They connected…!

Preface: This post has been lingering in my drafts for at least two years now. Somehow I could just never find the time to finish it. However, due to these current events, I have been struggling to find a way to actively contribute to the cause. I don’t want to answer that I was “mostly watching the protests on CNN and NOS and then netflixing and working from home” when future generations will ask me what I did to make their current situation better. I also don’t want them to think that I was afraid to take action. I’m not afraid. But I am tired. Tired of having to constantly explain my worth to people who don’t physically look like me. Tired of convincing people that racism actually exists, yes even here in “Europe”. Tired of the educating, the explaining while having to relive my pain and hurt and those of my ancestors. Just tired. I feel that in 2020, if you do not understand what black people go through everyday due to systemic racism, you just do not want to understand. No matter what I do. And that’s fine. I am not going to waste my time and energy on you. They are the most precious. I want to actively do something for black people in these times. Something that empowers us. Something with such an effect that those future generations won’t have to ask me what I did. They would just be able to feel and see it. But to be honest, I haven’t quite figured out what that ideal something is or could be. So until I have figured that out, for now, I’m just going to post about what I think part of my purpose here on this life-journey is; to write in the best way I know how about our excellence, our resilience, all while trying to relink and fix connections which were forcibly destroyed. I want to make us remember that Black people are like banana trees…

During the transatlantic slave trade, various West, Central and sometimes even Southeast African ethnic groups were forcibly shipped off to the Americas and the Caribbean. In some instances, some of these ethnic groups were at war with each other back home. But when they found themselves suffering the same faith on the plantations and in the mines of ‘the new world’, they connected. Evidence of that connection is omnipresent throughout the Diaspora, where the newly sprouted subcultures are almost always a melange of various African cultures.

That’s the case in Suriname as well.  Take for example Winti, the African Surinamese religion. Even though Akan culture (in present day Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo) dominates, Winti consists of present day Congolese elements (the Luangu Winti), Yoruba elements (Papa Legba in Suriname,  Elegua/Exu as he is known in Nigeria), Dahomey/present day Benin (Fodu) and several other religious/cultural elements from various West and Central African ethnicity.

A primary way of connecting of course is through language. Suriname has several African Surinamese languages. There is Sranan or Sranantongo, the countries lingua franca, but there are also other languages spoken by the descendants of groups of escaped enslaved people, like for example Okanisa, Samaaka etc. All these languages contain words and linguistic patterns that have their origin in Africa.

There are various sources for African words within Sranan. My fellow blogger, Suriname African Heritage has already compiled a list of about 21 words. In his book Bigisma Taki a book about Surinamese proverbs, or odos (also a word with an African origin, by the way),  Julian Neijhorst also has a whole section on Surinamese words of African origin. In 2014, a  study done by Van Andel et al. revealed that Africans recognized substantial parts of the New World flora . In fact, according to the study,  33% of the plants in the  database used for the study were linked to a similar African vernacular name or contained lexical items or African origin (Van Andel et al., 2014), Isn’t that amazing?!

There are many other sources, all spread out of course. The purpose of this post is to combine all these sources and create a central list. I hope to get feedback to add to this list, especially since I’ve created an additional list of words that I suspect are also of African origin. I however do not have the technical expertise nor the comprehensive knowledge of African languages to be an authority in the matter. The list so far is comprised of 180 words. But there are more. I didn’t add all the plant names listed in the Van Andel et al. (2014) study, only the ones I (somewhat) recognized. In the column literary sources, I added all the source(s) I have located for the words. Sometimes I added to add to the meaning of the word with information of my own, or with information that I would consider is general knowledge. In those cases, I added a * in t he column for literary sources.

I want to stress out again, that I’m not an expert, so feedback, corrections etc. are welcomed! Enjoy!

List of Sranan words with an African origin

Sranan *1
Source Word
Ethnic African Origin
Literary source *2
abeniabeniname for a girl born on TuesdayAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)*
abongrambongo (Bantu), agboman (Fon)sesameseed, plantname =Sesamum indicum, S. radiatumBantu, Fon (Benin)2,7
ackeeakye, achéplant, name =Blighia sapida, to become hard = kyemTwi (Ghana)7
adjubaadjubaname for a girl born on MondayAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)*
adjubaadjubaname for a girl born on MondayAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)*
adonkè pau (Sa)akponkpoplant, name =Schefflera spp.,pau (Port) = treeBaule (Ghana)7
adyakasaadzakaMan! Wow!. I’ve also seen it translated to “you’ve been warned!”Yomba2,*
adyokriadzokea certain cakeEwe2
adyumagboma (Ewe, Fon), boma (Mina), ogumam (Nago)plant, name =Capsicum frutescensEwe, Fon,  Mina, Nago (Benin, Togo)7
afiafiname for a girl born on FridayAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)*
afoafӑ (grandmother)ancestorKunama2
agamaagamachameleonAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)5
agi (Pa, Au, Sa)adi (Ewe), adjikun, agikwin (Fon)plant, name =Ormosia spp.,seed to play agi game withEwe,Fon (Ghana,Benin)7
agida (ayida, adjida)a merger of two words: ayi= earth, da = snakea merger of two words: ayi= earth, da = snake. One of the primary drums used in the Fodun Winti rituals. It’s a long, relatively narrow shaped drumFon (Benin)1, 6, *
agodo (Sa)goplant, name =Lagenaria sicerariaYoruba (Benin)7
agomawiwiri, agumagboma (Ewe, Fon), boma (Mina), ogumam (Nago)plant, name =Solanum americanum,wiri = weed (En) or wi (Akan)Ewe, Fon,Mina, Nago (Benin, Togo)7
agumakama (Sa)ngumaplant, name =Laetia proceraLoko (Sierra Leone)7
aisaasesaGod of the EarthAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)5
akara (Sa)akara (Yoruba), akra (Tcha)plant, name =Pouteria cf. cuspidataYoruba,Tcha (Benin, Togo)7
akata palulu (Sa)nkata (kikongo)plant, name =Heliconia spp.,pariri, paruru  (Ca) = Heliconia,”head pad of banana leaf”Kikongo (Congo)7
akraakra (Twi)plant, name =Psychotria apoda, kra means “soul”, kra is also listedTwi (Ghana)7
akubaakubaname for a girl born on WednesdayAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)*
alamankinatschina (Loango), ki-ina (Kikongo)plant, name =Aegiphila macrantha Ducke, Everyman’s food taboo, food tabooLoango, Kikongo (Gabon, Angola)7
alamu (Sa)ilemuplant, name =Citrus X paradisiYoruba (Nigeria)7
amba, amimbaambaname for a girl born on SaturdayAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)*
amiomio (Sa)myon myonplant, name =Jatropha gossypifolia, myo = fire (Fon)Goun (Benin)7
ampuku, apukuNzambi Ampunguan Ancestral spirit within the African Surinamese religion, It’s the Congolese name for the High Creator GodKikongo (Congo DRC)7,*
anana, anana kedoeaman kedoeamponNana Twedeampong NyankoponGod the Creator, the Supreme GodAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)5,*
anango switi (Sa), a nango súti (Sa), nagosi (Au)anago sitinplant, name =Terminalia amazoniaFon (Benin)7
anansiananseFolcloric figure of the SpiderAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)2, 5
antroewandroaplant, name =Solanum macrocarpon ,African eggplantAndo (Ivory Coast)7
anzau weko (Pa)ndzawu (Masangu), nzau (Kongo)plant, name =Inga capitata,asau = bark used to scrub pots. An nzau is an elephant in Kikongo. Also see “asaw” on this list. Waïkje is Caraib word.Masangu (Gabon), nzau (Congo)7
apintiapenteng, mpintinA drum used primarily to convey messages to nearby villages. Also the name of the oldest radio station in SurinameAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)3,*
apuku baasi (Au)Nzambi Ampunguplant, name =Crotalaria micans,plant used in religious ceremonies decicated to the boss of the forest spiritsKikongo (Congo DRC)7
asawnzau, nzovuElephantBantu2
asemaadzevampire, witch,succabeeEwe2
awaribangiware, awarea certain gameTwi, Fante2
aya-udu (Au)ayanplant, name =Swartzia sp.,udu is the Sranan word for woodYoruba (Nigeria)7
babaa way to adress a man, brotherWest + Central Africa2,*
babun-nefi kenkisi (Punu), nkengezi (Kikongo), dugengitsi, dikengitsi (Masangu)plant, name =Scleria spp.,The translation of the Sranan name is “monkey knife”. The translation of the plants name for all the listed African languages is “howler monkey knife”. Punu,Kikongo,Masangu (Gabon)7
bacovekoba (?)plant, name =Musa sp.,,bananakoba (?),Sao Tome7
bakrambakarawhite (Dutch) personEfik5,2
bakrubaku, ba- kulu(evil) spirit personified as a little man with a big head. Forebearer or ghost in KikongoNig, (Kikongo) Congo2, 7, *
bakru wiwiri ba-kuluplant, name =Petiveria alliacea,evil dwarfs weed, wiri = weed (En),”forebearer, ghost”Kikongo (Congo)7
bakuba, swa bak’ba agbagba (Yoruba), koba (?)plant, name =Musa sp.,(sour) sweet banana,bananaYoruba Nigeria, Sao Tome7
bamba maka mabambaplant, name =Desmoncus polyacanthos,bamba spine,rattanKikongo (Gabon, Angola)7
bobi bobi (Sa)bobi (?)plant, name =Euphorbia hirta,breast milk,”breast”Cameroon7
bobo, bobojantjebόbo, bùbu, bobosomeone who is afraid of everything, coward, dorky; Bobo is also the West African name for a man whose name isn’t known. It’s also possible that those kidnapped from the Gold Coast were called Bobo.Traditional name of a Krio boy is Bobo-John.West-Sudan, Ewe, General West Africa2,*
boeboelaasbubu-i,buburu,In Suriname, children or taught be afraid of Boeboelaas, similar to Good Friday bobolee of Trinidad (scapegoat). “Meki Bubu””, translated literally as “making bubu” translates to making funny faces. Specter or bogaboo, bad or evilKwa, Yoruba2,*
boniboni name for man, common in present day Benin. Also several regions in Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali or bare the same name. In Suriname, the name Boni is most commonly known as that of one of the most popular maroon leaders during the days of slaveryBenin, Burkina Faso, Mali*
boyo/dokundokonoa sweet pudding like cake made from coconut and cassaveTwi2
bubabubaskin, barkBaule (Ivory Coast)7
busi musakasaka (Pa)musagaplant, name =Gurania reticulata, busi means bush….,Banzabi (Gabon)7
busi soké (Pa)sokeplant, name =Sapotaceae spp.,busi means bush….,Mende (Sierra Leone)7
busi yamsititei nyambi (Bambara)plant, name =Smilax spp.,bush yam liana,all yams, general name in West AfricaBambara (Mali)7
callaloo karuru (unknown if Angolan or Brazilian Indian origin)plant, name =Centropogon cornutus,,dish of different slimy leaveskaruru (unknown if Angolan or Brazilian Indian origin),7
confoconfopriest (in Afro Surinamese religion)Akan3
dadadada, dada, daadarespectful name for an older woman, mother (Ewe), old (Fante), very old (Grebo)Ewe, Fante, Grebo2
dagukoko kokuwe (Fon), tchankoko (Tcha), kuokuo dua (Twi)plant, name =Posoqueria longiflora,dog balls (testicles),Fon,Tcha,Twi (Ghana, Benin) 
dagwetagwéboa constrictorEwe2
dahomeydahomeyThe country in West Africa now known as Benin encompassed a region known during  the transatlantic slavetrade as Dahomey. Surinamese Maroons were known to name their newly founded villages after the villages and country they were taken from. In Suriname, we have a Maroon village called Dahomey. This village was popularized in a Surinamese folksong.Benin*
dèdèawiwiri (Au)onyame bewu na mawu (Twi, Burkill (1985-2010)), nyame wua, ne me wu (Twi), Cakankou (I cannot die)plant, name =Commelinaceae spp.,dead weed (translation of African name), wiri = weed (En),God will die before I die (Burkill (1985-2010)), Dzah: If God is dead, than I will die too. Also see  the listed “gado dede”Twi,Cakankou (Ghana, Benin)7
diatutu (Sa)tutu (Kikongo, Mende)plant, name =Centropogon cornutus,Dia is dear, and tutu is horn,trumpet, fluteKikongo (Angola), Mende7
ditibi wiwi (Sa)tipetipeplant, name =Desmodium asperumYoruba (Nigeria)7
djeme djengdjengplant, name =Bellucia grossularioides,,Mende (Sierra Leone)7
djendjenkumaka (Sa)egniè, egnien (Anyi, Baule)plant, name =Ceiba pentandra,kumaka (Ar) = Ceiba pentandra,Anyi, Baule (Ivory Coast)7
djindja masusa (Au)ma-susaplant, name =Zingiber zerumbet,ginger masusa,Kikongo (Angola)7
djönkú gbegbé (Sa), jonku gbegbe (Sa)jankoroshe (Yoruba), gbe (Ewe), dwonku (Twi)plant, name =Spermacoce latifolia,,gbe = bush, dwonku = hipYoruba, Ewe, Twi (Nigeria, Ghana)7
dobama (Au)imbambaplant, name =Tapirira guianensisMasango (Gabon)7
dodoydwudwolull, calmTwi2
dotidotigroundAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)5
dyaba tee (Sa)dyabaplant, name =Trichomanes vittaria,…. tail,Bakele (Gabon) 
dyombi krara (Sa)nzambiplant, name =Coix lacrima-jobi,jumbie bead,”God”Kikongo (Congo) 
dyumbindsumbighost appearance, devil (Bantu)Bantu2
e-e, ejeheheexaclamtion of surprise; when the Maroons want to confirm, they say ejeh, which is the Caribean equivalent of eh he!. The Yoruba equivalent of “yes” is eheyoruba, igbo2,3
es’esiisa-isaquick hastlyEwe2
fefifinga faiv-finga-lif (Krio), aloviaton (Fon)plant, name =Paullinia spp.,five finger (translation of Fon name),five fingers (Krio, Fon)Krio,Fon (Sierra Leone, Benin)7
filili (Au)emi ile, ege ileplant, name =Euphorbia thymifolia,,Yoruba (Benin)7
fodufodu, vodunan Ancestral spirit within the African Surinamese religionDahomey (Benin)2,*
fodu kama (Sa), vodunplant, name =Coccocypselum guianense,snake bed,voodoo, snake godFon (Benin)7
fugufugumenti fufurufuru (Limba), fukufuku (Yoruba)plant, name =Hyptis atrorubens,…. mint,”lungs”Limba, Yoruba (Sierra Leone, Nigeria)7
fukufuku toriman fukufukuplant, name =Priva lappulaceae, torimanis the Sranan word for storyteller, fukufuku means “lungs” in the listed African languagesYoruba (Nigeria)7
fyofyoyó/ yoéa certain parasite, also has a spiritual meaning in Winti, the Arican Surinamese belief systemEwe2,*
gado dede mi dedeonyame bewu na mawu (Twi), nyame wua, ne me wu (Twi), cakankou (Fon, Nago), Tchaplant, name =Commelinaceae spp.,God dead than me dead (translation of Twi name,God will die before I die / If God is dead, than I will die too / I cannot die. Gado dede as this weed is also called, is a very stubborn weed. The name indicates that this plant is hard to near impossible to kill.Twi,Fon, Nago (Ghana, Benin)7, *
gagoti, gatoti ,gawuci (Adja), ganhotin (Fon)plant, name =Sapindaceae spp.,,tin (Fon) = treeAdja, Fon (Benin)7
ganganň-kam, I kamgrandmotherEfik, Ibibio2
godogodoplant, name =Crescentia cujete,godo (En) = gourd ,calabash cultivarNigeria7
gogogogobuttocksAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)5
gogomango ogo (Fon), ma (Fon)plant, name =Phytolacca rivinoides,,ma = leafFon (Benin)7
gomawiwiri avegbomaplant, name =Phytolacca rivinoides,wiri = weed (En),Ewe (Ghana)7
gongosankonkonsagossip, slanderTwi2
gwégwétitei gbèègbè (Fon), begbe (Fon)plant, name =Dalbergia monetaria,…..liana,Fon (Benin)7
jengéjenge (Sa)djengdjeng (Mende), nyenguingui (Masango), nyengenge (Mitsogo)plant, name =Nepsera aquatica,,Mende,Masango, Mitsogo (Sierra Leone, Gabon)7
jukujukkato poke, to stickFula language(Ghana, Nigeria, Cote D’ ivoir)5
kakaakuko, akókórooster, could also be derived from the English word cockTwi2
keskesikésecapuchin monkeyEwe2
kimboto matombote, omutomboti (Lunyaneka), jimbundu (Kimbundu), kiboto (Kiongo)plant, name =Sapotaceae spp.,,ki-boto = “tree having ironwood”Lunyaneka,Kimbundu, Kiongo (Angola)7
klarun, krarun  plant, name =Amaranthus spp.,callalloo (En+Am), 7
kobikobiname for a boy born on a TuesdayAkan (Ashanti, Fante, etc)*
kodjokodjo, kudjo kudzoname for a boy born on a MondayAkan (Ashanti, Fante, etc)*
kofikofiname for a boy born on a FridayAkan (Ashanti, Fante, etc)*
kokobekokobeleprasyTwi, Nzema(Ghana)2,7
kokobesibonki kokobeplant, name =Zygia latifolia,leper’s bean,leper, leprosyNzema (Ghana)7
kokolo (Au)okokolochicken. Kokolo comes from the Okanisi Maroons in SurinameAkan8
kokriki krikri ouléplant, name =Abrus precatorius, Ormosia spp.,,Gouro (Ivory Coast)7
komlankomlanname for a boy born on a TuesdayAkan (Ashanti, Fante, etc)*
kosyiton (Pa)kositoplant, name =Fabaceae spp.,,Mandinka (Ivory Coast)7
kri kra manner of starting a Anansi storyAkan (Ashanti, Fante, etc)2,*
kromanti kormantsean ancestral spirit within Winti, the African Surinamese religion.Ghana*
kromanti kormantseplant, name =Pavonia fruticosa,Coromantine spirit. During the transatlantiv slavetrade there was a Dutch fort located in present day Ghana called fort Coromantine, This plant is used in Winti rituals dedicated to a Kromanti Ancestral spirit.Fante (Ghana)7,*
kwakukwakuname for a boy born on a Wednesday. The 1st of July 1863, which is the day slavery got abolished in the former Dutch colonies, fell on a Wednesday. To honor this day, a monument respresenting a young man named Kwaku was erected in Suriname.The city square he stands on is known as the Kwaku square. In the Netherlands, and now also in Belgium, a popular Surinamese music, football, and food festival is held, around the date of the 1st of July, named the Kwaku festival.Akan (Ashanti, Fante, etc)*
kwamikwaminame for a boy born on a SaturdayAkan (Ashanti, Fante, etc)*
kwasikwasiname for a boy born on a SundayAkan (Ashanti, Fante, etc)*
kwasibakwasibaname for a girl born on a SundayAkan (Ashanti, Fante, etc)*
kwasibita Kwasiplant, name =Quassia amara,Male Akan day name (Kwasi’s bitter), named after Surinamese traditional healer,Kwasi. This Kwasi played a very controversial role within Suriname’s history; person born on SundayTwi (Ghana)7, *
kwinti, kwintu , bla kuinleplant, name =Eryngium foetidum,,”to drive out sickness”Kru (Ivory Coast)7
laulaucrazy, insaneKikongo5
leba, legbaelegua (exu)a yoruba deity (Orisha) who is able to clear the path of communication between this world and the world our ancestors reside in. In Winti, the African Surinamese religion, the Legba serves the same purpose.Yoruba*
leletiki letinplant, name =Amphirrhox longifolia Mart. ex Eichler,swizzle stick,milktree (French?)Fon (Benin)7
loangotitei loango plant, name =Aristolochia spp.,Loango liana,ethnic group and languageLoango (Gabon)7
loko (Apuku), loko, iroko (Fon, Yoruba)plant, name =Ceiba pentandra,,snake godFon, Yoruba (Nigeria, Benin)7
maka mboa (Sa)jimboaplant, name =Amaranthus spinosus,spiny Amaranth,Kimbundu (Angola) 
marbonsumunra agbou taa brown wasp, could be derived from the Yoruba warning munra agbou ta, be cautious of wasp stings. In Guyana they are called marabuntaYoruba2
masango bita mosongoplant, name =Unxia camphorata,bitters of Masango tribe?,Masango ethnicityApindji (Gabon)7
masusa ma-susaplant, name =Renealmia spp.,ndongo = andere Aframomums, “wood ginger”Kikongo (Angola)7
misobisobi, mi sobi sobi (Au), musobisobi (Pa)musobisobi (Bapunu), nsobisobi (Loango)plant, name =Trema micrantha,,Bapunu, Loango (Gabon)7
nanacan be translated to “it is”, for example “na yu”, means “it is you”Igbo*
nekunekupoison to catch fish. I was always under the impression that this was a word from one of the Suriamese Native American ethnic groups. I recall seeying a film about Native American folclore where they explained the origin of the wordLoango (Congo)5, *
nenenneform of address for an older woman, nanny. (I wouldn’t be surprised if  nne is also the etymological origin for the word nanny)Efik, Ibibio2,3,*
nyan(-nyan)nyamthere are about 47 African words like nama/nyam/nyiana/inam that phonetically resemble nyan, but only 3 have the have the same meaning it has in Suriname, which is food, the others stand for meat.Wolof (Senegal)5,2
obeabe (Akan), okbe, ope, obi (Yoruba, Nago)plant, name =Elaeis oleifera,African oil palmYoruba, Nago, Akan2, 7
obiaubio , abia, obi, o bye, obiri black magic,  doctoring, mysticism,magic,”charm to cause sickness or death, in Nembe, obi means disease, and the Akan word for priest is o bye.  Also the name of a plant, name =Heliconia psittacorum,Efik, Ibibio, Nemde, Akan, Awutu (Ghana, Nigeria)5,2,7
okobuka (Sa)okpoplant, name =Senna spp.Igbo (Nigeria)7
okrookworo/okworu, okwuru, okuruokra vegetable, name =Abelmoschus esculentus,,Igbo and many other languages5,2, 7
patyapatyapotopoto, potopotoo/potopototamuddyIgbo, Mandinka, Wolof, Twi2
pegreku pechereku (Fon), pedreku (Katafon), kpédjélékoun (Fon, Goun),plant, name =Xylopia spp. Fon,Katafon,Goun (Benin)7
pembapembepemba is  kaolin,  a white powdery or clay substance mostly used in Winti (african Suriname religion) rituals. Also sometimes eaten by pregnant women to fight off nausea. Pembe is the Kikongo word for white.kikongo3,*
pepre nanga sautu (Au)wisa ne kyene (Wassaw), ngo ne kyene (Akyem)plant, name =Annonaceae spp. Just like the Sranan name, the names in the listed African langauges translate to “,pepper with salt (translation of African name),pepper and salt tree (Wassaw), oil and salt (Akyem)Wassaw, Akyem (Ghana)7
pindampinda, mbendapeanutCongo, Gabon*,4
pinpin pende, peniplant, name =Cyperaceae spp.,different grassesTemne (Sierra Leone)7
pipa-udu pipawoplant, name =Posoqueria latifolia,pipe wood?,Kissi (Sierra Leone)7
pululo (Au)pululuplant, name =Maquira guianensis,,bubbleKikongo (Angola)7
sabikusabato know. According to the Naks Suriname (2013) “sabi” is derived from the word “kusaba”, which is the kikongo word for “to know”. However, I was always under the impression that “sabi” was derived from either the Spanish or Portuguese word for “to know”, which is “saber”. This is also substantiated by Neijhorst (2008). However, what is also interesting in this, is that in Nigeria, they’ve used this same Spanish/ Portuguese loanword in their Pidgin language that, just like Sranan, is also Enghlish based. Just like in Suriname, sabi means “to know”.Kikongo, Nigeria2,3,*
sakasiri sakaplant, name =Canna indica,shake seed,rammelenKikongo (Angola)7
sakusaku (Sa)nsaku-nsakuplant, name =Cyperus prolixus,,”a lemon plant”Kikongo (Angola, Congo)7
sangrafunsangalavwaplant, name =Costus spp.,”a cane-like plant,used in native medicine”Congo7
seksekisekerea ratle like musical instrument made from a calabas filled with seedsYoruba2
sida sida  (Bo)siganziplant, name =Eleusine indicaBaule (Ivory Coast)7
singabaasi (Sa), sinyabasu (Pa)sindjaplant, name =Vouarana guianensis,síndja (Sa) = ashes,Bariba (Benin)7
sisisisiform of adress for a woman. For the Igbos this is primarily used to address a young woman. During slavery days in Suriname, “sisi” was used to address women of color who were the “official” mistresses of white men, while the wife was the “misi”, the latter derived from mrs or miss.Igbo*
soproposopropo (Ashanti, Twi)plant, name =Momordica charantiaTwi (Ashanti Ghana)7
syusyususuwkāwhispering, gossip, expressing suspicion (Twi)Twi2
tatatata/taata, tataform of adress for father, also used for parents or ancestorsIbibio, Congo5,2,3
tata bumbatata mbumbaan Ancestral spirit within the African Surinamese religionCongo*
tëmëkú (Sa)tahokukuplant, name =Lepidagathis alopecuroidea, stubborn(Au). Temeku also means persistent. The word Temeku was popularized in a Surinamese song about a woman persistently pursuing a man. In the song she was called a Temeku.Bariba (Benin)7
tontontumtumball of mashed cooked plantains, Surinamese version of fufuTwi2, *
trangayesin’aso ye destubborn, disobient. Literallly means “hard ears”. “N’aso ye de” (Twi) translates to “his ears are hard”Twi2
tutututuhorn, trompet, messenger (Mende), flute (Kikongo(Angola))Mende2
tyagotyakonha sa kpa saa translation for tyagotyakon would be “bring come and carry go”, which is also how this expression is known in several parts of the Caribbean. “Ha sa kpa sa” is a Grebo expressions which can be translated to “brings news and gives news”. A “tyagotyakon” is a troublemakerGrebo2
tyo tyo (Sa)tioplant, name =Crotalaria pallida,,pindaMandinga (Ivory Coast)7
tyuričipu (Wolof),ciipu/ciipuroo, kiifu (Mandinka), tsaki (Hausa), sioop (ibibio)disapproving sound also known as suck teeth through out Africa and the African DiasporaWolof, Manidinka, Hausa , Ibibio2
unuunuwe, us, you (plural), yourIgbo5,2
vereketemerging of two words, “vele” and “kete”vele= earth, kete = sacred. The verekete is a Winti (Winti refers to the name of the traditional African Surinamese religious belief system. It’s also the name used for the spirits or deities within that religion).Mina (Benin)1, *
wiriwihair or weed. (I was always under the impression that wi came from the English word weed)Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)5, *
yaabayaabaname for a girl born on a ThursdayAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)*
yamsinyamProbably derived from the word nyam, but the European slavetraders thought it was the name of  the tuberous plant they ate 5,2
yanganyangadance, vanityMende2
yaoyaoname for a boy born on a ThursdayAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)*
yayoyayooto roamMandinka2
yesiesiearAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)5
yeyeyeyespiritAkan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc)5
yobooyibo, oyinbowhite person (less commonly used word than bakra, also on this list)Nigeria*


List of potential Sranan words with an African background

There are also words that I suspect could be of African origin. However, keep in mind, I’m not an expert, so I would need the help of the community and speakers of West and Central African language to possibly identify certain words.

SrananEnglish translationpossible origin
ayoIn Suriname ayo can be an exclamation of happiness. Ayo is the Yoruba word for joy. In Suriname, ayo is also the informal name of one of the larger plantations in Suriname, used ever since slavery. I don’t think the enslaved would ever refer to a plantation as joyous, and therefore I’m hesitant to link this word with the Yoruba meaning. However, it still is noteworthyYoruba
bangaranga “slutty” woman, see also banya 
banyaa type of dance. Also known as banga in Jamaica according to Neijhorst (2008). The word “bangarang”, also listed here, is popularly known throughout the Caribbean as that signifying a “slutty” woman and could be derived from this word as to indicate a woman always frequenting banya dances? 
bimbaSranan name for Elephantiasis, a medical condition causing the enlargement and hardening of limbs or body parts due to tissue swelling. 
bonuaspect within the African Surinamese religion Winti. Once I’ve heard it explained by mevr E. Purperhart if I’m not mistaken, as to be derived from the french word bon. According to her, if you would do bonu, you were doing “something good”. In my opinion, the word sounds too “African” to be derived from a French word. But then again, I’m not an expert. 
borito cook 
brafuinstead of soup we sometimes say brafu, for example pindabrafu (peanutsoup), okrobrafu(okrasoup/stew). We also only add this word to soups from the African Surinamese cuisine. 
dja-djareal, big, true, strong. For example “Mi na wan dja-dja Srananuma” translates to “I am a true Surinamese woman”, see also kankan 
dyugu-dyuguchaos, trouble 
fahow, as in “Fa yu de? = How are you doing?”  
fotocity. Now I can already hear the Surinamese reading this post thinking:’ “Foto” is derived from the word fort!’. Yes, I know that’s what the general consensus for the origin of this word is. However, just hear me out. In several West African countries (Senegal, Guinnee, Guinnee Bissau) there are several cities with the word futa or fouta as prefix for example Futa Toro, Futa Jallon etc. Futa is meant to signify the region they lived in. Is it possible that foto could be in fact derived from “futa”? Am I reaching here!? lolPulaar, Fulbe
furuto steal, to not play fair 
gaguto stutter 
gongotebanana porridge 
libariver. Is it possible that the word liba is derived from Joliba, the Mandinke name for the Niger river, one of the most important rivers of West and Central Africa, also called “the river of rivers” ? Mandinke (Mali, Liberia)

In winti the kabra are the oldest Ancestral spirits. They are the ancestors that started the clan. Followers of Winti regularly hold a ceremony where they honor and  give offerings to their kabra, which is called a kabra tafra. Is it possible that this word and its origin are actually from Ancient Egypt? In his “African origins of civilization”, Cheikh Anta Diop quotes the writer Moret about the ancient Egyption methaphysical  beliefs Ka and Ba and I quote: “What was the role of the Ka and the Ba in ancient Egypt? Moret answers this question in Le  Nil et la civilisation égyptienne (p. 212):    The Ka, which united with the Zet, is a divine being that lives in the sky and does not appear until  after death. We were wrong to define it, with Maspero, as the double of the human body, living  with it, but leaving it at the moment of death, and being restored to the mummy by the Osirian  rites. The formula for the spiritualization of the king shows that while Horus purifies the Zet,  dematerializing it in the Basin of the Jackal, he purifies the Ka in another basin, that of the Dog….  Ka and Zet were thus separated … and had never lived together on earth…. In the texts of the Old  Kingdom, the expression “to pass to one’s Ka” means “to die.” Other texts specify that an essential Ka exists in the heavens. This Ka presides over one’s intellectual and moral forces; at the  same time, it purifies the flesh, embellishes the name, and gives physical and spiritual life… Once the two elements are united, Ka and Zet form the complete being who attains perfection.  This being possesses new properties which make of him an inhabitant of the heavens, called Ba  (soul?) and Akh (spirit?). The soul (Ba), represented by the bird Ba, with a human head, lived in  the heavens… As soon as the king is joined by his Ka, he becomes Ba…”

Source: Diop, Cheikh Anta (1974), African Origins of Civilization. Lawrence Hill & Co.Chicago.

ancient egypt?
kankanreal, big, true, great, strong for example “Mi na wan kankan Srananuma” translates to “I am a true Surinamese woman”. See also dja-dja. An alternative name for Mansa Musa, the king of Mali and the richest man to ever have lived was Kankan Musa
lakua type of dance 
loméEwe founded capital city of the republic of Togo. In Suriname we have a Maroon village called (New) Lombé. It was common for newly escaped Maroons to name their village after villages and countries they had left behind in AfricaEwe
masangahouseSierra Leone ?
nomo-nomoIn French it’s coûte que coûte, which can be translated to “no matter the costs”. “Nomo-nomo” adds some persistence or extremity to the situation. For example, we can say : ‘Yu wan go na dorosei?/ Do you want to go outside?’. However, when we add nomo-nomo, we add some extremity or urgency: “Nomo-nomo, yu wan go na dorosei?!”, which expresses the following sentiment ” Why do you insist on going outside?!” or “Do you really need to go outside, right now, at this moment?!” 
wintiAccording to  Van Andel et al (2014), the name of the plant “Kwinti” is derived from the Kru word or phrase “bla kuinle”, which means “to drive out sickness” (see listed). Is it possible that the word Winti isn’t derived from “wind”, as we believe in Suriname, but from this Kru word? The meaning of “bla kuinle” matches part of Winti’s purpose. 

Other linguistic patterns

In Nigeria (mostly Yoruba) and Jamaica there’s something that’s called the “H” factor. The H-factor is when you add the letter H to a word that begins with a vowel, and/or remove the letter H from a word, to start the word the vowel after that letter H. In Sranan we have that too, albeit to a lesser extent. Some examples:

The English word hog has turned into agu, or hagu. Ask turned into aksi, or haksi. Head turned into ede. And there are many more examples. Just like with the word sabi, the same linguistic patterns happened even when speaking Creolized or pidgnenized European languages.

*1. There are various African Surinamese languages, which can overlap in certain instances, but which also have unique words and structures. If nothing is specified in the column than we can assume that the word is a Sranan word. For the others, the abbrevations are : Au = Aucan, Sa = Saramaccan, Pa = Paramaccan, Bo = Boni.

*2: Literary sources:

1. Jones, O. O., Moore, L. L., & Bridgforth, S. (2010). Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic: Art, Activism, Academia, and the Austin Project (Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture). University of Texas Press. Opgehaald van

2.Neijhorst, J. H. (2008). Bigisma taki…Herkomst en betekenis van meer dan 3300 Surinaamse spreekwoorden (odo’s) en uitdrukkingen. Paramaribo. To purchase:

3.Organisatie voor gemeenschapswerk NAKS. (2013). MUZIEK is TAAL ‘Back to the roots, terug naar de bron’. Opgehaald van Organisatie voor gemeenschapswerk NAKS:

4.Philippa, M., Debrabandere, F., Quak, A., Schoonheim, T., & Van der Sijs, N. (2003). Pindakaas – (broodsmeersel van fijngemalen olienoten). Opgehaald van Etymologiebank:

5.Suriname African Heritage. (2015, Januari 13). african-words-in-suriname-language. Opgehaald van Suriname African Heritage:

6.Suriname1800. (2011, Juni). Begrippenlijst. Opgehaald van suriname1800:

7.Van Andel, T. R., Van ‘t Klooster, C. I., Quiroz, D., Towns, A. M., Ruysschaerte, S., & Van den Berg, M. (2014, December 16). Local plant names reveal that enslaved Africans recognized substantial parts of the New World flora. Opgehaald van PNAS:

8.Van Maris, B. (2014, Februari 3). Rituele taal uit Suriname is 200 jaar geleden bedacht. Opgehaald van Werkgroep Caraïbische Letteren:


11 thoughts on “They connected…!

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