Friday, September 19, 2014

Words For Father & Mother In Various African Languages (M-Z)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part series that provides an alphabetized listing of a small number of African languages and their word/s for "father" and "mother".

Part II provides entries for African languages from M-Z.

Click Part I of the list. Part I includes entries for African languages from A-L.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Additions and corrections are very welcome.

Please share the words for father and mother in other African and non-African languages in the comment section below. Thanks!

This small number of languages were selected somewhat at random from this listing of African language names "Official and Spoken Languages of African Countries" That website indicates that "Africa is a continent with a very high linguistic diversity, there are an estimated 1500-2000 African languages."

In this list, the nation in which the featured language is spoken is given in brackets after the language's name. The African word/s for the English language words "father" and "mother" are then given, followed by a citation of the online source where I retrieved that information. A quote from that source, or from Wikipedia, and/or from some other website may also be included for that entry.

M, N
Mandinka (also given as Manding) [Mali, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea-Bissau and Chad;]
Father = baaba
Mother - naa
That dictionary also indicates that "mama" and "mamoo" means grandparent; "mamakee" means grandfather and "mamamusoo" means "grandmother".

Mende [Sierra Leone] (entry added September 21, 2014)
Father -Keke
Mother - Yie
Grandmother- Mama
Maada - Grandfather/Paramount Chief
Kenya -Uncle

O, P
Oshiwambo (Namibia and Angola)
Father = Tate
Mother: Meme
Citation for "Tate"
Citation for "Meme" from comment written On January 27, 2010 by justina She also wrote "Grandmother is called Kuku."

Here's a quote from that Wikipedia page for Oshiwambo:
"Not to be confused with Ambo language (Zambia) or Ambo language (Nigeria). ... The language is generally called Ovambo, Ambo, or Oshiwambo in English. ..Ovambo, also known as Wambo or Ambo, is a dialect cluster in Angola and northern Namibia".

Here's more informaton from "Hai ti! – A Beginner's Guide to Oshikwanyama - wingolog"
Ovaneumbo / Edimo:
My father Tate
Your father Xo
His/her father Xe
My mother Meme
Your mother Nyoko

Q, R

Sethoso [South Africa]
Father – ntate
Mother - 'me

Setswana [Botswana, South Africa and Namibia (Southern Africa)]
father - ntate
Mother – mma
Here's a comment about the pronunciation of "mma" from "How do you say mother in Setswana?"
“It's "mma". And be sure to lengthen the "m". The "m" sound is long, and the "a" sound is short.”

Sheng [Kenya]
Many words in Sheng change rapidly and otherwise differ. "Budako" (father) was the word for father in this 2007 article "Cultural Production and Social Change in Kenya: Building Bridges" [p. 94] by Kimani Njogu, ‎Garnette Oluoch-Olunya and in this 2013 article "On Mchongoanos And Riddles In Kenya" by C. Patrick Kihara [in The Journal of Pan-African Studies vol 6, no 6, December 2013]. "Budako" was also

"Mathako" was the word for "mother" that was given in that 2007 article. However, the 2013 article gave the word "mathako" for "mother".

Here are other Sheng words for "father" and "mother" from

"mdosi, fathe, mbuyu, buda" = "dad"
"masa, mathe, mnyaka, mokoro, moda" = "mum"

Here's some information about "Sheng" from
"Sheng is a Swahili-based cant, perhaps a mixed language or creole, originating among the urban underclass of Nairobi, Kenya, and influenced by many of the languages spoken there. While primarily a language of urban youths, it has spread across social classes and geographically to neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda...

The word "Sheng" is coined from the two languages that it is mainly derived from: Swahili and English. The "h" was included from the middle of "Swahili because "Seng" would have sounded unusual...

Although the grammar, syntax, and much of the vocabulary are drawn from Swahili, Sheng borrows from English and from the languages of various ethnic groups in Kenya, including Luhya, Gĩkũyũ, Luo and Kamba. Words are also borrowed from languages that are neither a local language nor English – such as the Sheng word dame "lady" — which is a title of honour for a lady in English, or morgen "morning" – a Sheng word used in some areas with a similar meaning in German.

Sheng vocabulary can vary significantly within Kenya's various subdivisions and the larger African Great Lakes region, and even between neighbourhoods in Nairobi”...
Click for a pancocojams post on Sheng.

Somali [Somalia]
Father - hooyo
Mother - aabbo
citation: Google translate

Tigrinya -[Eritrea and Ethiopia]
Father = Abo
Mother -Ade

Tshiluba [Democratic Republic Of The Congo]
Tatu - Father

Mamu - Mother

Twi [Ghana]
Father - Agya
Mother - Ɛna
That source also indicated that "Nana" is the Twi word for "Grandfather / Grandmother". Nana is also a Ghanaian title.
"Amongst the Akan clans of Ghana, the word Nana generally denotes social eminence derived from either nobility or advanced age. It is most often used as a pre-nominal honorific by individuals who are entitled to it due to the former of the two ( E.g. kings and chieftains such as Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II, the reigning Asantehene of Asanteman)".
Here are two other citations for the Twi word for father and mother (and grandparents):
Father – Papa
Mother – Maame
Grandparents – Nana

From "My African language short phrase book"
Twi (pronounced 'chwee')
Father = papa
Mother = maame

W, X
Wolof [Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania]
Father – Baye
Mother - Yaye!/journals/2711/mini-introduction-to-wolof-as-well-as-orientation-to-senegalese-politics

Xhosa [South Africa] Revised June 19, 2016
Father – ubawo, utata
Mother - umama

"Utata" and "umama" are usually shortened to "tata" (father) and "mama" (mother).
Comments from the discussion thread of "sarafina.the funeral song", a video on the 1976 Soweto Uprising indicate that the word "tata" is an abbreviation of "utata" and "mama" is an abbreviation of "umama".

Click for a pancocojams post about the Soweto uprising and that particular video.

Y, Z
Yoruba [Nigeria]
Father- baba
Mother - iya
citation: Google Translate

Zulu [South Africa]
Father- ubaba
Mother - umama
Update: June 19, 2016:

This concludes Part II of this series.

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