Concrete vs. abstract meanings

    From sona pona

    In toki pona, words have a broad meaning. When translating into English, this manifests into having multiple translations for the same word. While some translations seem close in concept, others seem further apart (e.g. 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]

    Warning: Some of these meanings are uncommon.

    content word concrete meaning abstract meaning
    akesi herptile (deprecated: 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 2 division, segmentation, pair
    unpa to have sexual relations with connect, unite, insert
    uta mouth kiss
    utala war, physical conflict struggle, compete
    walo bright ?
    wan 1 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