Siwi (ⴶⵍⴰⵏⵏⵉⵙⵉⵡⴰⵏ / Jlan n isiwan)

Siwi is an Eastern Berber language spoken mainly in Siwa and Gara oases in the Matrouh Governorate in northwestern Egypt. There are also some speakers of Siwi in Jaghbub, a town in the Al Butnan district in the northeast of Libya. In 2013 there were abotu 20,000 Siwi speakers in Egypt. The number in Libya is not known.

Siwi is also known as Siwan, Siwa Berber, Oasis Berber, Sioua, Siwa or Zenati. It has no official recognition, is not used in education or the media, and is classified as endangered by the UN. It contains many words borrowed from Egyptian and Bedouin Arabic, and almost all Siwi speakers also speak Egyptian Arabic.

Siwi has an oral literature of poems, fairy tales, riddles and proverbs. It is rarely written and Siwi speakers generally write in Arabic. There are, however, ways to write Siwi with the Latin and Tifinagh alphabets.

Tifinagh alphabet for Siwi

Tifinagh alphabet for Siwi

Download an alphabet chart for Siwi (Excel)

Information about the Siwi alphabet supplied by Wolfram Siegel

Sample text (part of a love song)

nəj’ə́l niráwa akəḅḅí
nəssəlsíya af̣andí
wə́n géyfəl nə́ṃṃas ’ə́ẓẓṃa
yáma iṣáṛi fəllas
landál d uli asəllás


We thought we had born a boy;
We dressed him up as a gentleman;
Whoever passed by, we would tell him to salute him.
How much has happened to me because of him,
The mean one with a dark heart!


Sample videos in Siwi


Information about Siwi

Berber languages

Ancient Berber, Ghadamès, Ghomara, Guanche, Kabyle, Riffian, Shilha (Tashelhit), Shawiya, Shenwa, Siwi, Tamahaq, Tamasheq, Tamazight, Tawallammat Tamajaq, Tayart Tamajeq, Zenaga, Zuwara Berber

Languages written with the Tifinagh alphabet

Kabyle, Riffian, Shilha (Tashelhit), Siwi, Tamasheq, Tamazight, Tayart Tamajeq

Page last modified: 23.04.21


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