About Us

More about why we're here and the inspiration behind the work.


The best Xhosa language dictionary, ever! | Motlatsi kaPotla
This is dedicated to my daughter, the living spirit of a queen of old; she who restored what was destroyed and raised up what had been shattered, Ah! Makare and my niece, the most intelligent person I know. Before them, I am not worthy. They breathe life into me and inspire me to be the best I can be so I can leave behind a legacy they can be proud of.

The Resource

IsiXhosa (as are other isiNtu languages), is one of the oldest and most beautiful languages the world has ever known. Unfortunately, it is also dying a slow death. This resource was driven by the desire to preserve the language, for posterity.

The main considerations that went into the making of this resource (i.e. dictionary) were that it is digital in format and that it has to be built for the language of isiXhosa from inception and therefore the design had to respond to the language itself.

Taking the first consideration (digital format) to account, I decided to experiment with the idea that I wanted to tranfer the concept from paper to the online space without the inherent liabilities. So the first decision I made was not to arrange words in alphabetical order. In my view, that makes absolutely no sense; I cannot imagine any value in someone trying learn a language by go from word to word alphabetically. The digital format allows for search functionality, an efficient way to find specific words. Word arranged randomly suffice for anyone interested in exploring the language.

The second consideration was of vital importance as it freed me from the limitations that would have otherwise been imposed by trying to emulate English or other language dictionaries. As such, this ended up being a resource that could greatly enhance a user's ability to understand word construction in the language and allow her/him more convidence to speak.

Note on the Language


IsiXhosa is a polysynthetic language with the verb, for the most part, forming the foundation of word construction; the root. Through agglutination of affixes and other words to root words, the verb is transformed into other word classes and throughout that transformation, the root word remains intact (for the most part). In cases where the root mutates, the transformation is hardly so radical that it renders it unrecognisable. XHOSA ROOTS, is born out of that; it is a resource that is centered around the roots.

When you explore a word, the insights you gain goes beyond just the definition of the word or providing it's equivalent in a different language, this resources takes you to the root and let's you witness the transformations in action. In that way, it not only enhances your ability to appreciate and to learn the language but also pushes you ever deeper into the culture that conceived it.

Game of Tones

In addition, isiXhosa is also a tonal language; that is to say part of the meaning is encoded in the tone. Take simamele for example. Depending on how it is pronounced, the meaning could be, "Listen to us" or "We are listening." Since "standard" spelling does not account for the tone (which I believe is a serious problem), each word is accomponied by a sound clip whereever possible. With the aim of having a sound clip for every word in our records.


This resource is a living thing; with the imperfections expected of anything that draws breath. Along the way, we'll break it and then heal what's broken. We hope to nurture it into the best XHOSA dictionary 'thing' the world has ever seen.

I hope it will prove useful.

Motlatsi, mfo kaPotla. Ndiyema apho!