Uglish – Ugandan English – 101

Uglish – English with a Ugandan Flavor

English that has been localized -referred to as Uglish

Samples of Uglish as used everyday in Uganda by Ugandans

Uglish-spoken-here English is one of the official languages of Uganda.  However the English that you may encounter at times can leave you perplexed,  You have heard one things such as “I am going to make a short-call” which logically to you may mean a phone call, however in Uganda it means going to the Bathroom.

No matter where in the world English is spoken, over time that English of that particular country develops a unique local flavor and so it has in Uganda and here it is known as Uglish.

Uglish has become a part of Ugandan culture and you can see and hear the evidence not only in conversations with Uganda, but in posts on Facebook and in Tweets on Twitter. however it is used more often in spoken English – Uglish than in written English – Uglish.

Below you will find an Uglish Phrasebook sampler  – surely we will have missed your favorite saying or phrase, however you can use the contact form below and send your favorite “Uglish Phrase” and will add it to this post-page.  When you hear an Uglish Phrase – you might be tempted to laugh, smile try to understand, at times tactfully ask for a definition…most enjoy the Conversation in Uganda – Uglish Style.

I need to make a short-Call: 

The short-call catches many visitors – some even offer their phone – it means going to the bathroom, washroom, W.C. whatever you call it in your part of the world.

Balance Please

In many other English speaking countries – one asks for their change.  That might not get you anywhere here – here you ask for the Balance.

Eating Money

That is a reference to a person stealing money through corruption and also spending money like there is no tomorrow, going through large amounts of money.  Eating at the table is when a person takes advantage of their position of power and takes advantage of his or her office stealing funds.

You are lost

You enter a home, an establishment such as a restaurant and are greeted with “You are lost.”  It is the same as “I’ve missed you” or “have not seen you for a long time.”


Now -now is simply an urgent now and it means “now” and not later.  On the other end “slowly-slowly” tells someone to have patience.

I’m on the way

You are sitting in a restaurant and you had a 12 noon luncheon appointment and there is no sign of the person. You call them on the phone and you get “I’m on he way” or I’m reaching there” sometimes even “I’ve reached,” all the while you will sit there for another hour. The African concept of time is different from the West and based more on relationships than punctuality.


If you are in a Ugandans way and they cannot get through, you just might hear “extend.” That means move out of the way, move over.  If they want to sit down on the sofa and there is no space, they will ask you to extend, unfortunately many visitors will need an explanation as to what “extend” means.

Disturbing me

That one is not too hard to figure out, the word disturb means to bother someone, to upset someone.

Are we together?

Are we of one mind?  Do you understand what I am saying?  You might also hear “You get me?”

Slope down

Getting driving instructions from a Ugandan can be and is often quite different such as slope left, meaning go downhill to the left.After a while you will know what is meant.

Borrow me some Money

It simply means “Lend me some money.”

Beep or Flash me

It means to call the other person’s phone with a wrong ringer, a beep or flash and they call you back using their airtime and paying for the phone-call.  You will often get one ringer phone calls where someone will want you to call them back and you pay the call.

Well done

It basically means “thank you for your work.” It is not used in the same context as in UK or US English where when you have done something out of the ordinary, you hear “Well done.”

Where is home?  Where do you stay?

Where do you come from?  Where do you live?

First Come – First Wait

When you ask someone in Uglish to first come – you give them an option to answer with “First Wait.”  Meaning, let me finish what I am doing and I will come.  If you have an urgent need you ask “first come – now, now” adding the urgency of the moment.

Putting on

It does not mean putting on something as a pair of trousers or a dress, but that you already wearing it.

I am shifting

Means that one is moving from one house to another.

’The above area just a few examples of Uglish, of Ugandan English, we love to add your Uglish phrase, just use the contact form adn send it to us…mostly enjoy Uganda, the pearl of Africa where Uglish is spoken…jon


Cultural-Mistakes-AvoidCultural Mistakes to Avoid in Uganda

Fitting into Ugandan Culture as a Westerner Ugandan Cultural Ways –Tips and Advice – Ugandan Etiquette Ugandans are considered some of the friendliest people in all of Africa – their gracious and courteous ways are some of the nicest you will find anywhere, yet culturally we may have very different values and different approaches to life.

Here are some practical tips how to avoid cultural mistakes in Uganda.

Basic-LugandaLuganda Phrases 

Simple Luganda Phrases that you can use in the Central Area of Uganda Ugandans will appreciate when you address them in Luganda – you will make instant friends Those Important Ugandan Greetings in Luganda: In the morning you just do not say Good morning but how was your night?

Learning a few Luganda Phrases will endear you in the eyes of Ugandans that you will meet during your time in the Pearl of Africa.

Conversation-Ugandan-style-smallConversation Ugandan Style

Those Cultural Differences – Social Etiquette Ugandan Style Understanding Ugandan Culture – Ugandan Ways – Ugandan Etiquette. You might speak English, but come from a far away county such as Ireland, the south of the USA, from Australia or New Zealand or you might speak English as a second language, but here in Uganda you may here phrases and you have no clue as to what they means.  That is conversation – Ugandan style

Send us your Uglish Phrase

“The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale. The scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa….what message I bring back….concentrate upon Uganda – ‘The Pearl of Africa’.”   Winston Churchill (My African Journey – 1908)