boogie, jumbo, mojo

Last week, when I was in Liverpool, I had a couple hours to spare. I went to the Albert Dock and, quite by chance, wandered into the International Slavery Museum. I am not a museum-goer, but believe me, this one is excellent, small and free!

In one of the rooms, I noticed a small section dedicated to some English words of West African origin. Here are the three that I’ve remembered:

  • boogie — perhaps from Kongo mbugi “devilishly good”
  • jumbo — possibly from a word for “elephant” in a West African language
  • mojo — a magic charm or spell, similar to Fulani moco’o “medicine man”

Wikipedia lists some more music-related words of African origin:

  • banjo – probably Bantu mbanza
  • bongo – West African boungu
  • conga
  • fandango
  • jazz – from West African languages (Mandinka jasi, Temne yas)
  • jive – possibly from Wolof jev
  • juke – possibly from Wolof and Bambara dzug through Gullah
  • mambo – meaning “conversation with the gods” in Kikongo
  • marimba – from Bantu (Kimbundu and Swahili marimba, malimba)
  • merengue – possibly from Fulani
  • samba – possibly from Kikongo word semba
  • tango – probably from Ibibio tamgu