Concrete vs. abstract meanings

From sona pona, the Toki Pona wiki
Caution: The subject of this article is nonstandard and will not be understood by most speakers.
If you are a learner, this information will not help you speak the language. It is recommended to familiarize yourself with the standard style, and to be informed and selective about which nonstandard styles you adopt.

Words in Toki Pona have a broad meaning. When translating into another language, this manifests into having multiple translations for the same word. While some translations seem close in concept, others seem further apart (compare "high, above, sky" to "deity, supernatural", as translations for sewi). This may contribute to the impression that toki pona words are "ambiguous", when in reality, content words only have one broad meaning.

One lense through which the seeming separation of meanings within the same word can be analysed, is displaying the broadness of a word on a spectrum of concrete meanings and abstract meanings. This is likely not the only spectrum that can be applied to Toki Pona words, and over-relying on the concrete/abstract analysis may result in shifting the meanings of words in an unintended way.

Part of the spectrum laid out in this article may also be physical meaning, being close to concreteness, and metaphorical meaning, being close to abstractness.

Word list[edit | edit source]

Concrete meaning Abstract meaning
akesi herptile (dated) non-cute, monstrous, ugly
ala vacuum, space nothingness
alasa hunt, gather, forage search, try
ale life, universe everything, all
anpa down, below-area humble, lowly, dependent
ante change, difference other
awen protection, maintenance, safe enduring, waiting, staying
esun market, trade, business transaction swap, exchange
ijo thing, object, matter phenomenon, concept
ike evil, bad non-essential, irrelevant, unwanted
ilo tool, machine, device ?
insa stomach, internal organ inside, between
jaki disease, toxin disgusting
jan person someone
jelo yellow ?
jo physically hold, carry, contain have access to, own
kala fish, underwater creature object submerged in water
kalama sound, noise ?
kama arriving, coming related to the future
kasi plant become unmoving, be in a vegetative state
ken be able to be allowed to, possible
kepeken use ?
kili fruit, vegetable ?
kiwen rock, metal, hard material rigid, inflexible
ko powder, clay, paste, semi-solid flexible, malleable, sticky
kon gas, breath, air essence, spirit; hidden reality, unseen agent
kule color spectrum or expression of a spectrum, type, gender
kulupu group, tribe, family collection
kute hear, listen obey
lape sleep rest, pause an activity
laso blue, green ?
lawa head control, direct, guide, own, rule
len clothing, fabric hiding, layer of privacy
lete uncooked, raw cold, cool
lili little, small young
linja long and flexible thing, rope, hair link, boundedness, connection
lipu document flat object, thing carrying information
loje red ?
lon reality exist, true
luka arm, hand touch, grab, punch
lukin eye see, watch
lupa door, hole, orifice, window ?
ma earth, land, outdoors area place
mama parent, ancestor, caretaker
mani cattle, currency valueable
meli woman, female, feminine ?
mi I, me, we, us ?
mije man, male, masculine ?
moku consume ?
moli dead, dying inert
monsi back, buttocks rear, behind
mu (animal noise or communication) (onomatopoeia)
mun moon, night sky object, star glitter, glimmer, glow
musi art, entertainment, game fun, funny
mute many, quantity very
nanpa number, count ?
nasa drunk, intoxicated strange, unusual
nasin path, road custom, doctrine, method
nena nose, button, mountain uneven
ni this, that doing so
nimi name, word ?
noka foot, leg bottom, lower part, kick, foundation
olin love, respect like strongly
ona he, she, it, they ?
open turn on, open beginning
pakala broken, damaged ?
pali work action, do
palisa long hard thing; branch, rod, stick ?
pan starchy food ?
pana give, send, emit ?
pilin heart feel, experience
pimeja dark ?
pini finished, completed, end tip related to the past
pipi bug annoying
poka hip, side next to, nearby
poki box, container category
pona positive, elegant, friendly simple
pu the official toki pona book interaction with the official toki pona book
sama sibling, peer, equal similar
seli fire, heat chemical reaction
selo outer layer, boundary touch, brush against
sewi area above, highest part, something elevated awe-inspiring, divine, sacred, supernatural
sijelo body, torso, physical object physical state
sike round or circular thing, ball, circle related to one year, repetition
sin new, fresh again
sina you ?
sinpin face, wall front
sitelen image, writing dream, imagination, symbolic, representation
sona knowledge ?
soweli land mammal animal
suli big, heavy, large, long, tall important, adult
suno sun, light, bright ?
supa horizontal surface to put things on flat, even
suwi sugar, fragrance cute, adorable
tan origin reason
taso isolated, lonely only, exception
tawa movement, motion ?
telo liquid easy to navigate through, going with the flow
tenpo time, situation ?
toki communication, language think
tomo indoor space, building, room living area, home
tu two division, segmentation, pair
unpa to have sexual relations with connect, unite, insert
uta mouth kiss
utala war, physical conflict struggle, compete
walo bright ?
wan one unique, united
waso bird, winged animal, flying creature object moving in the air
wawa strength, power, electricity confident, sure
weka distance, absence ignored
wile wish, desire requirement