Sunday, 11 October 2015

Botswana Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time to cast my net a little wider. This time Botswana and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names and starting with the capital.

Gaborone quite literally speaks of ‘it does not fit badly’, although some interpret it as ‘it is not unbecoming’, both of which sound very much back-handed compliments to me. This is from Chief Gaborone of the BaTlokwa, this village now called Tlokweng.

Francistown is clearly named after someone named ‘Francis’. That someone being Daniel Francis, a prospector from Liverpool in England who obtained mining licenses for this area and ostensibly founded Botwana’s second largest settlement in 1869.

Molepolole claims to be one of the largest traditional villages on the African continent, with a population nearing 70,000. It is named after the Molepolole river, the meaning of which is uncertain but probably simplistic and referring to the wetland.

Maun is a similar name and one where the origins are known. This is from maung, a Seyei word meaning ‘place of the river reeds’.

Lensweletau is a name referring to this as ‘the lion at the rocky hill’.

Molpowabojang is not only a place name but the river name, hence this is why the name means ‘river grass’

Seleka is the Sango word for ‘coalition’, a political alliance formed as recently as 2012.

Tsetsebjwe comes from the hill of the same name. Formerly known as Mokgojwe, from the local spring, it changed to its present name when a man called Tsetsebjwe died here when poachers from neighbouring South Africa were after game in the 19th century.

Hukuntsi means ‘many corners’ in the local tongue.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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