The principal Cushitic language, spoken in Somalia, and adjoining areas of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. The Cushitic group is part of the larger Afro-Asiatic family, and Somali is therefore distantly related to Semitic languages such as Arabic.

Formerly written in Arabic script, a new Latin orthography was been adopted for it in the 1970s. Conventions include C for the voiced pharyngeal fricative as in Cali and Cabdullaahi, and X for the voiceless pharyngeal of Maxamed. Long vowels are written as double, and the group DH represents a retroflex D.

Somali is tonal and has vowel harmony, but these are not marked in the orthography. It has two genders, including in the second person singular, and its pronominal affixes resemble those of Arabic. The affixes for the plural and for the definite article have a somewhat complicated set of possible alternations, depending on both phonetics and noun class.

There are only a few simple adjectives, the rest being formed from nouns; these adjectives form their plural by reduplication, e.g. cusub 'new', pl. cuscusub, and cad 'white', pl. cadcad. Reduplication of consonants also marks the noun plurals in one class: miis 'table', pl. miisas, and dab 'fire', pl. dabab.

To greet someone you say Ma nabad baa? 'Is it peace?' and they reply Waa nabad 'It is peace'. To say goodbye, Nabad gelyo.

Numerals one to ten: kow, laba, saddex, afar, shan, lix, toddoba, siddeed, sagaal, toban, and 100 is boqol and 1000 is kun.

The name of the country is Soomaaliya, the adjective is Soomaali, and the language is Af-Soomaali "Somali language" or Af-Soomaaliga "in the Somali language". The capital is Muqdisho and is also known as Xamar. The breakaway region of Somaliland is known in Somali by its English name.

Place names and personal names are much more commonly given in older, informal romanization than in the unfamiliar official spelling, so here is a list of correspondences:


Baardhere        Bardoa
Baraawe          Brava
Baydhabo         Baidoa
Beledweyne       Belet Uen
Berbera          Berbera   (no change)
Boosaaso         Bosaso
Burco            Burao
Ceerigaabo       Erigavo
Hargeysa         Hargeisa
Kismaayo         Kismayu
Muqdisho         Mogadishu
Seylac           Zeila
Xaafuun          Hafun

Geographical features

Hawd             Haud
Cape Gwardafuy   Cape Guardafui
Mt Surud Cad     Mt Surud Ad

Personal names

Axmed            Ahmed
Cabdirashiid     Abdulrashid
Cabdullaahi      Abdullahi
Cabdulle         Abdullah
Cali             Ali
Caydiid          Aideed
Cigaal           Egal
Farax            Farah
Ibrahiim         Ibrahim
Ismaciil         Ismail
Mahdi            Mahdi   (no change)
Maxamed          Mohammed
Sherma'arke      Shermarke
Siyaad Barre     Siad Barre
Xaaji            Haji
Xasan            Hasan
Yuusuf           Yusuf

There is a lot of inconsistency out there: Cabdullaahi, Cabdulaahi, Cabdullahi, and Cabdulahi are all commonly found; the form I have chosen corresponds most closely to the Arabic. Most of the above personal names are Arabic borrowings, not native Somali. The prefix Cabd- is also seen abbreviated, e.g. C/laahi.

A breed of domestic cat, the longer-haired cousin of the Abyssinian. They are medium-sized, with dense, soft coats which are ticked in a manner associated with wild cats. They tend to have great big bushy tails, large ears, and a full ruff. Most of them are ruddy in color, which sometimes leads people to compare them to foxes. Other colors are blue, fawn, and red (or sorrel).

They are challenging cats to breed for show because intense color in their coats tends to interfere with clarity (lack of stripes on the neck and legs), and both color and clarity are important features when a Somali cat is being judged for its looks.

As physically beautiful as these cats are, their personalities are even more captivating. In general, they are active, inquisitive, and very social beasts. It is not unusual for them to enjoy a game of fetch. Many of them also like to play with water. They thrive on human attention.

The Somali breed first originated as the "undesirable" product of a recessive gene in the Abyssinian cat sometime after World War II. Many breeders refused to admit having them, but some proceeded to produce more. They weren't really bred much until the 1970s, though, and weren't accepted by the Cat Fancier's Association until 1979. The breed was named "Somalia" because Somalia forms the eastern and southeastern borders of Ethiopia (which until 1955 was called Abyssinia).

On the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, Commander Data's cat Spot was sometimes a red Somali (and other times a marmalade tabby).

The Somali is apparently a very popular breed in Japan.

See also: monkey in a cat suit, spring-loaded spice weasel.

personal experience

So*ma"li (?), So*mal" (?), n. Ethnol.

A Hamitic people of East Central Africa.


© Webster 1913.

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