Click Wolof examples for audio pronunciation. An audio player will open in a new browser tab. (Pro tip: on a Mac tap trackpad with three fingers to preview link without leaving page).


a absorb naansant last name
aafar sorelaaj question
eget jotdem to go
eewhere anaseet examine
ésay waxbés day
éesane reglewéer lean against
ëbird picckër house
ipit leeñfit courage
iimeet dajesiis not wanting to share
omoment saafomp wipe clean
óno déedéetjóg get up
oodoor buntloos neck
óophone telefonfóon to smell
ucook toggubbi to open
uumoon weerjuuyoo to miss each other


bboy bóoyban clay
cchat weranteceeb rice
ddog xajdara nothing
ffire safarafas tie
ggood baaxagsi arrive
jjob liggéeyjox give
kkeep denckaani hot pepper
lland suuflakk burn
mmark màndarganaam answer to name
nnice rafetàdduna life here below
ñgenius xelgaañ hurt
ppaint pentuurpuso sewing needle
rrat janaxraxas cleanse
ssoup suppkawas sock
ttake fab tubaab westerner
wwait négkéwél red-fronted gazelle
x(see note) *xaalis money
yyes waawyaa to be wide

* There is no English equivalent for this sound, it is a slightly guttural sound that is between x and k. It may also be pronounced merely as h, especially among non-natives.


mbmbaa otherwise
mpdàmp massage
ndndey expression of pity
ngngan to be the guest of a host
njnjaay sale


ŋmasoŋ builder

Attribution for audio files: Mamadou Sy [CC BY 2.0 fr], via Wikimedia Commons

Basic layout for pronunciation guide adopted from the Peace Corps Wolof English dictionary.

Wolof pronunciation is primarily a one-to-one correlation between graphemes (distinct units of writing) and phonemes (distinct units of sound). In other words, each letter of the Wolof alphabet should correspond to a single vocal pronunciation.

VowelHow to Pronounce
apronounce a as in ‘butter‘
àpronounce à as in British ‘life
aapronounce aa as in ‘far’
epronounce e as in ‘bedroom‘
eepronounce ee as in ‘where’
épronounce é as in ‘big‘
éépronounce éé as in ‘sane’
ëpronounce ë as in ‘bird‘
ipronounce i as in ‘beetle‘
iipronounce ii as in ‘meet’
opronounce o as in ‘hot‘
ópronounce ó as in French ‘beau
oopronounce oo as in ‘door’
óópronounce óó as in ‘phone’
upronounce u as in ‘book‘
(with lips rounded)
uupronounce uu as in ‘moon’

Wolof vowels can be written twice to indicate they are pronounced as long vowels.

e.g. xol (heart); xool (to look at).

ConsonantHow to Pronounce
bpronounce b as in ‘boy’
cpronounce c as in ‘chat‘
(with tongue close to top front teeth)
dpronounce d as in ‘dog’
fpronounce f as in ‘fire’
gpronounce g as in ‘good’
jpronounce j as in ‘jazz’
(with tongue close to top front teeth)
kpronounce k as in ‘cool’
lpronounce l as in ‘land’
mpronounce m as in ‘moon’
npronounce n as in ‘not’
ñpronounce ñ as in ‘onion‘
(with tip of tongue behind front teeth)
ppronounce p as in ‘park’
qpronounce q like a ‘k‘ pulled back into throat
(audio example: sëqat — cough)
rpronounce r as in ‘rat’
spronounce s as in ‘sign’
tpronounce t as in ‘stamp’
wpronounce w as in ‘war’
xpronounce x as in Scottish ‘loch
ypronounce y as in ‘your’

For prenasalized consonants slightly pronounce the initial letter while putting greater emphasis on the second letter. For example: mBUH for the consonant mb (hint: form your lips like you are about to make the sound for m and then sound out b). The proper way to do this is through the nose but even if you have trouble nasalizing simply pronouncing it like the example above should suffice.

Prenasalized consonants: mbmp, ndng, nj.

Finally, there’s one other nasalized consonant that is found in some Wolof words. It is called the velar nasal and it looks like ŋ. This letter is pronounced similar to the ng in the English word single.

With the exception of fs, and r, all consonants have long and short counterparts. Long consonants are indicated by double consonants.

e.g. dalla (shoes); matta (firewood). When pronounced slowly one hears: dalla; matta (especially in Gambian Wolof).

To an outsider a terminal (ending letter) b, and a terminal p are often very similar. The sound that is heard depends on the word following. Terminal c and j are also close.

You may come across some Wolof sources that leave out accented letters. These accents are important because words that are spelled similarly can have completely different meanings.

e.g. reer (supper) / réer (to be lost); woor (to fast) / wóor (to be sure).

Different orthographies may employ different pronunciation rules but the rules here are the most common (or very near approximations of these rules).

These are the same word spelled using different orthographic rules:

jërejëf / djeredieuf (thank you).

As the same word they are pronounced the same despite differing spelling. The first spelling is the standardized CLAD spelling — the second spelling is a common Francophone (French) spelling. In the first one the initial j (and the following j) is pronounced how we would more or less pronounce it in English (like the j in ‘jazz’), while the second one starts with a d instead of a j yet that d (or dj) and the following d is still pronounced much like the j in the first example since French d‘s usually have an English j-ish sound. 

Some written examples of Wolof syllables & approximate pronunciation:

bayyi baiyyi (cancel)
sàngara saangara (alcohol)
mbàjj mbaaj (blanket)
bët buht (eye)
ñépp nyip (all)
penku penkoo (east)
ci biti chee beetee (outside)
ndox ndokh (water)
mbedd mbed (street)

Ndax dégg nga angalendakh deg nguh angaley (Do you speak English?)

Benn waxtu moo jotben wakhtoo moh jot (It’s one o’clock.)

Maangi dem ndakaaru. maangee dem ndakaaroo (I’m going to Dakar.)

More written examples here.

A few English words that sound nearly the same as some Wolof words:

boughtboot (carry on back)
your / yoo (mosquito)
rare / reer (dinner)
rub / rab (beast)
ratrat (a type of plant)
rye / raay (caress)

Some audio examples of Wolof pronunciation:

alxames (Thursday)
ngelaw (wind)
ñaar (two)
jigéen (female)
gaynde (lion)

More audio examples here.

Portions of this document have been adopted from the works of David P. Gamble.

The following links will open in a new tab:

Back-released velar click (Wikipedia)

Final consonants with nasal release (Wikipedia)

For more on Wolof pronunciation click here.

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