|Native to||Tanzania, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bajuni Islands (part of Somalia), Mozambique (mostly Mwani), Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Comoros, Mayotte, Zambia, Malawi, and Madagascar|
|Estimates range from 2 million (2003) to 150 million (2012)|
L2 speakers: 90 million (1991–2015)
Official language in
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- African Union
swa – inclusive code
swc – Congo Swahili
swh – Coastal Swahili
ymk – Makwe
wmw – Mwani
- G.40.A–H (pidgins & creoles)
areas where Swahili or Comorian is the indigenous language
official or national language
as a trade language
Swahili, also known as Kiswahili (translation: language of the Swahili people), is a Bantu language and the first language of the Swahili people. It is a lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and other parts of eastern and south-eastern Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, some parts of Malawi, Somalia, Zambia, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Comorian, spoken in the Comoros Islands, is sometimes considered to be a dialect of Swahili, though other authorities consider it a distinct language.
The exact number of Swahili speakers, be it native or second-language speakers, is unknown and a matter of debate. Various estimates have been put forward and they vary widely, ranging from 100 million to 150 million. Swahili serves as a national language of the DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Shikomor, the official language in Comoros and also spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is related to Swahili. Swahili is also one of the working languages of the African Union and officially recognised as a lingua franca of the . In 2018, South Africa legalized the teaching of Swahili in South African schools as an optional subject to begin in 2020.
A significant fraction of Swahili vocabulary derives from Arabic, in part conveyed by Arabic-speaking Muslim inhabitants. For example, the Swahili word for "book" is kitabu, traceable back to the Arabic word كتاب kitāb (from the root K-T-B "write"). However, the Swahili plural form of this word ("books") is vitabu, rather than the Arabic plural form كتب kutub, following the Bantu grammar in which ki- is reanalysed as a nominal class prefix, whose plural is vi-.
Swahili is a Bantu language of the Sabaki branch. In Guthrie's geographic classification, Swahili is in Bantu zone G, whereas the other Sabaki languages are in zone E70, commonly under the name Nyika. Local folk-theories of the language have often considered Swahili to be a mixed language because of its many loan words from Arabic, and the fact that the Swahili language emerged as a result of trade between the east African coastal Bantu speaking tribes and traders from Arabia, Persia, Asia (south and southeast) as well as Europe (Portugal). However, historical linguists do not consider the Arabic influence on Swahili to be significant enough to classify it as a mixed language, since Arabic influence is limited to lexical items, most of which have only been borrowed after 1500, while the grammatical and syntactic structure of the language is typically Bantu.