The following is a list of some common idiomatic expressions and figures of speech, some of which are onomatopoeic, that is, imitating a sound. In some cases, an example illustrates the use of the expression.
CHINI JUU the utmost, as much as one possibly can
Sijui kama tutaweza kumaliza kazi hii leo lakini tutafanya chini juu. I don't know whether we'll be able to finish this job today but we'll try our level best.
HAIKOSI it doesn't fail
Kila nikienda mjini haikosi namkuta yule maskini nje ya benki akiombaomba. Every time I go to town it doesn't fail that I find that poor person begging outside the bank.
HAJAPATA JIKO he hasn't married yet
ILIYOPO there's nothing to do
Kuna ukame siki hizi; iliyopo ni kungoja mvua tu. It is dry these days; there's nothing to do except wait for the rain.
KAHAWA KAVU coffee without milk and sugar
KIINUA MGONGO gratuity at end of work
Sheria inasema kwamba mfanyakazi alipwe nusu ya mshahara wa mwezi mmoja kwa kila mwaka wa kazi kama kiinua mgongo. The law says that a worker should be paid half a month's salary for every year of service as a gratuity.
KUCHEMSHA UBONGO to think hard
KUCHOMA MOYO to hurt someon's feelings
KUFA GANZI to feel numb (of a part of the body )
Baada ya kukaa chini kwa saa tatu, miguu yangu ilikuwa imekufa ganzi nikashindwa kutembea. After sitting down for three hours, I couldn't walk as my legs were asleep.
KUFA MOYO to be discouraged
KUFA NA KUPONA to try very hard, desperately
Tunalima kufa na kupona kwa kuwa hatupendi kukosa chakula kama mwaka jana. We are working very hard in the fields because we don't want to lack food like we did last year.
KUFUGA NDEVU to grow a beard
Rafiki yangu ameanza kufuga ndevu. My friend has started to grow a beard.
KUFUNGA CHOO to have constipation
KUFUNGA NDOA to be married
Wakristo wengi hufunga ndoa kanisani. Many Christians marry in church.
KUFUNGA SAFARI to set out on a journey
Asubuhi na mapema walifunga safari wakaenda Mikumi. Early in the morning, they set out on a trip to Mikumi.
KUFUNGWA to be put in prison
Majangili waliokamatwa wamefungwa wote. All the poachers who were arrested have been imprisoned.
KUFUNGUA KINYWA to have breakfast
KUFUNGUA MIMBA to be the first-born child
KUJIPA MOYO to take heart, to have courage
Jipe moyo, mtoto atapona. Take heart, the child will recover.
KUJIONA to be arrogant, conceited
Anajiona tu. He is just showing off.
KUJISAIDIA to go to the toilet, to self-help
KUKATA TIKITI to buy a ticket
Ukitaka kwenda Moshi, lazima ukate tikiti siku mbili kabla ya safari. If you want to go to Moshi, it is necessary to buy the ticket two days before the trip.
KUKATA NJIA to take a shortcut
KUKATA SHAURI to make a decision
Walikata shauri kuondoka mapema. They decided to leave early.
KUKATA TAMAA to despair, to give up
Maisha magumu kule yalinifanya nikate tamaa. The hard life over there made me despair.
KUKUNJA USO to frown
Alivyokunja uso niliogopa kuzungumza naye. The way he frowned I was afraid to talk to him.
KULA CHUMVI NYINGI to live a long life, to be old
Babu yake amekula chumvi nyingi. Her grandfather is very old.
KULA HASARA to suffer a loss
Nilijaribu kufuga kuku, lakini nimekula hasara - kuku wote walifufa. I tried to keep chickens but I have suffered a loss - all the chickens died.
KULA RUSHWA to take bribes
Amefungwa miaka saba kwa kosa la kula rushwa. He got seven years for taking bribes.
KULALA CHALI to lie on one's back
KULALA KIFUDIFUDI to lie on one's face
Walimkuta amelala kifudifudi chini ya mti. They found him lying face down under a tree.
KUONA AIBU to be ashamed of oneself
Alitoka nyumbani kwa kuona aibu. He left the house for being ashamed of himself.
KUONA BARIDI to feel cold
KUONA HAYA to feel embarrassed, shy
Alibaki nje kwa kuona haya. He stayed outside for feeling shy.
KUONA JOTO to feel hot
KUONA KIU to feel thirsty
KUONA NJAA to feel hungry
KUONA USINGIZI to feel sleepy
Hotuba yake ilinifanya nione usingizi. His speech made me sleepy.
KUOTA JINO to cut a tooth
Mtoto wetu ameota jino lake la kwanza. Our child has cut her first tooth.
KUOTA JUA to bask in the sun
KUOTA MOTO to set near the fire
KUOTA NDOTO to dream
Niliota ndoto ya ajabu usiku. I had a marvellous dream last night.
KUPA POLE to express sympathy
Tuliwapa pole kwa kufiwa na baba yao. We gave them our condolences on the death of their father.
KUPA MKONO to congratulate
Nilimpa mkono kwa matokeo yake mazuri ya mtihani. I congratulated him on his good examination results.
KUPATWA NA AJALI to have an accident
KUPATWA NA MSIBA to be bereaved, to have a death in one's family
KUPATWA NA UGONJWA to fall ill
KUPIGA BURASHI to brush
KUPIGA CHAFYA to sneeze
KUPIGA CHAPA to print
KUPIGA DEKI to wash the floor
KUPIGA DOMO to gossip
KUPIGA FUNDO to tie a knot
KUPIGA HATUA to make progress
Wanafunzi walioanza kujifunza KiSwahili mwezi uliopita wamepiga hatua - sasa wanaweza kuongea na wanakijiji. The students who started to learn KiSwahili last month have made progress - now they can chat with the villager residents.
KUPIGA HEMA to pitch a tent
KUPIGA HONI to hoot, to blow the horn (of a car)
KUPIGA JEKI to lift up with a jack
KUPIGA KELELE to make noise
KUPIGA KINANDA to play the piano (or any other musical instrument)
KUPIGA KURA to vote
KUPIGA KOFI to slap, to box someone's ears
KUPIGA MAKOFI to applaud, to clap the hands
KUPIGA MAGOTI to kneel
KUPIGA MAYOWE to give a shout (of distress)
KUPIGA MBIO to run
KUPIGA MBIU to give public notice, to announce
KUPIGA MBWEU to belch
KUPIGA MIAYO to yawn
KUPIGA MLUZI to whistle
KUPIGA MSWAKI to brush one's teeth
KUPIGA NYUNDO to hammer
KUPIGA PASI to iron
KUPIGA PICHA to take pictures, photographs
KUPIGA POROJO to chat
KUPIGA RADI to thunder
KUPIGA RANDA to plane (a carpenter's job)
KUPIGA SIMU to make a telephone call
KUPIGA SINDANO to give an injection
KUPIGA STATI to start the car
KUPIGA VIGELEGELE to produce a high-pitched scream (of joy)
KUPINDUKIA to do something to the extreme
Huyu ni mlevi wa kupindukia. He is a great drunkard.
KUSHIKWA NA HOMA to catch a fever
KUSHIKWA NA KIU to get thirsty
KUSHIKWA NA MAFUA to catch a cold
KUSHIKWA NA NJAA to get hungry
KUSHIKWA NA UGONJWA to get ill
KUSHUKA MOYO to be depressed
KUSIKIA AIBU to feel ashamed
Kusikia can be used alternately with kuona (vide supra)
KUSONGA MBELE to press forward
Watu katika kijiji hiki wamesonga mbele katika kuzuia ugonjwa wa malaria. The people in this village have made progress in preventing malaria.
KUTEGA MASIKIO to listen carefully
KUTEGA KAZI to work slowly on purpose
KUTIA CHUMVI exaggerate
Alitia chumvi aliposema kwamba imenyesha majuma mawili mfululizo. He exaggerated when he said that it has rained for two weeks non-stop.
KUTIA DAWA to apply medicine to a wound
KUTIA MAJI to dilute, to add water
KUTIA MASHAKA to cause doubts
KUTIA MOYO to encourage
Alinitia moyo aliposema kwamba matatizo yangu yatakwisha. She encouraged me when she said that my problems would have an end.
KUTIA NGUVU to strengthen
Chai ile waliyotupa ilitutia nguvu. That tea which they gave us strengthened us.
KUTIWA NDANI to be imprisoned
KUTOKA DAMU to bleed
Nilijikata vibaya nikatoka damu nyingi. I cut myself badly and bled a lot.
KUTOKA JASHO to sweat
Anavyofanya kazi atatoka jasho. The way he works, he will sweat.
KUTOKA SARE to draw in a game
Timu mbili zilicheza mpira wakatoka sare. The two football teams played a drawn game.
KUTUPA JICHO to cast a glance
Alitupa jicho majini akaona kuwa mna samaki tele. He cast a glance into the water and saw that there's plenty of fish.
KUUNGA MKONO to support
Tanzania inaunga mkono watu wanaopigania uhuru wao. Tanzania supports people who are fighting for their freedom.
KUUZA REJAREJA to sell retail
Vyombo hivi vinauzwa rejareja tu. These tools are sold in retail only. (i.e. you can't buy them wholesale).
KUVUNJA HESHIMA to show disrespect
Maneno yake yalimvunjia heshima mzee. His words to the old man were disrespectful.
KUVUNJA MOYO to discourage, to be disheartened
KUVUNJA SHILINGI to change a shilling into smaller coins
KUVUTA SIGARA to smoke
KUWA MACHO to be alert, awake
Mtoto alikuwa amelala lakini sasa yu macho. The child was asleep but now she is awake.
Uwe macho barabarani usije ukapatwa na ajali. Be alert on the road so you won't have an accident.
KWENDA HAJA to go to the toilet
KWENDA SARE to draw in a game (see: kutoka sare)
KWENDA Z- to go one's way (with a possessive)
Nilitoka nikaenda zangu. I left and went my way.
Waliondoka wakaenda zao. They left and went their way.
MAMA WA KAMBO step-mother
MAMOJA KWANGU all the same to me, I don't care
Ukipenda usipenda ni mamoja kwangu. Whether you like it or not, I don't care.
MIAKA NENDA RUDI one year after another, for a long time
Alilima mahindi shambani miaka nenda rudi, kisha asipate kitu chochote. He grew maize in the field year after year without getting anything.
MIKONO MITUPU empty-handed
Nilikwenda dukani nikarudi mikono mitupu. I went to the and I returned empty-handed (because there was nothing to buy)
MJA MZITO a pregnant woman
MOJA KWA MOJA straight on, without a break
MOJA MOJA one by one
Waliingia nyumbani moja moja. They entered the house one by one.
MUDA SI MUDA after a short while
Aliondoka kwenda Dodoma; muda si muda akarudi tena kwa kuwa alikuwa amesahau miwani yake. He left to go to Dodoma; after a short while he returned because he had forgotten his glasses.
NGUO RASMI official clothes, uniform
Polisi amevaa nguo rasmi akiwa kazini. The policeman is wearing a uniform while on duty.
NGUO SARE uniform (see: nguo rasmi)
NJIA YA MKATO a shortcut
Anaishi kilometa kumi kutoka hapa, lakini nitakuonyesha njia ya mkato ambayo itakufikisha huko haraka zaidi. He lives 10 kilometres from here, but I'll show you a shortcut which will get you there quicker.
NYEUPE PEPEPE snow white
Nguo zake zilikuwa nyeupe pepepe. His clothes were snow white.
SEMA KWELI an expression of disbelief as a response to a startling piece of news.
SINA LA KUFANYA there's nothing for me to do
Siwezi kulima kwa kuwa mvua haijanyesha; sina la kufanya ila kungoja tu. I can't cultivate because it hasn't rained yet; there's nothing to do except wait.
SINA LA KUSEMA I have nothing to say.
SINA LA ZAIDI I have nothing more.
These last three expressions may be used with any person:
Hatuna la kufanya. There's nothing for us to do.
Huna la kusema. You have nothing to say.
Hana la zaidi. He/she has nothing more… etc.
USISEME an expression of disbelief as a response to a startling piece of news.
|Thanks to Kevin Foyle, Sr., for assistance preparing this page for the Web.|