This essay discusses the naming system of Basotho and Xhosa people of Southern Africa as well as similarities and

differences amongst these systems. A name is the word by which an individual person, or thing is known or spoken of. A person‟s name is one of the easiest and most frequently used means of identifying him/her. Jamaica (2012) pointed out that the use of a person‟s name not only reduces the likelihood that he/she will be confused with someone else, but can also prevent other problems from arising. Miller (2013) argued that the name holds the power to shape a child‟s self -esteem and identity and influence how he/she is seen and treated by others. Moreover, there‟s a belief that a name affect a child‟s self-confidence to his/her grades at school as well as his/her future professional success. Thabazi (2010) explained that Xhosa people tend to attach a great importance to the meaning of their names. He argued that in Xhosa society, names are not just labels or a means of identity but a human action. The parent or anyone naming a child communicates, among other things a wish, a prediction about the future of a child, relationship, family history, and events surrounding child‟s birth. Naming in Basotho is both cultural and linguistic phenomenon (Guma, 2001). Guma (2001) further suggested that the meaning attached to names by Basotho, plays a major role in the definition of personhood. It is believed that a given name does not only serve as an identity but also determines the type of person the individual will be. Hence, there is a proverb that refers to the influence of names on character: Bitso lebe keseromo “a bad name is ominous.” According to Possa and Mamasheane (2010), the Basotho people also name based primarily on their observations and expectations. They consider among other things, the circumstances, environment, behaviour of different creatures and their experiences. Naming among Basotho is similar to that of Xhosa people in that they name their children to express some sort of expectation or aspiration for the child (Makhubedu, 2009). According to Neethling (2004), a common manifestation is a name that reflects a good or positive human attribute. A child, in growing up, may respect his/her parent‟s wishes and expectations or, may naturally exhibit that particular characteristic. When this happens, it is common to hear Xhosa people saying: Ulilandele igama lakhe “He follows his/her name.” Some examples are: Thandeka „to be lovable‟, Mncedisi „helper‟, Lukhanyo „light‟, Thembeka “to be reliable‟, Nompumelelo „Success‟, Thabo „happiness‟, Kgubedu „Beauty‟, Mamello „ Patience‟, Lerato, „Love‟, Naledi, „Star‟ and Palesa, „Flower.‟ Another similarity amongst Basotho and Xhosa naming is that some names are new and often caused by events or situations such as death around or during the child‟s birth. According to Makhubedu (2009), Dikeledi „Tears‟ might be given to a child who was born when either the father or mother has passed away after birth or if the mother had miscarried the previous pregnancy. Khomotso „stop mourning‟ which means the newly born baby has brought joy in the family. Nontuthuzelo „comfort‟ which means she was taking the place of her deceased brothers, comforting the rest of her family and restoring peace again. Nomathamsanqa „luck‟ which means she was the only daughter who lived; all others died. Nocawe „Sunday‟ a female child born on Sunday. Among Basotho and Xhosa societies, marriage is important and valued and gives both men and women a new status in society (Guma, 2001). There is a new relationship that joins the bride and bridegroom‟s family. Within this relationship, the bride is given a name so that the in-laws avoid addressing her by her first name and the husband is expected to call her by this name mostly among the members of the public. Frequently these names reflect what the in-laws are expecting from the arrival of the bride in their family. Some examples are: Noxolo „peace‟, Nokwakha „the one who builds‟ and Nosiseko „the family builder.‟ 1

‟ If she is named Mmasello. Nongangengazalwanga „I wish she has not been born‟. if it is a boy. Moreover. happiness and sufferings endured by the family are also taken into consideration when a personal name is given to a child. Lesebo „a gift from ancestors‟ The delivery of names in Xhosa society is essentially a very positive activity. Finally. sometimes the traditional healer is the one who names the child. Oboile mo tseleng „He has returned on the road‟.‟ Amongst Basotho. 2009). However. Some examples are: Nkosiphendule „ The Lord has answered‟. uThixo or uQamata. The traditional healer upon consultation throws his/her bones and predicts a name that should be given to the child. Nombulelo „Gratitude‟. Basotho conversely. Kelebogile „I am grateful‟. Zifihlephi „where can you hide‟ and Danisile „One who has disappointed. this occurs usually when a newly born child cries and has sleepless nights. some names are based on the beliefs of people which are mostly given after animals. This could refer to various Gods such as Christian God. a child is named after one of them. she will retain the name until Sello is born (Makhubedu. it is common that children should be given names immediately after birth. According to Neethling (2004). They believe that departed ancestors play a major role as mediators and it‟s therefore vital to seek the blessing and compassion of the ancestors. her male child will be name Sello „wailing‟ and if she bears a girl instead of a boy. Velaphi „where do you come from‟. the wishes.e. Neethling further suggested that the birth of a child may thus result in a name acknowledging and thanking the ancestors to their influence. Neethling (2004) suggested that the name carrier when old enough to decide for herself. Names are very important as they help people to differentiate one from others. In Basotho and Xhosa societies. most Xhosa people do believe in some supernatural force that exerts influence upon people in their daily lives. for obvious reasons does not use that name and rather prefer her English name. The factors considered include events that happen during pregnancy. Further examples are: Nompazamo 'a mistake‟. Mandlenkosi „ The Lord‟s power‟.However.‟ In Basotho. For example: if she is named Mmatshepo. there are a number of factors that influence the choice of personal name. According to Makhubedu (2009). birth. may be named Tshepo „trust. Some examples are: Kgabo „Monkey‟ which parents gives to their children not to mean they do not love them. different to Xhosa society. Nevertheless. the child will survive. Ndivuyeleni „ be joyful over me‟. her child. naming time and also history of the family. when something dramatic occurs. Some examples are: Nyakambi „a bad year‟ i. the name givers are provoked to give names that reflect that particular negative circumstance. to honour ancestral forces for their influence upon the living. 2 . Then the traditional healer will give the child a name which is called leina la badimo „name of gods/ancestors. it is believed that if you name your child something that is worthless. the Basotho bride‟s name sometimes becomes permanent as her firstborn is usually given a name that will match her name. one can presume that the name carrier‟s family must have experience a very unpleasant circumstance on that particular year.

R. Guma. 2012. 2013. How important is a name? Available: 4. M. and Mamasheane. Neethling. 8804983:15-28. Thabazi. R. Possa. Proverbs Name in Business.2001. B.References 1. 2009.G.parenting. 2010. Nordic Journal of Africa Studies. 3. The Cultural Meaning of names among Basotho of Southern Africa: A Historical and Linguistic Analysis.html [2013 May 11] Miller. Sotho speaking people residing within the greater Baphalaborwa Municipality in the Limpompo [2013 May 11] 3 . Jamaica. The Significance of Traditional Names among the Northern 2.2010. 2004. M. 4: 1-32. W. 7. Available: http://jamaica-gleaner. 6. 5.Creativity of naming time among the Basotho. 10 (3):265-279. Name Choice among the Xhosa of South Africa. N. The Language Quarterly. The importance of a name. Makhubedu.

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