10 Most Googled Sheng Words By Kenyans And What They Mean

Sheng is a Swahili and English-based cant...

10 Most Googled Sheng Words By Kenyans And What They Mean
A woman looking at her phone. /FILE

Google on Wednesday, January 25 released data regarding the 10 most searched Sheng words by Kenyans using the search engine.

Sheng is a Swahili and English-based cant, perhaps a mixed language or creole, originating among the urban youth of Nairobi, Kenya, and influenced by many of the languages spoken there.

At the same time, Google announced the winners of the #SearchInSheng campaign and #KwaheriOpenVerseChallenge, which saw Kenyan rappers create their own version of the hit song Kwaheri Remix.

Buruklyn Boyz and Google team up to showcase the most used Sheng words on Google Search. /FILE

Google provided data on the top 10 most used sheng words on the platform and challenged rappers to create an original verse that incorporates the top 10 sheng words in the lyrics.

The words include; Mbwakni, Mbogi, Rieng, Dem, Rada, Saseni, Omoka, Dere ,Chwani and Mabeshte.

The song that kicked off the #OpenVerseChallenge was a collaboration between Hip Hop group Burukyln Boyz and music producer Kagwe Mungai, who was commissioned by Google to co-create the song using the top 10 most used sheng words on Search.

This Kwaheri Remix is an adaptation of the Kenyan classic Kwaheri, which was originally released in 2008 by Jua Cali and Sanaipei Tande under Calif Records.

An #OpenVerseChallenge is a social media trend that allows upcoming artists to showcase their skills and by creating their own version of a viral song. The winners of the challenge were Shalom Charles Kianga (Spinx_Mafia), Mwongeli Mutuku and Brian Mawira Mbae (Ma_wira).

The #SearchInSheng campaign was inspired by new research from Google which shows that Kenyan Hip Hop culture could be behind the increase of sheng words on the platform. The data also reveals that the top 10 most used Sheng mainly originates from Hip Hop lyrics and youth culture.

“Participating in the Search in Sheng project was exciting because sheng is like our primary language! Seeing a brand like Google recognise the power of sheng and Kenyan Hip Hop is amazing.“ said Burukyln Boyz.

“As with any slang, sheng words evolve and change every day but thanks to our improvements in AI, Google Search can quickly return helpful information no matter how new the word is to local slang. It is also exciting to see how Google Search is contributing to Kenya’s Hip Hop culture," Sharon Machira, Communications and Public Affairs Manager in Kenya, stated in a press release.

The word "Sheng" is coined from the two languages that are mainly derived from Swahili and English. The "h" was included from the middle of "Swahili because "Seng" would have sounded unusual.

The term was first recorded in 1965, with origins tracing back to the early 1950s in the Eastlands area of Nairobi (variously described as a "slum", "ghetto" or "suburb"). It is now heard among matatu drivers/touts across the region and in the popular media.

Most of the Sheng words are introduced in various communities and schools and given wide exposure by music artists who include them in their lyrics, hence the rapid growth. It can be assumed to be the first language of many Kenyans in urban areas.

Top 10 sheng words used on Google Search and what they mean:

  1. Mbwakni - Derived from the Dholuo word mbwakni which means to be jumpy/fidgety/irritating. Sometimes Mbwakni used to mean fake.
  2. Mbogi - Crew, group, squad.
  3. Rieng - Plan/plot
  4. Dem - Woman
  5. Rada - Understand or be aware of a situation. Derived from the English word radar.
  6. Saseni - Greetings
  7. Omoka - Derived from the Luo word "moko" which means to get rich. Jamoko means a rich person
  8. Dere - Driver
  9. Chwani - Ksh50
  10. Mabeshte - Friends group, squad

A person using their phone. /BBC