List of English words of African origin

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This is a list of English language words that come from the languages of Africa. It excludes placenames except where they have become common words.

Words of African origin[edit]

  • bananaWest African, possibly Wolof banana
  • bogus – Hausa boko-boko meaning fake or fraudulent
  • bongo – West African boungu
  • bozo – stupid, West African
  • boogie – Wolof or Sierra Leone, to dance
  • buckra – "white man or person", from Efik and Ibibio mbakara [1]
  • chigger – possibly from Wolof and Yoruba jiga "insect")
  • chimpanzee – possibly derived from a Tshiluba language term "kivili-chimpenze", which is the local name for the animal and translates loosely as "mockman" or possibly just "ape".[2]
  • cola – from West African languages (Temne kola, Mandinka kolo)
  • dig - to sense, understand or appreciate – from Wolof dega
  • djembe – from West African languages
  • hip – from Wolof hipi and hepicat, one with eyes open[dubious ]
  • jazz – from West African languages (Mandinka jasi, Temne yas)
  • jive – possibly from Wolof jev
  • juke, jukebox – possibly from Wolof and Bambara dzug through Gullah
  • kwashiorkor – from Ga language, Coastal Ghana meaning "swollen stomach"
  • mambo – possibly West African through Haitian Creole
  • Marímbula, plucked musical instrument (lamellophone) of the Caribbean islands
  • merengue (dance) possibly from Fulani mererek i meaning to shake or quiver
  • mumbo jumbo- from mandigo name Maamajombo, a masked dancer
  • mojo – from Fula moco'o "medicine man" through Louisiana Creole French or Gullah
  • obeah – from West African (Efik ubio, Twi ebayifo)
  • okay – disputed origins, likely influenced by Wolof waw-kay [3]
  • okra – from Igbo ókùrù
  • samba - from an African Brazilian creole of Portuguese[4][5][6]
  • sambo – Fula sambo meaning "uncle"
  • tango – probably from Ibibio tamgu
  • tote – West African via Gullah
  • voodoo – from West African languages (Ewe and Fon vodu "spirit")
  • yam – West African (Fula nyami, Twi anyinam)

Words of Bantu origin[edit]

  • banjo – probably Bantu mbanza
  • basenji – breed of dog from the Congo
  • boma – probably from Swahili
  • bwana – from Swahili, meaning an important person or safari leader
  • chimpanzeeBantu chimpenze, from nchima ("blue monkey") and mzee "respectable gentleman" [clarification needed]
  • dengue – possibly from Swahili dinga
  • fundi – from Ndebele, Xhosa, or Zulu umfundi "disciple, learner, craftsman"
  • funk – from kikongo lu-fuki "bad body odor"
  • gnu – from Bushman !nu through Khoikhoi i-ngu and Dutch gnoe
  • goober – possibly from Bantu (Kikongo and Kimbundu nguba)
  • gumbo – from Bantu (Kimbundu ngombo meaning "okra")
  • impala – from Zulu im-pala
  • impi – from Zulu language meaning war, battle or a regiment
  • indaba – from Xhosa or Zulu languages – 'stories' or 'news' typically conflated with 'meeting' (often used in South African English)
  • jumbo – from Swahili (jambo or jumbe or from Kongo nzamba "elephant")
  • kalimba
  • Kwanzaa – from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning "first fruits".
  • lapa – from Sotho languages – enclosure or barbecue area (often used in South African English)
  • macaque – from Bantu makaku through Portuguese and French
  • mamba – from Zulu or Swahili mamba
  • marimba – from Bantu (Kimbundu and Swahili marimba, malimba)
  • okapi – from a language in the Congo
  • safari – from Swahili travel, ultimately from Arabic
  • sangoma – from Zulutraditional healer (often used in South African English)
  • Tilapia – Possibly a latinization "thiape", the Tswana word for fish.[7]
  • tsetse – from a Bantu language (Tswana tsetse, Luhya tsiisi)
  • ubuntu – African ideology, from the saying "umuntu ngumuntu ngaBantu" – "a human is a human through humans" – Bantu languages
  • vuvuzela – musical instrument, name of Zulu or Nguni origin
  • zebra – possibly from a language in the Congo
  • zombie – Central African (Kikongo zumbi, Kimbundu nzambi)