Nigerian English

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Introduction

Nigeria, a country in West Africa, is the most populous Black country in the world, with an estimated population of nearly 220 million people. A former British colony until 1960, Nigeria is one of the six countries that make up English-speaking West Africa (the others being Ghana, The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and a part of Cameroon). With an estimated 53% of Nigerians speaking a form of English, Nigeria is one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world.

In Nigeria, English is a co-official language alongside three other indigenous languages: Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. However, this is only in principle because, in practice, English is used as the sole official language in almost all official contexts, including governance, education, mass media, law courts etc. Even though the vast majority of English speakers in Nigeria use it as a second language, there is now a growing number of young Nigerians who speak Nigerian English as a first language.

Excerpt taken from the OED blog post, ‘Introduction to Nigerian English’ by Dr Kingsley Ugwuanyi, which explores the history and current status and linguistic features of English in Nigeria

Nigerian English words recently recorded in the OED 

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

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Additional resources

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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
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Nigerian English editors and consultants

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

Nigerian English pronunciation

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

Nigerian English resources: from the OED blog

One particularly interesting set of such loanwords and coinages has to do with Nigerian street food. The word buka, borrowed from Hausa and Yoruba and first attested in 1972, refers to a roadside restaurant or street stall that sells local fare at low prices. Another term for such eating places first evidenced in 1980 is bukateria, which adds to buka the –teria ending from the word cafeteria. An even more creative synonym is mama put, from 1979, which comes from the way that customers usually order food in a buka: they say ‘Mama, put…’ to the woman running the stall, and indicate the dish they want. The word later became a generic name for the female food vendors themselves—Nobel Prize-winning Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka notably includes a Mama Put character in one of his works.

Excerpt taken from OED blog post, ‘Release notes: Nigerian English

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