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An Amusing Observation

I am sitting at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Dallas and I had a sudden realization. No one knows the “correct” way to pronounce “Ubuntu.” Everyone, community members, developers, Canonical employees, Mark Shuttleworth, Jono Bacon, we all pronounce it a little bit differently. I’ve heard eww-boon-too, eww-bun-too, yoo-boon-too, yoo-bun-too, oo-bun-too, oo-boon-too and a few more that I can’t figure out how to phoneticize.


  1. Strum


  2. Strum

    Sorry I meant to sya that’s the way I say it. oobuntu. I have heard it pronounced you-buntu
    How do you say it haha?

  3. Jonathan Carter

    Well, living in South Africa my entire life where there’s a company around every corner called “Ubuntu” and knowing a bit of Xhosa, I’m quite sure I’m pronouncing it correctly 😉

  4. I’ve always said oo-boon-too with a “oon” as in “a boon to society” rather than “bun” as in “I have a fresh baked bun on my plate”.

  5. How do you say it, Jonathan? 🙂

  6. I’m of the kind of people that say oo-bun-too, or oe-boen-toe as I would write it down in phonetic Dutch.

    According to Wikipedia you pronounce Ubuntu the OS like /uːˈbuːntuː/ They do provide two citations for the pronunciation, one being a video with Nelson Mandela.
    The Ubuntu FAQ, which is the other source, says:
    “Ubuntu, an African word from Zulu and Xhosa, is pronounced “oo-BOON-too”.”
    They don’t explain how to pronounce Ubuntu the philosophy.

  7. Wait a minute! I don’t say bun! I say boon! Darn English vowels!

  8. Starhawk Laughingsun

    I like the website, or of course you could check out where they say “Ubuntu, an African word from Zulu and Xhosa, is pronounced ‘oo-BOON-too’ ” or wikipedia where they say “Ubuntu (pronounced /uːˈbuːntuː/)”. But really I am not sure it matters and I usually say something like you-bun-too.

  9. Gary van der Merwe

    I’m South African. I just asked a Zulu guy, and he said oo-boon-too.

  10. Woo hoo! On the basis of research performed by Sense and Gary, I believe I am saying it correctly.

  11. No one


    /usr/share/example-content/Experience ubuntu.ogg

  12. Alan Pope

    I note you carefully put the word ‘correct’ in quotes. I have personally received criticism because of the way I pronounce Ubuntu either on the Ubuntu UK Podcast or in Screencasts. Frankly I don’t care. I am 100% certain that people who hear me on either of those mediums know exactly what I am talking about when I say ‘oo-bun-too’ or ‘oo-boon-too’ so it’s largely irrelevant whether it’s pronounced “correctly” so long as the meaning is conveyed.

    People get way too over anal about the pronunciation of words like ‘Linux’ and ‘Ubuntu’ but as a Brit over here (with you Matthew [hello!]) in Dallas I’ve heard some real corker pronunciations of lots of things. I find it quirky, amusing, interesting, but not ‘incorrect’.

    I can’t help but wonder if the same people who get their knickers in such a bunch over the pronunciation of ‘Ubuntu’ would do the same about the pronunciation of another brand such as Nike or Nokia – both of which I’ve heard pronounced “differently” (not incorrectly) than I’m used to.

    “People are different shocker, film at 11”

  13. You caught me, Popey. That is precisely why I used the quotes. I don’t have any emotional connection to one pronunciation and it’s “correctness,” but I am amused that there is no canonical version…maybe that’s the point. Ubuntu is Linux for Human Beings, right? Humans do things differently, but if we can communicate our meaning and be understood, then we’re all good.

  14. oliver

    Apropos pronunciation: how do you say “Lucid”? In German it would be something like “Loo-ceed”; how is it pronounced in English?

  15. oliver: in American English (so noted for my British friends), I would say loo-sid.

  16. Silver Fox

    I’m Scottish by birth and I pronounce it you-bun-too

    I too have noticed this before, though never really dwelled on the matter that much. Guess nobody is totally sure. =]

  17. ghabuntu

    Being a Ghanaian and African, I think I can help you pronounce it. It is uh-bun-tu. Where ‘uh’ is like ah inverted.

  18. Kop

    The website says oo-boon-too, so that’s how I pronounce it.

  19. Yaro

    I always called it oo-boon-too. Because I actually knew it was South African in origin.

    Maybe we better quit assuming words in other languages are pronounced using the American English tables.

    In the end I found Ubuntu to be lacking as a Linux distribution and moved on to Arch, which is a lot closer to what Linux was meant to be like.

  20. nikhil

    you have an exceptional theme for your site
    it’s very pleasant on the eyes
    very nice indeed

  21. I live in South Africa where we pronounce it “ooboontoo”, but diversity is also kool. Let’s put the Freedom back in Ubuntu instead of trying to imitate a corporate/consumer image. We are a community not a target market. Also it wouldn’t be Linux if we all dressed and spoke the same.

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