15 Nigerian Pidgin English Phrases You Need To Know

Nigerian Pidgin English Phrases

Want to know more about pidgin English? This article would help especially if you are a foreigner to understand and be able to easily communicate or relate with Nigerians from every part of the country regardless of the tribe.

In this article we have listed 15 Nigerian Pidgin English phrases you will love to know.

The Nigerian Pidgin English is the Creole language based on English and the real lingua franca of Nigeria. English may be the official language, but the lower the socioeconomic scale, people’s understanding decreases. 

There are more than 250 other local languages, the most common of which are Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. Pidgin was developed to help communication between people from different parts of the country, as well as between locals and Europeans.

Three common words

Three words that occur frequently in pidgin are na, dey and wétinNa and dey are the verb ‘to be’ and wétin means ‘what’. It is as simple as that, but you will find them a lot

How far?

This common greeting means “How is everything?”A marker of camaraderie among Nigerians, it is a simple, informal greeting that is best used with people you know well, or in casual situations. The verb at the end is usually discarded, so be careful: if someone asks you How far, they are not referring to your journey to meet them.

Wetin?

What’s happening?’ This is another highly informal greeting – one to try with a taxi driver or market vendor, for example. If anything, it is even more informal than that. It can also be used aggressively in the sense of “what is your problem?” Dropping the dey and asking someone wétin is just a good way to tell them to back off. Backup with your best scowl.

Wétin be dis?

It simply means “What is it?”. Experiment when shopping in a market if you come across an unknown object.

You no dey hear?

 You are not listening’. You can hear this in the middle of a negotiation or other exchange and it indicates frustration on the part of the speaker. This would be a good point to take a break and change course

Sabi

Corruption of the Portuguese verb saber. Some Latin words come from contact with Portuguese slave traders who were active on the West African coast long before the British arrived. The name of the largest and best-known city in Nigeria, Lagos, is another legacy of early contact with the Portuguese. Sabi means “to know” or “to understand”, depending on the context. For example, ‘ Shey you sabi pidgin?’ , it would be someone asking if you understand pidgin, to which you can answer: ‘ Yes, I sabi am’ .

Am

To expand the sentence above, am in Pidgin means ‘it’.

Una

This is another common word and means ‘you’ or ‘yours’, depending on the context (but always the plural). For example, shey Una dey go school? , means ‘Are you going to school?’. It can also mean “are you going to school?” and would be used to treat two or more children.

Oya

There is no direct English translation. It works as a call to action and, depending on the context, it can mean ‘come’ or ‘hurry up’, similar to we go in Spanish or schnell in German. It can also be used to persuade; “oya na” can mean something like ‘please reconsider’.

Abeg

This means ‘please’ and is sometimes used with na as in abeg na. ABEG, can also be used to express disbelief. For example, if you were involved in a good old bargain session and the dealer gives you a ridiculous price, you can let them know how ridiculous you find the price by exclaiming: ah beg!

Wahala

This one means “problem”, similar to the way the word bacchanal is used in the Caribbean. It can also refer to stress.

Commot / Vamoose

Commot is an ellise of the words that come and go, and is used to mean ‘leave’ or ‘get lost’, again depending on the contextTo reinforce the point (when trying to get rid of someone), you can add an abeg (before) and / or jaré (after) to reinforce the effect and say: abeg commot jaré! Vamoose, the least common variant, is another derivation of Portuguese.

Nawa oh!

This is an expression of surprise, similar to ‘wow’. The ending ‘oh’ is a type of conversational tick that is added to many words and phrases for emphasis.

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