How Do I Say Mother In African Languages?


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'Mother' is one of the most universal words in the world. It sounds similar in many different languages with the "ma" sound, like father with the "pa" or "ba" sound. It is still important to remember that there are 1500- 2000 different African languages

The chart below shows the language groups of Africa so you can find out more info about them.

Here are some ways to say 'mother' across the five different regions of Africa but remember that there are lots of different language groups and more ways to say it too:

Southern Africa

The Shona people of Zimbabwe or Botswana say "Amai" for mother. The Zulu of South Africa say "Umama". "Mma" is how the Setswana speaking people of Southern Africa would address their mother. When I lived in South Africa I learned that "Gogo" was used to refer to a grandmother.

East Africa

In Swahili, a mother would be addressed with "Mama" or "Mzazi - parent. The Amarhic speakers in Ethiopia say "Emaye". 

Central Africa

Mother is "Mama" in Lingala.

West Africa

In Fulani you would say "Yaaiye".

The Yoruba speakers of Nigeria and Benin would more likely say "Mama mi"- my mother' though "Iya" also means mother in Yoruba. The first line of Nigerian artist Wizkid's song Jaiye Jaiye says "Mo fe kole fun mama mi" in English "I want to build a house for my mother".

North Africa

"Ummu" means mother in Arabic- one of the languages spoken by many of the Muslim people of North Africa from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Western Sahara and Chad. 

Rapper Yassin Bey (Mos Def) sang "my mother says" in "Ummi says".

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