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[swah-hee-lee] /swɑˈhi li/
noun, plural Swahilis (especially collectively) Swahili for 1.
a member of a Bantu people of Zanzibar and the neighboring coast of Africa.
Also, Kiswahili, ki-Swahili. the Bantu language of the Swahili people, used also as a lingua franca in Tanzania, Kenya, and parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Related forms
Swahilian, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for Swahili
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "You have asked a true question," Kingozi shifted to Swahili.

    The Leopard Woman Stewart Edward White
  • The request was repeated outside in Swahili, and turned into a strange tongue.

    The Leopard Woman Stewart Edward White
  • Those who understood Swahili murmured eagerly to those who did not.

    The Leopard Woman Stewart Edward White
  • "You have done well, very well," Kingozi shifted to Swahili.

    The Leopard Woman Stewart Edward White
  • He cursed in Swahili and Portuguese, and his language was forcible and impolite.

British Dictionary definitions for Swahili


Also called Kiswahili. a language of E Africa that is an official language of Kenya and Tanzania and is widely used as a lingua franca throughout E and central Africa. It is a member of the Bantu group of the Niger-Congo family, originally spoken in Zanzibar, and has a large number of loan words taken from Arabic and other languages
Also called Mswahili, Waswahili, (pl) -lis, -li. a member of a people speaking this language, living chiefly in Zanzibar
of or relating to the Swahilis or their language
Derived Forms
Swahilian, adjective
Word Origin
C19: from Arabic sawāhil coasts
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for Swahili

name of a Bantu people inhabiting the coast of South Africa, 1814, from Arabic sawahil, plural of sahil "coast" + gentilic suffix -i.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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