Lesson 1 – Greetings

This lesson in the Rutooro language of western Uganda introduces you to some basic greetings between men and women, both old and young. Greetings are an essential part of everyone’s day in Tooro. Greetings between two people can be elaborate and last several minutes, or even as long as a quarter of an hour. When asked how long it took him to walk to school every morning, teacher Moses Musinguzi answered, “It depends on how many people I greet.”

Oraire ota: How are you this morning? (2:05)
Morning to you: oraire oh-rah-EE-ray
Greetings to you: ota OH-tah


Among the Tooro, saying just “oraire ota” as a greeting would seem abrupt and almost rude. Other than in a very casual and passing moment, one would always add an acknowledgement of who the other person is. The Tooro are endlessly careful about recognizing, honoring, and inquiring after each other.

In the next spoken segment you will learn how to greet an older woman, an older man, and a younger woman. Generally speaking, the more-respected person in an exchange receives the first greeting, and responds to the greeter from a higher level or equal level. For example, a schoolgirl would greet her teacher as an older and more respected woman, and the teacher would respond with a greeting to the younger woman or girl.

Oraire ota, mu kaikuru: How are you this morning, madam? (5:45)
Older woman: omukaikuru oh-moo kah-ee-KOO-roo
Older man: omugurusi oh-moo goo-ROO-see
Younger woman or girl: omuisiki oh-moo ee-SEE-kee
Younger man or boy: omwoojo oh-moo OOH-jo
Child: aana AAH-na
Person: mu moo
You person: omu oh-moo
Good morning, respected woman: oraire ota, omukaikuru
How are you this morning, sir? oraire ota, ‘mugurusi
Young woman, how are you feeling this morning? Oraire ota, muisiki
Young man, how are you this morning? Oraire ota, omuwoojo
Child, good morning to you: Oraire ota, omu aana
Best of the morning to you, schoolchilren: Oraire ota, ab aana


This next segment teaches you how to respond to a morning greeting. The R sound in Rutooro can often sound like an L sound instead. This seems to be the case more often when the R is bracketed by vowels, as in the word for “good”, “kurungi”.

Ndaire kurungi: I’m doing well (3:44)
My morning: ndaire nn-dah-EE-ray
Good, well, fine: kurungi koo-ROO-nn-gee
I’m well this morning: ndaire kurungi
I’m fine, my dear lady: ndaire kurungi, mu kaikuru
I’m having a good morning, sir: ndaire kurungi, mu gurusi
I’m doing very well, young woman: ndaire kurungi, mu isiki


Greetings among people in the afternoon and evening are different from those in the morning.

Osibire ota: Good afternoon (evening) (5:39)
Your afternoon or evening: osibire oh-SEE-BEE-ray
Greetings to you: ota OH-tah
My afternoon or evening: nsibire nn-SEE-BEE-ray
Are you have a good afternoon? osibire ota
Thank you, doing fine this afternoon, young woman: nsibire kurungi, mu isiki
Yes, I’m doing well this afternoon, sir: nsibire kurungi, mu gurusi
Doing well, ma’am: nsibire kurungi, mu kaikuru


This segment covers informal greetings among friends using pet names, which are called “empaako” in Rutooro. There are about a dozen empaakos in general use and many more that are less used. It is said that these names were introduced centuries ago into the Rutooro and Runyoro languages of western Uganda by invading Luo tribespeople from western Kenya. Empaakos are assigned to Tooro children soon after birth in elaborate ceremonies that feature particular special foods including millet cakes. Other people including visitors from abroad may have empaakos bestowed on them later in life, always with some ceremony. One never chooses one’s empaako; all are assigned by respected elders of the community. Each empaako has a meaning that implies high praise of some form or other. Children always address their parents by empaako names. Friends address each other using them.

Ota Abwooli: How are you, my friend? (6:04)
Pet name: empaako em-PAAH-koh
What is yours? yawe YAAH-way
What is your pet name? empaako yawe em-PAAH-koh YAAH-way
And what is yours? kandi e yawe KAHN-dee eh YAAH-way
Some popular empaakos:
abooki ah-BOO-kee … piglike, active, intelligent
abwooli ah-BWOO-lee … catlike, caring, womanly – the generic empaako for girls
acaali ah-CHAA-lee … of the kings
adyeeri ahd-YEE-ree … happy, friendly, laughing
akiiki ah-KEE-kee … brave one, savior of nations
amooti ah-MOO-tee … royal
apuuli ah-PWOO-lee … doglike, manly – the generic empaako for boys
araali ah-RAH-lee … like lightning and thunder
ateenyi ah-TEE-nyee … wise as the serpent of the River Muziizi
atwooki ah-TWOO-kee
ocaali oh-CHAA-lee
How are you, my friend? ota abwooli
I’m fine, my friend: kurungi, amooti


There are several ways to say goodbye and farewell in Rutooro.

Kangende, chaali: I have to leave now, my friends (7:27)
I must say goodbye: kankuragi kah-nn-koo-RAH-gee
We must say goodbye: kanbaragi kah-nn-bah-RAH-gee
I must depart: kangende kah-nn-GENN-day
We must depart: mugende moo-GENN-day
My dear or dears, my colleague(s), friend(s): chaali CHAA-lee
Goodbye to one other person: ogorobe oh-go-ROH-bay
Goodbye to two or more other people: mugorobe moo-go-ROH-bay
Be well, stay well, everyone: mu e kaali kurungi moo eh kaa-lee koo-ROO-nn-gee
Go well, safe journey, everyone: mugende kurungi moo-GENN-day koo-ROO-nn-gee

Continue to Lesson 2 – Coming-Going