East African English

Learn more about personal annual subscriptions to the OED


The OED’s coverage of East African English includes the varieties of English spoken in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, three countries which share a common Anglophone background despite their differing colonial histories.

The forms of English spoken in modern East Africa are […] complex to describe, heavily influenced by a speaker’s formal education and their occupation (impacting the necessity they have for speaking English). Some speakers will be native English speakers, though fewer than in Southern or West Africa, while most will speak it as a second language.

Sociolinguistically, the East African nations differ as to the status of Kiswahili and the changes in the official status of English since independence in the 1960s. It is also difficult to establish knowledge and use of English across the region in the absence of reliable data. Attitudinally, it is only in pronunciation that there is widespread acceptance of deviation from British English, with acceptance of Standard English syntax and grammar spoken with African accents. Yet African forms differ from the British ‘standard’ for a variety of reasons, including interference from the local native language, general language learning strategies, and written English exposure.

Excerpt taken from Pronunciation model: East African English

East African English words recently recorded in the OED

See the full list of East African English words most recently added to the OED here.

The words shown in the list above are free to view. Click on links above to view these words, or explore further using the advanced search (learn how to search the OED here).

Subscribe to the OED newsletter

Additional resources

Submit an East African English word to the OED

Use the submissions form below to suggest an East African English word for inclusion in the OED:

World Englishes

  • E.g. Philippine English, Hong Kong English, Ugandan English
  • e.g. bammy, skinship, bunny hug
  • e.g. an informal social gathering, a street vendor
  • If you would like to, you can also add a pronunciation transcription here, or there is the option to add a sound file below.
  • Add a file to demonstrate how this word is pronounced.
    Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: mp4, mp4, wav, aac, flac.

East African English editors and consultants

The OED works in partnership with external experts from or in East Africa to ensure that our entries for East African English words draw from local knowledge and expertise and reflect the everyday reality and distinctive identity of the East African English-speaking community.

East African English pronunciation

View the OED’s pronunciation model and key to pronunciation for East African English. 

East African English resources: from the OED blog

The vocabulary of East African English is characterized not just by loan words, but also by lexical innovations based on English elements, several of which have now made their way into the OED. They include words formed through suffixation, such as unprocedural (1929)‘irregular, illegal’;through clipping, like collabo (2008) ‘especially of musicians: to collaborate’; and through compounding, such as deskmate (1850) ‘a person who sits next to another at school’. Some English words also have meanings specific to the region. In East African English, the noun tarmac (1982)is also used as a verb meaning ‘to walk the streets looking for work; to job hunt’. A person who is pressed (1958) needs to go to the bathroom, while a stage (1965) is a bus stop or a taxi rank.

Excerpt taken from OED blog post, ‘Release notes: East African English’


For further information and support, visit our help page, or contact us.