Kinyarwanda (IPA: [iciɲɑɾɡwɑːndɑ] or IPA: [iɟiɲɑɾgwɑ:ndɑ]), known as Urufumbira in Kisoro, Uganda, is an official language of Rwanda and a dialect of the Rwanda-Rundi language spoken by at least 12 million people in Rwanda, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and adjacent parts of southern Uganda (the mutually intelligible Kirundi dialect is the official language of neighbouring Burundi).[4] Kinyabwisha and Kinyamulenge are the mutually intelligible dialects spoken in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces of neighbouring DR Congo.

Kinyarwanda is one of the four official languages of Rwanda (along with English, French and Kiswahili) and is spoken by almost all of the native population. That contrasts with most modern African states, whose borders were drawn by colonial powers and do not correspond to ethnic boundaries or precolonial kingdoms.[5]

Native toRwanda, Uganda
Native speakers
9.8 million (2007)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1rw
ISO 639-2kin
ISO 639-3kin



The table below gives the consonants of Kinyarwanda.

Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ (ŋ)
Plosive voiceless p1 t c k
voiced (b) d ɟ g
Affricate voiceless p͡f t͡s t͡ʃ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ ç h
voiced β v z ʒ
Approximant j w
Rhotic ɾ
  1. /p/ is only found in loanwords.
  2. Consonants in parentheses are allophones.


The table below gives the vowel sounds of Kinyarwanda.

Front Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a


Kinyarwanda is a tonal language. Like many Bantu languages, it has a two-way contrast between high and low tones (low-tone syllables may be analyzed as toneless). The realization of tones in Kinyarwanda is influenced by a complex set of phonological rules.


Letter(s) a b c cy d e f g h i j jy k m n ny o p pf r s t ts u v w y z
IPA a, aː β, b t͡ʃ c d e, eː f g, ɟ h i, iː ʒ ɟ k, c m n, ŋ ɲ o, oː p p͡f ɾ s t t͡s u, uː v w j z

Except in a few morphological contexts, the sequences 'ki' and 'ke' may be pronounced interchangeably as [ki] and [ke] or [ci] and [ce] according to speaker's preference.

The letters 'a', 'e', or 'i' at the end of a word followed by a word starting with a vowel often follows a pattern of omission (observed in the following excerpt of the Rwandan anthem) in common speech, though the orthography remains the same. For example, Reka tukurate tukuvuge ibigwi wowe utubumbiye hamwe twese Abanyarwanda uko watubyaye berwa, sugira, singizwa iteka. would be pronounced as "Reka tukurate tukuvug' ibigwi wow' utubumiye hamwe twes' abanyarwand' uko watubyaye berwa, sugira singizw' iteka."

In the colloquial language, there are some discrepancies from orthographic Cw and Cy. Specifically, rw (as in Rwanda) is often pronounced [ɾɡw]. The differences are the following:

Orthog. Pron.
pw [pk]
bw [bɡ]
tw [tkw]
dw [dɡw]
mw [mŋ]
nw [nŋw]
fw [fk]
vw [vɡ]
sw [skw]
zw [zɡw]
shw [ʃkw]
jw [ʒɡw]
pfw [p͡fk]
tsw [t͡skw]
cw [t͡ʃkw]
rw [ɾɡw]
py [pc]
by [bɟ]
ty [tc]
dy [dɟ]
my [mɲ]
sy [sc]
ry [ɾɟ]

Note that these are all sequences; [bɡ], for example, is not labio-velar [ɡ͡b]. Even when Rwanda is pronounced /ɾgwanda/, the onset is a sequence, not a labialized [ɾʷ].



Kinyarwanda uses 16 of the Bantu noun classes. Sometimes these are grouped into 10 pairs so that most singular and plural forms of the same word are included in the same class. The table below shows the 16 noun classes and how they are paired in two commonly used systems.

Prefix Classification Number Typical words Example
Bantu Cox ???
umu- 1 1 singular humans umuntu – person
aba- 2 plural abantu – people
umu- 3 2 singular trees, shrubs and things that extend umusozi – hill
imi- 4 plural imisozi – hills
iri- 5 5 3 singular things in quantities, liquids iryinyo – tooth
ama- 6 5/8/9 3/8/9 plural (also substances) amenyo – teeth
iki- 7 4 singular generic, large, or abnormal things ikintu – thing
ibi- 8 plural ibintu – things
in- 9 3 5 singular some plants, animals and household implements inka – cow
in- 10 3/6 5/6 plural inka – cows
uru- 11 6 singular mixture, body parts urugo – home
aka- 12 7 singular diminutive forms of other nouns akantu – little thing
utu- 13 plural utuntu – little things
ubu- 14 8 n/a abstract nouns, qualities or states ubuntu – generosity
uku- 15 9 n/a actions, verbal nouns and gerunds ukuntu – means
aha- 16 10 n/a places, locations ahantu – place


All Kinyarwanda verb infinitives begin with ku- (morphed into kw- before vowels, and into gu- before stems beginning with a voiceless consonant due to Dahl's Law). To conjugate, the infinitive prefix is removed and replaced with a prefix agreeing with the subject. Then a tense marker can be inserted.

singular singular before vowels plural plural before vowels
I a- y- ba- b-
II u- w- i- y-
III ri- ry- a- y-
IV ki- cy- bi- by-
V i- y- zi- z-
VI ru- rw- zi- z-
VII ka- k- tu- tw-
VIII bu- bw- bu- bw-
IX ku- kw- a- y-
X ha- h- ha- h-

The prefixes for pronouns are as follows:

  • 'I' = n-
  • 'you' (sing.) = u-
  • 'he/she' = y-/a- (i.e. the singular Class I prefix above)
  • 'we' = tu-
  • 'you' (pl.) = mu-
  • 'they' (human) = ba- (i.e. the plural Class I prefix above)

Tense markers include the following.

  • Present ('I do'): - (no infix)
  • Present progressive ('I am doing'): -ra- (morphs to -da- when preceded by n)
  • Future ('I will do'): -za-
  • Continuous progressive ('I'm still doing'): -racya-
Example translations
Yego Yes
Oya No
Uvuga icyongereza? Do you speak English?
Bite? What's Up?
Mwaramutse Hi/Good Morning
Amata Milk
Ejo hashize Yesterday
Ejo hazaza Tomorrow
Nzaza ejo I will come tomorrow
Ubu Now
Ubufaransa France
Ubwongereza England
Amerika America
Ubudage Germany
Ububirigi Belgium

The past tense can be formed by using the present and present progressive infixes and modifying the aspect marker suffix.


Kinyarwanda employs the use of periphrastic causatives, in addition to morphological causatives.

The periphrastic causatives use the verbs -teer- and -tum-, which mean cause. With -teer-, the original subject becomes the object of the main clause, leaving the original verb in the infinitive (just like in English):[6]






Ábáana b-a-gii-ye.

children they-PST-go-ASP

"The children left."










Umugabo y-a-tee-ye ábáana ku-geend-a.

man he-PST-cause-ASP children INF-go-ASP

"The man caused the children to go.

In this construction, the original S can be deleted.[7]






Abanntu ba-rá-bon-a.

people they-PRES-see-ASP

"People see"










Ku-geenda gu-teer-a (abaantu) ku-bona.

INF-go it-cause-ASP (people) INF-see

"To travel causes to see."

With -túm-, the original S remains in the embedded clause and the original verb is still marked for person and tense:[8]








N-a-andits-e amábárúwa meênshi.

I-PST-write-ASP letters many

"I wrote many letters."












Umukoôbwa y-a-tum-ye n-á-andik-a amábárúwa meênshi.

girl she-PST-cause-ASP I-PST-write-ASP letters many

"The girl caused me to write many letters."

Derivational causatives use the instrumental marker -iish-. The construction is the same, but it is instrumental when the subject is inanimate and it is causative when the subject is animate:[9]










Umugabo a-ra-andik-iish-a umugabo íbárúwa.

man he-PRES-write-CAUS-ASP man letter

"The man is making the man write a letter."










Umugabo a-ra-andik-iish-a íkárámu íbárúwa.

man he-PRES-write-INSTR-ASP pen letter

"The man is writing a letter with the pen."

This morpheme can be applied to intransitives (3) or transitives (4):[9]






Ábáana ba-rá-ryáam-ye.

children they-PRES-sleep-ASP

"The children are sleeping."








Umugóre a-ryaam-iish-ije ábáana

woman she-sleep-CAUS-ASP children

"The woman is putting the children to sleep."








Ábáana ba-ra-som-a ibitabo.

children they-PRES-read-ASP books

"The children are reading the books."










Umugabo a-ra-som-eesh-a ábáana ibitabo.

man he-PRES-read-CAUS-ASP children books

"The man is making the children read the books."

However, there can only be one animate direct object. If a sentence has two, one or both is deleted and understood from context.[10]

The suffix -iish- implies an indirect causation (similar to English have in "I had him write a paper), while other causatives imply a direct causation (similar to English make in "I made him write a paper").[11]

One of these more direct causation devices is the deletion of what is called a "neutral" morpheme -ik-, which indicates state or potentiality. Stems with the -ik- removed can take -iish, but the causation is less direct:[11]

-mének- "be broken" -mén- "break" -méneesh- "have (something) broken"
-sáduk- "be cut" -sátur- "cut" -sátuz- "have (something) cut"

Another direct causation maker is -y- which is used for some verbs:[12]






Ámáazi a-rá-shyúuh-a.

water it-PRES-warm-ASP

"The water is being warmed."








Umugóre a-rá-shyúush-y-a ámáazi.

woman she-PRES-warm-CAUS-ASP water

"The woman is warming the water."










Umugabo a-rá-shyúuh-iish-a umugóre ámáazi

man he-PRES-warm-CAUS-ASP woman water

"The man is having the woman warm the water.


  1. ^ Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kinyarwanda". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. ^ "Rundi", Ethnologue, 16th Ed.
  5. ^ Boyd 1979, p. 1.
  6. ^ Kimenyi 1980, pp. 160–61.
  7. ^ Kimenyi 1980, p. 161.
  8. ^ Kimenyi 1980, pp. 161–2.
  9. ^ a b Kimenyi 1980, p. 164.
  10. ^ Kimenyi 1980, pp. 165–166.
  11. ^ a b Kimenyi 1980, p. 166.
  12. ^ Kimenyi 1980, p. 167.


  • Boyd, J. Barron (December 1979). "African Boundary Conflict: An Empirical Study". African Studies Review. 22 (3): 1–14. ISSN 0002-0206. JSTOR 523892.
  • Habumuremyi, Emmanuel; et al. (2006). IRIZA-STARTER 2006: The 1st Kinyarwanda–English and English–Kinyarwanda Dictionary. Kigali: Rural ICT-Net.
  • Jouannet, Francis (ed.) (1983). Le Kinyarwanda, langue bantu du Rwanda (in French). Paris: SELAF.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Kimenyi, Alexandre (1979). Studies in Kinyarwanda and Bantu Phonology. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Linguistic Research Inc. ISBN 0887830331.
  • Kimenyi, Alexandre (1980). A Relational Grammar of Kinyarwanda. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520095987.

External links

Amahoro Stadium

The Amahoro Stadium (Kinyarwanda: Stade Amahoro; French: Stade Amahoro; Kinyarwanda for "Peace Stadium"), also known as Amahoro National Stadium, is a multi-purpose stadium in the Gasabo district of Kigali, Rwanda. With a capacity of 30,000, it is the largest stadium in Rwanda and hosts football matches, concerts, and public events. The football clubs Armée Patriotique Rwandaise F.C. and Rayon Sports F.C. are the tenants. The venue is also sometimes used for rugby union.

During the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, it was temporarily a "UN Protected Site" hosting to up to 12,000 mainly Tutsis refugees.

Chamber of Deputies (Rwanda)

The Chamber of Deputies (Kinyarwanda: Umutwe w'Abadepite; French: Chambre des Députés) is the lower house of the bicameral national legislature of Rwanda.

It was created under the new Constitution adopted by referendum in 2003.

Cheese and crackers

Cheese and crackers is a common dish consisting of crackers paired with various or multiple cheeses. It is also known as cheese and biscuits outside the United States and Canada. Historically the fare of sailors, soldiers, and pioneers, it had become a regular menu item in American restaurants and bars by the 1850s. It is prepared using various types of cheeses, and is often paired with wine. Mass-produced cheese and crackers brands include Handi-Snacks, Ritz, Jatz and Lunchables.

Districts of Rwanda

The five provinces of Rwanda are divided into 30 districts (Kinyarwanda: uturere, sing. akarere). Each district is in turn divided into sectors (Kinyarwanda: imirenge, sing. umurenge), which are in turn divided into cells (Kinyarwanda: utugali, sing. akagali), which are in turn divided into villages (Kinyarwanda: imidugudu, sing. umudugudu).

Prior to 2002, Rwanda was composed of prefectures, subprefectures (which were sometimes called "districts") and 154 communes (Kinyarwanda: imijyi, sing. umujyi). In 2002, communes were replaced by two kinds of divisions called districts and municipalities (Kinyarwanda: akarere and umujyi). In 2006, the number of districts was reduced from 106 to 30.The districts are listed below, by province.

Djiboutian franc

The Djiboutian franc (Arabic: فرنك‎) is the currency of Djibouti. Its ISO 4217 currency code is DJF. Historically, it was subdivided into 100 centimes.

Eastern Province, Rwanda

Eastern Province (Kinyarwanda: Intara y'Iburasirazuba; French: Province de l'Est; Dutch: Oostelijke Provincie) is the largest, the most populous and the least densely populated of Rwanda's five provinces. It was created in early January 2006 as part of a government decentralization program that re-organized the country's local government structures.

It has seven districts: Bugesera, Gatsibo, Kayonza, Ngoma, Kirehe, Nyagatare and Rwamagana. The capital city of the Eastern Province is Rwamagana.

The Eastern Province comprises the former provinces of Kibungo and Umutara, most of Kigali Rural, and part of Byumba.

The Akagera National Park is situated is this province.

Guinean franc

The Guinean franc (French: franc guinéen, ISO 4217 code: GNF) is the currency of Guinea. It is subdivided into one hundred centimes, but no centime denominations were ever issued.

Interdisciplinary Prizes (RSC)

The Interdisciplinary Prizes of the Royal Society of Chemistry recognize work at the interface between chemistry and other disciplines. Up to three prizes are awarded annually: Each winner receives £5000 and a medal, and completes a UK lecture tour.

Kingdom of Rwanda

The Kingdom of Rwanda was a pre-colonial kingdom in East Africa beginning in c. 1081, which survived with some of its autonomy intact under German and Belgian colonial rule until its monarchy was abolished in the Rwandan Revolution. After a 1961 referendum, Rwanda became a republic and received its independence in 1962.

Languages of Rwanda

Kinyarwanda is the national language of Rwanda, and the first language of almost the entire population of the country. It is one of the country's official languages alongside French, English, and Swahili. Rwandan Sign Language is used by the educated deaf population.

Since the 1994 genocide, the complications of relations with successive French governments, the return of numerous Tutsi refugees from anglophone Uganda and also the general reduction of French cultural influence relative to the United Kingdom and the United States has meant an increase in the use of English by a higher proportion of the population and administration.

In 2008 the government changed the medium of education from French to English. By 2018 the Rwandan government had introduced French as a foreign language class at the primary school level, and French was still widely used by members of the upper classes. A Rwandan historian, Antoine Mugesera, stated that French is still used among the educated while Kinyarwanda is used for matters relating to simple topics and messages.Swahili is used by some people, in commerce, and is taught as a subject in schools.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (Rwanda)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (Kinyarwanda: Minisiteri y'Ububanyi n'Amahanga n'ubutwererane; French: Ministère rwandaise des Affaires étrangères et de la Coopération), commonly known by the abbreviation MINAFFET, is the foreign ministry of the republic of Rwanda.

National Bank of Rwanda

The National Bank of Rwanda (Kinyarwanda: Banki Nkuru Y'u Rwanda, French: Banque Nationale du Rwanda) is the central bank of Rwanda. The bank was founded in 1964. The current governor of the bank is John Rwangombwa.

Northern Province, Rwanda

Northern Province (Kinyarwanda: Intara y'Amajyaruguru; French: Province du Nord; Dutch: Noordelijke Provincie) is one of Rwanda's five provinces. It was created in early January 2006 as part of a government decentralization program that re-organized the country's local government structures.

Northern Province comprises most of the former provinces of Ruhengeri and Byumba, along with northern portions of Kigali Rural. It is divided into the districts of Burera, Gicumbi, Gakenke, Musanze, and Rulindo.

The capital city of Northern Province is Musanze.

The province's official languages are English, French and Kinyarwanda.

The governor, appointed by presidential decree, is currently Hon. Gatabazi Jean Marie Vianney.

The preceding governors of Northern province were Claude Musabyimana, Bosenibamwe Aimée, Boniface Rucagu, formerly governor of Ruhengeri Province.

Parliament of Rwanda

The Parliament of Rwanda (French: Parlement du Rwanda; Kinyarwanda: Inteko Ishinga Amategeko y’u Rwanda) consists of two chambers:

The Senate (French: Sénat; Kinyarwanda: Sena) (Upper Chamber)

The Chamber of Deputies (French: Chambre des députés; Kinyarwanda: Umutwe w’Abadepite) (Lower Chamber)Prior to 2003 the Parliament of Rwanda was unicameral. Former names are Legislative Assembly, National Development Council (French: Conseil national de développement) (1982–1994) and the Transitional National Assembly (1994–2003).


Rwanda-Rundi (Ruanda-Rundi) is a group of Bantu languages, specifically a dialect continuum, spoken in Central Africa. Neighboring dialects are mutually intelligible, but more distant ones may not be. Two dialects, Kirundi and Kinyarwanda, have been standardized as official languages of Burundi and Rwanda respectively. The other dialects are spoken in DR Congo (Kinyabwisha in North Kivu, Kinyamulenge in South Kivu), Uganda (Rufumbira spoken by the Bafumbira in Kisoro District), and Tanzania; Ha, with one million speakers, is the most widely spoken.

Rwandan franc

The Rwandan franc (sign: FRw, and possibly RF or R₣; ISO 4217: RWF) is the currency of Rwanda. It is subdivided into 100 centimes.

Senate (Rwanda)

The upper house of the Parliament of Rwanda (Kinyarwanda: Inteko Ishinga Amategeko; French: Parlement) is the Senate (Sena/Sénat). The Senate has 26 members elected or appointed for eight-year terms: 12 elected by provincial and sectoral councils, 8 appointed by the President of the Republic to ensure the representation of historically marginalized communities, 4 by the Forum of political parties, and 2 elected by the staff of the universities. Additionally, former presidents can request to become a member of the Senate.

The Senate was established in 2003.

Southern Province, Rwanda

Southern Province (Kinyarwanda: Intara y'Amajyepfo; French: Province du Sud; Dutch: Zuidelijke Provincie) is one of Rwanda's five provinces. It was created in early January 2006 as part of a government decentralization program that re-organized the country's local government structures.

Southern Province comprises the former provinces of Gikongoro, Gitarama, and Butare, and is divided into the districts of Huye, Ruhango, Nyamagabe, Gisagara, Muhanga, Kamonyi, Nyanza, and Nyaruguru.

The capital city of Southern Province is Nyanza.

Western Province, Rwanda

Western Province (Kinyarwanda: Intara y'Iburengerazuba; French: Province de l'Ouest; Dutch: West-provincie) is one of Rwanda's five provinces. It was created in early January 2006 as part of a government decentralization program that re-organized the country's local government structures.

Western Province comprises the former provinces of Cyangugu, Gisenyi, Kibuye, and a small portion of Ruhengeri. It is divided into the districts of Karongi, Nyabihu, Rubavu, Rusizi, Ngororero, Nyamasheke, and Rutsiro. The capital city of Western Province is Kibuye.

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