CLASSIFICATION AND DERIVATION OF
20. There is no article in Zulu ;
but the definiteness or indefiniteness of a noun must be gathered from the
21. Every Zulu noun consists of
two parts the root and the inflex, the latter being a small particle, which is
set before the root, forming with the complete noun.
Panda; aba-ntu, people; in-dlu, house; imi-thi, trees.
22. We give the name of inflex to
this initial particle, because by changes of it certain modifications of the
noun are effected, as they are in Latin and Greek by means of terminal particles
or inflexes set after the root.
Thus in the Latin word homo, ‘man,’ the root is hom, and the inflex o, which is changed to ines
for the plural, and the whole word becomes homines,
‘men’; just as in the Zulu word umuntu,
‘person,’ the root is ntu, and the
inflex umu, which is changed to aba for the plural, and the whole word
becomes abantu, ‘people.’
23. In the Zulu there are eight
singular nominative inflexes, six of which have plural forms; and thus we shall
have eight different classes of nouns, of which two have no plural.
24. A portion of each inflex,
which may be considered its characteristic
portion, is used as a personal pronoun of the third person, to represent any
noun of the class in question.
25. The following are the eight
Classes of Zulu Nouns
umu, um, u
im, in, i
iyobo, rejected lover
izim, izin, izi
umu, um, u
uthi, stick, rod
Izim, izin, izi
ubu, contr. u
26. When any inflex, ending in a
vowel, is prefixed to a root which begins with a vowel, the terminal vowel of
the inflex is dropped, except in the case of uku, when it is usually changed to the semivowel w.
hand, ukwenza, doing, for isi-andla, uku-enza.
Before o, however, the final u of uku
is often dropped:
or ukona, injury, sin.
REMARKS ON THE TABLE OF NOUNS.
27.Nouns of Class I are almost
all personal nouns, and those of Classes V and VI are generally impersonal. But
we find umhlobo, friend, plur. imihlobo, and some other personal nouns,
belonging to Class VI.
28. Names of persons invariably
take the inflex u, plur. o, which latter, as well as aba, is represented by the personal
Ex. uNkulunkulu, uMvelinqangi,
names for the Deity; uMpande, uNgoza,
uZatshuke, names of chiefs.
But izibongo, that is, names
given to people in praise or sport, may be formed with other prefixes.
Ex. uBisi (or uLubisi) Iwembongolo, Mule’s-milk, plur. oLubisi.
29. The plural of proper names of
persons is often used (i) for a single person, a pluralis excellentice, (ii) to
express a person and the people who are with him.
ka’Sonzica, Somtseu (Sir T. Shepstone) son of Sonzica.
Zatshukes=Zatshuke and his people.
oTshaka, Chaka; oDingane,
Dingaan; oMpande, Panda; oCetshwayo, Cetshwayo.
oNgoza bamukile, the Ngozas
(=Ngoza and his party) they have departed.
So abayeni, the bridegroom (umyeni) and his party.
30. Certain other nouns, which
have the force of proper names, take the inflex u, plural o or ao.
my or our father, plur. obaba or aobaba.
umame, my or our mother,
plur. omame or aomame.
uyihlo, thy or your father; unyoko, thy or your mother.
uyise, his, her, or their
father; unina,.his, her, or. their mother.
udade, sister, umkhulu, grandparent, &c.
In forming compound names, yise and nina are contracted into so
N.B. — The following are also
names of relationship.
ubaba, my or our father’s sister;
ubabakazi or ubabekazi my or our father’s brother;
uyihlo, thy or your father’s sister;
uyihlokazi, thy or your father’s
uyise, his, her, or their father’s
uyisekazi, his, her, or their father’s
umalume, my or our mother’s brother;
umamekazi, my or our mother’s sister;
unyokolume, thy or your mother’s
unyokokazi, thy or your mother’s sister;
uninalume, his, her, or their mother’s
uninakazi, his, her, or their mother’s
Instead of ubaba for ‘father’s sister’ may be used the full expression, udade
So, too, umkhulu may be used for grandfather or grandmother on father’s or
mother’s side, whether my, thy, or his; but sometimes, especially by the
amaLala, ubabamkulu is used for ‘my
or our grandmother,’ &c.
If the son of one man marries the
daughter of another, the two fathers will call each other umlingane; the husband will call the girl’s father ‘father ‘ (ubaba) or ‘father-in-law’ (umukhwe), and
the girl’s mother ‘ mother-in-law ‘ (umkhwekazi)
. A ‘ brother-in-law ‘ or ‘sister- in-law ‘ is umlamu, plur. abalamu; a
‘ wife’s brother’ is umkhwenya, a ‘
The children of one father are
called izelamane, which word, though
generally used of the boys only, may be employed for boys and girls collectively.
The children of one father and
mother are called aba’ ndlu’nye or aba’ndlini’nye, i.e., ‘children of, or
in, one house’ ; and the offspring of one father and mother, so long as they
intermarry with each other, are still reckoned as aba’ndlu’ nye. One who marries out ot the family becomes by that
act separated, umuntu wesizwe, ‘a man of
the tribes’ or stranger ‘ ; and two persons, who are ‘strangers’ to each other,
will not eat the amasi, ‘ sour-milk,’ which comes from each other’s kraal
31. The names of many birds,
insects, trees and plants form their singular in u, plur. O.
long-tailed finch; umiyane, mosquito;
umalibombo, name of a plant.
So also do a few words of foreign
Ex. umpondwe, a pound; ushelene, a
shilling; upeni, three-pence; umbaimbai, a connon; umese, a knife; usaoti,
salt; ugwai, tobacco snuff; ukolweni, wheat.
32. Nouns not of Class I may be
formed into Proper Names, with inflex u, plur. o.
phezulu! kus’emi osilimela abadala, kus’emi ondosa abadala, kus’emi ompandu abadala,
look above! there still stands the old Pleiades (isilimela), there still stands
the old Jupiter (indosa), there still
stands the old August (umpandu).
33.The full form, umu, in Classes I and V, may be employed
or not, at pleasure, but occurs chiefly before mono-syllabic roots.
or umntu, person; umuhla or umhla, day.
34. Names of countries are
usually of Class II, like izwe, land.
Natal; iEngland, iJudia.
35. National names are either of
Class I, or, more commonly of Class II.
N.B. umlungu, white-man, plur. abalungu
or abelungu; but isilungu =the whole of the white population.
Ex. umSuthu, plur. abaSuthu
or abeSuthu ; uMthethwa, uMbo.
iZulu, iSwazi, iMpondo, iXhosa, plur. amaZulu, amaSwazi, amaMpondo,
So iNgisi, an Englishman, iBunu,
a Dutch Boer.
36. But the singular noun, uZulu,
Class I, is used to express, collectively, the whole people of the Zulus, the
plural form amaZulu denoting only a number of Zulus.
So umSwazi, Class I, expresses the people of the amaSwazi, and uSuthu, Class V, the people of the abaSuthu
uSutu is also the name of that
portion of the Zulu people which belongs to Cetshwayo ; but the locative case
(65) is, for the former, oSutu, for the latter, oSutwini.
In such cases the people are called
collectively by the name of a present or former famous chief.
37. The inflexes, ili of Class II and ulu of Class VI, are very frequently contracted into i and u respectively, and the i
or u is then pronounced long, as if a
double i or u.
Ex. idada, duck; utango, hedge; ihashi, horse;
udaka, mud, mortar.
So zibuko, Class II, a ford or drift; but izibuko. Class IV, windows or a pair of spectacles.
38. Some few nouns, not of Class
II in the singular, form, their plurals in ama.
husband, amadoda; indodana, son, amadodana. insimu,
garden, amasimu; inkosi, chief, amakhosi.
Sometimes, however, when the form
in ama would leave the meaning’ doubtful, that in izin is employed, and vice
izinkosi zamakulu, he them called, the chiefs of hundreds, for yawabiza amakhosi amakulu, which might
be understood to mean, he them called, the great chiefs.
hlanganisa izinkomo ez’amaduna, collect the cattle which are males,
for hlanganisa izinkomo ezi’zinduna,
where the last word might be mistaken for ezezinduna,
belonging to the indunas.
Some nouns of Class II make the
plural in ama or in izin.
plur. amakambi or izinkambi, refuse, such as the pith of imfe.
N.B. So usuku a day. Class VI, makes its plural both izinsuku and amasuku; and
intombi, girl, makes its plural izintombi, while intombazana, young girl, makes its plural amantombazana. But iso
(for iliso), eye, makes its plural amehlo, as if from another singular.
39. Some nouns, especially of
Class II, are only used in the plural.
power, strength. amanzi,
amasi, sour milk. amafuta, fat, butter, ointment.
amalahle, charcoal. amakhaza, cold.
amatumbu, intestines amathe, spittle
amabomu, purpose, intention, amabibi,
40. In Class III, im is used before
either a vowel or a labial (b, p, m, f, c), in in all other cases; and so with izim and izin.
Ex. imbuzi, goat; impisi, hyaena; imfuyo,
treasure; imvu, sheep.
This rule holds for the plural
prefixes in Class VI, except that izi
is always used before a root beginning with h
feather, plur. izimpape ; uzipo, claw, plur. izinzipo. uhududu, old
worn-out blanket, plur. izihududu. ulimi, or ulwimi, tongue, plur. izilimi,
41. The plural inflexes, izim, izin, izi, frequently drop the z, and so are contracted to im, in, i, where the i must be pronounced long, as if ii.
those things, for ezo into, and that
for lezo izinto.
ikati zonke, all times, for izikati.
igcagogwana, slander, for izigcagogwana.
ifamona zabantu, spiteful jealousies of people, for izifamona.
ngaithatha ikali zami, I them
took, my weapons, for ngazithatha izikali
inkomo nenkabi, cattle and
oxen, for izinkomo nezinkabi.
onondongoyi laba inyosi enkulu;
kanti bay’ahlulwa yilezi
encinyane, these drones are large bees ;
however, they are mastered by these small ones, for izinyosi, ezinkulu, ezincinyane.
So often in forming proper names.
uNoinsaba, for uNozitshada, uNozinsaba.
In like manner isi is sometimes contracted before s into i.
for isisando, name of a plant.
And imi in some words is also heard as i.
flowers, for imimbali, Class V, which
has no singular.
42. Some nouns of Class IV begin
with isi or isa, some with isa only.
or isangcokolo, grub in mealie
isinkuntshane or isankuntshane, name of a plant.
isandla, hand; isando, hammer.
43. The same roots may appear
with different inflexes and a corresponding difference in meaning.
Ex. umkiwane, fig-tree; ikiwane, fig.
izwe (ilizwe), land; isizwe,
into, thing; uto, something, anything.
umuthi, tree, herb, medicine; uthi (uluthi), stick, rod; ubuti,
ibele, female breast, cow’s udder; amabele, Kafir-corn; isibele, man’s nipple; umbele, woman’s nipple, cow’s teat; ububele, tenderness.
umuntu, person; abantu, people; isintu,
human race; uluntu, outer covering of
the bowels; ubuntu, human nature.
But sometimes the same root is
found with different inflexes and the same meaning.
Ex. umqulo or uqulo (uluqulo), stitch
in the side.
idlelo or isidlelo, snuff-box; but idlelo
means also cattle-run.
umlozi, plur. omlozi or imilozi, familiar
intuma, intungwa, indoni, names
of trees, but also umtuma, umtungwa, umdoni.
uqondo or ingqondo, palmetto fibre.
N.B. In the last example, the
root appears as gqondo or ngqondo. And so an m or n is often heard
before the root in other instances.
Ex. isipofu, poor man, ubupofu, poverty, but also ubumpofu.
ijuba, dove, ubujuba or ubunjuba,
imvu, sheep, ubumvu, sheep-nature; inja,
dog, ubunja, dog-nature.
umgoma, witch-doctor, but also ubungoma.
umbungu, foetus of calf, plur. imbungu, for imimbunju (41).
Such words as imvu, inja, might. in fact. be written immvu, innja,
or imvu, inja, with inflex i,
So from zifisa, pretend to die, is formed umzifisi, plur. omzifisi.
from zigaxa, intrude one’s self, imzigaxi,
from khanya, shine, comes ubunkanyezi,
from songa, wind, insongensonge
or properly innsongensonge, winding.
44. Nouns of Class I are derived
from verbs, by changing the final a
of the verb-root into i, and
prefixing the inflex um; and such nouns
express the agents of the verb’s
Ex. From funda, learn, is formed umfundi,
fundisa, make to learn, umfundisi, teacher.
The above words, however, and
most of the above kind which appear in the printed books, are formed by Missionaries, not by the Natives, who
employ these derivatives much more sparingly, but may form them at pleasure, so
that they cannot lie entered in dictionaries as standard Zulu words.
Ex. umondli (from ondla)
wezinkedama zabantu, nourisher of the orphans of the people, an isibongo of Mpande.
isisu somhambi (from hamba)
asingakanani, a traveller’s (stomach
= ) appetite is not very large.
But some of the.se words belong
to the language.
a deceased person, hence umtaka’mufi,
child of a deceased man, fatherless orphan.
umfiki, more properly isifiki, a new-comer, fresh arrival.
45. Names of trees are mostly of
Ex. umkombe, yellow-wood, umtulwa.
wild-medlar. Umkiwane, wild-
fig, umtuma, wild-apple, umdoni.
water-boem, umtungulu, Natal plum, umtunduluka, tree bearing a red acid plum,
the juice of which is used in dyeing.
Their fruits are mostly of Class
II or Class III.
Ex. itulwa, ikiwane, ituma (fruit of large
umtuma). intuma (fruit of small untuma). indoni. itungulu, itunduluka; but ukova(Class
VI. no plur.), banana (plant and fruit).
So indumba, species of bean. but umdumba,
Plates where things grow, or persons
in the habit of doing what is indicated by the root, are of CIass IV.
forest of yellow-wood; : izikova, banana grove; isidhlubu, place for
under-ground nuts; isimbila, mealie ground; isihlaza, sweet potato garden;
isidumbi, place where Kafir potatoes grow, whence Esidumbeni, name of a
district where such plants abound; isikohlwa, forgetful person; isilauli,
46. Nouns of Class VII are
derived from nouns and adjectives by prefixing the inflex ubu to the root, and they express the abstract idea corresponding
to the meaning of the root.
inkosi, chief, is formed ubukhosi, chieftainship.
khulu, great, ubukhulu, greatness.
47. Nouns of Class VIII are nearly
all verbal substantives being, in fact, identical in form with the infinitives
of verbs, and expressing the action of the corresponding verb.
Ex. From khanya, shine, is formed ukukhanya,
thanda, love, ukuthanda, love.
azi, know, ukwazi, knowledge.
ng’azi, not know ukung’azi, ignorance.
N.B. ukwindla, autumn, is not a verbal noun.
48. A noun is made feminine by
the addition of kazi.
chief, king; inkosikazi, female
inkomo, bullock; inkomokazi or inkomazi, cow.
N.B. Inkomo is the generic name
of a bullock of any kind, while inkunzi
denotes a ‘bull,’ inkabi an ‘ox,’ inkomazi a ‘cow.’
The last three words may also be
used to distinguish the corresponding kinds of first-class animals, as of a
liy’inkunzi, liy’inkabi, liy’ inkomazi, this horse is a
stallion, is a gelding, is a mare.
Or the possessive particle (72)
may be used with the above words.
lenkunzi or inkunzi yehashi, a
stallion, ihashi lenkabi, a gelding, ihashi lenkomazi, a mare.
N.B. The corresponding words for
sheep, whose generic name is imvu,
are inqama, ram, umtondolo, wether, imvukazi,
ewe, and those for goat, whose generic name is imbuzi, are impongo, umtondolo, imbuzikazi.
49. Some singular nouns are nouns
of multitude, that is, are used for one or many, e.g., the names for small
plants when plentiful, or for particular classes of oxen.
small mimosa; umsasane, another sort
ukova, banana (plant or
plants or fruit).
umdlunkulu, girl or girls of
the (great house) chief knial.
Kwatatwa umdhlunkulu wambili,
there were taken two girls of the chief kraal.
nant’ ukungwane lulubili,
there are two winged ants.
nant’ukuni, there is
umqeku wamashumi’mane, forty
50. Male and female of persons
may be defined by using the possessive particle witli the words isilisa and isifazana.
Ex. umntwana wesilisa, a male child; abantwana
besifazana, female children.
izinceku zendlu ezesilisa nezesifazana, servants of the house, male and
Male and female of animals are
defined by using the possessive particle with the words induna and insikazi and
Ex. ihashi lenduna, a male horse;
amahashi ezinsikati, female horses.
induna yennja, yekati, yengulube,
yenkuku, or innja yenduna, &c.,
a male dog, cat, pig, fowl.
51. Sometimes the termination kazi is added to a noun, in order to
magnify or intensify its meaning. It may bo added to the adjective joined to a
noun, as well as to the noun itself.
omkulukazi, a great, distinguished woman.
itshekazi, great stone; umuthikazi, great shrub; umntwanakazi, fine girl.
intombikazi endekazi, fine tall
(intombi=) marriageable girl.
niyabona lo’mzikazi omkulukazi,
you see this huge town.
le’nnjakazi yami yensikazi,
this great bitch of mine.
But kazi sometimes is used to express dislike.
Ex. nangu lo’muntukazi ol’ivila futhi, here is that fellow who is idle
Or a noun is intensified by the
repetition of the root.
lapha iminyakanyaka, he has lived here many ywirs.
bakhona ba’ndwendwendwendwe ,
uzolubona okulu, they are there, they being a prodigious troop, you will see it
a great one — from udwendwe (43 N.B.)
52. Dimunitive are formed by adding
to the noun or adjective the termination ana
or anyana. the final vowel of the
root being elided before the amx, or, in the case of o or u, being changed to
person; umntwana, child.
imvu, sheep ; imvana or imvwana,
isilo, wild animal; isilwana. small wild animal; isilwanyana, insect.
induku enhlana, a handsome
ukudla, food; ukudlana, a little food.
kusihlwa, evening; kusihlwana,
ngezinsukwana, in a few days;
amaswana, a few word.
In the diminutive, I is often changed to y before ana.
omkhulu, a great river; umfuyana omkuyana, a little brook.
ihele, a file of men; iheyana, a small file of men.
If it is desired to make a
distinction of sex, ana is used for
the masculine diminutive, and azana or
kazana for the feminine.
Ex. inkosi, chief; inkosana,
petty chief; inkosazana, princess,
young lady (the Zulus would call the Queen inkosazana.)
intombi, girl; intombazana, young girl.
innja yensikazana, a puppy
little short women.
53. If the last consonant of the
noun be b, p, or m, it geverally
undergoes a change before the diminutive termination; thus b is changed to j or tsh, p
to tsh, m to ny, mb to nj, mp to ntsh.
hill, mountain, makes diminutive intatshana
ingubo, blanket, ….. ingutshana
kufupi, near, ….. kufutshane
inkomo, bullock, ….. inkonyana
intambo, cord, ….. intanjana
kumhlotshana, it is white,
but small, from mhlophe
54, The following are other
instances of diminutives not included under the foregoing rules.
kude, far off, kujana.
Iqata, slice, iqatshana.
ningi, many, ningana, rather many.
izilwane, animals, izilwanyana, small animals, izilwanyakazane, gnats.
zikhona izintatshana ezincinyane zimbiyana,
there are little hills there, they are rather bad, from izintaba, zimbi.
utuli, dust, utulana or utuyana.
N.B. uLutuli or uNtulikazi, is
the name of the month when there is much wind or dust (April-May), uLutudlana,
of the month when there is little dust (March- April.)
uto, something, utwana or utshwana, a
So isixuku’tshwanyana, a very little
crowd (isixuku and utshwanyana.)
utokazi Iwemmamba, a huge thing of an immamba.
dindi or dindikazi, dead,
inkomana yakhe, or umqolokazana wakhe, his few cattle, used
for a single head, from inkomo, umqolokazi.
pakatshana kakulwana, a tolerably
good way in, from phakathi, within,
and kakhulu, greatly.
indwele or indwelemana or
indwelemanakazana , very clever
iqolakazi, large ox with white on rump, iqolazana, small cow with white on rump.
umhlophekazi, large white ox, umhlotshazana, small white cow.
N.B. The last nouns make the
plural imihlopekazi, imihlotshazana,
though the root is mhlope, white : see (43, N.B.)
55. The particle ndini is added to nouns, and expresses a
slight feeling of pity, as follows.
Ex. mina, ndodandini! here, my good man!
wo! mfazindini! alas! good woman!
mina, shingandini! bazakukukolisa, (mind) me, you rascal ! they will lay it into you.
56. The women have a singular
practice of avoiding the utterance of any word which occurs in the name of the
principal members of their husband’s family, whether male or female, and,
indeed, in the name of any of the males above the age of mere boys.
Ex. If the
names uSandhla, uNkomo, uSomahashi, uNjakasana, should happen to occur in the
family, the woman would not use the words isandhla, inkomo, ihashi, inja, for
‘hand,’ ‘ bullock,” ‘horse,’ ‘dog,’ respectively, but would adopt, or
invent at her own pleasure, some; other words in place of them ; e.g., she
might use isamkelo for ‘ hand,’ ininga
for ‘ cow,’ imetye, for ‘horse,’ intshumpa for ‘dog’.
Further, she must not call the
men of her husband’s family by their birth-names (i.e., the names given them by
their parents), but by the names which they have assumed or had given to them by
their companions of the same age (intanga), when they become izinsizwa, ‘young
This causes some perplexity at
times, when white people are bargaining with native women.
Ex. Thus a
woman may say that she has umtamusa
in her sack, when she means umbila, ‘
In such cases she is said ukuzila,
‘ to abstain from,’ or ukuhlonipha, ‘ to treat with modesty or reserve,’ the
word in question.