Counting in Swahili
Swahili (Kiswahili) is a Bantu language from the Niger-Congo family. Spoken in the Mozambique Channel area, it is the national language of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Comoros (as Comorian), and it is also spoken in Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mayotte, Mozambique, Oman, Rwanda, and Somalia, where it counts about 5 million first language speakers, and 30 million second language speakers.
Due to lack of data, we can only count accurately up to 100,000 in Swahili. Please contact me if you can help me counting up from that limit.
Swahili numbers list
- 1 – moja
- 2 – mbili
- 3 – tatu
- 4 – nne
- 5 – tano
- 6 – sita
- 7 – saba
- 8 – nane
- 9 – tisa
- 10 – kumi
- 11 – kumi na moja
- 12 – kumi na mbili
- 13 – kumi na tatu
- 14 – kumi na nne
- 15 – kumi na tano
- 16 – kumi na sita
- 17 – kumi na saba
- 18 – kumi na nane
- 19 – kumi na tisa
- 20 – ishirini
- 30 – thelathini
- 40 – arobaini
- 50 – hamsini
- 60 – sitini
- 70 – sabini
- 80 – themanini
- 90 – tisini
- 100 – mia moja
- 1,000 – elfu moja
- one hundred thousand – laki
Swahili numbering rules
Now that you’ve had a gist of the most useful numbers, let’s move to the writing rules for the tens, the compound numbers, and why not the hundreds, the thousands and beyond (if possible).
- Digits and numbers from one to nine are specific words, namely moja , mbili , tatu , nne , tano , sita , saba , nane , and tisa . Only the digits from one (moja) to five (tano), as well as eight (nane) agree with the name class, the others being invariable.
- The tens are kumi , ishirini , thelathini , arobaini , hamsini , sitini , sabini , themanini , and tisini .
- Compound numbers are formed by saying the ten, then the coordinator na (and), and the unit (e.g.: thelathini na tatu , themanini na mbili ).
- Hundreds are formed by setting the multiplier digit after the word for hundred (mia): mia moja , mia mbili , mia tatu , mia nne , mia tano , mia sita , mia saba , mia nane , and mia tisa . When compound, the one multiplier in one hundred is not said (e.g.: mia na moja , mia na kumi na moja ).
- Thousands are formed the same way as hundreds, i.e. by setting the multiplier digit after the word for thousand (elfu): elfu moja [1,000], elfu mbili [2,000], elfu tatu [3,000], elfu nne [4,000], elfu tano [5,000], elfu sita [6,000], elfu saba [7,000], elfu nane [8,000], and elfu tisa [9,000]. One hundred thousand is laki [100,000].
- Each group of numbers is linked to the others with na (and), tens and units, but also hundreds and tens, thousands and hundreds… (e.g.: mia tatu na moja , mia sita na hamsini na sita , elfu moja na mia nne na thelathini [1,430]).
- One million is milioni moja.
Write a number in full in Swahili
Let’s move now to the practice of the numbering rules in Swahili. Will you guess how to write a number in full? Enter a number and try to write it down in your head, or maybe on a piece of paper, before displaying the result.
Learn Swahili - Word Power 101
editors Innovative Language (2011)
Teach Yourself Complete Swahili
by Joan Russell, editors Teach Yourself Books (2010)
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by Nicholas Awde, editors UniversityHippocrene Books (2000)
Swahili: A Foundation for Speaking, Reading, and Writing
by Thomas Hinnebusch & Sarah Mirza, editors University Press Of America (1998)
by Githiora Chege, editors El Colegio de México (2002)
Parlons swahili : langue et culture
by Ariel Crozon, editors L’Harmattan (1992)
Other supported languages
As the other currently supported languages are too numerous to list extensively here, please select a language from the full list of supported languages.