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
abeni abeni name for a girl born on Tuesday Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) *
aboma mboma anaconda Bantu 2
abongra mbongo (Bantu), agboman (Fon) sesameseed, plantname =Sesamum indicum, S. radiatum Bantu, Fon (Benin) 2,7
ackee akye, aché plant, name =Blighia sapida, to become hard = kyem Twi (Ghana) 7
adjuba adjuba name for a girl born on Monday Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) *
adjuba adjuba name for a girl born on Monday Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) *
adonkè pau (Sa) akponkpo plant, name =Schefflera spp.,pau (Port) = tree Baule (Ghana) 7
adyakasa adzaka Man! Wow!. I’ve also seen it translated to “you’ve been warned!” Yomba 2,*
adyokri adzoke a certain cake Ewe 2
adyuma gboma (Ewe, Fon), boma (Mina), ogumam (Nago) plant, name =Capsicum frutescens Ewe, Fon,  Mina, Nago (Benin, Togo) 7
afi afi name for a girl born on Friday Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) *
afo afӑ (grandmother) ancestor Kunama 2
agama agama chameleon Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) 5
agi (Pa, Au, Sa) adi (Ewe), adjikun, agikwin (Fon) plant, name =Ormosia spp.,seed to play agi game with Ewe,Fon (Ghana,Benin) 7
agida (ayida, adjida) a merger of two words: ayi= earth, da = snake a 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 drum Fon (Benin) 1, 6, *
agodo (Sa) go plant, name =Lagenaria siceraria Yoruba (Benin) 7
agomawiwiri, aguma gboma (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) nguma plant, name =Laetia procera Loko (Sierra Leone) 7
aisa asesa God of the Earth Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) 5
akara (Sa) akara (Yoruba), akra (Tcha) plant, name =Pouteria cf. cuspidata Yoruba,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
akra akra (Twi) plant, name =Psychotria apoda, kra means “soul”, kra is also listed Twi (Ghana) 7
akuba akuba name for a girl born on Wednesday Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) *
alamankina tschina (Loango), ki-ina (Kikongo) plant, name =Aegiphila macrantha Ducke, Everyman’s food taboo, food taboo Loango, Kikongo (Gabon, Angola) 7
alamu (Sa) ilemu plant, name =Citrus X paradisi Yoruba (Nigeria) 7
amba, amimba amba name for a girl born on Saturday Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) *
amiomio (Sa) myon myon plant, name =Jatropha gossypifolia, myo = fire (Fon) Goun (Benin) 7
ampuku, apuku Nzambi Ampungu an Ancestral spirit within the African Surinamese religion, It’s the Congolese name for the High Creator God Kikongo (Congo DRC) 7,*
anana, anana kedoeaman kedoeampon Nana Twedeampong Nyankopon God the Creator, the Supreme God Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) 5,*
anango switi (Sa), a nango súti (Sa), nagosi (Au) anago sitin plant, name =Terminalia amazonia Fon (Benin) 7
anansi ananse Folcloric figure of the Spider Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) 2, 5
antroewa ndroa plant, name =Solanum macrocarpon ,African eggplant Ando (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
apinti apenteng, mpintin A drum used primarily to convey messages to nearby villages. Also the name of the oldest radio station in Suriname Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) 3,*
apuku baasi (Au) Nzambi Ampungu plant, name =Crotalaria micans,plant used in religious ceremonies decicated to the boss of the forest spirits Kikongo (Congo DRC) 7
asaw nzau, nzovu Elephant Bantu 2
asema adze vampire, witch,succabee Ewe 2
awaribangi ware, aware a certain game Twi, Fante 2
aya-udu (Au) ayan plant, name =Swartzia sp.,udu is the Sranan word for wood Yoruba (Nigeria) 7
ba ba a way to adress a man, brother West + Central Africa 2,*
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
bacove koba (?) plant, name =Musa sp.,,banana koba (?),Sao Tome 7
bakra mbakara white (Dutch) person Efik 5,2
bakru baku, ba- kulu (evil) spirit personified as a little man with a big head. Forebearer or ghost in Kikongo Nig, (Kikongo) Congo 2, 7, *
bakru wiwiri  ba-kulu plant, 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,banana Yoruba Nigeria, Sao Tome 7
bamba maka  mabamba plant, name =Desmoncus polyacanthos,bamba spine,rattan Kikongo (Gabon, Angola) 7
bobi bobi (Sa) bobi (?) plant, name =Euphorbia hirta,breast milk,”breast” Cameroon 7
bobo, bobojantje bόbo, bùbu, bobo someone 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 Africa 2,*
boeboelaas bubu-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 evil Kwa, Yoruba 2,*
boni boni  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 slavery Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali *
boyo/dokun dokono a sweet pudding like cake made from coconut and cassave Twi 2
buba buba skin, bark Baule (Ivory Coast) 7
busi musakasaka (Pa) musaga plant, name =Gurania reticulata, busi means bush…., Banzabi (Gabon) 7
busi soké (Pa) soke plant, 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 Africa Bambara (Mali) 7
callaloo  karuru (unknown if Angolan or Brazilian Indian origin) plant, name =Centropogon cornutus,,dish of different slimy leaves karuru (unknown if Angolan or Brazilian Indian origin), 7
confo confo priest (in Afro Surinamese religion) Akan 3
dada dada, dada, daada respectful name for an older woman, mother (Ewe), old (Fante), very old (Grebo) Ewe, Fante, Grebo 2
dagukoko  kokuwe (Fon), tchankoko (Tcha), kuokuo dua (Twi) plant, name =Posoqueria longiflora,dog balls (testicles), Fon,Tcha,Twi (Ghana, Benin)  
dagwe tagwé boa constrictor Ewe 2
dahomey dahomey The 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, flute Kikongo (Angola), Mende 7
ditibi wiwi (Sa) tipetipe plant, name =Desmodium asperum Yoruba (Nigeria) 7
djeme  djengdjeng plant, 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-susa plant, 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 = hip Yoruba, Ewe, Twi (Nigeria, Ghana) 7
dobama (Au) imbamba plant, name =Tapirira guianensis Masango (Gabon) 7
dodoy dwudwo lull, calm Twi 2
doti doti ground Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) 5
dyaba tee (Sa) dyaba plant, name =Trichomanes vittaria,…. tail, Bakele (Gabon)  
dyombi krara (Sa) nzambi plant, name =Coix lacrima-jobi,jumbie bead,”God” Kikongo (Congo)  
dyumbi ndsumbi ghost appearance, devil (Bantu) Bantu 2
e-e, ejeh ehe exaclamtion 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 ehe yoruba, igbo 2,3
es’esi isa-isa quick hastly Ewe 2
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 ile plant, name =Euphorbia thymifolia,, Yoruba (Benin) 7
fodu fodu, vodun an Ancestral spirit within the African Surinamese religion Dahomey (Benin) 2,*
fodu kama (Sa),  vodun plant, name =Coccocypselum guianense,snake bed,voodoo, snake god Fon (Benin) 7
fonfon fo whipping Ewe 2
fugufugumenti  fufurufuru (Limba), fukufuku (Yoruba) plant, name =Hyptis atrorubens,…. mint,”lungs” Limba, Yoruba (Sierra Leone, Nigeria) 7
fukufuku toriman  fukufuku plant, name =Priva lappulaceae, torimanis the Sranan word for storyteller, fukufuku means “lungs” in the listed African languages Yoruba (Nigeria) 7
fyofyo yó/ yoé a certain parasite, also has a spiritual meaning in Winti, the Arican Surinamese belief system Ewe 2,*
gado dede mi dede onyame bewu na mawu (Twi), nyame wua, ne me wu (Twi), cakankou (Fon, Nago), Tcha plant, 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) = tree Adja, Fon (Benin) 7
gangan ň-kam, I kam grandmother Efik, Ibibio 2
godo godo plant, name =Crescentia cujete,godo (En) = gourd ,calabash cultivar Nigeria 7
gogo gogo buttocks Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) 5
gogomango  ogo (Fon), ma (Fon) plant, name =Phytolacca rivinoides,,ma = leaf Fon (Benin) 7
gomawiwiri  avegboma plant, name =Phytolacca rivinoides,wiri = weed (En), Ewe (Ghana) 7
gongosa nkonkonsa gossip, slander Twi 2
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
juku jukka to poke, to stick Fula language(Ghana, Nigeria, Cote D’ ivoir) 5
kaka akuko, akókó rooster, could also be derived from the English word cock Twi 2
keskesi kése capuchin monkey Ewe 2
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
kobi kobi name for a boy born on a Tuesday Akan (Ashanti, Fante, etc) *
kodjo kodjo, kudjo kudzo name for a boy born on a Monday Akan (Ashanti, Fante, etc) *
kofi kofi name for a boy born on a Friday Akan (Ashanti, Fante, etc) *
kokobe kokobe leprasy Twi, Nzema(Ghana) 2,7
kokobesibonki  kokobe plant, name =Zygia latifolia,leper’s bean,leper, leprosy Nzema (Ghana) 7
kokolo (Au) okokolo chicken. Kokolo comes from the Okanisi Maroons in Suriname Akan 8
kokriki  krikri oulé plant, name =Abrus precatorius, Ormosia spp.,, Gouro (Ivory Coast) 7
komlan komlan name for a boy born on a Tuesday Akan (Ashanti, Fante, etc) *
kosyiton (Pa) kosito plant, name =Fabaceae spp.,, Mandinka (Ivory Coast) 7
kra (a)kra soul Akan 3
kri kra   manner of starting a Anansi story Akan (Ashanti, Fante, etc) 2,*
kromanti  kormantse an ancestral spirit within Winti, the African Surinamese religion. Ghana *
kromanti  kormantse plant, 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,*
kwaku kwaku name 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) *
kwami kwami name for a boy born on a Saturday Akan (Ashanti, Fante, etc) *
kwasi kwasi name for a boy born on a Sunday Akan (Ashanti, Fante, etc) *
kwasiba kwasiba name for a girl born on a Sunday Akan (Ashanti, Fante, etc) *
kwasibita  Kwasi plant, 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 Sunday Twi (Ghana) 7, *
kwinti, kwintu ,  bla kuinle plant, name =Eryngium foetidum,,”to drive out sickness” Kru (Ivory Coast) 7
lau lau crazy, insane Kikongo 5
leba, legba elegua (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  letin plant, name =Amphirrhox longifolia Mart. ex Eichler,swizzle stick,milktree (French?) Fon (Benin) 7
loangotitei  loango  plant, name =Aristolochia spp.,Loango liana,ethnic group and language Loango (Gabon) 7
loko (Apuku),  loko, iroko (Fon, Yoruba) plant, name =Ceiba pentandra,,snake god Fon, Yoruba (Nigeria, Benin) 7
maka mboa (Sa) jimboa plant, name =Amaranthus spinosus,spiny Amaranth, Kimbundu (Angola)  
marbonsu munra agbou ta a brown wasp, could be derived from the Yoruba warning munra agbou ta, be cautious of wasp stings. In Guyana they are called marabunta Yoruba 2
masango bita  mosongo plant, name =Unxia camphorata,bitters of Masango tribe?,Masango ethnicity Apindji (Gabon) 7
masusa  ma-susa plant, 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
motomoto nmōtō mud(dy) Kwa 2
mumu e-mumu coward Twi 2
na na can be translated to “it is”, for example “na yu”, means “it is you” Igbo *
neku neku poison 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 word Loango (Congo) 5, *
nene nne form of address for an older woman, nanny. (I wouldn’t be surprised if  nne is also the etymological origin for the word nanny) Efik, Ibibio 2,3,*
nyan(-nyan) nyam there 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
obe abe (Akan), okbe, ope, obi (Yoruba, Nago) plant, name =Elaeis oleifera,African oil palm Yoruba, Nago, Akan 2, 7
obia ubio , 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
odo lododo proverb Ewe 2
okobuka (Sa) okpo plant, name =Senna spp. Igbo (Nigeria) 7
okro okworo/okworu, okwuru, okuru okra vegetable, name =Abelmoschus esculentus,, Igbo and many other languages 5,2, 7
patyapatya potopoto, potopotoo/potopotota muddy Igbo, Mandinka, Wolof, Twi 2
pegreku  pechereku (Fon), pedreku (Katafon), kpédjélékoun (Fon, Goun), plant, name =Xylopia spp.  Fon,Katafon,Goun (Benin) 7
pemba pembe pemba 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. kikongo 3,*
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
pinda mpinda, mbenda peanut Congo, Gabon *,4
pinpin  pende, peni plant, name =Cyperaceae spp.,different grasses Temne (Sierra Leone) 7
pipa-udu  pipawo plant, name =Posoqueria latifolia,pipe wood?, Kissi (Sierra Leone) 7
pululo (Au) pululu plant, name =Maquira guianensis,,bubble Kikongo (Angola) 7
sabi kusaba to 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, Nigeria 2,3,*
sakasiri  saka plant, name =Canna indica,shake seed,rammelen Kikongo (Angola) 7
sakusaku (Sa) nsaku-nsaku plant, name =Cyperus prolixus,,”a lemon plant” Kikongo (Angola, Congo) 7
sangrafu nsangalavwa plant, name =Costus spp.,”a cane-like plant,used in native medicine” Congo 7
sekseki sekere a ratle like musical instrument made from a calabas filled with seeds Yoruba 2
sida sida  (Bo) siganzi plant, name =Eleusine indica Baule (Ivory Coast) 7
singabaasi (Sa), sinyabasu (Pa) sindja plant, name =Vouarana guianensis,síndja (Sa) = ashes, Bariba (Benin) 7
sisi sisi form of address 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 *
sopropo sopropo (Ashanti, Twi) plant, name =Momordica charantia Twi (Ashanti Ghana) 7
soso soso only Igbo 5,2
syusyu susuwkā whispering, gossip, expressing suspicion (Twi) Twi 2
tata tata/taata, tata form of address for father, also used for parents or ancestors Ibibio, Congo 5,2,3
tata bumba tata mbumba an Ancestral spirit within the African Surinamese religion Congo *
tëmëkú (Sa) tahokuku plant, 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
tonton tonton brains Loango(Congo) 5
tonton tumtum ball of mashed cooked plantains, Surinamese version of fufu Twi 2, *
trangayesi n’aso ye de stubborn, disobient. Literallly means “hard ears”. “N’aso ye de” (Twi) translates to “his ears are hard” Twi 2
tutu tutu horn, trompet, messenger (Mende), flute (Kikongo(Angola)) Mende 2
tyagotyakon ha sa kpa sa a 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 troublemaker Grebo 2
tyo tyo (Sa) tio plant, name =Crotalaria pallida,,pinda Mandinga (Ivory Coast) 7
tyuri čipu (Wolof),ciipu/ciipuroo, kiifu (Mandinka), tsaki (Hausa), sioop (ibibio) disapproving sound also known as suck teeth through out Africa and the African Diaspora Wolof, Manidinka, Hausa , Ibibio 2
unu unu we, us, you (plural), your Igbo 5,2
verekete merging 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, *
wiri wi hair or weed. (I was always under the impression that wi came from the English word weed) Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) 5, *
yaaba yaaba name for a girl born on a Thursday Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) *
yamsi nyam Probably derived from the word nyam, but the European slavetraders thought it was the name of  the tuberous plant they ate   5,2
yanga nyanga dance, vanity Mende 2
yao yao name for a boy born on a Thursday Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) *
yayo yayoo to roam Mandinka 2
yesi esi ear Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) 5
yeye yeye spirit Akan (Twi, Ewe, Fante, etc) 5
yobo oyibo, oyinbo white 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.

Sranan English translation possible origin
ayo In 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 noteworthy Yoruba
bangarang a “slutty” woman, see also banya  
banya a 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?  
bimba Sranan name for Elephantiasis, a medical condition causing the enlargement and hardening of limbs or body parts due to tissue swelling.  
bonu aspect 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.  
bori to cook  
brafu instead 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-dja real, big, true, strong. For example “Mi na wan dja-dja Srananuma” translates to “I am a true Surinamese woman”, see also kankan  
dyugu-dyugu chaos, trouble  
fa how, as in “Fa yu de? = How are you doing?”   
foto city. 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!? lol Pulaar, Fulbe
furu to steal, to not play fair  
gagu to stutter  
gongote banana porridge  
liba river. 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?
kankan real, 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 Mali
laku a type of dance  
lomé Ewe 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 Africa Ewe
masanga house Sierra Leone ?
mofina humble  
nomo-nomo In 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?!”  
sani thing Igbo
takru ugly  
winti According 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:

12 thoughts on “They connected…!

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