Wolof, black African ethnic group numbering over 3 million, along the Atlantic coast of W Africa; most live in Senegal, but there is a significant minority in Gambia. Traditional Wolof society was distinguished for its rigid social classes. There were nobles and farmers among the free born; below them were lower classes of artisans and minstrels; slaves were the lowest class. Chiefs were elected by the nobles. By the 14th cent. the Wolof had established a separate state. They were converted to Islam in the 18th cent.

Muslim people of Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauretania. They speak a language of the Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo family. In the 14th–16th century the Wolof maintained a powerful empire. Traditional Wolof society was highly stratified, consisting of royalty, an aristocracy, a warrior class, commoners, slaves, and members of despised artisan castes. Today most Wolof (numbering some 5 million) are farmers, but many live and work in Dakar, Senegal, and Banjul, The Gambia. Wolof women are renowned for their elaborate hair styles, abundant gold ornaments, and voluminous dresses. Nearly half the people of Senegal are Wolof.

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