Xhosa Words and Meanings Every New Learner Should Know

Xhosa is one of the most popular official languages spoken in South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is a Nguni language spoken by over 8 million South Africans as a first language and about another 11 million people as a second language. The language is mostly spoken by people in places like Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, and Gauteng provinces – all in South Africa.

If you happen to find yourself in any of these regions, one of the things that will make your visitation worthwhile is having a basic knowledge of Xhosa words that are mostly used in day-to-day communication. We’ve compiled some simple Xhosa words and their meanings that you can learn quickly and communicate with others.

Common Xhosa Words And Their Meanings For Learners

Xhosa Words and Meanings Every New Learner Should Know
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1. Kuza 

  • Literal Translation: Come
  • Kind of situation used: To beckon on someone
  • Meaning: To approach or move toward a particular person

The word “Kuza” is one of the most commonly used words in daily conversations among the Xhosa-speaking communities in South Africa. As a learner of this language, it is one basic word you must know.

The word “Kuza” literally means “Come” in English. It can be used as a command word if you want the listener to come towards you and in diverse ways during conversations. When Kuza is used as a command, the listener will move closer towards the speaker. You can also gesture (come) when saying this word, and your listener will understand what you mean.

2. Iyahamba 

  • Literal Translation: Going
  • Kind of situation used: To beckon on someone
  • Meaning: To approach or move toward a particular person

Iyahamba is another Xhosa word to learn as a beginner or learner as it is frequently used in daily conversations among the speakers of this language. Iyahamba literally means “going” in the English language, and the word can be used in various forms in a sentence or alone in a sentence.

3. Yima 

  • Literal Translation: Stand
  • Kind of situation used: When the speaker wants a person or an audience to be on their feet.
  • Meaning: To have or maintain an upright position, supported by one’s feet.
  • Example: Yima iklasi – stand up class

Yima in Xhosa means “Stand: in English, and it is used in different forms in a sentence, especially in the form of command when the speaker wants the listener or audience to be on their feet while the listener gets up on his feet as a response to the speaker’s word.

4. Hlala

  • Literal Translation: Sit
  • Kind of situation used: When the speaker wants a person or an audience to be or remain in a particular position or state.
  • Meaning: To be in a position where someone’s weight is supported by one’s buttocks rather than the person’s feet and the person’s back is upright.
  • Common Response: Kulungile (OK), Hayi (No)

Hlala means “Sit,” and it is used in various forms in a sentence during conversations. It can also be used as a command word when the speaker wants the listener to sit on a seat. It is also a common language of instruction when talking to a younger person.

5. Landela 

  • Literal Translation: Follow
  • Kind of situation used: When the speaker wants a person to go or come after someone or something moving ahead.
  • Meaning: To move or travel behind
  • Common Response: Kulungile (OK), Hayi (No)
  • Example: Landela mna – Follow me.

This word is often used among the Xhosa-speaking population of South Africa and Zimbabwe to give instructions, and also, it is an ambitransitive word used in an expression.

Landela literally means follow, and it can be said in a commanding tone to get your listener to go after or pursue something or move behind in the same direction or path. This word can also be expressed in several ways, like intransitive words: to carry out (instructions, orders), understand, and pay attention to.

6. Imfuneko

  • Literal Translation: Need
  • Kind of situation used: When the speaker wants a person wants something from someone.
  • Meaning: A thing that is wanted or required.
  • Example: Yena Imfuneko imali – She needs money

Imfuneko is a popular and common word in day-to-day expressions and communication among the Xhosa-speaking people, especially concerning business transactions. It is important you learn the usage of this word as a learner for basic conversations. Literally, imfuneko means need. It can also be used to request things.

7. Thabatha 

  • Literal Translation: Take
  • Kind of situation used: When the speaker wants a person to reach for and hold something.
  • Meaning: To accept or receive something willingly
  • Common Response: Enkosi (Thank you), Hayi (No)
  • Example: Thabatha ngoku – Take it now.

Thabatha means Take in English. It can be used in different ways in expressions, such as a command to a listener to get something to their hands or possession.

8. Umdlalo

  • Literal Translation: Game
  • Kind of situation used: When the speaker wants a person to participate in an activity for amusement or fun.
  • Meaning: An activity that has a final result
  • Example: Masidlale umdlalo – Let’s play a game.

South Africa has several indigenous games. The people of Xhosa also have their native games, including Diketo, a two or more player game known as Uphuca (meaning to grab). Now you know what to tell a Xhosa native when you want to participate in a game – be it an indoor or outdoor game – for entertainment.

9. Ukubeka 

  • Literal Translation: Put
  • Kind of situation used: When the speaker wants his listener to move or place something in a particular position.
  • Meaning: To bring into a particular state
  • Example: Ukubeka phantsi into – To put down something.

Beka is also commonly used in daily conversations among the people of Xhosa. It is a word of action, meaning to put (to place something somewhere). It can be used in different contexts during conversations.

10. Umsebenzi 

  • Literal Translation: Work
  • Kind of situation used: When someone engages in physical or mental activity to achieve a result.
  • Meaning: A task, role, or duty to be undertaken.
  • Example: Yenza Umsebenzi wakho – Do your work?

Umsebenzi means work. The word is commonly used in Xhosa communities. It can be used when asking a question like in the example above or making a statement during a conversation.

11. Unjani? (singular) Kunjani? (plural)

  • Literal Translation: How are you?
  • Kind of situation used: When a person wants to exchange pleasantries with someone.
  • Meaning: To enquire about a person’s welfare
  • Common Response: Ndiphilile? (I’m fine, thanks and you?)

12. Isandla 

  • Literal Translation: Hand
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about the part of the body
  • Meaning: The joint between the thigh and the lower leg
  • Example: Coca isandla sakho – Clean your hand.

13. Amehlo 

  • Literal Translation: Eyes
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about the part of the body
  • Meaning: The globular organs of sight in the head of humans
  • Example: Vula amehlo akho – Open your eyes.

14. Ubuso 

  • Literal Translation: Face
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about the part of the body
  • Meaning: The front part of a person’s head from the forehead to the chin
  • Example: Ubuso bakho bucocekile – Your face is neat.

15. Idolo 

  • Literal Translation: Knee
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about the part of the body
  • Meaning: The joint between the thigh and the lower leg in humans
  • Example: Idolo lam lasekunene – My right knee.

16. Molo 

  • Literal Translation: Hello
  • Kind of situation used: When greeting someone or people
  • Meaning: A greeting
  • Example: Molo unjani (Hello, how are you), Molo banjani (Hello, how are they?)

Molo is a common word in Xhosa. It means “Hello,” and it is used in greetings and salutations when meeting people for the first time in the day, first time, or before starting a conversation. It can be used in both formal and informal settings. When greeting a single person, you say molo, but if you are greeting more than one person at a time, you say molweni.

17. Uncedo

  • Literal Translation: Help
  • Kind of situation used: When appealing for urgent assistance
  • Example: Ndidinga Uncedo lwakho – I need your help

You can use this word if you find yourself in an emergency situation or need people’s assistance in any form.

18. Ukutya 

  • Literal Translation: Food
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about anything edible
  • Example: Yitya ukutya kwakho – Eat your food.

19. Sala kakuhle

  • Literal Translation: Goodbye
  • Kind of situation used: When expressing good wishes.
  • Common Response: Sala kakuhle nawe (goodbye you too) or nawe (you too)
  • Example: Sala kakuhle mfondini – Goodbye friend.

The word Sala kakuhle literally means Goodbye in English. It is often used at the end of a conversation to wish the other person or person farewell when departing.

20. Igama

  • Literal Translation: Name
  • Kind of situation used: When making an inquiry from someone
  • Example: Ungubani igama lwakho? – What is your name?

21. Uyasithetha isingesi na?

  • Literal Translation: Do you speak English?
  • Kind of situation used: When making an inquiry from someone
  • Common Response: Ewe (yes) or Hayi (no)

22. Utata 

  • Literal Translation: Father
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about a member of the family
  • Meaning: A man in relation to his child or children
  • Example: Utata wam mde – My father is tall.

23. Usisi

  • Literal Translation: Sister
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about a member of the family
  • Meaning: A woman or girl in relation to other daughters and sons of her parents
  • Example: Usisi wam uphilile – My sister is fine.
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24. Umama 

  • Literal Translation: Mother
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about a member of the family
  • Meaning: A woman in relation to her child or children
  • Example:  Umama ngu Janet – My mother is Janet

The word Umama is another word you will hear daily among the Xhosa-speaking community in South Africa. Umama means mother in the English language.

25. Ubhuti 

  • Literal Translation: Brother
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about a member of the family
  • Meaning: A man or boy in relation to other sons and daughters of his parents
  • Example: Ubhuti ka John utyebile – John’s brother is fat.

Ubhuti is a word used in making references to a male relative or an immediate male family member.

26. Umalume

  • Literal Translation: Uncle
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about a member of the family
  • Meaning: The brother of one’s father or mother or the husband of one’s aunt
  • Example: Umalume wam usisityebi – My uncle is rich.

27. iCawe

  • Literal Translation: Sunday
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about days of the week.
  • Example: lcawe lusuku lwam lokuzalwa  – Sunday is my birthday.

28. uMvulo 

  • Literal Translation: Monday
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about days of the week
  • Example: Namhlanje nguMvulo – Today is Monday.

The word uMvulo, which means Monday, is used in describing the first working day of the week.

29. Wesibini 

  • Literal Translation: Tuesday
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about days of the week
  • Example: Namhlanje wesibini – Today is Tuesday.

30. uLwesithathu 

  • Literal Translation: Wednesday
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about days of the week
  • Example: uLwesithathu luzisa izinto ezilungileyo – Wednesday brings good things.

31. uLwesine 

  • Literal Translation: Thursday
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about days of the week
  • Example: uLwesine lolona suku ndiluthandayo – Thursday is my favorite day

32. Molweni baphulaphuli

  • Literal Translation: Greetings to you listeners
  • Kind of situation used: When expressing goodwill to people
  • Common Response: Enkosi (thank you) or Wamkelekile (You are welcome).

33. uLwesihlanu 

  • Literal Translation: Friday
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about days of the week
  • Example: Ndizoza ngolwesihlanu – I will come on Friday.

34. uMgqibelo

  • Literal Translation: Saturday
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about days of the week
  • Example: Ndiyawuthanda uMgqibelo – I love Saturdays.

35. Mholo ngalentsasa 

  • Literal Translation: Good afternoon
  • Kind of situation used: To express good wishes in the morning
  • Example: Mholo ngalentsasa utata – Good morning father

Mholo ngalentsasa is a word used daily among Xhosa people. Mholo ngalentsasa simply means good morning, and it is a word used in greeting people in the morning.

36. Mholo emvakwemini 

  • Literal Translation: Good afternoon
  • Kind of situation used: To express good wishes in the afternoon
  • Example: Mholo emvakwemini umalume – Good afternoon uncle

This word means good afternoon in the English language.

37. Mholo ngokuhlwa nje

  • Literal Translation: Good evening
  • Kind of situation used: To express good wishes in the nighttime
  • Example: Mholo ngokuhlwa nje umama – Good evening mummy

Mholo ngokuhlwa nje means good evening in the English language. The word is used in greeting people in the evening at home, in social gatherings, and any other place.

38. Busuku benzolo

  • Literal Translation: Goodnight
  • Kind of situation used: To express good wishes before going to bed
  • Example: Busuku benzolo umakazi – Good night, aunty.

Busuku benzolo means good night, and it is used in wishing people goodbye for the night.

39. Namhlanje

  • Literal Translation: Today
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about a period of time
  • Example: Ndinentlanganiso namhlanje – I have a meeting today

The word Namhlanje is used in referring to the present day in conversations. It can be used in a statement in various ways.

40. Enkosi kakhuli

  • Literal Translation: Thank you very much
  • Kind of situation used: To express gratitude
  • Common Response: Wamkelekile (You are welcome).

41. Ngomso 

  • Literal Translation: Tomorrow
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about a period of time
  • Example: Itheko liza ngomso – The party comes up tomorrow.

Ngomso means tomorrow in the English language. It refers to the day next to the current day during conversations. It is also an important word to know as a learner of the Xhosa language.

42. Izolo

  • Literal Translation: Yesterday
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about a period of time
  • Example: Ebengekho izolo – He was absent yesterday.

Izolo means yesterday and is used to reference the day preceding the present day (the day before the present day).

43. Isidlo 

  • Literal Translation: Meal
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about food
  • Example: Isidlo silungile – The meal is ready

Isidlo means meal in English and is a popular word used by everybody that speaks Xhosa almost daily. It is a word used when talking about prepared food.

44. Ndiyakuthanda

  • Literal Translation: I Love you
  • Kind of situation used: To express an intense feeling of deep affection
  • Common Response: ngokunjalo (I love you too).

Ndiyakuthanda means I Love You. The saying is a way of showing how someone loves their listener.

45. Isidlo sakusasa 

  • Literal Translation: Breakfast
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about food
  • Example: Isidlo sam sakusasa silungile – My breakfast is ready

We use this word when referring to a meal prepared for the morning, which is called breakfast.

46. Isidlo sangokuhlwa

  • Literal Translation: Dinner
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about food
  • Example: Isidlo sangokuhlwa silungile – Dinner is ready.

This word is also used daily by Xhosa people. It refers to a prepared meal to be taken in the evening. This word can be used in many ways during conversations and in many places.

47. Isidlo sasemini

  • Literal Translation: Lunch
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about food
  • Example: Unyoko undiphe isidlo sasemini – Your mother gave me lunch.

Isidlo sasemini means lunch. The word is used when one is referring to a prepared meal to be taken during midday.

48. Mnyama 

  • Literal Translation: Black
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about color
  • Example: Inenekazi elimnyama – black lady.

The word is used when referring to an object that is black in color. The word can be used as an adjective when describing different objects such as a car, house, and many more.

49. Luhlaza 

  • Literal Translation: Two
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about color
  • Example: Oluhlaza ngowona mbala ndiwuthandayo – Green is my favorite color.

Luhlaza means Blue in English. This word describes a particular color type called blue. It is used in referring to something blue in color.

50. Fudumeleyo

  • Literal Translation: Warm
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about temperature

51. Ntsundu

  • Literal Translation: Brown
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about color

This word could be used in describing various types of objects that are brown in color.

52. Nye

  • Literal Translation: One
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about numbers

Nye means “One.” It can be used as a noun or an adjective in a sentence and numbering objects. It’s a word to learn as a beginner.

53. Mbini

  • Literal Translation: Two
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about numbers
  • Example: iipensile ezimbini – two pencils.

Mbini means two, the second number in the order of the numbering system. It is a word used in making numerical references during a conversation; also, it can be used in a statement as an adjective or a noun.

54. Ntathu

  • Literal Translation: Three
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about numbers

Ntathu means three, the third number in the numbering system order. It is an important daily word among the Xhosas.

55. Ezine 

  • Literal Translation: Four
  • Kind of situation used: When talking about numbers

Ezine is another common word to learn as a learner of the Xhosa language. It is commonly used in many places, like offices, shops, markets, churches, schools, and more. The word ezine means four, which is the fourth number in the numbering system order.

Conclusion

The Xhosa language is one of the most interesting languages in South Africa. Whether it is adventure, art, food, or industry that has led you to want to learn the language of the Xhosa people, their language is indeed a great one to speak, and the learning process is not so difficult. For the records, the language of the Xhosa is called Isixhosa, and the pronunciation of Xhosa begins with the clicking sound – including the word “Xhosa.”

The language is not so hard like Chinese or Arabic and doesn’t have grammatical complexities like Latin. IsiZulu and isiXhosa are the two most populous languages with clicks. Isixhosa is the second most common mother tongue in South Africa, after isiZulu. So, make sure you internalize the simple words listed above so you can, at least, easily pass across a message when next you find yourself in a Xhosa community.

Additionally, there are many other Apps that can help one to learn the language quickly. Some of these online applications include uTalk, Duolingo, and much more. With the above list of Xhosa words, beginners can easily get acquainted with the most common Xhosa words and their meanings. The video below also gives an insight into the common Xhosa words and their meanings.

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Queen Dineo
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