The objective of the study was to translate and adapt the SF-36 Health Survey for use in Tanzania and to test the psychometric properties of the Kiswahili SF-36. A cross-sectional study was conducted as part of a household survey of a representative sample of the adult population of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The IQOLA method of forward and backward translation was used to translate the SF-36 into Kiswahili. The translated questionnaire was administered by trained interviewers to 3,802 adults (50% women, mean (SD) age 31 (13) years, 50% married and 60% with primary education). Data quality and psychometric assumptions underlying the scoring of the eight SF-36 scales were evaluated for the entire sample and separately for the least educated subgroup (n = 402), using multitrait scaling analysis. Forward and backward translation procedures resulted in a Kiswahili SF-36 that was considered conceptually equivalent to the US English SF-36. Data quality was excellent: only 1.2% of respondents were excluded because they answered less than half of the items for one or more scales; ninety percent of respondents answered mutually exclusive items consistently. Median item-scale correlations across the eight scales ranged from 0.47 to 0.81 for the entire sample. Median scaling success rates were 100% (range 87.5-100.0). The median internal consistency reliability of the eight scales for the entire sample was 0.81 (range 0.70-0.92). Floor effects were low and ceiling effects were high on five of the eight scales. Results for n = 402 people without formal education did not differ substantially from those of the entire sample. The results of data quality and psychometric tests support the scoring of the eight scales using standard scoring algorithms. The Kiswahili translation of the SF-36 may be useful in estimating the health of people in Dar es Salaam. Evidence for the validity of the SF-36 for use in Tanzania needs to be accumulated.