Monday, February 8, 2016


Are you excited?

OK then. How do you say that in Chamorro?

I was asked the other day that very question, and I must admit I was stumped.

People doing a TV ad wanted to end the commercial saying that they were offering something exciting and they wanted to say that in Chamorro.

Now, before we proceed, I think it is important for us to be very clear what we mean by "excited" or "exciting."

By "excited" or "exciting" we mean a high degree of enjoyment or positive anticipation.

So, off I went to my dictionaries and to my older Chamorro speakers whom I always consult. Even these proficient speakers of Chamorro scratched their heads and needed time to think about the question. How does one say "excitement" or "excited" in Chamorro?

Many words were suggested, but most of them only got close to the idea of excitement, but didn't hit the nail on the head.

Here are some of the words suggested to me :


Manman means to stand in awe or admiration at something amazing or unusual. To be manman is to be beside oneself in wonder. Now, you can be manman when you're excited. But not always. We can be excited about ordinary things which do not cause awe and wonder. For example, carrot cake always makes me excited, but does not cause me awe and wonder.


Borrowed from a Spanish word, it is related to our English word anxious because both are based on a Latin original. Anxious/ånsias. It is true that we are often anxious when we are excited. If I am waiting in a huge crowd for the appearance of my favorite megastar, I can be both excited and anxious. Anxious that the star is taking too long to appear on stage; anxious that I may not get a good view, and so on. I would be ånsias waiting to see the dentist, but I wouldn't say I would be excited to see the dentist! So I don't think ånsias (anxious) perfectly fits the idea of excitement.


This comes from the word guåfe or "fire." Guinafe means "burned" and guinaguafe means "burning." Again, being excited can be likened to burning up inside with one's emotions. But the difficulty is that guinafe can also mean literally burnt, as in a piece of meat on a grill. One can be burning up inside when one is angry, too. So, guinafe may not hit the nail on the head when it comes to excitement.


Another loan word from Spanish, animoso comes from the word ånimo, which means "spirit, energy, intent, effort." Nå'e ånimo means "give it your all, put your heart into it." Animoso usually means, therefore, "industrious, energetic." So, although excitement connotes an increase in spirit, to put it colloquially, "to be pumped up," animoso doesn't quite fit "excitement."


Yet another Spanish loan word, it means "fun, entertainment, play." Again, it suggests excitement but one doesn't have to be excited when one is being entertained or when one is having some fun playing cards. Excitement suggests something stronger than simple pleasure.

And there were other such similar words that suggest excitement, or can be part of excitement, but do not work as an exact translation of "excitement."


Believe it or not, magof (happy) is one of the better translations I came across. And that is because, in the way we are using the word "excitement" in this post, we are talking about strong enthusiasm, delight and pleasure about something. This always means happiness. To say "I am excited to be here" always means one is happy to be there.

Enjoying the thrill of bungee jumping, one could say "Magof yo'" and mean "I am excited!"

Hearing that the show is about to begin in 10 seconds, one could say "Magof yo'" and mean "I am excited!"

Or, "Ei na minagof!" and mean "Wow, what excitement!"

Or, "Na' magof!" and mean "Exciting!"

But magof always means "happy," so Chamorro seems to lack a precise word that specifically means "excited."

But how about.....


If you look at the 1932 Chamorro dictionary of Påle' Roman, he defines agoddai as "to become greatly excited," to become "enthused, impassioned."

I really like this option. I think this is the original meaning of the word agoddai.

The challenge we have today using agoddai to mean "excited" or "excitement" is that, over the years, agoddai has become associated with only one use of the word.

If someone today hears agoddai, s/he will usually think of the intense desire to pinch a baby.

Personally, I find it suspicious that our ancestors would have invented a word that only meant the intense desire to pinch a baby! It is possible they did, I won't deny that. But, to me, it seems more believable that our ancestors had a word to simple express any excitement or intense desire. Then, over time, people narrowed it down to one use of the word.

But Påle' Roman's older dictionary shows us that, at least even as late as the 1930s, Chamorros were using agoddai to express an intense desire, passion and excitement for other things, too. As in a passion for a person.

Ma agoddai yo' nu hågo. I feel passionate for you. You enthuse me.

Na' ma agoddai este! This is exciting! This is exhilarating! 

I think I found my answer. But, I would be sure to be misunderstood by the majority of people today if I used agoddai to mean general excitement about something.

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