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 the Congo, Comoros, Zimbabwe, Mayotte, Zambia and in Northern Madagascar (but the word changed to become vozongo in malagasy, but the locals will still understand the word mzungu) dating back to the 18th century.
Literally translated mzungu meant "someone who roams around" or "wanderer." The term was first used in the African Great Lakes region to describe European explorers in the 18th century, apparently because they moved around aimlessly. The word mzungu comes from Kiswahili, where zungu or zunguka is the word for spinning around on the same spot. Kizunguzungu is Kiswahili for dizziness. The term is now used to refer to "someone with white skin" or "white skin", but can be used to refer to all foreigners more generally. The word mzungu in Swahili can also mean someone who speaks English.
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 plural form may be used to confer a respect, such as the use of the term azungu to refer to individual foreigners in Malawi's Chichewa language. The possessive kizungu (or chizungu) translated literally means "of the wanderers". It has now come to mean "language of the wanderers" and more commonly English, as it is the language most often used by wazungu in the African Great Lakes area. However it can be used generally for any European language. Wachizungu, bachizungu, etc. – literally "wandering people" – have come to mean people who adopt the Western culture, cuisine and lifestyle.
Mzungu can be used in an affectionate or insulting way. It is used in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi Zimbabwe and Burundi. It is often called out by children to get the attention of a passerby. For example, in Malawi, it is common for people to use the casual greeting Azungu boh! to individuals or groups of foreigners.
|Swahili in the African Great Lakes||Mzungu||Wazungu||Kizungu|
|Shikomori in Comoros||Mzungu||Wazungu||Chizungu|
|Luganda in Uganda||oMuzungu||aBazungu||Kizungu|
|Chichewa in Malawi||Mzungu||Azungu||Chizungu|
|Chinyanja in Zambia||Mzungu||Bazungu||Chizungu|
|Kinyarwanda in Rwanda / Kirundi in Burundi||Umuzungu||Abazungu||ikizungu|
|Bemba in Zambia and Democratic Republic of the Congo||Musungu||Basungu||Chisungu|
|Kisii language in Kenya||Omusongo||Abasongo||Ebisongo|
|Sena in Mozambique||Muzungu||Azungu|
|Shona in Zimbabwe||Murungu||Varungu|
|isiZulu in South Africa||Umlungu||Abelungu|
|ikiRuguru in Tanzania||Imzungu||Iwazungu|
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|Look up mzungu in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- "Mzungu! Mzungu! Mzungu! Give me my money" Ugandan experiences from Ian Anderson