Entries explained


  • Lexical entries

The lexical entries consist of Bongili words which are listed in this dictionary in alphabetical order. By following this order, compound consonants are not considered separate or separate letters.

The lexical entries of verbs only constitute their stems preceded by a hyphen to indicate that a prefix has been removed at this place. This is done in order to avoid a very long list of words beginning with bo- (the verb infinitive prefix). The reader will therefore have to look for a verb by considering the initial of the radical as the first letter.


  • Homographs

Homographs are words with different meanings that have the same spelling. In this dictionary, homographs are indicated by a numerical index (1, 2, 3, …). However, the difference in tones is indicated in the phonetic transcription. But, when the pronunciation is the same, all the meanings of the word are grouped together in the same lexical entry and each meaning is indicated by a numbering (1), 2), 3) …).

Example :

shango1 [ʃáŋgó]: father

shango2 [ʃaŋgo]: new


  • Phonetic transcription

Phonetic transcription indicates the pronunciation of the lexical entry. It is placed just after this entry. In the phonetic transcription the tones are indicated: the high tone by an acute accent on a vowel and the low tone is not marked. Nevertheless, the tone is not marked on the vowel of the prefix, nor on the final vowel of the verbs, because the tone on these vowels is variable according to the context of the sentence.


ekokolo [ekókóló]: shell, bark

boshango [boʃáŋgó]: paternal side, paternity


  • Variations of pronunciation (var: )

Pronunciation variants are the pronunciations of the same word attested in the language, either for the same variety or for another variety. In this dictionary we find the pronunciation variants in parentheses, just after the phonetic realization of the main entry. These pronunciation variants do not constitute entries in their own right.


akpi [akpí] (var:akwi): other, others


  • The plural and the past tense

The abbreviation Pl: indicates the plural of the noun. This mark is placed just after the phonetic realization of the main entrance. When a word has a variant, it is placed after the variant. The form of the verb conjugated in the past is indicated by (past: ...) and is placed just after the phonetic realization.


mbwandé [mbwándé] Pl: bambwande

-lobe [-lobed] (past: -loba) v to speak

  • The origin of the word

Word origin refers to the original language or etymology of the word. When a word is a loanword, the language of origin is indicated.


katini [katíni] (French orig.): bucket, canteen


  • The grammatical category

The grammatical category of the lexical entry is indicated: noun (n), verb (v), adjective (adj), adverb (adv), verb phrase (loc v) , nominal phrase (loc n) etc. See the “List of abbreviations used in this dictionary”.


  • Nominal classes

Bongili has twelve noun classes with prefixes that form binary oppositions. Each class of the singular is opposed to another of the plural. (The numbers 1, 2, 3 etc. refer to the noun class system devised by Malcolm Guthrie and others to describe all Bantu languages.) Both numbers which come just after the grammatical category and which are separated by a slash denote first the singular class number, then the plural class number.

Example :

itɔnɔ (Pl: matɔnɔ) n 5/6 pepper


The table below shows the different binary genres. Most human nouns and animal nouns beginning with a nasal are placed in gender 1/2. The symbol ø represents the zero prefix, which means that the nominal is not visibly prefixed, but the prefix is ​​implied.


Binary Genders Class prefixes Examples (sing./plur.) French
1/2 mo-, ø-/ba- mokoto  bakoto

kyema  bakyema



3/4 mo-, mu-/mi- mongaku  mingaku

muna        mina

canne à sucre


3/10 mo-/ ø- moshangu  shangu aubergine
5/6 i-,di-/ma- itwe        matwe

dyango    mango



7/8 e-/bi- eshemba  bishemba termitière
9/6 ø-/ma- ndumu  mandumu tam-tam
14/6 bo-/ma- bwato        mato pirogue


In this dictionary we find the following class pairs:

1/2, 3/4, 3/10, 5/6, 7/8, 9/6and 14/6

These are the main genders.

However, there are also a few rare nouns that form irregular pairs. These are the gender pairs:

5/4       dinɔ/minɔ                   dent(s)

7/6       ekolo/makolo             pied(s)

9/2       njanga/banjanga       camp(s)

9/10     ninga/ninga                taille(s)

14/2     bola/babola                ainé(s)


Some nouns do not fit into any binary opposition. These are the "mass nouns" (they often consist of the nouns of liquids and belong to class 6, e.g. water, malongo blood, matɛ saliva... ) and "specifics" (abstract class 14 nouns, e.g. bomɛmɛ stupidity, bolengi intelligence, boshuma gluttony...)


  • The French definition

The meanings of Bongili words are given in French by their direct equivalents. If there is no direct equivalent, then a short descriptive sentence of the word that constitutes the Bongili entry is given.


kala [kalá] Pl: bakala n 1/2 1) species of tree whose sap is very bitter 2) very bitter bark of the kala tree, used for the preparation of certain herbal teas


  • Additional senses

Additional meaning refers to cognate or figurative meanings of the lexical entry. They are indicated in this dictionary by numbering 1), 2), 3) etc.


molimo [molímo] Pl: milimo n 3/4 1) spirit, soul 2) trance, ecstasy


  • The illustrative phrase

The illustrative sentence shows how the lexical entry can be used in a sentence. Additional senses may have a particular or different use than the main sense.



1 brave, courageous Bana ba badyi bakuli. These children are brave.

2 tough, uncompromising, obstinate: Batita ba badyi bakuli mayɛlɛ twa. These old men are very uncompromising.


  • Synonyms and antonyms

Synonyms and antonyms of the lexical entry are found after the French translation of the illustrative phrase. Synonyms are preceded by syn: and antonyms by ant:. Each additional meaning can have synonyms and antonyms.


-yɛnɛ see, watch syn: -tsheke 

bomwɛ life ant: bowe

  • Subentries

Subentries are either words that are derived from a lexical entry or phrases that contain the lexical entry. In this dictionary, subentries start on a new line and are in bold.


Mwana [mwána] Pl: bana n 1/2 1) (human) biological child, son, daughter

Mwana a bole     young boy

            Mwana a mwato young girl

            Mwana a shuka   last son, last daughter