Most dictionaries for toki pona only have a list of some english concepts that fit into a word's semantic space. This can be very useful at a glance, but it doesn't teach the core of the semantic space. There were no dictionaries built around descriptions of a word, using sentences, using paragraphs. So I decided to make one!
This project will describe the semantic spaces in depth of all toki pona words in pu, save for words without semantic spaces (en, li, e, anu, o, la, and pi) and including tonsi. Once complete, I may add a section for nonpu words that are common enough to warrant it, such as monsuta and leko.
By the nature of toki pona, the semantic spaces of words will be known best through conversation, so I encourage everyone reading this to do two things: talk about these semantic spaces with people, and let me know if there are any discrepancies. Let me know over discord at lipamanka. I would like to know if my dictionary has entries that don't feel right to other toki pona speakers.
You can use any toki pona word to refer to anything. But be warned. With this great power comes the ability to shape the world around you. If you use ilo for your friend, you're framing them as something to be used. If you use nasa to describe an idea, you are saying that that idea is silly. All of the semantic spaces I've listed below should serve as a list of traits. Think of them not as a list of objects you can use the words for, but rather a list of traits you can frame any object as. The more similar an object is to the description I've provided, the better a fit it is! The less similar, the more of a metaphor you're evoking. But that's just the nature of toki pona. The semantic spaces are so large that you'll get used to using metaphor like never before.
So what are you waiting for? Go enjoy the dictionary!!
alasa refers to hunting and forraging. Searching for a lost object is alasa. Searching for something on a web browser is alasa. Throwing a spear into the side of a bison could be alasa because it is part of hunting, as can the act of picking berries, but the core of alasa is the trying to find. Recently (as in during the past half a decade), usage of alasa to refer to attempting or trying has become very common. So trying to knit could be a type of alasa. Trying to sprint could be a type of alasa. Trying to look larger than you actually are to scare off a preditor could be alasa.
anpa refers to the space (or sometimes object) below something. For example, "anpa supa" is the space under a table. "anpa kasi" is the space under a plant. anpa can also refer to qualities of defeat and shame, such as beating someone in a game of chess. You can describe the loser as anpa, and you can use anpa as a verb to mean "beat." anpa can also talk about social stratification and hierarchy. A lower class person can be a jan anpa.
esun is a type of swap or exchange. Usually it's used to mean "buy," "sell," or "trade." The use of a currency isn't required for something to be esun. Trading baseball cards is esun. esun doesn't imply that both parties lose something. Exchanging knowledge is esun, even though neither party loses knowledge. Some interesting extentions of esun I've seen include using esun for breathing, where one trades the air inside them with the outside world. Seeing esun as a swap more than as a type of buying has had it being used far more often these days in my experience.
Everything is within the semantic space of ijo. If a thing is a thing, it is an ijo. This could be anything or something. This could be a physical object, an idea, an action, a place, a sentient being, or any other thing.
The semantic space of ilo contains things that are used towards a goal. It’s easy to say that everything can be used. Likewise if something is being used or can commonly be used, it is easy to call it an ilo. If I am using a hammer to hammer a nail into the wall, that is an ilo. If i am using a psychological method to calm myself down when i’m stressed, that can be an ilo as well. Without much context, ilo can refer to things that are commonly used as tools. With the context of it being used for something, though, anything can be an ilo.
insa talks about things inside of things. Commonly, this is used to describe a location. The location inside of a car is insa. It can also be used to describe objects that are inside of things. Someone's organs are insa. insa doesn't need to be contained completely, it can just mean "in between." A book in the middle of a bookshelf is insa. The space between two city buildings is insa. It can be used more abstractly too. When compared to a head, a mind is insa. In the context of good and bad, insa can be neutral. When compared to hot and cold, insa can be lukewarm. If anything is being framed as inside of something else, it falls under the semantic space of insa.
jaki talks about unpleasant sensory experiences. This can be any of the senses, internal or external. This could be bad smells, repulsive flavors, gross images, earshattering noises, and horrible textures. But it could also be internal sensory experiences such as nausea. jaki can be used to refer to other things that aren't usually sensory, and it should be. But be careful, because using jaki will frame something through a sensory lens. If someone is acting bad, such as bullying or harassing someone else, you can describe their actions as jaki, but doing so makes their actions framed as unpleasant in a sensory way.
jelo comes from the english word "yellow" and has a very similar meaning. It refers to yellows, oranges, and sometimes yellowish greens.
Any creature that swims habitually is a kala. This can include anything from fish to whales to seals. The most important aspect of a kala is its relation to water. kala tend to either live in the water or spend a good portion of their time in it. Some speakers extend this usage a bit and let it refer to anything that is in water, like a human swimmer or a pool noodle. Sometimes, toki ponists will describe the act of showering as kala. This usage is often interpreted as somewhat funny, but it is commonly understood.
The semantic space of kalama contains all noises and sounds and any act of creating a noise or sound. Any sound from any source can be a kalama. Music is a kalama. A scream is kalama. The sound that a tree makes when it falls in the forest is a kalama. A sound doesn't have to travel through air to be a kalama: whale noises are kalama, and a heartbeat through a stethoscope is kalama. kalama could be an absolute pitch, or multiple. It could be sound designed to sound a certain way, or chaotic noise.
ken is all about abilities. These could be inherent abilities, like the ability to fly, walk, or swim. These could also be external, like permission to use the bathroom. If I can blow bubbles with bubble gum because I'm not around anyone who I don't want to annoy, that ability is a ken. Unlike some languages, toki pona has a single word that contains all abilities. ken can also refer to a probability or a possibility. The throughline here is almost saying that an event is able to occur, but that doesn't mean it necessarily will or won't. These ideas of possibility and ability are two sides of the same coin.
kili are fruits and vegetables, i.e. any part of the plant that is edible. These could be fresh. An apple is kili. These could be fermented. Kimchi and pickled onions are kili. These could be preserved. Strawberry jam and dried mango are kili. kili can refer to wheat seeds or other grains that haven't been ground up yet, but flour and bread don't fit well into kili's semantic space.
kiwen are things whose form resists changing. This often talks about a hard physical material or object, like a rock or wood or crystal. It can describe something's material, so a chair made out of a hard material could be kiwen. It is additionally possible to talk about nonphysical things using kiwen, but by using kiwen to describe nonphysical things, their forms are being framed as resisting change. For example, I can describe a recipe as kiwen. With some explaining, this might mean that in order for me to consider it my recipe, it must not change, and if it does change it would no longer be my recipe.
ko is a fantastic word. It has an enormous semantic space and offers some interesting perspective about moisture. ko refers to semisolids. What's a semisolid? Often toki ponists forget that most English speakers don't use this descriptor. A semisolid is something that has solid elements to it, but isn't hard and doesn't resist a change in shape. Some examples are toothpaste, salt, sponges, jello, paint, clay, soil, flour, and sand. The throughline here is that ko ignores moisture completely. If you take any of these examples that are dry and add water, they become wet. Some dissolve into the water and supersaturate it, becoming something very similar and yet very distinct from a liquid. Some, such as flour and soil, become moldable and retain their shape (for example, a dough or some sort of clay). A sponge becomes easier to reform and manipulate when it gets wet. A good thought experiment to get to know ko better is to choose any ko and think about what happens to it when the amount of water changes.
The semantic space of kon contains many types of unseen things. kon can be a spirit. A ghost and a soul are both kon. Some people like to use kon for identity as well, for example a gender identity. kon can be used to describe the meaning of words and ideas. The semantic space of "kon" is kon. kon can also describe physical gaseous things, like steam, smoke, or any sent/fragrance. The core idea that ties together the semantic space of kon is something that is known but not seeable.
kule are aspects of senses. The most prototypical version of this is color, an aspect of sight, but kule can also refer to aspects of other senses. Here are some possibilities: For sound, kule can refer to timbre or pitch. For taste, kule could be a flavor. For touch, kule could be a type of texture. There are plenty of ways to be creative with kule, but the most common uses besides "color" are the ones I've listed associated with sound.
Any group of other things can be a kulupu. It's commonly used to describe groups of people: communities, clubs, cultures, cliques, charters, committees, collectives, and perhaps other words that don't start with the letter "c." kulupu can also be groups of objects or animals, like a bunch of bananas, a basket filled with small clay pots, or a murder of crows. kulupu is often used to describe a plural system/collective (i.e. multiple people in one body). Usually a kulupu will be a group of items that have some sort of shared attribute, and using kulupu to describe a group of anything is emphasizing that they have something in common. These shared qualities can be anything from location to color to desire.
The semantic space of lape contains sleep and rests. More abstractly, lape can mean anything from a short break from walking to a gap year in college, and less abstractly lape can mean a nap or sleeping. Using lape to describe an action often implies that the level of effort or involvement is lower when compared to surrounding activities.
laso talks about both blues and greens at the same time. it can describe a large range of colors that are often seperated in other languages, such as English. In English, blue and green are separate concepts with their own semantic space. In toki pona (as well as countless languages across the world), these concepts are merged into one. Many linguists affectionally call this color "grue" in the contexts of analyzing other languages, and the term can be helpful here because it gives a fantastic anchor for color perspective to English speakers. Think to yourself how often it is crucial to destinguish between blue and green. In cases where you wish to do so, greens are yellowier than blues, so it's easy to modify laso with a word like "jelo" to specify that, but if you don't need to specify, doing so adds more clutter to your speaking.
Another part of laso worth mentioning is purples. While somewhat controversial, when I showed several toki ponists color chips (the kind you use when choosing which color to paint your wall), most of the darker or bluer shades of purple that were not dark enough to be pimeja were unanimously laso. Some of the lighter or pinker ones were called loje. There was also some overlap, and some people stated the importance of the surrounding colors. These are all things to keep in mind when you encounter a color that seems hard to talk about in toki pona.
The semantic space of lawa contains parts of a whole that control that whole, and the act of controlling itself. A classic example is the head of an animal, and perhaps by extension the heads of other things that just look similar. A tulip's flower could be a "lawa." Additionally, this can be taking a bit more abstractly. Someone who's in charge of a group could be considered the lawa of that group. Commanding troops in battle is a type of lawa. lawa doesn't imply any level of consent, so it could be forceful or gentle. Guiding a swimming student's body into the correct position for good technique could be lawa, but plenty of things that I'm not willing to describe could be lawa as well.
The semantic space of len contains both cloth and the act of hiding something. Any fabric or clothing can be len, for example a shirt or a blanket. The pivot between "cloth" and "to hide something" is similar to covering something with a blanket. This meaning comes from the idea of applying a cloth to something to hide it. Both a hidden bird and a clothed bird could be a "waso len." len can also refer to secrecy or privacy, and other qualities of being hidden.
lete is the quality of coldness. If anything is cold, it is lete. lete is also occasionally used to describe raw food or unprocessed ore.
The semantic space of lili contains all qualities of smallness relative to context. The thing that ties all things lili together is their relative size. A tall man might be lili compared to a mountain. A long speech may be lili compared to a novel. lili is a relative word, and therefore is always dependant on context.
luka is an organ capable of manipulation, or a part of said organ. For example, an arm is a luka, and so is a hand, fingers, even elbows. The main part is that it interacts with other things. If a cat's paw is swiping at me, I might use luka to describe it, but if it's just walking on it I might not (see: noka), but I still could. So, it's possible for one organ to be both a luka and something else in different contexts. The prehensile tails of some monkeys could be luka too, especially while they're using them, but the only thing something needs in order to be a luka is an innate ability to interact with objects. luka can also be used as a verb to refer to this interaction with its direct object, which could be touching, petting, pressing, pulling, holding, hugging, grasping, playing an instrument, etc. I'm sure you can thing of other things it could mean!
A lupa is a hole. Here's what that means: these holes can go through objects, like the hole in a donut, or they can be an indentation in an object, such as a hole dug in the ground. Things that are lupa continue to be lupa even when there is something blocking them, like a door or a window, because they are still meant for things to pass through them. From a perspective of function, that's what lupa are for. A lupa is a part of an object that things can pass through. A door is still a lupa because people can open it, and a window is still a lupa because it's meant for light to pass through. Empty space is not a lupa because it's not part of an object. The semantic space can be extended to describe other things that fit this description, even if they aren't physical holes, such as portals or links on the internet.
A mama is a parent, ancestor, or caretaker. My great-great-great grandparent can be a mama to me, even if I never even met them. Just the same, an uncle or an aunt or a cousin could all be mama, but if I'm an adult and I'm talking about my baby cousin, I'm probably not going to call them mama. mama is somewhat about hierarchy, but it isn't about power. It's about caretaking. This doesn't always have to do with age. A worker at a nursing home could be a mama. Another fun example of mama is a tree that bares fruit. If all of the seeds are its children, then the tree could be mama! Thinking about mama like this can be fun and allows a lot of freedom in exploring its semantic space.
mi talks about the speaker. It can also refer to groups that include the speaker. Similarly to sina, when quoting others, it doesn't necesserily refer to the one who is speaking at the moment, and instead refers to the one being quoted. But besides situations like that, mi always includes the speaker.
mani means "goats." there are no other uses or meanings of mani.
The semantic space of mije contains men and masculinity. The semantic space of meli contains women and femininity. These words are as well defined as the concepts they represent, so it's left intentionally broad without specifying further. This means that for beings that can talk to you, they decide if they fit within the semantic space of these words.
moli means death, but what does death mean? Sometimes, moli describes a kind of distruction that cannot be undone. Death is permanent. But other times, moli can describe harm or distruction that comes to a treasured object. In these situations, there is still usually a sense of permanency. "ilo mi li moli" would probably be interpeted as "my phone is broken," or even "my phone is broken beyond repair," but probably not "my phone is out of battery." That doesn't mean that moli inherently means that there is no possible way to undo the distruction. For example, if ressurection was real, I might still use moli for death anyway. Many cultures believe in reincarnation, life after death, or some sort of returning to nature. Perhaps in these frameworks, moli still describes permanence, but it's not inherently negative.
The semantic space of monsi contains things that are behind another thing or the back part of a thing. The caboose of a trains is monsi. The space behind a building is monsi. A person's back is monsi. monsi is relative, so its semantic space will always depend on what object it is in relation to.
The semantic space of mu contains noises coming from things being framed as living. A lion's roar is mu. A cough is mu. Humans are animals, but often when they say things, we can understand them, so we might choose to use a different word over mu. But mu is often used to describe languages and vocalizations that are not understood by the speaker. Adjacently, many people describe non-language vocalizations as mu, such as coughs, sneezes, or vocal stims.
By using mu to describe a noise, you are ascribing some level of livingness to the thing that produced it. Using mu to describe a robot's noise makes the robot feel more like a living thing. This can be taken to any extreme, and it often ends up seeming humorous. For example, the sound of some sizzling bacon could be a mu, which is thought provoking. But the sound of a waterfall can also be mu, which is thought provoking in a completely different way. Ascribing qualities of life and animacy to bacon and waterfalls are very different situations. With bacon, it becomes a joke, where the punchline is that mu is an "animal noise" and sizzling is an "animal noise." But with a waterfall, it becomes a deep philosophical musing about what life is.
Using mu to describe the vocalizations of animals is usually a safe bet, but using it in other circumstances can be very profound.
The semantic space of musi contains all things funny, entertaining, and interesting. An enjoyable book is musi. A good joke is musi. A game is musi. A documentary about fish is musi.
The semantic space of nasa contains deviations from what's considered normal. If most people have blue hair and one person has green hair, that one person is nasa. If someone grows ten types of herbs and a single carnivorous plant, then that carnivorous plant is nasa. If most people don't grow herbs, someone who does grow herbs is nasa. What's considered "normal" here is completely reliant on context. A clown isn't "nasa" if everyone around them is also a clown. Nothing is inherently nasa. The nasa-ness of all objects will change along with context.
nanpa refers to numbers. Some examples of numbers could be phone numbers, HP in a video game, heart rate, or blood sugar. nanpa can also refer to things related to computers, because most things computers do are really lots of little numbers. Some people like to use nanpa for math in general, but everyone I know who's into math doesn't like considering all math as numbers.Some math is numbers, and that math can be nanpa, but other math isn't. It's your decision where you stand on that.
nena describes parts of a surface that stick out from the parts around it. For example, a button on a computer keyboard could be a nena. A knot in a tree could be a nena. Small toes can be nena. Fingers are probably too long to be nena, but if you use nena for them, you're framing them as bumps as opposed to long objects or a grasping organ. nena can be dull or sharp. A speed bump can be a nena and a hill can be a nena, but so can a spike or a sharp peak of a mountain. Some nena are plesant to touch, and others might draw blood. If I wanted to make a nena no longer a nena, all I'd need to do is smooth it into the rest of the surface it's part of such that it no longer bulges out.
Another important part of nena's semantic space is its usage for the nose. The nose is a bump, which is why nena can describe it, but as a transitive verb, nena becomes rapidly useful to describe active smelling. Wafting the aroma of roasting chicken can be a type of nena, as an action, but it's drawing attention to the nose. It makes the agent (i.e. the one that smells) a key part of the situation.
nimi are words and names. "lipamanka" is a nimi. "paralelepípedo" is a nimi. "cupcake" is a nimi. This description of nimi's semantic space is nimi.
The semantic space of noka contains the bottom parts of things meant for touching the ground. Some basic examples of noka might be feet or legs. noka can refer to the bottom part of a piece of furniture or the wheels of a car. The lowest floor of a building is noka. The roots of a tree are noka. noka can also refer to the action of applying a noka to something, such as kicking, stepping on, walking on. If you use noka for this, you'll be framing the relationship as some sort of application of a noka onto the direct object.
olin describes the act of being emotionally bonded to someone something. In usage, these bonds are typically positive and strong. For example, a very good friend, a partner, a family member, or a pet. Not only could the love for a very good friend be olin, but so can the friend. This can be used with objects too. The bond between many toki ponists and the language toki pona is olin. This isn't the same thing as liking something. By using olin, you are evoking some sort of emotional bond. Note that olin doesn't describe all emotional bonds between two things. So if I don't like someone a lot but I still respect them deeply, I could still use olin to describe the respect, but probably not how I don't like them.
open describes activation. If I activate a light switch, that can be open. If I open a door, that can be open as well. open often describes something's function being activated, but it can also describe a beginning of an event, like the start of a concert or the start of a year. Perhaps childhood could be open. The throughline here is cause and effect. the act of open is always a cause, but open can also be the event around that activation. This activation usually isn't a type of creation and serves to exist within the function of the activated thing.
pakala describes distruction. pakala is often not intended, for example a mistake. The thing being destroyed were your expectations. Sometimes, when people's expectations are destroyed, they say "pakala" by itself to describe said distruction, similar to the way explatives work in other languages. This isn't something special that pakala does, but pakala is used this way because the situations we swear in are often situations where we've made mistakes, or when something has been destroyed. pakala can also be intentional, such as smash therapy or intentional use of explosions. pakala can also describe harm. If something cut my skin, I might use pakala to describe that. In fact, pakala merges the ideas of harm and distruction. In English, these concepts are given seperate words, but in toki pona, they aren't.
pali is work. But what does that mean? In toki pona, pali needs at least a little bit of effort, and it needs to make a little bit of something. But if it only had a little of each, calling it "pali" might be a worse choice than using another word. Just because eating requires a little work and makes energy inside of your body doesn't mean pali will be understood. So almost always, pali will either require a lot of effort or create a significant thing. A professional potter making pottery might not require a lot of effort because they are skilled enough, but it will create a significant object. And on the reverse, learning a new language may not create a significant object (just some new knowledge in your head), but it does require a lot of effort.
The semantic space of palisa contains things all things that are longer than they are wide that are not flexible enough to be bended significantly. any palisa will resist bending and either break or only bend slightly under significant pressure. If a palisa is looked at from a different perspective where there is enough power to bend it, it might not firmly sit within palisa's semantic space. A good test that works most of the time is to check to see if it’s flexable enough to be bent into a 0 degree angle or if it’s flexable enough to be tied in a knot, if it is, then it’s probably not a palisa.
The semantic space of pana contains all acts that set objects in motion. This can be a type of emmission. The act of a fire giving off heat it pana. The act of a child laughing is pana, because the child is emitting laughter, setting it in motion. Throwing a baseball, hitting a hockey puck, and kicking a football (the kind that Americans call a "soccer ball") are all pana. Defenestration is a type of pana, because you are setting something in motion (out a window). the object that does the act of pana doesn't have to set something in motion away from itself. Buying a piano online for a friend is pana, or at the very least the act of having the piano be delivered is pana. Less physical objects can be the subject of pana too: knowledge, advice, or good feelings.
The semantic space of pimeja contians things that are a type of darkness. This could talk about specific colors like deep red or dark emerald green, but it can also talk about shadows, places where there is less light, or the absence of brighter colors. pimeja can describe anything that is dark. From some perspectives, the night is a type of darkness more than a period of time (just as a day can be a type of brightness and a year can be a type of circle).
pipi tend to be on the smaller side. They can have legs, and their legs will be under them. They usually have six or more legs if they have any at all. When they move quickly, they will usually move in straight lines, wether that be across a surface or through the air. Sometimes, they don't have legs. pipi tend to be squishy inside, and if there's a hard part it will be on the outside. This is similar to the concept of an exoskeleton.
poki are containers. They're meant to contain things. Bags, boxes, and bins are great examples of poki. Furniture that contains things, such as trash cans, drawers, shelves, and even closets, are a big part of poki. Some poki might be metaphysical rather than physical. All semantic spaces of all toki pona words can be framed as poki, containing possible meanings. You could look at labels through this lense, and people who choose to use a label are placing themselves within the semantic space of said label. This usage of poki is fairly common. To explore poki's semantic space more, click here.
The semantic space of pu contains all interactions with the official toki pona book: Toki Pona the Language of Good by Sonja Lang. This could be anything from reading it to using it in a project to folding oragami out of its pages to throwing it at your enimies to reanimating it like frankenstine's monster. In order for something to be pu, it must be some sort of interaction with the official toki pona book.
sama can be all qualities of similarities and samenesses. Two siblings are sama because they have a parent in common. two stringed instruments are sama because they both have strings. Two action figures of the same exact character are sama.
selo describes the outer layer of an object. It doesn't matter what the object is. For example, skin can be selo, and bark can be selo. This can get extended into the metaphorical. What are outer layers for? Usually, they protect that which is inside. Perhaps an attempt to ignore bigotry could be described as a selo. But in doing so, you're framing it as an outer layer of your mind. selo don't always have to contain anything important, even though they usually do. Balloons are usually empty (save for air) and they can still be selo. As a verb, selo can mean "to surround fully," or "to become the outer layer of (soemthing). Some people use this for hugging, which is very fun.
sewi embodies a very powerful conceptual metaphor that exists within toki pona. In toki pona, upwards and high things and divinity are connected. These are two seperate ideas that sewi connects by refering to both of them. Things that are religious or sacred can be sewi. For example, a religion could be "nasin sewi," religious art can be "sitelen sewi", and a god, practitioner, or religious wisdom holder can all be "jan sewi." sewi on its own can easily refer to that which is divine or worshipped. But sewi very simply talks about the space above something. "sewi kiwen" can mean "the space above the rock" or "the top of the rock." Keep in mind that all of these examples can work in the other sense of sewi. "nasin sewi" can mean an upwards direction, "sitelen sewi" can be the top painting of two paintings, and "jan sewi" can be someone who just climbed a big mountain. And of course, "sewi kiwen" could be the divinity of a rock.
sike represents round objects and cycles. sike can be used to refer to the smoothness of an edge. sike can be used to talk about marbles and flat disks such as cookies. sike can talk about wheels or balls or even gyroscopes. Because sike can also represent cycles, it can be used to describe a repeated action. "toki sike" could be repeating the same thing over and over again. "utala sike" could be a never ending cycle of war, or some online discourse that just won't end. Wether it's physical or not, a sike will always loop around and end where it started.
sina is the listener, reader, the one who interprets what the speaker says, or any group that contains them. Similarly to mi, when quoting others, it doesn't necesserily refer to the one who is listening at the moment, and instead refers to the one listening from when the quote is from. But besides situations like that, sina always includes the listener. Many people also use sina as a general hypothetical pronoun, similar to "one" in english when used as a pronoun. Others use sina when talking to inanimate objects. Perhaps this frames the object as listening. I recommend playing around with this at least a little bit.
sitelen are depictions, such as images or symbols. A painting or a photograph are both sitelen. It's also common to see sitelen used to describe a symbol in a writing system. The letter Q and the maya glyph for b'alam (jaguar) are both sitelen. sitelen is usually used for things that were created, but these don't need to be organized. A random scribble is still a sitelen even though it isn't necesserily representing anything.
The semantic space of sona contains all knowledge. If something is knowable or known, it is sona. For example, the knowledge of time of day can sona. Wisdom can be sona. sona can also be a skill. The knowledge of how to write a book can certainly be sona. Knowing about a person or who they are can be sona. But a warning to english speaking learners: the type of knowledge that sona covers doesn't completely contain the english concept of "knowing someone." For that, it might be a better idea to explain what your relationship with that person is in more detail.
soweli describes creatures with several distinctive traits. soweli tend to be fluffy. soweli tend to be larger than a plum. Their legs tend to be under them, and they tend to have four of them. When they want to move quickly, they run on their legs, with moments where all legs are off the ground. They are warm to the touch.
suwi describes pleasant aspects of senses. If something is pleasant to the mouth, i.e. it is sweet, that is suwi. If something is pleasant to the eye, i.e. cute, that is suwi as well. The scent of apples might be suwi as well. A soft or fuzzy texture can be suwi. A pleasant sound can be described as suwi. suwi can also describe other pleasant things, such as actions or people. Like if someone bakes you a pie, not only is the pie usually suwi, but so is the act of making it. Note that suwi isn't used for savory pleasant flavors much, usually just sweet ones.
telo can be liquids and other things that don’t hold a shape. Water, milk, and vinegar are telo. telo can be more viscous. Oils are telo. telo can be used less literally, to describe things that aren’t physical objects. The changing aspect of a way of speaking toki pona that doesn’t stay the same can be telo. If something changes form and doesn’t hold its shape, it fits within telo’s semantic space.
The semantic space of toki contains any form or act of communication. This can be communication using the mouth, such as spoken language, or communication using the hands, such as signed languages. This could be communication using a written medium. toki doesn't have to just be for humans. Bee dances are toki. toki doesn't have to be between two parties either. Communication with one's self (such as someone thinking or talking to themselves) is toki. toki can get very abstract. If I can feel the atmospheric pressure change and I can detect that it's probably going to rain later because I'm old, I could say that the sky is toki-ing to me. If I read a sign, the action that sign is doing can be toki.
A tomo contains objects meant to contain things being framed as living. Sometimes living is literal. A family of five is considered living, so their domicile can be considered a tomo. Sometimes living is a metaphor. A dollhouse can be considered a tomo if the hypothetical dolls it can contain are being framed as living, even if they aren't empirically alive. By calling a container intended for nonliving things a "tomo," a speaker is ascribing life to those objects. There's no animacy hierarchy in toki pona, so what is and isn't considered life is up to personal preference and doesn't impact mutual intelligibility.
tu describes the concept of two objects. For example, two people could be "jan tu." As a transitive action, tu describes making an object into two objects. For example, slicing a fruit in half, splitting up a class into two groups, or drawing the boundaries between two subparts of a large piece of land. As a modifier, this word can describe the quality of having been cut into two pieces, for example two pieces of bread could be "pan tu."
The semantic space of utala contains conflicts, contests, and battles. When utala is used, it’s talking about some sort of struggle or competition between two or more parties, or something being framed that way. So it could be a battle between two rival armies, but it could also be a battle between me and myself if I’m framing it that way. utala is often targeted, closer to “attack” than “battle.” Anything can be an utala if it is being framed as a struggle or attack of some sort that involves two parties. Playing a musical instrument could be an utala for a beginner player. Taking a test is a very fun thing to call an utala, because the test-taker is fighting the test.
wawa is qualities of power and strength. A very strong person is wawa. The strength required to talk to new people one has never met before is wawa. wawa focuses less on the ability or possibility itself and more on the power and motivation behind it. wawa belongs to things with agency. If something is enabled, it is wawa. For example, if a lightbulb has been turned on, it becomes wawa. wawa is used frequently to refer to energy itself, both in an abstract sense (such as spoons or motivation) and in a physical sense, such as electricity or force. Many people aren't wawa until they drink their morning coffee. The coffee makes them wawa.
weka describes distance. It is similar to other location words in that it can describe a place, but instead of describing a specific relation to proximity, it describes the lack thereof. Hence, weka describes a place that is not nearby. This could be outside a house or simply outside of reality. It can describe the act of dissapearing or vanishing. Transitively, it can mean the act of removal or stealing.
The semantic space of wile contains all desires. A desire to eat is a wile. A desire to be near others is a wile. These desires can be influenced by external forces: a desire to do tedious chores motivated by the prospect of negative consequences is a wile. By using wile to describe something, it's being framed as a type of desire. For example, if I normally don't want to tidy up my workspace but I feel obligated to anyway, if I used wile to describe that feeling of obligation, I'd be describing it as some sort of desire. This can be used for anything, no matter how animate. Speakers frame nonliving objects as having desires very frequently.
A warning I have for wile is assuming it contains the idea of a "need." A "need" is a complex concept and trying to use wile to describe it is misguided. While most needs can be framed as types of desires, the goal of "wile" isn't to merge those concepts, it's to throw one of them away. This enables a toki ponist align their desires with their actions by giving them a word to describe their desires without any complex connotation. Sometimes it's more useful to say "my body wants food, but I don't want to eat."
Another part of wile's usage is its use as a preverb. wile changes the sentence it's part of to make the subject desire to perform the verb, rather than just performing it. It's similar to the word "want" in english.
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