In the 19th century the lingua franca used along the Congo river was called Lobangi. That language was learned and influenced by the African helpers the westeners brought in from other places (Zanzibar, Comoros and the Tanganyikan inland). Later on the westerners began to learn the language themselves. After 1880 the language became known as Bangala and around 1900 it was replaced by term Lingala. The term first appears in a written form in a publication by the missionary Egide De Boeck (1903).
Its vocabulary has borrowed from French, there is some Portuguese influence (such as the words for butter (manteka), table (mesa), shoes (sapatu) and even some English influences, such as the word for milk for instance (miliki), or book (buku).