Swahili in Tanzania

Formal Greetings and Handshakes

Formal greetings only occur between different age-groups. All formal greetings are initiated by the younger group and directed at the older group. In no case whatsoever will an older member start off with a greeting; it is only a response that he/she will give. Roughly, age-groups are divided as follows: children (less than 15-16 years old), young adults (16-34), adults (35-45), middle age (45-55), and elderly (older than 56 years). Greetings between members of the same age-group are similar to those in the other categories, differing slightly depending on the level of intimacy. There are no equivalent greetings in English that translate to the formal Swahili greetings. A formal greeting is normally accompanied by a handshake.


  • "Younger Person Greeting an Older Relative or Friend"
    Transcript document:
  • "Visiting a Friend at Home"
    Transcript document:


Click on the text to hear the spoken phrase.
  • "Formal greeting to male of a higher age group:"

    Shikamoo mzee!
  • "Formal greeting to female of a higher age group:"

    Shikamoo mama!
  • "The response from the older person to the younger:"