GLOSSARY OF TERMS (ZULU WORDS IN ITALICS)
assegai a flat-bladed spear named after the African tree of the same name. Shaka was frustrated with conventional spears, which, when thrown, were lost to the enemy or, when used during the rigours of close combat, tended to snap at the shaft.
Bastaards early Dutch term used around the Cape denoting the children of mixed blood.
battle names battles of the Zulu War are usually named by the British after a local hill or river – the Zulus name these battles after the nearest homestead or settlement. To the Zulus, the Battle of Ulundi is known as Nodwengu, although the place of Ulundi, or oNdini, means ‘The Heights’, a Zulu name for the Drakensberg mountain range. Eshowe is named by the Zulus ‘Tshowe’, to sound like a sneeze – as Eshowe overlooks the low-lying coastal plain and is occasionally subjected to cool breezes.
Boer mainly Dutch-speaking white settlers, with some French, German and other Europeans, originating from the Cape of Good Hope.
column the main British invading columns were known variously as the Coastal or No. 1 Column; the Centre or No. 3 Column; the Northern or No. 4 Column. Colonel Durnford and Rowlands’ Reserve Columns were the 2nd and 5th respectively.
donga a rift in the ground caused by heavy rain and in depths of between 2 and 50 feet – the bane of early travellers in Zululand; usually occurring when least expected and frequently involving a detour of many miles.
drift a shallow river crossing point.
giya (ukugiya) a show of individual prowess during a Zulu war dance; opposing sides would confront each other at a distance of about 100 yards with shouted taunts and abuse; some spears would occasionally be thrown. Giya would last an hour or two and enabled inter-tribal disputes to be resolved by a theatrical ‘letting off of steam’ without causing serious damage. Victory went to the most impressive side.
Helpmekaar or the first spelling is colloquial; the second spelling is the British
Helpmakaar adaptation. A tiny hamlet atop a hill 15 miles from Rorke’s Drift used by the British as their advance base for the invasion of Zululand. Known by the soldiers as ‘Help-my-cart-up’
Hottentot first recorded in the seventeenth century referring to the Khoikhoi. Believed to be from the German hotteren-totteren – to stutter – referring to their clicking sound when speaking.
ibutho (pl. amabutho) a guild or regiment of age-graded Zulu warriors. Collectively, they were a form of national service.
ikhanda (pl. amakhanda) a homestead belonging to the king or a state barracks where amabutho were quartered when in the king’s service.
iklwa (pl. amaklwa) a stabbing spear.
impi a fighting body of Zulu warriors, usually of regimental strength.
Impondo Zankhomo an encircling technique of attack, translated as ‘horns of the bull’.
inDuna (pl. izinDuna) a sub-chief, advisor or councillor,an officer appointed by the king.
isiGodlo the royal enclosure quartering the women of the king’s household; often misrepresented to be a harem. These young women were a ready source of wives and concubines but were, principally, young women presented to a chief or king as a tribute – for him to dispose of in marriage in return for a high lobola, or bride wealth.
isiJula (pl. iziJula) a throwing-spear.
kaffir only used in the historical context due to the sensitivity of the word. Commonly believed to be the Arabic word for ‘infidel’ or ‘non-believer’, which is curious as the word is not found elsewhere in Africa where the Arab traders flourished. The original usage of the word in South Africa could also have come from the following Zulu and Bantu sources, including:
a. kafulwa, the Bantu name for the early shipwreck survivors ‘washed up’ along the Cape to Natal coast.
b. following the umfecane, those refugees fleeing to the protection of the British Crown were known as the abakafula, the ‘washed out’ or dispossessed.
c. kafula also has a modern usage, to denote the ‘washing away’ of an unhappy memory or washing away a bad taste.
d. see Through the Zulu Country (Griggs, Durban, 1883) by Bertrand Mitford, who wrote that ‘non Zulu blacks were known as Amakafula’, which is only a short step from kaffir. Similarly, the AmaFengu people later became known as Fingoes.
kop or koppie – a small hill
kraal an enclosure for cattle; not to be confused with a Zulu homestead or umuzi. It is an old Dutch term that signified a ‘beast fold’, which early colonialists contemptuously designated all native towns and villages.
laager a number of wagons formed into a circle to form a defensive perimeter.
lobola (or lobolo) the bride price, normally involving cattle.
Mfecane or ‘crushing’; denotes the period of internecine clan fighting pre-1825.
Nguni there were two major divisions of the southerly migrating Bantu peoples, the Sotho and Nguni. The term Nguni is used to denote those speaking the same language. The Zulu people originate from the Nguni.
nek a saddle between two hills.
pont a flat-bottomed punt or boat made of barrels.
sangoma a Zulu diviner.
spruit a small stream or tributary.
uDibi (pl. izinDibi) a Zulu boy between the age of twelve and sixteen years who supported older relatives on the march or in other military tasks.
umKhosi The annual gathering before the king to review the army and to usher in the new harvest, often referred to as the first fruits ceremony.
umuzi (pl. imizi) a Zulu homestead – often mis-named as a kraal.
Usuthu the political party of King Cetshwayo – the term was the popular Zulu war cry during the 1879 war.