Chitumbuka Etymology


Etymologies are not
definitions; and on this page they are
explanations that some or most of Tumbuka
(Chitumbuka) words have been derived from English words, and how with time pronounciation has much changed their sound that they are now accepted as our own local language.

Ayiśe – I Say
Benda, Bendela- Bend
Boma – (stands for) British Overseas Military Attaché (B.O.M.A)
Bowa (Wanibowa)- Bore
Bulangete – Blanket
Chepa – Cheap
Chezga (Cheza)- Cheers
Chibekete – Bucket
Chidole (Chi-Dol-i)- Doll
Chila – Cheer
Chithini – Tin
Chomene – Show Many
Dolora – Drill
Dula – Durable
Foloko – Folk
Foseki – Forsake
Galimoto (Gali-Moto) – Car – Motor (Motor-Car)
Gasa (Wagasa)- Gas (has taken gas → nothing)
Gona – Gone
Gowoka – Go (It’s ok Go)
Gwada – Go-Down
Gwafa – Guava
Hala (Hara) – Heir, Inherit
Hanyezi – Onions
Hule – Whore
Jele – Jail
Jiti – Jetty
Jumi (Ju-Mi) – Dew
Jumpha – Jump
Kabati – Cupboard
Kaboni – Carbon Paper (used as witness)
Kata (Mvula ya kata) – Cut (stopped)
Khola – Kraal
Khuki – Cook
Khwawa (kukwawa) – Cower
Kuta – Call Out
Kwesana – Question (each other)
Kwiya – Queer (differing from the normal or usual in a way regarded as old or strange)
Lota – Lottery
Lulutira – Ululate
Luta – Route
Makina – Machine
Malayina – Gmelina


Matako – Buttock
Mbuli (M-bul-i)- Bull
Mowa – More-Wine
Mphatata – Potato
Mudima (Mu-Dim-a)- Dim (Dark)
Mulonda – Rounder
Munda – Mound (Ridge)
Mutali(Mu-Tal-i)- Tall
Nkhuku – Cock
Nyasa – Nuisance
Pakira – Pack
Pelete – Parade
Phada – Pad (disc that is thrown during Phada game)
Phapaya – Pawpaw
Phiniforo – Pin fore
Phiri – Uphill (‘phill)
Phoda – Powder
Pikula – Pick
Pinda – Pin-Down
Ponya – Up On Air (‘pon-air)
Poto – Pot
Pulika – Prick-Up (Prick Up One’s Ear – Listen attentively)
Pulula – Pullulate
Pusi – Pussy (Cat)
Salu – Sail (sheet of fabric spread to catch the wind to propel a vessel or a windmill)
Sefa – Sieve
Senga – Rice variety from India
Silika – Seal
Sitima (Train) – Steam, Steamer (trains had Steam engines)
Sono, Sono Sono- Soon, Soon Soon
Telala – Tailor
Thabwa – Table
Theba (Kutheba)- (stands for) The Employees Bureau Association Wato (Bwato)- Boat
Wayilesi – Wireless
Wenela (a place in Bt and Mzi)- (stands for) Witwatersrand Native Labour association
Ẁeta – Waiter (Attendant)
Winda (Wind-a)- Wind (throw in the wind – miss)
Wofi – All Fear, War Fear
Wuka – Wake-Up, Wake’p
Wuzi – Wool (Wools)
Yesu – Jesus (Jesu-)

(: means, meaning, dictionary, chitumbuka, tumbuka, translation)>

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