Upholding the meaning of my first name

Swazi first names are drenched in meaning, telling a story about their family, birth, or hopes for the child. I have come to love this because American names sometimes come from relatives but usually come down to being liked by both parents or are creatively constructed so there are no other children with the same name.
I have missed reading the obits in the Salt Lake Tribune and working at the pharmacy where I learned many fantastic new names. 
Here in Swaziland when I meet people I often ask them what their names mean, and I am regularly asked if I know what my name Hloniphile means. It means respected, which I learned on my first day with my new family. 

I love my name, and my community members comment on how well my name and I fit each other, which I find to be the utmost of praises. 

And like the name I grew up with that many people could not spell, my Swazi name is uncommon and is often confused with Hlobsile because both start with the same hl sound. Hlobsile means decorated, which is a nice name but not mine. 

So how does someone who needs to uphold her name correct her elders who call her by the wrong name? 

It turns out that other elders who have correctly remembered my name will chastise each other when the wrong name is used, and my babe did not have to be the one to correct them either. 

I went to a big event last weekend where I was fortunately correctly introduced and this weekend I will be returning to that location for another even, so TWT – time will tell how many people remember the right name for me. 


I know the meanings of many of my family members’ and friends’ names, so in the event you are curious to know more Swazi names and their meanings, here’s a list. 

Mhlonishwa (m): Respected

Mancoba (m): Champion, soldier

Fezile (f): Become reality

Siphesihle (f): To give something beautiful

Wenzo (m): To do something

Gugu (f): Something you have

Neliswa (f): To be satisfied 

Nqobile (f): To win

Bahle (m): Handsome

Stembiso (m): To promise

Thuli (f): To be quiet

Thando (m): Love

Ngeti (f): To multiply

(B)ayanda (m): To multiply

Phayo (m): To give

Tiyandza (f): To multiply

Nonhlanhla (f): To be lucky

Mandla (m): Power

This entry was posted in Africa, Peace Corps, Swaziland, Tradition and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Upholding the meaning of my first name

  1. Susan Kemp says:

    Alison means “noble, exalted” which we still think is a good choice for you. I like your Swazi name too, Hloniphile but of course we can’t pronounce it!

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