Definition of Ndebele in English:


Pronunciation /ˌəndəˈbēlē/ /ˌəndəˈbili/

nounNdebele, Ndebeles

  • 1A member of a people of Zimbabwe and northeastern South Africa.

    See also Matabele

    ‘Now we are whites, blacks, coloureds, Asians, Shonas, Ndebeles…’
    • ‘The anger of the Ndebeles - who make up roughly 20% of Zimbabwe's 12.7 million people - has reached crisis level.’
    • ‘The Ndebeles consider themselves part of the Zulu nation and would ideally like to break away and form a new country with the Zulus in South Africa.’
    • ‘Party officials say Karangas and Ndebeles - who form what has been termed ‘the southern axis ‘- feel it is time one of their own came into power.’’
    • ‘Zimbabwe is generally portrayed as made up of two major tribes, the Shona and the Ndebele.’
    • ‘The Ndebele in the nineteenth century were the first to use the name ‘Shona’ to refer to the peoples they conquered; although the exact meaning of the term is unclear, it was probably derogatory.’
    • ‘He was an Ndebele; his forefathers came to this part of the continent in 1820 as refugees fleeing the might and wrath of Shaka Zulu and the Mfecane in South Africa.’
    • ‘Even more obviously inspired by their immediate surroundings are the architectural murals of the Ndebele.’
    • ‘Her influence was so great that she inspired the Shona and the Ndebele, the largest tribes of Zimbabwe, to unite against their common foe.’
    • ‘It is also generally accepted that the president should be a Shona, rather than a Ndebele, a much smaller group.’
    • ‘In this sense there are important links between urban and homestead murals, most notably with regard to the Ndebele's incorporation of icons of Western culture.’
    • ‘Over the years thousands of Ndebele were violently removed from their actual heartland to be dumped in a virtual wilderness.’
    • ‘To stake their claim to the land, settlers fought and eventually pushed the Shona and Ndebele onto small barren tracts called tribal trust lands.’
  • 2The Bantu language of the Ndebele, with over 1 million speakers. It is one of the official languages of South Africa.

    Also called Sindebele

    ‘The official language is English, and there are four indigenous languages - Shona, Ndebele, Venda, and Tonga.’
    • ‘As a further mark of its ethnic diversity, South Africa has 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, and Sotho.’
    • ‘It is a Bantu language closely related to Zulu, Swazi, and Ndebele.’
    • ‘Many of Dorothy's most celebrated songs are in Ndebele, a language much closer to Kwazulu than to Zimbabwe's majority tongue, Shona.’
    • ‘I was lucky that I learnt English and Ndebele pretty much simultaneously.’
    • ‘Black Umfolosi sing in both Ndebele and English, and their songs address themes of love, family and God, as well as the contemporary issues of war, apartheid and the environment.’
    • ‘The BBC World Service does not broadcast in Shona and Ndebele and we have no plans to do so; either on our own or in partnership with any other organisation.’
    • ‘The least spoken languages were Venda and Ndebele at two percent each.’


  • Relating to the Ndebele or their language.

    ‘Our rallying cry is ‘Sokwanele’ in the Ndebele language and ‘Zvakwana’ in Shona, meaning quite simply ‘Enough is enough’.’
    • ‘Toward the end of the first half of the twentieth century, their identity being threatened, Ndebele women began to paint walls of their houses and yards in colored geometric motifs.’
    • ‘The murals became a highly visible assertion of Ndebele identity.’
    • ‘Figurative imagery in Ndebele murals is highly stylized, with areas of color delineated by heavy black outlines.’
    • ‘For example, the Ndebele images of objects such as airplanes, electric pylons, lamp posts, telephones, and Western homes are highly geometricized.’
    • ‘It would be interesting to have had the Ndebele viewpoint as well… interesting stuff.’
    • ‘This marked the birth of the unique musical style and ethos which Mapfumo dubbed chimurenga after the Shona and Ndebele uprisings of 1893 and 1896-97.’
    • ‘Here again, one can draw parallels with South African homestead murals, most obviously with Ndebele examples.’
    • ‘Of real concern is the potential for tribal war between the majority Shona people and the Ndebele tribe.’
    • ‘A more modern African scene makes up the third display - jars, pebbles, plants and bright Ndebele colours.’
    • ‘Smart guides in black tunics and trousers with Ndebele trim, offer assistance with a friendly smile the moment anyone looks lost.’
    • ‘She combines her knowledge of Ndebele tradition with the choice of hues and types of colour readily available to her today.’
    • ‘A key argument is that modern Ndebele identity was not ethnically exclusive or fundamentalist.’
    • ‘The triangular arch at the entrance is painted with the geometric patterns typical of Ndebele art.’
    • ‘Its attractions now included an idealized Ndebele village, complete with ‘tribesmen’ dressed as they did ‘before the advent of the white man.’’
    • ‘The Ndebele women traditionally wore copper and brass rings around their necks arms and legs as a symbol of their status in society and after marriage as a symbol of her bond and faithfulness to her husband.’
    • ‘The Ndebele people, recognized for their skill as military strategists before the arrival of the British, make up about 20 percent of the population.’
    • ‘Mat making and related arts and crafts are popular among the Ndebele, Kalanga, and Nambya people.’
    • ‘In the alcove of the dormer, we painted, freehand, a pattern inspired by designs that adorn many homes of the South African Ndebele tribe.’
    • ‘It even appears that urban artists on occasion deliberately adopt the flat, outlined Ndebele style to achieve a more ‘African’ look.’


The name in the Nguni languages.