Kaonde language

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Native toZambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo where it is predominantly known as kiLuba
Native speakers
240,000 (1995–2010 census)[1]
Latin (Kaonde alphabet)
Kaonde Braille
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3kqn
L.40 (L.41)[3]

Kaonde (kiiKaonde) is a Bantu language spoken primarily in Zambia but also in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kaonde and its dialects are spoken and understood by perhaps 350,000 people or more. It is estimated that approximately 2.3% of Zambians are native Kaonde speakers. Kaonde speakers overwhelmingly live in the Northwestern and parts of Central regions of Zambia.

Fewer numbers of Kaonde speakers live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, they are not known or identified by the term Kaonde but rather by the term Luba.

Strictly speaking, the term "Kaonde" refers to a group of people who are identified by a common language known as kiiKaonde. This group of people, like many others in Zambia, was originally part of the Luba Kingdom. They migrated south to area surrounding a stream called Kaonde in river Congo basin. From there, the people migrated into what is now Northwestern Zambia. This group of people called their language kiiKaonde. Speakers of other Bantu languages use the prefix "chi" other than "kii" to refer to this language. Thus non-Kaondes sometimes call the language Kikaonde.



Like other Bantu languages, Kaonde nouns are grouped into several semantic classes, ranging from those that denote human beings to those that denote things. The concord or agreement markers for each class is a prefix attached to verbs and adjectives related to the noun. Tense markers may modify the concord.

Singular noun Singular concord Plural noun Plural concord
mu (person) u- ba ba-
mu (thing) u - mi- i-
ki ki- bi bi-
ka ka- tu tu-
n i- ma a-
lu lu- ma a-
bu bu- ma a-
ji ji- ma a-
pa (locative "on") pa- none none
ku (locative "at" or "to" ku- none none
mu (locative "in") mu- none none


Kaonde has personal, demonstrative and relative pronouns. The first and second person pronouns are independent of the noun class system. Third person pronouns are formed using the demonstrative pronouns for the ba noun class. Demonstrative are arranged by noun class and by deixis.

Person Singular Plural/Formal
1st person amiwa -
2nd person obewa anweba
3rd person awe/ao/awa abe/abo/aba

Basic vocabulary and phrases[edit]

Ee - yes
Ine - no
Muji byepi - How are you
Njitu bulongo / bulongotu - I am fine / just fine
Jizhina jami ne... - My name is...
Shalaipo - goodbye (person leaving)
Kafikaipo - goodbye (person staying)
Mulale bulongo - good night
Nasanta bingi- Thank you very much
Nakolwa - I am sick


  1. ^ Kaonde at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kaonde". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online

External links[edit]