The Naan dictionary is an easy to use Marshallese dictionary meant to function as a tool for speakers and learners of Marshallese of all levels. It was created by Nik Willson, of the College of the Marshall Islands and is available online at no cost.

Naan Dictionary image
The word lookup table of the Naan dictionary includes a column for Rālik, Ratak, other, scriptures, and casual spellings along with an English gloss.

For many who have become frustrated at the seeming lack of standardized spellings in the Marshallese language, the Naan dictionary will be a breath of fresh air. For one, it includes a list of alternative (or casual) spellings and their standardized versions. In this sense, the Naan dictionary can serve as a companion to the famous Marshallese-English Dictionary or the Marshallese-English Online Dictionary, that has proven very useful for those who know how to use it but very difficult for those who don’t. (The Marshallese-English Dictionary is the canonical Marshallese dictionary that Marshallese spelling is based on.)

Naan can also be a standalone tool. The first section (shown in the image above) is a word lookup table that includes different columns for Rālik, Ratak, scriptures, and casual spellings as well as a gloss. It is meant to be used on a computer where a nonstandard spelling can be searched in order to find a short definition or a standard spelling.

The second half of the dictionary is in alphabetical order and it includes a head word, pronunciation guide in IPA, part of speech information, definitions, and sometimes further information about usage, etymology, and related words. The last section of Naan includes learning aids such as pronunciation and spelling guides, graphics that show suffix patterns, and a short explanation of grammar principles.

The entry for 'ṃweo' in the Naan dictionary.
The word ‘ṃweo’ defined in the Naan dictionary.

Naan comes in the form of a Word document with more than two thousand pages, which makes it somewhat slow. However, it is set up in a very simple and easy to use layout.

Using the Naan Dictionary

The best way to use Naan is to open it as a Word document and to search for words by pressing Ctr + F on the keyboard and typing a word.

Find and Replace

The search box will take you to the first match, which may be a partial match. Then you click Find Next until you hit a complete match. At that point you’ll see various spellings of the word along with a short definition. You can use the standard definition (which appears in darker blue) to search for the word in the English-Marshallese Dictionary.

The lookup table in the Naan dictionary.
The head word of the lookup table of the Naan dictionary can be Ctr + Clicked to follow the link to the word’s entry.

You can also use Ctr + Click on the dark blue word to go to the entry for that word in the second part of the dictionary, where you can see more information on the word.

The Naan dictionary is a useful tool for all those who find it difficult to convert casual spellings into standard spellings that can be looked up in the Marshallese-English Dictionary. It is also useful for those looking for a simpler alternative that is searchable both by Marshallese spelling variations as by English words.

This resource was rated using a general rubric for reviewing Marshallese resources.

Published by Marco Mora-Huizar

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

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