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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

AMHARIC – The Basics

Through the wonderful world of blogging I have found sound some great Amharic resources amongst other invaluable adoption resources. I found this one here. I know, I know…some of you probably wonder why I post things like this, as if I would expect everyone to read the whole thing or that everyone would see the value as I do. The reason I post things like this is because it is helpful to other adoptive families, to me, to Sam and to our children. I plan on having our blog made into a book for our children so this process will be documented for them. I think this will be very valuable to them at some point.

To Jack and Hayley:

Amharic (Amarigna/Amarinnya) has 33 letters, all of them consonants save for 1. The one vowel letter produces the 7 primary vowel sounds. The vowel is "A", and derived from it are the following vowel sounds.

uh, oo, ee, ah, ay, ih, and oh.

Take the letter S, for instance. The "S" consonant is made to produce 7 different 's' sounds with the addition of those.

Suh - as in supply, suffer etc

Soo - as in soot, sue, Sudan

See - as in see, Sierra

Sah - as in sand, South Africa

Say - as in -well- Say,

Sih, or just s - as in distance, asks (scant or no vowel sound)

Soh - as in so, sort

Every word in Amharic is made up of letters with one of those these vowel sounds since you can take any consonant and make the 7 sounds out of it.

L would be … Luh, Loo, Lee, Lah, Lay, Lih, Loh.

D would be… Duh, Doo, Dee, Dah, Day, Dih, Doh.

M would be… Muh, Moo, Mee, Mah, May, Mih, Moh.

...and so on.

..............Take these English words and say them out loud the way you'd normally say them while paying attention to the underlined syllable.

bundle, behoove, seat, tar, great, grape, snore! …There you have it!

• A is pronounced like Ah • E is usually the uh sound as in Selam • I is short i. • O is long o. • U is oo • G is a hard G. • AY is pronounced as in Bay, Stay ...etc. • EW is uh followed by the consonant W sound (Not oo). • Double letters usually denote emphasis on that syllable. The Amharic word for cat, “Dimmet” is pronounced Dim-met but as one word. • CH and TCH are pronounced as in Church or Watch. No discernable difference • GN is like the Spanish N with a tilde over it, or like the French gn sound. There are different words/word endings depending on if you are talking to a Male, a Female, Either, Plural or Formal (important or elder person). There are also hard consonant sounds that don't have an English equivalent. Usually, the closest approximation (the softer English consonant) is used in transliteration. For example, the Amharic word for Beautiful should be written Qonjo to denote the harder consonant. But, Konjo will do just fine for now, so as not to complicate things.


Hi/Hello - Selam (literally meaning peace)

How are you?/Are you well? (to a Male) - Indemin neh?/Dehna neh?

How are you?/Are you well? (to a Female) - Indemin nesh?/Dehna nesh?

Please (to a Male) - Ebakih

Please (to a Female) - Ebakish

Thank you - Ameseg'nalehu (Ah-muh-suh-gin-ah-leh-hu)

Bye/See you - Ciao (Italian)

Be well (to a Male) - Dehna hoon

Be well (to a Female) - Dehna hoogn

Be well (to a Group) - Dehna hoonoo

Highlighted is the easiest and most common greeting if you want to say more than a quick Hi (Selam) to someone.

The response to all of the above is “Dehna” - Fine/Well; or “Dehna negn”- I’m Fine/I’m Well. Almost all religious people will add on “Igziabihayr Yimesgen” – Blessed be God. Muslims would say "Allah-Amd’ilah."

Also Note: “Igziabihayr Yistilign”, maning “May God bless (give) you on my behalf”, is often said instead of or in addition to “Ameseg’nalehu.” The response to “Igziabihayr Yistilign” is “Abro Yisten” – “May He bless us both/all” ........... The most formal greeting is "Tena Yistilign" - (May He grant you health on my behalf.)


Mother - Innat

Father - Abbat

Sister - Ihit

Brother - Wundim

Uncle - Aggot

Aunt - Akist

Grandmother/Grandfather - Ayat

Friend – Guadegna

Yes - Awo (Ah-woh)

No - Ayi (Ah-y) or Ayidelem

I love you (to a Male) - Iwedihalehu

I love you (to a Female) - Iwedishalehu

Come here (to a Male) - Nah

Come here (to a Female) - Neyi

Foreigner - Ferenj (White person)

Ethiopian - Habesha

Beautiful/Handsome/Good Looking - Konjo

Very - BetamClever/Good Job!/Smart – Gobez

Language - Kuankua

Important: “New” in amharic is pronounced Nuh-w, …like how ‘No’ sounds in English. It means “is” and you may see it a lot.

What's your name? (to a Male) - Simih man new?

What's your name? (to a Female) - Simish man new?

My name is ___. - Simay ___ new.

Good - Tiroo,p>

Bad - Metfo

Very Good - Betam Tiru

Small/Little/a little - Tinnish

Big - Tillik

Sorry (my apologies) - yirkita

Other words you may find useful:

Child - Lij

Boy - Wuhnd Lij

Girl - Sayt Lij

Children - Lijoch

Education – Timihirt

Pen - Scripto

Pencil – Irsas

Book – Metsihaf

Ball - Kuas

You (Male) - Antuh

You (Female) - Anchee

You (Plural) - Enantuh

I/Me - Inay

My/Mine - Yenay

Your/Yours (Male) - Yantuh

Your/Yours (Female) - Yanchee

Your/Yours (Plural) - Yenantuh

He - Issu (Issoo)

She - Issua

Clothes – Libs

Shirt – Shemeez (French)

Pants/Trousers – Sooree

Dress/Skirt - Kemees

Shoes – Chammah

Handbag/Purse – Borsa (Italian)

Luggage - Shanta

Coat is Coat

Jacket is Jacket

Sleep - Inkilf

Hands - Ijj (ih-j)

Legs/Feet - Igir

Finger/Fingers - Tat/Tatoch

Head – Ras

Hair - Tsegoor

Face - Feet (funny, I know!)

Forehead - Ginbar

Eye/Eyes - Ayin/Aynoch

Nose - Afincha

Mouth - Af

Lips - Kenfer

Teeth - Tirs

Tongue - Milas

Stomach/Tummy - Hod

Sickness/Ache - Himem

Food - Migib

Water - Wuha

Breakfast - Kurs

Lunch - Misah

Dinner – Erat

Salt – Chew (Chuh-w)

Sugar - Sikuar

Plate - Sahin/Sahan

Tray is Tray but Ethiopians pronounce it Tiree

Drinking Glass - Birchiko

Cup - Sinee

Coffee - Bunna

Tea - Shahi

Milk - Wetet

Pop/Soda/Soft Drink - Leslasah Metet

Beer - Birra (Italian)

Home brewed Eth. Beer - Tella

Home brewed Eth. Honey Wine - Tej

Home brewed Eth. Moonshine - Araki

Banana - Mooz

Orange – Birtookan

Lemon/Lime - Lomee

Apple - Pomme (French)

Strawberries - Injoree

Tomato - Teemateem

Lettuce – Selata

Eggs – Inkulal

Meat - Siga

Time - Geezay

Year - Amet

Month - Wuhr

Week - Sammint

Day/Date - Elet/Ken

Hour - Sa'at

Minute - Dekeekah

Second - Second

Morning - Tewat

Daytime - Ken

Evening - Mishit

Night - Matah/Layleet

Today - Zaray

Yesterday - Tinant

Tomorrow - Negeh

Sun - Tsehai

Moon - Chereka

Star/Stars – Kokeb/Kewakibt

Sky - Semay

Earth - Merayt

Country - Hahger

City - Ketema

Neighborhood - Sefer

Road - Menged

Car - Mekina , Machina (Italian)

Compound – Gibee

Tree/Trees – Zaf/Zafoch

Plants - Atakilt

Flower/Flowers – Abeba/Abeboch

Roses – Tsigayreda (Tsi-gay-ruh-dah)

House/home - Bet (Bay-t)

Door - Ber (buh-r)

Window - Meskot

Living Room - Salon

Bathroom - Bagno Bet (Bagno being Italian for Bathtub)

Bedroom - Megnita Bet

Kitchen - Wot Bet/Cuccina (Italian)

Bed - Algah

Sofa - Sofa

Table - Terepayza (Teh-reh-pay-zah)

Hot - Mooket

Cold - Bird (bih-rd)

Rain - Zinab

Mud - Chikah

Dog - Wusha

Cat – Dimmet

Goat – Fiyyel

Sheep – Beg

Cow – Lam

Ox/Bull - Beray

Donkey - Ahiyah

Camel - Gimel

Store/shop/kiosk/stall - Sook. Sometimes spelled Souk.

Price - Waga

How Much - Sint

Discount - Kinnash

It should be noted here that when you are out shopping and you're interested in an item, you may say "Wagaw sint new?" (how much is the price?), but whatever the seller may quote you (usually in English), and it may be ridiculously cheap, assume the look of shock! ...And throw back the "Oh, come on?!" look with the word "Kinnash?!" Welcome to the age old custom of haggling! No one really wants to pay "retail"!


What - Min

Why - Lemin

Where - Yet

When - Mechay

Who - Mann

How - Indayt

Green - Arenguaday

Yellow - Beetcha

Red - Keh-yi

Blue - Semahyawee

White - Netch

Black - Tikoor

Brown - Bunnama

Monday - Segno

Tuesday - Maksegno

Wednesday - Erob

Thursday - Hamoos

Friday - Ahrb

Saturday - Kidamay

Sunday - Ehood

Heavy - Kebbad

Light - Kellal

Hard - Kebbad

Easy - Kellal

Alphabet (letters) - feedel


Ahnd 1

Hulet 2

Sost 3

Aratt 4

Ammist 5

Siddist 6

Sebatt 7

Simmint 8

Zetegn 9

Assir 10

Haya 20

Selasa 30

Arba 40

Hamsa 50

Sidsa 60

Sebah 70

Semanya 80

Zetena 90

Meto (Muh-toh) 100

Sheeh 1000

Milliyon Million

“Asra”, derived from “Assir”, which means 10, is a prefix for 11,12 and teens

Asra Ahnd is 11

Asra hulet is 12

Asra Sost is 13

Asra Aratt is 14 … and so on.

All numbers are straight forward otherwise.

Haya Ahnd is 21, Hamsa aratt is 54, Sebah Siddst is 76 and so on.

Meto / Ahnd Meto -- is -- a hundred / one hundred

Hulet Meto – 200

Sost Meto – 300 and so on

467 would be aratt meto sidsa sebatt – same syntax as four hundred sixty seven.

895 would be simmint meto zetena amist. And so on.

6000 is siddist sheeh.


  1. Hi! Have you looked into the different sites where you can make books out of your blogs? I have one that I use that I absolutely LOVE! I made a book out of the blog that I had when I was planning our wedding and I loved it so much that I decided that I was going to make a yearly book from the blog I started at the beginning of the year...sort of a Team Jaglo yearbook! Let me know if you want me to pass along info!


  2. wow, very cool Tina! Thanks for including me in your past blog:) Love you sissy! Great idea on the book! Of course YOU would think of that! Miss creative:) -laura

  3. Jack and Hayley,

    I think this is the week we will get to meet you both for the first time. Keeping our fingers and toes crossed.

    Love, Grandma Taylor