Expressing Time In Swahili

Ho to say time in Kiswahili and the explanation as why its different from the common way of saying time


In East Africa the sun rises between 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. and sets between 6 p.m. to 7p.m. This naturally divides a 24 hour day into two equal 12 hour segments, day and night. This division of a 24 hour day into two halves is the key to telling time in Swahili. 7 a.m. is considered by the Swahili people to be the start of the first full hour of daylight, and so it is called saa moja, literally “hour one.”n order to learn how to tell the time in Swahili it is important to know a little about the geography of Swahili speaking East Africa which lies close to the Equator. There is very little variation throughout the year in the time that the sun rises and sets.

The Swahili people count forward starting from saa moja (7 a.m.) until saa kumi na mbili (6 p.m.) literally “hour twelve.” After 6 p.m. darkness starts to set in and so the Swahili people consider 7 p.m. as the start of the first hour of darkness and so they begin counting again starting with saa moja until saa kumi na mbili (6 a.m.).Below are the times in Swahili and its equivalent in English. Note that the word saa must always be used when telling the time in Swahili.

The Swahili Clock

Swahili Time

Hour Number

English Time

saa moja

[first hour]

7:00 am / pm

saa mbili

[second hour]

8:00 am / pm

saa tatu

[third hour]

9:00 am / pm

saa nne

[fourth hour]

10:00 am / pm

saa tano

[fifth hour]

11:00 am / pm

saa sita

[sixth hour]

12:00 am / pm

saa saba

[seventh hour]

1:00 am / pm

saa nane

[eighth hour]

2:00 am / pm

saa tisa

[ninth hour]

3:00 am / pm

saa kumi

[tenth hour]

4:00 am / pm

saa kumi na moja

[eleventh hour]

5:00 am / pm


saa kumi na mbili

[twelfth hour]

6:00 am / pm


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