Friday, February 21, 2014

Hello and Goodbye in Tlingit

Q: I have searched everywhere but can not find how to say "hello," "goodbye," or "how are you" in the Tlingit language. Or is there another common greeting that is used?

A: Thanks for writing. Not all languages actually have words for "hello" or "goodbye." These words seem like they should be universal to English speakers, but in fact, not all cultures make verbal announcements when they meet another person or take their leave. In the Tlingit language, there is no traditional word for "hello" or "goodbye."

"How are you?" is "Wáa sá iyatee?" in Tlingit. That is pronounced similar to "wah sah ee-yah-te." But that is not generally used as a greeting. Modern Tlingit people sometimes greet each other with "Yak'éi yagiyee" which literally means "good day."

Hope that helps, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Tlingit language
Tlingit tribe
Native American words


  1. And how do you respond to "Waa sa iyatee?"

    1. If you're having a good day, you can say "Xhat yak’éi!" (I'm great!) If it's not such a great day, you can always say "Tlél wáa sá," which means "not too bad." Or, you could give the person a rundown of your actual medical condition. Here's a website that tells you lots of ways to say "My ear hurts" and things of that nature in Tlingit: Enjoy!