The Meaning of Mzungu

The term mzungu does not literally mean white person or European, as we had come to believe. Whilst drinking with our friend Mike Mboya (Mzee Mbu – Old Man of the Mosquitos) he explained the etymology of the term.

It seems that the first Europeans to appear in east africa had a habit of wandering around, often in circles. The swahili speakers of the region came up with a name for people who exhibit such behaviour – wazungukaji.

Over time the meaning and the ending of the word were lost, and we are left with wazungu, or the singular mzungu.

It still seems pretty fitting. Most Europeans in Africa wander around a lot. Look at me. I keep bloody fiddling with this web page, but not adding much content…


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