The great people of Nigeria, with a rich heritage of over 250 ethnic groups and more than 521 languages, have somehow found a common ground, where each person can be heard clearly when conversing with his neighbor and still retain their native tongue. In other words, Nigerians have found what we can call a lingua franca for themselves and that is no other than the Nigerian Pidgin English.
Outside the borders of Nigeria, Pidgin English also stands out to Nigerians all over the world as it has a way of reminding them of the rich cultural heritage that they possess and the intrinsic unity the people live by. This is largely due to the fact that the language is not void of a piece of diversity as each of the major ethnic groups has a piece of input to their use of the Nigerian Pidgin English.
25 Nigerian Pidgin Phrases & Their Meaning
Like all other languages, speaking the Nigerian Pidgin English at first may seem difficult and even sound funny, but with background knowledge in the English language and a bit of dedication, you would be sure to blend in among Nigerians anywhere in the world if you master the pidgin English. We have compiled a very comprehensive list of 25 important pidgin slangs you must know to help you with this:
1. How far?
Variant: How you dey?
Usage & Meaning: This is a popular form of greeting and it means; How are you? or How are you doing?
2. You try well well
Variant: You do well
Usage & Meaning: It is used to show both contempt and gratitude and it means; “You have done well” or “You can do better than this”. You can add ‘oh’ to it, for a show of emotions, that is, you can say: “You done do well oh!”.
3. I dey find [ mention the location/ item/ person you are looking for]
Variant: You know where [mention the location or the item or person you are looking for] dey?
Usage & Meaning: Use this expression when asking for direction or looking for someone or something. It means; “I am going to or looking for [mention location or name of item or person in question]”
4. Make una do me well
Variant: Make una do me good
Usage & Meaning: This pidgin expression is used to ask for a favor and it means; “Treat me kindly”. You can add “abeg” (please) to it and you can say it as “Abeg, make una do me well (or good)”
5. I wan chop
Variant: I wan go chaw
Usage & Meaning: This expression is a way to excuse yourself or inform those around you that you are hungry so that you will go and get something to eat. Its literal meaning is “I want to eat”
6. I dey with you
Variant: We dey together
Usage & Meaning: This expression is used to show solidarity and it means “I am with you” or,” We are in this together”. You can also add “na” to drive home your point and it can be said as; I dey with you na.
7. No be me!
Variant: Ma hand no dey there
Usage & Meaning: This shows exclusion or is used for rejecting accusations. It means; “I am not the one” or “I have no part in it”. You can add ‘oh’ behind it to show emphasis. It will now be said as; No be me oh!! or Ma hand dey there oh!!
8. Wetin dey happen?
Variant: Wetin dey sheleh?
Usage & Meaning: This can be used to ask both a question and serve as a form of salutation. It means; “What’s going on?”
9. You don get liver
Variant: You don dey shine your eye
Usage & Meaning: This expression can be used when a person suddenly starts to show signs of being outspoken or brave. It can be used jokingly among friends or in heated arguments. Its literal meaning is “You’ve grown wings” and you can add the suffixes ‘abi’ or ‘sebi’ as rhetoric – you can say; You don get liver abi? which means; You’ve grown wings right?
10. Na me and her follow come
Variant: Na the two of us follow come (in the case of many people, use, Na all of us follow come)
Usage & Meaning: This can be used to identify that you are in the company of a certain person or persons and it means; “I came with him/her” or “We came together”
11. Help me dey look
Variant: Help me dey check
Usage & Meaning: This can be used to tell someone to watch your back as it means; “Be on the lookout for me”
12. I wan go shit
Variant: shit dey hold me
Usage & Meaning: This can be used to excuse yourself when you want to use the restroom. It means; “I want to go use the toilet” or “I am pressed”
13. E no gree
Variant: E no want
Usage & Meaning: This expression is used to show a person’s disapproval. It means, “He/she disapproved/rejected or did not agree.
14. Na me be this
Variant: See me here
Usage & Meaning: This pidgin expression can be used to acknowledge your presence and it means, “I am the one”. However, when said as a question, it shows surprise that is; Na me be this? which will mean; “Am I the one?”
15. Make we try am
Variant: Make we do am
Usage & Meaning: This statement is usually used when someone wants to venture into something or carry out a task. Its literal meaning is “Let’s give it a try” or “Let’s do it”
16. You be my guy
Variant: You be my manchi
Usage & Meaning: This pidgin phrase is usually used to address a close friend and its literal meaning is “You are my close friend”
17. I no sabi
Variant: Me no know
Usage & Meaning: The phrase is used to state your stance in a situation or when asked a question and it means “I don’t know” or “I have no idea”. You can add ‘abeg’ or ‘biko’ to show displeasure or as a form of a plea that is, I no sabi abeg, or Abeg, i no sabi.
18. You wan play me wayo
Variant: You wan do me mago mago
Usage & Meaning: This expression can be used to tell someone that they are about to play a smart one on you. It means; “You want to trick or cheat me”
19. Na me get am
Variant: Na ma own
Usage & Meaning: This pidgin phrase is used to show ownership of something. It means; “It belongs to me”
20. I no fit
Variant: E pass me
Usage & Meaning: This phrase is used to express that a situation is beyond your control or that you are incapable of doing something. It literally means; “I can’t or it’s beyond me”
21. Dis matter get k-leg
Variant: Dis matter get as e be
Usage & Meaning: This pidgin expression can be used when one is not satisfied with the details of a story. It simply means the “This story does not sound true”.
22. You be my guy
Variant: You be my person
Usage & Meaning: This expression is used to address a You are my friend
You can add “na” to it for emphasis, that is you can say, You be my guy na.
23. Gbege dey
Variant: Wahala dey, Yawa dey
Usage & Meaning: This is an exclamation that is used to express surprise when something happens. Its literal meaning ‘There is a problem’.
24. No shaking
Variant: Nothing dey sheleh
Usage & Meaning: It is used for showing rigidity or firmness and it means “Nothing is happening or nothing is going to happen”
25. E b like film
Variant: E b like magic
Usage & Meaning: This phrase is used when someone is explaining something he or she has witnessed. It simply means “The situation was unbelievable”.
So, if you find yourself in Nigeria or with Nigerians, to thrill them a little and show your acceptance of togetherness, just tell them, “I dey with you!”
The Unique Traits Of The Nigerian Pidgin English & Its Origin
Pidgin English is a commonly used language in Nigeria that helps break the communication barrier between several ethnic groups and languages. It bears its origin to as far back as the 17th century, in trade contact between the British and the locals. At the time, it was the trade language amongst the Portuguese merchants and Nigerians.
The language eventually remained after the foreigners departed as the natives continued to use it as a form of communication for both trade and religious purposes. However, each group began to add a piece of their ethnicity to it and it was a welcomed idea by the people hence it was made popular and accepted in the various regions of Nigeria. More so, due to the high level of influence from the Portuguese, remnants of their language still exist in the Nigerian Pidgin English to date. Words like, “sabi” (to know) and “pikin” (child), are still being used in the same context as their Portuguese meaning.
The Nigerian Pidgin English which is also known for short as ‘pidgin or ‘broken’ possesses a form of uniqueness that is obtained from the emotions used in saying the words. Suffixes, prefixes, or even intonations are used to depict either sarcasm, contempt, gratitude, and other necessary forms of emotions. For example, the use of the word, ‘abi’ as a suffix or prefix, can sometimes be used to seek approval or inclusion, it has the same use as the English word, ‘right?’ – You go follow me abi? has its literal meaning in English as; You will come with me right?
Nigerian Pidgin English Is Gaining More Acceptance Internationally
The Pidgin English language is mostly regarded as the language of the slum which is also an adulteration of the English language but nonetheless spoken by all age grades in Nigeria. More so, the language is gaining more grounds and recognition as notable global organizations are accepting its existence, originality, and the high level of influence it exerts on the Nigerian community and African community at large.
Google, in 2011, launched a search interface in Pidgin English and a couple of years later, in 2017, BBC started offering its services in Pidgin English. These initiatives have also come with their advantages as the companies have recorded massive success as they have been able to reach a wider range of audiences in both Nigeria and the African continent as a whole.
More so, Nigerian musicians who have recorded vast popularity have a hand in the spread and acceptance of Nigerian Pidgin English. The likes of Fela Aníkúlápó Kuti played a major role in popularising the language. In his heydays, the primary mode of communication with his indigenous brethren in his songs was this very form of adulterated English. In recent times, trending music icons like Burna Boy, Wizkid and Davido are notable for bombarding the international space with the Nigerian Pidgin English. More so, the media has shown acceptance of pidgin English, as many radio and TV channels whose choice of language is primarily Nigerian Pidgin English have emerged. The list of such stations includes the likes of Wazobia FM, Naija FM, Wazobia TV, Wap TV, DSTV, and a host of others – indigenous to Nigeria though.
The educational sector in Nigeria has also joined the bandwagon to make the Nigerian Pidgin English popular. As of now, the Department of English and Drama at Ahmadu Bello University offers Pidgin English as a course both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in a bid for the Nigerian Pidgin English to be considered as Nigeria’s official language. The reason that has been given for this is that the language is as true to the Nigerian people as the flag they carry – Nigerians all around the globe converse in Pidgin to date, regardless of their location as it is a unifying hallmark to them. However, the language is yet to be accepted as an official language despite its undeniable influence on the people.
Dynamicity & Use Of Pidgin English In Different Parts Of Nigeria
As the language traveled from one ethnic tribe to the other and around Africa, it continued to gain ethnic relevance as each native tribe made sure to add a bit of their native tongue to it. This has generally resulted in the pronunciation of words differently and a wide range of expressions can be used to say the same thing.
The words “una” and “biko” have igbo origin – “Una’ is from the Igbo word “unu” which means “You people”; “biko” is the Igbo word for “Please”. These words can be used like:
- “Una” need slap which means, “You people” should be given a slap
- “Biko” give me slap which means, “Please” give me a slap
The Yoruba tribe also have their own additions and notable words they added are “sebi” and “abi” which means “right?”. This has to be used at the end of sentences or at the beginning, to turn the statement into a question for instance:
- “Sebi you dey come?” or “You dey come abi”, which means, “You are coming right?”
More so, the Hausas are not left out as they have added “ba” to suit their ethnicity and it is used in a similar manner to the Yoruba “sebi” or “abi”. It can be used as:
- “You dey come ba” which means, “You are coming right?”
Which Region Widely Speaks Pidgin In Nigeria?
Though the Nigerian Pidgin Eglish is spoken by all, the South-South part of the nation, that is, the Oil-rich Niger Delta region, Edo State, Bayelsa State, Cross River State, and some other states in that area use Pidgin as their first language. This is largely due to the fact that the first place the colonialists landed in Nigeria was Edo and its environs. Nonetheless, the language still finds relevance in every part of the country, and even beyond the borders of Nigeria to some parts of West Africa.