Mzungu (pronounced [m̩ˈzuŋɡu]) is a Bantu language term used in the African Great Lakes region to refer to people of European descent. It is a commonly used expression among Bantu peoples in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Mayotte and Zambia, dating back to the 18th century. Literally translated it meant "someone who roams around" or "wanderer." The term was first used in the African Great Lakes region to describe European explorers in the 18th century, apparently as a result of their extensive travelling all over the world. The word Mzungu comes from Kiswahili, where zungu or zunguka is the word for spinning around on the same spot. Kizunguzungu is Kiswahili for a dizziness. The term is now used to refer to "someone with white skin" or "white skin". The word Mzungu in Swahili can also mean someone who speaks English.
The possessive kizungu (or chizungu) translates as "behaving rich". However, in some areas, such as in Rwanda and Burundi, it does not necessarily refer to the colour of one's skin. Traditionally, Europeans were seen to be people of means and rich and so the terminology was extended to denote affluent persons regardless of race. It would therefore not be unusual to find any employer being referred to as "mzungu." In the Bantu Swahili language, the plural form of mzungu is wazungu. The possessive kizungu (or chizungu) translated literally means "of the wanderers". It has now come to mean "language of the wanderers" and more commonly English, as it is the language most often used by Wazungu in the African Great Lakes. However it can be used generally for any European language. Wachizungu, Bachizungu, etc. – literally "wandering people" – have come to mean people who adopt the Western culture, cuisine and lifestyle.
Mzungu can be used in an affectionate or insulting way. It is used in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi and Burundi. It is often called out by children to get the attention of a passerby.
|Swahili in the African Great Lakes||Mzungu||Wazungu||Kizungu|
|Shikomori in Comoros||Mzungu||Wazungu||Chizungu|
|Luganda in Uganda||Muzungu||Bazungu||Kizungu|
|Chichewa in Malawi||Muzungu||Azungu||Chizungu|
|Chinyanja in Zambia||Muzungu||Bazungu||Chizungu|
|Kinyarwanda in Rwanda / Kirundi in Burundi||Umuzungu||Abazungu||ikizungu|
|Bemba in Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo||Musungu||Basungu||Chisungu|
|Kisii language in Kenya||Omusongo||Abasongo||Ebisongo|
|Sena in Mozambique||Muzungu||Azungu|
|Shona in Zimbabwe||Murungu||Varungu|
|isiZulu in South Africa||Umlungu||Abelungu|
- List of terms for white people in non-Western cultures
- Mzungu Kichaa, a Danish born, Tanzanian-raised musician
- Tendai Mzungu, an Australian rules footballer
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