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I have never been good at deciphering the pronunciation guides:

ubuntu |oǒ'boǒntoō|

What is the best way to describe the pronunciation with like sounding words for each syllable?

"oǒ": ?

"boǒn": like Boone as in Daniel or like bun as in hamburger?

"toō": like too as in also?

3
  • 1
    I always pronounced it You-bahn-chew, but apperantly I am wrong. I once heard someone say Oo-bun-too, I thought it sounded funny, but based on the other answers he was closer than I was.
    – JD Isaacks
    Apr 14, 2011 at 13:15
  • I agree with Buyongo's proposal. He is correct. Proper pronunciation should be maintained. In many parts of India Ubuntu is pronounced as "oo-bun-tu". here the 't' is pronounced in a different but soft and slippery-smooth way.
    – user397954
    May 12, 2015 at 5:59
  • 4
    It's pronounced "jif", as all things are.
    – user459652
    Jan 17, 2016 at 4:56

5 Answers 5

59

Here's Nelson Mandela ... Short clip : The Meaning of Ubuntu .

Actually, you get the interviewer pronouncing Ubuntu twice, and you'll hear Mandela pronounce Ubuntu near the end of the clip.

To attempt a quick summary, the bun is close to Boone in Daniel Boone or \bün\ ;

and tu is close to too, or \tü\ . The initial u matches this sound.

5
  • Still a lot of (Ubuntu) developers out there calling it Oo-buhn-too! Hmmm.... Buns... I also hear a fair bit of "You-buhn-too" or "You-boon-too". Jorge nails it here : castrojo.blip.tv/file/4998464
    – Scaine
    Apr 14, 2011 at 12:02
  • 1
    What, Jorge pronounces his own name "George" and not spanish [ˈxoɾxe]?
    – Christoph
    Apr 14, 2011 at 13:16
  • 6
    I should point out that my South African friends are unanimous in using Mandela's pronunciation. Saying Oo-buhn-too would result in a quick pronunciation lesson. It seems that Zulu and Xhosa (the source languages for Ubuntu) pronunciation is fairly straightforward except for the clicks. Apr 14, 2011 at 13:26
  • 4
    Spanish users need not to worry about it since Ubuntu is pronounce exactly as it should (And as Nelson Mandela pronounce's it). Both U are pronounced like the sound of a double O. Like in the final Doo in Scooby Dooby Doo. That is how the U is pronounced. Apr 17, 2011 at 20:08
  • 2
    @CYREX I have to say, I really like Scooby Dooby Doo as an Ubuntu pronunciation mnemonic.
    – belacqua
    Apr 17, 2011 at 23:04
14

ou.boon.too = ubuntu

In most languages from southern Africa, ubuntu = humanity to others, bantu = people.

In some languages the "b" is pronunced as a "w", for instance my name "Buyongo" is pronunced "Wuyongo". A westerner will make the mistake of saying buy.on.go, which is incorrect. Another example is Busisiwe which is said Wusisiwe even though it has the letter B.

So if you used a genuine southern African accent to pronunce it, it would sound more like ou.woon.tu, but for simplicity sake lets just say ou.boon.too. It's the popular way anyhow. :)

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How To Pronounce Ubuntu - YouTube

pronunciationbook

Published on 11 Sep 2010

This video shows you how to say Ubuntu. Learn the correct American English pronunciation of the Linux distribution.

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  • Yeah. Not sure this is it though. That sound file sounds very "English" to me. Ubuntu is an African word. The real answer for me is "I don't know". But my gut feeling is that the 'u' is more like 'oo' in 'good', like the French 'ou' or the German/Scandinavian 'u'.
    – asoundmove
    Apr 14, 2011 at 2:31
  • To me, this pronunciation is close to what I hear in the Mandela clip.
    – belacqua
    Apr 14, 2011 at 3:40
2

Here's a very short clip from an interview with another very famous person demonstrating the correct pronunciation of Ubuntu :-)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGox0EKqiaE

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  • 1
    unavailable, then again 2013 vs 2018... I suspect it doesn't matter any more
    – Madivad
    Nov 18, 2018 at 12:49
  • Thanks, I think I accidentally deleted that short video clip I had uploaded, so I'll just cite another one that I can't delete ;-)
    – Sadi
    Nov 19, 2018 at 9:10
2

Official

From the Wikipedia page on Ubuntu:

(/ʊˈbʊntuː/ (listen) uu-BUUN-too)[1]

This is written in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) followed by Wikipedia's English respelling system.

  • The vowels are /ʊ/ uu as in FOOT and /uː/ oo as in GOOSE.
  • The consonants /b, n, t/ are pronounced as they're written.
  • The second syllable is emphasized.
  • The colon-like symbol after /u/ is just a length marker, which isn't very important in English.

The citation here is the official About Ubuntu page, where the pronunciation is written |oǒ'boǒntoō|. I'm not sure what system that's written in, but it might be a variant of the pre-IPA Oxford system, described here under the "POD" column.

Unofficial

Another pronunciation I've heard in North American English is /uˈbʌntu/ oo-BUN-too, with /ʌ/ as in STRUT. Another is /juˈbʌntu/ you-BUN-too, with the first syllable /ju/ = "you", which is arguably incorrect. The second syllable is emphasized in both of these.

Zulu

While we're here, it's worth mentioning that the word "ubuntu" originally comes from the Bantu languages (e.g. Xhosa, Zulu). I've never heard this used to refer to the OS, but for context, Wikipedia has the Zulu pronunciation on the page Ubuntu philosophy:

[ùɓúntʼù][1][2]

This is way more complicated for an English speaker. The accents indicate tones, the /ɓ/ is an implosive, and the /tʼ/ is an ejective.

4
  • Listening to audio clip: Ewbuntu would be phonetic spelling? Jul 20, 2019 at 17:50
  • @Win No, the first and second vowels are the same.
    – wjandrea
    Jul 20, 2019 at 17:57
  • LOL I give up. I've always pronounced it YOU-BUN-TWO in my head. Since I don't know anyone that will say "Ubuntu" nor anyone that I would say "Ubuntu" to, official pronunciation is irrelevant :). Jul 20, 2019 at 18:08
  • @Win Haha, fair point :) If it helps, your pronunciation is probably /ju'bʌntu/ or you-BUN-too in Wikipedia's respelling system. The official pronunciation, /ʊˈbʊntuː/, would be respelled uu-BUUN-too. Oh also the colon after /u/ indicates length, which isn't applicable for (most) North American accents.
    – wjandrea
    Jul 20, 2019 at 18:15

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