Xhosa (isiXhosa)

Xhosa is a Bantu language spoken in South Africa, mainly in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Free State and Northern Cape. It is also in parts of Lesotho and Zimbabwe. According to the 2011 census there are about 8.2 million native speakers of Xhosa, and another 11 million second language speakers.

Xhosa at a glance

  • Native name: isiXhosa [isikǁʰɔ́ːsa]
  • Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Benue-Congo, Southern Bantoid, Bantu, Southern Bantu, Nguni, Zunda
  • Number of speakers: c. 19 million
  • Spoken in: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho
  • First written: 1823
  • Writing system: Latin script
  • Status: official language in South Africa and Zimbabwe

Xhosa is an official language in South Africa and Zimbabe, and is used as a language of instruction in primary schools, and in some secondary schools. It is also taught in universities. There are books, magazines and newspapers in Xhosa, as well as TV and radio programmes, films, plays and songs.

Xhosa is closely related to Zulu, Swati and Ndebele, and mutually intelligible with them to some extent.

Xhosa's click consonants were most likely borrowed from the Khoisan languages as a result of long and extensive interaction between the Xhosa and Khoisan peoples.

A system for writing Xhosa using the Latin alphabet was devised by Christian missionaries during the early 19th century. The first printed work in Xhosa was published in 1823.

Xhosa alphabet

Xhosa alphabet

Hear the Xhosa alphabet:

Xhosa pronunciation

Xhosa pronunciation

Hear how to pronounce Xhosa:

Download an alphabet chart for Xhosa (Excel)

Sample text in Xhosa

Bonke abantu bazalwa bekhululekile belingana ngesidima nangokweemfanelo. Bonke abantu banesiphiwo sesazela nesizathu sokwenza isenzo ongathanda ukuba senziwe kumzalwane wakho.


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Some corrections to this page by Michael Peter Füstumum

Sample video in Xhosa

Information about Xhosa | Phrases | Numbers | Colours | Family words | Tower of Babel | Books about Xhosa on: Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk [affilate links]


Information about the Xhosa language

Online Xhosa lessons

Online Xhosa dictionaries

Xhosa phrases

Bantu languages

Bangi, Basaa, Bemba, Bena, Benga, Bhaca, Bukusu, Bulu, Central Teke, Chichewa, Chokwe, Chuwabu, Comorian, Digo, Duala, Eton, Ewondo, Fang, Ganda/Luganda, Gogo, Gusii, Gwere, Haya, Herero, Ikizu, Jita, Kamba, Kiga, Kikuyu, Kimbundu, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Kisi, Kongo, Konjo, Koti, Kukuya, Kunda, Kuria, Lambya, Lingala, Loma, Lozi, Luba-Katanga, Luchazi, Lunda, Luvale, Makaa, Makonde, Makhuwa, Mandekan, Maore, Masaaba, Mbunda, Mende, Mongo, Mushungulu, Mwani, Nambya, Nande, Nkore, North Teke, Northern Ndebele (South Africa), Northern Ndebele (Zimbabwe), Northern Sotho, Nyamwezi, Nyakyusa, Nyemba, Nyole, Nyungwe, Nzadi, Oroko, OshiWambo, Pagibete, Punu, Ronga, Sena, Sengele, Shona, Soga, Songe, Southern Ndebele, Southern Sotho, Sukuma, Swahili, Swati, Tanga, Tembo, Tonga, Tshiluba, Tsonga, Tswa, Tswana, Tumbuka, Umbundu, Venda, Xhosa, Yao, Yasa, Zigula, Zinza, Zulu

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 17.08.22


Green Web Hosting - Kualo

Why not share this page:


Conversations - learn languages through stories

If you like this site and find it useful, you can support it by making a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or by contributing in other ways. Omniglot is how I make my living.


Note: all links on this site to Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.fr are affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you click on any of them and buy something. So by clicking on these links you can help to support this site.

Get a 30-day Free Trial of Amazon Prime (UK)