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‘Nyama choma’among Swahili words added into Oxford English Dictionary

Several Swahili words have been added into the Oxford English Dictionary. The words include, nyama choma, asante sana, jembe, sambaza and sheng. The words have been included as both adjectives and verbs.

The Oxford English Dictionary coverage of East African English includes the varieties of English spoken in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The three countries share a common Anglophone background despite their differing colonial histories.

As of June 2022, the Oxford English Dictionary had added more than 700 new words.

The Oxford English Dictionary is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words – past and present – from across the English-speaking world.

As a historical dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary is very different from dictionaries of current English, in which the focus is on present-day meanings.

One can still find present-day meanings in the Oxford English Dictionary, but also find the history of individual words and of the language – traced through 3 million quotations, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books.

Below are some of the East African English words recently recorded in the OED and their meanings:

Asante sana: Used to express gratitude: “thank you very much”.

Collabo: Esp. of musicians: to collaborate; to work together with another or others, or on a project.

Jembe: A hand tool shaped like a hoe, with a blade set at an (acute) angle to the handle, used for digging, breaking up soil, removing weeds, etc.

Nyama Choma: roasted or grilled meat.

Pressed: That has been subjected to pressure; compacted, flattened.

Sambaza: To send (mobile phone credit) to someone. Hence more generally: to share or send (something).

Sheng: A street language blending Swahili with lexical and grammatical elements from English and other languages, originating as part of the youth subculture of Nairobi but now also used by people of varying ages and social classes in urban communities across Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Tarmac: To cover with tar macadam.

Unprocedural: That does not follow ordinary or official procedure; irregular, illegal.