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There are always different levels of communication and there are usually basic entry points. Within every cultural clime, there are words that are frequently or easily used as conversation starters.

Hausa is a popular language amongst inhabitants of northern Nigeria and the language is arguably, the easiest of all the three major Nigerian languages. What makes it so easy is the ease of pronunciation of the words and accents related to each of the words. Worthy of note is the fact that the Hausa language has some of the Arabic accent associated with it and this determines where the emphasis is laid on each word. For example, using our case study word for today, ‘Sannu’, the emphasis or stress on the word is on the first syllable.

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Another aspect is that one word in Hausa can be used in so many different ways and will still make so much sense in the context of usage. This article will take on a brief exploration of one of such words in the Hausa language: ‘Sannu’. The article will furnish you with a few ways the word is used generally and some possible typical responses depending on the context.

So, as earlier stated, let us take a quick explorative journey on the word ‘Sannu’.


The word “san’nu” is a multi-dimensional word in the Hausa language. Depending on the context of usage, it can take up so many meanings: same word, different meanings. For example.

  • ‘Sannu’: this can be used as a general formal salutation or greeting. That is, ‘Sannu’ (meaning: ‘Good day or Hello’). A sentence that exemplifies this can be, ‘Sannu Mama’ (meaning Hello Mummy/Mama). A typical response to ‘Sannu’ in this context can be, ‘ya ya dai’ or ‘ya ya ka ke’ (masculine), ‘ya ya ki ke’ (feminine) or ya ya ku ke (plural). The response means ‘how are you?’
  • Sannu: This can also be used in a congratulatory sense as ‘Sannu’ (meaning ‘well done’). A sentence that exemplifies this can be: ‘Sannu da aiki’ (meaning ‘job well done’). A typical response to ‘Sannu’ in this context can be, ‘Yau wa’ meaning, ‘ it is okay’ or ‘na gode’ meaning ‘thank you’.
  • Sannu: This can also be used in a sympathetic sense to express sympathy like to one who is injured or sick in the hospital as ‘sannu’ (meaning ‘sorry’). A typical response to ‘Sannu’ in this context can also be ‘na gode’ meaning ‘thank you.
  • Sannus: This can also be used in a sarcastic way as ‘Sannu’ (meaning ‘you wish’). There is no typical response to this sense it is used in a sarcastic sense and therefore, the response can be dependent on the kind of relationship between the individuals.

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Possibly, there are other ways that the word ‘Sannu’ is used. Please feel free to include such in the comment box. We will be most grateful to glean more from you the reader.

So when next you meet anyone from the north or you are in the north, feel free to commence your conversation with a ‘Sannu’.

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This article was first published on 13th August 2021


Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

Comments (8)

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