Saturday, April 22, 2017

Names For The Days Of The Week In Arabic & In Seven (African) Bantu Languages

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides information about and lists for names of the days of the week in Arabic and provides general information about Bantu languages.

This post also presents information about and names for days of the week in seven Bantu languages in Africa: chiShona, Kikongo, Kikuyu, Kimbundu, KiSwahili, Lingala, and Luganda.

This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series that provides information about and lists for day names in various African languages. Click the "African languages days of the week" tag to find other posts in this ongoing series.

The content of this post is presented for linguistic, cultural, and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Click for more historical and cultural information related to the names of the days of the week in KiSwahili, Lingala, and Luganda.

Also, click for Part 1 of a two part series on the names for days of the week in nine South African languages. The link for Part II is given in that post. All of the featured languages in that series are Bantu languages.

Excerpt #1:
"Arabic ... is a Central Semitic language that was first spoken in Iron Age northwestern Arabia and is now the lingua franca of the Arab world.[4] Arabic is also the liturgical language of 1.7 billion Muslims.[5][6][7] It is one of six official languages of the United Nations.[8] It is named after the Arabs, a term initially used to describe peoples living from Mesopotamia in the east to the Anti-Lebanon mountains in the west, and from northwestern Arabia to the Sinai in the south.

Arabic is considered, in its standard form and dialects, a single language; it is spoken by perhaps as many as 422 million speakers (native and non-native) in the Arab world,[9] making it one of the five most spoken languages in the world."

Excerpt #2
"Africa was the first continent into which Islam spread from Asia in the early 7th century. Almost one-third of the world's Muslim population resides in the continent.Most Muslims in Africa are Sunni; the complexity of Islam in Africa is revealed in the various schools of thought, traditions, and voices in many African countries. African Islam is not static and is constantly being reshaped by prevalent social, economic, and political conditions. Generally Islam in Africa often adapted to African cultural contexts and belief systems forming Africa's own orthodoxies.

It was estimated in 2002 that Muslims constitute 48% of the population of Africa.[2] Islam has a large presence in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Swahili Coast, and much of West Africa, with minority but significant immigrant populations in South Africa. However, Islam has encountered criticism and resistance in several nations of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Spread of Islam in Africa

On the advice of Muhammad, in Rajab 8BH, or May 614AD, twenty three Muslims migrated to Abyssinia where they were protected by its king, Al-Najashi, who may have accepted Islam later. They were followed by 101 Muslims later in the same year. Most of those Muslims returned to Medina in 7H/628AD but some settled in the neighboring Zeila which was at that time part of Bilad al-Barbar. Those that settled there later built Masjid al-Qiblatayn. In 20H/641AD during the reign of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab, Muslim troops took over current Egypt and conquered current Libya the following year. Muslims then expanded to current Tunisia in 27H/647AD during the reign of the third Muslim Caliph, Uthman Ibn Affan.

The conquest of North Africa continued under the Umayyad dynasty,taking Algeria by 61H/680AD, and Morocco the following year. From the latter Muslim troops crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to Europe in 92H/711AD. Islam gained momentum during the 10th century in West Africa with the start of the Almoravids movement on the Senegal River and as rulers and kings embraced Islam.[citation needed] Islam then spread slowly in much of the continent through trade and preaching.[3] By the 9th century Muslim Sultanates started being established in the Horn of Africa, and by the 12th century the Kilwa Sultanate had spread as far south as Mozambique. Islam only crossed deeper into Malawi and Congo in the second half of the 19th century under the Zanzibar Sultanate. Then the British brought their labor force from India, including some Muslim-Indian nationals, to their African colonies towards the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries."...
This quote was reformatted for this post to enhance its readability.

Excerpt #3:
..."The Arabic word for “day” is يَوم (yawm), and properly the name of each day is يَوم plus the word from the list below (as, in English, we append “day” onto other words to create the names of the days: “Sun” + “day” = “Sunday,” etc.). However, you will often see يَوم omitted and the days simply called by the names listed below:

Monday = الإثْنَين (al-ithnayn)
Tuesday = الثَلاثاء (al-thalāthāʾ)
Wednesday = الأربَعاء (al-arbaʿāʾ)
Thursday = الخَميس (al-khamīs)
Friday = الجُمُعة (al-jumuʿah)
Saturday = السَبْت (al-sabt)
Sunday = الأحَد (al-aḥad)

Other than Friday and Saturday, these names are derived from the cardinal numbers.... So “Sunday” is literally “first day,” Monday “second day,” and so on.

“Week” is أسبوع (usbūʿ), from سَبَع (sabaʿ) or “seven,” and “days of the week” is أيام الأسبوع (ayām al-usbūʿ).

The makeup of the work week in the Arab world varies by country. Friday, you probably know, is the Islamic Sabbath. This is actually reflected in the word for “Friday,” which is derived from the verb جَمَعَ (jamaʿa), meaning “to collect,” which in other forms can mean “meeting” or “congregating,” and so the name of the day refers to the fact that Friday is the one day when Muslims are expected to attend a large congregational mosque for formal prayer services (Islam requires several daily prayers, but these can be done alone, in small or large groups, in small or large mosques or any other suitable location; the midday Friday prayer is the one obligatory weekly large group prayer in the mosque).

The traditional Islamic “weekend” was Thursday-Friday, mirroring our Saturday-Sunday, but globalization and the demands of interacting with non-Muslims for business have caused a number of countries to shift to a Friday-Saturday weekend, which means their work week and non-Muslims’ work week are only off by two days rather than four. Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the Yemen still practice the Thursday-Friday weekend according to the fine folks at Wikipedia, while Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, the Sudan, Syria, and the UAE use the Friday-Saturday weekend. Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia actually use a Saturday-Sunday weekend; this makes a certain amount of sense in the case of Lebanon, where Christians were in the majority at least until the mid-20th century, but I am at a loss as to why Morocco and Tunisia are on that schedule (or at least why they would be Saturday-Sunday while Algeria was Thursday-Friday until 2009, when it went to Friday-Saturday)."
This excerpt replaces a shorter one that I initially quoted in this post and is reformatted for this post to enhance its readability .

This list is also found in Part I of the pancocojams series because Arabic influenced certain West African languages: Names For Days of The Week In Ten Traditional Nigerian Languages.

"The Bantu languages technically the Narrow Bantu languages (as opposed to "Wide Bantu", a loosely defined categorization which includes other Bantoid languages), constitute a traditional branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility,[3] though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages.[4] Bantu languages are spoken largely east and south of present-day Cameroon, that is, in the regions commonly known as Central Africa, Southeast Africa, and Southern Africa. Parts of the Bantu area include languages
from other language families (see map).

Estimates of number of speakers of most languages vary widely, due both to the lack of accurate statistics in most developing countries and the difficulty in defining exactly where the boundaries of a language lie, particularly in the presence of a dialect continuum.

The Bantu language with the largest total number of speakers is Swahili; however, the majority of its speakers know it as a second language. According to Ethnologue, there are over 180 million L2 (second-language) speakers, but only about 2 million native speakers.[5]

Other major languages include Zulu with 27 million speakers (15.7 million L2) and Shona with about 11 million speakers (if Manyika and Ndau are included).[6][7] Ethnologue separates the largely mutually intelligible Kinyarwanda and Kirundi, which, if grouped together, have 12.4 million speakers.[8]


The technical term Bantu, meaning "human beings" or simply "people", was first used by Wilhelm Bleek (1827–1875), as this is reflected in many of the languages of this group. A common characteristic of Bantu languages is that they use words such as muntu or mutu for "human being" or in simplistic terms "person", and the plural prefix for human nouns starting with mu- (class 1) in most languages is ba- (class 2), thus giving bantu for "people". Bleek, and later Carl Meinhof, pursued extensive studies comparing the grammatical structures of Bantu languages."...

(This list is given in alphabetical order, with the exception of KiSwahili since the names of the days for a number of these languages were influenced by KiSwahili.)

KiSwahili (Swahili)
"Swahili, also known as Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and the first language of the Swahili people. It is a lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and other parts of eastern and southeastern Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[7] The closely related Comorian language, spoken in the Comoros Islands, is sometimes considered a dialect.

Estimates of the total number of Swahili speakers vary widely, from 50 million to over 100 million.[2][8] Swahili serves as a national language of three nations: Tanzania, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Shikomor, the official language in Comoros and also spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is related to Swahili. Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and officially recognised as a lingua franca of the East African Community.[9]

A significant fraction of Swahili vocabulary is derived from Arabic through contact with Arabic-speaking Muslim inhabitants of the Swahili Coast.[10]


Swahili is traditionally regarded as being the language of coastal areas of Tanzania and Kenya. It was formalised after independence by presidents of the African Great Lakes region but first spoken by natives of the coastal mainland. It spread as a fisherman's language to the various islands surrounding the Swahili Coast. Traders from these islands had extensive contact with the coastal peoples from at least the 2nd century A.D., and Swahili began to spread along the Swahili Coast from at least the 6th century. There is also cultural evidence of early Zaramo people settlement on Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam in present-day Tanzania.

The earliest known documents written in Swahili are letters written in Kilwa in 1711 A.D. in the Arabic script that were sent to the Portuguese of Mozambique and their local allies. The original letters are now preserved in the Historical Archives of Goa, India.[12]


Kiswahili is the Swahili word for the language and is also sometimes used in English. The name Swahili comes from the plural sawāḥil (سواحل) of the Arabic word sāḥil (ساحل), meaning "boundary" or "coast", used as an adjective meaning "coastal dwellers". (The same word is the origin of the term Sahel.) With the prefix ki-, it means "coastal language", ki- being a prefix attached to nouns of the noun class such as languages.”...

Excerpt #2:
"Monday - Jumatatu
Tuesday - Jumanne
Wednesday- Jumatano
Thursday- Alhamisi
Friday- Ijumaa
Saturday- Jumamosi
Sunday- Jumapili"
Note this sentence clip: "ki- being a prefix attached to nouns of the noun class such as languages.”...
The prefix "ki" is also found in other languages that are highlighted in this post (as well as in the names for some of the days of the week in those languages).

chiShona (Shona)
Excerpt #1:
"Shona or chiShona, is the most widely first spoken Bantu language, native to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. The term is also used to identify peoples who speak one of the Central Shona varieties: Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika and Korekore. Based on Clement Doke's 1931 report, Union Shona or Standard Shona was developed from the Central Shona varieties. Because of the presence of the capital city in the Zezuru region, that variety has come to dominate in Standard Shona.

Shona is an official language of Zimbabwe. Other countries that host Shona language speakers include Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa due to the influx of economical refugees fleeing the economic crisis in Zimbabwe.

The larger group of historically related languages (called Shona languages by linguists) also includes Ndau (Eastern Shona) and Kalanga (Western Shona), but speakers of those languages prefer their distinct identities and usually reject any connection to the term Shona."

Excerpt #2
[Shona] Days of the week
"Monday: muvhuro
Tuesday: chipiri
Wednesday: chitatu
Thursday: china
Friday: chishanu
Saturday: mugovera
Sunday: svondo"
Notice the prefix "chi" in the language name "chiShona". This prefix is used in some Bantu languages to designate language. Here's an quote about other examples of this "chi" prefix used to designate Bantu languages:
"Chewa, also known as Nyanja, is a language of the Bantu language family. The noun class prefix chi- is used for languages,[4] so the language is also called Chichewa and Chinyanja (spelled Cinyanja in Zambia, and Cinianja in Mozambique)."

Kikongo (Kongo)
Excerpt #1:
"Kongo or Kikongo is one of the Bantu languages and is spoken by the Kongo and Ndundu people living in the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo and Angola. It is a tonal language. It was spoken by many of those who were taken from the region and sold as slaves in the Americas. For this reason, while Kongo still is spoken in the above-mentioned countries, creolized forms of the language are found in ritual speech of Afro-American religions, especially in Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti. It is also one of the sources of the Gullah language and the Palenquero creole in Colombia. The vast majority of present-day speakers live in Africa. There are roughly seven million native speakers of Kongo, with perhaps two million more who use it as a second language.

Kikongo is the base for a creole used throughout the region: Kituba, also called Kikongo de L'état or Kikongo ya Leta ("Kongo of the state" in French or Kongo), Kituba and Monokituba (also Munukituba). The constitution of the Republic of the Congo uses the name Kitubà, and the one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo uses the term Kikongo, even if Kituba is used in the administration.


English words of Kongo origin
The Southern American English word "goober", meaning peanut, comes from Kongo nguba.[8]

The word "zombie" comes from Kongo nzombie, meaning "dead.". "Nfumu ya nzombie" is "Chief of the dead", or God.

The word funk, or funky, in American popular music has its origin, some say, in the Kongo word Lu-fuki.[9] [10]

The name of the Cuban dance mambo comes from a Bantu word meaning "conversation with the gods"."..

Excerpt #2:
From Kongo Days Of The Week
"Kimosi - Monday

Kizolé - Tuesday

Kitatu - Wednesday

Kiyá - Thursday

Kitanu - Friday

Sabala - Saturday

Lumingu – Sunday"

Kikuyu (Gikuyu)
Excerpt #1:
"Kikuyu or Gikuyu … is a language of the Bantu family spoken primarily by the Kikuyu people (Agĩkũyũ) of Kenya. Numbering about 7 million (22% of Kenya's population),[4] they are the largest ethnic group in Kenya.[5] Kikuyu is spoken in the area between Nyeri and Nairobi. Kikuyu is one of the five languages of the Thagichu subgroup of the Bantu languages, which stretches from Kenya to Tanzania. The Kikuyu people usually identify their lands by the surrounding mountain ranges in Central Kenya which they call Kĩrĩnyaga.

Kikuyu has four main mutually intelligible dialects. The Central Province districts are divided along the traditional boundaries of these dialects, which are Kîrînyaga, Mûrang'a, Nyeri and Kiambu. The Kikuyu from Kîrînyaga are composed of two main sub-dialects – the Ndia and Gichugu who speak the dialects Kĩndia and Gĩgĩcũgũ. The Gicugus and the Ndias do not have the "ch" or "sh" sound, and will use the "s" sound instead, hence the pronunciation of "Gĩcũgũ" as opposed to "Gĩchũgũ". To hear Ndia being spoken, one needs to be in Kerugoya, the largest town in Kîrînyaga. Other home towns for the Ndia, where purer forms of the dialect are spoken, are located in the tea-growing areas of Kagumo, and the cool Kangaita hills. Lower down the slopes is Kutus, which is a bustling dusty town with so many influences from the other dialects that it is difficult to distinguish between them.

The unmistakable sing-song Gichugu dialect (which sounds like Embu, a sister language to Kikuyu) can be heard in the coffee-growing areas of Kianyaga, Gĩthũre, Kathũngũri, Marigiti. The Gichugu switch easily to other Kikuyu dialects in conversation with the rest of the Kikuyu.

Excerpt #2:
From Days Of The Week In Kikuyu
(Mũthenya) wa mbere - the first day (not in common usage)

From Kiswahili (in common usage)

(Mũthenya) wa kerĩ - the second day

(Mũthenya) wa gatatũ - the third day

(Mũthenya) wa kana - the fourth day

(Mũthenya) wa gatano - the fifth day, (Mũthenya)
Juma From Kiswahili

Mũthenya) wa Jumamothi
From Kiswahili
The logical (Mũthenya) wa gatandatũ, is not used today.

(Mũthenya) wa Kiumia
Literally the day of coming out/stopping what you are doing.

The logical (Mũthenya) wa mũgwanja - the seventh day - is not used."

Kimbundu (North Mbundu)
Note that Kimbundu is now considered one of two languages [the other being Umbundu) that are collectively called Mbundu.

Excerpt #1
Mbundu – 6 million [speakers]
"Mbundu is comprised of two langauges: Kimbundu, or North Mbundu, and Umbundu, or South Mbundu. They are spoken throughout Angola, and both reflect a heavy Portuguese influence from the country’s colonial period. A 1919 colonial decree banned the use of local languages in schools, making Portuguese obligatory. This reduced the number of native speakers, but Mbundu remains a prominently spoken language in Angola today."

Excerpt #2:
"Kimbundu, or North Mbundu, one of two Bantu languages called Mbundu (see Umbundu), is the second-most-widely spoken Bantu language in Angola. It is concentrated in the north-west of the country, notably in the Luanda Province, Bengo Province, Malanje Province and the Cuanza Norte Province. It is spoken by the Ambundu.[4]"...

Excerpt #3:
Umbundu, or South Mbundu..., one of two Bantu languages of Angola called Mbundu (see Kimbundu), is the most widely spoken language of Angola. Speakers are known as Ovimbundu, who constitute a third of the Angolan people. Their homeland is the Central Highlands of Angola and the coastal region west of these highlands, including the cities of Benguela and Lobito. Because of recent internal migration there are now also large communities in Luanda and its surrounding province, as well as in Lubango."...

Excerpt #4:
[Excerpt from Folk-tales of Angola: Fifty Tales, with Ki-mbundu Text, Literal English Translation, Volume 1 by Héli Chatelain [1884] [Google books, page 270], given as is [without accent marks in the word "kizua"]
"Kia-lumingu The full form is kizua kis lumingu, i.e. the day of lumingu. This lumingu is the Ki-mbundu pronunciation for the Portuguese "Domingo", which again is the Portuguese pronunciation of the Latin "Domincus", i.e. "the Lord". Therefore, kia-lumingu means in its Latin origin "the day of the Lord". It is used for Sunday. The days of the week, in Ki-mbundu, are, Sunday, kia-lumingu; Monday, kia-xikunda, from Portuguese "segunda (fiera), i.e. second (holy day); Tuesday - kia-telesa, from "tercs"; Wednesday -kia-kinda from "quinta"; Friday, kia-sexta, from "sexta", Saturday- kia-sabalu, from "sabbado". In literary Kimbundu, these exotic names will probably be superseded by the native names Kia-Ngana, Kiaiadi, Kiatatu, Kianana, Kiatanu, Kiasamanu, Kiasambuadi"
A digitized form of this book can be found at

Excerpt #1
"Lingala (Ngala) is a Bantu language spoken throughout the northwestern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a large part of the Republic of the Congo, as well as to some degree in Angola and the Central African Republic. It has over 10 million speakers.

In the 19th century, before the creation of the Congo Free State, the Bangala (literally: 'river people') were a group of similar Bantu peoples living and trading along the bend of the Congo River that reached from Irebu at the mouth of the Ubangi River to the Mongala River. They spoke similar languages, such as Losengo, but their trade language was Bangi, which was the most prestigious language between Stanley Pool (Kinshasa) and Irebu. As a result, people upstream of the Bangala mistook Bangi for the language of the Bangala and called it Lingala (language of the Bangala), and European missionaries followed suit.


European missionaries called the language Bangala, after the Bangala people, or Lingala. The latter was intended to mean '(language) of the Bangala' or 'of the River' (that is, 'Riverine Language'). However, this was an error, as the proper Bangi form would have been Kingala.[4] The name Lingala first appears in writing in a publication by the C.I.C.M. missionary Egide De Boeck (1903).

Characteristics and usage
According to some linguists, Lingala language is a Bantu-based creole of Central Africa.[5] In its basic vocabulary, Lingala has many borrowings words from different other languages such as in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

In practice, the extent of borrowing varies widely with speakers of different regions (commonly among young people), and during different occasions."...

Excerpt #2:
"Lingala – 10 million [speakers]

Spoken primarily in the northwestern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and large swaths of the Republic of Congo, Lingala is the product of a blending of several dialects that were historically spoken by peoples living along the Congo River. There are several variations of Lingala, with Standard Lingala used most widely in public and official spaces (including in education and media broadcasting), while Spoken Lingala is more common in day-to-day use."

Excerpt #3:
[Lingala Days Of The Week]
"Monday - mokolo ya loboso

Tuesday - mokolo ya mibale

Wednesday - mokolo ya misato

Thursday - mokolo ya minei

Friday - mokolo ya mitano

Saturday - mokolo ya mposo

Sunday - Mokolo ya yenga"

Luganda (Ganda)
Excerpt #1:
"The Ganda language, Luganda, is one of the major languages in Uganda, spoken by five million Baganda and other people principally in Southern Uganda, including the capital Kampala. It belongs to the Bantu branch of the Niger–Congo language family. Typologically, it is a highly agglutinating language with subject–verb–object word order and nominative–accusative morphosyntactic alignment.

With about four million first-language-speakers in the Buganda region and a million others who are fluent, it is the most widely spoken Ugandan language. As second language it follows English and precedes Swahili. The language is used in some primary schools in Buganda as pupils begin to learn English, the primary official language of Uganda. Until the 1960s, Luganda was also the official language of instruction in primary schools in Eastern Uganda.


A notable feature of Luganda phonology is its geminate consonants and distinctions between long and short vowels. Speakers generally consider consonantal gemination and vowel lengthening to be two manifestations of the same effect, which they call simply "doubling" or "stressing".

Luganda is also a tonal language; the change in the pitch of a syllable can change the meaning of a word. For example, the word kabaka means 'king' if all three syllables are given the same pitch. If the first syllable is high then the meaning changes to 'the little one catches' (third person singular present tense Class VI ka- of -baka 'to catch'). This feature makes Luganda a difficult language for speakers of non-tonal languages to learn. A non-native speaker has to learn the variations of pitch by prolonged listening.[6]"...

Excerpt #2:
"Ganda Days of the Week

Note: the week starts on Monday!

Classical Name

Alternative Name

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  1. Here are three comments from a 2015 pancocojams post* that showcases a Swahili song:

    Manyoni Hungwe, 2012
    "This sounds lyk Zimbabwean Laungage. "Mwanangu" means my child in Zimbabwe."

    ThiGibbs Jakatiga, 2013
    in reply to Manyoni Hungwe
    "Means the same thing in Swahili."

    Mbwa Koko, 2014
    in reply to Manyoni Hungwe
    "Shona is a Bantu language, hence the similarities with Kiswahili. I understand many Shona words since part of my family is Shona. I don't even have to learn the language."


    *Here's the name and link to that post: "Kata Mwanangu Kata" (Swahili music dance video with English translation)

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