African Languages

This website contains information about African Languages, and other African Language related resources. Currently mostly only the South African languages are covered, as well as Kiswahili and Cilubà.

It is estimated that there are between 2000 and 3000 languages spoken on the African continent, with possibly as many as 8000 dialects. African languages are divided into four major language families, as well as Austronesian. These are shown in the image below (image © Mark Dingemanse of vormdicht).

• Afro-Asiatic
• Nilo-Saharan
• Niger-Kordofanian
• Khoi-San
• Austronesian



Kiswahili (Swahili)
   Swahili - English Dictionary | Kamusi ya Kiswahili - Kiingereza
   Sheng - English Lexicon | Msamiati wa Sheng - Kiingereza

South African languages

During Apartheid, South Africa had 2 official languages, English and Afrikaans. After Apartheid officially ended in 1994, the new constitution gave official status to 11 languages; English, Afrikaans, and 9 indigenous African languages. English is the only one of the official South African languages which is not indigenous.

   Sesotho sa Leboa (Northern Sotho; Sepedi)
        Northern Sotho - English Dictionary | Pukuntšu ya Sesotho sa Leboa - Seisimane
        Explanatory Sesotho sa Leboa Dictionary | Pukuntšutlhaloši ya Sesotho sa Leboa
   Sesotho (Southern Sotho)
   isiZulu (Zulu)
   isiXhosa (Xhosa)
   isiNdebele (Ndebele)
   SiSwati (Swati)
Tshivenḓa (Venda)
Xitsonga (Tsonga)
South African English

Tshivenḓa short story and two poems, published with permission from the author, Mbodi Khorombi:
        Lushaka lwo senwaho
        Zwanda zwi a tanzwana
        Tshilamba u vhudzwa ndi tshilila u vhona

South African Language Statistics.
Overall statistics of South African languages (Census 2001 results).
Meanings of place names in South Africa.
Wondering where some of those strange new difficult to pronounce place names come from, or what some of the other African place names mean? Look here for explanations.
Meanings of commonly used phrases/expressions, such as "Batho Pele", "Ya Mampela" etc.


Cilubà A beautiful tone language with a rich and complex verbal morphology, spoken in the heart of Africa.


Kalenjin - English Dictionary



TLex (TshwaneLex) Dictionary Writing System
TshwaneLex is a professional commercial software application for the compilation of dictionaries. TshwaneLex supports Unicode throughout, allowing it to handle virtually all of the world's languages, and includes features such as immediate article preview, customisable DTD, automatic cross-reference tracking, automated lemma reversal, online and electronic dictionary modules, export to MS Word format, integrated Corpus Query System, and teamwork (network) support. TshwaneLex contains many features designed to optimize the process of compiling dictionaries for both lexicography teams and individual compilers, and to assist dictionary compilers in producing more consistent, quality dictionaries. TshwaneLex includes customizations for African languages.

What's new on this site?

19 February 2009: New Electronic Swahili - English Dictionary - install the dictionary on your own computer
12 November 2007: Hot off the press, an interesting new Northern Sotho - English dictionary (Gilles-Maurice de Schryver et al., published by Oxford University Press)
11 July 2006: Added a list of place name meanings from the South African Geographical Names System database.
13 February 2006: Added a page for Cilubà.
12 October 2004: Birds and Trees List: English - Northern Sotho:
    Birds and Trees List: English - Northern Sotho | Lenaneo la Dinonyana le Mehlare: Seisimane - Sesotho sa Leboa
10 June 2004: New Explanatory (Monolingual) Sesotho sa Leboa Dictionary:
    Explanatory Sesotho sa Leboa Dictionary | Pukuntšutlhaloši ya Sesotho sa Leboa
10 May 2004: New Kiswahili (Swahili) - English Dictionary:
    Swahili - English Dictionary | Kamusi ya Kiswahili - Kiingereza
24 September 2003: Added a Tshivenḓa short story and two poems, published with permission from the author, Mbodi Khorombi:
    Lushaka lwo senwaho
    Zwanda zwi a tanzwana
    Tshilamba u vhudzwa ndi tshilila u vhona
16 September 2003: Added meanings of commonly used phrases/expressions.
24 August 2003: Added data from Census 2001 results.
20 August 2003: Added some how-to information to the Venda page on using Venda characters on a computer.

-> FAQ: A list of previously or frequently answered questions.
-> A list of all books listed on this site.
-> A list of all dictionaries listed on this site.

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