Swahili (also "Kiswahili") is a language widely spoken in East Africa. It originated between 1500 and 1600 as a auxilary language for the traders of the east African coast and the Middle East, particularly Oman. Swahili is the mother tongue for many inhabitants of the central east African coast (particularly in Zanzibar, Mombasa, Pemba and Lamu), and it is a lingua franca for up to 50 million others.
The traditional centre of the language is Zanzibar, and Swahili is an official language of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The Swahili spoken in Nairobi incorporates significantly more English loan words than that spoken on the coast. The language is also spoken in regions that border these three countries, such as far northern Malawi and Mozambique, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and southern Ethiopia.
While structurally and grammatically it is a member of the Bantu family of languages, its vocabulary reflects in part its origins as a language of traders. 20% or more of the vocabulary is directly adopted from Arabic (eg. kitabu for book). It is not a Semitic (i.e. Afro-Asiatic) language. A lesser percentage of the vocabulary is adopted from English, reflecting the colonial influence.