa Mother
Chaan Mother-in-Law
Sée Daughter
Dlaak’ Boy’s Sister
Shátx Giril’s Older Sister
Kéek’ Girl’s Younger Sister
Káalk’w Niece, Sister’s Child
Tláak’w Maternal Aunt
Aat Paternal Aunt
Léelk’w Grandmother/Grandfather/Grandparent(s)
Daakanóox’u Great-Great Grandparents

Disappearing Languages

In February, the United Nations proclaimed 2019 to be the year of Indigenous Languages, so every month this year, AIANTA is showcasing different words and phrases to highlight the diversity in our Native languages.

According to UNESCO, approximately 600 languages have disappeared in the last century. More alarmingly, they continue to disappear at a rate of one language every two weeks. If this pace continues, up to 90 percent of the world’s languages are likely to disappear before the end of this century.

In the United States, according to the Indigenous Language Institute, there were more than 300 indigenous languages. Today, about 175 remain, although this number may shrink to 20 by 2050 if efforts aren’t made to preserve these languages.

For more information on the Year of Indigenous Languages, visit or follow the hashtag #IY2019).

Language Resources

American Indian Language Development Institute

Northwest Indian Language Institute

Indigenous Language Institute

Consortium of Indigenous Language Organizations

Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival

Note: The words and phrases in this post were provided by members of the various tribes listed. Spellings and translations may vary. Some words may be missing accents or symbols due to limited characters on a keyboard. We’re happy to add your language and/or hear corrections and suggestions on spellings and translations, so please contact us at


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