Sunday, August 28, 2016

Shona Names That Refer To God (Zimbabwe, South Africa)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series on African names and naming traditions.

This post provides a sample listing of Shona language names from Zimbabwe, South Africa that refer to God. That compilation is preceded by brief notes about the Shona language and an overview of traditional Shona beliefs about God.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Shona.... or chiShona, is a Bantu language, native to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. The term is also used to identify peoples who speak one of the Shona language dialects: Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika and Korekore, sometimes also Ndau. Some researchers include Kalanga: others recognise it as a language in its own right. Desmond Dale's basic English–Shona and Shona–English dictionaries comprise special vocabulary of the Karanga, Korekore, Manyika and Zezuru dialects, but no Ndau or Kalanga. Shona is a principal language of Zimbabwe, along with Ndebele and the official business language, English. Shona is spoken by a large percentage of the people in Zimbabwe. Other countries that host Shona language speakers include Botswana and Mozambique."

Shona is the Bantu language third most widely spoken as a native language after IsiZulu and Swahili, and the most frequent mother language. According to Ethnologue,[7] Shona, comprising the Karanga, Zezuru, and Korekore dialects, is spoken by about 10.8 million people. Manyika and Ndau dialects of Shona,[8][9][10] listed separately by Ethnologue,[11] and are spoken by 1,025,000[12] and 2,380,000[13] people, respectively. The total figure of Shona speakers is then about 14.2 million people. Zulu is the second most widely spoken Bantu language with 10.3 million speakers according to Ethnologue."....

"Shona has five vowels: a, e, i, o, u. If you are familiar with Spanish, Italian or Japanese, the vowels are pronounced the same. If not, they are pronounced:

A - ah (Like the "a" in "father")

E - eh (Like the "a" in "say" but without moving your mouth)

I - ee (Like the "ee" in "see")

O - oh (Like the "o" in "so" but without moving your mouth)

U - oo (Like the "oo" in "doom")

Vowels in Shona always make the same sounds, even when combined with other vowels. There are no silent letters or diphthongs in Shona, so vowels will always make the same sound, and it is important that you pronounce each vowel, even when one vowel follows another. For example, in the word "kuudza" (to tell), you must say "koo-oo-dza", pronouncing both of the u's. Simply saying "koo-dza" (kudza) changes the meaning to "raise/respect"."...
I added italics to highlight that portion of that sentence.

Friday, January 18, 2013
Zimbabwean Shona Names
"These are some of the most common names in the native Shona language of Zimbabwe, [qhich is spoken by over 80% of the population. I wrote these names from my head because I know friends and people with such names.I can speak and write the common Karanga Shona version fairly well,although deep Shona can be a challenge. Shona has five dialects (Karanga, Zezuru, Manyika, Ndau and Kore Kore)....

If you can pronounce Spanish, Japanese and Italian words, then you will find it easy to pronounce Shona words because the languages have similar vowel pronounciations. Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn in the world...

Shona has some interesting sounds which might be hard to pronounce for somebody who did not grow up in the social setting. These include whistled sounds, deep clapping sounds,click sounds and snapping sounds among others."...
This post only features names from that website which refer to God.

Shona and Ndebele Religions by Hilde Arntsen, Lecturer, Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo
"In Shona and Ndebele religions, God, or the Supreme Being, is seen as the creator and sustainer of the universe in much the same manner as within Christianity. Shona Mwari (literally "He who is"), or Ndebele uMlimu are both believed to be active in the everyday lives of people, and even in politics...

In general, people communicate with Mwari through the vadzimu (Shona), or amadhlozi (Ndebele). These are the deceased ancestors. The vadzimu are believed to constitute an invisible community within the community of the living, always around their descendants, caring for them and participating in their joys and sorrows (Moyo, 1988: 199). Spirit mediums communicate with the vadzimu on behalf of the people.

Communication between the living and the dead is taken care of by the spirit mediums who are vital parts of Shona culture and religion. The role of the spirit mediums and their communication with and appeasement of the ancestors were considered by many, missionaries and colonialists in particular, to be ancestor worship. However, the spirit mediums were instead acting as intermediaries between Mwari/uMlimu and the living, carrying messages, prayers and thanks from the human being to God. Where ancestors are subject to appeasement by human beings, it is believed that God is appeased as well. It must be noted, however, that it is not the ancestors themselves, the vadzimu, who are worshipped, but rather God through them. In the words of one of my sources, the sprit mediums "intercede between you and the ancestral spirits. The ancestral spirits will intercede who will carry it forward to God, because we also believe in God."....

This list of names is compiled from the following websites:, and

I rewrote the entries from that online source using the first source's format. In cases where these sources give somewhat different meanings for these names, I've presented the zimbabwe-names blog's meaning first and the behind the names blog's meaning second. However, in some cases, the behind the names blog includes entries with both meanings of a name.

Notice that multiple names in this list end with "aishe" or "ashe". According to Google translate, "aishe" means "Lord".

This compilation doesn't claim to be a complete listing of Shona names that refer to God. Additions to this list are welcome.

A, B
Anaishe (who is with God) female + male
(Derived from Anashe)

C, D

E, F

G, H

I, J
Ipaishe (give to God) female

K, L
Kudakwashe (the Lord's will) male

Kudakwashe (will of God) male + female

Kunashe (God is there) female

M, N
Makatendeka (you are faithful [to God]) male + female

Mukudzei (praise God) female

Munashe (God with us) female + male

Munesu (God is with us or God is within us) female + male

Mutsawashe (God’s mercy) female

Mutsawashe (Kindness of God or The Lord is Kind) female

Ngonidzashe (God’s mercy) male + female

Nokutenda (with gratitude [associated with faith in God]) male + female

Nyashe (merciful) female

Nyashadzashe (God's grace) male + female

O, P
Panashe (where there is God) female

Q, R
Ropafadzo (blessing from God) female

Rudorwashe (God’s love) female

Ruvarashe (God’s flower) female

Ruvarashe (the Lord's flower) female

S, T
Simbarashe (God’s power) male

Tadiwanashe (God loves us) female + male

Tadiwanashe (God loves us) male

Tadiwanashe (God is proud of us) male + female

Tadiraishe (Those who answered God's call/agreed or believed in God's word) male + female
(Anglicized, Rare)

Tapiwanashe (given by God) female

Tinaye (we are with God) female + male

Timukudzei (praise Him – God) female

Tinashe (God with us) male

Tinopiwanashe (we are given by God) female

Tinozivaishe (we know God) female + male

U, V
Vimbainashe (Abide with God) female

Vimbainashe (have faith in God) female

W, X, Y, Z
Zvinodaishe (what God wants) female + male

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Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. what a interesting book, am helped thank you, siyabonga, tatenda, riyaboka.