Swahili, also known by its native name Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and the native language of the Swahili people. It is a lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and other parts of East and Southern Africa, including Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, some parts of Malawi, Somalia, Zambia, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Comorian, spoken in the Comoros Islands, is sometimes considered a dialect of Swahili, although other authorities consider it a distinct language. Sixteen to twenty percent of Swahili vocabulary is Arabic loanwords, including the word swahili, from Arabic sawāḥilī (سَوَاحِلي, a plural adjectival form of an Arabic word meaning 'of the coast'). The Arabic loanwords date from the contacts of Arabian traders with the Bantu inhabitants of the east coast of Africa over many centuries. Under Arab trade influence, Swahili emerged as a lingua franca used by Arab traders and Bantu peoples of the East African Coast.
|Native to||mainly in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bajuni Islands (part of Somalia), Mozambique (mostly Mwani), Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Comoros, Mayotte, Zambia, Malawi, and Madagascar|
|Estimates range from 2 million (2003) to 18 million (2012)|
L2 speakers: 90 million (1991–2015)
Official language in
Regions where Swahili is the main language
Regions where Swahili is a second language
Regions where Swahili is an official language but not a majority native language
Regions where Swahili is a minority language
The exact number of Swahili speakers, be they native or second-language speakers, is unknown and is a matter of debate. Various estimates have been put forward, which vary widely, ranging from 50 million to 150 million. Swahili serves as a national language of the DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Shikomor, an official language in Comoros and also spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is closely related to Swahili. Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and of the Southern African Development Community. It is officially recognised as a lingua franca of the East African Community. In 2018, South Africa legalized the teaching of Swahili in South African schools as an optional subject to begin in 2020. Botswana followed in 2020, and Namibia plans to introduce the language as well.