Swahili definition

swä-hēlē
Frequency:
An inhabitant of coastal eastern Africa for whom Swahili is the mother tongue.
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A Bantu language of the coast and islands of eastern Africa from Somalia to Mozambique. It is an official language of Tanzania and is widely used as a lingua franca in eastern and east-central Africa.
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A member of a people living on Zanzibar and the nearby mainland.
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The Northern Bantu language of this people, characterized by a vocabulary with many Arabic roots and used as a lingua franca in EC Africa and parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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An agglutinative language widely spoken in East Africa. Born of the hybridization of the Arabic and Bantu cultures, it was the language of the traders in East Africa, and spread along the routes of trade.
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Origin of swahili

  • Swahili from Arabic sawāḥilī of the coasts from sawāḥil pl. of sāḥil coast active participle of saḥala to scrape off, smooth šḥl in Semitic roots

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

  • From Swahili swahili, from plural of Arabic ساحل (sāḥil, “coast").

    From Wiktionary