The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has incorporated some of the most common Kenyan words and phrases into its roster in the latest update.
The OED noted that the inclusion of the words is due to the popularity of the Swahili language that is common in the East Africa region, and spoken by over 200 million people globally.
“We’re pleased to announce that we’ve updated our World Englishes page with resources from Kenyan English, Nigerian English, Tanzanian English, and Ugandan English and added a plethora of Kenyan words as part of the updates made in June 2022,” stated the OED.
The OED explained that the current update features several new and revised entries for Swahili-origin words which are said to belong to the semantic domains of East African clothing, cookery, and built environment.
In the now updated list, common Kenyan dialects such as Mpango wa kando, chapo, uhuru, nyama choma, githeri, chang’aa, busaa, come-we-stay, jembe, buibui, sambaza, sheng and collabo will be part of the dictionary.
Other words include; pressed, tarmac, shrub, muratina, kamba, sufuria, merry-go-round, isukuti, jiko, mandazi, mabati, among others.
In Kenya, most of the words are derived from the local vernacular tong’ues, Swahili and ‘Sheng’, which has also been added to the list and defined by OED as “a street language blending Swahili with lexical and grammatical elements from English and other languages.”
Some of the words borrowed from Swahili and directly translated to bring out the same meaning as intended are; jembe, buibui, nyama choma, mandazi and mabati.
Words derived from the same Swahili lingua but bring out different meanings include ‘Mpango wa kando’, which in OED is defined as sexual relations with someone other than one’s spouse or partner.
Sheng and English words which now have altered meanings according to the OED are; tarmac which in Kenya means to walk the streets looking for work but globally is a term for a road made by combining crushed stone, tar, and sand.
Others are; shrub (pronounce or write a word in another language in a manner that is influenced by one’s mother tongue) and merry-go-round (an informal cooperative savings scheme, typically run by and for women).
Similarly, other lingos emanating from local dialects such as the Luhya community’s isukuti and Kikuyu’s muratina have been added to the new edition of the OED.