D.R. of Congo: the richness of Lingala

Blogging from the Democratic Republic of Congo, John writes about the richness and complexity of Lingala: Then there’s the word “poto” which I think is “mpoto” in the classic Lingala (but that’s a whole other discussion…). It means Europe, but I’ve discovered that it also means the U.S. I haven’t probed too far into the meaning, but pretty much for the Congolese it means anywhere where the white people live. “Malili” is related to “moi” because it means both “cool” or “cold” (as in a cold beer, which is my most frequent use of it) and also “shade.”


  • Hey for some reason i thought the article would be longer, in any case doesn’t “moi” means the sun or the heat from the sun?

  • zaza mpolo

    poto is short for portugal since the first whites to arrive in the area were from portugal the native referred to any place white people live as poto short for portugal. Today it simply means the west>>

  • Neil

    Moi does mean sun, and malali means sick whereas the word for cool is literally translated as hot, not or moto te, though that may also be a word for cool (Nabosani yango). However, there are variations on the language as I learned in Rep of Congo, not DRC.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.