African Languages At Penn

Vocabulary & Pronounciation Guide - Zulu

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Naming in Zulu


Babies are named before they are born in Zulu. There is no naming ceremony in the culture, but only a ceremony called imbeleko to introduce the baby to the ancestors and to thank them and ask them to protect it. For imbeleko a goat must be slaughtered as a sacrifice to the ancestors (a goat is always slaughtered for a feast that involves talking to the ancestors), and the family elder responsible for talking to the ancestors will call the baby by its name when presenting it to the ancestors at the same time the goat is being slaughtered. Zulus usually carry more than one name, it can be several names given by members of the extended family. Names usually denote the family's expectations and encouragement for a baby; some reflect the family's experiences or how they relate to others in their community, sometimes they tell about the time/how the weather was like when the person was born, and so on. Also common are names that reflect religious beliefs and political beliefs.

Names denoting family's expectations and feelings

Girls’ Names Boys’ Names

Noxolo “Mother of peace”
Thembile “Hopeful/trusting”
Nomathemba “Mother of hope/trust”
Nokulunga “Mother of goodness/kindness”
Lungile “Kind/good”Nomusa “Mother of kindness/mercy”
Nonhlanhla “Mother of luck”
Nomcebo “Mother of wealth”
Thembekile “Trustworthy/reliable”
Thembeka “Be reliable/trustworthy”
Nobuhle “Mother of beauty/goodness”
Nonjabulo “Mother of joy”
Thandiwe “Beloved”
Thandeka “Lovely”
Nothando “Mother of love”
Zibuyile “The dowry cows have come back”
Thabisile/Jabulisile “Has brought joy”
Thabisa “Bring joy”
Zinhle “(The girls) are good/beautiful”
Gugu “Treasure”
Nomagugu “Mother of treasures” Olwethu “It’s (love is) ours”
Owethu “She is ours”Amahle “The beautiful ones”
Thalente “Talent”
Nomathalente “Mother of talents”
Gugulethu “Our treasure”

Xolani “You all have peace/take it easy”
Themba “Hope/trust”
Lunga “Be good/kind”
Lungani “You all be good/kind”
Musa “Kindness/mercy”
Nhlanhla “Luck”Mcebisi “The one who brings wealth/ the one who gives wise advices”
Njabulo “Joy”Thando “Love”
Thabani “You all be joyful”
Sandile “We have extended in number”
Siyabonga “We are grateful”Andile “They have extended”
Vusumuzi “Rekindle the family”S’fiso “Wish/what we had wished for”
Jabulani “Be happy”
Sibonelo “Example”
Mandla “Strength/power”
Luyanda “It (love) is growing”
Mthokozisi “The one who gives joy”
Olwethu “It’s (love is) ours”
Owethu “He is ours”
Amahle “The beautiful ones”
Thalente “Talent”
S’thembiso “Promise”
SimphiweyiNkosi “He’s our gift from God”
Bandile “They have extended in number”
Lwandile “It (love) has intensified”
Names denoting encouragement and how the family relates to others
Girls’ names Boys’ names
Zenzile “You’re responsible for what you’ve become”
Thuthukile “Has become a better person”
Gabisile “Has made (people) envious, but they won’t get it”
Nqobile “Has come up victorious in what was a hopeless/dreadful/ precarious situation” Nomzamo “Mother of attempts/efforts”
Nomandla “Mother of strength”
Nolwandle “Mother of oceans”
Zenzele “Do it yourself”
Thuthuka “Become a better person”
Zakhele “Create (something) for yourself”
Bhekisisa “Be real careful/cautious”
Bhekokwakhe “The one who minds his own”
Mnqobi/Manqoba “The one who conquers in hopeless situations”
Nqobizitha “Conquer the enemies” Bhekani “You all look”
Mzamo “Attempts/efforts”
Mlungisi “The one who brings order”
Thandanani “You all love one another”
Mandlakhe “His efforts”
Names telling about the time a person was born
Girls' names Boys' names
Nomvula “Mother of rain”
Nomalanga “Mother of sun/sunshine”
Nomasonto “Mother of Sundays/churches”
Minenhle “Good/lovely day”
Langalibalele “When there was sunshine”
Langelihle “Good/lovely day”
Religious and political names
Girls' Names Boys' names
Sibusisiwe “We’re blessed”
Busisiwe “(Baby) is blessed”
Nozibusiso “Mother of blessings”
Simphiwe “We have her as a gift”
Siphesihle “Beautiful gift”
Sibongile “We are grateful”
Khanyisile “Has brought light”
Nkazimulo “Glory”
Thandazile “Has/have prayed”
Nomthandazo “Mother of prayer”
Silondile “Has kept/protected us”
Londiwe “Protected/kept safe”
Dumisile “Has/have given praises”
Thembisile “Have/has promised”
Nobantu “Mother of people”
Nozizwe “Mother of nations”
Thalente “Talent/gift from God”
Sibusiso “Blessing”Simphiwe “We have him as a gift”
Siphesihle “Beautiful gift”
Siyabonga “We are grateful”
MandleNkosi “Power of God”
MusaweNkosi “Grace of God”
BongiNkosi “Be grateful to God”
Sibongakonke “We’re grateful for everything”
Sphiwe “We have gotten/received a gift”
Malibongwe “Let it (His name) be praised”
Sihawukele “Have mercy on us”
Ndumiso “Praise”
Sithembiso “Promise”
Dumisani “You all give praises”
Zwelakhe “His country/land”
Zwelethu “Our land/country”
Ntuthuko “Development”
Zwelibanzi “Huge/wide country/land”
Londisizwe “Protect/take care of the nation”
Bhekizizwe “Watch the nations”



  • Project Director: Dr. Audrey N Mbeje
  • The Consortium for Language Teaching and Learning
  • Penn African Studies Center



For more information about African Languages at Penn please e-mail the Language Coordinator,
Dr. Audrey N Mbeje , or call: (215) 898-4299


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