Basic Kuna:
English/Spanish/Kuna Dictionary


mapa of guna yala

Located on the North shore of the Republic of Panama, just West of the Colombian border, the Guna Yala, often referred to as the San Blas islands, is a Caribbean archipelago with one island for every day of the year, each one blessed with white sand beaches and gently swaying palm trees

kuna book cover

Learning the Kuna Language
One Word at a Time

The native tongue of the Kuna, is pronounced Guna or Tulekaya. From A to Z this basic Kuna/Spanish/English dictionary details a litany of necessary translations for common words and phrases most likely to be encountered in the San Blas Islands. Here are a few examples designed to whet your appettite.

A Listing of Basic Kuna Words
Kuna/English

Olasu - Nose ring worn by Guna women.
Guna Yala - The San Blas Islands.
Guna - An indigenous native of Guna Yala.
Sahila - Village leader.
Tulemola - Clothing.
Oros - Rice.
Madu - Bread.
Ua or Tilapia - Fish.
Dulup or Skungit - Lobster.
Koibir or Ogob - Coconut.
Cabi - Coffee.
Cayuca - Canoe carved from a tree trunk.
Erragon - A Kuna god.
Nuchus - A holy, wooden doll.
Poni - An evil spirit.
Kuna - Kuna land.
Ico-inna - Feast related to coming of age, puberty.
Tilapia - A fish.
Congresos - A town meeting.

In Kuna mola means shirt

In Dulegaya, the Kuna's native language, mola means shirt or clothing. The mola art form originated with the tradition of Kuna women painting their bodies with geometric designs, using available natural colors. Molas, form the traditional outfit of a Kuna woman, two mola panels are incorporated as front and back panels in a blouse. Full costumes includes a patterned wrapped skirt (saburet), a red and yellow headscarf (musue), arm and leg beads (wini), a gold nose ring (olasu) and earrings in addition to the mola blouse dulemor.


woman with mola

Photo courtesy, Johnathantheghost

Dulegaya is the primary language of daily life in the comarcas, and the majority of Kuna children speak the language. Spanish is also widely used, especially in education and written documents. Although it is relatively viable, Kuna is considered to be one of the world's endangered languages.

Must Know Words & Phrases English/Dulegaya

Hello – Na
How are you? – Bede nued guddi?
Fine – Nuedi
Dine, thank you. And you? – An nuedi. Bedina?
What is your name? – Igi be nuga?
My name is.. – An nuga
Nice to meet you – An yeel itoe
Where are you from? – Be bia lidi?
I am from – An .. ginedi.
Yes – Elle
No – Suli
Thanks – Dot Nuet
Please – Uis anga saet
Ok – Nued gudii o
Good – Nabir, nuedi
Welcome – Nuegambi use be noniki
I’m happy – An yee ito dii
I’m warm – An uerba itoe
I’m hungry – An uku itoe
I’m thirsty – An gobie
I’m cold – An dambe itoe
I’m sleepy – An nue gapie
Good bye – Degi malo
Good luck – Nuedgine, nuegan bi
See you tomorrow – An banedese be dakoe
I had a good time – An yer ittosa

Suffice it to say, BASIC KUNA is a good, pocket beginners guide you handily can carry on your travels in your back pocket or backpack.


making landfall in san blas islands in a native cayuca

About the Author

timothy p banse portrait author button

Dedicated to Abi Sua

This book is dedicated to, Abi, Sua, the infant child born on the San Blas island, Nargana (circa 1985) of sailor parents, an English father from the Channel Islands and a Brazilian mother from Fortaleza, whom had sought shelter from a vicious storm at sea. The author met the family while researching this book.

Middle Coast Foreign Language Series

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