First Online Tsonga Dictionary

Last updated on: June 18, 2010 by Musa Kurhula Baloyi

It began as the first online Tsonga (Tswa-Ronga) dictionary, bringing members words and names of Tsonga origin, and including those adopted and/or adapted, and their translations in English. We also doubled back (as we do now) from the English to the Tsonga.

Tonga, Thonga or Tsonga people and languages span most of southern Africa, notable countries being South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In these countries, there are regions where one or more languages and/or dialects are more dominant. For example, in South Africa, Tsonga people are mainly found in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, with smaller populations in North-West and Free State. Within these provinces, there are towns and cities where they are most prevalent, although this is continually changing in the new South Africa as black people can now move freely. Most or all of southern Mozambique is inhabited by Tsonga people, variously named as Copi, Rhonga, Ndzawu, Tonga, Shangana, and Tshwa. The provinces are Maputo, Maputo City, Inhambane, Manica, Gaza, and Sofala.

We respect calls made by members. First, that we should speak in Xitsonga ONLY. Second, to refrain from confusing Mutsonga/Vatsonga with Muchangana/Machangana. We address the first request by declaring Tsonga Tuesdays, where we insist on speaking Xitsonga ONLY. On any other day, members are free to use Tsonga or English as we seek to reach the widest audience, not just Vatsonga. Xitsonga a hi xa Vatsonga ntsena. The second request is a bit tricky to fulfill. We'd like to preserve the fact that Vatsonga and Machangana are one without imposing a Shangaan identity on Vatsonga. This can only be enforced gradually as more and more people become aware of the differences. This submission has been made by Nhlanganelo wo Hluvukisa Xitsonga and we acknowledge it. The story goes, interaction with the Ngoni (Nguni), where the Ngoni married Tsonga women and assimilated some Tsonga men, gave rise to the Shangaan, whom are sometimes confused to mean all Tsonga. This trend is apparent in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland. The Ngoni group involved was the Ndwandwe-Gaza-Nguni, who spoke Lala, now a dialect of Zulu. As an estimate, the Shangaan dialect is over 95% Tsonga.

Tswa-Ronga people and languages are: Chopi, Ndau, Ronga, Tsonga, Tonga and Tswa.

  1. Chopi (Chope, Copi, Tshopi, Txopi) dialects are Copi, Khambani, Lambwe, Lenge (Lengue), Ndonge and Tonga.
  2. Ndau (Ndzawu, Njao, Sofala, South-East Shona) dialects are Changa (Shanga, Xanga), Danda, Dondo, Gova, Ndau, and Senji.
  3. Ronga (Rhonga) dialects are Kalanga, Konde, Putru, and Ssonge.
  4. Tsonga (aka standard or South African Tsonga) dialects are Bila (Vila), Changana (Shangaan, Shangana), Dzonga (Jonga), Gwamba (Gwapa), Hlanganu (Langanu, Nhlanganu), Hlave (Mbayi, Nkuna, Pai), Kande, Khosa, Luleke, N'walungu (Ngwalungu), Nkuma, Songa, Xika, and Xonga.
  5. Tswa (Tshwa) dialects are Dzibi (Dzivi), Dzibi-Dzonga (Dzivi-Dzonga), Tshwa, Hlengwe (Lengwe, Lhenge), Khambani, Makwakwe-Khambani, Mandla, Ndxhonge, and Nhayi (Nyai, Nyayi).
  6. Tonga can be divided into Valley Tonga and Plateau Tonga, and is spoken by Ila, Iwe, Leya, Toka and Tonga people.

Tswa-Ronga dialects not considered part of the family include Pulana (Xipulana, Sepulane).

It has been said that the two dialects that unite all Tswa-Ronga languages are Nkuna and Khosa (HP Junod, Matimu ya Vatsonga).

For "language of", the various languages and dialects may use one or more of the prefixes: Bi-, Chi-, Ci-, Gi-, Ici-, Ki-, Ma-, Shee-, Shi-, Txi-, Va-, Wa-, and Xi-. For "people of", they use either "Ba-" or "Va-".

Our objectives can be divided into four pillars: language, culture, history, and development. These pillars culminate at building a library and museum of anything and everything Tsonga.

Language: The Madyondza Online Dictionary. A hi dyondzeni Xitsonga. Let us all learn Xitsonga. Learning somebody's language is another way of saying "I accept you as you are, you do not need to speak foreign to be welcome." We're trying to help those who were born Tsonga but were defeated by the System. If you're doing or you did English, Afrikaans, Sotho-Tswana or Nguni languages in school, you can now study further; those who are not Tsonga to enjoy this beautiful language and also be able to say "I am not ignorant!" It is known fact that the more you learn about others, the more you learn about yourself; and those who are Tsonga to learn from each other and everyone and to start thinking about things concerning their mother tongue. Now you have no excuse not to speak Tsonga! But first, a few definitions...In addition, we look at and entertain questions about proverbs (swivuriso), idioms (swivulavulelo) and riddles (mintshayilo). Tsonga Primers like the Tsonga as a Foreign Language feature consistently look at Xitsonga simplistically. An example is the Most Common Phrases note. Occasionally we do comparative studies within Tsonga and between Tsonga and other African and European languages.

In Culture we share pictures of places and faces; promote, share and discuss music and lyrics; and share music and other videos. An example of a song that we provided the lyrics for in both Xitsonga and English is Mercy Tintswalo Mndlovu of Joyous Celebration's Hi Hanya Mahala. In History, we look at past and current events. In Development we translate newspaper articles, offer a platform for writers to share their works or works of art and distribute information. We also do translations of important works the world over.

All these pillars are interconnected. In one way or another, they are inspired and informed by the works done by the authors of

  1. Life of a South African Tribe,
  2. History of the Mabhudu-Tembe,
  3. Matimu ya Vatsonga 1498 - 1650,
  4. Swivongo swa Vatsonga/Machangana,
  5. Tsonga History Discourse,
  6. Tsonga-English Dictionary,
  7. Vutlhari bya Vatsonga/Machangana,
  8. Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, and
  9. 100 years of Tsonga publications, 1883–1983.

We are interested in working with any or all publishers (and similar or related) of Tsonga material while still maintaining our autonomy. We welcome all contributions.

TSUNDZUKANI, xilongoloxa-marito lexi a xi fani na lexi nga mpfampfarhutiwa. Hambiswiritano, ha va seketela. Swi nga leswi tinhlamuselo leti hi ti nyikaka swi nga endla ti nga fani, hambi ku kanetana. As a word of CAUTION, this "dictionary" and the published one are not the same, although we support the already published. As a result our explanations might differ, even be contradicting.