Category Archives: Vocabulary

Basic Wolof Phrases

See original list here: Some Essential Wolof Phrases
For help with pronunciation see: Pronunciation Guide

↓ scroll down for more resources ↓

Essentials | sólo

Wolof / Français
[Pulaar / Mandinka]


Salaam aleekum. / Bonjour.
sa·laam a·ley·kum / bon·zhoor
[P: No ngoolu daa. / M: I be ñaading.]

Mangi dem. / Au revoir.
maan·gee dem / o·rer·vwar
[P: Ñalleen e jamm. / M: Fo tuma doo.]

Bu la neexee. / S’il vous plaît.
boo la ney·khey / seel voo pley
[P: Njaafodaa. / M: Dukare.]

Thank you.
Jërejëf. / Merci.
je·re·jef / mair·see
[P: A jaaraamah. / M: I ning bara.]

You’re welcome.
Amul sólo. / Je vous en prie.
uh·mool so·lo / zher voo zom pree
[P: Enen ndendidum. / M: Mbee le dentaala.]

Waaw. / Oui.
wow / wee
[P: Eey. / M: Haa.]

Déedéet. / Non.
dey·deyt / non
[P: Alaa. / M: Hani.]

Sorry. (Excuse me.)
Baal ma. (Jéggël ma.) / Pardon. (Excusez-moi.)
baal ma (jey·guhl mah) / par·don (ek·skew·zay·mwa)
[P: Achanam hakke. (Yaafo.) / M: Hakko tuñe.]

Do you speak English?
Ndax dégg nga angale? / Parlez-vous anglais?
ndakh deg nguh an·ga·ley / par·ley·voo ong·ley
[P: Ada faama engale? / M: Ye angkale kango moyle?]

Do you understand? (Do you speak … ?)
Dégg nga? / Comprenez-vous?
deg nguh / kom·pre·ney·voo
[P: (Ada nana … ?) / M: (Ye … kango moyle?)]

I understand.
Dégg naa. / Je comprends.
deg na / zher kom·pron
[P: Mi faami. / M: Ngaa kalamuta le.]

I don’t understand.
Dégguma. / Je ne comprends pas.
deg·goo·ma / zher ner kom·pron pa
[P: Mi faamaani / M: Mma kalamuta.]

Wóoy! / Au secours!
wohy / o·skoor
[P: Ballal! / M: Nso orangzola!]

Continue reading Basic Wolof Phrases


Wolof Vocabulary: Meat


beef – yarpe-nack
chicken – yarpe-ganarre
goat – yarpe-baiy
hamburger – hamburger
lamb – yarpe-harre
meat – yarpa
pork – yarpe-mbam
shrimp – cepa-cepa


Source: Wolof Dictionary & Phrasebook, Nyima Kantorek.

Wolof Religion: Islamic Terms


Asalaam alaikum.
May peace be with you. (greeting)

Malaikum salaam.
And with you be peace. (reply to above)

Allahu akbar.
God is greater. (than me, you, anything)

Praise God. (said to thank God)

In God’s name. (said before meals)

If God wills it. (refers to a future action)

What God wishes. (indicates a good omen)

Pulaar Vocabulary: Anatomy

abdomen – réédu (ndu); abdominal – ko faati e  réédu ~ pain reedu muusooru.

back – keeci (ki); ɓaawo (ngo); caggal (ngal). ~ up wallude; heedande. I will back him up Ma mi wallu mo. talk behind someone’s ~ ñohde. come ~ artude; backache – kééci muusóówi I have a backache Mbeɗe wondi e keeci muusoowi; backbone – nooral (ngól).

cardiac – ko faati e ɓernde; cardiology – jangde ɓernde.

dental – ko faati e ñiiϒe/ñiire; dentist – doktoor ñiiϒe.

ear – nofru (ndu). I am all ears Mbeɗe heɗi maa.

face – yeeso (ngo). side of the ~ hanawere. make a ~ ŋooɓde. face to face kuccondiral (ngal).

gastric – ko faati é réédu; gastrology – jangde mbaadi e ñabbuuli réédu.

hand – jungo (ngo). from ~ to ~ jungo e jungo; hand v. – tottude; rókkude. Hand it over to me Heɓnam ɗum.

intestine – téktékól (ngól); intestinal – ko faati é téktékól.

jaw – golgolal (ngal); gabgal (ngal).

knee – hofru (ndu). Down on your knees Dicco; kneecap – tumude hófru.

leg – koyngal (ngal); cakutal (ngal). lower ~ korlal (ngal). Pull someone’s ~ fuuntude; gaajaade.

mouth – hunuko (ko). Open your mouth Muɓɓit hunuko maa; mouthful – wooɓre (nde); longere (nde).

nasal – ko faati e hinere.

ophthalmic (of the eye) – ko faati e gite/yitere; ophthalmologist – cafroowo gite.

penis – soolde (nde); kaake gorko.

rectum – ɓaawo (ngo).

shin – korlal (ngal).

teeth – ñiiϒe (ɗe). remove one’s ~ solde ñiiϒe mum; teethe – fuɗde ñiiϒe.

uvula – ɗakañe (o).

vagina – fii (o); sedere (nde); kóttu (ngu); melde (nde); vaginal – ko faati e kaake debbo.

waist – dadorde (nde); nadorde (nde); waistline – duhorde (nde); duhórgól (ngól); nadornde (nde).


Source: Pulaar-English Standard Dictionary, Dr. Mamadou Niang.

Wolof Vocabulary: Pronouns

I – maan
me – ma
my – suma
mine – suma
you – yow
your – seen
yours – seen
he – ñoom
she –  ñoom
it – ñoom
him – ñoom
her – ñoom
his – ñoom
hers – ñoom
its – ñoom
their – ñoom
theirs – ñoom

Wolof Vocabulary

  1. a  –  it is (cf. la); Yallaa ko def. – It is God who did it. [Yalla + a]; Omar a ko wax. – It is Omar who said it. Man a. – It is I.
  2. balafoŋ bi  –  xylophone
  3. cof  –  to peck
  4. dey (de)  –  emphatic article; Man dey… As for me…
  5. e (a + e = ee)  –  a suffix making intransitive verbs transitive; genna to go out; gennee to put out
  1. custom/tradition  –  aada ji (Ar.)
  2. Adam  –  Aadama (a name given to a twin, the other being Hawa [Eve]); doom i Aadama yi – human beings
  3. desire/need  –  aajo ji (Ar.)
  4. whitish (to be)  –  weex-aale
  5. protect (to)  –  aar; kaar gi – protection; aar yaram wi – to protect the body

Source: David P. Gamble – Gambian Wolof – English Dictionary


Pulaar: Vocabulary

aplenty adj. keewdum; ko heewi.
bind v. jokkondirde; habbude.
casque n. kaske.
dilate v. yuufde; yaajde.
environment n. sara; saraaji.

anande v. be jealous of.
bonnitde v. denigrate; vilify; debase; spoil again. (from bonande – damage; mess; waste; tragedy; havoc; destruction.  Dum ko bonande It is  a waste.
cuutirgal – instrument for lifting or pulling out.
deedol – a cut. (from deedaade v. cut oneself accidentally.)
endu – breast; bosom; pap; womb. daccude ~ wean. endi pl.

Entries from Dr. Mamadou Niang’s Pulaar Standard Dictionary.

Vendredi Française (French Friday); Vocabulary


The purpose of French Friday is to expand your language capabilities while in West Africa (specifically Senegal). Many Wolof speakers can also understand French and sometimes using French to get your point across is easier than using Wolof since it’s a language closer to our own.


  • attelage – coupling, hitch, team, harness, yoke
  • calandre – radiator grill, calendar, mangle
  • citadin/citadine – city dweller, town, city, urban
  • collectionner – to collect
  • crasse – grime, filth, crass
  • défaillance – blackout, weakness, fault, failure
  • enchère – bid
  • entendre – to hear, to understand, to mean
  • faune – wildlife, fauna, set, crowd
  • file – line


Source: Collins French Concise Dictionary 5th Edition. (


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Wolof w/Breakdown


Doomi aadama yépp danuy juddu, yam ci tawfeex ci sag ak sañ-sañ. Nekk na it ku xam dëgg te ànd na ak xelam, te war naa jëflante ak nawleen, te teg ko ci wàllu mbokk. (listen to audio)

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


doom – child, doll, fruit, tablet (of medicine), ashes
doom i aadama – human being; doom i Aadama yi – human beings
Aadama – Adam (Ar.), a name given to a twin the other being Hawa (Eve)
yépp/yéppa – all
danuy/dañu – they
juddu – to be born
yam – ?
ci – to, in, at, a bit, some
tawfeex – ?
sag – honor, personality, charm
ak (ag) – and, with (used with nouns and pronouns)
sañsañ – to be authorized, to dare, to stop up (note: the sources I used only had ‘sañ‘ as a single word, not doubled, so uncertain if that changes the definition)
nekk/nekka/neka – to be at a place; ku nekka – everyone
na – he/she has, sign of optative, like, how (naka)
it – also
ku – article, relative form, or interrogative
xam – to know
dëgg/dégga – to hear, understand
te – to be stubborn, and, (as a suffix indicates repition of action)
ànd – together?
xelam – (to have?) intelligence, mind (my source only has ‘xel‘. I’m guessing the suffix ‘-am‘ indicates possession)
war – to mount (a horse, etc.), ought to, to have to
naa – I have
jëflante/jeflante – reciprocal, relationship (jéf/jëf – action, act, deed)
nawleen – (closest I could find was ‘naw‘ which means ‘to esteem highly’ & ‘breath’/’nawle‘ – person of the same rank, rival – ‘leen‘ is a plural form of ‘you’ so I’m guessing this is a compound word)
teg/tek – saddle; tega – to put down; teggin – politeness, courtesy; tegoo – to support
ko – him, it
wàllu (walla?) – share, part; (wollu?) – to save, help
mbokk/mbokka – relative, to be related


Sources:, David P. Gamble dictionary,


At the Restaurant (Ci Restoraan)


Wolof does not have a natural way to say “please”, but the phrases given here are all polite ways of asking for help or placing your order.


I am hungry – Da maa xiif [da maa – I am, xiif – hungry]
I am thirsty – Da maa mar [mar – thirsty]

Excuse me… – Baal ma
Where is the nearest restaurant? – Fan moo am restoraan? [fan – where, am – indefinite article]
Where is the toilet/restroom? – Fan mooy seen wanaag? [seen – your, wanag/wanok – washing place/toilet]

Thank you – Jërëjëf


Phrases from ‘Say It In Wolof’ by A. Gueye, word definitions from dictionary by D.P. Gamble.


Moom It Dina Ñow (Phrase Breakdown)

moom it dina ñowhe also will come

moom – in this sence means ‘he/she‘ (emphatic form) but can also mean ‘to own‘.
it/itamalso (as a suffix ‘-it‘ indicates ‘again‘; it can also be a suffix for the result of an action – added to a verb root. Ex. dammato break‘. dammitpieces‘).
dina – (di + na); di indicates a future action “he will“; di + noun makes a positive statement (he is, etc.); di as a prefix to –oon (doon) = past completed, –aan (daan) = past habitual
ñowto come/arrive; can also mean ‘to be sharp‘ (sometimes written as ñaw)

Definitions from David P. Gamble’s Gambian Wolof-English Dictionary 1990. I don’t think this book has ever been professionally published. My copy is a typed (typwriter NOT computer) photocopy with hand-written diacritical marks in a three-ringed binder. You may be able to find a copy at your local university.

Ferry Transportation – Phrases & Breakdown


Ferries cross every day from Banjul to Barra, and to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The accomodations range from basic to luxury. Schedules vary, but the ferries are quick and reliable. – Nyima Kantorek

Note that the source for these use an unusual orthography


Where is the ferry going? – Fern la ferry be de dem?
fern/fan = where (also: day/date), ferry = ferry (chalupe in Senegal), be/bi = the, dem = go

I want to go to… – Dama buga dem
dama = I would like, buga/bëgg = desire/like/need/want/intend/intent

How long would it take to get to…? – Fe behnyarta wahhtu lar jaile?
fe/fi = here, beh = until, nyarta/ñaata = amount/cost/many/much, wahhtu/waxtu = hour/time, jaile = take

How many passengers does the ferry take? – Ferry be nyarta nitt lar ebb?
nitt = person/people, ebb = load/pack

How long does the ferry stay in…? – Ferry be de na yarga…?
na/naka = how, yarga = last

What time is it returning? – Bern wahhtu lar lay dealusy?
bern/ban = which/what, dealusy = come back


Phrases and definitons from the Wolof Dictionary & Phrasebook by Nyima Kantorek, published by Hippocrene. The only Wolof/English dictionary in mass publication as far as I can tell; For that alone it makes the book a worthwhile purchase, however the book uses a very non-standard orthography that, although specially designed for English speakers, makes it more difficult to learn the language. Every Wolof speaker that I’ve shown it to, whether native or as a second language, did not recognize it as Wolof and even they had a hard time with it. The book is primarily Gambian dialect.


New Wolof Dictionary

Dictionary Definition Of Learn

This looks like a great promising dictionary…the only thing is that it’s mostly all in French but on the other hand this can be very helpful in learning the French along with your Wolof as you Google Translate the French into English!

Oh, and the address for the website? It is

What’s Her/His name? Dialog with Breakdown

Starsky: Kii naka la tudd?
Hutch: Kii Vera Green la tudd.
Hutch: Kii vera la tudd.
Starski: Kii naka la sant?
Hutch: Kii Green la sant. / Vera Green la sant.

Kii naka la tudd?

What’s his/her name?
(literally: This person here, how is he/she called?)

naka — the equivalent of “what” in this case
tudd — verb: to be called

This question is answered either by giving the person’s first name, or the person’s first and last names:

Kii Vera la tudd.
Her name is Vera.
(This person here Vera is called.)

Kii Vera Green la tudd.
Her name is Vera Green.

Kii naka la sant?
What’s his/her family name?

sant — verb: to be called (family name)

This question is answered by giving the person’s family name only:

Kii Green la sant.
Her family name is Green.
(lit.: This person here, Green is called.)

Do not use kii if you already know first name.
Ex. (Vera) naka la sant?

Who is This? Dialog with Breakdown

Beavis: Kii kan la?
Butthead: Kii Tapha la.
Butthead: Kii Mel la.
Butthead: Kii Vera la.

(Kii) kan la?

Who is this person?
(literally: (This person) who is?)

kii — word usually accompanied by a gesture meaning this person (here)
kan? — who?

(Kii) Vera la.
This (person) is Vera.

I am = la — Croff la sant
you are = nga — Sarr nga sant
he/she is = le — Cole le sant

Simple Greeting Dialog with Breakdown

Bert: Asalaa maalekum.
Ernie: Maalekum salaam.
Bert: Nanga def?
Ernie: Mangi fii rekk.
Bert: Ana waa ker ga?
Ernie: Nunga fa.
Bert: Alhamdulilaay!

Asalaa maalekum
Malekum salaam

Greetings / Hello

from Arabic: Peace to you, and to you peace.

USE when entering or arriving at a place or when approaching an already established group.

Naka nga def?
Na nga def?

How are you doing?
(literally: How you do?)

na = naka — how
nga — you
def — verb: to do

An informal greeting. DON’T USE to initiate greetings with a person to whom you want to show respect.

Maa ngi fi rekk.

I am fine
(lit: I am here only.)

maa ngi — here I am
maa — presentative pronoun first person singular
fi — here
rekk — only

Ana waa ker ga?

How’s the family?

ana — how is / how are / where is / where are

waa ker ga — the people of the house, “the family”
waa — the people of / the inhabitants of
ker — house
ker gi — this house
ker ga — the house (distance)

Nu nga fa.

They are fine.
(lit: They are there.)

nu nga — they are
fa — there

nu ngi fi — they are here
nu nga fa — they are there


Thank God.
(from Arabic)

Some Pulaar Words 3

aawasaagal roguishness

Some Pulaar words 2

J’apprends le Wolof #3

Translated from J’apprends le Wolof by Jean-Leopold Diouf et Marina Yaguello. This is the introduction to the book.


1. Design Manual / Conception du manuel

This book is a method of learning wolof, a language foreign to francophones. It is intended for residents, the cooperating, businessmen and tourists. It could also be useful for teachers in national languages, or any other person wishing to have a better knowledge of the language wolof.

The method is especially designed for a learning guide. However, it is possible to use individually. In one case as in others, can not be overemphasized recommend a learner’s most total immersion in environments requiring a practice wolof.

To accommodate the manifold needs of learners, we chose themes as diverse as family relationships, professional, social, friendly, commercial, civil, etc.., Containing an elementary lexicon, but enough to face a different situations communication.

In addition, we sought to ensure a balance between learning wolof by a communicative approach and learning wolof by an analytical approach.

The points of grammar that may fall in the manual have been carefully selected and should allow the learner to acquire the basic structures of wolof. All these points are explained in the units or they appear.

The written exercises are planned at the end of each unit. Their number varies from one unit to another depending on the difficulty of the grammar has acquired.

All exercises should be made and, as many times as a learning experience need.

For each exercise, a model is given. The learner must study the structure therein is made, before formulating are shown next to each segment of the year. A system cache that the learner is confectionnera prevent him throwing a glance the answer before he made the effort necessary.

2. The place of wolof in Senegal / La place du wolof au Sénégal

The wolof is part of the language group called west-Atlantic. It is mainly spoken in Senegal and Gambia, but also in Mauritania.

There are, in Senegal, six languages that have received the status of national languages: wolof, Serer, Pulaar, the Mandingo, soninke and Diola.

These languages were officially selected for communication in the media, and education. Moreover, the French remains the official language.

Of the six national languages, wolof is most spoken. It is the language of ethnic wolof who figure 2,285,000 people, representing 40% of the population of Senegal. The traditional Wolof area extends from north to south, from the delta of the atlantic coast of the desert Ferlo.

But it is also wolof language vehicle. About 80% of the population on the practice throughout the territory and this, mainly in urban areas.

The advantage that the wolof had on other national languages can not be explained both by the number of native wolof or by their geographical distribution (Walo, Cayor, Diolof, Baol, Saloum) and by the fact that the first contacts s’effectuèrent colonial powers with the Wolof and made the area wolof the pole of attraction for other ethnic groups. In mid wolof, the day saw the first counters and, with them, groundnut basin or develop a flourishing trade, crowned by the installation of railway Dakar – St. Louis.

In brief remarks on the language wolof / Brèves remarques sur la langue wolof

The wolof, as many African languages, is a language classes nominal. These classes (eight in number two in the singular and plural) play a role comparable to that grammatical gender in the Indo-European languages. Each class is marked by a [index class] is by a consonant. This consonant serves as a base for training all determinants and substitutes name (defined and indefinite articles concerning, interrogative, indefinite). These determinants or substitutes therefore differ for each class, the initial consonant, désinence remaining the same.

The city of Dakar is a melting pot or just blend all ethnic groups in Senegal and even neighbouring countries: wolof it undergoes a simplification because it is talking more and more by non-native speakers for whom it is a second or a third language. Thus, in its manifold vehicular and urban, a distinction of class indices is not always respected. The class – b (most productive) tends to absorb the other. In particular, it is in this class that fit all the words and borrowing new words needed presenter asked whether a learner is likely to hear in the streets. We opted ultimately for some sort of compromise, which reflects fairly well through the use wolophones native urbanized. The class indices are complied except for the numeral benn (one), serving also indefinite article, which tends to be used alone, regardless of class.

The identification in space and in particular the opposition near / distant plays a very important role in language. Where a great variability of adverbs of place. The notion of near / distant also in nominal determination (and, as defined in article owns several forms).

The system can record divert even more francophones. The integrate personal pronouns mode and the appearance of the verb. So the pronoun that varies and not the basis of the word, which remains unchanged. In addition, there is no [time] Strictly speaking, the tracking time out from a context and situation of enunciation. The different conjugations (by varying the pronoun) are introduced gradually in the units. For an overview of the system, we see a grammatical annex at the end of volume.

J’apprends le Wolof #2

Self Test – Can You Translate These Phrases? (A, 1-10)

These are from the book Junniy Leebuy Wolof by Mànsóor Xumma.

  1. Aat yaa ngi woy géwél yi.
  2. Ab jatang, loo bàcc bàcc mu xasawum saw.
  3. Ab loot, tàbbi na ba tàyyi bàyyi fa rew bu nyor.
  4. Ab sàmm a waral béy deewul.
  5. Ab ndóol, ku mu yàqal nyakk nga.
  6. Ag bóli, mbedd la; waaye kenn du ca wetal i béy.
  7. Alal du faj dee, gàcce lay faj.
  8. Alali golo, ca lex ba.
  9. Alali jàmbur, ba fa la sant.
  10. Alali jàmbur, ku ca banya kasara, leneen nga ca begg.

P.S. – I don’t have the answers for these…You’ll have to figure them out for yourself!

Some Pulaar Words 2

Fula Jalon Girl

aan you
kufne hat
tefde calm

Some Pulaar Words 1

J’apprends le Wolof #2

This post is the second in my weekly series of translating the book “J’apprends le Wolof” by Jean-Léopold Diouf & Marina Yaguello (published by Karthala) from French into English. For the original post click ICI. Following are the pages leading up to the introduction.

I’m learning wolof

© Editions Karthala, 1991
ISBN : 2-86537-287-1

Jean-Leopold Diouf and Marina Yaguello

I’m Learning Wolof

Damay Jàng Wolof (I’m Learning Wolof)

22-24, boulevard Arago
75013 Paris


Les mots et les femmes, Payot, 1978. (Words and women, Payot, 1978.)
Alice au pays du langage, Le Seuil, 1981. (Alice in language, Le Seuil, 1981.)
Les Fous du langage, Le Seuil, 1981. (Les Fous language, Le Seuil, 1981.)
Catalogue des idées reçues sur la langue, Le Seuil, 1988. (Catalogue of ideas about language, Le Seuil, 1988.)
Le sexe des mots, Belfond, 1989. (The words sex, Belfond, 1989.)
Histoire des lettres, Le Seuil, 1990. (History letters, Le Seuil, 1990.)
T’ar ta gueule à la récré !, Le Seuil, 1991. (T’ar your mouth to the playground!, Le Seuil, 1991.)
Grammaire exploratoire de l’anglais, Hachette, 1991. (Grammar exploratory English, Hachette, 1991.)
En écoutant parler la langue, Le Seuil, 1991. (Listening to speak the language, Le Seuil, 1991.)


We wish to thank all those who contributed to the achievement of this method of learning wolof. We are indebted in particular the Ministry of Cooperation french who kindly to finance the achievement.

Our thanks also go to Mr Jean-Charles Trorobas, an engineer with the language laboratory of the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at the University of Dakar, for its technical collaboration, Ms. Martha Coly Diédhiou of Computing Center at the University of Dakar who served before the first manuscript, and the director of CLAD for his willingness unreservedly.

Some Pulaar Words

Fula Women


J’apprends le Wolof / I’m Learning Wolof

I am in the process of translating the Wolof lesson book “J’apprends le Wolof” by Jean-Léopold Diouf & Marina Yaguello (published by Karthala) from French into English. I will try to post a page here every week. I am leaving for Senegal in a few weeks so I don’t know how often I will be able to post while I am gone. I will start here with the cover. Note: I am not a French speaker so many of my translations may not be perfect, however I am using the many materials I have at my disposal to make the best translations possible.

FROM THE BACK COVER: The wolof is a language spoken mainly in Senegal and Gambia, but also in Mauritania. This is one of the six languages used officially in Senegal for communication in the media and education.

About 40% of Senegalese speak wolof as their mother language and 40% use wolof as a lingua franca. Hence the importance for anyone who wants to know Senegal, whether resident, cooperating, businessman or tourist, to learn wolof.

The book may also be useful for teachers in national languages, which will find many exercises drafted on the basis of official spelling.

This method allows learning to acquire alone or with a guide a variety of wolof which reflects fairly well through the use wolophones native urbanized.

Jean-Leopold Diouf holds a Ph. D. in African linguistics. He is a researcher at the Center of Applied Linguistics of Dakar and professor of wolof at the Alliance Francaise.

Marina Yaguello is an aggregate Doctor of Letters and lecturer at the University of Paris VII. She has taught linguistics at the University of Dakar and is the author of numerous books.

men and societies

Cover: Photo Vivant Univers “Living Universe”

english n. wolof / french – A

english n. wolof / french


abandon v. baayi, wocca / abandonner
abdomen n. naxa / abdomen
ability n. mën, mun / capacité
ablaze v. taaka / feu
abnormal v. doyadi / anormal
above adv. kow, tiim / au-dessus
abroad adv. betimraw / à l’étranger
abscess n. taab / abcès
abundant adj. bari, las, naax, yomba / abondantes
accept v. nongu, nangu, taa / accepter
accommodate v. xajal, yaatal / tenir compte de
accompany v. aanda, gungeé / accompagner
accomplish v. def, jaloore, jeéku / accomplir
accuse v. jiiñ, laa, tam, tiiñal, tuumaal / accusent
accustom v. miin, tamm / habituer
ache v. metti, mettit / ache
achievement n. ngoóra / réalisation
acknowledge v. falé / reconnaître
acre n. waar / acre
across adv. jacarlow, jublu / parmi

Grocery List


I used French for the Wolof when I was not able to find a Wolof word. Please leave a comment if you know the appropriate Wolof word for the ones I missed…jërejëf!

bread mbuuru pain
cheese fromage fromage
red onion soble xonxa oignon rouge
cooking spray la cuisine de pulvérisation la cuisine de pulvérisation
tomato tamaate tomate
bananas le secteur de la banane le secteur de la banane
orange juice jus d’orange jus d’orange
potatoes pompitéer pommes de terre
ketchup sauce tomate sauce tomate
sausage yaapa saucisse
green onion soble werta oignon vert
bell peppers poobar poivron
eggs nen oeufs

French Vocabulary – A

Vocabulaire Français – A

abbreviations abréviations
adjective adjectif
adverb adverbe
agriculture agriculture
anatomy anatomie
and et
architecture architecture
astrology astrologie
astronomy astronomie
attributive devant le nom
auxiliary auxiliare
aviation aviation


Hausa is the Chadic language with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by about 24 million people, and as a second language by about 15 million more.

rain – ruwan sama

razor – reza

registered mail – wasik’a ta rajista

rent – yi hayar

repair – gyara

reservation – kama d’aki

restaurant – gidan cin abinci

return – koma

road – hanya

room – d’aki

French – Enviromental

l’environnement – the environment

biodegradable – biodegradable

conservation – conservation

deforestation – deforestation

jetable – disposable

secheresse – drought

ecosysteme – ecosystem

especes en voie de disparition – endangered species

chasse – hunting

hydro-electricite – hydroelectricity

irrigation – irrigation

energie nucleaire – nuclear energy

essais nucleaires – nuclear testing

couche d’ozone – the ozone layer

pesticides – pesticides

pollution – pollution

recyclable – recyclable

programme de recyclage – recycling program

dechets toxiques – toxic waste

approvisionnement en eau – water supply

A Words

Gambian Wolof…

aifaare – pagan
aik – climb
aikerty – lift/elevate
ailake – tomorrow
aina – mold
ainay – wish
alcarly – village leader
alfun – million
alheames – thursday
almet – match
almorre – cupboard
altineh – monday
am – have
amna – there is/is there
anndah – incense burner
antal – able
arba – lend
arbalanteh – share
arca – confront
arch – hang


The Diola people inhabit the Casamance region of Senegal, and also southwestern Gambia, where their name is spelt Jola. Their language is Diola or Jola, not to be confused with the Dioula or Dyola spoken in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. Diola society is segmented and very flexible, so several dialects have developed which may not be mutually intelligible between groups even though the area inhabited by the Diola is relatively small.

Greetings. (reply) – kah-sou-mai-kep

Borrowed from Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 3rd Edition.

10 More Random Wolof Words

Courtesy of

  1. jula, , trader, peddler of foods, to trade
  2. teret, n , trading season
  3. daaj, , to nail (see pontu)
  4. digal, , to advise, caution, instruct
  5. jaaj, , large mound of cous in field
  6. garaw, , danger
  7. faas, , beard
  8. mbóótaay, n , to be last
  9. raakaaju, adj. , to get mad , be crazy
  10. gaanga, , wishing for s/o to go away

See original list.

Religious Terms 2

Words & phrases with religious significance starting with the letter B.

Many of these terms may actually be Arabic or Wolofized Arabic. Many Wolof speakers practice Islam which uses the Arabic language.

baakaar, bakaarsin, evil
baawaanreligious ceremony to pray for rain
Baay Faal a type of Mourit (Mouride) follower, characterized by long hair (dreadlocks), etc.
baraka Alla, barak’Allah fikwith God’s blessing, may the blessings of Allah be upon you (used to thank someone)
barkeelto benefit from a blessing
bataaaxal, bataxelletter, circular letter (generally prophesying the future)
bayerea charm for happiness; to be popular
biddaabelief, superstition
billaay, billaxiby God
bisimilaay, bisimilayi, bisimilaahiin the name of God
bismillah ar rahman ar rahimin Allah’s name most gracious most merciful
bootalman in charge of newly circumcised boys
boroom daarahead of a religious school
bu soobee Yallaif it pleases God

See Religious Terms 1.

10 Random Wolof Words

Courtesy of

  1. lef, n , thing
  2. naju, adj. , be compressed
  3. téng, , tight
  4. baatale, verb , to leave a message with someone for somebody
  5. set, , clean
  6. goox, v , to hold liquid ones mouth
  7. delēne, , cluster of stars
  8. folé, , elastic
  9. loolu, dem adj. , that thing (over there)
  10. Angalteer, n , England

Travel Vocabulary IV

See Travel Vocabulary III


Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

bazin – dyed fabrics that are beaten to a shine with wooden clubs

campement – could be loosely translated as ‘hostel’, ‘inn’ or ‘lodge’, or even ‘motel’; it is not a camping ground (Senegal)

djembe – short, goat hide-covered drum

fromager – kapok tree; also known as silk-cotton tree (Senegal)

gasoil – diesel fuel

Inch’ Allah – God willing, ie hopefully (Arabic, but used by Muslims in Africa)

marabout – Muslim holy man

paillote – shelter with thatched roof and walls; usually on the beach or around an open-air bar-restaurant (Senegal)

sai-sai – Wolof term for a womanizer; also used for youngsters smooth-talking women, usually with sexual but sometimes criminal intentions

telecentre – privately owned telephone bureau (Gambia)

Thanks to Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 3rd Edition.

Religious Terms

Words & phrases with religious significance starting with the letter A. 

Many of these terms may actually be Arabic or Wolofized Arabic. Many Wolof speakers practice Islam which uses the Arabic language.

ajaratutitle given to a woman who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca
aji Makkato go to Mecca
aj githe pilgrimage
Ajititle given to a woman who has made the pilgrimage
ajjana, aljana, arjanaheaven, paradise
allaaji, alxaajititle of a man who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca
allaaxirathe next world
alla-akubaar, allahu-akbarGod is great
alxamdulillaapraise be to God
alxuraanthe Koran
astafurlaamay God forgive, God help us. (an exclamation of astonishment)
atte Yalla lait is the judgement of God, it is fate

Travel Vocabulary III

See Travel Vocabulary II


Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

auberge – hostel or small hotel

balafon – wooden xylophone typically played by griots

calèche – horse-drawn cart used to carry goods and people, particularly in the rural regions of Senegal

dibiterie – grilled-meat stall

fête – festival (Senegal)

gargotte – basic eating house or stall (Senegal)

IMF – International Monetary Fund

kora – 21-string harp-lute

maison de passage – very basic place to sleep, often near bus stations; with a bed or mat on the floor and little else, and nearly always doubling as a brothel; also called chambres de passage

Ndiaga Ndiaye – white Mercedes bus, used as public transport; also called alham (Senegal)

pagne – length of cloth worn around the waist as a skirt (Senegal)

quartier – area

sabar – tall, thin, hourglass drum

taxi-brousse – bush taxi (Senegal)

village artisanal – craft market (Senegal)

zouk – style of music, originally from Guadeloupe, that mixes African and Latin-American rhythms

Thanks to Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 3rd Edition.

Wolof mots de vocabulaire

Wolof vocabulary words

bennen, benen – another
bennen u xarit am – another of his friends

doonte – if it were
doonte man … – if it were me …

garab g (garap) – tree; medicine
ci kow garab gi – up the tree

jappa – to seize, catch ; to suit
jappa biir – to become pregnant

lu – whatever
lu dul – unless

munga, munge, mungi – he is …
munga fa – he is over there (remote)

ñeppa – all
ñun ñeppa xam nañu – we all know them

raxas – to wash (clothes, utensils, etc.)
mu raxas leket bi be mu set – she washed the calabash until it was clean

suma – my
suma xaalis ak sa xaalis – my money and your money

tollo – to measure height
tollo ak … – to be the same size as …

waññi – to lower a price, reduce
waññi ko waay – please lower it

yobbu – to carry, to take away
soo demee, yobbaale ma – when you go, take me with you

Travel Vocabulary II

See Travel Vocabulary I


Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

alham – white Mercedes bus, also called N’Diaga N’Diaye in Dakar

beignet – simple deep-fried donut (Senegal)

calesh – horse-drawn taxi usually seating about three people behind the driver

demi-pension – half board (dinner, bed and breakfast) (Senegal)

essence – petrol (gas) for car (Senegal)

fanals – large lanterns; also the processions during which the lanterns are carried through the streets

gare routière – bus and bush-taxi station, (also called autogare and gare voiture) (Senegal)

hôtel de ville – town hall (Senegal)

in sha’ Allah – God willing, ie, hopefully (Arabic, but used by Muslims in Africa)

lumo – weekly market, usually in border areas

mairie – town hall; mayor’s office (Senegal)

paletuviers – mangroves (Senegal)

quatre-quatre – four-wheel-drive car (4WD or 4×4)

riz yollof – vegetables and/or meat cooked in a sauce of oil and tomatoes

Senegambia – the region of Senegal and Gambia

tampon hygiénique – tampon (also tampon periodique and serviette hygiénique) (Senegal)

yassa poulet – grilled chicken marinated in an onion-and-lemon sauce (Senegal)

Thanks to Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 2nd Edition.

Days of the Week / Bési Ayubés Bi

Wolof names for the days of the week are mostly adopted from Arabic.

As usual you can mouse over for the French translations as well.

MondayAlteneh / Altinay / Altine [al-ti-ney]
TuesdayTalarta / Talata / Talaata [ta-laa-ta]
WednesdayArlahrba / Alarba / Àllarba [al-lar-ba]
ThursdayAlheames / Alxamess / Alxames [al-kha-mes]
FridayArjuma / Ajuma / Àjjuma [aj-ju-ma]
SaturdayGaaw / Gaawo / Gaawu [gaa-woo]
SundayDibéér / Dibeer / Dibéer [dee-beyr]

Saturday may also be known as Aséér. (found this trans. in a Gambian source)

New Opposites List

New List Thanks To Tubaab bu jigeen
See The Original List & Comments Here “Opposites Attract”
beginning – ending (verb): door/tammbali – jeex/mujj

cheap – expensive: yomb – jafe

easy – difficult: jomb – jafe

friend – enemy: xarit – noon

happy – unhappy: beg – tiis

inside – outside: ci biir – ci biti

enter – get out: duggu – genn

left – right: cammoň – ndeyjoor

near – far: jege – sori

open – close (verb): ubbi – téjj

peace – war: jamm – xare

Random Vocab

These were taken from the Gambian Wolof – English Dictionary By David P. Gamble.

banxawater lily
daaybush fire, forest fire
pata sore throat
pukkusstorage place, a retreat
raafto be destroyed, cease to exist
seeyto dissolve
tannato choose

Opposites Attract

beginning – end dohre – jehh/rach
cheap – expensive yormba – sehre
easy – difficult yormba – nahary
friend – enemy harit – mbargne
happy – unhappy contarn – mehr
in – out duga – gayna
left – right charmorgne – ndeyjohre
near – far jeague – sory
open – close oube – tayche
peace – war jarma – hareh
question – answer larch – torntu
safety – danger moitu – haiy
tall – short gouda – garta
up – down kow – shoofe
wide – narrow yartu – hertt

All In the Family

family – njabort

grandfather – marm-bu-gore
grandmother – marm-bu-gegain

father – papa
mother – yarboie

husband – jaycahre
wife – jabahre
son – dorm-bu-gore
daughter – dorm-bu-gegain

older brother – maq-bu-gore
younger brother – raca-bu-gore

older sister – maq-bu-gegain
younger sister – raca-bu-gegain

Some Mandinka

The Mandinka language, sometimes referred to as Mandingo, is a Mandé language spoken by millions of Mandinka people in Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea-Bissau; it is the main language of The Gambia. It belongs to the Manding branch of Mandé, and is thus fairly similar to Bambara and Maninka or Malinké. It is a tonal language with two tones: low and high.

baadaa – beach

daa – price

kambaanoo – boy

londoo – education

mansaaloo – proverb

hidiki – hiccup

saatee – village

taabuloo – table

Try this fun Mandinka Word Search.

A Couple Slang Words…

Sai Sai –

“That little crafty one.” (Euphemism given to AIDS in the poor suburbs of Dakar, Senegal.) Also means bad person, “playa”, pimp, crooked business person, etc. Used for men & women. Can be like an insult or badge of pride.

Bin Bins –

A string of beads worn on an elastic string. Senegalese girls typically wear them just beneath the top of their pants or skirts, or sometimes just above. It is considered flirtatious, or even slightly erotic to show one’s bin-bins, particularly to a guy. And if a guy gives a girl a set of bin-bins, it’s pretty clear what that means!

Morning? Afternoon?? Or maybe Evening???

Below is a table showing how the various portions of the day are labeled in Wolof.






dawn to nightfall



nightfall to dawn



dawn to about 2pm



from about 2pm to nightfall


xaaju guddi *

at midnight

* Literally, “half of the night” (xaaju – to divide, seperate, part, portion).

Ci suba. – In the morning.

Ci ngoon. – In the afternoon.

Ci guddi. – In the evening.

Mouth Anatomy


Some of these expressions are not common in Wolof and may not always be readily understood by some Wolof speakers. Many of these (I believe?) were developed by medical professionals as a way to better communicate more precisely with non-Francophone Wolof speakers.

(mouse over for the french)

gémmiñ gi – mouth
làmmiñ wi – tongue
laa gi – tongue tied
làmmiñ wu ndaw wi – uvula (thing that hangs in back of throat)
denqaleñ bi – palate
tuñ mi – lips
tuñu kaw wi – top lip
tuñu suuf wi – bottom lip
ciiñ mi – gums
bëñ bi – tooth
bëñu reewu bi – incisor teeth
bëñu sell wi – canine teeth
bëñu déegéej bi – molar teeth
bëñu màgg dey – wisdom teeth
sofe – to have mouth ulcers
wuum/uum – toothache
cafko gi – sense of taste

Travel Vocabulary

Here are a few things that you may come across if traveling to Senegal or the Gambia.

afra – grilled meat, or grilled meat stall (Gambia)

benechin – rice baked in a thick sauce of fish and vegetables (Gambia)

cadeau – gift, tip, bribe or a hand-out (Senegal)

dash – bribe (noun); also used as a verb ‘You dash me something …’ (Gambia)

Ecowas – Economic Community of West African States

factory – fortified slaving station

garage – bus and bush-taxi station (Gambia)

harmattan – the light winds from the north which carry tiny particles of sand from the desert, causing skies to become hazy from December to February

IMF – International Monetary Fund

latcheri – pounded millet

mafé – thick brown groundnut sauce

ndeup – ceremonies where people with a mental illness are treated and healed (Senegal)

occasion – lift (noun), or place in a car or bus (often shortened to occas) (Senegal)

palava – meeting place

Quran – Islamic holy book (also called Koran)

Ramsar – an international convention primarily concerned with the conservation of wetland habitats and associated wildlife

salon du thé – tea shop (Senegal)

tampon – stamp (eg, in passport) (Senegal)

ventilé – room with a fan (Senegal)

Thanks to Lonely Planet’s The Gambia & Senegal; 2nd Edition.