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Boda boda rides its way to Oxford Dictionary

Boda boda is among the more than 900 latest words that producers of venerable Oxford English Dictionary have added to the 9th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary.

Of the said words, 170 were related to technology – and more than a half-dozen to Twitter.

Although Boda bodas, (bicycle and motorcycle taxis) are used without the contingent, the word is specific to East Africa.

The word reportedly originated in Busia, Kenya, where bicycle riders would ferry people from outlying areas in the county (formerly district) to the market in Busia town.


Most times people would avoid using matatus (which were and still are the common form of public transport) because they were expensive or very few were available.

They would, however, also not agree with bicycle riders on a fare to Busia.

To cut cost, people would start walking toward Busia. Meanwhile bicycle riders (boda boda) would wait for the next customer. If they waited long without getting one they would start cycling towards Busia, and along the way they would meet people walking towards Busia. They would then shout “border, border”.

If they get an interested person they would then start bargaining for a fare. If they agreed, the bicycle rider would ferry the person to Busia.

Later bicycle ‘boda boda’ would graduate to motorcycle then spread to other parts of Kenya and East Africa.