Afaan Oromo/Chapter 05

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Chapter 5: Nouns, Part I
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Talking about Family[edit | edit source]

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Daawit: Maatiin kee eessa jiratu? About this sound play
Caalaa: Maatiin koo Amerika jiratu. About this sound play
Daawit: Maatiin kee maal hojjetu? About this sound play
Caalaa: Haatti fi abbaan koo barsiisoota dha. About this sound play
Daawit: Obboleettiin kee hoo? About this sound play
Caalaa: Isheen barreessituu dha. Maatiin kee eessa jiru? About this sound play
Daawit: Maatiin koo Adaamaa jiratu. Obboleessii kiya Finfinnee jirata lama fi obboleettii tokko hadama jirattun. About this sound play
Caalaa: Maatiin kee maal hojjetu? About this sound play
Daawit: Abbaan koo doktarii dha. Haatti koo haadha mana dha. About this sound play
Caalaa: Obboleessi fi obboleettin kee hoo? About this sound play
Daawit: Obboleessi koo angafaa abukaattoo fi obboleessi koo quxisuun maandisa dha. Obboleettiin koo barattuu fi keessummeessitu dha. About this sound play
Caalaa: Umuriin obboleettii kee meeqa? About this sound play
Daawit: Waggaa kudha sagal. About this sound play

[For translation see here]

Gender of Nouns[edit | edit source]

Nouns in Oromo are treated as either male or female, though there are typically no gender markers in the words themselves. Gender can be shown through a demonstrative pronoun, a definite article, a gender-specific adjective, or the verb form (if the noun is a subject). The notable exceptions are those nouns derived from verbs, where the masculine noun adds an -aa suffix and the feminine noun adds a -tuu suffix to the verb root.


English     Masculine     Feminine     verb
teacher barsiisaa barsiistuu barsiisuu – to teach
student barataa barattuu barachuu – to learn
actor/actress     ta'aa taatuu ta'uu – to become
accountant herregaa herregduu herreguu – to calculate
writer barreessaa     barreessituu     barressuu – to write
coach leenjisaa leenjistuu leenjisuu – to train, coach

For people, neutral nouns may be distinguished by dhiira for males and dubartii for females. For example, daldalaa dhiira is “businessman” and daldalaa dubartii is “businesswoman”.

Animals may be distinguished by use of korma for males and dhaltuu for females. It is important not to use korma or dhaltuu when referring to people.

farda korma &mdash stallion       farda dhaltuu — mare
leenca korma &mdash lion       leenca dhaltuu — lioness

Korma moo dhaltuu dha?” – “Is it (an animal) male or female?”

Plural Nouns[edit | edit source]

The plural forms are not used as often in Oromo as they are in English. Typically, the plural form is used to specify that one is talking about more than one object where no other indicators are given. For example, in conversation the plural is rarely used when the noun is modified by a number. One would say “muka lama” for “two trees”, keeping muka in the singular, instead of “mukkeen lama”, where mukkeen is the plural of muka. When a plural noun in modified by an adjective, only the adjective shows plurality (discussed in next chapter). In written Oromo, plural forms tend to be more common, and may occur with numbers, adjectives, and other indicators. Tilahun Gamta (2004) explains:

Until the early 1970's, Afaan Oromo had remained mostly a spoken language. As such, it seems that using the plural forms had not been common because in conversation, when people talk face to face, there was no need for formality. In conversation, saying, "Maqaa ijollee isaa beektaa?" (Do you know the name of his children?) is in fact more natural than saying, "Maqaalee ijoollee isaa beektaa?" (Do you know the names of his children?). Of course, even in conversation, in some situations a speaker has to use a plural form. After returning home late at night, a head of a family who has two or more horses would not ask his son, "Farda galchiteettaa?" (Have you brought in a horse?). In this context, he has to use the plural form and say, "Fardeen galchiteettaa?" (Have you brought in the horses?). [bold added][1]

When the plural form is used, there are several forms it may take. Typically, the final vowel is dropped and the correct suffix attached: -oota, -toota, -lee, -een, -yyii, -wwan, -ootii, or -olii. Unfortunately, the correct suffix cannot be predicted from the noun, meaning plural forms must be learned individually. Plural forms also vary across dialects, and multiple forms may be correct for some words. The most common suffix is -oota.


English       Singular     Plural
tooth ilka ilkaan
thing waanta waantoota
day guyyaa guyyawwan
mountain gaara gaarreen
river laga laggeen
tree muka mukkeen
year waggaa waggottii
book kitaaba kitaabolii

For nouns that may take either a masculine or feminine form, the feminine form is used as the stem to which the plural suffix is attached. For example, the plural of “student” is barattoota.

Many nouns have irregular plural forms (e.g., “another” is biraa while “others” is biro). For a list of some common nouns and their plurals, see the grammar appendix.

Definiteness[edit | edit source]

Where English uses “the” to indicate definiteness (a specific something of shared knowledge), Oromo drops the final vowel and uses the suffix -(t)icha for masculine nouns and -(t)ittii for feminine nouns. Making a noun definite is less common in Oromo than in English, and is used only for objects known to both the speaker and the listener. A noun can be either definite or pluralized, but not both. A definite noun is therefore ambiguous in number, and context determines if it is singular or plural. Definite nouns are not modified by demonstrative pronouns or possessive pronouns. If modified by an adjective, the definite marker is attached to the adjective (discussed in the next chapter).


Base noun (dictionary form)     Definite noun
nama – man namicha – the man (men)
muzii – banana muzicha – the banana(s)
durba – girl durbittii – the girl(s)

Indefiniteness is marked in English by “a(n)” or “some”, while Oromo tends to use the noun alone without modification. The word tokko (“one”) is used to indicate “a certain” something, and tokko-tokko can be used to mean “some”.

Kitaaban barbaada” — “I want a book (any book)”
Kitaaba tokkon barbaada” — “I want a (certain) book”
Kitaaba tokko-tokkon barbaada” — “I want some books”

Nominative Case[edit | edit source]

Oromo is a declined language. That is, the form of a noun (declension) changes depending on its role (case) in the sentence. The main cases are nominative (for subjects), accusative (direct objects), genitive (“of” indirect objects), dative (“for”, “to”, “in order to” indirect objects), instrumental (“with”, “by” indirect objects), locative (“at” indirect objects), and ablative (“from” indirect objects). Nouns in Oromo are listed as direct objects (accusative case) in dictionaries.

To change a noun from the accusative (acc.) to the nominative (nom.), certain patterns are used.

  1. Nouns in the acc. that end in a single consonant and short vowel will drop the final vowel and add -ni as a suffix. So that the dictionary form of “person (acc.)” is nama, while “person (nom.)” is namni.
  2. If the acc. form ends in a double consonant and short vowel, the vowel is replaced by -i. For example, “honey (acc.)” is damma, while “honey (nom.)” is dammi. This applies to all masculine definite nouns, where the -icha suffix in the acc. becomes -ichi in the nom.
  3. If the acc. form ends in a long vowel, -n in is suffixed to form the nom. For example, “name (acc.)” is maqaa and “name (nom.)” is maqaan.
  4. Femine nouns that end in a short vowel will replace the short vowel with a -ti suffix. “Mother” in the acc. is haadha and in the nom. is haatti, and “earth” is lafa (acc.) and lafti (nom.).
  5. If the dictionary form ends in a consonant, the acc. and the nom. are the same. For example “Jon eats” is simply “Jon ni nyaata”.

For multiple subjects, all are in the nominative form. “My brother and sister live in America” will then be “Obboleessi fi obboleettiin koo Amerika jiratu”.

More examples:

English meaning       Accusative (dictionary) form     Nominative (subject) form
actress taatuu taatuun
air qilleensa qilleensi
boat jabala jaballi (note morphology)
language, tongue afaan afaan
soldiers loltoota loltoonni (note morphology)
the man namicha namichi
things waantoota waantooti

Chapter Vocabulary[edit | edit source]

maatii, warra


hidda sanyii

family tree

haadha, harmee





















great grandparent


uncle (maternal)


uncle (paternal)



dhala, mucaa, daa'ima


ijoollee, daa'immaan






Dhala dhalaa





sister in-law


brother in-law


mother in-law


father in-law

haadhaddaa, haadha buddeenaa


abbaaddaa, abbaa buddeenaa


mucaaddaa, mucaa buddeenaa


barsiisaa, barsiistuu


barataa, barattuu


barreessituu, bareessaa






weelistuu, weellisaa



police officer

haadha mana


qoteebulaa, qoteebultuu


keessummeessisa, keessummeessitu


ta'aa, taatuu


soorama kan ba'e/bate








hojjataa ijaarsa

construction worker





Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Gamta, Tilahun (2004). "Pluralization in Afaan Oromo". Journal of Oromo Studies 11 (1&2): 29–45. 

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