Herero language

Herero (English: /hɛˈrɛəroʊ/, Otjiherero) is a language of the Bantu subfamily of the Niger–Congo group. It is spoken by the Herero and Mbanderu peoples in Namibia and Botswana, as well as a small communities of people in southwestern Angola. There were 211,700 speakers in 2014.[1]

Native toNamibia, Botswana, Angola
RegionKunene, Omaheke Region and Otjozondjupa Region in Namibia; Ghanzi in Botswana; Namibe, Huíla and Cunene in Angola
EthnicityHerero, Himba, Mbanderu, Tjimba, Kwisi, Twa
Native speakers
211,700 (2014)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-1hz Herero
ISO 639-2her Herero
ISO 639-3her Herero
Glottologhere1253  Herero[2]
R.30 (R31,311,312); R.101 (Kuvale)[3]
Distribution of Otjiherero in Namibia
The disparate distribution of the Herero language in Namibia, showing the concentration of Herero speakers on the Kalahari boundary in the east, as well as the outlying Herero-speaking Himba people of the Kaokoveld in the far north-west.


Its linguistic distribution covers a zone called Hereroland, a zone constituted of the region of Omaheke along with the Otjozondjupa and Kunene Regions. The Himba people, who are related to the Herero and Mbanderu, speak a dialect very close to Otjiherero. Many Herero-speakers live in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.



Bilabial Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive plain p t k
prenasal ᵐb ⁿd̪ ⁿd ᵑɡ
Fricative plain (f) θ (s) h
voiced v ð
Affricate plain
prenasal ⁿdʒ
Trill r
Nasal m n ɲ
Approximant w (l) j

The sounds /f s l/ are found in loanwords.[4]


Front Central Back
Close i iː u uː
Mid ɛ ɛː ɔ ɔː
Open ɑ ɑː


Because of the translation of missionary Gottlieb Viehe (1839–1901) of the Bible into Herero, at the end of the 19th century, the spoken language was transcribed to an alphabet based on the Latin script. Father Peter Heinrich Brincker (1836–1904) translated several theological works and songs.


Otjiherero is taught in Namibian schools both as a native tongue and as a secondary language. It is included as a principal material at the University of Namibia. Otjiherero is also one of the six minority languages that are used by the Namibian State Radio (NBC). Gamsberg Macmillan, as of 2008, has published the only dictionary in Otjiherero.


The Hakaona variety is now considered a separate Bantu language, as sometimes is Zemba (Otjizemba).[5] Maho (200) also removes Kuvale to Bantu Zone R.10, while differentiating North-West Herero (Kaokoland Herero, including Zemba and presumably Himba and Hakaona), R.311, and Botswana Herero (including Mahalapye Herero), R.312, as distinct from but closely related to Herero proper. Within Herero proper, he recognizes two dialects: Central Herero and Mbandero (East Herero).

Northwest/Zemba is found on either side of the Namibian–Angolan border. Central Herero covers a large area in central Namibia, with East Herero a few islands to the east but still in Namibia. Botswana Herero consists of a few scattered islands in Botswana, with about 15% the population of Herero proper.[3]

Ethnologue separates Zimba as a distinct language but retains Himba, East Herero and Botswana Herero within the Herero language. However, it no longer recognizes Kuvale as a dialect.[6] Kuvale has not yet been designated as a separate language or as a dialect affiliated with another language.


  • Brincker, Peter Heinrich (1886, 1964). Wörterbuch und kurzgefasste Grammatik des Otji-Herero. Leipzig (reprint 1964 Ridgwood, NJ: The Gregg Press).
  • Hahn, C. Hugo (1857). Grundzüge einer Grammatik des Hereró. Berlin: Verlag von Wilhelm Hertz.
  • Lutz, Marten (2006). "Locative inversion in Otjiherero: more on morpho-syntactic variation in Bantu." In: Laura Downing, Lutz Marten & Sabine Zerbian (eds.), Papers in Bantu Grammar, ZAS Papers in Linguistics 43, 97—122.
  • Marten, Lutz & Nancy C. Kula (2007). "Morphosyntactic co-variation in Bantu: two case studies." SOAS Working Papers in Linguistics 15.227-238.
  • Möhlig, Wilhelm, Lutz Marten & Jekura U. Kavari (2002). A Grammatical Sketch of Herero (Otjiherero). Köln: Köppe (Grammatische Analysen afrikanischer Sprachen; v.19).


  1. ^ a b Herero at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Herero". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  4. ^ Möhlig, Marten, Kavari, Wilhelm J. G., Lutz, Jekura (2002). A Grammatical Sketch of Herero (Otjiherero). Köln, Germany: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Bantu Classification Archived 2012-06-24 at the Wayback Machine, Ehret, 2009.
  6. ^ Compare
    Herero language at Ethnologue (15th ed., 2005)
    Herero language at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
Carl Hugo Hahn

Carl Hugo Hahn (1818–1895) was a German missionary and linguist who worked in South Africa and South-West Africa for most of his life. Together with Franz Heinrich Kleinschmidt he set up the first Rhenish mission station to the Herero people in Gross Barmen. Hahn is known for his scientific work on the Herero language.

Gottlieb Viehe

Friedrich Wilhelm Gottlieb Viehe (27 March 1839 – 1 January 1901) was a German missionary of the Rheinische Missionsgesellschaft (Rhenish Missionary Society) and an early settler in present-day Namibia. He was born in Mennighüffen, (now part of the city of Löhne).

His first exposure to missionary work in Africa was in 1867 at the settlement of Otjimbingwe where he worked with the Ovaherero. In 1870 he moved to Omaruru and established a small school for children of European settlers. In 1872, he built a mission house in Omaruru, and soon after translated the New Testament into the Otjiherero language.

In 1885, Viehe constructed the first meteorological station in the newly formed colony of German Southwest Africa at Omaruru. In 1890, he moved to Okahandja, where he was head of the Augustineum. It was here he had a confrontation with Theodor Leutwein, commandant of the Schutztruppe, who accused Viehe of "mild treatment" in regard to his relations with indigenous Africans.


Hz is the International Standard symbol for Hertz, a unit of frequency.

HZ may also stand for:

HZ (character encoding)

Habitable zone, the distance from a star where a planet can maintain Earth-like life

Hazard, a situation that poses a level of threat

Haze, in meteorology, METAR code HZ

Herero language (ISO 639 alpha-2)

Herpes zoster, the shingles virus

Holden HZ, an automobile produced by General Motors Holden in the late 1970s

HZ University of Applied Sciences, a vocational university in Zeeland, Netherlands

SAT Airlines (IATA airline designator)

Saudi Arabia (aircraft registration code)

Croatian Railways (Hrvatske željeznice, HŽ)

Hakaona language

Hakaona (Hakawona, Havakona) is a Bantu language of Angola and Namibia. Until perhaps Anita Pfouts (2003), it was considered a dialect of Herero.Maho (2009) sets up a Northwest Herero language, which includes Zimba; from the map, it would appear to include Himba and Hakaona as well.

Heinrich Vedder

Hermann Heinrich Vedder (* 3 July 1876 in Westerenger, Westphalia, Germany; † 26 April 1972 in Okahandja, South-West Africa) was a German missionary, linguist, ethnologist and historian. Originally a silk weaver, he received missionary training by the Rhenish Missionary Society in Barmen between 1894 and 1903, whereafter he was sent to German South West Africa in 1905 and worked as a missionary and teacher trainer until his retirement, first for the black workers and prisoners-of-war in Swakopmund, then at the small mission station Gaub in the Otavi Mountains, and from 1922 onwards in Okahandja, where he taught at the Augustineum school.

After his retirement, the National Party Government of South Africa nominated his as Senator to represent the Namibian 'natives' (who had no vote) in the South African Senate in 1951. He vehemently defended the policy of apartheid. In his first speech he stated: "Our Government in South West Africa has been the depositary of a fine heritage. From the very beginning the German Government carried out that which has unfortunately not yet been attained in South Africa - namely, apartheid."Vedder spoke fluently Oshindonga, Khoekhoe, and Otjiherero. He spent a lot of his time recording oral history and folklore and wrote school textbooks in Otjiherero and Khoekhoegowab.His best known works are the ethnographic treatise Die Bergdama on history and culture of the Damara, his work on the pre-colonial history of South West Africa, South West Africa in Early Times, and his contribution to The native tribes of South West Africa. Vedder's historiography has been heavily criticized by recent academic historians for being not referenced and for its colonial apologetics and settler bias.He received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Tübingen (1925) and Stellenbosch (1949). A suburb of Okahandja is named Veddersdal (Afrikaans: Vedder's valley) in his honour.


Herero may refer to:

Herero people, a people belonging to the Bantu group, with about 240,000 members alive today

Herero language, a language of the Bantu family (Niger-Congo group)

Herero chat, a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae

Herero Day, a gathering of the Herero people of Namibia to commemorate their deceased chieftains

Herero Mall, an informal business area in the Katutura suburb of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia

Herero Wars, a series of colonial wars between the German Empire and the Herero people of German South-West Africa (1904-08)

Herero and Namaqua Genocide

Herero people

The Herero, also known as Ovaherero, are an ethnic group inhabiting parts of Southern Africa. The majority reside in Namibia, with the remainder found in Botswana and Angola. There were an estimated 250,000 Herero people in Namibia in 2013. They speak Otjiherero, a Bantu language.

Johannes Rath (missionary)

Johannes Rath (Vienna, Austria, January 31, 1816 – Kuils River, Cape Colony, June 6, 1903) was a missionary with the Rhenish Missionary Society.

Kuvale language

Kuvale is a Southern Bantu language spoken in Angola, in the middle of a large Umbundu -speaking area. It has traditionally been considered a dialect of Herero; however, Maho (2009) has moved it from Bantu Zone R.30 to Zone R.10, which includes Umbundu and a few smaller languages. Ngendelengo may be a distinct language.

List of Botswana-related topics

This is a list of topics related to Botswana. Those interested in the subject can monitor changes to the pages by clicking on Related changes in the sidebar.

New Era (Namibia)

The New Era is a daily national newspaper owned by the government of Namibia. The newspaper is one of four daily national newspapers in the country, the others being The Namibian (English and indigenous languages), Die Republikein (Afrikaans) and Allgemeine Zeitung (German).New Era was created by the New Era Publications Corporation Act of 1992. According to Ullamaija Kivikuru, it copied the format of The Namibian in order to establish credibility. The two newspapers still resemble each other in having long stories spread over several pages.New Era has a usual circulation of 9,000, going up to 11,000 on Fridays. It was established as a weekly newspaper and was later published only bi-weekly. It has appeared daily since 2004. New Era is published in English and five indigenous languages: Otjiherero, Oshiwambo, Damara/Nama, Silozi, and Khwedam.New Era is published by the New Era Publication Corporation, which is owned by the Government of Namibia. The Minister of Information and Communication Technology has the ability to appoint and discharge members of the board of directors. According to Andreas Rothe, some government minister have acted as direct owners of the newspaper, telephoning the editorial department about articles that have criticised them. Because of this, the newspaper is perceived to be SWAPO-friendly, and is "often reproached for being biased in favour of the government." However, a 2006 study by Swedish researchers found New Era to be "more critical and fierce" than The Namibian.The editor of New Era is Chrispin Inambao.

Okahandja Reformed Church (NGK)

The Okahandja Reformed Church is a congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (NGK) in central Namibia.

There was contact between Cape Town and Okahandja as early as 1792, when Pieter Brand and Van Reenen sailed up the Swakop River near Okahandja. Brand was likely the first white men to come there. Okahandja had a long, eventful history because the Nama and Herero met there and fought many wars over the territory. More than 150 years ago, Christianity was brought to the area by the work of the Rhenish Missonary Society.

The town's name means "small wide" in the Herero language, since the river is quite short but near the town very wide. The congregation was once a district of the very large Gibeon congregation, which at the time encompassed half of South West Africa (SWA). In 1929, Okahandja became part of the Windhoek Reformed Church (NGK) upon the latter's secession from Gibeon. In October 1946, Okahandja followed suit with its own secession, welcoming its first pastor, the Rev. J.T. Potgieter, formerly of Gibeon.

The congregation was quite small in 1952 at a mere 320 members, only 28 less than in 2010 and 63 less than in 2015, but was already self-sustaining. The church hall had already gone into service in 1930, and the parsonage was completed in 1950 on the foundations of what was once the house of the Herero captain Samuel Maharero, who fired the first shot of the Herero Wars from his yard in 1903.

The church building, inaugurated in 1974, was designed by the architect J. Anthonie Smith, who designed more than 60 NGK churches.

Omatako Mountains

The Omatako Mountains (German: Omatakoberge) are two mountains in Namibia, located some 90 km (56 mi) north of Okahandja. Their name in the Herero language literally means "buttocks".The northwesterly of the two peaks, the Great Omatako (German: Omatako-Spitze), is 2,300 m (7,500 ft) in height, considerably higher than the other peak. The first European to record the locality was C. J. Andersson in 1851.


Omuramba (plural: Omiramba) is the term for ancient river-beds found in the Kalahari Desert of Africa, notably in the North Eastern part of Namibia and North Western part of Botswana. The word is taken from the Herero language. An omuramba provides occasional standing pools of water and more fertility than in the surrounding sand plains. Some specific omiramba are named: Eiseb, Rietfontein, Epukiro, Omatako. They mostly start in the central parts of Namibia and run into the central parts of Botswana. The depth and width of the beds varies, with some being 3 to 4 km wide. Omiramba that were perennial rivers about 16.000 years ago now flow only for short distances, and only after heavy rains. Herdsmen love to make their cattle posts in or near omiramba, so they do not need to use their pumping equipment to extract subterranean water, which may be as deep as 300 m. Historically, they are known for battles which were fought along their winding courses, notably the Herero-German war in 1904, which ended in a terrible genocide that killed nearly 70 percent of the Herero population and saw many others flee down the omiramba, which were then in the dry season and inhospitable. The omiramba were also home to Bushmen people in pre-colonial times.

Otjiherero grammar

Otjiherero grammar is the grammar of the Herero language (Otjiherero), a Bantu language spoken primarily in Namibia. It includes several hallmarks of Bantu languages such as a large number of noun classes and the use of subject concords.

Ovambo language

The Ovambo (English: ) language, Oshiwambo, is a dialect cluster spoken by the Ovambo people in southern Angola and northern Namibia, of which the written standards are Kwanyama and Ndonga.

The native name for the language is Oshiwambo (also written "Oshivambo"), which is also used specifically for the Kwanyama and Ndonga dialects. It is the largest spoken local language in Namibia, particularly the Ovambo people.

The language is closely related to that of the Herero and Himba, the Herero language (Otjiherero). An obvious sign of proximity is the prefix used for language and dialect names, Proto-Bantu *ki- (class 7, as in the name of the Swahili language, Kiswahili), which in Herero has evolved to Otji- and in Ovambo further to Oshi-.

Zemba language

Zemba (Dhimba) is a Bantu language spoken mainly in Angola where the language has about 18,000 speakers, and also in Namibia with some 4,000. It is closely related to Herero, and is often considered a dialect of that language, especially as the Zemba are ethnically Herero.

There are various spellings and pronunciations of the name: Zimba, Dhimba, Tjimba, Chimba, etc. However, when spelled Tjimba or Chimba in English, it generally refers to the Tjimba people, non-Herero hunter-gatherers who speak Zemba. The spelling Himba should be distinguished from the Himba people and their dialect of Herero.

Ethnologue separates Zemba as a distinct language from Himba, which according to the language map of Namibia it retains under Herero proper. Maho (2009), however, sets up a Northwest Herero language, which includes Zemba; from the map, it would appear to include Himba and Hakaona as well.

Official language
Recognized regional
Other Bantu languages
Sign languages


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