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Swahili Words in English Language

Here’s a few Swahili Words that are recognized in the English Language.

Thanks to music and movies, some Swahili words are slowly making way, if not already into the English Language and Dictionary.

Some of these Swahili words are not quite common in everyday usage but they have been used in various songs and movies. Some international movies like Hotel Rwanda, the Last King of Scotland, the Lion King and Darwin’s Nightmare have featured some Swahili lines.

Cover of The Lion King (Music)

Some Musicians who are originally non-Swahili speakers have also sang in Swahili or included some Swahili lines in their songs. There’s the famous song “Malaika” by Miriam Makeba of South Africa, “Hakuna Matata” which comes from the movie “the Lion King”, “Jambo Bwana” by Boney M, “All Night Long” by Lionel Ritchie, “Nakupenda” by Brenda Fassie of South Africa, and the “Liberian Girl” by Michael Jackson (which might mean that Swahili could be popular in Liberia since he’s talking about a Liberian girl but the Liberian girl speaks Swahili).

1983 single “Jambo – Hakuna Matata (No Problems)”, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following words are now lucky to be widely used in the English Language:

Safari: sa•fa•ri /səˈfärē/: Noun An expedition to observe or hunt animals in their natural habitat.Due to the increased number of people all over the world who travel to East Africa where Swahili is commonly spoken, the word Safari which means journey is now accepted worldwide. It is not uncommon to hear someone use the phrase “I am going on a safari” to mean that one is going on a journey.
Simba [ˈsɪmbə] n: (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Animals) an E African word for lion [Swahili] (source

Jambo [ˈdʒambɔ] sentence substitute an E African salutation[from Swahili] (source)This is becoming a common salutation especially to the travelling community. Hakuna Matata is also very common in the travel community when assurance that everything is alright is needed. Hakuna Matata means “no worries”

Panga [ˈpæŋgə] n (Military / Arms & Armour (excluding Firearms)) a broad heavy knife of E Africa, used as a tool or weapon [from a native E African word] (source)Panga as in Panga knife which means a machete is originally a Swahili word.

There are other words that are not yet very common to the general English language user, but they are slowly making their way:

Bwana: an important person or safari leaderHabari: HelloKaribu: welcomeKwaheri: ByeAsante: Thank you
These words are however quite common to people who travel the world especially who have been to the Eastern and Southern Africa.

Good luck Swahili!

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