Basic Venda Words and Meanings

The Venda or Bavenda people are found mainly in part of the Limpopo province, situated in the extreme northeastern part of South Africa. This area used to be known as the Republic of Venda between 1979 to 1994, and it borders Southern Zimbabwe. Another unique aspect of the Venda people is their language. The language is spoken by about 1.2 million native speakers and 1.7 million second-language speakers. The Venda language is also known as Luvenda or Tshivenda, and it originated from the Bantu language. Some Venda words are also similar to the Kalanga language spoken in Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Like any other language, Venda comprises several words that help people express themselves completely. While some Venda words and phrases have direct meanings when translated, others could mean different things and are understood based on context. Some common Venda words and their meanings are written below to help the language learners.

Everyday Words and Their Meaning in Venda

  1. How to Say God bless you in Venda: ‘Mudzimu vha ni fhatutshedze’ is the Venda phrase for God bless you. You can also say ‘Mudzumu vha ni ite nga vhuthu,’ or ‘Mudimu vha ni tonde.’ They all mean God bless you.
  2. How to Say I love you in Venda: ‘Ndi a ni funa’ is the Venda word you say when you want to express romantic feelings or affection towards someone.
  3. How to Say Good morning in Venda: In the morning, you say ‘Ndi matsheloni’; the person then responds by saying ‘Ndi matsheloni avhudi.’
  4. How to Say Good night in Venda: When it is very late at night, or you are about to go to bed at night, you say ‘madekwana a vhudi,’ or ‘vhusiku ha vhudi.’ Both mean good night. If you wish to say ” have a good night friend,” you say, ‘Ni vhe na vhusiku havhudi thama.’
  5. How to Say I miss you in Venda: To tell someone in Venda that you miss them, say  ‘ndo ni tuvha,’ Or, ‘ndo ni humbula,’ or ‘Ndi kale ndi sa ni vhoni.’ The response to that would be ‘na nne ndo ni tuvha.’ which means ‘I miss you too.’
  6. How to Say Hello in Venda: How you say hello in Venda depends on your gender. Men say ‘Ndaa,’ while women say ‘Aa.’
  7. How to Say Beautiful in Venda: There are many ways you can tell someone that they are beautiful in Venda. You can say ‘No naka’, or ‘Ni wa vhudi,’ or ‘No nakesa,’ or ‘Ni thase.’ A beautiful person is called ‘nzhololo.’ You can also say, “I am beautiful.” The Venda phrase for that is ‘nne ndo naka.’
  8. How to Say Thank you in Venda: If one person is saying thank you, you say ‘Ndo livhuwa,’ which means ‘I thank you.’ If it is more than one person saying thank you, you say  ‘Ro livhuwa’, which means ‘we thank you.’ To say ‘thank you very much,’ you add ‘ nga maanda’ to either of the two ways of saying thank you as the case may be.

Other Useful Venda Words and Phrases

Greetings

We had seen how to say good morning and good night earlier, but there are many other words and phrases for greeting. We will look at them here.

  1. Good evening:  To greet someone in the evening, that is, when it is not dark enough to say goodnight, you say ‘Ndi madekwana.’ The respond for that is ‘Ndi madekwana avhudi.’
  2. Good afternoon: ‘Ndi masiari’ is the Venda word for good afternoon. To reply, you say ‘Ndi masiari avhudi.’
  3. Have a nice day: This is usually used in the same context as in English, and the phrase for it is ‘Vha vhe na duvha lavhudi.’
  4. Goodbye: When you are parting ways with someone, but the person is staying back at the location where you met, you say ‘Kha vha sale.’ On the other hand, if the person is leaving you behind, you say ‘Vha tshimbile zwavhudi.’
  5. How are you?: Asking about a fellow’s well-being is also an essential part of Venda’s greeting. The phrase for how are you in Venda is ‘Vho vuwa hani?’ or ‘Hu ita hani?’. The response is ‘Ndo vuwa. Vhone?’ or ‘Nṋe ndo takala vhukuma. Vhone?’.

Meeting Someone/ Introducing Yourself

  1. What is your name?: To ask for a person’s name in Venda, you say ‘Dzina lavho ndi nnyi?’ To respond, you say ‘Dzina langa ndi …’ which means “my name is…’ You can then add your name at the end of the sentence.
  2. Where are you from?: If you want to ask about a person’s village or country or state of origin, you say ‘Ni bva gai?’ or ‘Vha bva ngfhi?’. The response will start with “I’m from…” which is translated in Venda as ‘Ndi bva …’
  3. Pleased to meet you: At the end of an introduction, you can say ‘Ndo takala ro divhana’ it means “pleased to meet you.”

 Simple Enquires

  1. Do you speak English?: This question in Venda is ‘Vha a amba English naa?’ You can also replace “English” with any other language you may want to enquire if the person speaks.
  2. How much is this?: ‘Zwi ita vhugai? or  Izwi zwi dura vhugai?’ are the Venda phrases used to ask how much something costs. This will come in handy at the market when you want to ask about the price of an item.
  3. What are you doing?: ‘Ni khou itani?’ is the Venda phrase for “what are you doing?”
  4. What is this?: ‘Ndi mini itshi?’ is the Venda phrase that literally translates to “what is this?” in English.
  5. Where are you going?: The Venda phrase for enquiring about where a person is going to is ‘Ni khou ya gai?’
  1. Family members: Muta is the Venda word for family
  • Father- Khotsi
  • Mother- Mme
  • Brother- Mukomana
  • Sister- Khaladzi
  • Grand parents- Makhulu

  1. Numbers: Numbers are of great importance in learning any language. Numbers are written in Venda as;
  • 1 thihi
  • 2 mbili
  • 3 raru
  • 4 iṋa
  • 5 ṱhanu
  • 6 rathi
  • 7 sumbe
  • 8 malo
  • 9 ṱahe
  • 10 fumi
  1. Days of the week – Maduvha a Vhege
  • Monday – Musumbuluwo
  • Tuesday – Lavhuvhili
  • Wednesday – Lavhuraru
  • Thursday – Lavhuna
  • Friday – Lavhutanu
  • Saturday – Mugivhela
  • Sunday – Swondaha
  1. Parts of the body in Venda: Singular (s), plural (p), and both (b)
  • Head – Thoho (b)
  • Hair – Mavhudzi (p): Luvhudzi (s)
  • Ears – Ndevhe (b)
  • Eyelashes – Tsie (p): Lutsie (s)
  • Eyebrow – Tsie (b)
  • Eyes – Mato (p): Ito (s)
  • Nose – Ningo (b)
  • Mouth – Mulomo (s): Milomo (p)
  • Teeth – Mano (p): Lino (s)
  • Tongue – Lulimi (s): Ndimi (p)
  • Neck – Mutsinga(s): Mitsinga (p)
  • Shoulders – Mahada(p): Shada (s)
  • Chest – Khana (b)
  • Fingers – Minwe (p): Munwe(s)
  • Nails – Nala (b)
  • Stomach – Thumbu (b)
  • Arm & Hand – Tshanda(s): Zwanda(p)

Quick Fact You Should Know About Venda People

  • Venda People are mainly Farmers

Historically, the Venda people were known for their diverse cultures, but today, they are a uniformly cultural people known for intense agricultural activities. The people cultivate mainly sorghum, corn (maize), beans, peanuts (groundnuts), peas, and vegetables, and the planting season starts around October.

  • Rivers and Lakes are Sacred to Venda People

One unique culture of the Venda people that anyone visiting there should know is their belief in the sacredness of lakes and rivers. They also believe that rainfall is controlled by the Python God. The Fundudzi is one of the most sacred lakes in Venda. This is where the ‘Domba Python Dance’ is held every year. During this ceremony, an offering of beer is poured into the lake, and young maidens dance like snakes in a single long winding line. This usually marks the last stage of their initiation into womanhood. The Domba ceremony also opens doors for good rain in the next season, as the people of Venda believe.

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Queen Dineo
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