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