This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.

House of, time of, place of

– In Marshallese in order to say a phrase like ‘school time’ you would say instead ‘time of school’ (like in Spanish or French).  The word for ‘of’ is ‘in.’  For example:

awa in jikuuḷ                       = time/of/school = school time, time for school
menninmour in lọjet ____  = animal/of/ocean = sea animal
ḷaddik in ṃajeḷ                    = boy/of/Marshall = Marshallese boy

– Sometimes when you add ‘in’ to a noun, the word changes:

eṃ     + in   = ṃōn or iṃōn = house of
ṃanit + in   = ṃantin = custom of, culture of, manner of
iar     +  in   = arin = lagoon of

– On other words you don’t have to add ‘in’ in order to say ‘of’:

jikin    = place or place of
iien     = time or time of
kajin   = language or language of
kain    = kind or kind of

– These words lead to some common phrases:

ṃōn jikuuḷ         = house of/school = school house
ṃōn jar             = house of/pray = church
ṃōn tutu           = house of/take a shower = shower house
ṃōn kōppojak   = house of/get ready = outhouse, bathroom
ṃōn kuk            = house of/cook[1] = cook house
ṃōn wia            = house of/buy = store
ṃōn ṃōñā         = house of/eat = restaurant
ṃōn taktō          = house of/doctor = hospital, medical dispensary
ṃantin ṃajeḷ     = custom of/Marshall = Marshallese custom/culture
ṃantin pālle      = custom of/American = American custom/culture
jikin volleyball  = place of/volleyball = volleyball court
iien jikuuḷ           = time of/school = school time, time for school
kajin ṃajeḷ         = language of/Marshall = Marshallese (language)
kajin pālle          = language of/English = English (language)
kajin Jaina         = language of/China = Chinese (language)

– ‘In’ also has a few other meanings.  If you put it after a sentence it means ‘in order to’:

Iaar etal ñan iar  = in eọñōd I-PAST/go/to/lagoon/ of/fish = I went to the lagoon in order to fish

– If ‘in’ is before the word for ‘morning,’ ‘afternoon,’ ‘evening,’ or ‘night,’ it means ‘in’ or ‘at’:

in jibboñ =  in the morning in jota =  in the evening
in raelep =  in the afternoon in boñ =  at night

– You can put ‘in’ after some verbs, where it is meaningless like English ‘to,’ or after adjectives:

aikuj in ___ = need to ____
ṃakoko in ___ = refuse to ____, unwilling to ____
ṃōṇōṇō in ___ = glad to ____
ṃōk in ___ = tired of ____
jook in ___ = too shy to ____, too embarrassed to ____


amiṃōno handicrafts, make handicrafts
alikkar clear, obvious
irooj chief, king
lerooj chieftess, queen
jorrāān or problem problem, have a problem, hurt, get hurt, not working, out of order Ex. Ejorrāān = It’s broken Ex. Ejjeḷọk jorrāān = No problem Ex. Kwōnaaj jorrāān = You’ll get hurt
kāāl new, fresh
ṃor old (of things only)
rūtto old (of people only), adult
kidu dog
kuuj cat

Practical Marshallese

Published by Marco Mora-Huizar

I am a Spanish and Marshallese translator. Iaar katak Kajin Majol ilo Enid, Oklahoma.

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