Some Pulaar Words

Fula Women



Before You Go To Senegal

Things you will need to enter Senegal;

Passport – You can either visit the websites below or your local post office to apply for a new passport or to renew an old one. It can take up to 6 weeks to recieve your passport, also passports must be valid for at least 3 months on entry, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. Canadian, U.K. & U.S. citizens do not need a visa for stays less than 3 months.


Vaccines & Medications – Visit a travel clinic or your health care provider to determine what you will need. You should allow up to 8 weeks before you travel to recieve all of your vaccinations and for them to take effect. You should also budget a few hundred dollars as it can get very expensive to take all the recommended vaccinations and medications. At the very least you should make sure all of your routine shots are up to date (measles, tetanus, etc.), get the yellow fever shot (it can be hard to enter Senegal without it) and pills for malaria. It is also a good idea to bring anti-diarrheal medicine. Visit the websites below for more information.

Centers for Disease Control
World Health Organization

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

Some Facts & Figures About Senegal

12,853,259 (July 2008 est.)

Wolof 43.3%, Pular 23.8%, Serer 14.7%, Jola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%, Soninke 1.1%, European and Lebanese 1%, other 9.4%

Muslim 94%, Christian 5% (mostly Roman Catholic), indigenous beliefs 1%

French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka

Tropical; hot, humid; rainy season (May to November) has strong southeast winds; dry season (December to April) dominated by hot, dry, harmattan wind.

Source: CIA – The World Factbook,

Visit the New SenegalOnline!

Translated from the site:

The site facelift: new design, new structure
dynamic new content. We hope that this fine tool will enable members
and the public to communicate better, drawing on news of Senegal.
There is still some adjustments to make (potential bugs recalcitrant)
and above all a good part of the contents of the old site to “repatriate” on this new
platform. We have also opened a special discussion on the forum,
or you can send us your comments and suggestions.

We invite you now to become a member to make a full use
Site: managing your member page, your blog, participation in the forum …
Everyone can participate in the life of the site. On the forum of course, but also in writing
news, sending photos to the gallery, pointing out events, proposing
videos and links. If you were already on member, no need
you again, your account has been transferred.

Do not hesitate to give us your comments by mail or on the forum.

A Little About the Wolof Language

Wolof is a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania and to a lesser degree in other west African countries, and it is the native language of the ethnic group of the Wolof people. Like the neighboring language Fula, it belongs to the Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language family. Unlike most other languages of Sub-Sarahan Africa, Wolof is not a tonal language.

Wolof is the most widely spoken language in Senegal, spoken not only by members of the Wolof ethnic group but also by most other Senegalese. Wolof dialects may vary between countries (Senegal and the Gambia) and the rural and urban areas. “Dakar-Wolof“, for instance, is an urban mixture of Wolof, French, Arabic, and even a little English spoken in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

“Wolof” is the standard spelling, and is a term that may also refer to the Wolof ethnic group or to things originating from Wolof culture or tradition. As an aid to pronunciation, some older French publications use the spelling “Ouolof”; for the same reason, some English publications adopt the spelling “Wollof”, predominantly referring to Gambian Wolof. Prior to the 20th Century, the forms “Volof”, and “Olof” were used.

About 40 percent (approximately 3.2 million people) of Senegal’s population speak Wolof as their mother tongue. An additional 40 percent of the population speak Wolof as a second or acquired language. In the whole region from Dakar to Saint-Louis, and also west and southwest of Kaolack, Wolof is spoken by the vast majority of the people. Typically when various ethnic groups in Senegal come together in cities and towns, they speak Wolof. It is therefore spoken in almost every regional and departmental capital in Senegal. The official language of Senegal is French.

Source: Wikipedia,

General Greetings / Salutations Général (Dialog)

Omar: Salaamaaleekum. Peace be upon you.
Moodu: Maaleekum salaam. Peace return to you.
Omar: Jaama ngaam? Do you have peace?
Moodu: Jaama rek. Peace only. (I’m fine.)
Omar: Naka nga def? How are you?
Moodu: Maangi fi rek. I am here only. (I’m fine.)
Omar: Sa yaram jaama? Is your body in peace? (How is your health?)
Moodu: Jaama rek. Peace only.
Omar: Ana waa ker gi? Where are the people of the house? (How is your family?)
Moodu: Nunga fa. They are there. (They’re fine.)
Omar: Mbaa defunu dara. I hope nothing is wrong with them.
Moodu: Deedeet, defunu dara. No, nothing is wrong with them.
Omar: Naka ligeey bi? How is the work? (How is work?)
Moodu: Maangi si kowam ndanka, ndanka. I am on it slowly, slowly. (I’m taking it easy.)

A Short History on Senegal

Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times. Islam established itself in the Senegal River valley in the 11th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the Mandingo empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of Senegal also was founded during this time.

Various European powers – Portugal, the Netherlands, and England – competed for trade in the area from the 15th century onward, until in 1677, France ended up in possession of what had become an important slave trade departure point – the infamous island of Gorée next to modern Dakar.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Sudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on June 20, 1960. The Federation broke up on August 20, 1960. Senegal and Sudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) proclaimed independence. Léopold Senghor, internationally known poet, politician, and statesman, was elected Senegal’s first president in August 1960.

After the breakup of the Mali Federation, President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia governed together under a parliamentary system. In December 1962, their political rivalry led to an attempted coup by Prime Minister Dia. The coup was put down without bloodshed and Dia was arrested and imprisoned. Senegal adopted a new constitution that consolidated the President’s power. In 1980, President Senghor retired from politics, and handed power over to his handpicked successor, Abdou Diouf, in 1981.

Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia on February 1, 1982. However, the envisaged integration of the two countries was never carried out, and the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a southern separatist group in the Casamance region has clashed sporadically with government forces since 1982.

Abdou Diouf was president between 1981 and 2000. Diouf served four terms as President. In the presidential election of 2000, he was defeated in a free and fair election by opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade. Senegal experienced its second peaceful transition of power, and its first from one political party to another.

Senegal remains one of the most stable democracies in Africa. Senegal was ruled by a Socialist Party for 40 years until current President Abdoulaye Wade was elected in 2000. He was reelected in February 2007, but complaints of fraud led opposition parties to boycott June 2007 legislative polls.

Source: Wikipedia,

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

French – Getting Around

A quelle heure part … ? – What time does the … leave?

le bateau – the boat

le bus – the bus

le bac – ferry

l’avion – the plane

le train – the train

le tramway – the tram

Le … bus passe a quelle heure? – What time’s the … bus?

premier – first

dernier – last

prochain – next

Combien d’arrers jusqu’a … ? – How many stops to … ?

Est-ce que cette place est occupee? – Is this seat taken?

C’est ma place. – That’s my seat.

Pouvez-vous me dire quand nous arrivons a … ? – Can you tell me when we get to … ?

Je veux descendre … – I want to get off …

a …  – at …

ici – here


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

Senegal Independence Day

Senegal gained partial independence from France today in 1960 with complete independence achieved upon the dissolution of the Mali Federation on August 20th of the same year.

Brief video of Independence Day in Senegal…

Ay Baatu Waxtaan

More time & directions…

Phrases To Practice / Phrases à la pratique

Ban waxtu moo jot?What time is it?

Minwi jotna.It is midnight.

Fukki waxtu ak ñaar jotna.It is noon.

Naka laa fay demee?How do I get there?

Ci wetu jumaa ji.Next to the mosque.

Toppal yoon wi.Follow this road.

Xam nga fan la?Do you know where it is?

Kan ngay ñew?When are we arriving?

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

Time & Directions

Midi Jotna.It is noon.

Netti waxtu ci ngoon jotna.It is three in the afternoon.

Jubelal ci biir dekk ba.Keep going straight through the town.

Ci ñaari waxtu la nuy egg.We are arriving at two o’clock.

Da ngay tallal ci kanam. Straight ahead.

Naari waxtu ci suba jotna.It is two in the morning.

Kan ngay dem?When are we going?

Ci kanamu jumaa ji.Across from the mosque.

Fukki waxtu teg na ñeent fukki i simili ak juroóm.It is ten forty five.

Wolof Lim Ak Xaalis

Wolof Numbers & Money

In Senegal they use the franc CFA (Communauté financière d’Afrique). But the traditional unit of currency is the dërëm which is counted by fives. Usually when dealing with money most people will deal strictly with the French terms for simplicity. If Wolof is used the dërëm is implied if not specifically said. So in the example below junni is 5000, not 1000, even though dërëm has been left off.

teemeeri dërëm = 500 CFA
(100 x 5 = 500)

ñaari teemeeri dërëm = 1000 CFA
(2 x 100 x 5 = 1000)

ñetti teemeeri dërëm = 1500 CFA
(3 x 100 x 5 = 1500)

juróom benni teemeeri dërëm = 3000 CFA
(5 + 1 x 100 x 5 = 3000)

juróom ñetti teemeeri dërëm = 4000 CFA
(5 + 3 x 100 x 5 = 4000)

junni = 5000 CFA
(1000 x 5 = 5000)

I do not know if this is common or just happened to be the people I was around but instead of, for example, saying ‘fifteen hundred‘ as we might say in the USA for 1500, they would say ‘one thousand five hundred‘. Also CFA is pronounced like ‘see-uff-uh‘ almost like ‘safer‘ with an odd accent.


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.

New Features

All of these can be found in the side bar…

  • Tag Cloud; this is comprised of all the tags that have been used on this blog, the more a tag has been used the bigger it is. Click on tags to take you to posts with that tag.
  • Meebo Chat; with this feature you can chat with me directly if I’m online. This is more for fun as I don’t imagine I will be on it very often! However if I am online do not hesitate to contact me.

Joyeux anniversaire Mme Soukeyna Mbaye!

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.

Sample Dialog

Adopted from 101 Languages of the World. Please mouse over each word for a direct translation.

Mme Jóob: Naka suba ngi? Dégg nga Angale?
Good morning. Do you speak English?

M. Mbaye: Jéggël ma, déggu ma Angale.
I’m sorry, I do not speak English.

Mme Jóob: Lu ko yaq, tuuti Wolof rekk la dégg.
Unfortunately, I speak only a little Wolof.

M. Mbaye: Baax na. Xam naa li nga wax. Sa lammiñ setna lool.
That’s alright. I understand you. You speak very well.

Mme Jóob: Jëre-jëf.
Thank you.

M. Mbaye: Yendul ak jamm!
Have a nice day!

A note on the usage of ‘Mme’ and ‘M.’, Mme is the French abbreviation for Madame the English equivalent being Mrs., it is not followed by a period. M., is the French abbreviation for Monsieur the English equivalent being Mr., it is always followed by a period. Although I did not do it here last names usually have every letter capitalized when in print in Senegal. Although Mme/Madame and M./Monsieur is very common in Senegal you may want to use the Wolof equivalents which are Soxna si and Góor gi respectively.

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.

Guest Post: ‘Toubab Cuts It All Off’ by Katie Krueger

Toubab Cuts It All Off

by Katie Krueger

One day, the Senegalese heat made me desperate to find ways to cool
down. Impulsively, I walked into the nearest Salon de Coiffure and
asked for a haircut and shampoo. As I was getting my hair washed, I
remembered what Richard, my stylist back home, used to say: “Katie,
we’re not just cutting off your hair; we are cutting style and
elegance into your hair.”

The Senegalese stylist sat me down in front of the mirror and we went
through the familiar dialogue.

“How much do you want cut off?”

“About two inches, I really want it layered…”

“Here?” she asked, tapping with the scissors on the bunch of hair
fisted in her grip.

Since she had not combed it out, parted it down the middle or
sectioned if off, I was sure this was just our planning session.

“Yes. I like it best when it sort of comes behind…”

CHOMP. I watched stunned as clumps of my hair, ragged-edged and
uneven, fell to the floor.

The looks of bewilderment that she threw towards my head made it clear
to me that my new coiffeuse had never cut a white woman’s hair before.
It was to late to change the situation, so I just sat back and watched
in amusement, as each chop seemed to both confuse and fascinate her.
When she got to the back of my head, she looked at me through the
mirror and her eyes waved the white flag of surrender. I glanced over
my head of uneven tufts and patches of hair and decided to cut my

I thanked and paid her and ran to my friend’s house, where we spent
the afternoon trying to cut back in the style and elegance that had
been swept away at the Salon de Coiffure.


Please visit the author’s website at

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.

Culture Notes – Greetings

Extended greetings are an important part of social interaction and many doors will open for you if you are capable of exchanging simple greeting phrases in the local language. Even a few words make a big difference.

Most areas are Islamic, and upon entering someone’s home, announce your arrival with a confident ‘Salaam aleikum’ (peace be with you), and your presence will be acknowledged with ‘Aleikum salaam’ (and peace be with you).

This is followed by inquiries about your health, the health of your family, the state of your affairs and those of your children. You’re never expected to give an honest answer at this point. In Gambia things are always fine; in Senegal the response is always ‘Ça va’. Never mind the real troubles that might be plaguing you – these can be mentioned later in the conversation.

Although it’s not necessary for foreigners to go through the whole routine, it’s important to use greetings whenever possible. Even if you’re just changing money, negotiating a taxi fee or asking directions, precede your request with a simple. ‘Hello, how are you? Can you help me please?’, rather than plunging right in.

Borrowed from; The Gambia & Senegal, Lonely Planet, 3rd Edition, 2006

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

Suggested Reference Materials

Lonely Planet Phrasebooks: Africa

Along with 12 other languages used in Africa, including French & Arabic, this little phrasebook has a great little Wolof section. Lonely Planet is probably one of the best publishers of guidebooks and phrasebooks for travelers. Other Lonely Planet materials I would suggest are; French Phrasebook and/or Fast Talk Audio French, Healthy Travel Africa and the latest edition of The Gambia & Senegal Travel Guide. (They also publish separate travel guides for Africa, West Africa & just about every other region & country of Africa.)

Wolof Dictionary & Phrasebook

This Wolof-English / English-Wolof dictionary & phrasebook by Nyima Kantorek and published by Hippocrene Books is the only somewhat comprehensive Wolof dictionary in mass publication that I have been able to find anywhere. The one flaw of this book is that they chose to create a new orthography instead of using the established CLAD orthography which makes many of the words appear foreign even to native speakers but once you get used to it this book becomes a valuable (or is that invaluable?) resource for many new words and phrases. Hippocrene also publishes an excellent Pulaar dictionary.

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.

Basic French Numbers

Nombres francais de base































I have noticed when listening to Wolof speaking people they tend to use French numbers (or sometimes even English) rather than Wolof numbers.


We have surpassed the 1000 mark for hits from unique visitors (in other words, 1000+ different people – or at least from different computers – have visited this site, not total overall visits).

I just want to thank everyone – JEREJEF! that have visited this blog…it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one reading it! haha.

This blog has only been up since November 19th of last year which I think is pretty good for a blog such as this with such a specific niche.

Let’s just hope that this spreads…it is not my wish to be the only or the best source for Wolof on the web but to inspire others to start, or add to their existing Wolof websites since I have found there are a number of sites out there but they all mostly just cover the basic same phrases. Although greetings are very important there is much more to the language and the culture!

May this new year bring you much happiness and joy…


– J.

Some Essential Wolof Phrases

*** See an updated list here: Basic Wolof Phrases 2012 ***

“Expressions Ouolof Essentielles”

Na nga def.Hello. (singular)
Na ngeen def. – Hello everybody. (plural)
Jaam nga fanane.Good morning.
Jamm nga yendoo.Good afternoon.
Fanaanal jaam. Goodnight.
Ba beneen.Goodbye.
Su la nexee.Please.
Jai-rruh-jef. Thank you.
Agsil.You’re welcome. (singular)
Agsileen ak jaam. You’re all welcome. (plural)
Baal ma. Sorry./Pardon.
Jaam nga am?Have you peace? (How are you?)
Jaam rek.Peace only. (I’m fine.)
Yow nag?And you?
Naka-nga sant?What’s your first name?
Maa ngi tudd … .My name is … .
Fan nga dahk?Where do you live?
Fan nga joghe?Where are you from? (singular)
Fan ngeen joghe? Where are you all from? (plural)
Maa ngi joghe les USA.I’m from the USA.
Deg nga Angale?Do you speak English?
Deg nga Faranse?Do you speak French?
Angale rekk laa degg.I speak only English.
Degg naa tuuti Faranse.I speak a little French.
Mahn deggumah Wolof.I don’t speak Wolof.
Mahn deggumah Faranse. I don’t speak French.
Degguma.I don’t understand.
Dama bahggoon … .I’d like … .
Fahn la … ? Where is … ?
Soreh na?Is it far?
Cha kanam.Straight ahead.
Chammoon. Left.
Dugghal waay!Get in!
Lii naata?How much is this?
Seer na torob.It’s too much.
May ma jaam!Leave me alone!

Arabic/Islamic Phrases

Assalamu alaykum.Peace be upon you.
Wa alaikumus salam.And peace be upon you. (reply to above)
Allahu akbar.Allah is greater. (takbir)
Al hamdu lilah wa shukru lillah.Praise belongs to Allah and all thanks to Allah.
Bismillah ar rahman ar rahim.In Allah’s name, most gracious, most merciful.
Insh’Allah.If Allah wills. (referring to a future action)
Mash’Allah.What Allah wishes. (indicates good omen)


If you are wondering why the weather and solar/lunar conditions for Banjul is not appearing (located on the side bar on the right-hand side) it is apparently because the “City is not reporting.” Which can be caused by equipment or communication failure which can last from a few days to a few weeks. Once the issue is resolved everything will return to normal.

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

Notes on Orthography

What’s orthography? It is basically a spelling system. defines it as:

  1. The art or study of correct spelling according to established usage.
  2. The aspect of language study concerned with letters and their sequences in words.
  3. A method of representing a language or the sounds of language by written symbols; spelling.

There are groups such as the IPA (International Phonetic Association) and CLAD (Center of Applied Linguistics of Dakar) that have developed Latin based spelling systems for historically non-written languages such as Wolof. The IPA uses a system with the same acronym as their association called the International Phonetic Alphabet. And although I have repeatedly stated that there is no universal standardized system for the spelling of Wolof words, the system devised by CLAD is probably the most widely used (or at least very close variations of it) and in my opinion the easiest to follow. Below are some examples of the same Wolof word for ‘thank you’ using different orthographies:

jërëjëf (Standardized CLAD spelling)

djeredieuf (Common Francophone spelling)

jayraijayf (Used by Nyima Kantorek in her dictionary)

I have also seen it spelled; jai-rruh-jef, jere-jeff & je-re-jef among a variety of other renditions.

There is also a writing system that was developed for Wolof using the Arabic alphabet. This system is called Wolofal.

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

Happy Tabaski

Today is the Muslim holiday Tabaski. In most Muslim countries it is called Eid al-Adha but in much of West Africa it is called Tabaski. Tabaski is the commemoration of the Biblical patriarch Abraham’s (Ibrahim in Arabic) willingness to sacrifice his son as commanded by God. On Tabaski a sheep (or a goat) is slaughtered as a symbolic gesture of the ram that God substituted for Abraham’s son.

Youssou N’dour & Super Etoile performing “Tabaski” in the studio.

Below is a slide show of a Tabaski preparation and celebration in Dakar, Senegal (warning: a few of the pictures are of the slaughter so if you are squeamish to that sort of thing be aware!)

La League DJ Décalé Wolof

La League DJ Décalé Wolof

I do not know where this video is from but Décalé is very popular in the Ivory Coast which I have recently learned has a sizable Wolof population. At about position 1:20 in the video they do a call and response where the Wolof is very clear and easy to catch…much of what they say at this part we have already covered in this blog…test yourself and see if you understand what they are saying!

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

You got the time?

What time is it? Ban waxtoo jot?
Et maintenant en français; Quelle heure est-il?

Do you have a watch? Am nga montar?
Et en français;
Avez-vous une montre?

   Yes, I have a watch. Waaw am naa montar.
Et maintenant en français; Oui, j’ai une montre.

   No, I don’t have a watch. Amuma montar.
Et en français; Non, je n’ai pas de montre.

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!

Pronunciation Tips

Note that these are just general tips and that these rules may not always apply as writers of Wolof sometimes use different spelling systems.


j is pronounced as in jazz but with the tongue a bit nearer the top front teeth

c is pronounced as in church with the tongue a little nearer the top front teeth

ñ is pronounced as in the middle sound in canyon with the tongue tip just behind the front teeth

q is pronounced as a k pulled back into the throat

x is pronounced as in loch in Scottish English or bach in German, with the tongue pulled back in the throat


a is pronounced as the u in butter not as in cat

à is pronounced as the ‘a’ sound in British English life

e is pronounced as in bed

é is pronounced like the French é, almost like the i in big

ë is pronounced as in Brithish English bird

i is pronounced as in beat

o is pronounced as in hot

ó is pronounced as in the French beau, it does not exist in English

u is pronounced a bit like book but with the lips more rounded

How are we doing?

I’ve had this blog up for a little while now and the stats show that it’s been getting a number of visitors. The goal of this blog on one hand is to help me build my own Wolof understanding but also to provide a place for others to learn or to improve their Wolof. There are a number of scattered sources online and a few in print but nothing much that is very comprehensive (at least for us Anglophones! There seems to be a number of Francophone sources.) So I hope to use this blog to sort of compile all the information out there in one single place…and also to inspire others with their own Wolof websites to expand their content. Please leave me a comment and let me know how I’m doing, what I should do differently, any suggestions, praise or criticism is welcome!

– J.

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

…and now for some Pulaar.

We have covered some French & Arabic (tuuti rekk) which are of course common in much of the parts that Wolof is spoken but another common native language is Pulaar which is spoken by the Peul peoples. Although most Peuls in Wolof speaking areas will understand Wolof it is always nice to be able to say at least a few things to someone in their mother tongue. So here are a few “essential” phrases that you may want to practice…

No ngoolu daa. Hello.

Nalleen e jamm. Goodbye.

Njaafodaa. Please.

A jaaraamah. Thank you.

Enen ndendidum. You’re welcome.

Achanam hakke. Pardon.

Yaafo. Sorry.

Eey. Yes.

Alaa. No.

Ko Engale tan kaala mi. I speak only English.

Mi nani Faranse seeda. I speak a little French.

No mbiyeteedaa? What’s your name?

Ko … mbiyetee mi. My name is … .

Ko les USA njeyaa mi. I’m from USA.

Wolof Numbers & Counting

Wolof numbers are basically counted in groups of five. The numbers one through five (and ten) are the main numbers in the Wolof numeric system, all other numbers up to one-hundred are based on these numbers.

Wolof numbers are combined together to form new numbers. For example the
number twelve in Wolof is fukk ak ñaar (10 & 2), which when added together equals
twelve. With the exception of six through nine and all numbers divisible by ten, except for ten, up to one-hundred, such as twenty, thirty, forty, etc. all Wolof number combinations include the Wolof word ak which means ‘and’ or ‘with’.

When a larger number precedes a smaller number the numbers are added. For example the number sixteen in Wolof is fukk ak juróom benn (10 & 6 or 10 & 5 &1) which when added together equals sixteen. All numbers up to nineteen are in this order.

When a smaller number precedes a larger number then the numbers are multiplied. For
example the number forty in Wolof is ñeent fukk (4 & 10) which when multiplied equals forty. All numbers above twenty are in this order.

Wolof number combinations above twenty (except for 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 & 90) call for both addition and multiplication. For example the number thirty-two in Wolof is ñett fukk
ak ñaar
(3 & 10 & 2), if written as a mathematical equation it would be 3 x 10 + 2 = 32.

Below is a table of Wolof numbers. Not all numbers are listed. We only included
the basic numbers and also tried to give examples of every kind of number combination. Click HERE for a complete list of Wolof numbers up to 100 along with their mathematical equations.






tus *




















juróom benn



juróom ñaar



juróom ñett



juróom ñeent







fukk ak benn



fukk ak ñaar



fukk ak ñett



fukk ak ñeent



fukk ak juróom




fukk ak juróom benn



fukk ak juróom ñaar



fukk ak juróom ñett



fukk ak juróom ñeent



ñaar fukk



twenty one

ñaar fukk ak benn


twenty two

ñaar fukk ak ñaar


twenty three

ñaar fukk ak ñett


twenty four

ñaar fukk ak ñeent


twenty five

ñaar fukk ak juróom



twenty six

ñaar fukk ak juróom benn


twenty seven

ñaar fukk ak juróom ñaar


twenty eight

ñaar fukk ak juróom ñett


twenty nine

ñaar fukk ak juróom ñeent



ñett fukk **




ñeent fukk




juróom fukk




juróom benn fukk



sixty one

juróom benn fukk ak benn


sixty two

juróom benn fukk ak ñaar


sixty three

juróom benn fukk ak ñett


sixty four

juróom benn fukk ak ñeent


sixty five

juróom benn fukk ak juróom



sixty six

juróom benn fukk ak juróom benn


sixty seven

juróom benn fukk ak juróom ñaar


sixty eight

juróom benn fukk ak juróom ñett


sixty nine

juróom benn fukk ak juróom ñeent



juróom ñaar fukk




juróom ñett fukk




juróom ñeent fukk



one hundred




one thousand




one million

fukki teemeeri junni

* The number zero (0) in Wolof can either be called tus or dara.

** The number thirty (30) in Wolof can either be called ñett fukk or fanweer.

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.

Please, Thank You, You’re Welcome!

PleaseSu la neexee (soo luh ney-khey)
and now en français; S’il vous plaît (seel voo pley)

Thank youJërejëf (je-re-jef)
and en français; Merci (mair-see)

You’re welcomeAmul sóló (ah-mool so-loe)
en français; Je vous en prie (zher voo zom pree)


Proper greetings in the Wolof culture are very important. Often times one will spend several minutes with greetings and pleasantries before getting down to the purpose of their visit. Sometimes the whole visit will just be greetings. Even on Senegalese call-in radio shows the callers and hosts will exchange many greetings before getting on with the caller’s question or comment.

We have put here the four most common greetings you are most likely to encounter on a daily basis when visiting Wolof countries. We have included both Arabic and French as well as Wolof.




salaam alaikum

malaikum salaam

greeting a group of people
or entering one’s house

nanga def

maangi fi

greeting an individual

ça va

ça va

greeting an individual in passing

ba beneen

ba beneen

upon leaving an individual

Let’s start with pronunciation…

Since Wolof was not formally a written language there is no universal system for the spelling of Wolof words which often makes it difficult for the begining student to distinguish between similar sounding words when reading Wolof as opposed to actually being able to hear it.

There are also different dialects of Wolof such as Gambian & Senegalese, rural & urban and even traditional & modern. Although the differences are generally slight it can still be somewhat confusing for non-native speakers trying to learn the language.

The distinction between short and long vowels is very important, because it is sometimes the only way to distinguish pairs of words which have different meanings. Long vowels are generally doubled, while short vowels are not.

(Tip: Mouse over the Wolof words and see the definition, also mousing over some of the English words will give the Wolof equivalent.)


a absorb banta, tapa, santa
aa far laaj, naaj, caabi
e get dem, lem, gerte
ee where seet, leel
é say bés
éé sane wéér, réér
ë bird kër, dëgër
i in, pit nit, simiis, timis
ii meet siis, lii, kii
o moment xob, romba
ó awe nób, sóf
oo door loo, soo
óó phone góór, fóót
u cook nuyu, ubi
uu moon tuuru, yuuxu


b boy bunta, ban
c church caabi, ceeb
d dog def, dara
f fire fas, fetel
g good dogal, duga
j job jambar, jox
k cool kaala, kumpa
l land loolu, laal
m moon meew, dem
n not nit, nax
ñ onion ñeebe, gaañu
p park pare, soopa
r rat raxas, réér
s sign siis, safara
t stamp tubaab, aate
w war waaw, rew
x (see note) * xale, xaalis
y your yaay, yuuxu

* There is no English equivalent for this sound, it is a slightly guttural sound that is between x and k. It may also be pronounced merely as h, especially among non-natives.





mbéy, mbam


ndey, ndigga

nj, ng




From time to time you may come across a Wolof word that uses an unsual letter that looks like this:


This is called ‘velar nasal’. It is another prenasalized consonant that sounds similar to the ng sound in the English word ‘sing’. This is not to be confused with the consonant ‘ng’ in the table above which has a ‘j’ sound.

For more on Wolof pronunciation please click HERE .

Just what the heck is Wolof anyway?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Wolof is a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania, and it is the native language of the ethnic group of the Wolof people. Like the neighboring language Fula, it belongs to the Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language family. Unlike many other African languages, Wolof is not a tonal language.

Wolof is the most widely spoken language in Senegal, spoken not only by members of the Wolof ethnic group (approximately 40 percent of the population) but also by most other Senegalese. Wolof dialects may vary between countries (Senegal and the Gambia) and the rural and urban areas. “Dakar-Wolof”, for instance, is an urban mixture of Wolof, French, Arabic, and even a little English spoken in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

“Wolof” is the standard spelling, and is a term that may also refer to the Wolof ethnic group or to things originating from Wolof culture or tradition. As an aid to pronunciation, some older French publications use the spelling “Ouolof“; for the same reason, some English publications adopt the spelling “Wollof“, predominantly referring to Gambian Wolof. Prior to the 20th Century, the forms “Volof”, and “Olof” were used.

Compared to other African languages, Wolof has had a relatively large influence on Western European languages; banana is a Wolof word in English, and the English word yam is believed to be derived from Wolof/Fula nyami, “to eat food.”

Hello world!

Welcome to This is a resource for all things Wolof. Most entries will be mini Wolof lessons but we will also include links to other resources, articles of interest, notes on culture, etc. As many Wolof speakers are also Francophone we will include some basic French lessons as well with the occasional post about the other many native languages that are also spoken by those who speak Wolof.

We welcome submissions from native Wolof speakers and advanced students who wish to share their knowledge with us, please contact us at with your submissions.