Ambiguous Swahili Words

There are a number of odd words in Swahili which have a number of quite disconnected meanings. As I’m studying Swahili, I found it useful (as well as interesting) to list some of the odder ones. Context really is everything here (*):

tikiti – ticket or melon
buibui – spider or veil
nyanya – tomato or grandmother
mto – pillow or river
shore – braid or nightingale

utambi – wick / stomach membrane
koo – throat / hen
mchanga – baby or very young / sand

kamba – rope, string or lobster / prawn
kunguru – crow or checked cloth
moshi – smoke or hooch
mzinga – beehive, cylinder, bottle of alcohol or cannon.
msala – prayer mat or toilet.

(*) Most of these are based on definitions from “Swahili Practical Dictionary” by Nicholas Awde.

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