You know the lyrics!
Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase!
Hakuna Matata! Ain't no passing craze!
It means no worries for the rest of your days.
It's our problem-free philosophy.
But… is Hakuna Matata a phrase in real life? Why, yes it is!
Most of the world only knows the phrase through “The Lion King”, an insanely popular Disney movie released in 1994. It would be very, very hard to find an adult that does not know The Lion King – go ahead and ask your parents, teacher, uncles and aunts.
The live action remake, which is still playing at the movie theatre, retells the story, but with very realistic looking animals, as opposed to the cartoon animation of 1994.
The Lion King popularised the phrase Hakuna Matata so much, that it’s very recognisable, and even prompts people to sing the song, even though they might not know what language it is. Can you guess? Let’s take a hint from the movie itself: lions, hyenas, zebras, elephants, rhinos... those animals are found in East Africa. Maybe the language is from there too…
The answer is Swahili!
The phrase is a rough translation of "there are no troubles" in Swahili. Hakuna means “there is/are not” or “no”; and Matata is a plural form of “trouble” or “entanglement”. It can also be translated as “everything is okay.”
Swahili is used in different African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More than 60 million people speak Swahili; the largest estimates are near 150 million!
Hakuna Matata is a common expression in Swahili, and is used as a response to greetings, especially in the coastal regions of East Africa.
Did you know that after releasing the 1994 movie, Disney filed a trademark on the phrase Hakuna Matata for its usage of T-shirts and footwear sold in the Unites States? This was so that other companies would not be able to profit from selling knock-off merchandise. However, this was seen as offensive to some, since Disney did not make up the phrase. Last year, a Kenyan writer spoke about protecting African culture in what became a popular newspaper article, and used this trademark as an example.
Here are a few other names from The Lion King and what they mean in Swahili:
* Simba: Lion
* Nala: Gift
* Rafiki: Friend
* Pumbaa: Silly or Foolish
The movie’s opening song, The Circle of Life, which introduces baby Simba, includes some Zulu lyrics that announce the coming of a lion. Zulu is another African language spoken in a few different countries, but mainly in South Africa, where it is one of the official languages. More than 9 million people speak Zulu.