Vol. 57 No. 1 (2009)
Research Article

Descriptive Zulu Placenames of San Origin

Published 2009-03-01



Although the meanings of Zulu placenames are important as part of the culture of the Zulu people, these meanings are frequently uncertain, and various interpretations of a name are sometimes encountered. The reason is that many names, particularly those of natural features such as watercourses and mountains, are ancient, in the present KwaZulu-Natal frequently being of Bushman (or San) origin, but subsequently adapted into the Zulu phonological and orthographic systems. Such names would tend to be primarily descriptive of the color, shape or other characteristic of the named feature, or to designate the feature itself. In some instances the meanings have been preserved as part of the oral tradition, in others recourse may be had to toponymic configurations, sometimes revealing Bushman (or San) words fossilized in the placename but otherwise not in the Zulu vocabulary or lexicon.


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