isiZulu Idioms Translated

idiom_bucket-580x408Last month one of our subscribers left a comment asking for English translations of a list of Zulu idioms that Nelisiwe had written about back in 2013. Below are both the isiZulu & English meanings of various Zulu idioms that are associated with nature or trees. Thank you to Mbusiswa for the translations!

  • Ukuthunga intebe: Ukwenza into engasoze yaphumelela; To do something that will never succeed
  • Ukuzalelwa esithebeni: Ukuzalwa ngabazali abami kahle, ungasweli lutho; To be born into a rich family and hardly ever want for anything
  • Ukuphind’ iminyane isibhuliwe: Angikwazi ukukhuluma udaba oselukhulunyiwe; To refuse to repeat what has been discussed already
  • Ukudl’ imbuya ngothi: Ukuswela ukudla, umuntu ophila kalusizi; To be poverty stricken
  • Ukuhlub’ dlubu ekhasini: Ukuchaza ingcaca ubeke izinto obala; To explain something that is very clear and obvious
  • Uthinte ubhece esafinya: Ukuba hlwempu, uyisilambi; To be really poor
  • Ukwanda ngomlomo njengebhenge: Ukukhuluma kakhulu kanti ukwenza kuyakwehlula; To have a lot to say, but take little action
  • Ukushaya ngemfe iphindiwe: Ukuhlohla noma ukuyenga umuntu, noma ukumenza ezibukwayo; To deal with a person severely
  • Ukuthukusela [umuntu] ugaba othuthwini: Ukufihlela umuntu iqiniso bese umvezela engasalindele; To hide the truth from someone and only reveal it when they have forgotten about it or least expect it
  • Ukufihl’ induku emqubeni: Ukufihla isu noma into ozomangaza ngayo unqobe; To surprise
  • Ukuthela muva njengembumba: Ukunganakwa noma ubeka iseluleko okumele silandelwe baze bazisole kamuva ukuthi ukuba bebekulalele ngabe ububi abuvelanga; Doing something without a positive outcome
  • Ukukhamel’ ikhambi ekhanda: Ukuphatha ngesihluku nonya, ukufundisa umuntu isifundo angena kusilibala; To teach someone a lesson they will never forget
  • Ukutheza olunenkume: Ukuzilandela inkathazo; To attract bad things to yourself
  • Ukumuka ngendle njengamabele: Ukunyamalala, ukuhamba ungavalelisi; To disappear without a trace and not even say goodbye
  • Ukuthezela entanjeni: Ukuzilinganisela noma ukwenza into engangamandla akho; To do what your strength can carry
  • Ukushisela imbudle: Ukufaka umuntu enkathazweni; To make another person to worry
  • Ukugaya izibozi: Ukuthukuthela kakhulu; To be very angry
  • Ukuba nhlangazimuka nomoya: Ukungabikho kosizo, isimo esibucayi siyabhebhetheka; Things going from bad to worse
  • Ukushiy’ induk’ ebandla: Ukuzala umntwana oyosala wena sewafa noma ukubeka iqhaza kokwenziwayo; Leaving a good mark behind for people to follow your good example
  • Ukuncind’ uthi lomkhangala: Ukulandelwa amashwa; Being followed by bad luck everywhere you go
  • Ukuthint’ ukhuni lombangandlala: Ukwenza into engenampumelelo, ukubuya ulambatha, ukuzifaka enkingeni; When you give advice to people and they don’t listen or pay attention to you until something bad happens, then they regret not listening

Image courtesy of www.thewritepractice.com.

11 Responses to isiZulu Idioms Translated

  1. dikonelo 16/10/2016 at 4:56 pm #

    please have some more Zulu idioms !!!plz

  2. dikonelo 16/10/2016 at 4:59 pm #

    kusho ukuthini ukucela empuzini

  3. mbali 16/10/2016 at 5:04 pm #

    no one responds dikonelo

  4. dikonelo 16/10/2016 at 5:06 pm #

    kusho ukuthini ukucela empuzini

  5. Profile photo of Ulwazi Programme
    Ulwazi Programme 17/10/2016 at 2:53 pm #

    Siyabonga, Dikonela. uSoka Mthembu uthi:

    Ukucela empunzini
    Direct translation: To ask from the duiker / to imitate the duiker
    Meaning: To run away (literally)

    Duiker is used because it is / was one the fastest animals known to the Zulus therefore anyone running faster would be likened to it.

    Past tense: Wacela empunzini
    He ran away / he ran for his life

    Sentence example:
    IsiZulu: Wacela empunzini emva kokubona ibhubesi
    English: He ran for his life after he saw the lion

    It’s used for someone running away (literally) from someone or something.

    To refer to the person who can run faster (like a Comrades Marathon runner) you could use this one;
    Zulu : Ugijima wedlula isithunzi sakhe / He runs faster than his own shadow.

  6. Olwethu 23/01/2017 at 9:32 pm #

    Hi guys!! What does it mean ukumba wembulele?

  7. Profile photo of Ulwazi Content Manager
    Ulwazi Content Manager 09/02/2017 at 6:22 am #

    Sawubona Olwethu! Siyabonga ngombuzo wakho, sisacele abasibhalelayo ukuthi bazame ukuwuphendula.

  8. Justin 09/03/2017 at 8:28 am #

    Sawubona. I’m currently in matric, taking isiZulu as my FAL. We are required to use idioms in our creative writing, so if you have any more idioms please could you share them with me. Ngiyabonga

  9. Profile photo of Ulwazi Content Manager
    Ulwazi Content Manager 09/03/2017 at 10:42 pm #

    Sawubona, Justin. You may find this article helpful in discovering more isiZulu idioms, with English translations: http://www.ulwaziprogramme.org/2017/02/a-language-rich-in-colour/. If you have any in particular you’d like to know the meaning of, you’re welcome to post them and we will try to find out for you. All the best!

  10. Khanyisile 10/05/2017 at 6:15 pm #

    Please help me.

    Yazithela ?
    Zalala ?
    Phela nesikhathi sase sidliwe yinja ?
    Sekukhala imbungezi ?
    Itshe selome inhlama ?
    Zawuhlaba zawulawula-ke ?

  11. Profile photo of Ulwazi Content Manager
    Ulwazi Content Manager 15/05/2017 at 8:36 am #

    Yazithela?
    This means ‘pounced / descended upon / come across – like by surprise’ (e.g. Bengizihambela ngazithela emgodini wenyoka) OR this may mean a very unexpected response. (e.g. Ubethi uyashela wazithela entombini yekholwa yavela yamshumayeza!)

    Zalala?
    Ungachaza kabanzi ukuthi usho ukuthini lapha, Khanyisile?

    Phela nesikhathi sase sidliwe yinja?
    Time was running out/no longer enough, maybe because the programme kicked off late or other speakers spoke more than their allocated time (e.g. Ukuze kuqedwe izinkulumo kungakabi sebusuku abanye abakwazanga ukukhuluma ngoba isikhathi sasesidliwe yinja).

    Sekukhala imbungezi?
    They have all left, no one left, nothing left (e.g. Amaphoyisa ezwa ukuthi izigebengu zicashile khona kodwa bafica sekukhala ibhungezi.)

    Itshe selome inhlama?
    Kusho ukuthi abasabonwa nangalukhalo – they are gone (as if that is discovered as a surprise). This one is the same as “sekukhala ibhungezi” above. note the spelling not ‘imbungezi’ but ‘ibhungezi’ (which is the name of an insect that make a noise when flying around) (e.g. Bafica itshe selome inhlama umakoti esebalekile emzini wabuyela kwabakubo!)

    Zawuhlaba zawulawula-ke?
    Ukuwuhlaba uwulawule means to announce, tell others, to pass on the message. (e.g. Amabhubesi abalekile, sicela niwuhlabe niwulawule – to warn others / to say you saw it to assist with the search)

Leave a Reply