Bantu, ethnic and linguistic group of Africa, numbering about 120 million. The Bantu inhabit most of the continent S of the Congo River except the extreme southwest. The classification is primarily linguistic, and there are almost a hundred Bantu languages, including Luganda, Zulu, and Swahili. Few cultural generalizations concerning the Bantu can be made. Before the European conquest of Africa the Bantu tribes were either pastoral and warlike or agricultural and usually pacific. There were some highly developed Bantu states, including Buganda in present-day Uganda. Possibly under the fear of European encroachment, several additional Bantu states developed in the 19th cent., notably among the Zulu and the Sotho. Other well-known Bantu tribes include the Ndebele (Matabele) and the Shona. In South Africa, the term Bantu is commonly used to refer to the native African population, which was subject to the policies of apartheid.

See W. M. MacMillan, Bantu, Boer, and Briton (rev. ed. 1963); W. C. Willoughby, The Soul of the Bantu (1928, repr. 1970); E. J. Murphy, The Bantu Civilization of Southern Africa (1974).

Group of some 500 languages belonging to the Benue-Congo language branch of the Niger-Congo language family. They are spoken by more than 200 million people in a very large area, including most of Africa from southern Cameroon eastward to Kenya and southward to the southernmost tip of the continent. Twelve Bantu languages, including Rundi (Kirundi), Rwanda (Kinyarwanda), Shona, Zulu, and Xhosa, are spoken by more than 5 million people.

Learn more about Bantu languages with a free trial on

Teddy Louise Kasella-Bantu is a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Tanzania.


Search another word or see Bantuon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature