List of popular words and phrases in Kenya

A map of Kenya

To fuse well in Kenya, one must know popular words and phrases used in Kenya. Kenya is a culturally diverse country. Although Kiswahili and English are the official languages, “sheng” is a commonly used language among Kenyans. “Sheng” is a combination of two languages. For instance, Kiswahili and English or Kiswahili and local language. Below are popularly used words and phrases in Kenya. They range from greeting to ordering a meal.


Popular word/phraselanguageEnglish meaningAnswer
HujamboKiswahiliHow are you?sijambo

“Niaje mom” simply means how are you, mom

“Poa sana mom” is the right answer which means I am fine mom

popular words referring to people

Popular word/phraselanguageEnglish meaning
MzunguKiswahiliA white person
MzeeKiswahiliOld man
MzaeShengOld man
Sonko/mdosiShengRich man
Dame/manzi/shore/msupa/mreshShenga girl
Gava/KaraoShengpolice officer


Below are some words and phrases that are commonly used.

Popular word/phraselanguageEnglish meaning
MatatuKiswahilipublic means of transport
Packsheng-borrowed from EnglishReside
Ocha/ushago/Mashinani/mbuchoiniShengUpcountry/rural home

Common words/phrases of the big five animals in Kenya

Lion- Simba in Kiswahili and Kichwa among tour guides

Rhino-Kifaru (Kiswahili)

Bufalo- Nyati (Kiswahili)

Elephant-Ndovu (Kiswahili)

Leopard-Chui in Kiswahili and mandoandoa among tour guide

Other phrases and words:

Asante is a swahili word that means thank you. Asante mzee literary means thank you old man.

Woiyee is an exclamation for an unfortunate scenario.

Twende simply means let us go.

Bora Uhai is a statement that Kenyans pronounce when they are fed up with a situation and yet they seem not to have a solution. This phrase when translated means, nothing matters as long as I am alive.

Tafadhali is a swali polite word meaning please.

Ati. Although it sounds rude, the word is used to request the speaker to repeat their statement when you have not gotten it clearly.

Kiongozi means a leader. However, it is sometimes used to glorify a person especially when one wants a favour from the person.


It was our desire to exhaust all popular words and phrases in Kenya, however, the list is endless due to language dynamics in Kenya. In some cases, Sheng has localized meaning among Kenyan youths.