Maasai phrases (and a few nouns and verbs)

Are you going to Kenya or Tanzania? If so, it is worth learning a few Maasai phrases. This is just a taster of the Maasai language, known as Kimaasai or Maa. We are trying to aquire the basics of everyday conversation: to greet people civilly, to be able to get on the right matatu bus and buy food at the market.
We wanted to include some sort of grammatical structure but this is proving difficult. Our Maasai friends have been endlessly patient and helpful but none have both fluent English and a nerdy love of grammar. Spellings vary depending on who you ask and we can’t seem to find user-friendly written language guides. So far we have managed to bag a few verbs, with a few example phrases. We hope to add more with each visit to Kenya, so watch this space.

Please help: if there are any Kimaasai speakers out there who can help improve this, add to it or suggest a good phrase or grammar book, we would love to hear from you. You can add comments to the end.

Finally, on your return back home, how about supporting the work we are doing with the Maasai people, subscribe to our newsletter to join us on facebook.

Making conversation and other social niceties

English                                             Kimaasai                        pronounced
hello                                                 sopa                                 sop ah
hello all                                            enda sopa pooki               endah sopah pookey
thank you very much                         ashe oleng                     ashay ohleng
very nice/tasty                                 si dai oleng                      see die ohleng
Are you tired?                                  etanaure?                        etahnah oray
yes                                                   ayeh                                iee
no                                                     ah ah                               a a
are you happy?                                  ishipa?                            eesheepah
I’m happy                                          kashipa                           kahsheepah
are you ill?                                        imuy?                              imooee
I’m ill                                                 kamuyoi                          kahmooee
repeat                                                inkila                               inkeelah
please                                                kaomon                           kah oh mon
where are you going                          kagi eiloito?                     kahgee isle oh ee toh
where are we going                           kahgee kipoito?               kahgee keep oh ee toh
see you again                                   tutaonana                          tootah oh nahnah
goodbye                                           ole sere                              olay sehray
see you all again                              tutawanana tena                tootah wa nanna  taynah
sorry (my sympathies)                      pole                                  polay
I like                                                   kanyorr                            canyour
Let’s go                                              mmape                           mm mar pay
I don’t know                                       ma yolo                            mar yolo
come!                                                  wou!                              woo oo
give me                                               inchoki                            inchokee
what did you do today?                      kainyo duo itaasa?         Ki in yo doo oh ee ta a sa

stress the first syllable for all the following

English                                                kimaasai                                 pronounced
one                                                     nabo                                       nahboh
two                                                     hare                                       ahray
three                                                  uni                                          oonee
four                                                   onguan                                     ongwan
five                                                    imiet                                       imee et
six                                                      ele                                          ehlay
seven                                                nabishana                              nahbeeshana
eight                                                  isiet                                         ees ee et
nine                                                    nando                                       nando ( o as in ‘hot’)
ten                                                     tomon                                       tohmon
eleven                                                tomon obo                                (o as in ‘hot’)
twelve                                                tomon hare                                tohmon ahray
twenty                                                tikitam                                     tik ee tam

See here for a video of Maasai counting, including the finger signals used to indicate numbers

Telling the time Maasai style
The clock starts ticking at sunrise, which is always 6am. Therefore, at one hour after sunrise (7am) it is one after dawn: saa nabo

7.00am saa nabo
8.00 saa hare
9.00 saa uni

and so on until
6.00pm  saa tomon hare endepa  (endepa = evening)
7:00pm  saa nabo endepa
8:00 pm saa hare endepa

A dictionary of sorts


children – enkerai
father – papai
grandfather – nkoko
grandmother – kakukira -grandmother – teacher f
mother – mama
sponsors – eretoto
teacher – olmalimui (m)
teacher – emalimui (f)

kcanisa – church
hill/mountain – oldonyio
house – enkaji
huts (in a group) – manyatta
home – nyumbani
river -oreyiet
shop – olduka
well (for water) – kashanga

cup – enkikompe
capattis – imukateni
doughnuts – ormandazi
mango – ormaembei
meat – inkiri
potatoes – ingwashen
rice – ormushele
saucepan – emoti
water – enkare

Odds and sods
car – engari
money – kumok
saa – time
work – esiyai
yesterday – ngole

cat – epuus Enderoni – rat
cow – enkiteng
camel – entamis
Enker – sheep
dog – oldia
donkey – osikiria
gazelle – enkoili
giraffe – ormeut
goat – entari
leopard – olowuaru
lion – olgatuny
zebra – oloitiko


Verb to eat
Simple present
ainosa – I eat                          eg ainosa emukate – I eat bread
inosa – you eat                             inosa inkiri? – do you eat meat?
einosa – he/she eats                     inosa oleng endaa – He eats a lot of food
kinosa – we eat                            kinosa kinya tenakata endaa –
einosa – they eat                         einosa imenya e taata endaa – they don’t eat food today

Simple past – we don’t yet have a table for this.
It can be expressed by using the present tense plus and a word such as ‘yesterday’

ainosa ngole endaa – I ate food yesterday
inosa irmatinda tadekenya? (translation to follow)
einosa ngole oleng endaa – he ate a lot of food yesterday
kinosa endaa kewarie tenebo – we ate food last night together
Eitu eanya endaa oleng tenkata olsme  – they didn’t eat much food during the drought
(Eitu is the negative of einosa)

Simple future
Nanya – I will eat
Inya – you will eat
Izenya – he/she will eat
Eikinya – we will eat
Ekenya – they will eat

Tenaitoki           alotu    enkai   kata     nanya       endaa    e      Kenya
When I come     again    next    time    I will eat   food      of     Kenya

inya aitobiraki tenilo England – you will eat well when you go to England
eikinya aitobiraki tenekewarie – we will eat well this evening
ekenya imukateni tenkewane – they will eat chapattis tonight

Present continuous
kainosita – I am eating
inosita – you are eating
keinosita – he/she is eating
eikinosita – we are eating
(imeinosita – they are not eating)
einosita – they are eating

Eg imatumoki amu kainosita endaa – I am unable to because I am eating food
kainyoo inosita – what are you eating
keinosita ormaembei – she is eating a mango
eikinosia ingwashen – we are eating potatoes

Imeinosita                    tenebo        oyiook         endaa
They are not eating      (together)      with us        (food)

inosa! – eat!

kayieu nenya – I want to eat
kainyoo nenya – you want to eat
ekeiyieu nenya – he/she wants to eat
ekiiyieu nikinya – we want to eat
ekeiyieu nenya – they want to eat

kayieu nenya ormushele – I want to eat rice
kayieu naaku olmalimui –I want to be a teacher
kainyoo iyieu ninya? – what do you want to eat?
ekeiyieu nenya ormandazi – he wants to eat doughnuts
ekiiyieu iyiook nikinya irmosor – they want to eat eggs together
ekeiyieu nenya tanakata – they want to eat now

Verb to be
Simple present
aaku/kara – I am
iva- you are
kera he/she is
aikira – we are
kera – they are

kera olmalimui – he is a teacher
kera olekenya – he is a Kenyan
kera emalimui – she is a teacher
kera enekenya – she is a Kenyan
kera inkera sidain – they are good children

Simple past
Katii – I was                               eg katii ngole ine – I was there yesterday
Itii – you were
Ketii – he/she was
Eikitii – we were
Ketii – they were

Simple future
Kaaku – I will be
Iyaku – you will be
Keaku – he/she will be
Eikiaku – we will be
Keaku – they will be

Kaaku tikitam ookuni taisere – I will be twenty three
Iyaku olanyani le England – (translation to follow)

Verb to buy
Simple Present
kainyangu – I buy
inyangu – you buy
keinyangu – he/she buys
aikinyangu – we buy
keinyangu – they buy

Present continuous
Kagira ainyangu – I am buying

Kayieu nainyangu – I want to buy

Verb to want
Simple present
kayieu – I want
(translation to follow) – you want
keyieu – he/she wants
ekiiyieu – we want
(translation to follow) – they want

kayieu naaku olmalimui – I want to be a teacher

Verb to do
Simple present
kaasita – I do
iyaasita – you do
keyasita – he/she does
kiasita – we do
keyasita – they do

kaasita esiyai – I am doing my work
iyaasita esiyai olchamba – I do the gardening
keyasita esiyai kashanga – we work on the well
kiyasita tenebo olmbaa kumok – we do many things together
keyasita tenebo esiyai  agi – they do housework together

Simple past
ataasa – I did
itaasa – you did
ainyo – he/she did
kitaasa – we did
etaasa – they did

ataasa ngole esiyiai – I did something yesterday
kainyo duo itaasa – what did you do today?
ainyo petoasa? – why did he do it?
kitaasa ngole esiyai – we did work yesterday
etaasa esiyai endama pooki – we did work the whole day

Simple future – same as present tense.

kaasita embaye etipat tiaatua enkishue ai – I will do something important in my life.
embaye – something
etipat – important
tiaatua – in
enkishue – life
ai – my

kanyo iyasita toata kewarie? – what will you do this evening?
kiyasita taisere imbaa kumok – tomorrow we will do many things
keyaisho edia nkai weki esiyai kashanga –  they will work on the well next week
edia nkai weki – next week
kanyo iyasita tata? – what are you going to do today?

taasa! – do it!

Verb to go (this verb is used to indicate movement and future action)
Simple present
kalo – I go
ilo – you go
kelo – he/she goes
eikipuo – we go
kepuo – they go

kalo sukuul enaake – I go to school every day
ilo kanisa enaake – you go to church every day
kelo olduka kila jumatatu – she goes to the shop every Monday
eikipuo kanisa kila jumapili – we go to church every sunday
kepuo enkare katitin a ate wiki – they go for water twice a week
kagi eiloito? – where are you going?
kagi kipoito? – where are we going?

Simple past
ashomo – I went
ishomo – you went
eshomo – he/she went
kishomo – we went
eshomoita – they went

ishomo kanisa enkai jumapili – I went to church every Sunday
eshomo olduka enka jumatatu – I went to the shop every Monday
kishomo oldonyo – we went to the hill/mountain
eshomoita oveyret – they went to the river/lake

Simple future – same as present

kalo ang – I will go home
ilo kanisa jumapili? – will you go to church on Sunday?
kelo olduka? – will you go to the shop?
eikipuo kiserian taisere – we will go to Kiserian …….
kepuo ang tenda wiki – they will go home next week
eikipuo ang England tenda wiki – we will go to England next week
kalo aisuja – I will go to wash
kalo anya endaa – I will eat food

Present continuous
kagira alo/kaloito – I am going
igira alo/iloito – you are going
kegira alo/keloito – he/she is going
ekigira  aapuo/ekipuito – we are going
ekigira aapuo/kepuito – they are going

shomo! – go!
Enchom! – go (pl)

kayieu nalo  – I want to go
iyieu nilo – you want to go
keyieu nelo – he/she wants to go
ekiiyieu nikipuo – we want to go
(translation to follow) – they want to go


kayieu nalo anya endaa – I want to go to eat food
mayieu nelo ninye – I don’t want her to go

Verb to have
Simple present
kaata – I have
iata – you have
keeta – he/she has
ekiata – we have
(translation to follow) – they have
meeta – they don’t have


kaata inkera are – I have two children
iata inkera? – do you have children?
keeta enkaji sidai – he/she has a nice house
ekiata endaa sapuk – we have a lot of food

Examples of the negative – verb to have
meeta endaa sapuk – they don’t have a lot of food
maata inkera – I don’t have children
kainyoo pee miata inkera? – why don’t you have children?
metai eretoto, pole – we don’t have sponsors, sorry

Imperfect (used to). Use present tense


kaata apa engari or kaata oshi engari  – I used to have a car
iata apa impisai kumok? – did you used to have a lot of money?
keeta apa papai lino – he used to have a father
ekiata apa esaa sapuk – we used to have a lot of time
imeeta apa impisai kumok – they didn’t used to have a lot of money

Odds and sods

kanyorr – I like
oisum – I teach

kagol nanu – I am strong
kashal nanu – I am weak
kegol ninye – he is strong
keshal ninye – he is weak

kara nanu olmalimui oshal – I’m a weak teacher (m)
kara nanu emalimui nashal – I’m a weak teacher (f)
kara nanu olmalimui ngen – I’m an intelligent teacher
ngeno – intelligent

kara nanu ngen – I’m intelligent
ira ngen – you are intelligent
ira iyie ngen – he is intelligent
irara ngeni – they are intelligent

kamoda nanu – I am foolish
imoda iyie – you are foolish
kemoda ninye – he/she is foolish
imodada intai – we are foolish
aikimoda iyiook – they are foolish

irurayu! – sleep!

atasekuo duo sukuul – I came to school early
aata duo entumo oo ntoio – today I had a meeting with parents

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