Have you ever wondered how to say Hippopotamus in another language? Well, wonder no more...

In many languages, the word translates to Water Horse, River Horse or Nile Horse. In a few languages (especially around the area of the Indian sub-continent), it means Water Elephant.

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

Acholi Raa
Afrikaans Seekoei
Albanian kali i nilit
American Sign Language (ASL)

For a video, visit
http://www.aslpro.com/cgi-bin/aslpro/aslpro.cgi

click on "H", then scroll down to "Hippopotamus"

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 hippos jaws.

Anuak Rei
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)
avon havonip~avono~pavonot~avona~mavonus
Azeri (language of Azerbaijan) begemot or hippopotam (thx Jakub)
Basque hipopotamo
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
Braille    (thanks Danielle)
Breton douvarc'h (thx Jen)
Bulgarian Khipopotam
Catalan hipoptam
Chilala Nourvu
Chinese Mandarin: He Ma
Cantonese: Ho Ma; (thx to Carol)
  (thanks Danielle)
Cockney  ippo (thanks to Ian Hill)
Creole rivyechwal  (thx to Cheyanne and Robyn)
Croatian Nilski konj
Czech Hroch
Danish Flodhest
DJ lopodopo Hippolopodopomus   (thx to Jenna)
Double Dutch hivogippovogopovogotovogmuvugus
Dutch Nijlpaard
Dutch (perhaps Boer Dutch?) De Zeekoe  (thx to Jacky)
Eggerish heggipeggoteggameggusegg (thx to "gibling")
Egyptian Deb  (thanks Albin Forsell)
Elkshnishvow Umhibtowvawpottomottommustamoos
Elven Togenta (from Scott R. "The History of Middle Earth Vol.1")
English Hippopotamus
Ernestish shmotamuss 
Esperanto Hipopotam
Estonian Jehobune
Ethiopian Hoboj
Farsi اسب ابى )ج.ش.(؛  كرگدن
Finnish Virtahepo
French Hippopotame
Frisian/Frysk Nylhoars
Gaelic each-aibhne
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)
Hawaiian Hipopokamu
Hebrew B'Hemot or Soos-Nahar
Hindi Jal Hasti or
Daryayi Ghoda (water horse)
thx to Ravindra in Mumbai
Hungarian Vizilo
Icelandic Flhestur  (thx to Jhann Pll Kristbjrnsson)
Ido hipopotamo
Indonesian Kuda Nil
from Lien "Lex" Heikens: "Kuda =  horse in Bahasa Indonesia and Nil is of course Nile"
IPA (international phonetic alphabet) [hə.ə.gɪ.pə.ə.goʊ.pə.ə.gɑ.tə.ə.gə.mə.ə.gəs]
Irish Gaelic Dobhareach  (thx to Jen)
Italian Ippopotamo
itta hitta~gip~itta~go~pitta~go~titta~ge~mittagus
Japanese Kaba (or kabba)
Justurt untegleban (thanks Alex F.)
Kazakh Бегемот (behemot) (thx Jakub)
Kenyan Kiboko
Korean Hama
Krahn Nimeh kla
Kreyol ipopotam
Kurdi حەسپێ رووبار (Hesp rbar)
Latin Hippopotamus
Latvian NĪLZIRGS
Lingala ngub or kibɔ́kɔ (kiboko) (thx Jakub)
Lithuanian Hipopotamai (thx to Terra) or
Begemotas (thx to D Krinickas)
Luganda (language spoken by Baganda who live mainly in Uganda) Envubu or Nvubu  (thx to Thomas Serumaga)
Luxembourg Nilprd (thx to Nadine MEISCH)
Macedonian Нилскиот коњ
Magyar nlusi vzil
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)
Mandarin "huh-ma"
Mongol Армана (armana) or усны үхэр (usny ukher)
Min Nan h-b
Navajo Thoołtsdii
Norwegian Flodhest (thanks Line Emilie Sverdrup)
Ob hobippobo (thx Samantha)
Occitan ipopotam
Oppish Hopippopopopotopamopus (thx to Jill)
Persian
Pig Latin ippopotamus-hay (thanks, Spencer!)
Polish Hipopotam
Portuguese Hipoptamo
Romanian Hipopotam (thx to Adrian Bradea)
Runa Simi hatun mayu khuchi
Russian
(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 or  гиппопотам (in Cyrillic);
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)
Sinhala haipotaembasamba
Slovak Hroch (thanks to Miroslav Sedivy)
Slovenian Nilski Konj (thx to andraz)
Somali jeer  (thx to John Saeed)
Spanish Hipoptamo
Swahili Kiboko
Swedish Flodhst
Tagalog (Phillipines) Hippopotamus
Tamil Neer Yanai
Thai ปโปโปเตมัส
Tibetan charto (thx Jakub)
Tojiki Баҳмут (bakhmut)
Tshivenda
Mbvuvhu (thx to Josina Matsepa / Tshilidzi)
Turkish Suaygiri or Hipopotam  (thx to Zeynep Durak)
Ubby Dubby hibippopabatabumubus (thanks to sctr563)
Ukrainian Гўпопотам
Urdu دریائی گھوڑا
Vietnamese H M       (thx to vlrulz)
Welsh Afonfarch (thx to Jen)
Medieval Welsh Ypotame (thx to Moss Bliss)
Zulu Mvubu or 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 or 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,

Thank you,
tareq khorsheed
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
Scientific Editor
Institute of Molecular Biology, and the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Centre
Academia Sinica
Taipei, Taiwan

 

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 e 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,
Carol
A new hippo fan

 

In February 2005, I rec'd this email:
Let me add a couple of words re. the word бегемот (begemot) that means Hippopotamus in Russian. This word comes directly from Hebrew (I guess via the Old Testament) and fully matches to the original Hebrew word בהמות (behemoth) for Hippo. The sound "h" has moved to "g" simply because there is no "h" in Russian. So, there is nothing to do with Ukrainian.
Sincerely,
Alexander (Sasha) Morozov,
Software engineer,
Israel

In May 2004, this email came in:
Subject:Hippo in Zulu
From:daphna - wine <daphna@xxx.co.il>
Date:Sun, 30 May 2004
To:xxx@hippos.com

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 in writing.
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>.