for those who want to know more

I made a conscious decision while writing Tail of the Blue Bird that I wasn’t going to make an extra effort to find equivalent English words for things I only knew in Ghanaian languages e.g. prekese, which is used for flavouring food. But I also chose to use native words where I felt they served the situation better – AND not to add a glossary because after all, when I was growing up in Ghana, no one placed a glossary at the end of any of the books I read to explain what finches (for example) were. Regardless, there were places where I could find out what these things were if I wanted to, and that’s what this post is. A minimal glossary of sorts. If you have read Tail of the Blue Bird and find yourself struggling to understand something that is not listed here, just put a comment on this post and I will try to respond.

Nii Ayikwei



Abomu – Belt

Adowa – a traditional dance of the Akan

Agoo – a word shouted instead of knocking on someone’s door (most homes had no doors to knock)

Akwaaba – welcome (the response depends on who you’re addressing Yεn nua for a friend, Yεn Na for an older woman etc.)

Amεε – response to ‘Agoo’ meaning, ‘we’re here’ or ‘come in’

Anyεn – witch

Awurade – Lord

Bassa bassa – wild, disorderly

Been-to – someone who has returned from living/studying outside the country

Benada – Tuesday

Bidie – Charcoal

Bosomtwe – a natural crater lake, formed by meteor impact centuries ago

Chale – a term used to address friends, similar to ‘my friend,’ but warmer

Dwowda – Monday

Fida – Friday

Kama – perfect

Kεtε – a woven mat with many uses

Kwaku Ananse – mythical trickster who inhabits most Akan moral tales

Kwasia – fool, buffoon

Kwasida – Sunday

Menada – Saturday

Nawotwe – an Akan week (normally eight days)

Onyame – God

Opanyin – elder (used to address the older people in any community), a similar word is Egya.

Paa – word used for emphasis, equivalent of ‘very’ or ‘really’

Sanyaa – Enamel

Sεbi – an expression used when one speaks of things that make them uncomfortable, or things they usually wouldn’t speak of

Trotro – an adapted minivan bus

Wukuda – Wednesday

Yawda – Thursday