Bear Terms in Wyandot

Bear Terms in Wyandot

-nyǫnyę- ‘to be a bear’

The words for ‘bear’ in Wyandot come from a verb root -nyǫnyę ‘to be a bear’.  The only Iroquoian language that has a related term is Cherokee, which has yonę, yona or yonuh.  That tells you that the verb root is very old in the language.  Although the verb root is of the  consonant conjugation, in the use of the verb in the early 20th century, the -y- had been dropped from the feminine-zoic singular agent form (as is true for the word for ‘dog’ and sometimes for the word for ‘wolf’):

anyǫnyęˀ              She or it is a bear.


a-                     feminine-zoic singular agent – she or it

-nyǫnyę-       verb root – to be a bear

-ˀ                      stative aspect

hanyǫnyęˀ             He is a bear.


ha-                   masculine singular agent – he

-nyǫnyę-       verb root – to be a bear

-ˀ                      stative aspect

hatinyǫnyęˀrǫnǫ    They (m) are people of the Bear clan.


hati-                 masculine (or mixed) plural agent – they (m)

-nyǫnyę-         verb root – to be a bear

-ˀ                        stative aspect

-rǫnǫ                populative suffix

anyǫnyętaˀ    bearskin


a-         feminine-zoic singular agent – it

-nyǫnyę-        verb root – to be a bear

-t-                    nominalizer

-aˀ                    noun suffix


Bear Cub

tsahkwaˀah[1]         bear cub


[1] This term is related to the word for ‘bear’ in Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, and Onondaga.

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