Wolof language

Wolof is a language spoken in Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania. It belongs to the Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language family.

Wolof (Wolof)
Spoken in: Senegal, The Gambia, and rudimentary in Mauritania
Region: West Africa
Total speakers: 3.2 million (mother tongue)

3.5 million (second language)

Ranking: Not in top 100
Genetic classification: Niger-Congo
Official status
Official language of: no country (official language of Senegal is French, of The Gambia English)
Regulated by: CLAD (Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar)
Language codes
ISO 639-1wo
ISO 639-2wol
SILwol (Wolof); wof (Gambian Wolof)
See also: LanguageList of languages

Wolof is the most widely-spoken language in Senegal, spoken not only by members of the Wolof ethnic group (approximately 40% of the population) but also by most other Senegalese. Wolof dialects may also vary between countries (Senegal and The Gambia) and the rural and urban areas. "Dakar-Wolof", for instance, is an urban mixture of Wolof, French, Arabic and English spoken in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

Ebonics in the United States of America has been influenced by the Wolof language. (See also: African American Vernacular English). Some of these words have passed into more general usage, such as "hip" (from Wolof hipi, to see or be aware) and "dig" (from degg, to hear or understand). See hipster.

In older French publications the spelling "Ouolof" is often used instead of "Wolof". - The term "Wolof" may also refer to those who speak Wolof.


Spreading and Neighborhood of the Wolof Language

About 40% of Senegal's population (approximataly 3.2 million people) speak Wolof as mother tongue. An additional 40% of the population speak Wolof as second or acquired language. In the whole region from Dakar to Saint-Louis, and also west and southwest of Kaolack, Wolof is spoken by the vast majority of the people. In Senegal's west and in Senegal's part south of The Gambia (Bassari land, Casamance), Wolof is rarely used. The official language of Senegal is French.

In The Gambia, about 15% of the population (approximately 200 thousand people) speak Wolof. The official language of The Gambia is English. The dominating languages in The Gambia, Mandinka (40%), Wolof (15%) and Ful (15%), are also accepted as official language. In The Gambia's capital Banjul one person of two is Wolof.

In Mauritania, about 7% of the population (approximately 185 thousand people) speak Wolof. There, the language is used only around the southern coastal regions. Official language of Mauritania is Arabic; French is used as lingua franca.

The Most Important Phrases

Wolof English Literal translation into English
Salaamaalekum !
Response: Maalekum salaam !
Good day!
Response: Good day!
(Arabic) peace be with you
Response: with you be peace
Na nga def ? / Naka nga def ?
Response: Maa ngi fi rekk.
How do you do? / How are you doing?
Response: How do you do? / (Thanks) I am fine.
how you (already) do
Response: I here be (here) just
Ba beneen (yoon). Goodbye. until other (time)
jëre-jëf thanks / thank you -
waaw yes yes
déedéet no no
Fan la ... am ? Where is a ...? where is ... existing/having
Fan la fajkat am ? Where is a physician/doctor? where is heal-maker existing/having
Fan la ... nekk ? Where is the ...? where is ... be found
Fan la loppitaan bi nekk ? Where is the hospital? where is hospital the be found
Noo tudd ? / Nan nga tudd ?
Response: ... laa tudd.
What is your name?
Response: My name is ....
how you be called
Response: ... I be called


Special Characteristics of the Wolof Language

Pronoun Conjugation instead of Verbal Conjugation

Conjugation with Respect to Aspect instead of Tense

Action Verbs versus Static Verbs and Adjectives

Consonant Harmony

Missing Gender

5-Base Number System

Orthography and Pronunciation


Cardinal Numbers

The Wolof numeral system is based on the numbers "5" and "10".

0 zero / dara
1 benn
2 ñaar / yaar
3 ñett / ñatt / yett / yatt
4 ñeent / ñenent
5 juróom
6 juróom-benn
7 juróom-ñaar
8 juróom-ñett
9 juróom-ñeent
10 fukk
11 fukk ak benn
12 fukk ak ñaar
13 fukk ak ñett
14 fukk ak ñeent
15 fukk ak juróom
16 fukk ak juróom-benn
17 fukk ak juróom-ñaar
18 fukk ak juróom-ñett
19 fukk ak juróom-ñeent
20 ñaar-fukk
26 ñaar-fukk ak juróom-benn
30 ñett-fukk / fanweer
40 ñeent-fukk
50 juróom-fukk
60 juróom-benn-fukk
66 juróom-benn-fukk ak juróom-benn
70 juróom-ñaar-fukk
80 juróom-ñett-fukk
90 juróom-ñeent-fukk
100 téeméer
101 téeméer ak benn
106 téeméer ak juróom-benn
110 téeméer ak fukk
200 ñaar téeméer
300 ñett téeméer
400 ñeent téeméer
500 juróom téeméer
600 juróom-benn téeméer
700 juróom-ñaar téeméer
800 juróom-ñett téeméer
900 juróom-ñeent téeméer
1000 junni / junne
1100 junni ak téeméer
1600 junni ak juróom-benn téeméer
1945 junni ak juróom-ñeent téeméer ak ñeent-fukk ak juróom
1969 junni ak juróom-ñeent téeméer ak juróom-benn-fukk ak juróom-ñeent
2000 ñaar junni
3000 ñett junni
4000 ñeent junni
5000 juróom junni
6000 juróom-benn junni
7000 juróom-ñaar junni
8000 juróom-ñett junni
9000 juróom-ñeent junni
10000 fukk junni
100000 téeméer junni
1000000 tamndareet / million

Ordinal Numbers

Personal Pronouns

Temporal Pronouns

Conjugation of the Temporal Pronouns

Situative (Presentative) Terminative Objektive Processive (Explicative)
Perfektive Imperfektive Perfektive Imperfektive Perfektive Imperfektive Perfektive Imperfektive
1st Person singular maa ngi maa ngiy naa dinaa laa laay dama damay
2nd Person singular yaa ngi yaa ngiy nga dinga nga ngay danga dangay
3rd Person singular mu ngi mu ngiy na dina la lay dafa dafay
1st Person plural nu ngi nu ngiy nanu dinanu lanu lanuy danu danuy
2nd Person plural yéena ngi yéena ngiy ngeen dingeen ngeen ngeen di dangeen dangeeny
3rd Person plural ñu ngi ñu ngiy nañu dinañu lañu lañuy dañu dañuy


  • Michael Franke: Kauderwelsch, Wolof für den Senegal - Wort für Wort. Reise Know-How Verlag, Bielefeld 2002 ISBN 3-89416-280-5
  • Jean-Léopold Diouf, Marina Yaguello: J'apprends le Wolof - Damay jàng wolof (1 textbook with 4 audio cassettes). Karthala, Paris 1991 ISBN 2-86537-287-1
  • Arame Fal, Rosine Santos, Jean Léonce Doneux: Dictionnaire wolof-français (suivi d'un index français-wolof). Karthala, Paris, 1990, ISBN 2-86537-233-2
  • Michel Malherbe, Cheikh Sall: Parlons Wolof - Langue et culture. L'Harmattan, Paris 1989, ISBN 2-7384-0383-2
  • Jean-Léopold Diouf: Grammaire du wolof contemporain. Karthala, Paris 2003, ISBN 2-8458-6267-9

External links


bg:Волоф de:Wolof (Sprache) fr:Langue wolof fi:Wolofin kieli


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