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Ojibwe Months: Names Chosen By Nature?


In Ojibwe, September is known as “Waatebagaa-giizis” meaning “Leaves Turning Moon”

In most languages, there is usually one standard way to refer to a month. However, this is definitely not the case when it comes to the Ojibwe language! In Ojibwe, months are named based on observations about nature or natural phenomenon. This method of naming often leads to differing names based on varying locations and climates!

To provide a bit of background, Ojibwe (alternatively spelled Ojibwa or Ojibway) is an Aboriginal language spoken in the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. There are also Ojibwe populations in the United States in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

When looking at Ojibwe months, we find that each month is named with a purpose. Names are often based on a natural phenomenon or observations about the nature. For example, September is known as “Waatebagaa-giizis” meaning “Leaves Turning Moon”, which undoubtedly is named based on the leaves that usually change colour in September. Interestingly enough, this meaningful naming often means that we can learn something of significance about events or natural phenomena that occur during the month just by examining at the name.

Because month names are often determined by observances of nature and natural phenomenon, it then follows that the names vary from one location to another. Varying climates and natural events from one region to another lead to differing names when you compare dialects in Eastern Ontario with those in Western/Northern Ontario and with those in other parts of Canada or the U.S. This means that in Ojibwe, there could be three or more ways to refer to the month “July” for example. This is an especially important point to keep in mind when working with Ojibwe translations as it may lead to confusion down the road when seeing “July” translated three different ways!

This chart below includes month names in both Western and Eastern dialects of Ojibwe, but by no means includes all the different ways of referring to the months in Ojibwe, as additional names are used in other regions.

The word “giizis” that is used at the end of each name can be translated as “month”, “moon”, or “sun” and is used to count months.

Western Dialect

Eastern Dialect

Gichimanidoo-giizis (Great Spirit Moon)Manidoo-giizis (Spirit Moon)
Namebini-giizis (Suckerfish Moon)Mkwa-giizis (Bear Moon)
Onaabani-giizis (Snowcrust Moon)Onaabdin-giizis (Snowcrust Moon)
Iskigamizige-giizis (Sugarbushing Moon)Pokwaagami-giizis (Broken Snowshoe Moon)
Zaagibagaa-giizis (Budding Moon)Namebine-giizis (Suckerfish Moon)
Odemiini-giizis (Strawberry Moon)Baashkaabigonii-giizis (Blooming Moon)
Abitaa-niibini-giizis (Halfway Summer Moon)Miin-giizis (Berry Moon)
Manoominike-giizis (Ricing Moon)Manoominike-giizis (Ricing Moon)
Waatebagaa-giizis (Leaves Turning Moon)Waabaagbagaa-giizis (Leaves Turning Moon)
Binaakwe-giizis (Falling Leaves Moon)Binaakwe-giizis (Falling Leaves Moon)
Gashkadino-Giizis (Freezing Over Moon)Baashkaakodin-Giizis (Freezing Moon)
Manidoo-Giizisoons (Little Spirit Moon)Manidoo-Giizisoons (Little Spirit Moon)

Chart from  

Related Links:

Ojibwe Translation Services
Oji-Cree Translation Services
Cree Translation Services

Sheza Khurshid joined wintranslation in 2014 as Web Marketing Coordinator where she works on the company website, blog and manages wintranslation’s social media pages. Her work focuses on creating engaging and informative articles, newsletters, and other content for clients and those interested in learning about translation services and related topics. She works on maintaining wintranslation’s online presence through ongoing SEO campaigns, as well as through various outreach campaigns. Additionally, she works with clients to ensure they are satisfied with wintranslation’s services, and to see how to better serve current and future clients. Sheza is a graduate of the University of Windsor from which she holds a B.A. as well as an M.A. in Political Science with a focus on Media Studies and Communications.

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