Incredible Swahili Phrases You’ll Love Learning with Shenzi

July 22, 2023 1 Comment
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As you venture into learning Swahili, delving into popular culture is an excellent way to pick up common greetings and phrases. The classic Disney film The Lion King, set in a fantastical version of East Africa, features numerous Swahili words and expressions throughout its memorable songs and dialog. By studying the Swahili lyrics and translations from The Lion King, you’ll be conversing with “Hakuna Matata” (no worries) in no time.

The charming characters Timon and Pumbaa aren’t the only ones who can teach you essential Swahili—the cunning hyenas Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed provide a crash course in key phrases from the Swahili language spoken across much of East Africa, especially Kenya and Tanzania. Prepare to go on an adventure far beyond the Pride Lands as you discover the wonders of Swahili with Shenzi.

Who Is Shenzi? Meet the Hyenas From The Lion King

Shenzi is one of the three hyenas who serve as antagonists in Disney’s The Lion King. Physically, Shenzi is the only female in the trio, with a dark gray coat and a notched ear. She is the leader of the clan, acting as the dominant matriarch.

As the alpha female, Shenzi is in charge of Ed and Banzai and comes up with plans to hunt prey or confront enemies like Simba. She is cunning, ruthless, and Feral, but also has a sly sense of humor. Shenzi sees herself and her clan as the rightful rulers of the Pride Lands frustrated that they have been driven to the Elephant Graveyard by Mufasa and the lions.

Hunting and Scavenging

Hyenas are opportunistic predators, hunting alone or in groups. The trio work together to find food, whether hunting small prey or scavenging leftover kills. They use complex vocalizations and postures to communicate while hunting and defending territory. Shenzi leads the clan in confronting intruders or prey, signaling the attack with whoops, grunts, and giggles.

Conflict With the Lions

 Swahili Phrases

Shenzi and her clan have an antagonistic relationship with Mufasa’s pride. They are in a constant power struggle over territory, prey, and dominance in the Pride Lands. Shenzi resents Mufasa for exiling them to the Elephant Graveyard and sees Simba as a threat to her clan’s survival. However, Shenzi proves to be a formidable opponent, matching wits with the cunning Scar as they form an uneasy alliance.

In the end, Shenzi and her hyenas get their comeuppance. But she remains a memorable villain – a cunning, charismatic matriarch who fights for the survival of her clan against the lions who seek to destroy them.

Hakuna Matata: No Worries, It Means No Worries

 Swahili Phrases

The Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata” is well known thanks to Disney’s The Lion King. Translated, it means “no worries.” This memorable saying reflects an optimistic and carefree attitude.To convey this sentiment in Swahili, you can use the following phrases:

  1. Hakuna Matata – No worries, it means no worries. This is a casual way of saying not to worry or that everything will be alright.
  2. Hamna wasiwasi – Don’t worry. This phrase reassures someone in a friendly, informal way not to worry or feel anxious.
  3. Usiwe na wasiwasi – Don’t be worried. This conveys to someone in a polite manner not to feel worried or concerned.
  4. Mambo sawa – Everything’s alright. This phrase puts someone at ease by letting them know that everything is okay or going well.
  5. Hamna shida – No problem. This is a casual way of saying that something is not an issue, difficulty or inconvenience. It indicates that a situation is manageable or under control.

To expand your Swahili vocabulary and better understand the language, study common greetings, questions, and responses. Listen to native Swahili speakers to pick up the proper pronunciation and inflection. Immersing yourself in the language as much as possible is the key to mastery. With regular practice of these useful phrases and beyond, you’ll be conversing comfortably in Swahili in no time. Hakuna Matata! No worries, you’ve got this. Stay optimistic and keep practicing.

Rafiki’s Wisdom: The Circle of Life

 Swahili Phrases

As Rafiki wisely says, “It is time.” Time for you to learn some essential Swahili phrases to understand the Circle of Life in The Lion King.

Hakuna Matata: No Worries

This popular Swahili phrase means “no worries” or “no problem”. Simba’s friends Timon and Pumbaa adopt this as their carefree philosophy of life without responsibilities. To say “Hakuna Matata” in Swahili, pronounce it as “ha-KU-na ma-TA-ta”.

Rafiki: Friend

Rafiki is not just a name, but also the Swahili word for “friend”. The wise mandrill Rafiki serves as a friend and advisor to the pride. To say “friend” in Swahili, pronounce it as “ra-FEE-kee”.

Asante: Thank You

Express your gratitude by saying “asante”, which means “thank you” in Swahili. Pronounce it as “a-SAN-tay”. For example, you could say “Asante, Rafiki” to thank your friend.

Simba: Lion

The Swahili word for lion is “simba”. In the movie, Simba is the name of the main character, the young lion prince. To say “lion” in Swahili, pronounce it as “SEEM-ba”.

Pride Lands: Home Territory

The Pride Lands is the homeland territory of Simba’s pride. To say “territory” or “land” in Swahili, use “nchi” (pronounced “en-CHEE”). The Pride Lands represent the homeland and birthright that is Simba’s destiny to rule. Rafiki and the other characters in The Lion King have much wisdom to share about the great Circle of Life. By learning some key Swahili words and phrases, you can gain more insight into the meaning and messages of this timeless story. No worries – with practice, these phrases will become second nature. Asante for continuing your journey into Swahili and enjoying all that the Pride Lands have to offer!

Mufasa’s Lessons on Responsibility: Remember Who You Are

As the wise leader of the Pride Lands, Mufasa instilled in Simba important lessons about responsibility that apply to us all. Remember Your Place in the Circle of Life. Mufasa taught Simba that all living things are interconnected in the great Circle of Life. As the future king, Simba would need to understand how each creature, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope, has a role to play in maintaining the balance of life in the kingdom. This extends to us as well. We each have a purpose and duty to fulfill in our own lives that contribute to the greater whole.

When we forget our place in the cycle of existence, we risk throwing the entire system out of balance. Be Just and Fair. A good leader rules with compassion. Mufasa showed Simba that as king, he must treat all his subjects with kindness, empathy, and fairness. As such, we should aim to make just and equitable decisions in our own lives that consider how our choices might affect those around us.

A fair and principled approach is the hallmark of a virtuous leader. Accept Responsibility for Your Actions Most importantly, Mufasa taught Simba that he must take ownership of his actions and decisions. As king, Simba would be accountable for everything that happens in the kingdom, good or bad.

The same applies to us. We alone are responsible for the choices we make and the consequences that follow. It is easy to blame external factors when things go wrong, but a true leader accepts responsibility without excuses.

By embracing responsibility for our lives, we open ourselves up to valuable learning and growth. The lessons Mufasa imparted to Simba in his youth shaped him into the noble and caring ruler he would become. By remembering who we are, accepting responsibility for our place in the world, and leading with compassion, we can positively impact those around us as well. The wisdom of the Lion King endures.

Scar: The Scheming Uncle With a Villainous Swahili Name

Scar, the scheming uncle of Simba with villainous intentions, has a Swahili name meaning “trash” or “garbage.” His character represents the dark side of power and greed.To gain control of the Pride Lands, Scar plots to kill his brother Mufasa and nephew Simba. His name reflects his cruel nature and sinister actions. Some useful Swahili phrases to describe Scar include:

  • Mwovu – wicked or evil
  • Mbaya – bad or cruel
  • Kikatili – Feral or cruel

After Mufasa’s death, Scar takes over as king. He lets the Pride Lands fall into disrepair and ruin. The land becomes dark and gray, reflecting Scar’s cold heart. He cares only for power, not responsibility. His poor leadership and neglect of the kingdom show what happens when corrupt individuals gain power.

Scar meets his demise at the jaws of his hyena henchmen, showing how tyrannical reigns often end in violence. His death allows Simba to reclaim his rightful place as king and restore the Pride Lands to its former glory. Some additional Swahili words related to power, leadership, and politics include:

  • Mfalme – king
  • Kiongozi – leader
  • Serikali – government
  • Uongozi – leadership
  • Madaraka – authority or control

By learning phrases related to Scar and his characterization, you gain insight into Swahili words pertaining to leadership, power structures, and politics – for better and for worse. Scar serves as a warning for what happens when sinister individuals seek power for selfish reasons instead of the greater good. Though a villain, Scar’s character in The Lion King provides an important lesson in Swahili and in life. His Swahili name and portrayal teach us to be wary of those who crave power and control above all else.

Timon and Pumbaa: The Unlikely Duo Who Taught Simba ‘Hakuna Matata’

Timon and Pumbaa are two of Simba’s unlikeliest allies in The Lion King. While Simba is being raised by the duo, they teach him their carefree philosophy of “hakuna matata” – meaning “no worries” in Swahili. Unconventional Parental Figures After Scar allows the hyenas to kill Simba’s father Mufasa, Simba escapes into the desert. Timon, a meerkat, and Pumbaa, a warthog, find the young lion cub and take him under their wing.

Though an unusual family, the three form a close bond. Timon and Pumbaa teach Simba their motto of “hakuna matata” – to not dwell on the past or worry about the uncertain future. A Worry-Free Existence Under the tutelage of Timon and Pumbaa, Simba embraces a life without responsibilities.

He spends his days lounging, eating grubs, and not worrying. While not the most ambitious lifestyle, “hakuna matata” allows Simba to leave behind his painful past. He grows into a carefree young adult, no longer dwelling on his father’s death or longing to reclaim his kingdom.

Encouraging Simba’s Return Though Timon and Pumbaa wish for Simba to remain with them, they ultimately encourage him to accept his destiny as the true King. When Simba’s childhood friend Nala finds him and pleads for his help saving the Pride Lands from Scar, Simba is reluctant to go back.

However, with some prodding from Rafiki and his unlikely guardians, Simba realizes he must confront his past. Timon and Pumbaa’s most important lesson was not “hakuna matata” itself, but learning when it’s time to take responsibility.

While unconventional, Timon and Pumbaa prove instrumental in Simba’s journey to reclaim his kingdom. By teaching him “hakuna matata”, they help Simba rediscover his confidence and overcome his painful past. And by urging him to return home, they show that “no worries” is not always the answer – there are times when one must step up and fulfill their destiny.

Zazu: The Loyal Hornbill Who Speaks Swahili

 Swahili Phrases

As Mufasa’s majordomo, the hornbill Zazu acts as an advisor to Simba and a watcher over the Pride Lands. His character provides comedic relief in the film, though he takes his job very seriously. Zazu frequently speaks Swahili, using phrases like “hakuna matata” and “simba.”

Zazu’s Role

Zazu’s role is to keep an eye on Simba and Nala, the cubs of King Mufasa, and report back to the king about their whereabouts and activities. Though Zazu tries his best, the mischievous cubs are often able to outsmart him and get into trouble. Still, Zazu cares for the cubs and worries when they go missing. His loyalty remains with Mufasa and later Simba when he returns to the Pride Lands.

Zazu Speaks Swahili

Several of Zazu’s lines are spoken in Swahili, providing an opportunity to learn some basic phrases. For example, when Simba and Nala sneak off to the elephant graveyard, Zazu exclaims “Hapana!” meaning “No!”. He frequently calls Simba by name and uses “Rafiki”, meaning “friend”. Some of Zazu’s other Swahili phrases include:

  • “Hakuna matata” – No worries
  • “Simba” – Lion
  • “Rafiki” – Friend
  • “Jambo” – Hello
  • “Habari gani” – How are you?
  • “Asante sana” – Thank you very much

Through Zazu’s character and dialog, viewers of The Lion King gain exposure to the Swahili language and East African culture. Zazu acts as a mentor to Simba through his childhood and adolescence, though his advice is not always heeded. His mix of humor and wisdom provides an important influence in Simba’s life and helps guide him to become a wise and just ruler of the Pride Lands.

Key Swahili Words and Phrases Used in the Lion King

To fully appreciate the Swahili used in The Lion King, it is helpful to understand some of the keywords and phrases. Many of the names and expressions come directly from Swahili, while some are adapted to fit the story and characters.


Shenzi, the hyena leader, gets her name from the Swahili word for uncouth or uncivilized. Her sidekicks are Banzai, meaning ‘skulk’ or ‘lurk’, and Ed, whose name has no Swahili origin.


Rafiki, the wise mandrill, acts as a shaman and advisor to the pride. His name comes from the Swahili word for ‘friend’. As Mufasa’s childhood friend, Rafiki plays an important role in Simba’s journey to become king.

Hakuna Matata

The popular phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’ means ‘no worries’ in Swahili. Timon and Pumbaa, the meerkat and warthog duo, teach this carefree philosophy to Simba after rescuing him from the desert.


Simba’s father and the original Lion King is named Mufasa, derived from the Swahili word for ‘king’ or ‘ruler’. As the just and noble King of the Pride Lands, Mufasa teaches Simba about the great Circle of Life before his untimely death.


Simba’s childhood friend and eventual queen is named Nala, meaning ‘gift’ or ‘blessing’ in Swahili. After being separated as cubs, Nala finds Simba and convinces him to return to the Pride Lands, where they reestablish their friendship and rule together.


The main character and Mufasa’s son is named Simba, the Swahili word for ‘lion’. Destined to become the next Lion King, Simba flees his kingdom but eventually accepts his responsibility to his pride and defeats his evil uncle Scar. By understanding these Swahili words and phrases used in The Lion King, you can gain deeper insight into the meanings and symbolism in this timeless story. Connecting the language to the characters and events enhances the viewing experience for audiences of all ages.

Shenzi in Swahili: FAQs on the Lion King’s Hyena Matriarch

As the cunning matriarch of the hyena trio in The Lion King, Shenzi’s character is memorable for her sly humor and quick wit. Her name itself has an interesting meaning in Swahili that provides insight into her personality.

What does ‘Shenzi’ mean?

In Swahili, ‘shenzi’ means ‘uncivilized’ or ‘wild’. This suits the untamed and uncouth nature of the spotted hyenas. As the leader of the trio, Shenzi’s name highlights her ruthless and unchecked behavior in pursuit of her goals.

Why was ‘Shenzi’ chosen as the name?

The name ‘Shenzi’ was likely selected by the animators to represent the unrefined qualities of the hyenas. Their disorderly and uncultivated behavior contrasts with the refined pride of lions, creating comedic situations. The name also gives audiences an immediate sense of the anarchic and ungoverned nature of the hyenas.

How is Shenzi portrayed in the movie?

In the film, Shenzi is depicted as the clever and audacious leader of the hyenas. She is shown to be quite intelligent, acting as the mastermind behind the hyenas’ plots. However, her plans are often ridiculous and short-sighted, highlighting her uncivilized thinking. Shenzi takes pleasure in the suffering of others but is also quick to retreat when outmatched, showing her instinct for self-preservation.

What role does Shenzi play in the story?

Shenzi and her clan serve as the main antagonists of the film, constantly scheming to overthrow Mufasa and take over the Pride Lands. They form an alliance with Scar to achieve their goals, proving instrumental in helping Scar carry out his sinister plans.

However, after Scar takes power, he betrays the hyenas, showing that their disorderly ways and dishonorable behavior make them unfit to rule. In summary, the name ‘Shenzi’ and her portrayal in The Lion King depict the untamed savagery and cunning nature of the hyenas. Her unscrupulous character serves as an effective foil to highlight the nobility of the lions in the film.


As you have seen, some of the most memorable phrases from The Lion King are in Swahili. Now that you have learned the meaning and pronunciation of hakuna matata, Rafiki, shenzi, and simba, you have acquired some essential vocabulary to get started. The next time you watch the classic Disney film, you can impress your friends and family by translating these iconic lines.

Better yet, use your newfound knowledge in conversation or incorporate the phrases into your daily life. While mastery of the Swahili language will take time and dedication, picking up a few key phrases from popular culture is an easy and fun way to begin. With the help of Shenzi and her hyena friends, you’re well on your way to learning this beautiful East African tongue. Keep exploring and kwaheri!

So do you want to learn more about the beautiful Swahili language? I have activities in my TPT store that are fun, interactive, and engaging, designed to help you learn Kiswahili while having fun! 

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