A Mende Glossary
`On this page I will attempt to explain (if not exactly define) some words and expressions that Salia Koroma uses. They aren’t, every one of them, all necessarily difficult or unusual words or expressions; the uncommon ones bear testament to a world long gone.
This glossary would appear haphazard, and this is deliberate. I’ve no intention whatsoever (which is to say, there’ll be no attempt) to give you an alphabetical list.
A word about pronunciation:
– e in final positions is acute accented (he pronounced hay);
–i is pronounced like the English e
–mb and nd are single articulations, slightly nasalised b and d, not an m followed by a b or an n followed by a d.
–kp and gb are single articulations, the gb sound being the voiced mirror image of the kp sound when consonant mutation occurs. Eg. kpaleh (intr. v.) to pain, hurt, or smart, can become gbaleh depending on the word it is contiguous to. Mutation occurs very frequently in Mende: F/V; T/L/D/Nd; K/G/; J/S; L/Nd; P/W/B, etc.
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Banga (n., indef.): an open space in the middle of a village or town, an open public area in a town or village. The definite form of the noun is Bangei (pronounced “ba/ngay”).
Kobanga (koh/ba/nga, n., indef.): a kobanga was a “banga” in a war town; muster ground. Koh means war, so kobanga was essentially a parade ground for the warriors. This is where they mustered before and after a war. Kobangei (def. noun).
Mende (n.): the people, the country
Hedi (adj.) always used with “Mende,” as in Mende hedi. It means the language, culture, customs, laws and traditions of the Mende; “Deep Mende,” is the common translation. Being an expert in the deep knowledge of all things Mende.
Palii (n.): pool (the deep part of a river or stream). In Mende mythology, it is the seat of water spirits and the ancestors.
Fombo (v., transitive): to unfurl, to unfold, to lay out, to stretch out
Vombo, (unvoiced, Fombo)(n., indef.): a (water) current. Vombui/Vomboi is the definite form of the noun.
Nje loh lani Sefadu liandia
Njei na ta tolia Gbensa
Eh leh eh ye
Vombo gbi hun
There is a water in the middle of Sefadu
That water is called Gbensa
It neither flows up nor down
It has no current
Salia Koroma, Fishing For Our Father.
Bawo (v., contracted to bao/bau), to save, to deliver, to heal, to cure. to set free.
Bawoya, (contracted to Bauya, Baoya in informal speech) (n.): deliverance, salvation
Bawoma/Baoma (n.) haven, refuge
Baomoh (n. indef., baomui, n., def.): one who rescues or redeems, saviour
Bayi (n.): blessing, God’s favour
Luba: (n.): blessing. It is also a proper noun, a girl’s name.
(v.): to bless, e.g. Ngewo i bi luba (may God bless you).(adj.): blessed, sometimes constructed with the prefix “ma.” E.g. Maria maluba goi =the Blessed ((Virgin)) Mary
Gaii/ Gayi (n.): forge, smithy
Gaii Gotu (n.): anvil
Kebbi (n.): smith. It’s also a proper noun, a man’s name
Gaimoh (n., indef.; gaimoi is the definite form): smith
Gbanya (n., indef.; gbanyei is the definite form): tongs, blacksmith’s pincers. It’s also a man’s name.
Ya (n.): suffix, equivalent to the common -hood, -ism, -ship, -y and -ness suffixes in English. This ending, added to the stem of the word in Mende denotes a state or condition. E.g: Temaya= dominion, supremacy. Mahaya= the state of being a chief/ king, majesty
Jianyoh (n): fellow traveller, travelling companion
Heinyoh (n.): neighbour
Heinyoya (n.) neighbourliness
Heimoh (n.): neighbour
Hota (n.): stranger, visitor, guest
Hotanje (n): landlady, hostess
Hotakeh (n.): host, landlord
Kenye (n.): land, country, nation; the wider world; foreign parts. It’s also a proper noun, a girl’s name, one born in a strange land/foreign country.
Kenyemoh (n.): a foreigner, someone who isn’t Mende. (kenyemui, def. form of the noun)
Kenye yia (n.): language, foreign language
Kuhamoh (koamoh/kuamoh, in informal speech) (n.): a foreigner, “one from afar.” (koamui, def. form)
Kuhan (adv.): far, a long way from, afar
(adj.): long, tall
Jongoboti (n.): a beanpole, a stringbean, an especially tall person
Kaveh (v.): to eat voraciously, overfilling the mouth
Kapu (v.): to devour, to rob, to plunder, grab forcefully
Kapu hani (n.): booty, plunder, property gained by force
Kapumoh (n.): plunderer, thief
Huma (v.): to steal, to rob
Huma hani (n.): stolen goods, plunder
Humamoh (n.): thief, robber
Joombui (n.): sin
Joombu Hinda (n.): sin, sinful way, something sinful
Joombu Hinde We (v.): to sin, to commit a sin, do something sinful
Kaye (n.): sin, fault, transgression
Kaye (v.): to free of guilt or fault; justify.
-You’ll note that Kaye is a contronym-
When one replies to the question “Kahui ye na?(how are you/how do you do?) with “Kaye i Ngewoh ma” (thank God),” what you’re in fact saying is “(I find) No fault with God, God is faultless.”
Gaye (see Kaye): v. to confess a fault, a wrongdoing, a sin
Kpaleh (n.): pain. grief, grievance, grudge
Kpaleh (v.): to hurt, to pain
Kpaleh-gbia (v.): to complain, to outline a grievance
Kpaleh-gbiamoh (n.): complainant, a person who tells a grievance
Pondo lo (n.): an orphan (Most times it’s shortened to just pondo)
Pohani (n.): an heirloom, an inheritance. (Pohai, in informal Mende)
Pondo nyaha (n.): widow
Pondo hini (n.): widower
Pondoya (n.): orphanhood. (Pondoyei= defi.)
Kugba (n.; kugbei is the definite form): officer, captain, leader
Kokugba (n.): war officer, general, captain of a party of warriors
Maha(n.): king, chief, queen, leader. (def. noun: mahei; Plural forms are mahanga, mahangeisia, and maheisia)
Ndoh Mahei (n.): paramount chief of a chiefdom, literally “chief/king of the land/country”
Lavali (n.): an official who represents and speaks on behalf of “ndoh mahei” (the paramount chief), literally an advocate, a paramount chief’s principal counsel ; a lavali is a ‘prime ministerial’ position.
Pati Mahei (n.): section chief (literal), headman of a chiefdom section/division
Ta Mahei (n.): village headman
Mahalo (n.): a freeborn, freeman, citizen, literally “child of a chief.”
Nduwoh (n.): a slave
Nduwoya (n.): slavery, bondage
Kpomba (n.): a pledge, security (for a loan)
Kpombaya (n.): the state of being under pledge
Pu kpombaya hun (v.): to pawn, “to place under pledge.”
Ngumawo (v.; ngumao in informal speech): to redeem from slavery or bondage, to ransom, to regain from a pledge.
Wumawo (v.): See Ngumawo above.
Sama (n.): a nobleman, prince, chief. By extension a person of rank through wealth or power, a worthy.
Sama Hinda (n.): aristocratic behaviour
Samaya (n.): nobility, the state of being a “sama.” (Samayei= def.)
Sawa (n., Saa in informal speech): law, rule, commandment; a ban, a prohibition. (Sawei). Ex.: Maha a sawei la ngi lileh kpe loh= A king makes the law in his moment of contentment, Mende proverb.
Johwoh (n., indef.): iron chain (Johwei, def. noun)
Sawo ( adv.; in informal speech: Sao): no
Eye (adv; pronounced “ay-ye): yes, all right, fine
Fale 1(conj.): therefore. 2 (n.): reason, as in “Ji vale/Aji fale=for this reason.”
Keh (conj. and adv.): and, then, thus, yet, so that, then.
Sulleh (n.): waterfall, rapids in a river; noise.
Popa (n.): a lake (Popei, def.)
Popawo (n.): a puddle, pooling water. (Popawei, def. form of noun)
Tii (n.): island
Njagbo (n.): a lake-like body of shallow water attached to a river or stream
Kpoli (n): a creek, stream
Batii (n.): a field, usually one that’s seasonally flooded.
Tombo (n.): a ghost town, an abandoned village. (Tombui/tomboi).
Njaneneh (n): a water strider
Njalo (n): a mythical water spirit with a shiny, silvery head and the body of a snake.
Tingo (n.): a rivermaid (mermaid), a female water spirit that’s half human and half fish. When used figuratively it means a beautiful woman.
Siboni (n.): filthiness, slime, muck, foul and disease-ridden matter, rubbish
Njagbili (n.): rain clouds. (Njagbii, in informal speech)
Ligbili (adj.): cloudy, mucky
Konu (n.): branch of a palm tree
Jaja (n.): the hard, serrated thorns on a palm branch
Mbeke (n., indef.; Mbekei = def.): a tree branch.
Fama (n.): greetings, salutation, a social call, a visit. (In consonant mutation, it becomes Vama)
Va (v.): to greet, to call on, to visit, to shake hands, to send regards
Va (n.): news, information (Vei)
Va ve (v.): to give news, to bring up-to-date, to apprise (someone) of
Tonya (n.): truth, honesty, rightness, certainty, correctness
(adj.): true, right, just, honest, truthful. Ex. Tonya moh mia a biye= You’re an honest person.
Tonya hinda (n.): truthfulness, justice, righteousness
Totu (n.): messenger, usually between lovers
Ex. Ngi gahue keh ngi totu mo lua= Before I could cross it (the border) I saw a messenger, S. Koroma.
To (v): to send, to dispatch, to commission;
to point, to aim. (Depending on the word next to it, To mutates to Lo, or to Do in the kpa-Mende dialect)
Tomoh (n.): a messenger
Tobla (n., pl.): messengers, apostles, as in Tobla Ti Wehindesia =Acts of the Apostles
To (v. tr.): to erect, to build, to stand (something) up;
(v. intr.): to stand. (Mutates to Lo depending on its environment. It mutates to Do in kpa-Mende).
Tombu (n.): a back-up singer, by extension chorus
Kendeh (v.): to drag or to pull, like a net; to lead forcefully, as with captives.
Gendeh (v.): see Kendeh above.
Gendei (n): an assemblage, a crowd brought together by compulsion. (See Gendeh)
Kposo (n.): a trap made mostly of earth that crushes the game when it’s triggered.
Mani (n.): a trap, the generic name for any trap. Note: there’s a specific name for each trap
Bembi/Bimbi (n): a round net with a rigid stick frame for fishing in creeks, streams and shallow ends of rivers.
Kala (n.): a fish trap set in a weir or dam (Kaa)
Mbumbu /Mbumbui (n.): a fish pot
Piyei (n.): fish basket
Kanyama (n.): window (Kanyami, definite form of the noun)
Fogba (v., transitive): to hit, to strike, to whip
Gbakpa (v., transitive): to fasten, to nail, to plant (as a stake or a pillar), to strengthen,
2. (v., intransitive) to kneel
Baa (n.): respect, honour, worth, value (of people), price
Bagoma (n.):, respect, honour, worth ( “Ba goh ma”, literally, recognise the worth of someone, or give respect/honour to )
Songoi/Jongoi (n.): price, value, worth of something
Salo (n.): orange (in the kpa, Sewama and Wanjama dialects of Mende)
Lumbei (n.): orange (in the koh-Mende dialect)
Lumbi (n.) lime (in kpa-, Sewama, Wanjama dialects)
Lumbei Nyenye (n.): lime (koh-Mende dialect)
Faka (n.): eaves (Fakei, def. form)
Sindei (n.): eaves, rainwater gathered from eaves
Chindei (see Sindei above)
Sende (v.): to strain, to pour (liquid)
Chende (v.): see Sende above
Kpakpa Gohtu (n.): a rock buried with amulets and medicine when a village or town was founded, the amulets as protection and the rock as a symbol of permanence and indestructibility. A rock wasn’t always used, in which case we’re dealing with just a “kpakpa.”
(In many songs Salia refers to himself as “Kpakpa-gohti, Ta-Luva”.)
Kama (adj.): unusual, weird, odd, wonderful, out of the ordinary, unexpected, marvelous, marvel, strange, magical.
For emphasis the word is often duplicated (kama kama), the first kama playing the intensifying adverbial role of “very” or “too” in English
Kamala or Kama (n.): Poro Society meeting ground, also the entrance/gate to the Poro bush (or meeting place)
Kamasoh/Kamacho/Kamajoh (n.): historically a skilled hunter of big and dangerous game like elephants, bush pigs, and bush cows. Over and above his bush craft, such a hunter was reputedly skilled in the magic arts.
Kanjia (adj.; n., masc): a quarrelsome man, a contentious person; a proper noun
Manjia (adj.; n., fem.) a quarrelsome woman, a proper noun given to a girl whose pregnancy was characterised by discord between the parents
Sekkulo (def. Sekkului) (n.): a speckled hawk. Sekkui, in informal speech
Sekpendeh (n.): a greyish hawk
Bimbaon (n.): dummy, dimwit, dullard
Kande (adj.): unusual, curious, weird, complicated, freakish, astonishing,critical
Gande (v.): to confuse, to throw (someone) into confusion, to confound, to puzzle/to be puzzled, to befuddle, to dazzle
Bottani (n.): clenched fist. (bottai, informal)
Ndapi (n.): a fight, skirmish, battle
Koh (n): war. (def.= koi)
Lappi (v.): to fight
Goh (v.): to do battle
Kakpa (v.): to besiege, to encircle, to surround, to plot against, to conspire against
Koi kakpa nya ma/ Gbeh ngi nunga loi ti wa
(I’m under siege/So I’ll call for relief to come)
-Salia Koroma, Janeneh Bembe
Kakpa hinda (n.): conspiracy
Kakala (v.): to encircle (with), to go around. (Kaa, or kakaa, in informal speech).
-(adj.): windy, crooked
Jowo (n.): enemy, foe (def.= jowui)
Kpindi (n.): night, darkness, obscurity
Kpindiweleh (n.): prison (inf.=kpindiweh), literally, house of darkness
Kafa (adj.): crooked, dishonest, deceitful
Kafa (v.): to cheat, to swindle
Gafa (v.) See Kafa above
Sassi (v.): eschew, abstain, avoid (someone/something) as if they/it would contaminate; to treat with contempt
Jassi (v.): see Sassi above
Sondeh (v.) : to hold in contempt (by sucking air through the teeth), to insult (thus), to sneer at, to slight
Jondeh (v.) see Sondeh above. (Jondeh is the voiced mirror image of Sondeh)
Sondei (n.): contempt expressed by sucking air through the teeth
Ka (n.): a male honorific for mythic, historic and legendary people and characters. Ex., the spider of folk tales is called KaSillo; founding fathers of chiefdoms had the Ka in front of their names, KaYamba, KaKowa
Yama (v.): to return, to go back, to put back
Gama (v.) see Yama
Yogobe (adv.): an echomimetic meaning among other things: every which way, pell-mell, haphazardly
Ndake (n.): fellow, mate, comrade, man, peer, colleague. It’s used among men of the same age group, or an older man to younger one.
Ndovo (n.): toad
Gboniaya (n.): quandry, a headache, a complexe situation, a place of lamentation, a situation that could lead to grief
Gbonyeh (v.): to compain, murmur, bemoan
Kpulli (n.): knurl (on a tree)
Kputi (n.): tadpole
Bongloh (n.): tadpole, in the kpa-Mende dialect
Gona (v.): to report to, to present
Magona (v.): see Gona above
Komeh (v.): to meet, to accost, to approach
Komeh (n.): meeting, gathering, assembly, feast, festivities
– a girl’s name, one born during a festive season
Gomeh (v.): see Komeh above
Fiti fata (adv.): anyhow, any which way, disorderly, freely, willy-nilly
Kulii (n.): pen, coop, enclosure for bathing
Lato (v.): to praise, to acclaim, to glorify, to exalt. From la (mutation of nda, ndei): name + to: to raise, to lift up, to erect, to build up.
Bato (v.): to praise, to glorify. From Ba (respect, worth, honour, value)+ to (to raise, to lift up)
Bijeh (v.): to praise, to pay reverence (to)
Pennei (n): ringworm
Kanii (n.): precious or semi-precious metal, money. Kani-gboli (red metal) can refer to gold, brass and copper. Kani-goli (white metal) is silver.
Gbanda (n.) (gbandei): baldness (on top of the head and towards the back)
Yeleh (n.) (yelei): baldness (from the forehead towards the top of the head)
Gbasondeh (n.): tree frog
Mbaka (mbakei) (n.): a robust,coiled forest vine used as rope, accordion rope; accordion ( the name was applied to the accordion when the Mende came in contact with the instrument in the late 19th, early 20th centuries).
Kpavenja (adj.): rude, ill-mannered, vulgar, offensive
Hakeh (n.): curse, malediction
Haketo (n.): an excuse
Haketo (v.): to excuse, to pardon
Simalii (n.): fresh (new), very limpid palm oil
Gloh gboli (n.): palm oil, literally red oil
Gloh (n.): oil, fat, lard
Nda gloh (n.): palm kernel oil
Fakali (fakai) (n.): pawpaw (papaya)
Fakai (n.):, a small village, hamlet, a place of no significance
Sii (n.): tops
Tokpoh (n.): oil palm tree
Toma (n.): rank, standing, meaning, signification.
Ex: “Keh ti kpeleh ti loe toma hoe” -S. Koroma, Fishing for Our Father. (But indeed each one had a meaning unto itself
Popo (v.): to carry on the back, as with a baby, to ride piggyback
Pimeh (v.) to run
Wimeh (v.): see Pimeh above
Tomoh tomoh (adj.): lukewarm, tepid
Taotao (adj.): (of food) tasteless, bland, without flavour
Tava tava (adj.): rubbery (of food)
Kona (n.): axe (Konii, def.)
Kona (v.): to give a report, to account (for), to give an account (of), to answer
Gona (v.): see Kona above
Konigui (n.): centipede, literally “axe-head”
Ndondoh (n.): millipede
Kaa Londoh (n.): flat-backed millipede
Timi timii (n.): pins and needles, numbness
Dumbeh (n.): half-wit, moron
Kalii (n.): a hoe
Sondu (n.): imprecations, curse,
(v.):to wish harm on, to invoke malediction
Chondu (n.): see Sondu above
Sondo (v.): to tie (the mouth of a bag), to shut tight (as with a drawstring)
Chondo (v.): see Sondo above
Gowo (v., trans.): to take flight, to fly, to float (in the air)
Bubu (v., trans): to fly
Ndigbi (n.): heel
Ngombi (n.): knee; also a proper noun, a man’s name
Wombi (n.) see Ngombi above (consonant mutation)
Vovoh (n., indef.; vovoi, is the definite form of the noun): lungs, bellows
Ndo (n., indef.): child, descendant (ndui, def. noun)
Lo/Lui (indef def. nouns when consonant mutation occurs): child/ the child
Lenga (n.): children, descendants, lineage, offspring. (There’re two chiefdoms in the Bo District with “Lenga” in their names: (a) Niawa Lenga (or Nyawa Lenga), Scions of Nyawa, and (b) Selenga, Scions of Sei)
Kekeh (n.): father
Keh (n.): dad
Nkeh (n., kpa-Mende): dad
Keh (v.): to show, to demonstrate, to illustrate; to instruct, to teach
Kaa (v.): to teach, to instruct; to learn
Gaa (v.): see Kaa above
Kamoh (n.): teacher, master
Kaalopo (indef., n.): pupil, learner, student (kalopoei/kaalupui, def.)
Beh (pronounced be-eh; pronoun intensifier): self. Example: Nyabeh, tabeh, tiabeh, muabeh– myself, him/herself, themselves, ourselves
Beh (pronounced beh; adj.): fitting, becoming, appropriate, well-suited
(v.): to fit, to suit.
Daon (adj.): bright, shiny
Temui (n.): a dwarfish mythical being that lives in the forest.
Ndogbo Joso/Ndogbo yoso (n.): a mythical forest being that leads solitary walkers astray, with the intent to change them from their human form and to keep them as slaves. (Ndogbo Joso means “Magician of the Bush”).
Kalikonjo (n.): a mythical forest being
Kenji (n.): the seed of the raffia palm
Kenjigulo (n.): a venomous snake, colour of the kenji.
Kayi (adj.): rust, rusty, rusted
Nenemoh (n.): spy, literally “shadow-person.”
Naa (n.): now, presently, at this moment
Miji (n.): needle
Fande (n.): thread
Tikpoh (n.): walking stick, cane
Kenneh (n.): edge, (along the) length.
Eg. “Ngi hinteh woh Teye ma; ngi loe kenneh ma, ngi leffoh a Teye na” ( I then came upon the Teye River; I went along its length, upstream that Teye I went.”) — Salia Koroma, Fishing for our Father
(adj.): sharp (blade)
Mamani (adj.): vain, conceited, proud, arrogant, stuck-up
(n.): vanity, pride, arrogance, conceit
Bomuko (n.): dove
Hoke (n.): guinea fowl
Nunni (n.): otter
Mayigande (n.): sharp dresser, clotheshorse, dandy. From Mayi, to dress, + Gande (mutated from Kande), to befuddle, to dazzle
Kokobiyoko/Kokobioko (n.): abracadabra, hocus-pocus
Hele/Hilli (n.): elephant
Ndamba (n.): crocodile
Panda (adv.): well, completely, fully, carefully
Langa (n.): insolence, defiance, impertinence, disrespect
(adj.): mischievous, miscreant, cheeky
Ngomani/Ngomeni (n.): obedience, dutifulness
(adj.): respectful, obedient, faithful, dutiful
Patui (n.): journey, travel, adventure, aimless travel. The origin is from colonial-era administrative English, patrol, a quasi-military excursion undertaken by a district commissioner to tour the area under his jurisdiction. It must have seemed aimless.
Bamande (n.): bell
Bekkeh (n., indef.): palm grub, larva of the rhinoceros beetle
Samba (v.): to give a gift, to give a present
Chamba or Jamba (v.): see Samba above
Sambei (n.): a gift, a present
Samba (n., indef.): basket
Sambo (v.): to shame, to dishonour, to disgrace
Jambo (v.): see Sambo above. (Consonant mutation has occured here)
Semeh (n.): an open-sided house, meeting house, courthouse
Ndokoh (n.): pillar, column, post, joist
Lohkoh (n.): see Ndokoh above; its mutated form
Semmeh Lokkoh: a nosey parker, a newsmonger. Literally, a meeting house post, but it’s meant in its figurative usage to mean a gossip. This expression refers to a tattler, as the pillar is humorously thought of as hearing all sorts of talks that go on in the semmeh, and that if it could talk, it would pass on any unverifiable news.
Sao (proper n.): name given to the first born of twins
Jinna (proper n.): name given to the second born of twins
Gbessay (proper n.): name of a child born after twins
Jekeh (indef. n.): a rattle (jekei, def. noun)
Nde (v.): to play, to beat, to hit
Le (v.): see Nde above
Feh (v.): to play (a wind instrument), to blow. ” Numu hokpa ta bulu le keh feh wati a hiti beh” = A nose is a trumpet but a time comes to blow/play it, Mende saying
Hama (n.): rainy season (Hamei)
Ngelevo (n.): dry season (Ngelevui)
Ngevo/ Ngevui : See Ngelevo/Ngelevui above. Shortened forms, used in everyday speech.
Ngele (n.): sky, the heavens
Ngelegohun (n.): heaven
Ngelebu (Ngebu) (n.): the earth, on earth, literally, ‘under the heavens,’ the world
Ngelebu Hinda (n.): the ways of the world, all that is manifest on earth
Ngewo (n.): God the creator, God.
Lehve (n.): God, the ancient word for God in the Mende creation myth.
Penipeni (adj.): sharp, pointed end.
Pepi (Pepe, koh-Mende dialect)(n.): tiny shrimp, usually used as an uncountable noun. Pepi are usually allowed to go high and used as flavouring in cooking.
Weniweni (v., adv.):to stream out, streaming
Wojuwoju (v., adv.): to stream forth, streaming out
Woji (n.): pudenda
Woji (adj.): lewd, lascivious, horny, lecherous;
Wojigbeh (v.): to whore about, to fornicate, to have sex, to sleep around
Wojigbemoh (adj.): a promiscuous person, philanderer. Literally, “one-who-chases- pudenda.”
Tewi (n.): bush cow, the reddish short-horned West African buffalo
Tupu (n.): Sierra Leone/Liberian forest (West African) puff adder, extremely venomous. (Tupui, def. noun)
Tewutewi (adj.): from the word Tewi, to describe cassava that doesn’t become soft when it’s cooked and is reddish in hue. This would happen to cassava roots that have remained too long in the ground beyond their harvesting time. Can also be referred to as Tewu langay
Totonyo (n., adj.): wrinkles, wrinkled
Toh (n.): good name, repute, reputation, fame
Tohwa (n.): great fame, great renown, great acclaim
Towama (n.): “place of great renown” (the name of a village in the Tikonko Chiefdom, the site of a former Teachers’ Training College, now one of the constituent colleges of Njala University).
Tumbu (n): a dwarf
Lumbe (v.): to rebuke (someone) loudly, to slam, to bellow, to roar (sea), rumble (thunder)
Kpawo (n.):an unmarried man or woman, a bachelor, a single
Kpawoya (n.): the state of being a single
Seneo (n.): congratulations, a congratulatory expression, well done
Jegunle (n.): albino (Jengui is the form used in normal every day speech)
Fe (n.): pot, bowl, jar
Ve (n.): See Fe above
Tawa Ve (n.): tobacco pipe (Tave is the informal, every day speech form)
Tawa (n.): tobacco
Haku (n.): tortoise (Hakui, def. noun)
Hainjo (n.): a recent graduate from the Sande or Poro
Togbeh (n.): mate, fellow, compeer, colleague (Only used among men who graduated from the Poro Society in the same cohort).
Togbeh (n.): young, immature (as it applies to animals). Ex., Nika logbeh =young cow, calf
Logbeh (Dogbeh, kpa-Mende): See the 2nd Togbeh above. (Consonant mutation).
Hunvo (v.): to go through, to escape, to go safely through, make one’s way from one end to the other (eg. “Te hun vo= go through a town”); experience, undergo
Jabeyia (n): innuendo, hint, an indirect coarse observation or biting talk (dropped in someone’s direction without specifically calling them by name but with enough information in it for the person to know that they’re the target). Jabeyiei (def. form)
Tondoh (n.): a large rat
Tondoh Mani (n.): rat trap
Totangi (n.): a trap to catch birds
Kibawo/Kibao (v): to dream
Kibawi/Kibaoi (n.): a dream
Henga (v.): dream
Hengawi/Hengaoi (n.): dream (Hengei)
Higboh (n.): a wasp that builds open nests
Jenjilo (n.): a large black spider
Silo (n.): spider (the generic name for spiders)
Jenjeh (n.): rubber tree, rubber obtained from the sap of the tree
Kabande (n.): miracle, a wonderful or curious thing
(adj.): miraculous, quirky, wild and out of sorts (behaviour)
Kpindiboh (n.): literally, “one who bores into darkness,” a person who roams the night, a nightwalker (with or without criminal intent; also, the term doesn’t necessarily have a moral judgement implied)
Kagbana (adj.): rascally, mischievous
Gbana (n.) rascal
Jiwi (n.): key
Kunda (n.): corner, nook
Kundei, def. form of noun Kunda. Ex., “Taa laye kundei na hun”= It’s in that corner
Kemu-kemu (n.): restlessness, dissatisfaction
Sogbeh (v.): to observe, to look at very closely, to note, to pay heed (to), to pay close attention (to)
Jogbeh (v.): see Sogbeh above
Jumbu (n.): sin, wickedness. (Jumbui: definte form of the noun)
Kpaleh (v.): to bemoan, to rue, to regret
Komi (n.): snot, nasal mucus
Kandi (n): a tree with a sugary-sour plum, called ‘monkey-apple tree’ in Krio. When used figuratively the Kandi (tree) in Mende represents fickleness, unreliability.
Kandi We (n.): fruit of the Kandi
Ligba (n.): the second highest official of the Sande society
Liho (n.): forebearance, tenacity, heart , long-suffering
Lindo (n.) bravery, courage (Lindui is the definite form of the noun)
Lilo (n.): bravery
Lombo (v.): to patch
Lomeh (adv.): quietly, silently, softly. The word is often replicated for extra emphasis. Ex.: “Nga jia lomeh lomeh ( I walk very softly, very quietly).”
Maga (v.): to dance to the time of music, to dance to a tune
Ka (v.): to dance
Make (n.): manners, civility
Makeh (v.): to raise, rear, to bring up, to tame (animals)
Makelo (v.): a ward, an adopted child
Makeveli (n.): ill-brought up (person or behaviour); Literally, ‘lacking manners.’
Makeveli (adj.): rude, uncivil, uncultured, ill-mannered. (From Make, ‘civility, manners’ + Felii, ‘privation, dearth, total lack .’)
Sangama (n.): tripod (of a loom). (def.: Sangamei)
Nini (n.): heddle. “Bi yegi kia nini wova” (Mende proverb)= You look like an old heddle, meaning: You’re as shabby-looking as a decrepit heddle.
Sema (n., indefinite): bamboo tree/cane, (Semi, def. )
Sabu (n.): (1) kindness, goodwill, benevolence
(2) wherewithal, means, ability (to extend kindness), finances
Kanu (v.): to wind (like a rope, thread), to go round, to depart or to turn from a straight line
(adj.): crooked, bent
Kabui (n.): grave, tomb
Kamba (n., indef.): grave, tomb (kambei, def.)
Kambajia/ Kambajehun (n.): graveyard, cemetery
Kamba (n.): clothing
Kalo (n., indef.): a bowl, a dish, a basin (kalui, def.)
Kimbui (bu) (n.): valley, bottom of a hill
Kimbo (n.): a cricket
Membu (n.): a small bird with a red head
Gbofio (n.): a small bird whose cry is said to channel the voice of spirits; figuratively, a gossip
Gboji (n): a plum with a spiky core, the tree of this plum
Pawa (n.): payment, reward, recompense, pay
(v.): to pay, to reward
Vole (v.): to whistle
Fole (n.): whistle
Hembei (n.): domain, kingdom, crown
So (n.): horse (Sui, def.)
Sande (n.): an all-female institution responsible for the various rites of passages of women in Mende society.
Sande Jowo (n.): the highest ranked official of the Sande. The term is also used loosely to embrace any woman who’s graduated from the Sande. (Sande Jowui, def.)
Sowo (n.): see Sande Jowo above. Leader. (Sowei, def.)
Sowo (n.): the spiritual essence of the Sande
Sowo (n.): the physical manifestation (mask, raffia and the wearer) of the spirit of Sande as it appears in public
Sande Mania (n.): the Sande Sisterhood, Women of the Sande, the full association in its membership
Mania (n., plur.): Women, grandmothers
Vonu (n.): last year
Pegba (n.): month (moon) that roughly corresponds to January
Vu (n.) the moon (month) that corresponds to February
Nanoi (n.): July
Pondo (n.): December
Saa (n.): September
Saa Ye (n.): September rain/ showers
Lugbu (n.): moon that corresponds to November
Lugbu (1: noun.): fog, mist
(2: adj.): misty, foggy
Mita (n.): spoon
Kpewo (n.): (1) wooden spoon used in cooking
(2): side stitch, side cramp
Miji (n.): Needle, a warrior rank in old Mende warfare. He was also called Hintemoh (the One-Who-Jumps-Down). He led an attack on a stockaded town, and every attack required only one miji.
Fande (n.): Thread, a warrior rank
Kanyei (n.): Wax, a warrior rank
Hakahomoi (n.): Ladder-holder, a warrior rank
Kokoyagbebla (n.): Drivers-from-the-stockade, a warrior rank
Koh Kugba (n.): warrior
Ngombu Hobla (n.): Bearers-of-Fire, a corps of warriors who engaged the fight at its hottest spot, they were in the midst of the battle
Gbamei (n.): Ordinary, the reserve/reinforcement
Koh Jukulisia (n.): War-Sparrows, young recruits who were usually carriers but who could be called upon to fight.
Koh Mahei (n.): War-chief, the general. The war-chiefs would participate in the fight only if things weren’t going according to plan.
Tiffa (n.): leaf
Mbaku (n.): weaver bird
Sukuli (n.): sparrow (sukui/sukii, informal, everyday speech)
Jemi/ Jemeko (n.): kingfisher
Kole (n.): snail
Fafa Kole (n.): soft-shelled snail
Kokoye/Kokoe (n.): pheasant, bush fowl
Kule (n.): lizard
Jaka kule (n.): agama lizard
Kpeni (n.): a type of lizard
Gissi/Giji gbeni (n.): skink, (literally Kissi lizard)
Dowui (n.): 1. duck; also a proper noun, a man’s name
2. (n.): a shy person
Simongama (n.): incest
Songba (v.): (1) to peck, to peck at
(2) to snatch
Tenjama (n): literally, “Crossing-the-Water.” In traditional Mende funeral rites, ceremony that was held three days or four days after burial ( 3= women/ 4= men). The soul of the departed was then believed to have crossed the river and was now at rest.
Teveh (adj.): thin and flat
Teveh Leveh (adj.): very thin and flat
Ita/Taa (cardinal): one
Haleyei (ordinal): first
Fele (card.): two
Feleyei/Yefele (ord.): second
Sawa (card.): three
Sawayei/ Yesawei (ord.): third
Naani (card.): four
Yenanigoi (ord.): fourth
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Tamaa (adj.): foolish, reckless, improvident
Tamaa hinda (n.): foolishness, recklessness, wastefulness, prodigal, prodigality, squandering, improvidence
Tamamoh (n.): foolish person, a fool, a wasteful person, a prodigal person
Tama-gbeh (v): waste time, squander time/opportunity,
Temu (v.): (in law) to decide a court case in favour of, to win a court decision, to be proved right, to have the justness of your claim upheld. (Lemu, when the word mutates)
Temu (v.): to plead, to solicit, to ask for forgiveness, to beseech
Konneh (adv.) please
Dayele (adv.): please, do please
Manuma (v.): to forgive, to grant pardon
Muamua (n.): the physical sensation felt before something that leaves one in awe and wonderment; dread, respect and consternation all rolled up in one.
Kitii 1.(n.): problem that’s particularly difficult to resolve, enigma, between a rock and a hard place, a vexatious issue
2. (v.): to perplex, to thwart, to be between a rock and a hard place
Kpato (n.): a riverine hardwood tree
Kimbo (n.): cricket (insect)
Kimbu (n.): valley, bottom of a hill
Kiimbo 1. (v.): to belch (mutates to Giimbo)
2 (n.): a belch, an eructation
Kpanya (adj.): coarse, rough (Kpanya kpanya: extremely coarse)
Kpeleh (n.): beard
Kpele-vanja 1. (adj): luxuriant beard
2. (n.) someone with a full luxuriant beard
Luva (v.): to spend the day in a place; to sojourn in a place for any number of days. (Wuva, mutated form)
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Wati (n.): time
Watigbi (adv.): always, all the time
Watiji (adv.): now, this time, at this time, at this instant
Watina (adv.): at that time, then, at that instant
Ha (n., adv. & adj.): today, present-day, now
Gboi (n. & adj.): yesterday
Sina (n. & adv.): tomorrow, the future, soon
Gbengi ( n. & adv.): yesterday, formerly, in the past, before now, way back, previously
Gboi-Yekei (noun phrase, past t.) : the day before yesterday, two days ago
Gbengi- Yekei (n. phrase): used to talk about an event/action anterior to another past event or action
Sina-Yekei (n. phrase): the day after tomorrow, in the future
Vonu (n. phrase): last year
Fuiji (n. phrase): this year, the current year
Folo (n.): day, sun, year (understood in Mende as the sun completing a full orbit round the sun) In the economy of speech, “Fo” is the norm; “Vo” is the mutated form of “fo.”
Fole (n.) (pronounced “foe/lay”): sun, day.
** It is also a proper noun, a man’s name (Most times, the ancient honorific “Ka” is added to give Kafole). ** For a female, it is “Mafole or “Mafo.”**
Kpindi (n.): night .
**(A male born at night can be christened “Kakpindi,” a female “Magbindi.”)**
Genda (n.): morning
**A proper noun for a male child born at dawn; for a female child, the equivalent name is “Magenda.”)**
Gelewo/ Gewo/**Ngewo/ Ngelewo (n.): dawn, break of day, (literally, “clearing or opening of the sky/heavens,” or “undarkening of the sky/heavens.”)
**The “n” in “Ngewo” is not really articulated separately from the “g.” The “g” is just slightly nasalised. The “N” (and the “M”) followed by another consonant is nothing more than a “visual” signal for the slightest of nasalisation in the Mende language.
Fitii (n.): dusk, twilight
Fitii Lave (n.): literally, “Dusk-full-to the-brim, complete twilight.” The briefest of time between dusk and complete darkness. E.g.: “Fitii yeh kinii lave ma, keh ngi ndia na ti ma…” : Dusk was about to turn to full night, it was then that I told them…”, Salia Koroma, Yohmei.
Kpohkoh (n.): 1. sunset, evening; 2. night, used in the expression “Mu kpohkoh: Good night.”
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Fissa (adj.): better, healthier, superior
(v.): to be better, to improve, to get better/stronger/healthier
Fesseh (v.): to scratch about (like a chicken), to dance, to shuffle
Sale (n.): proverb, parable, allegory
Tato (v.): to begin, to start
Tatoma (n.): beginning, start, origin, genesis
Kaja (n.): piassava fibre (Kajei= def. noun)
Biliya/ Bilii (n.): circumcision
He Biliya (v.): to circumcise
Danyeh (n.): Sierra Leonean freshwater gar. (Danyii/ danyei, def. noun)
Faji (n.): bucket
Hakoh (n.): hail, frost
Haleweleh (n.): hospital, clinic, “medicine house” (Haleweh, contracted, everyday Mende)
Hale (n.; halei/halii: def. n.) : 1) medicine, herbal medicine, drug (medication);
-2) the natural and mystical powers that are controlled by certain “Societies” called halesia (n., pl.). These associations are the Poro, the Sande, the Njaye, and the Humoi;
-3) each of the masquerades associated with the “halesia” in (2) is called a “hale” or “ngafa” (spirit); the masked dancers are a physical manifestation of the spirit and mystery of the “Medicine Society.” . The Krio word “debul,” (“devil”) doesn’t apply in Mende.
Hale (v.): to heal, to cure, to make whole again.
Hondoh ( num.; adj.) hundred
Hondoh Puu (num.; adj.): thousand (= ten hundreds)
Fonde (n.): asthma, difficult breathing
Fonde (v., transitive & intransitive): to choke (breathing), gag, gasp (for breath), throttle, asphyxiate. Salia Koroma was called (and referred to himself as) Mbaka-Vonde, The-One-who-throttles-an-accordion.)
Nimisa (n.): misfortune, destruction, ruin, damnation, extreme difficulty, severe judgement
Njahele (n.): hippopotamus