As we know, Toki Pona is a quite minimal language and it sometimes not easy to come up with a word we use everyday in English. The problem is that I cannot think of a non-culture-specific and easily understandable way of saying right and left.

How to say right (and left) in Toki Pona as those words are not a part of the official dictionary?

  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a translation request, which I would like to consider off-scope Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 23:03
  • @Adarain Should this question be closed as well then? conlang.stackexchange.com/questions/12/… Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 23:08
  • 6
    Voting to leave open as this isn't a standard word in the toki pona dictionary.
    – Mithical
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 23:11
  • 4
    Relevant meta post: conlang.meta.stackexchange.com/q/30/35. We haven't decided yet that these questions are off-topic; I don't think that we really have a case for closing this.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 1:20
  • 1
    If you could provide a reason why this is particularily interesting or difficult translation that would be a fine question, but I don't like it at all as it stands. It would appear that toki-pona runs into similar problems with almost any word.
    – caconyrn
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 1:23

5 Answers 5


One popular proposal that comes up in a lot of discussions on this topic is to base it on the direction of the official writing system (i.e. Latin characters). Thus "poki open" for left, and "poki pini" for right. However, there is still no real consensus on how to say "right" and "left", so these expressions might not be understood by everyone.

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    I have to vote for poka open for left, & poka pini for right. They don't cause any more problem than anything else. poka wawa is a bad idea right-handed people would assume that meant right, but that makes it confusing for left-handed people. Because the sun rises (open) in the East & sets (pini) in the West, we could make "poka suno" East & "poka pimeja" West. "poka kon" could be North, & "poka ma" could be South.
    – ben
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 3:16
  • @ben poka suno and poka pimeja would generally not be understood by people to mean left and right. their literal translations are "a lit/sun hand" and "a black hand". as it stands, poka pona for right hand and poka ike for left are two fairly common phrases already in use, based on a lot of romance languages using words similar to bad and good for left and right Commented May 2, 2022 at 18:42

I agree with thrig that you would need to create something to handle this case. toki pona doesn't normally differentiate between specific sides, and this is one of those cases - there are no ways to describe "left" and "right" natively.

However, I'm not sure thrig's examples necessarily do the job the way it needs to be done - poka wawa could work, but it implies something about strength, when that's not often what people mean by dominant and non-dominant side. And meli/mije are not used to describe strength in this way.

Instead, I would suggest using:

  • poka lawa: your leading side.
  • poka kama: your following side.

No matter what, though, if you use this you're going to have to indicate that you're setting it up as such in advance. You can still do this in toki pona itself: mi toki e ni: poka wan li poka lawa. poka tu li poka kama. This sets up that you're saying one side is your poka lawa and the other side is your poka kama.


Building on the answer by thrig: one could say poka pilin (side with a heart) for the left side and poka pilin ala for the right side.

It should be rather neutral and understandable as it is based on biology facts instead of culture-specific ideas.

  • 1
    What about those with the heart on the other side?
    – Mithical
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 23:11
  • @Mithrandir The article says that people usually don't expect the heart to be on the other side. Good catch, though. Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 23:16
  • poka pilin ala would parse as (poka pilin) ala, or zero/not feeling hand. you would either need a pi particle to regroup it (as in poka pi pilin ala) or you would use a different word. also, pilin as an adjective almost always means means "feeling _" or "emotion of _", not heart. instead you should use the word olin, which in pu can mean either love or it can mean heart. Commented May 2, 2022 at 18:37

People have come up with quite a few extra words some of which are used to some extent on discord. 'soto' is left & teje is right. several of the words are just joke words but some like 'linluwi' - netwowrk/internet (len), & lanpan -take/grab (kama jo) are useful.

  • soto, teje, and linluwi are all pretty rare words, but lanpan is somewhat common. Commented May 2, 2022 at 18:38

poka pi lawa musi (The side with the artistic brain) poka pi lawa nanpa (The side with the reasoning brain. Might work.


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