An Ainu–English–Japanese Dictionary/Chapter V



Nouns, in the Ainu language, are at the present day subject to no changes to indicate either gender, number, or case.


Gender is sometimes designated by a different word; as:—

masculine. feminine.
Acha, “uncle.” Unarabe, “aunt.”
Ainu, “man.” Mat-ainu, “a woman.”
Ona, “father.” Unu, “mother.”
Shiuk, “a he bear.” Kuchan, “a she-bear.”
Shion, “a little boy.” Opere, “a little girl.”
Hekachi, “a lad.” Matkachi, “a girl.”

When an object has no special masculine or feminine form, as for instance Chikap, “a bird” (cock or hen), or seta, “dog” or “bitch,” and it should be necessary to specify to which sex it belongs, the words pinne,” “male,” and matne, “female,” “are placed before it; thus:—

masculine. feminine.
Pinne chikap, “a cock.” Matne chikap, “a hen.”
Pinne seta, “a dog.” Matne seta, “a bitch.”

For human beings and gods, however, okkai or okkaiyo, “male,” take the place of pinne.


The number of the noun is, in the case of animals, generally indicated by the context or verb, and is therefore mostly left unexpressed by any addition to the noun. Thus, aiai, “baby” or “babies”; ainu, “man or “men.” However, when it is necessary to express plurality utara, utare, or utari is used. e.g.

singular plural
Aiai, “a baby.” Aiai-utara, “babies.”
Umma, “a horse.” Umma utara, “horses.”
Ainu, “a man.” Ainu utara, “men.”

[The word utara is analyzed thus—u a plural prefix meaning “mutual”; tara, “appendages.” Hence utara is really “comrades.”]

With the numerals, however, pish is used in enumerating animals:—Thus:—Umma tuppish, umma reppish, “two horses, three horses.”

But there appear to be quite a number of nouns, now regarded as singular, which inflection proves to be really plural by derivation. Thus:—

singular plural
Am, “a finger-nail.” Amu, “finger-nails.”
Ashikipet, “a finger.” Ashikipettu, “fingers.”
At, “a tether.” Atu, “reins.”
Chep, “a fish.” Chep-nu, “fishes.”
Hura, “a hill.” Huranu, “hills.’
Itak, “a word.” Itaku, “words.”
Kut, “a crag.” Kuttu, “crags.”
Pe, “water.” Pepe, “waters.”
Pet, “a river.” Petcha, “rivers.”
Nishi, “a cloud.” Nishu, “clouds.”

Also such as :—

Ikushpe, “a post.” Ukushpe, “posts.”
Iriwak, “a relation.” Uiriwak, “relations.”
Kema, “a foot.” Ukema, “feet.”
Nimaki, “a tooth.” Unimaki, “teeth.”

The word pe “an article,” “a thing,” may well be compared with pish the plural particle used in counting animals; and koro, “to possess” with kotcha, “possessors.” The cha in this latter word sometimes appears as chi and sometimes as at, ot, or simple t. The nu given often chep and hura in the above examples is seen to advantage in the word nuye which means “abundance.”

Pfizmaier, in his Erörterungen und Aufklärungen über Aino, quotes Dobrotvorsky as intimating that the Ainu language retains fragments of a plural formation in a few substantives, and quotes kema, “a foot” and kemaki “feet”; also ima, “a tooth,” and imaki “teeth” as examples. But on turning to Dobrotvorsky. I find he gives, нога, ношка, and even ногн, i.e. “foot”; “a little foot” and “feet” for kema while kemaki does not occur at all! There has been a mistake made somewhere. At present I can find no genuine instance where ki is used as a plural suffix. Feet is not kemaki, but ukema. It is quite true that Dobrotvorsky gives ima as “tooth” and imaki as “teeth”; but I very much doubt the truth of this definition. “Tooth” is nimak or nimaki as one pleases, while teeth" is unimak or unimaki. Moreover, I find lower down in his work that Dobrotvorsky writes Нмакъ which he translates by зудъ, “tooth.” The final hard mute ъ may represent the i. Examples showing that ъ does sometimes represent i in Dobrotvorsky might easily be given were it necessary, but one clear instance only shall here be produced. It is за́нъ “you,” which is unmistakably eani in Ainu.


The case or relation of the noun to other words in a sentence, though generally left to be gathered from the context, may, when necessary, be expressed by certain particles; thus:—

Nom: by anak or anakne. As, Ainu anakne ek kor’an, “the man is coming.
Obj: by e preceding a v.i. or without any particle when the noun is followed by the passive voice of a verb. As, seta ainu emik, “the dog barked at the man.” Ainu araige, “the man was killed.” Before a v.t. the particle ko “to” is at times found to represent the objective case. Thus:—kik, “he strikes,” en kokik,” “he strikes me.”
Gen: by koro, goro, kot following the pronoun or noun; as:—ku goro makiri, “my knife”; ainu kot chisei, “a man’s house”; a koro michi, “our father.”

But although koro, expressed or understood, is often used as a possessive factor (koro really means to possess), yet this word is very often dropped and the case is expressed by the verb “to be” like the Aryan languages, but preceded in many instances by otta, “to.” The reason of this is evident. If instead of saying michi ku goro, “I possess a father,” one says, en otta michi an, “to me there is a father,” the word “father” is no longer a possessed object, but a subject who indicates his possessor. Compare the Russian, French, and Latin constructions: У нею́ оте́цъ есть; tibi est pater, mihi est uxor; and ce livre est a moi, and so on.

Dat: by otta or orun. As:—Satporo orun karapa, “I am going to Sapporo.” Seta otta tore, “give it to the dog.”
Abla: by orowa and orowa no. Thus: Habo orowa no, “from mother”; Michi orowa, “from father”; Moruran orowa ku ek na, “I have come from Moruran.”
Instru: by ani or ari. As: Op ani chep raige, “he killed a fish with a spear”; makiri ari koro ashikipet tuye, “to cut one’s finger with a knife.”

There are certain prepositional particles such as e, o, ko, (each in its turn always retaining its own special definite root-meaning—for in the Ainu language there are no expletives) which in a way, may be regarded as indicating case. Thus:

Pishne, “the sea-shore,” epishne, “to the sea-shore.”
Pishne, “the sea-shore,” opishne, “from the sea-shore.”
Kira, “to run away,” kokira, “to flee to.”
Kira, “to run away,” ekira, “to run away with.

When, addressing relations the words po and tonoge and nishpake are sometimes heard used in a complimentary or carressing way. Thus:—

(1) Ak-po, “dear younger brother.”
Turesh-po, “dear sister (younger).”
(2) Aak-tonoge, “my dear younger brother.”
Apoho-tonoge, “my dear child.”
Anish-tonoge, “my dear master.”
Ayupo-tonoge, “my dear elder brother.”
Aturesh-tonoge, “my dear younger sister.”
Asaha-tonoge, “my dear elder sister.”
Amichi-tonoge, “my dear father.”
Atotto-tonoge, “my dear mother.”
(3) Ayupo-nishpake, “my honoured elder brother.”
Aak-nishpake, “my honoured younger brother.”
Atono-nishpakehe, “my honoured master.”

The root meaning of po is “little” and shades off into various interpretations of a diminutive character. Such as, “tiny;” “small;” young;” “child,” e.g.

Emush, "a sword” Emushpo, “a dirk.”
Chikap, “a bird” Chikap-po, “a young bird.”
Okkai, “male” Okkai-po, “a boy.”

The word also enters into geographical nomenclature sometimes. As:—

Chi-ika-nai-po, “the little over-flow stream.”
Chishnai-po, “the little precipitious valley,” “glen,” or “stream.” Nai-po, “the little glen” or “stream,” or “the little stream” (the meaning being that it comes out of a larger one).
Nupuri-po, “the little mountain.”
Poronai-po, “the little Poronai” (the meaning being that there is another Poronai near at hand, or that the one Poronai river flows out of the other).
Tokompo, “the little knob.”
Tomaripo, “the small harbour.”
Tukarapo, “the little sea-leopard.”
Soya-nai-po, “little stony glen.”


Nouns expressing abstract qualities are formed by adding i or hi or ambe to adjectives and verbs, thus:—

Nupeki, “bright” Nupeki-i (hi or ambe) “brightness.”
Itak, “to speak.” Itak-i, (hi or ambe) “a speech.”
Care must be exercised in using ambe for expressing abstract qualities, for that word when used with adjectives sometimes makes concrete nouns.

Compound nouns are extensively used by the Ainu and are formed as follows:—

By compounding two substantives together.
To, “the breast”
Pe, “water”
Tope, “milk.”
By compounding verbs with nouns.
Uhui, “to burn.”
Nupuri, “a mountain.”
Uhui-nupuri, “a volcano.”
E, “to eat.”
Pe, “an article.”
Ep, “food.”
By compounding adjectives with pe “an article” contracted into p: e.g.
Pase, “heavy,” Pasep, “a heavy thing.”
Poro, “large” Porop, “a large thing.”
By adding p to the passive forms of the verbs, thus:—
verb. noun.
Ae, “to be eaten.” Aep, “food.”
Aye, “to be spoken.” Ayep, “the thing said.”
By compounding verbs with katu “shape,” “mode,” “way” and ambe “a thing,” thus:—
An “to be” An-katu, “existence,” “mode of being.
 ,,    ,, An-ambe, “existing thing.”
Itak, “to speak,” Itak-katu, “language.”
  ,,     ,,     ,, Itak-ambe, “a speech.”

Variety and diversity of subjects are expressed by prefixing usa or usaine an or neun-neun to nouns; Thus:—

Usa-wenburi, “a variety of bad habits.”
Usaine an itak ambe, “various or many diverse speeches.”
Neun-neun ambe, “various or many things.”

Diminutives are formed by prefixing pon or poi or suffixing po to nouns: thus:

Poi-shisam, “a Japanese child.”
Pon-umma, “a colt.”
Pon-beko, “a calf.”
Chikap-po, “a little bird.”

The Ainu have, as one would naturally expect, adopted a number of Japanese words, most of which are affected by the peculiarities of pronunciation which distinguish the northern dialects of Japanese. Especially to be noted is the tendency to nasalization; e.g.

japanese. ainu.
Kami, “paper.” Kambi.
Kogane, “gold.” Kongane.
Kosode, “a short sleeved garment.” Kosonde.
Kugi, “a nail.” Kungi.
Tabako, tobacco. Tambako.

The following are a few samples of Hybrid Compounds. The words which are italicised are Japanese:—

Chikuni-potoke, “a wooden idol.”
Mama-po, “a step-child.”
Niwatori-chikap, domestic fowls.”
Pon-umma, “colt.”
Shiuto-habo, “a mother-in-law.”
Shiuto-michi, “a father-in-law.”
Shuma-potoke, “a stone idol.”
Tera-kamui, “a priest.”
Tono-nishpa, “a government official.”
Tono-ru and Tono-para-ru, “a government road.”
Yaku-etaye, “to collect taxes.”
Yo-an, “to have an engagement, to have business.”


The following are a few examples of the way in which proper nonns are formed:—

(a). Names of the Gods.

(These are given according to the order of dignity and importance).

Kotan kara kamui moshiri kara kamui kandokoro kamui, “the creator” (lit: the maker of places and worlds and possessor of heaven).
Abe kamui, “the goddess of fire” (also called Huchi or Fuji kamui and Iresu huchi (lit: divine grandmother).
Tokap chup Kamui, “the sun god;” “the sun” itself; (lit: day luminary Deity).
Kunne chup Kamui, “the moon god;” “the moon;” (lit. black luminary Deity).
Wakka-ush Kamui, “the goddess of the water;” (lit: watery Deity).
Chiwash ekot mat, “the goddess of the mouths of rivers;” (lit: The female possessor of the places where fresh and salt waters mingle).
Shi-acha Kamui, “a sea-god;” not worshipped; (lit: wild Uncle Deity).
Mo-acha Kamui, “a sea-god;” worshipped; (lit: quiet Uncle Deity).
Shi-acha and mo-acha are together termed Rep un Kamui, “the gods of the sea.”

(b). Names of Men.

Ekash oka Ainu, “the heir of the Ancients.”
Hawe riri Ainu, “the eloquent man.”
Nupeki san Ainu, “the sender down of light.”

(c). Names of Women.

Ikayup, “the quiver.”
Konru san, “the sender down of ice.”
Shine ne mat, “the belle.”
Shuke mat, “the female cook.”
Parapita Ainu, “the mouth loosener.”
Ramu an Ainu, “the wise man.”
Ynk no uk Ainu, “the deer catcher.”
Usapte, “the prolific one.”
Yaikoreka, “the selfish one.”
Yaitura mat, “the female misanthrope.”

(d). Names of Places.

Erem not or nottu, “the rat cape.” (Cape Erimo).
E-san-i-not or notu, “the cape where volcanic matter descends.” (Cape Esan).
Mopet kotan, “village by the quiet river.” (Jap. Mombetsu).
Otaru nai, “the brook by the sand road.”
Poropet kotan, “the village by the great river.” (Jap. Horobetsu).
Riri shiri, “the high land,” or “the high island.”
Satporo kotan, “the village of much dryness.” (Jap. Sapporo).