Temne words and phrases

Temne is spoken by the Temne, who make up about 30% of the population of Sierra Leone. The mainly hail from the country's Northern Province and have a rich culture and history. A famous Temne Chief Bai Bureh launched a rebellion against the British in 1898, this was as a result of overtaxation of his people. Some basic Temne words and their translations follow.

NOTE: The writing system used here is the recommended orthography used in schools and colleges in Sierra Leone. The orthography uses phonetic symbols for some vowel sounds in Temne.

An important thing to note is that each symbol represents ONE and only ONE sound, and each sound is represented by only ONE symbol. The vowel sounds are usually the problem. Below is a guide to the pronunciation of the vowels of Temne.

1. ɛ as in English ‘bed.’

2. e as in English ‘day’

3. ɔ as in English ‘cot’

4. ʌ as in English ‘cut’

5. ə as in English ‘among’

6. o as in English ‘bowl’ or ‘boat’

7. u as in English ‘fool’

8. I as in English ‘seat’

Also, the velar nasal sound, ŋ , as in English ‘King,’ is used in Krio ‘fulɔp piŋ’ (full to the brim), and in Temne ‘kʌ lɛŋ’ ( to grow grey hair).

English Temne
Afternoon rəyaŋ
Alcohol mʌber
Bar/Pub ʌŋ ba
Bargain fɔf mɔlɔ
Beard ʌ kek
Be careful yɔ kəthɛgbɛ
Bed kʌ fənt
Biscuit/Cookies kʌ biskit
Blind fith
Bobby / Cop ɔ polis
Bonnet / Hood ʌŋ bɔnɛt
Boy wath runi/wanth uruni
Rubbish
yathri
Braids mʌ ru
Bread kʌ bo
Bus ʌŋ bɔs/podapoda
Candy/Sweet kʌ swit
Car ʌŋ lɔri
Child ɔ wath
Diarohea/Dysentry ʌŋ runt
Roundabout ʌŋ tɔntebul
Coconut kʌ gbara
Cross Roads/ Junction ʌŋ yɔnksɔn
Door kʌ dare
Drunk kʌ tis
Dust bin / Trash can ʌŋ muru
Ear ʌŋ ləns
Enough beki
Excuse me kʌbʌri mi
Finish kʌ poŋ
Flip Flops/Slippers ɛ afbak
Food da rədi
Friend ɔ yathki
Gas / Petrol ʌŋ pɛntrol
Out in the open
gberkethe
Determined
gbakanda
Girl wath bɛra
Good Bye ɔwa
Grill ʌŋ kolpɔt
Happy ɔ bɔnɛ (mi)
Head tie/Head band ʌŋ gbasa
Hello sɛkɛ
Help me mar mi/der nu
House ʌŋ seth
How are you? To pɛ mu-a?
How do I? to mɛ ?
How much does it cost? mɔlɔ-a ?
How old are you? mɔlc təren əŋ ba-a ?
Hurry Up bʌsər
I am fine min yenki
I am full min nʌmrʌ
I am going home I kɔnɛ ro seth
I am going to XYZ I ti/tə kɔ ro XYZ
I am on my way I yi rə roŋ
I am sorry I nɛmthɛnɛ
I am XYZ / My name is XYZ minɛ yi XYZ
I don't have I bayɛ
I know I tʌrʌ
I'd like to go to XYZ I yema kɔ ro XYZ
I'll be back I tə kʌl der
Leave me alone tey mi/gbɛpɛ mi
Man wanduni
Market ro yɔpɔwa
Maybe ʌ lɔkɔ lɔm
Medication ʌŋ tɔl
Money ʌŋ kala
Mosquito ʌŋ mis
Mouth kʌ səŋ
Neighbour ɔwe sə fʌtʌnɛ-e
Night rʌ fɔy
Onions kʌ yaba
Orange Fruit ʌŋ lemre
Outside ro kaŋ
Peanut mʌ kʌntər
Please mari
Plenty gbʌthi
Poor mɔnɛ
Power outage ʌŋ sum
Provinces ro gbaŋ
Rich yola/rʌ yola
Sand kʌ sənt
Shoe ʌŋ kɔftha
Shop/Store ro shɔp/ro səthor
Shout/Yell sɔnkɔ
Sit down yirʌ
Snacks ʌ kɔnyɛ
Sneakers / Trainers ɛ krep
Soda/Pop/Soft drink ʌŋ sɔf dərink
Stand up təmʌ/yokanɛ
Stop tey
Street ʌŋ trit
Tailor ɔ thela
Take me go kerʌ mi
Tap ʌŋ pɔmp
Taxi / Cab ʌŋ taksi
Thank You mʌmo
Thief ɔ key
Today thonɔŋ
Tommorow ninʌŋ
Trader ɔ tread
Tree ʌ kənt
Trouser ɛ yankra
Trunk / Boot ʌŋ but
Uniform for a special function ɛ ashɔbi
Upset bansʌ
Walk kɔth
Water ʌ mʌnt
What are you doing? ko mʌŋ yɔ-a ?
What? ko-a ?/ko rəka-a ?
What's your name? ŋes ʌmu-a ?
When ʌ lɔkɔ-a ?
Window ʌŋ winda/kʌ fenk
Woman wunibom

Download Basic Krio and Temne Vocabulary as compiled by Sheikh Umar Kamarah.

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