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hakuna matata

What does hakuna matata mean?

Hakuna matata roughly translates to "there are no troubles" in Swahili. The phrase was popularized in English by the 1994 Disney movie The Lion King, where it’s translated as "no worries." It has a connotation of not worrying about things outside a person's control.

image of hakuna matata

Where does hakuna matata come from?

The origin of the phrase is Swahili. Hakuna means "there is/are not" or "no," and matata is a plural form of "trouble" or "entanglement." It can also be defined as "everything is okay."

It is a tenant of the philosophy of Ubuntu. Hakuna matata tends to be used more commonly with tourists in this post-Lion King age, with Swahili speech communities favoring other expressions like hamna shida.

The phrase was used in the 1982 Swahili pop song Jamba Bwana by Them Mushrooms. This song was popular enough to be covered by a German band the following year. Though there have been other pop-culture uses of this term, the English-speaking popularity of the phrase and the "no worries" translation is largely linked to the The Lion King.

When not directly referencing the movie or Disney song itself, some English-speaking communities currently use it in a subtly distinct way that actually circles back to its original context (either intentionally or not). "When things got bad [my father]'d always say Hakuna Matata," one person explains on Twitter.

A few things to note…

English-speakers who use hakuna matata are often referencing the Disney movie. For those familiar with the movie, it's hard to separate the phrase from that connotation, even when using it in a socially distinct way.

The context of using hakuna matata to help alleviate worry over a person's problems and move on with life can be misunderstood by as an excuse for laziness, or not caring at all (an interpretation helped along by the lyrics of the Disney song).

The English-speaking use of the phrase is split, depending on level of understanding of the context and nuance. Some individuals joke that it is "the original YOLO." This connotation of hakuna matata is a reference to the acronym that means "you only live once," popularized by the rapper Drake. While this phrase is not new, its specific resurgence in current youth culture came with an interpretation and connotation of doing (often new or dangerous) things because life is short.

Disney has trademarked hakuna matata for the use on t-shirts.

For example…

“Hakuna matata by day but i spend my night time fighting tears back.”

M. Laveau @kiidmeelo Twitter (March 12, 2017)

“i still didn't make any deadlines for monday and all i can say is hakuna matata”

JUGHEAD @PPieras Twitter (March 12, 2017)

“the way he said 'no' is like, 'nooo~'. at least you got the gut bro. hakuna matata. missin ma lil bro suddenly.”

- mahyutem - @ahmdmhuddn_ Twitter (March 12, 2017)

This is not a formal definition of hakuna matata like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of hakuna matata that will help you expand your word mastery.