LISTED: 5 Phrases That You Thought Were American But Actually Come From Africa

We often utter words or phrases without really thinking about the origin of those words. It may be something we heard growing up in our homes or neighborhoods, something we’ve heard or seen on social media that is intriguing or vernacular we use to broaden our vocabulary.

It’s a fact that some of the major African languages spoken throughout the world have root words or influences from other major dialects.  An example would be Swahili. It is spoken in the Southern part of Africa. It is also derived mostly from Arabic.

Another example is Yoruba. It is a language that is widely spoken in West Africa; more specifically Nigeria, Benin, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In 2010, it was estimated that 30 million people spoke Yoruba.

The Trans-Atlantic slave trade resulted in millions of Africans – many from the Western part of African to be taken. This constituted many unique cultures and dialects being spread and spoken in the Caribbean and the Americas.

Slaves were not allowed to speak in their native tongue due to the fear it instilled in their masters. Subsequently, slaves formulated signs, hairstyles and phrases to communicate in that didn’t raise any eyebrows.

Here are seven words and phrases that you thought were American but are actually derived from African languages:


Mmmhmmm is an expression usually uttered to indicate agreeance.

Instead of saying yes, one may use mmmhmmm.

As told by Robert Thompson to NPR, an art history professor at Yale University, the phrase was used among slaves so as to not stir any trouble. Then the phrase started being used among African-Americans, then whites.  Thompson argues that whites use to use “yay” and “yes” rather than mmmhmmm.

Jumbo Raw Peanuts (In Shell)…


Goober is a word used to describe a peanut.

It said that the idiom comes from the Bantu languages Kikongo and Kimbundu word for peanut, nguba.

A dark-skinned black woman…Even Deities Evolve


Ebony is another word used to describe dark skin; as in the phrase Ebony and Ivory.

Ebony is derived from the Ancient Egyptian word, hebeni.

Red Tilapia fish swimming in a pond…iStock


Tilapia is a species of fish from the tilapiine cichlid tribe. They were also said to be farmed in Egypt.

Tilapia fish are commonly found in freshwater ponds, streams, lakes and rivers.

The word tilapia is the Latinization of the word, Tswana – the Tswana or Setswana language spoken in Southern Africa.

Man participating in a voodoo ceremony…Janda Browiecki blog


The definition of a zombie is a corpse in a trance-like or sleep state.

Zombie comes from the Kikongo word Zumbi which translates to fetish. It can also come from the Kimbundu word Nzumbi which means ghost.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons

Adblock Detected

Our website depends on Advertisements. That is how we keep the lights on. We promise that the Adverts running on our site are neither invasive nor malicious. Please disable your adblocker so you can access our content