How to Read an Entry in this Dictionary


When you look in the dictionary, you will see many lines of words.  Some look similar to the example below:


        batuu {loki}n  father-in-law batuee


Here’s what the words mean:


  • The word batuu in bold is called the ‘entry’.  All the words after it give information about this word.  All entries are listed according to the order of the Bongo alphabet letters.  See the Bongo Aphlabet Order below for the list of letters in order.  Entries that are nouns are in the singular form (only one of the noun). Entries that are verbs are in the incompletive form of the verb (with the beginning prefix a- ).
  • Next, the word {loki} in braces shows the entry is countable. The word {kädër} shows an entry is uncountable. Only nouns can be countable or uncountable. Depending on how they are used, some nouns are countable or uncountable and have both {loki, kädër}. See Countable and Uncountable Nouns below for more explanation.
  • Next, the letter n in italics shows the word category (type of word) of the entry is a noun.  See the Word Category Abbreviations below for a list of all possible word category abbreviations.
  • Next, the word father-in-law is the definition of the entry and shows its meaning in English.
  • The next word batuee in bold is the plural of the entry. It is how to say more than one of the noun. Only entries that are nouns have a plural form, and only some of the animate nouns (people and animals) have plural forms. The word ending -ee shows it is a plural form. Many nouns do not have a plural form. See Plural and Singular Nouns below for more explanation.


Here is another entry.


agbo  v  join, put together


  • agbo is the entry.  It has the prefix (beginning letter) a-  which shows it is incompletive form. All verbs in this dictionary are listed with incompletive form. This means that all verbs are listed under the letter a[1].
  • vshows the word category of the entry is a verb.
  • join, put together is the definition.


Here is another entry.


ada1  [àdá]v  tie


  • There is a small number 1 after the entry ada1.  This means there is another word ada2 that has the same letters but a completely different meaning.  The word ada1 means ‘tie’ and ada2 means ‘count’.  The two words are not related, and just happen to have the same spelling.
  • [àdá] shows the pronunciation in an alphabet used for all languages of the world. This is so that people who don’t know Bongo can pronounce the word correctly. The tone mark above the vowel letter [á] helps everyone see the difference in tone between ada [àdá] ‘tie’ (with Low, High tone) and ada [àdà] ‘count’ (with Low, Low tone).
  • vshows the word category is a verb.
  • tie is the definition.


Now look at another example entry.


ndüü  {loki, kädër} n  1) sound, voice   2) messenger


  • ndüüis the entry and singular form of the noun. There is no plural form.
  • {loki, kädër} shows the noun is countable or uncountable, depending on how it is used.
  • nshows the word category is a noun.
  • Next, we read 1) sound, voice 2) messenger.  These are two definitions (meanings) of the entry, where the definitions are related (similar) in some way.  1) sound, voice is the most common meaning.  2) messenger is the next most common meaning.


Here is another entry.


cumari [cʊmar] ̪{loki} n loin cloth


  • The word [cʊmar] in brackets shows the pronunciation of the word. Although the entry cumari is spelled with a final vowel i, it is sometimes pronounced without this final vowel.


Now look at this entry.


komokendi {kädër} (komo eye, kendi right, correct) n  cleverness

kendi  oth  right, correct , komokendi


  • komokendi is the entry
  • {kädër} shows the entry in uncountable.
  • The words (komo eye, kendi right, correct) show that komokendi ‘cleverness’ is made from the two words komo ‘eye’ and kendi ‘right, correct’. The two words joined together have different meaning than the meaning of either of the two words when they are separate. The bold words between parentheses komo, kendi are also listed as separate entries.
  • When you go to the entry kendi, the word komokendi is listed as a subentry after a comma in italics.  We donꞌt know the meaning of komokendi by looking at the entry kendi. To learn this, we must go to the entry komokendi.


Now look at another entry.


hucaan  Bw (Arabic)  n  donkey


  • The words Bw (Arabic) show this entry hucaan is borrowed from Arabic. Other entries may be borrowed from Zande or English.


Here is another entry.


gi-  aff  small, little (diminuative)


  • The dash after gi- shows the entry must always be attached to the word after it, such as gibuꞌdu ‘boy’. Sometimes entries have a dash before such as in -ꞌba. This means the entry must always be attached to the end of a word such as gaꞌba ‘Chase!’


Here is one final entry


ngaya, yenyi {kädër} n scabies, itching disease

yenyi, ngaya {kädër} n scabies, itching disease


  • The entry ngaya, yenyi shows there are two ways to say the same word, depending on which dialect of the language is used. The entry is listed twice in the dictionary, once for each way of saying the word[2]. However, entries with f or p such as fira, pira ‘axe’ are only listed once, and are only listed under f.


[1] Although neither the completive nor command form have any prefix (and would seem to be good forms for listing in the dictionary), some verbs do not have a command form (although they always have an incompletive form), and some verbs change in meaning from the incompletive to the completive or command forms. So, the incompletive form seems the best for listing verbs in the dictionary.

[2] The choice to list both dialect variations of words (for the dialects Tonj/Busare and Aguka) as main entries is so that neither dialect receives preferential treatment.