Entries explained


  1. Lexical entries

The lexical entries consist of Téké words listed in alphabetical order. However, the verbs are presented according to the first letter of the radical (i.e. without the prefix of the infinitive o), to avoid having all verbs under the letter o. E.g.:

            To find ofiri, look for –firi under F.                                              To find ogwa, look for –gwa under G.

Whenever the reader encounters a hyphen in front of a lexical entry, they knows it is a verb.


  1. Homographs

When a lexical entry is followed by a small subscript number, it is a homograph. Two homographs are two words that are spelled the same way, but have two different meanings. They may or may not have identical pronunciation. E.g.:

            bie₁ [bie]: esp. of fish

            bie₂ [bie]: baldness.

            -tala₁ [-tala]: 1) read, 2) count

            -tala[-tála]: 1) look, observe, 2) verify

In the case of bie, the two words are pronounced identically. But the word -tala has two different pronunciations (tone patterns). (See: 4. phonetic transcription below)


  1. Variants of pronunciation (Var:)

The dictionary notes pronunciation variants, or dialectal variants, directly after the main lexical entry. E.g.:

-koŋono (Var: -koono) crawl, crawl

mu kuulu (Var: kuulu) since, because, because

These variants are also listed separately (unless the difference between the two words is minimal), referring the reader to the main entry.


  1. Phonetic transcription

The phonetic transcription in square brackets follows each lexical entry and its possible variant. Any acute accent (á) over a vowel indicates a high tone, and the absence of an accent indicates either a low tone or a tone that can change depending on the context of the sentence. (The final vowel of words is often swallowed in speech, making it difficult to clearly identify the tone on that vowel). e.g.:


mukpere [mukpɛ́rɛ́] machette nka [ŋká] antilope
me          [mɛ]           moi -nama [-nama] suivre, obéir


  1. The plural and the past

The plural form (Pl:) of the name is indicated in brackets after the phonetic transcription. For verbs, the past tense conjugation (Past:) is given. E.g.:

nka [ŋká] (Pl.: banka) antelope

-wa [-wá]. (Past: -wi) to give


  1. The origin of the word (Orig:)

When a lexical entry is a borrowing from another language that has been incorporated into the Teke language, we indicate which other language it is. E.g.:

lipaapa Orig: lingala. sandal.



  1. The grammatical category

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


  1. Nominal classes

Téké has 11 noun classes (1 to 10 and 14) which are grouped into pairs (or genders) of prefixes indicating the singular and the plural (cf. Wesche 1994). The two digits separated by a slash indicate first the singular class number, then the plural class number. E.g.:

mbvuru (Pl: baara) n 1/2 </em >a person

The table below shows the main genres with their class prefixes. The majority of human beings are gender 1/2.



Gender (class pair) Class prefixes Examples (sg/pl) French
1/2 mu-






3/4 mu-






5/6 li-




banana bananas
5/10 li-






7/8 e-






9/6 N-




house houses
14/6 bu-






There are a few irregular pairs that don't carry the typical prefixes of their class, or that find their plural in a different class. e.g. :

7/4 kwulu/myili foot(s)</em >

7/4 kwogho/myaã hand(s)


There are also non-countable, abstract or invariable nouns that do not have both singular and plural forms. They are found in different classes, depending on their prefixes. Liquids are mostly in class 6. Ex.:

edzuunu n 7 peace budziri n 14 respect
dzyi n 5 love lifuru n 5 dust
madza n 6 water maala n 6 oil
enkulu n 7 sorrel ensama n 7 sleep
nkehe n 9 anger nzala n 9 hungry
budzwa n 14 shame bwomo n 14 fear

The prefixes of variable verbs and adjectives are determined by the class of the noun which is their subject or which they qualify. Each nominal class also has its distinct demonstrative, possessive and relative pronoun.


  1. The French definition

The meaning of the word téké is given in French by its direct equivalent or by a short description, if there is no direct equivalent. E.g.:

bie [biɛ] Pl: mabie n 5/6 1) baldness 2) fish esp


  1. The senses additional 1), 2), 3)...

A word can have several meanings, always in the same semantic domain. The reader will find these related and sometimes figurative meanings of the lexical entry, introduced by a number 1), 2), 3), etc. E.g.:

ebu 1) skin (human)

2) bark, skin, shell (of a tree, fruit, peanut)

-dza 1) eat

2)kill mystically


  1. The Illustrative Phrase

The illustrative sentence in téké (and its French translation) shows how the lexical entry works in a sentence, in relation to the meaning given. Each additional meaning can have an illustrative phrase. E.g.:

eloõ [ɛlɔ́ɔ̃] (var: eloŋo) Pl: biloõ n7/8< strong> medicine Ka dzimini nsimi o mu oŋma beloõ bi we nkonkolo yi. Don't forget to take your meds tonight.

busu [busú] Pl: masu n14/6 face, face Lyele mwana ayaswagha busu bu-nde nsomo apala. Ask the child to wash his face before he leaves.

dzyi [dzji:] n5 1) love Nzaami li dzyi. God is love. 2) will Nzaami dzyi baara bwoghono ba baakasa dzyi li nde. God loves all who do his will.


  1. Synonyms and antonyms (Syn:, Ant:)

The synonyms and antonyms of the lexical entry are found after the French translation of the illustrative phrase. Synonyms are preceded by Syn:. and antonyms of the mention Ant:. Each additional meaning can have synonyms and antonyms. E.g.:

mbaala friend Syn: nganda friend</p >

courage Ant: bwomo< /strong> fear


  1. The subentry: derivation or idiomatic expression

Tabbing introduces subentries, which are words derived from the lexical entry (e.g.: a noun derived from a verb), and especially phrases or idioms that combine other words.

Each subentry starts on a new line and is written in bold, like the main entry. E.g.:

-sa-[sá] (past: -si) v do

-sa bungaa loc v performing fetishism< /p>

-sa kana loc v trust, believe

-sa mabala loc v get married</ p>

-sa mabuo ŋa nsie loc v kneel</strong >

-sa mamfwunuloc v 1)whisper 2) confer< /strong>

-sa magyele loc v be careful, be careful</strong >