Meanings of the Shona names of months| A glimpse into Zimbabwean life in traditional society

This post was last updated on 7 April 2021, after I wrote the post titled ‘Indigenous religion| 5 key ‘chivanhu’ ritual festivals.’ A tale of the moon, cycles and the seasons The names of the months tell a story of Zimbabwean life in traditional society. A tale of time told by experiences and culture, inspired … Read more

What makes a woman? There’s a hundred and one Shona nouns to describe ‘her’: mazita anoreva vakadzi

The below are only some of the many Shona nouns used to describe women, including a few gender neutral ones. Most of the descriptions given are from the Standard Shona Dictionary, Revised Edition, M. Hannan, S.J. You will also notice that some of the nouns appear in more than one section. Ways to address a … Read more

5 death premonitions: how these led me to discover what they don’t tell you about spirits and the afterlife

coffin in hearse

Premonitions Not so long ago, I got to know about the philosophy of stoicism and learned how it could be practiced to figure out the best way to live. In the article I read, the writer presented ways to make stoicism a daily practice. One of the tactics he presented is called ‘memento mori’ which, … Read more

untangle your roots from these amazing details on 15 of Zimbabwe’s indigenous trees

I got the chance to drive through a vegetated area, taking a break from the bustling city pavements and potholed tar roads. I was wowed by the diversity of plant life, and realised how much I didn’t know about indigenous tree types. Here’s what I found out about the following 15 indigenous trees. Mutsamvi It … Read more

Mitupo nezvidao| 6 interesting things about Shona totems, praise names and poetry

This post was last updated on 19 May 2020. Did you know that Shona clan poems (nhetembo dzemadzinza) which are recited in line with totems (mitupo) and praise names (zvidao) are in essence an expression of compliment recited as a reward for commendable acts? The ‘mutupo’ system is an important source of ancestral and family … Read more

Mombe yemadiro| Here is one sacrificial ritual you probably never heard of

‘mombe yeumai’ was paid many years ago It has been decades since Ratidzai was married customarily and the bride price known as ‘roora’ or ‘pfuma’ was paid. A cow should have been paid as part of the brideprice to honour the bride’s mother ‘amai’ for her role as the nurturer and caregiver.  However it is common that … Read more

Mukwerera| A step by step guide on how to make rain in Shona

This post was last updated on 07 April 2021. rain-asking It’s a hot day in the village of Dhenya under Chief Chivero in Mhondoro. I have paid the village elders a visit ahead of their annual rain asking ceremony, known as ‘Mukwerera.’ The ceremony involves performing a ritual during which beer is poured over the … Read more

IDEOPHONES| 70 nyaudzosingwi starting with ‘a’ and ‘ba’

An ideophone is a word that evokes an idea in sound, often a vivid expression of certain sensations or sensory perceptions e.g. sound, movement, colour, shape or action. Such words are especially common in African languages. In Shona, ideophones are called Nyaudzosingwi. The ability to interpret or understand these words relies largely on knowledge of other words in the same language.

Below are some ideophones/ nyaudzosingwi beginning with Shona sounds ‘a’ and ‘ba’, as defined in the Standard Shona Dictionary (M. Hannan, S.J.). Different dialects are represented as M – chiManyika, Z – chiZezuru, Ko – chiKorekore, K – chiKaranga and Ko(B) – chiBudya.

nyaudzosingwi – a

ideophone description dialect
1. aku receiving rudely without thanking M
2. ambu lifting groundnuts K
3. anga floating K
4. angarara looking at with astonishment K
5. angarara floating K
6. ani spreading out to dry M
7. anyu unbending, forcing apart or open (metal) K/ M

nyaudzosingwi – ba

ideophone description dialect
8. ba catching sight of K /Ko /M /Z
9. ba striking K /Ko /Z
10. babandu crunching Z
11. badanu flaking Z
12. badanu unsticking Z
13. badara badara suffering Z
14. badara badara searching eagerly Z
15. bade being nothing Z
16. bade putting on an expression of hunger Z
17. badu splitting Z
18. badu cracking Z
19. badu slapping Z
20. bafafa sitting loose-limbed and bent forward, as idiots do K/ Z
21. bafafa desiring to eat or drink K /Z
22. bafamwa sitting loose-limbed and bent forward, as idiots do Z
23. bafu bafu walking with slow heavy tread Z
24. bama catching sight of Z
25. bamakata sitting down quietly, shyly K/ Z
26. bamama being startled K/ Z
27. bamama glimpsing K/ Z
28. bamamakata being startled Z
29. bambai bambai walking stiff-leggedly Z
30. bamu splitting/ cracking open K/ M/ Z
31. banan’ana shining clearly M
32. bandanu breaking up hard ground, digging deeply Z
33. banga putting in safe place; packing up Z
34. banganu Be clear. Brighten up. K/ Z
35. banganu Awaken or recover consciousness K/ Z
36. banganyi being smashed Z
37. bangu striking drum with anything M
38. bangu striking drum with hand Z
39. bangu striking metal M
40. bangu striking face with hand Z
41. bangu striking football M
42. bangu sun striking on head Z
43. bangwa following (especially path) Z
44. bani gripping, taking hold of with fingers(thick wood) Z
45. bani pinching Z
46. banzanu splitting (thick wood) Z
47. badzu splitting (especially wood; large piece) Z
48. banzu splitting (especially wood; large piece) Z
49. bapfu biting soft fruit Z
50. barabada rising from lying down K/ M/ Z
51. barabada rising from lying down (with difficulty) M/ Z
52. barabada rising from lying down (slowly) K
53. barabadu rising from lying down M/ Z
54. barabara rising from lying down Z
55. baranganda lightning flashing as thunder claps Z
56. baranganda being clever Z
57. barara spreading widely (e.g. in open plain); extending over an area K/ M/ Z
58. barara catching sight of Z
59. bari sparking (one) K/ M/ Z
60. barivafa desiring to eat or drink Z
61. baru tearing (large object) Z
62. batata welcoming at sight Z
63. bate bate repeatedly and randomly feeling with hands Z
64. bati kindling, starting to burn K/ Z
65. batu catching K/ M/ Z
66. bau acting quickly Ko(B) /Z
67. bawu acting quickly Ko(B)
68. bayi stabbing; pricking K /M / Z
69. bayu stabbing quickly; pricking K /M / Z
70. bazanu sorting; dividing into different kinds M /Z
Struggling with ideophones/ nyaudzosingwi as a Shona speaker probably means you are somewhat struggling with the language in general. For certain words, you can easily formulate your own ideophones. Try it!