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n. pl. Swahili or Swa·hi·lis
1. A Bantu language of the coast and islands of eastern Africa from Somalia to Mozambique. It is an official language of Tanzania and is widely used as a lingua franca in eastern and east-central Africa. Also called Kiswahili.
2. An inhabitant of coastal eastern Africa for whom Swahili is the mother tongue.

[Swahili, from Arabic sawāḥilī, of the coasts, from sawāḥil, pl. of sāḥil, coast, active participle of saḥala, to scrape off, smooth; see šḥl in Semitic roots.]

Swa·hi′li·an adj.


npl -lis or -li
1. (Languages) 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
2. (Peoples) Also called: Mswahili or Waswahili a member of a people speaking this language, living chiefly in Zanzibar
3. (Languages) of or relating to the Swahilis or their language
4. (Peoples) of or relating to the Swahilis or their language
[C19: from Arabic sawāhil coasts]
Swaˈhilian adj


(swɑˈhi li)

a Bantu language, serving as a lingua franca in E and E central Africa, and the native tongue of a number of ethnic groups living along the coast of E Africa and offshore islands.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.Swahili - the most widely spoken Bantu languagesSwahili - the most widely spoken Bantu languages; the official language of Kenya and Tanzania and widely used as a lingua franca in east and central Africa
kanzu - (Swahili) a long garment (usually white) with long sleeves; worn by men in East Africa
Niger-Kordofanian, Niger-Kordofanian language - the family of languages that includes most of the languages spoken in Africa south of the Sahara; the majority of them are tonal languages but there are important exceptions (e.g., Swahili or Fula)
Bantoid language, Bantu - a family of languages widely spoken in the southern half of the African continent


[swɑːˈhiːlɪ] Nswahili m, suajili m


n (= African language)Suaheli nt
References in periodicals archive ?
A third major textual evocation occurs via the novel's young protagonist, the Mswahili Yusuf, who is bonded to the powerful Omani merchant Aziz and whose fortunes are almost framed by his biblical and Qur'anic namesakes, Joseph and Yusuf.
In his mixed ethnicity--describing him, Naipaul writes, "the blood of Asia had been added to those people"--Metty is prefigured in Yusufs status as Mswahili, the emergent coastal people produced by generations of intermarrying among coastal indigenous groups, overseas traders from many ports around the Indian Ocean, and inland caravan and slave populations (14).
Mswahili were "acculturated slaves" originally from the inland, who were eager to assimilate into the coast (2011, 22-64).