A Guide to Swahili - The Swahili alphabet

What's the Swahili alphabet like?

Here's the alphabet and how to pronounce it.

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  • Letter
  • Aa
    a as in far
  • Bb
    be as in best
  • Cc
    ch as in church
  • Dd
    de as in desk
  • Ee
    e as in bed
  • Ff
    ef as in far
  • Gg
    ge as in get
  • Hh
    h as in hint
  • Ii
    ee as in feel
  • Jj
    je as in jelly
  • Kk
    ka as in cup
  • Ll
    le as in let
  • Mm
    em as in men
  • Nn
    en as in net
  • Oo
    o as in ox
  • Pp
    pe as in pen
  • Rr
    re as in rep
  • Ss
    se as in set
  • Tt
    te as in take
  • Uu
    oo as in cool
  • Vv
    ve as in vet
  • Ww
    we as in went
  • Yy
    ye as in yet
  • Zz
    ze as in zoo
  • Consonant combination

    There are other letters in the language but they are not considered as separate letters of the alphabet:

     CH as in the word  chai, tea

     DH as in the word  dhahabu, gold, and similar to the 'th' sound in 'this', but not in 'think'

     GH as in the word  ghala, warehouse

     KH is mostly used in Arabic words, for example  kheri, luck, and is similar to the 'ch' sound in the Scottish word 'loch'

     NG' as in the word  ng’ombe, cow

     NG as in  ngapi, meaning how much

     NY as in  Kenya

     SH as in  shamba, farm

     TH as in  thamani, worth, similar to the 'th' sound in 'think'.

  • Vowels and vowel combinations:

    Standard Swahili has five vowels:   a, e, i, o and u. These vowels are always pronounced the same, regardless of stress (see the examples above).

  • Missing letters

    Even though Swahili uses the same alphabet as English, the letters Q and X are not used in Swahili.

  • Email and website conventions

    When giving an email or website address the conventions are:
     @ kwa, at
     . nukta, dot
     / mkwaju, slash
     / kuunga, hyphen

UNESCO World Heritage site, Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania. © BBC - Jeff Overs

Facts about Swahili

10 things to know about the Swahili language

Residents of Stone Town in Zanzibar. © BBC/Jeff Overs

Swahili key phrases

Get started with 20 audio phrases

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