|Native to||DRC (Kongo Central), Angola, Republic of the Congo, Gabon.|
|(c. 6.5 million cited 1982–2012)|
5 million L2 speakers in DRC (perhaps Kituba)
Official language in
|National language and unofficial language: |
Map of the area where Kongo and Kituba are spoken, Kituba as a lingua franca. Kisikongo (also called Kisansala by some authors) is the Kikongo spoken in Mbanza Kongo.
|The Kongo language|
|Person||muKongo, muisiKongo, nKongo, musiKongo|
|People||baKongo, bisi Kongo, besi Kongo, esiKongo, aKongo|
Kongo or Kikongo is one of the Bantu languages spoken by the Kongo people living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Angola. It is a tonal language. It was spoken by many of those who were taken from the region and sold as slaves in the Americas. For this reason, while Kongo still is spoken in the above-mentioned countries, creolized forms of the language are found in ritual speech of Afro-American religions, especially in Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It is also one of the sources of the Gullah language and the Palenquero creole in Colombia. The vast majority of present-day speakers live in Africa. There are roughly seven million native speakers of Kongo, with perhaps two million more who use it as a second language. It is related to the Lingala, Kimbundu and Luba-Kasai languages.
Kongo was the language of the Kingdom of Kongo prior to the creation of Angola by the Portuguese Crown in 1575 and the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) that balkanized the rest of the kingdom into three territories, which are now parts of the DRC (Kongo Central and Bandundu), the Republic of the Congo and Gabon.
Kikongo is the base for the Creole language Kituba, also called Kikongo de l'État and Kikongo ya Leta (French and Kituba respectively for "Kikongo of the state administration" or "Kikongo of the State"). The constitution of the Republic of the Congo uses the name Kituba, and the one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo uses the term Kikongo, while Kituba (i.e. Kikongo ya Leta) is used in the administration. This can be explained by the fact that Kikongo ya Leta is often mistakenly called Kikongo (i.e. KiNtandu, KiManianga, KiNdibu, etc.).
Kikongo and Kituba are spoken in:
Many African slaves transported in the Atlantic slave trade spoke Kikongo, and its influence can be seen in many creole languages in the diaspora, such as:
Prior to the Berlin Conference, the people called themselves "Bisi Kongo" (plural) and "Mwisi Kongo" (singular); currently, they call themselves "Bakongo" (pl.) and "Mukongo" (sing.).
At present there is no standard orthography of Kikongo, with a variety in use in written literature, mostly newspapers, pamphlets and a few books.
Kongo was the earliest Bantu language which was committed to writing in Latin characters and had the earliest dictionary of any Bantu language. A catechism was produced under the authority of Diogo Gomes, a Jesuit born in Kongo of Portuguese parents in 1557, but no version of it exists today.
In 1624, Mateus Cardoso, another Portuguese Jesuit, edited and published a Kongo translation of the Portuguese catechism of Marcos Jorge. The preface informs us that the translation was done by Kongo teachers from São Salvador (modern Mbanza Kongo) and was probably partially the work of Félix do Espírito Santo (also a Kongo).
The dictionary was written in about 1648 for the use of Capuchin missionaries and the principal author was Manuel Robredo, a secular priest from Kongo (who became a Capuchin as Francisco de São Salvador). In the back of this dictionary is found a sermon of two pages written only in Kongo. The dictionary has some 10,000 words.
Additional dictionaries were created by French missionaries to the Loango coast in the 1780s, and a word list was published by Bernardo da Canecattim in 1805.
Baptist missionaries who arrived in Kongo in 1879 developed a modern orthography of the language.
W. Holman Bentley's Dictionary and Grammar of the Kongo Language was published in 1887. In the preface, Bentley gave credit to Nlemvo, an African, for his assistance, and described "the methods he used to compile the dictionary, which included sorting and correcting 25,000 slips of paper containing words and their definitions." Eventually W. Holman Bentley with the special assistance of João Lemvo produced a complete Christian Bible in 1905.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has published a translation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Fiote.
Kikongo belongs to the Bantu language family.
According to Malcolm Guthrie, Kikongo is in the language group H10, the Kongo languages. Other languages in the same group include Bembe (H11). Ethnologue 16 counts Ndingi (H14) and Mboka (H15) as dialects of Kongo, though it acknowledges they may be distinct languages.
According to Bastin, Coupez and Man's classification (Tervuren) which is more recent and precise than that of Guthrie on Kikongo, the language has the following dialects:
NB: Kisikongo is not the protolanguage of the Kongo language cluster. Not all varieties of Kikongo are mutually intelligible (for example, 1. Civili is better understood by Kiyombe- and Iwoyo-speakers than by Kisikongo- or Kimanianga-speakers; 2. Kimanianga is better understood by Kikongo of Boko and Kintandu-speakers than by Civili or Iwoyo-speakers).
|Nasal||m /m/||n /n/||ng /ŋ/|
|Plosive||voiceless||p /p/||t /t/||k /k/|
|prenasal voiceless||mp /ᵐp/||nt /ⁿt/||nk /ᵑk/|
|voiced||b /b/||d /d/||(g /ɡ/)1|
|prenasal voiced||mb /ᵐb/||nd /ⁿd/|
|Fricative||voiceless||f /f/||s /s/|
|prenasal voiceless||mf /ᶬf/||ns /ⁿs/|
|voiced||v /v/||z /z/|
|prenasal voiced||mv /ᶬv/||nz /ⁿz/|
|Approximant||w /w/||l /l/||y /j/|
|High||i /i/||u /u/|
|Mid||e /e/||o /o/|
There is contrastive vowel length. /m/ and /n/ also have syllabic variants, which contrast with prenasalized consonants.
Kikongo has a system of 18 noun classes in which nouns are classified according to noun prefixes. Most of the classes go in pairs (singular and plural) except for the locative and infinitive classes which do not admit plurals.           
|1||mu-, n-||humans||muntu/muuntu/mutu/muutu (person, human)|
|2||ba-, wa-, a-||plural form of the class 1…||bantu/baantu/batu/baatu/wantu/antu (people, humans,)|
|3||mu-, n-||various: plants, inanimate…||muti/nti/m'ti (tree)|
|4||mi-, n-, i-||plural form of the class 3…||miti/minti/inti (trees)|
|5||di-, li-||various: body parts, vegetables...||didezo/lideso/lidezu/didezu (bean)|
|6||ma-||various : liquids, plural form of the class 5…||madezo/medeso/madeso/madezu (beans), maza/maamba/mamba/maampa/nlangu/masi/masa (water)|
|7||ki-, ci (tchi/tshi) -, tsi (ti) -, i-||various: language, inanimate…||kikongo/cikongo/tsikongo/ikongo (kongo language), kikuku/cikuuku/tsikûku (kitchen)|
|8||bi-, i-, yi-, u-||plural form of the class 7…||bikuku/bikuuku/bikûku (kitchens)|
|9||Ø-, n-, m-, yi-, i-||various: animals, pets, artefacts…||nzo (house), ngulu (pig)|
|10||Ø-, n-, m-, si-, zi-||plural form of the classes 9, 11…||si nzo/zi nzo/zinzo (houses), si ngulu/zi ngulu/zingulu (pigs)|
|11||lu-||various: animals, artefacts, sites, attitudes, qualities, feeling…||lulendo (pride), lupangu/lupaangu (plot of land)|
|13||tu-||plural form of the classes 7 11…||tupangu/tupaangu (plots of land)|
|14||bu-, wu-||various: artefacts, sites, attitudes, qualities…||bumolo/bubolo (laziness)|
|15||ku-, u-||infinitives||kutuba/kutub'/utuba (to speak), kutanga/kutaangë/utanga (to read)|
|15a||ku-||body parts…||kulu (foot), koko/kooko (hand)|
|6||ma-||plural form of the class 15a…||malu (foots), moko/mooko (hands)|
|4||mi-||plural form of the class 15a…||miooko/mioko(hands)|
|16||va-, ga- (ha-), fa-||locatives (proximal, exact)||va nzo (near the house), fa (on, over), ga/ha (on), va (on)|
|17||ku-||locatives (distal, approximate)||ku vata (in the village), kuna (over there)|
|18||mu-||locatives (interior)||mu nzo (in the house)|
|19||fi-, mua/mwa-||diminutives||fi nzo (small house)|
NB: Noun prefixes may or may not change from one Kikongo variant to another (e.g. class 7: the noun prefix ci is used in civili, iwoyo or ciladi (lari) and the noun prefix ki is used in kisikongo, kiyombe, kizombo, kimanianga,…).
|Yandi||He or she|
|Kima||It (for an object / an aminal / a thing , examples: a table, a knife,...)|
|Yeto / Beto||We|
|Yeno / Beno||You|
|Yawu / Bawu (or Bau)||They|
|Bima||They (for objects / animals / things, examples: tables, knives,...)|
NB: Not all variants of Kikongo have completely the same personal pronouns and when conjugating verbs, the personal pronouns become stressed pronouns (see below and/or the references posted).
Conjugating the verb (mpanga in Kikongo) to be (kuena or kuwena; also kuba or kukala in Kikongo) in the present:
|(Mono) ngiena / Mono ngina||(Me), I am|
|(Ngeye) wena / Ngeye wina||(You), you are|
|(Yandi) wena / Yandi kena||(Him / Her), he or she is|
|(Kima) kiena||(It), it is (for an object / an animal / a thing, examples: a table, a knife,...)|
|(Beto) tuena / Yeto tuina||(Us), we are|
|(Beno) luena / Yeno luina||(You), you are|
|(Bawu) bena / Yawu bena||(Them), they are|
|(Bima) biena||(Them), they are (for objects / animals / things, examples: tables, knives,...)|
Conjugating the verb (mpanga in Kikongo) to have (kuvua in Kikongo; also kuba na or kukala ye) in the present :
|(Mono) mvuidi||(Me), I have|
|(Ngeye) vuidi||(You), you have|
|(Yandi) vuidi||(Him / Her), he or she has|
|(Beto) tuvuidi||(Us), we have|
|(Beno) luvuidi||(You), you have|
|(Bawu) bavuidi||(Them), they have|
NB: In Kikongo, the conjugation of a tense to different persons is done by changing verbal prefixes (highlighted in bold). These verbal prefixes are also personal pronouns. However, not all variants of Kikongo have completely the same verbal prefixes and the same verbs (cf. the references posted). The ksludotique site uses several variants of Kikongo (kimanianga,...).
|kiambote, yenge (kiaku, kieno) / mbot'aku / mbotieno (mboti'eno) / mbote zeno / mbote / mboti / mboto / bueke / buekanu ||hello, good morning|
|malafu, malavu||alcoholic drink|
|ntoto, mutoto, m'toto||soil, floor, ground, Earth|
|nsi, tsi, si||country, province, region|
|vata (ou vata), gata (here the letter g can also be pronounce r), divata, digata, dihata, diɣata, bwala (or buala), bwal' (or bwalë), bula, hata, ɣata||village|
|mavata, magata (here the letter g can also be pronounce r), mahata, maɣata, mala, maala||villages|
|zulu, yulu, yilu||sky, top, above|
|maza, masa, mamba, masi, nlangu, mazi, maampa||water|
|tiya, mbasu, mbawu||fire|
|makaya||leaves (example : hemp leaves)|
|bakala, yakala||man, husband|
|nkento, mukento, m'kento, nkiento, ncyento, nciento, ntchiento, ntchientu, ntchetu, ncetu, nceetu, m’cyetu, m’kyêtu, mukietu, mukêtu||woman|
|mukazi, m'kazi, nkazi, nkasi, mukasi||spouse (wife)|
|mulumi, m'lumi, nnuni||spouse (husband)|
|muana (or mwana) ndumba, ndumba||young girl, single young woman|
|nkumbu / zina / li zina / dizina / ligina ||name|
|kudia, kudya, kulia, kulya||to eat|
|kukovola, kukofola, kukofula, kukôla, kukosula||to cough|
|kuvana, kugana (here the letter g can also be pronounce r), kuhana, kuɣana||to give|
|nzola, zola, luzolo, luzolu||love|
|kutanga, kutaangë||to read|
|kusoneka, kusonikë, kusonika, kutina||to write|
|kuvova, kuta, kuzonza, kutuba, kutub', kugoga, kuɣoɣa, utuba||to say, to speak, to talk, to tell|
|kuzola, kutsolo, uzola||to love|
|ntangu||time, sun, hour|
|kuseva, kusega, kuseɣa, kuseha, kusefa, kusefë, kuseya||to laugh|
|lufua, lufwa||the death|
|yi ku zolele / i ku zolele  / ngeye nzolele / ni ku zololo (or ni ku zolele) (Ladi) / minu i ku zoleze (Ibinda) / mi ya ku zola (Vili) / minu i ku tidi (Cabindan Yombe) / mê nge nzololo (or mê nge nzolele) (Ladi) / minu i ku zoleze (Cabindan Woyo) / minu i ba ku zola (Linji, Linge) / mi be ku zol' (or mi be ku zolë) (Vili) / me ni ku tiri (Beembe) / minu i ku tili||i love you|
|Days of the week in English||Kisikongo and Kizombo||Congolese
||Ladi (Lari)||Vili||Ibinda||Ntandu||Kisingombe and Kimanianga|
|Monday||Kyamosi||Un'tône||Buduka / Nsila (N'sila) / M'tsila||Un'tône||Tchikunda||Kintete||Kiamonde / Kiantete|
|Tuesday||Kyazole||N'silu||Nkênge||N'silu||Tchimuali / Tchimwali||Kinzole||Kianzole|
|Saturday||Kyasabala||Sab'l||Tsaba / Saba / Sabala||Sab'l||Tchisabala||Sabala||Kiasabala|
|Sunday||Kyalumingu||Lumingu||Lumîngu / Nsona||Lumingu||Tchilumingu||Lumingu||Kialumingu|
|Numbers 1 to 10 in English||Kisikongo and Kizombo||Ladi (Lari)||Ntandu||Solongo||Yombe||Beembe||Vili||Kisingombe and Kimanianga||Ibinda|
|One||Mosi||Mosi||Mosi||Kosi||Mosi||Mosi||Muek' / Mesi||Mosi||Mueka / Tchimueka|
|Two||Zole||Zole||Zole||Zole||Wadi||Boolo / Biole||Wali||Zole||Wali|
|Three||Tatu||Tatu||Tatu||Tatu||Tatu||Tatu / Bitatu||Tatu||Tatu||Tatu|
|Four||Ya||Ya||Ya||Ya||Ya||Na / Bina||Na||Ya||Na|
|Five||Tanu||Tanu||Tanu||Atanu||Tanu||Taanu / Bitane||Tanu||Tanu||Tanu|
|Six||Sambanu||Sambanu||Sambanu||Nsambanu||Sambanu||Saambanu / Saamunu / Samne||Samunu||Sambanu||Sambanu|
|Seven||Nsambuadi (Nsambwadi) / Nsambuadia (Nsambwadia)||Nsambuadi (Nsambwadi)||Sambuadi (Sambwadi)||Nsambaadi||Tsambuadi (Tsambwadi)||Tsambe||Sambuali (Sambwali)||Nsambuadi (Nsambwadi)||Sambuali (Sambwali)|
|Eight||Nana||Nana / Mpoomo / Mpuomô||Nana||Nana||Dinana||Mpoomo||Nana||Nana||Nana|
|Nine||Vua (Vwa) / Vue (Vwe)||Vua (Vwa)||Vua (Vwa)||Vua (Vwa)||Divua (Divwa)||Wa||Vua (Vwa)||Vua (Vwa)||Vua (Vwa)|
|Ten||Kumi||Kumi||Kumi / Kumi dimosi||Kumi||Dikumi||Kumi||Kumi||Kumi||Kumi|
In addition, the roller coaster Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Tampa, Florida gets its name from the Kongo word for "roar".
According to Filomão CUBOLA, article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Fiote translates to: