Skip to content Skip to footer

By Cecilia Okoth

Nyama Choma, a Swahili term for grilled meat is now recognized as an English word.

The Nyama Choma Culture, which reflects a way of life in East Africa, based on the increased consumption of red meat and alcohol to project a higher social status has been added to the Oxford Advanced Learners dictionary this month.  

According to the dictionary, Nyama Choma, is meat that is cooked over a fire. This term can now be used in English, formally.

Nyama choma is Kenya’s unofficial national dish, meaning barbecued meat in the Swahili language. The meat is usually goat or beef, served roasted throughout the country, from roadside shacks to fine restaurants. It is often paired with local beer and side dishes such as ugali.

Commenting on the addition, Dr. Gilbert Gumoshabe, the head of African languages, at the department of African languages at Makerere University said English has very fewer words compared to those borrowed from other Indo-European languages and other languages. 

“A language borrows as long as it has usage of that concept. If a word has usage in an area, and the dictionary has been updated they enter the word,” Gumoshabe explained.

Samoei Ruto, the Deputy President of Kenya pictured enjoying Nyamachoma (photo: file)

He said Nyama Choma was brought because there are some people that roast meat in England.

The Swahili word is among 53 terms from local dialects included by the Oxford University Press in its 10th edition of Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary.

Others include Isikuti, kayamba, Maasai, Majimbo and Zeze.

For instance, Masaai is a member of an ethnic group living in Tanzania and Kenya while Kayamba according to the dictionary is a flat musical instrument that you shake to make a noise.

Previous words that were added to the oxford advanced learner’s dictionary include; bodaboda and vuvuzela. 

Bodaboda according to the oxford advanced learner’s dictionary is a type of motorcycle or bicycle with a space for a passenger or for carrying goods, often used as a taxi.

 Gumoshabe however explains that bodaboda originated from the Uganda and Kenya Busia and Malaba border. “These were originally bicycles and they moved to motorcycles. Bodaboda is now a form of business.”

Vuvuzela, he explained is associated with the world cup in South Africa. “Whereas there were other musical instruments, the vuvuzela was not there, and it entered their language.”

Gumoshabe said there are currently words like airtime and MBs in the telecom industry that have been naturalized and could possibly be added to the English dictionary because they often mirror the world around us.

Show CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment

Our biggest stories delivered
to your inbox