Someone recently asked me how to say “busy”.

In my experience, there isn’t a good one-to-one translation and people often use a French loan/codeswitching with occuper, but there’s a few options that I use or that also hear people say to express the general idea.

I’ll list them below, but does anyone else have other preferred words or expressions for the idea of “I am busy” (as in, "I have a lot going on)?


  • Waati man ca! = Time isn’t numerous
  • N bolo gannen don (N bolo gwannin lo in Jula) = My arm is heated
  • Ko ka ca! = Affairs are numerous

Would love to hear what else people say!

1 Like

I have also heard: n bɛ baara la (‘I am at/in work’)

1 Like

Today while chatting, I was corrected while trying to say “they were all busy” in Bambara with u bɛɛ gannen don.

They said that it comes from the word ka gan to heat up and can be used for ‘busy’ and ‘suffering’.

1 Like

I asked a Maninka friend in Conakry how to say “I’ve been busy all week.” He said, “Lɔɔkun bɛɛ, n tɛdɛ masɔdɔnnɛn tɛ”

1 Like

I ni ke! This is also cool and a close equivalent in Bambara/Jula would be “Lɔgɔkun/dɔgɔkun bɛɛ, n tun tɛ (ma)sɔrɔ:slight_smile:

Chiming in with an other option using the verb k’à masɔrɔ, which is related to the verb k’à sɔrɔ:
(‘to obtain something’):

N tɛ à masɔrɔ

“I don’t obtain it” (as in, “I am too busy to be able to do it”)

:slightly_smiling_face: Here are two other examples from dictionaries:

  • Ne bolo degunnen don. (I am very busy.)

  • I bolo degunna wa? (Are you busy?)