Lushootseed words are made with several parts including prefixes, possessives, roots and suffixes. The prefixes can indicate many things about a word.

The lə- prefix adds the idea of -ing to verbs that talk about moving from place to place. The ʔəs- prefix indicates a state of being or a sense of perception or body position. The ʔu- prefix indicates a completed action, or an action with a built in end, like reading or eating. Generally, any action that does not use a lə- or ʔəs- prefix will use an ʔu- prefix.

You can turn a verb into a noun by adding an s-nominalizer to the front of the verb. A good example is the word for eat – ʔəɬəd, adding an s-nominalizer you end up with sʔəɬəd, which is food.

Possessives are attached to a noun, and can go before or after the noun. The primary possessives are d- for my, ad- for your, -čəɬ for our, -ləp for your folk’s, or -s for his, hers or theirs even though those words don’t exist in Lushootseed.

Some prefixes indicate when something occurred or will occur. The ɬu-prefix indicates you plan or will do something. qəlb is rain and sləx̌il is today, so ɬuqəlb sləx̌il is, it will rain today. Another example is the word tomorrow, ɬudukʷəɬdat. The tu- prefix indicates something happened in the past or long ago. It is also used when referring to one’s ancestors. As far as the recent past you can see this in the word for yesterday tudukʷəɬdat.

Other suffixes add more meaning. The suffix -alʔtxʷ means a building, hence x̌alalʔtxʷ is school. The suffix -ali means a place where something is kept, there for a sɬagʷidali, is a bedroom.

Once you strip away these prefixes you can get to the root or main meaning of the word. The root marker, shown here √, shows the start of the root. Everything before the root symbol is a prefix. Once you have the root word, you can look it up in the Lushootseed part of the dictionary.

If you are looking up a word in the Lushootseed section of the Lushootseed Dictionary, you will likely do it by the root word. For example, if you look up pədt̕aqaʔ, you will find it under t̕aqa. Likewise, if you were looking up wolf, you would find it under tiqayuʔ, not stiqayuʔ.