Color is a basic part of describing the world around us. There are two main ways to indicate a color in Anishinaabemowin.

The first way to indicate color is to add a small prefix to a word making it more descriptive. These color prefixes are understood across many regions and often relate to key scientific concepts. Several of the color prefixes represent a spectrum of color. For instance, “ozhaawashk” was traditionally used for blue, green and everything in between. Similarly “ozaaw” was traditionally used for the range of color that includes brown, gold and yellow.

For example:

makademakwa = makade (black) + makwa (bear)
miskomakizinan = misko (red) + makizinan (shoes)
waabojiig = waab (white) + ojiig (fisher cat)
waabiwaazakonenjigan = waabi (white) + waazakonenjigan (lamp)
ozhaawashkomikwam = ozhaawashko (blue-green) + mikwam (ice)


It is important to know the color part of the word (the prefix) can be added many ways with slight variations but when it is added to a noun it becomes a single new word. Often an “o” or an “i” is added depending on the first letter in the word that follows.

The second way to indicate color is to consider the color a verb itself and talk about color as an action meaning something is “being a particular color.” These color words can be based on some of same prefixes commonly used by everyone, but they may also reflect a speaker’s personal perceptions. One of the words for “orange” is simply the word for the fruit turned into a verb. Blue might be “berry-blue” or “sky-blue.” Gray is “ash-colored” or “kaakazheaande.” You can create your own colors if you find the need to be very precise about the color of something.

To do this you use the following endings:

aande as a Verb 1 when the object being described is a “maanda” or “o’o” noun
aanzo as a Verb 2 when the object being described is a “maaba” or a “wa’aw” noun
aanzhe as a Verb 1 when you are describing the color of a beam of light


For example:

  • makwa makadewaanzo = the bear he/she is black
  • makwag makadewaanzowag = the bears they are black
  • makizin miskwaande = the shoe it is red shoe
  • makizinan miskwaandenoon = the shoes they are red
  • waabsihkaanzhe waazakonenjigan = white light given off by a lamp
  • ozhaawashkaanzhe waasnoode = blue-green light of the aurora borealis

The same color prefixes are used with these verbs and the verbs are then completed to show who is being colored. A “w” is often used to connect the parts of the word.

In Anishinaabemowin colors are based on what we see in the world. Take a long look at a large body of water and you will see why “ozhaawashkwaa-” might mean everything in the spectrum from blue to green. Our modern world has tried to standardize these terms so “ozhaawashkwaa-” is typically used just for green now. Similarly, an “ozaawamiin” is the word for the fruit often used to make juice; “miin” is a blueberry; and “akakanzhe” literally means coal so these colors are actually describing a very specific shade. You can create your own colors this way: waawaabiganoojiinaande, gidagaakoonsaanzo, oginii-waabigwanaazhe etc . . . Try to make the language your own and use it often with friends and family!

A row of flowers in the Woodland art style by Neebin Southall

Here is a table of examples:

Colors-Wigwam Colors-Wolf Colors-Light
naande – it is the color
naanzo – he/she is the color
naanzhe – the way a light is colored
Colors-1 Colors-2 Colors-3
akiiwaande wiigiwaam
brown house
akiiwaanzo ma’iingan
brown wolf
brown light
miskowaande wiigiwaam
red house
miskowaanzo ma’iingan
red wolf
red light
ozaawaande wiigiwaam
gold/brown house
ozaawaanzo ma’iingan
gold/brown wolf
gold/brown light
ozaawamiinagaanaande wiigiwaam
orange house
ozaawamiinagaanaanzo ma’ingan
orange wolf
orange light
giisawaande wiigiwaam
bright yellow house
giisawaanzo ma’iingan
bright yellow wolf
bright yellow light
ozhaawashkwaande wiigiwaam
green house
ozhaawashkwaanzo ma’iingan
green wolf
green light
giizhigowaande wiigiwaam
blue house
giizhigowaanzo ma’iingan
blue wolf
blue light
miinaande wiigiwaam
purple house
miinaanzo ma’iingan
purple wolf
purple light
makaadewaande wiigiwaam
black house
makaadewaanzo ma’iingan
black wolf
black light
akakanzhewaande wiigiwaam
gray house
akakanzhewaanzo ma’iingan
grey wolf
grey light
waabishkaande wiigiwaam
white house
waabishkaanzo ma’iingan
white wolf
white light
A row of flowers in the Woodland art style by Neebin Southall

How to ask and reply about the color of something.

Aaniin enaandeg wiigiwam? Akiiwaande wiigiwam.
What color is the house? It is brown, the house.


Aaniin enaandeg wiigiwaman? Akiiwaandenoon wiigiwaman.
What color are the houses? They are brown houses.


Aaniin enaanzod ma’iingan? Kaakazhewaanzo ma’iingan.
What color is the wolf? He is gray the wolf.


Aaniin enaanzowaad ma’iinganag? Kaakazhewaanzo ma’iingan.
What colors are the wolves? They are brown wolves.


Aaniin enaanzheg? Ozhaawshkwaanzhe jibwaa wese’an.
What color is the light? The light is green before a tornado.
A row of flowers in the Woodland art style by Neebin Southall

Practice sentences to translate and answer:

(Note both western and eastern variations below. There are some differences in spelling and pronunciation as well as the way we say “this,” “that,” “these” and “those.”)

  1. Aaniin enaandeg o’o babiinzikawaagan? Aaniish enaandeg maanda biinzikawaagan?
  2. Aaniin enaanzod a’aw gaazhag? Aanii enaanzod wa gaazhag?
  3. Aaniin enaanzheg naawakweg? Aaniish enaanzheg naawakweg?
  4. Aaniin enaanzowaad ingiw omakakiig? Aanii enaanzowaad geyeg omakakiig?
  5. Aaniin enaazod wa’aw minjikaawan? Aanii enaazod maaba minjikaawan?
  6. Aaniin enaandeg i’iw doopwin? Aanii enaandeg wi doopwin?
  7. Aaniin enaandeg o’o mazina’igan-mashkimod? Aaniish enaandeg maanda mazina’igan-mashkimod
  8. Aaniin enaanzheg anangoons? Aaniin enaanzheg anangoons?
  9. Aaniin aanakwad enaandeg? Aaniish waankwad enaandeg?
  10. Aaniin enaazod dibiki-giizis? Aanii enaazod dibiki-giizis?
A row of flowers in the Woodland art style by Neebin Southall

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