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Glossary & Measures

Selam and welcome to another refference page
There are some Amharic words and measures used throughout those pages. Ethiopic software is not install yet. If you see anything wrong, let us know, please.


[words used in our texts]

Abba, father, priest, and sometimes to elders.
Abyssinia, an old name for Ethiopia.
Abbay, Nile river.
Addis Ababa, a capital of Ethiopia, "New Flower" in Amharic.
Afarsata, imprisoning everyone in a village and starving them till they surrender a perpetrator.
Amhara, the most powerful Ethnic group in Ethiopia. The Amharas are located in Central Ethiopia in the province of Shoa.
Amharic, previously the official language of Ethiopia.
Apotheosis, (Greek) climatic moment.
Barya, a slave, slavery exited in Ethiopia until 1930.
Dem, blood.
Eritrea, a state since 1993, previously a province of the upper North of Ethiopia and Italian colony between 1896 and 1941.
Fasika, Easter, a very big holiday, perhaps celebrated more than Christmas.
Fukera, a ritual dance.
Galla, a tribe in the South-West of Ethiopia; also, a derogatory term used in reference to the Oromo people.
Gebbi, palace.
Ge'ez, the ancient written language from which the modern languages Amharic and Tigrinia have derived.
Gondar, a city north of Addis Ababa and former capital.
Kebra Nagest, Glory of Kings, a main book of Ethiopian history.
Kidane Meheret, the Covenant of Mercy.
Kresta Samra, a holy nun.
Lej Iyasu, a grandson of the Emperor Menelik, deposed in 1916 by Ras Tafari.
Lion of Juda, the ancient symbol of Imperial House of Ethiopia.
Markato, a vast open market in the center of Addis Ababa.
Malak Uqabe, a guardian angel.
Menelik, Emperor of Ethiopia 1889-1907-1912
Meskel, Ethiopian cross.
Mystire Tensaea, the Secret or Mystery of the Resurrection.
Negus, a king.
Nega Negus, King of Kings, a chronology of Ethiopian kings.
Negusa Negist, an emperor.
Oromos, people of the Oromo ethnic group, Western Ethiopia.
Ras Tafari, Haile Selassie name before becoming an emperor.
Ras, prince, lord, duke. Ras is the highest of the civilian ranks given by the Emperor.
Sama, poison ivy, a special kiss.
Shamma, a large shawl made of pure cotton, white, typically embroidered at the edges and worn by both man and woman.
Shiftas, robbers.
Shoans, people of the Shoan province, Central Ethiopia.
Selam, Hello (Arabic).
Selassie, "Power of Trinity," Amharic.
Sheba, a queen, also Saba and Belkis (Arabic).
St. John, a catholic priest visited Ethiopia in 17th century.(?)
Tewaheldo, Orthodox.
Tigreans, people of the Tigrai region, Northern Ethiopia.
Yazawd Baal, coronation. Yodit, queen, Jewish ruler of Ethiopia in 15th century.
Waq, a tribal god of the Oromo ethnic group.
Wallo, a province of Ethiopia located mid Eastern part of the country.
Wetaderoch, foreigners, soldiers.
Zabania, house guard. Middle class households had a servant to watch the gates.
Zauditu, (Judith), Empress of Ethiopia, early 20th century.
Zar, superstitious and supernatural evil force. He, she, or it is believed to possess people.
More words will be added later. There is no special order in this selection and it's not intended for learning Amharic. We'll post the sites, offering language classes. Some definitions are questionable, but to have them is better than nothing.
Spelling is a constant problem. Including Haile Sellassie name, which often spells with one "l" -- Selassie. In various publications you can see "Work" and "Worq" or even "Worrk" -- all represent the different phonetic interpretations. Perhaps, the best way to solve the problem is to consult with the departments teaching Amharic (UPENN has an extensive web site).
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Systems of Measure in Ethiopia

This page has been contributed and is maintained by Yared Berhane. Please send comments and suggestions to him at
Azq -- A measure of distance about an inch long. People in the countryside use the distance from the tip of their index finger to the first fold (Angua).

Sinzir -- A measure of distance from the tip of the middle finger to the tip of the thumb while the hand is fully extended (could reach anywhere between six to twelve inches depending on the length of the hand).

Kend -- A measure of distance from the tip of one's elbow to the tip of the middle finger. This distance could be anywhere from from a foot to nearly two feet depending the size of the arm.

Aarb -- A measure of lengh approximately about a yard. Used to measure woven fabrics like shoals. (Netela, Gabi, Kuta)

Chamma -- A mesure of distance from the back of the heel to the tip of the big toe. A chamma could be anywhere from a few inches to aa dozen or more inches depending the size of one's foot.

Enqib -- A measure of volume approximately about one bushel. This is used to measure grains.

Dawulla -- A volume measure of approximately 50 kgs. The size of the dawulla depends on the size of the animal (goat or sheep) that used to inhabit the skin of which the dawulla was made. Unsed to measure grains.

Ermijja -- A linear distance measure of about a yard of a person's extended walk.

Senselet-- A linear measure used to measure land. (I do not have the exact distance of a Senselet at this point, but I will look it up).

Gasha -- An area measure of land. (25 Senselet Squared) (A Gasha is 25 Senselet by 25 Senselet).

Tassa, Ensira, Gerewoina and Gan -- These are containers of liquids which are also used to measure volume. A Tassa is about a litre, Ensira depends on how big the container happens to be anywhere from two to several gallons, Gerewoina is about 20 or 30 litres (I have to check), and a Gan is several gallons.

Feresulla -- This is a kind of volume measure that seems to change with the item being measured. A Feresulla Qibe (butter) is different from a Feresulla Mar (honey) and this is different from a Feresulla Berbere (Red peppers).

Quintal -- A hunderd kgs. of weight (This looks like it may have come with modern measuring instruments).

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