Introduction to the Resolutions
of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope

Place names of Khoi origin

Many place names of Khoi origin are still used as South African place names. Long before the establishment of the VOC settlement at the Cape these names had already been known and used. Along with the expansion of the colony the settlers came across even more place names of indigenous origin (see under Expeditions, the expedition by Oloff Bergh, and the journey of Hendrik Hop and Jacobus Coetzee to the Namaqua Land ). More information regarding the origin and history of the following place names can be found in Nienaber and Raper (1977, 1980). Wherever possible, the first time a particular place name appears in the Resolutions the context, date and volume number are provided.

The original Khoi place name is used

  • Hantam (hantams ... Districten, 17.5.1774, C. 152) is a derivation of the word heyntama, the plant that was painted and described in Simon van der Stel’s Journal in 1685 by his artist cum scientist Claudius as “een soort van geranium met een soete en eetbare wortel, die dierhalven by d’ Inwoonders seer getrocken” [a type of geranium with a sweet and edible root, which is for this reason much liked by the inhabitants]. The first notes about the name show that the area where this plant species was found stretches from the high mountain where it was first discovered. Today the name Hantam denotes the whole region.
  • Kamdeboo (Camdebos ... Districten, 17.5.1774, C. 152) means ‘green pool’ or ‘green hippo pool’ and is a compound of Khoi Cam-/Kam- ‘green’ and -debo(o) ‘pool, hippo pool’. The Khoi called the place as such due to the half-circle green hippo pool situated in this region.
  • Karoo (Caro, 4.2.1794, C. 221) means ‘dry’, ‘hard soil’, due to the nature of the region. The nomadic Khoi trekked with their livestock in this vast area. At first the settlers called the region the “Droogeveld” [dry veld], a translation of the Khoi place name.
  • Tsitsikamma (Citzij kamma, 19.5.1789, C. 182) is probably derived from Khoi sitse ‘begin’ and -kamma ‘water, river’, so called due to the high rainfall and the many rivers and streams in the forest along the coastline between Plettenberg Bay and Humansdorp.

A Khoi tribe name is combined with a Dutch/Afr. element

  • Namakwaland (Namaquas, 1.2.1659, C. 1) is derived from the Khoi tribe name Namakwa ‘Nama-men’ and Afr. -land. Brink (1761) called this region “ Amacquas Land ” (Nienaber and Raper, 1977:846). The region is situated in the north-western part of the former Cape Colony.
  • Obiekwaberge (Obiquâs, 26.3.1676, C. 9) is derived from the Khoi tribe name Obiekwa and Afr. -berge [mountains]. The tribe was also called the Ibekwa, Hawekwa and Abikwa. These mountains are situated near Tulbagh in the Western Cape Province.
  • Outenikwaland (Houteniquase, 31.3.1690, V.C. 12) is derived from the Khoi tribe name Outenikwa and Afr. -land. It is the name of the region between the towns of Knysna and Mossel Bay , south of the Outeniqua Mountains.
  • Gamtoosrivier (Gamtouerland, 11.3.1710, C. 27) is derived from the Khoi tribe name, Gamtouers and Afr. -rivier [river]. The tribe used to live in the vicinity of this river. Ensign Beutler (see Expeditions) used the form Gamtausch. In 1770 the Gamtoos River became the eastern border of the Cape Colony.
  • Gouritsrivier (Gourisse Hottentots, 1.10.1699, C. 23) is derived from the Khoi tribe name, Gowrikwas and Afr. -rivier. During their expedition into the interior in 1667 Corporal Hieronymus Cruse and his company met these people. The kraals of the tribe were situated on the banks of the river that later became known as the Gourits River .

The place name consists of a Khoi and Dutch/Afr. element

  • Leeu-Gamka is derived from Afr. leeu [lion] and Khoi -gam- ‘leeu’ [lion] and the click sound -ka. The name is tautological, since both elements mean ‘lion’. It is a town at the confluence of the Leeu and Gamka rivers in the Western Cape.
  • Touwsrivier is derived from Nama tsao-s ‘asbosse’ [ash-bushes] (Salsola aphylla) and Afr. -rivier. It was possibly named after these plants growing there, but more probably after the appearance of the soil. In 1778 Colonel Robert Gordon wrote: “Vier uren na de draaij daar de Tow of Ass rivier langs loopt” [four hours to the turn where the Tow or Ash River flows].

The Khoi place name or phrase is translated into Dutch/Afrikaans

  • Botrivier (Bot Rievier, 3.1.1708, C. 26) is derived from bot- being an abbreviation of Dutch boter/Afr. botter, a translation of Khoi Gouga ‘botter’ [butter] and Afr. -rivier. It was so called because in the early 18th century people from Cape Town went there to obtain butter from the Khoi, who had their kraals at that place because the grazing was good.
  • Riviersonderend (Rivier Sonder Eijnde, 11.3.1710, C. 27) is a translation of Khoi Kannakamkanna with the same meaning, namely ‘river without end’. The name was apparently given because it was difficult to locate its source among the many headwaters and tributaries.



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