For some languages below, we have listed the translation in its native characters. If your browser can't handle this, it may just show ?????????.
credit for this idea goes to Bob Lehto
|Albanian||kali i nilit|
Sign Language (ASL)
“With each hand, make a
fist and stick out the thumb and pinky fingers. Align the right hand on top
of the left hand (palms facing each other). Move hands apart from each
other in an up and down motion to simulate the opening and closing of the
|Arabic (#1)||Grinti (in dispute)|
|Arabic (#2)||Faras Al-Naher (Nahar?) (thx to Tareq Khorsheed--see note below)|
|Arabic (Egyptian dialect)||Kalb el
nil (dog of the Nile), or Sayyid ishta (Mr. Cream)
(thanks to Mary S)
|Armenian||begemond (thx Albert, the king of fat)|
|Azeri (language of Azerbaijan)||begemot or hippopotam (thx Jakub)|
|Bemba (copperbelt region in Zambia)||Imfubu (thx Helen in NZ)|
|Bengali||Jalahastha or Jahlto|
|Bosnian||Povodni konj (thx to Jase Allen)|
|Botswana||see entry for Setswana|
|Breton||douvarc'h (thx Jen)|
Cantonese: Ho Ma; (thx to Carol)
|Cockney||ippo (thanks to Ian Hill)|
|Creole||rivyechwal (thx to Cheyanne and Robyn)|
|DJ lopodopo||Hippolopodopomus (thx to Jenna)|
|Dutch (perhaps Boer Dutch?)||De Zeekoe (thx to Jacky)|
|Eggerish||heggipeggoteggameggusegg (thx to "gibling")|
|Egyptian||Deb (thanks Albin Forsell)|
|Elven||Togenta (from Scott R. "The History of Middle Earth Vol.1")|
|Farsi||اسب ابى )ج.ش.(؛ كرگدن|
|Georgian||behemoti or hipopotami|
|German||Flusspferd or Nilpferd|
|gibberish||hippoglutean (thanks to Alex Fabian)|
|gibberish II (AKA oppish & ubby dubby)||Huhthegippuhthegopuhthegotuhtheguhmuhthegus (thx to Beth B)|
|Greek||Ιπποπόταμοσ (thx to Louis Gatoulis the Greek God)|
|Hebrew||B'Hemot or Soos-Nahar|
Daryayi Ghoda (water horse) thx to Ravindra in Mumbai
|Icelandic||Flóðhestur (thx to Jóhann Páll Kristbjörnsson)|
from Lien "Lex" Heikens: "Kuda = horse in Bahasa Indonesia and Nil is of course Nile"
|IPA (international phonetic alphabet)||[hə.ðə.gɪ.pə.ðə.goʊ.pə.ðə.gɑ.tə.ðə.gə.mə.ðə.gəs]|
|Irish Gaelic||Dobhareach (thx to Jen)|
|Japanese||Kaba (or kabba)|
|Justurt||untegleban (thanks Alex F.)|
|Kazakh||Бегемот (behemot) (thx Jakub)|
|Kurdi||حەسپێ رووبار (Hespê rûbar)|
|Lingala||ngubú or kibɔ́kɔ (kiboko) (thx Jakub)|
Hipopotamai (thx to Terra)
Begemotas (thx to D Krinickas)
|Luganda (language spoken by Baganda who live mainly in Uganda)||Envubu or Nvubu (thx to Thomas Serumaga)|
|Luxembourg||Nilpärd (thx to Nadine MEISCH)|
|Maltese (language of Malta Europe)||ippopotamu (thx Chris)|
|Malagasy (from Madagascar)||
Kilopilopitsofy "floppy ears"
(may be pygmy hippo) (thx to Mary S)
|Malay||Badak Air (thx to abdul rahman)|
|Mongol||Армана (armana) or усны үхэр (usny ukher)|
|Norwegian||Flodhest (thanks Line Emilie Sverdrup)|
|Ob||hobippobo (thx Samantha)|
|Oppish||Hopippopopopotopamopus (thx to Jill)|
|Pig Latin||ippopotamus-hay (thanks, Spencer!)|
|Romanian||Hipopotam (thx to Adrian Bradea)|
|Runa Simi||hatun mayu khuchi|
(I have rec'd more emails on the Russian word for hippo than all other languages put together; there is something about Russian that makes translating "hippo" a challenge! See below for some of the emails I have received.)
or çéððïðïôáí or гиппопотам
Begamot, Gippopotam (thx to Sasha Morozov)
|Serbo-Croatian||Nilski Konj (thx Jovica & Danielle)|
|Setswana (language of Botswana)||Kubu (thx to Pete Smith)|
|Shona (Zimbabwean local dialect)||Mvuu (thanks to Helen)|
|Slovak||Hroch (thanks to Miroslav Sedivy)|
|Slovenian||Nilski Konj (thx to andraz)|
|Somali||jeer (thx to John Saeed)|
|Tibetan||charto (thx Jakub)|
|Tshivenda||Mbvuvhu (thx to Josina Matsepa / Tshilidzi)|
|Turkish||Suaygiri or Hipopotam (thx to Zeynep Durak)|
|Ubby Dubby||hibippopabatabumubus (thanks to sctr563)|
|Vietnamese||Hà Mã (thx to vlrulz)|
|Welsh||Afonfarch (thx to Jen)|
|Medieval Welsh||Ypotame (thx to Moss Bliss)|
Imvubu (removed Boma Jan 2007)
(see below notes)
Got one to add? Email me
Here are some of the interesting comments & feedback we have received on this subject:
March 2010, from Jakub K. (winnux8)
I rec'd an email from Jakub with over 25 translations. Many using the correct alphabet. Unfortunately, the version of Frontpage that I use to maintain this web page can't handle some of them. But I've posted most of them (or the transliteration). And of course, no email would be complete without more Russian controversy!
"Hippopotamus is not either âåçåíïô or çéððïðïôáí in Russian , because these two words are some gibberish signs, which don't mean anything! Hippopotamus in Russian is бегемот (begemot) or гиппопотам (gippopotam)."
September 2008, from Tareq Khorsheed
I just noticed that the Arabic word for Hippopotamus is incorrect. The proper name for it is Faras Al-Naher which literally translates to horse of the river. I double checked the translation on the google translate site.
Could not find what Grinti is in Arabic.
Enjoyed the site very much,
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
February 2008, from Mary S
Although it is thought that the pygmy hippopotamus went extinct 1,000 years ago in Madagascar, in one of the more remote parts of the country, the kilopilopitsofy ("floppy ears") was reportedly seen near Belo-sur-Mer as recently as 1976. The descriptions of the kilopilopitsofy sound remarkably like the pygmy hippo. So the Malagasy word for hippo, well pygmy hippo, would be kilopilopitsofy.
Also, in the Egyptian dialog of Arabic, hippos are referred to as both Kalb
el nil (dog of the Nile) and Sayyid ishta which literally means Mr. Cream,
although ishta is slang for cool, so Mr. Cool.
November 2007, from Jen Z
I have a language to add - Breton, which is the local language here in Brittany in western France.
douvarc'h (plural: dourvarc'hed)
It is a celtic language and its nearest relative is Welsh but the word for hippo doesn't seem to bear any resemblance.
In January 2007, I rec'd this email from Dr. Harry Wilson:
the zulu word for hippos is Mvubu, or Imvubu, as correctly pointed out by daphne years ago. the word Boma does exist in zulu, and it is another beastie entirely! it is a common word in many southern african languages, like xhosa, shona, matabele, etc.
it is a fence or barrier, constructed often around a village or a small camp from thorn trees and earthen ramparts (in more permanent installations), that is designed to keep lions and, more importantly, hippos out of the village at night. sometimes also includes the enclosed area surrounded by the fence.
Dr Harry Wilson
Institute of Molecular Biology, and the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Centre
In April 2005, I received this email from Carol So:
Hi, I am a chinese and i have just visited your page on saying hippopotamus in different language. I just wonder whether the english characters above the chinese characters of ªe°¨ are the pronunciations (the Pinyin). If it is so, i think there're some mistakes. That pronunciation, Shi Nio, actually refers to rhinoceros, but not hippopotamus, and the correct pronunciation for hippo in mandarin should be "He Ma", and in Cantonese should be "Ho Ma". I enjoy your page very much, it's fantastic! Sincerely,
A new hippo fan
In February 2005, I rec'd this email:
In May 2004, this email came in:
Subject:Hippo in Zulu
From:daphna - wine <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date:Sun, 30 May 2004
The word for hippo in Zulu is actually "Imvubu", not boma!
In March 2003, I rec'd this email from:
Prof. Dr. Alexander Gelbukh (Alexandre Guelboukh Kahn),
Research Professor, head of NLP Lab,
Centro de Investigacion en Computacion (CIC),
Instituto Politecnico Nacional (IPN).
a Russian native speaker
gippopotam and begemot are (the only) correct transliterations
Pronunciation: [bigim'ot], [gipapat'am]. [gi] as in "gift," not as in "giant."
[Ed. notes: Prof Gelbukh wrote an interesting paper on using the Internet to help with translations. See this link; we are footnote reference #15]
Bill May April 2001
As a holder of degrees in Slavic languages and the experience of living some 10 years in Eastern Europe, I think I can shed some light on a few of the words for Hippo in Slavic tongues. Either "Beg(e)mot" or "Gippopotam" (accent on last syllable for both) means Hippo in Russian. The latter is the more scientific term. My guess is that "Behemot" is the Ukrainian rendition of the Russian "Begemot", since that language does not have a "g" sound and usually substitutes an "h" for it in foreign words (and since Russian was widely spoken there up until the early '90s, it probably found its way into general usage). I see someone has provided the Czech word "Hroch" That word is also used in Slovak (although "Hippopotamus" might be understood). In Bulgarian the name is "Khipopotam" (accent on last syllable).
Another contributor to this page has been Danielle , from The Collector's Addition. She has contributed many of the more obscure languages; Persian, Gaelic, etc. She has a wonderful site full of collectibles, with a hippo stuck here & there <g>.