Itty Bitty Maasai Dictionary

The Maasai speak a language called Maa that is both beautiful and complex. It is very musical and fluid, flowing from word to word, phrase to phrase, with rhythm and motion. Very little of it has been written down or documented, but there are a few books that break down the language. A Maasai dictionary also exists, but it is very elusive.

Below is a list of Maasai words and phrases I accumulated while I was in Kenya. Everything is written phonetically (with a few exceptions), so the vowels are pronounced as follows:

“a” = ah

“e” = eh, ay

“i” = ee

“0” = oh

“u” = oo

These words are by no means absolutely correct. Maa contains many phonemes that aren’t used in English. As a result, sometimes listening and writing down what I heard was difficult. Additionally, we communicated mostly in gestures and bits and pieces of Swahili, so my exposure to Maa was very limited. Here’s what I managed to write down; the other words I learned, like body parts, are lost in my memory.

Enjoy!

Greetings, courtesy, expressions:

supa (pronounced “sopa”)– Hello

olesere – Goodbye

kejaa enkop – How’s it going?

sidai (first syllable pronounced “si” as in “sit”) – beautiful, good; used in response to previous phrase

torono – terrible

Enkewarie Sidai – Good night

ashe oleng – Thank you very much

kidua – See you soon!

meti inya mali – No problem

tanakata – now

kesha – It’s going to rain.

ashepa – happy

oleng – an amplifier like “very.” Used often with “supa” as in “Supa oleng!”

pi – another amplifier meaning “completely.” So “torono pi!” means “completely terrible.”

Animals:

oltome – elephant

oingot – wildebeest

oloitiko – zebra

empus – cat

oldia – dog

osidai – ostrich (literally “beautiful one”)

olotorok – bee

Other nouns:

enkioget – hiccup

laker (with a rolled “r”) – stars

endaa – food

osinkolio – music

olchore – friend

olchani – tree

Numbers:

nabo – 1

ari – 2

uni – 3

ongoan – 4

imiet – 5

ile – 6

naapishana – 7

isiet –  8

naudo – 9

tomon – 10

tikitam – 20

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17 Comments

Filed under Prose, Travel

17 responses to “Itty Bitty Maasai Dictionary

  1. fred

    what is the maasai word for peace

  2. Today I will tell my BF “Ashe oleng!”. ^^

  3. Kate Sheila

    I’ve always been fascinated about the Maasai people..I’m trying to learn n tell my boyfriend tht I love him but i cannot get a good translation,can anyone help me?

  4. Hello! I was curious if Timothy could help with the spelling of the word I learned for a female friend: “Enjorwet” was what I learned…is this correct?
    And enjaa for rain?

    Love that there is this resource – I couldn’t remember the number 9, and you’ve remedied that. Ashe oleng!

  5. Beautiful Memories are known as “indamunot sidan/sidain

  6. Raz

    Hi, how do you say beautiful memories??

  7. kate sheila

    This is really awesome!enkewarie sidai

  8. Timothy Ole Nampaso

    Ayia,aitoomon oleng tenashe ino,ayiewuaki iyie olmarae lino erishata sidai osirua le sukukuu,
    Meaning:ok,your welcomed for your appreciation,wish you and your family happy festive moments.

  9. Conqratulations for the real struggle that you have done.Am a Masai speaker from Narok,closer to Masai Mara and i have some points of correction;
    Enkewarie Sidai not ”enkaruwie”
    seven known as Naapishana not ”Nabshana”
    olchore for friend not not ”oltoray”
    Osinkolio for music not ”osinkolu”
    Nabo for one not ” nobo”
    keep up!

    • Thank you so much Timothy!
      These corrections are great and I’ll fix them right away! It was always so difficult to figure out how to spell things! Thanks for stopping by and helping me out!

      Kidua :)

  10. Excellent web site you have here.. It’s hard to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

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