LESSON #104: Je, wajua? (#13)

First of all, we are back and this time for good-yay!

Onto the lesson, as you may or may not know Swahili is mainly made up of Arabic vocabulary and also in small part vocabulary borrowed from other languages mainly English (the name of the language itself is Arabic, Sahil, meaning coast). But generally Swahili tends to borrow from numerous languages and that I have managed to prove over the years as I’ve been teaching students who speak different languages.

I knew a couple of words that were from other languages but the other day I was teaching a class about N class nouns (which as you may or may not know are mostly borrowed nouns i.e. from other languages). Funny thing is when I started listing common nouns my students kept telling me the meaning even before I asked and it turns out not only do we borrow lots of words from Arabic & English but Indian languages as well (mostly Gujarati).

Now here’s the thing, most English words can be ‘Swahilinized’ by adding an I at the end (as a suffix), this is usually done for words ending in a consonant, however if they end in a vowel then the ‘Swahilinization’ is slightly different. So if you are ever in a fix it’s ok (but not encouraged) to ‘Swahilinize’ whatever English word you need to use (all my students get really excited when I tell them this-lazy mode activated ha ha!)

So this is more of an FYI post, am gonna list a number of words that we have managed to borrow from other languages and if you happen to know of others please add them on the comment section. This list is by no means exhaustive and will probably get updated from time to time. Excuse the apparent ignorance but am just gonna classify all Indian origin languages under ‘Indian’ which I know is not a language but hopefully you get what I mean.

Portuguese:

Bendera – flag 

Mezatable

Gerezaprison

Pesamoney

German:

Shule – school

Helacoin/s (although generally it just means money)

English:

Motokaa motorcar

Koti coat

Baiskelibicycle

Mashinemachine

Sinemacinema

Penselipencil

Persian:

Chaitea

Acharipickle 

Serikaligovernment 

Diwanicouncillor 

Indian:

Bunduki gun, rifle

Memsabu – madam 

Dawa medicine 

Chupabottle/glass used to make bottles

Kalamupen 

Garicar 

Bimainsurance 

Dukashop 

Pipabarrel 

Sandukutrunk, suitcase, box 

Arabic:

WaziriMinister 

Raispresident

Sita, Saba, Tisasix, seven ,nine

By the way I like to give due credit so instead of sounding oh so knowledgeable (ha ha!) here’s a big list of more Swahili words of Arabic origin