The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







The Xhosa people are a people with Bantu origins living in South Africa.


History of the Xhosa

The name supposedly refers to one of their legendary chieftains of old. They refer to themselves as the amaXhosa and their language is known as isiXhosa — another prefix-oriented Bantu language. As their Bantu-speaking ancestors moved south, they may have absorbed some local Khoisan and Griqua populations, with a consequent impact on the language.

Although they are distributed across the country, they are concentrated in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Under the pre-1994 South African system of bantustans, they were allocated to Transkei or Ciskei, now both a part of Eastern Cape.

Historically they were pushed west by expansion of the Zulus, as the northern Nguni put pressure on the southern Nguni, a process known as the Mfecane. Their ability to resist the British colonisers was weakened by the famines and political divisions that followed in the wake of the Cattle-Killing of 18561857 (see Nongqawuse).

The "Xh" in the word "Xhosa" is a click consonant.

Famous Xhosa People

Nelson Mandela is Xhosa, and they provide a significant portion of the African National Congress leadership.


Note that the figure mentioned on this page is based upon the number of people speaking isiXhosa as their home language, which may be more or less than the total number of people claiming Xhosa descent.

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