Monday, July 16, 2018


...instead of saying "the funeral," you say, "THE DEAD!"

~ Where are you going?
~ To the dead!

A statesider or some other English-speaking person not used to Chamorro will assume the person is going to a dead person, not a funeral or wake. Of course, there is no funeral or wake without a dead person!

This could be another example of "English the Chamorro way," except that we also say the same thing in Chamorro.


"I'm going to the dead,"in English, is based, I think, on our Chamorro way of speaking and thinking.

We do say in Chamorro, "Bai hu falak i matai," which literally means, "I will go to the dead." But what we mean is that we're going to a funeral or wake.

Måtai can be both an adjective (e.g. "The dog is dead.") or a noun (e.g. "Don't disrespect the dead.")

It can also be the verb "to die." Kumekematai i taotao. "The person is dying."

So we say in Chamorro things like,

Håye matai-miyo? Literally, "Who is your dead?" but what we mean is, "Who in your family or party has died?"

Guaha matai-ho agupa'. Literally, "I have a dead tomorrow," but what we mean is, "I have a funeral or wake tomorrow."


Finatai means "death." So we can say, "Asta i finatai-ho," or "Until my death," but we can also say, "Asta ke måtai yo'," or "Until I die," or "Until I am dead."

Bela means "wake." It is borrowed from the Spanish word vela, meaning the same. A bela really means an overnight vigil with the dead body, which is why in English it is called a wake, because one stays awake all night. But I do hear some people call the viewing of the deceased during the day a bela.

Entiero means the funeral Mass or ritual. This is also borrowed from Spanish, and the root word here is tierra, meaning "earth." Spanish entierro most exactly means "burial," that is, to bury in the earth (tierra).

Håfot means "to bury" and hinafot means "burial." Fanhafutan is an indigenous term for cemetery, in addition to the Spanish loan word sementeyo (from cementerio) or kåmpo sånto ("holy land or field," from campo santo). Naftan, or "grave," is probably a contraction of fanhafutan.

Responso are the prayers over the deceased's body.

Father Ibáñez in 1865 says that onras also means "funeral," meaning the honors (onra) paid to the deceased.


  1. My haoli sister-in-law, spent time with in Guam and went with us to all our "deads." To this day, she refers to velvet cake as "dead cake."