Mzungu (pronounced [m̩ˈzuŋɡu]) is a Bantu language term used in the African Great Lakes region to refer to people of European descent. It is a commonly used expression among Bantu peoples in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, dating back to the 18th century. Literally translated it meant "someone who roams around aimlessly" or "aimless wanderer." The term was first used in the African Great Lakes region to describe European explorers in the 18th century, apparently as a result of their propensity to get lost in their wanderings in Africa. The word Muzungu comes from Kiswahili, where ‘zungu’ or 'zunguka' is the word for spinning around on the same spot. That dizzy lost look was perfected by the first white people arriving in the African Great Lakes. Muzunguzungu is Kiswahili for a dizzy person. The term is now used to refer to "someone with white skin" or "white skin".
The possessive kizungu (or chizungu) translates as "behaving rich". However, in some areas, such as in Rwanda and Burundi, it does not necessarily refer to the colour of one's skin. Traditionally Europeans were seen to be people of means and rich and so the terminology was extended to denote affluent persons regardless of race. It would therefore not be unusual to find any employer being referred to as "mzungu." In the Bantu Swahili language, the plural form of mzungu is wazungu. The possessive kizungu (or chizungu) translated literally means "of the aimless wanderers". It has now come to mean "language of the aimless wanderers" and more commonly English, as it is the language most often used by Wazungu in the African Great Lakes. However it can be used generally for any European language. Wachizungu, Bachizungu, etc. – literally "people of the aimless wandering" – have come to mean people who adopt the Western culture, cuisine and lifestyle.
In Kinyarwanda and Kirundi, European people are also known as rutuku which means "red" (after their skin color). The underlying tone for "rutuku" though is in reference to aggression. Though the literal translation is "red", the underlying translation is "aggressor", referring to colonialism and the plundering of local resources by the "white people." The word English has been loaned into Bantu languages as kiingereza in Swahili, chingeleshi in Bemba, or lungereza in Ganda. The terms "mzungu" and "mlungu" are sometimes erroneously used interchangeably. Whilst mzungu generally refers to a white person, mlungu refers to the white foam ejected from an animal's vagina when in heat and is only used in a derogatory sense. The term is similar to "vloeibees", meaning flow-beast, in Afrikaans.