4 Concepts in Nigerian Languages That Have Gotten Lost in Translation


With colonialism, came the overwhelming need to translate every Nigerian language to English.

Obviously, some things got lost in translation along the way.

There are many words and concepts that cannot be captured by the English language. Here are some of such.

1. Esu (Yoruba)


Esu is an Orisha in the Yoruba religion of the Yoruba people. Though the term has been ascribed to mean “devil” in English, Ifa historians and fundamentalists insist that Esu is an important god. They say he is an enforcer of the will of Olodumare hence, the misrepresentation of Esu as “devil”.

2. Ekwensu (Igbo)


Another god that is misrepresented is Ekwensu — a term now generally used in Igbo language to refer to the devil. However, in real Igbo Odinani, Ekwensu is a Trickster God of the Igbo people who sometimes serves as a God of War and Victory who ruled over the wicked spirits and the chaotic forces of nature.

3. Santi (Hausa)



Sometimes, Santi is used to refer to the feeling of satiety, but it is actually used to describe an odd behavior made while eating due to food or drink’s deliciousness. There’s no English word to describe this feeling… maybe except “sugar rush”.

4. Jara (Hausa)

Gyara, or the corrupted Jara, is the Hausa word that literally means “a small gift”. It is now generally translated to mean “an extra or addition” in English.

What other words do you know that have gotten lost in translation?



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